Monthly Archives: November 2012

Fashion, Italian Style

We’re going to Rome on Saturday. Just Darcy and I. My parents and in-laws are going to look after the twins.

In preparation, Darcy decided to check out some Italian neo-realist movies: Rome, Open City; La Dolce Vita and The Bicycle Thief.

They were all hella depressing: meaningful, rich in irony, full of absurdism and the struggle of life but My. Goodness. I needed to eat massive amounts of chocolate after watching that trilogy.

Federico Fellini’s wife lost a child at birth and also had a miscarriage. The Fellinis had no more children, and many biographers have noted that the event of Fellini losing his baby was THE defining moment in the development of his worldview. His worldview went on to influence almost all filmmakers after him.

I loved the style of the women characters in the films. From movie stars and heiresses to broke housewives: everyone looked beautiful and dressed in that stylish yet flattering approach to curves that seems to endure in Italy. The costumes of La Dolce Vita were particularly noteworthy, showcasing women from the demi-monde to the respectable to the most glamorous.

I think I’ve stated my admiration of Dolce & Gabbana before. I was poking around my MiL’s costume bin for the kids and discovered the most beautiful dress. I asked her about it and she told me I could have it. It was Darcy’s grandmother’s, circa the early 60s. Darcy’s grandmother was quite fabulous and had many clothes made by her own dressmaker. It reminded me of a photo of a D&G dress I’d been admiring. I didn’t think the dress would fit me (and it was a bit short) but I LOVED it on. I wore it out to an early birthday dinner party. It made me feel great.

I think I’ll bring it to Rome. Why not?


Filed under personal style

Do You Like Baked Treats?

My friend Justine lives in New Jersey, a state hit hard by Sandy. She’s seen the devastation of the storm firsthand (many are STILL without power, even now) and so she’s helping by hosting a nationwide bake sale to aid Superstorm victims. It is now LIVE. Bidding closes at 11:59 PM EST TOMORROW, Monday November the 26th.

From Justine:

“Though the headlines have begun to fade from the national media, the work to rebuild in New Jersey has barely begun. Many people, especially those at the shore and in Staten Island, are still without power, weeks after the storm. Cleanup will take months. Families have been displaced, forced to leave their homes.”

Sandy victims still are reeling. And I want to “bake a difference.”

I am making the zucchini bread that I featured here. I can make it with or without chocolate chips. Please feel free to bid here! 🙂 If zucchini bread isn’t your bag, there are tons of other mouth-watering treats. (Blondies, cookies, gingerbread people, chocolate peanut butter fudge, and lots more.)

As part of Cyber Monday, please consider buying some delicious treats, or you can donate directly through Justine’s site to the United Way fund for victims. Also, if you want to share this bake sale on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, I’ll love you forever 🙂 Share buttons below.

Let’s help Sandy victims get back on their feet.


Filed under cooking?!?

Grandma Ruthie: Reflections on a Woman Made of Steel

My dad, in a photo that looks remarkably like my son.

My dad’s mother was a very tough lady.

I knew her as a retired Rosie the Riveter, a woman who lived on a beautiful, large estate she had fully paid for, in the middle of a decaying neighborhood. She raised chickens and you could play four holes of golf on her grounds. Most of all, I remember she had a playhouse for her grandchildren fully stocked with ice cream and Oreo cookies, splendors that were not allowed at home.

Grandma Ruthie raised four children pretty much on her own. They were all very successful in their own ways. My father was born in Manhattan, Kansas, and he nearly died from pneumonia as an infant. Family legend has it that he survived because of an ice bath. Shortly after, my grandmother and her whole family moved to Southern California where war jobs offered high incomes. Grandma Ruthie became a worker, then quickly a forewoman in charge of inspecting fuel cells at a factory. She eventually became a union representative. Throughout her home, she had various certificates and photos of herself throughout her storied career. I remember those well.

Frankly, she scared me. A product of the Depression, she thought I was soft. Spoiled. She made me eat things I didn’t want to eat (with the promise of Oreo cookies) and didn’t understand my gag reflex, my urge to vomit that food which disgusted me. “When I was little, we ate what was on the table, or we starved,” she would lecture me, perplexed.

