Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home Again Home Again, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:03am

My son is home from Argentina and Costa Rica. Where he had a phenomenal trip. Turns out that the privilege of higher education includes lots of opportunity to carouse. What happens in Princeton, New Jersey extends to Buenos Aires. I figured you'd want to know.

This week my daughter turned 23. Which turned out to mean some celebration, some glitches, and a world class meltdown. Same as it ever was.

My strongest feeling in the past few days has been of recognition. "Oh yes. I know this one." My son, sitting on the sofa, head bent over a device of some sort. My daughter, crying and laughing at the same time. I know this one. I know these two.

When you have kids, if you pay attention, you become an expert. An expert in your kids. You might then make terrible errors in judgment, even so, but you have an undeniable body of knowledge.

I like that. I like to be an expert. I like to have enough data that I can trust my instincts. All my years in the corporate world, despite my relative successes, I was essentially faking it. A Comparative Literature major who specializes in Epic Poetry, with sub-specialties of The Renaissance, French, and Italian Language, will not have sound footing in high technology. Someone prone to gazing off will not prevail over the ambitious, or the treacherous.

I have to stop here. Motherhood is certainly not the only road to self-understanding. If I hadn't had kids, if I had chosen a career completely suited to me, I could still have experienced this 'becoming expert,' - for which I am sure there is a single word, in some language. Probably Japanese. Not, however, pre-1700's French or Italian.

One other thing. It wasn't self-sacrificial, gathering information on my children over time. Watching them carefully. Now, when I recognize their patterns, I can feel my own cognition and memory working and my sense of self is reinforced. Kind of prickles. There would be pinging sounds, if we came with built-in alerts.

Who you are is what you learn. But then we have to try to do right by our knowledge.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Should You Cringe When You Buy Steve Madden Brogues?

I bought some Steve Madden shoes this weekend, and cringed.

Let's blame a man with a microphone. It was the annual Nordstrom shoe sale. Complete with open boxes on the floor, empty display cases, and cut price footwear. The man with a microphone directed traffic. I usually hate sales. Too noisy, too much visual clutter, too much pressure to Buy Now.

But I had been thinking about buying a pair of oxfords, having seen them in New York, and in magazines. To say nothing of feeling the breath of fall under the full heat of summer.

So I bought these.

And cringed. The Steve Madden brand is not one I am proud to own. And any time I feel shame in purchases, I have to deconstruct. What is it about Steve Madden?

First of all, actual Steve is a crook. He went to jail for fraud and was removed from his company. That puts him somewhere between Bernie Madoff and Martha Stewart. But that is not enough, by itself, for brand shame. Greed in America often takes entrepreneurs off the Calvinist track.
[This] cost him about eight million dollars and control of the very company that brought him such riches. Madden was sentenced in 2002 to 41 months in prison for his role in a stock swindle scheme coordinated by the now-closed brokerage, Stratton Oakmont. His wrongdoings include conspiring to manipulate the stock prices of more than 20 companies, including his own. And, he did it at the expense not only of the public but his own investors who lost more than 100 million. (LegalZoom)
The answer to my shame can be found front and center on Madden's brand management website.
Madden has innate sense of what’s hot, what’s next, what’s exciting and more importantly, how this will translate to his consumer. [GRI]

There you go. The company targets strivers. Unabashedly markets to happy wannabees. Actually wants to be trendy. High WASP are mortified to show any signs of trying. Any at all. We prefer to at least pretend we do not care. That we are not trendy. Au courant, perhaps. Fashion forward, rarely. Trendy, never.

It's not that we want to buy brands that show our wealth. The opposite. I suffered a veritable crisis when I bought a Louis Vuitton bag. I could only do so because the Monogram Vernis line renders that ubiquitous logo nearly invisible. Nor do High WASPs shun discount stores. Target is our friend. Merona makes fantastic tee shirts, in both fit and price.

But we don't want to strive. We were supposed to have finished striving in 1892. Steve, clearly, is not targeting me or my ilk. I am fascinated by his clarity of vision, and shaking my head once again at the power of well-executed branding. Brand well, and you will attract your target consumer, alienate others. Design good products at a good price, and even those you alienate with your brand may purchase your stuff.

The brogues, on the other hand, I liked very much. Soft distressed leather. Nice detail. Comfortable. Interesting color that works well with khakis. One cannot, after all, wear nothing but black on the feet forever. The only issue I have is the synthetic sole, preferring the texture, sound and sensation of leather. Of course, to prevent wear I always have to get the shoe repair place to cover them with rubber, but that is beside the point. Uhuh, it is so.