It is only now, as I watch “The Dust Bowl” and after I suffered my own bout with infertility and loss, that I begin to understand where she was coming from. The hard times that hit the Southern Plains in the 1930s: we can’t even really imagine the hell it was to survive that. The documentary talked a lot about how destructive hope was to the farmers in the Dust Bowl and, well. I think we all know how awful our frenemy hope can be in this community.

I can never understand Grandma Ruthie’s plight: a widow suddenly responsible for four children, who knew what it was to starve, who often ate Spam, but who encouraged her children above all, to educate themselves. Who was an American success story. Who looked at her granddaughter and worried that she was soft, because she lived on a beach, and wouldn’t eat food she disliked. I know that ultimately why she was so hard on me was because she worried about how I might meet the tough times. The times that she knew would inevitably come.

Grandma Ruthie: I hope maybe you underestimated my resilience. I like to think that though I grew up not wanting for anything, I carried an inner toughness maybe you didn’t suspect. I think perhaps I had an iron core within my “hothouse flower” exterior. And that enabled me to eventually conceive and carry your great-grandchildren, who I wish you could meet. I think you would be utterly enchanted by my son’s engineer brain (he would have loved to learn about the fuel cells and what you were looking to go awry) and my stubborn daughter, who is made out of visible steel.

You were a heroine, Grandma Ruthie. I wish I would have told you that, while you were living.


Filed under Family

How To Dress: Thanksgiving Week

Burberry Trenchcoat

Fall is a pretty short season in California. It’s often warm in October but usually cool and rainy in November. And then, after Thanksgiving: poof. We’re into the holiday season, with its accompanying Christmas parties, Hanukkah celebrations and my birthday. It’s often below 40 degrees in the morning, but then warmer in the afternoons so layering is the thing right now.

I usually layer with non-bulky items, like thin turtlenecks (silk is a good material for these), scarves around the neck and lots and lots of trenchcoats. Trenchcoats (or peacoats) are the one item of clothing I can’t do without. I collect them, and I wear them in every season due to the fog that is a feature here year-round. Also, a great trenchcoat balances my hips and makes my legs look long. Length is key: for apple figures with small legs (like my mom), a shorter trench that hits the upper thigh is great. Generally, trenchcoats look much better fitted and not oversized, which can overwhelm any figure. Which is my biggest problem with the classic Burberry trenches I’ve always wanted (My dad has had his for over 40 years!) but look crap on me. My obsession is to find one that looks good on me. It hasn’t happened yet.

Also, it’s almost time for a Winter Closet Reorg. I’m leaving for a trip to Italy next week! Eek. I HATE packing but want to look chic and non-tourist-y for our trip to the Eternal City, so I need to prepare. I’ve started to put together outfits, but I also want room in my suitcase for purchases, which I plan to make for family members for the holidays.

This short week, I have several functions to attend: a brunch, Thanksgiving dinner itself and a few meetings. I wanted to get the most use out of my fall-colored items. I also have to prepare for rain.

So here’s my take on the last of fall before we move into the season of sequins, formal outfits and cozy sweaters.

I wore this to meet Project Progeny and Esperanza for a fancy tea in the heart of the city. (Which was a blast! Progeny lives in Columbia, but was in town for a conference.) I’ll be wearing it again to a mother’s brunch tomorrow. Turtleneck: INC. Old. Ikat scarf: Target, this summer. Peacoat: Gap, vintage. Peach skinny cords: Old Navy, new. Rainboots: Hunter, new.

Not pictured: turquoise clutch. Rue De Chic. Black turtleneck, INC, gift. Sweater: Anthropologie, last year. Leggings: H & M, old. Flats: Tods.

I really liked pairing orange and aqua this fall: weird on the surface and not a color combination I would have ever tried before, but it was fun to experiment! Top: Anthropologie, newish. Jeans, Paige, new. Trenchcoat: INC, old. Necklace: gift. Booties: Payless, new.

Important detail of this choice: the cut of the dress is empire waist, which allows me to eat a big meal 😉 Dress: Jigsaw, from the UK. Shrug: Banana Republic, old. Wedding pearls. Shoes: Karen Millen, from the UK.

What are you wearing on Thanksgiving? Are you going to dress for comfort or style? (Or both?) Do you have any tips for layering?


Filed under personal style

A Glimpse of What Was

Our basement is finally being rebuilt after our recent plumbing catastrophe. Today was, as our contractor gleefully informed me via email, “Jackhammer Day!” I was instructed to be gone from 9-5.

I picked up the twins from pre-school and took them to The Cheesecake Factory to kill some time. There wasn’t much parking, so we walked quite a distance to reach the restaurant.

It was raining, and we all had on our galoshes and raincoats, and we were all merry in spite of the grey of the day. I held each child’s hand, as there was some traffic. We rushed towards several puddles together and splashed in each one, laughing each time. I had listened to an interview with Temple Grandin in the car and she noted an urge lately for people to “prettify life.” Which I think is probably true, given the beautiful photos I’m drawn to on Pinterest. Sometimes though, a moment doesn’t need prettifying. It’s movie-ready, primed for a greatest moment montage of your life. I imagine I would remember this puddle moment if “my life flashes before me again” like it did during the world’s sketchiest take-off.

Aside: When many planes don’t fly into an airport because of “too many issues” (cough*Innsbruck*cough) and you hate flying, please oh please take a train from a nearby city. Before departure from Innsbruck, our pilot quite calmly stated that due to the fact that physics dictated our plane must be as light as possible to clear the Alps with the current wind-shear, they would be loading off all of our luggage onto another plane. That made me extremely nervous. Then we hit so much turbulance on take-off that the engines actually whined then rattled (like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when all the engines died) on my side of the plane. Darcy looked earnestly at me and said: “You know, I really love you.” Which he NEVER says. And then I was watching my life in fast-forward: I saw quick glimpses of my childhood backyard, my beloved metal slide, our Christmas Trees, holding my brother after he was born, a report card with straight As, my parent’s faces when I graduated college, holding the key to the first car I ever bought myself, the moment I met Darcy, and his face when he was on his knee asking me to marry him, the Eiffel Tower glistening in the background. All that in a few seconds.

And because life never lets one forget, as we were still frolicking in the last puddle, I suddenly stopped cold. My spine tingled with dread and then I spotted them. A young couple was walking towards us, she was wiping away tears and they were clinging to one another as if they were drowning in the heaviest gravity. The very gravitational force they were inhabiting was not the same as the one the children and I were in just yards away. And I just knew: she had had a miscarriage. I tried to quiet down the rowdiness of the kids, to respect the heavy sorrow, so weighty it could anchor a battleship, that had so thoroughly pervaded the whole parking lot. As children are wont to do, they ignored me. I nodded to the couple, and while they didn’t even seem to see me, the woman turned as she walked and shot my daughter a glance so full of sadness, envy, disappointment and anger I was visibly shaken.

Tears formed in my eyes, and I was transported back to those awful days immediately following my losses. Part of me wanted to follow her and say: “Have hope: I went through what you did and these children were fought for with all the power I could muster.” But I know I can’t predict her journey. There are so many ways her life could play out and all the paths could be fulfilling to her. I wouldn’t be of comfort in any case. There was nothing I could do.

All I could do was hope that tonight she is writing about her experience, maybe even telling about the salt in the wound of seeing scampering happy kids. And somewhere, whether it is on a forum, Twitter, or a blog, I really hope she is being comforted by those many kind souls in our community who band behind one another during these awful moments.

I wish her to know she is not alone. I too, was once there, in that gravitational force of doom. I will always have my hand out for her and you all.

I was once drowning in grey while all around me, people created the memories that will flash before their eyes before they die.


Filed under Infertility, Miscarriage, Parenting After IF

Whither Thanksgiving?

I LOVE Thanksgiving. With my family, it was always a holiday devoted to eating. And eating family recipes with unique traditions. I love Thanksgiving because it is a holiday I can bring my own family traditions and history to. I even have a relative who came over on the Mayflower. So many of the holidays we celebrate now with Darcy I don’t have a childhood connection to.