Finally, Steve prices for value. The brogues cost less than $70.00. To a woman who has sworn by Ferragamo all her life, and confesses to having regarded Stuart Weitzman as down market, $70.00 is a remarkable price for a pair of shoes.

Let's face facts. My family fortune has faded. I need to keep building up a decent casual wardrobe for what appears more and more likely to be my imminent retirement. I am a Sturdy Gal who hates high heels. All signs pointed to one and only one conclusion.

It would have been dumb not to buy these. Dumb, and a symptom of the High WASP snobbery I struggle to resist. I liked the shoes. I could afford the shoes. I bought the shoes. Some of us grow both by indulging in slightly vulgar dreams of Louis Vuitton and by coming to terms with a reality of Steve Madden brogues.

And lest you think I am virtuous, it has occurred to me that no one will know they are Steve Madden unless I tell the Internet.

Images: me
Shoes: Steve Madden "Trouser" from Nordstrom

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

LPC is at "Loving Nature's Garden" Today

Today I'm at Alison Kerr's blog, Loving Nature's Garden. Writing about why you should get a cordless electric lawn mower like mine and taking pictures of my lawn. I love my mower as much as I love my granite counter tops. Please take a look. Thank you very much.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Do You Know What Makes A Good Vacation Souvenir?

I have no souvenirs of my trip to Sweden. At least nothing purchased.

I brought home photos, of course. It would have been hard not to, surrounded by such sights. Here's a last one. The inlet, where my stepfamily docks their boats.

The lack of goods isn't completely my fault, or my virtue for that matter. There aren't many stores on Ingmarso. However, when we visited Sandhamn I did buy a shirt for my daughter. Her birthday's coming up. It's white, tunic-style, with a criss-cross tie. I gave it to her while we were there.

I thought about this shirt too,

given the label.

Some things follow you all your life. No matter where you go. I hadn't known Scandinavian Preppy was crying out for definition, but travel will broaden the mind.

Another possibility on Sandhamn.

But having brought dishtowels home from France, enough, it seemed, was enough in the way of pieces of cloth with which to mop my pots.

On my way home, I spotted this gentleman in Chicago. He had gotten off the flight from Stockholm too. He wore natty, orange napkin clips from SAS business class on his sky blue Lacoste lapel. I told him he looked great. Clips would have been good souvenirs.

There is something else I am coveting, however, as a post-trip souvenir. Remember how Sweden just had a royal wedding? And you know what the Europeans do when they have a royal wedding? They go all capitalist. Leading to fabulous items de decor. That's fancy French for stuff.

Witness the Royal Collection. These are table runners.

But I want the Royal Collection porcelain bowls. My Swedish stepsister gave mugs in this pattern to my daughter and I started wringing my hands and thinking, "My Preciousssssssss," immediately. They are so smooth. The pale blue is so pale. My china is white, or white and gold. Of course, I'd have to hide the pink and gold Murano doves that sit on my dining table or risk perpetual Easter egg as a home decor theme, but The Princess needs my support. She told me so.

What souvenirs do you like to bring home? And what are your feelings about royal wedding china? Do you have any feelings about royal wedding china? I had a friend who collected Coronation mugs. The British and their inimitable sense of humor. I just can't figure out if I want these bowls - because I like them - or whether once they were in my house I'd say to myself, "Really? Crowns?"

But good souvenirs are exempt from the usual strictures.

Images: Mostly me, except,
Scandinavian Designs Table Runners
Scandinavian Designs Bowls

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do Mysterious Baltic Organisms Cause Sore Throats, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:36am

You all have asked me, "Are you glad to be home?" And the answer is, yes. Not glad to be done with vacationing in the Stockholm Archipelago. That was addictive, and one twitches a little on backing off from addiction. But certainly happy in my little ranch house, with the fading family fortune, a Pottery Barn sofa and my wildly growing herb garden. Happy with the little set of rituals I live by. I think almost everyone is glad to be home, when it happens. True home.

The only thing is that I have had a terrible sore throat. So bad I couldn't even drink tea. I don't do well in the absence of tea. I went to the doctor, twice, to make sure it wasn't strep. High WASPs with a New England mother do not like to go to the doctor ever, much less twice in one week. It implies that we do not know how to Buck Up and Get On With Our Responsibilities.