Nothing in the world tastes better to me than my parents’ cooking. My parents are arriving for a visit right after Thanksgiving, so I won’t be able to enjoy their special cheese biscuits and the best mashed potatoes and gravy EVER. This year, I’m BRINGING mashed potatoes to Thanksgiving at my in-laws because the twins enjoyed them so much at my parents’ house last year.

I remember growing up thinking that Thanksgiving was a THING. After Halloween, there was a lead-up to the big MEAL. Thanksgiving reminds me of hikes through the gold and vermillion trees on Shady Lane while my Mom’s turkey cooked. We bundled up in big scarves and enjoyed the crisp autumn air.

This year especially, I have noticed that November now seems to be relegated to Christmas, too. I wonder why that is? I remember the day after Thanksgiving my mom would put on the Nutcracker album and we’d trundle off to The Village and deal with battles over parking spaces because we needed to get our packages off to my grandparents by December 7. But we never decorated or listened to music before that.

I’m not particularly annoyed about it, except, OK, maybe I am. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore but like Charlotte York, I do miss it. So for it to creep into November and overshadow Thanksgiving, my FAVORITE HOLIDAY, kind of hurts my feelings. Don’t even get me started on my birthday.

Do you like Thanksgiving or is it just a waystation to the main event? And I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings here: I grew up with a dad who took the War on Christmas VERY SERIOUSLY so I know the other side of the coin. I just really want to know: Is Thanksgiving now less important to American society?


Filed under cooking?!?, Family

Top 5 Tips for Hosting a Child’s Birthday

I’ve gotten a few tweets and emails asking for my advice on throwing a child’s birthday. Tip 1: Don’t get a flat tire the day before one of the parties like I did 😉

We decided to have two events this year for our twins, and wanted each celebration to be very individual and special to each child. Here’s what I did:

1. Ask your child for an idea for a theme.

We’ve done this since the twins were three. This year, my daughter loves all things equestrian, but specifically: ponies. My son, on the other hand, would love to join a pirate ship sailing out on a treasure hunt.

So, Ponies & Pirates.

2. Take your child with you to a party supply store.

I took each twin separately on a shopping trip to Craig’s Warehouse, our local supply store. They each chose plates, napkins, cups, party favors and balloons. They each had very specific aesthetic ideas of what they wanted: my daughter preferred the vintage-looking visions of ponies as opposed to the more commercial-looking My Little Pony gear, and my son liked the classic Jolly Roger logos. I really let them run with their own choices and tried not to steer them towards anything in particular. Even though I had my own ideas.

3. Ask them to choose two colors for additional decor.

My daughter wanted apple green and pink (of any shade) and specified that gingham be somewhere in the mix. My son requested black and red with lots of pirate loot. I basically treated the twins like my special event clients, and tried to really make their ideas a reality.

4. Make vision boards to help create what you want.

I went on Pinterest and scoured photos of pirate ship pinatas and anchor cakes and gingham party favors and ombre layer cakes. I also looked through party books and some vintage magazines for ideas. I’m a very visual person and sometimes I just need to see what cakes, flowers, favors and tables can look like before making a look my own. The board for my son, and my daughter. I posted the photos of the end products on each of vision board because I am nerdy like that.

5. Surprise them with the end result!

My in-laws hosted my daughter’s party and I went over there the night before to drop off the cake and decorate with MiL. When our daughter walked in the next morning, she was so thrilled to see all the little touches: the balloon garland, the cake colored pink and green with sprinkles, the pin-the-tail-on-the pony game. Similarly, my son was taken to the playground while I feverishly prepared our house with the final details. The look on his face when he saw the treasure chest and jolly roger and the pirate entertainer, (a last minute addition after a near Cowboy Dan episode) I will take with me to my grave. He was really, really happy.

Final tip: let friends and family help you!! I got a flat tire the day before and had a meltdown and Esperanza and my in-laws really came through and helped me out. Esperanza was amazing, playing pirates and swords with the balloons.

Today, I decided to have a little me time by getting some awesome dental surgery 😉

What tips do you have about how to put on a memorable kid’s party? I would love to compile a list for next year. Only 363 days away!


Filed under My Favorite Things, Parenting After IF