But it wasn't strep. At which point I started to wonder whether a wayward Baltic organism had made its way into my swallowing regions. The doctor looked at me like, "Oh dear god. Not another person who has watched too many episodes of 'House.'"

He prescribed opiates. He even used the word, "Opiates." At which point lauren reminded me of the opium trade and I couldn't go there, even though I take Xanax to fly, but that's psychology which is an entirely different matter. High WASPs believe in nerve tonics. Emily Dickinson told us they were all right.

Fortunately, after dizzying quantities of ibuprofen (in place of codeine), some chocolate, and a lot of ice water, I'm feeling much better. And feeling better reminds me of the good part of coming home. I think to myself, "Oh, that's right. It's a joy to be alive. Oh good."

I always feel like I've gotten away with something unspecified when I recover from illness. You know the glee of a child who gets to stay up late because their parents have a party and everyone drinks too much?

Although I can't say I've really given up on the Baltic organism. Have a wonderful weekend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Rapture Of A Northern Maritime

There were no berries this year, on Ingmarso. We traded them in, apparently, for sun. Day after day of sun. No rain means few berries, and the ones that do grow are small and dry. Even the moss on the rocks was crisp.

I arrived Monday morning, and was at the mainland harbor by midday. Clouds briefly overhead.

We took a boat to my stepfamily's house Some time, not too long after we arrived, the sun began to set. I watched from the steps.

Eventually some darkness. Even in the long days of Swedish summer it gets dark eventually.

My youngest sister and her family arrived later that night. But we woke up early in the morning and went to swim in the fresh water pond behind the house.

A dry forest crunches underfoot.

Ponds, however, are ponds. My nephew fell in. The rest of us got out covered in pond vegetation. Commonly known as slime. It was a wild time. Other bacchanalia included frog-catching and fishing with worms off the dock.

The next day we took a boat out into the Baltic. One can say many things about this part of the world. None of them complex.

Granite rocks slope directly into brackish water. The sky is wide, the sea brightly lit. There are houses, here and there. Boats, here and there. More boats than houses. More trees than boats. More sky than anything. Well, except perhaps sea.

The Stockholm Archipelago is either a place simply defined, or a place of worship for the erstwhile soul. Imagine Gregorian chants, only blue, and windy. Some people like the tropics best. Others prefer the blasted purity of a Northern maritime.

The thing is, it's just so beautiful. We walked to the harbor, where there were boats, as is common in harbors.

The next day we went to Sandhamn. On what can only be called a yacht. We flew the Swedish flag, of course.

We passed the Royal Yacht Harbor, where royals keep their, well, yachts.

We passed houses. A small one.

A red one.

We went to sleep. We got up. We took the smaller boats to a smaller island. Where children played and made the rocks into worlds. I remember what that was like, when I was small.

The sky was pretty blue.

You can survive the sea, maybe. You can survive the sky, maybe, But the next sight, and there will be one more and then another, will roll your eyes back into your head. I said several times that if this kept up I might faint. I should perhaps have worn a life preserver on the boat, to float, overcome, when I careened overboard.

With so little on the horizon, one's middle opens a space in recognition. You swoon but you remain. All the voices and startles left over from running an ordinary life take their leave. Consciousness stays. Which means you meditate without trying. Or maybe the landscape itself recites, " Sky, land, water, sky, land, water," until you reach a clear mind.

One gains perspective, floating, head visible, on a large dark blue green barely salt sea.

It is a time when empty means beautiful. Not lonely. Not void. Not sorrow. It convinces you that man's natural state is rising joy and elation.

On the last day, my stepbrother-in-law and one of my sisters and I took a hike a little off the beaten track. I found room for water-lilies. There's more room for beauty than I would have guessed.

As though every breath is some kind of drug.

Images: By me, except the red house and Swedish flag, by my brother-in-law.
Note: My apologies for the breathlessness here but there's really nothing else that I could say. We will return to regular immediately.

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What Everybody Ought To Know About Swedish Home Style

To some, Swedish home style means something like these below. Seats? I'm not sure.

The Grandes Dames among us might dream more grandly. Maybe of Swedish gilt.

In fact, as lived, Swedish home design is above all endearing. Made for smiling. Some things are fuzzy, some anthropomorphic. White for dark winters, and color for long summers - woven, or bended, or carved. But little seems to be made without thought, or placed without care.

The Swedish interiors I have experienced are places of comfort. Where each detail warms your heart. Sort of like one long wedding, of family to itself. Even in summer, when the interior is, well, outside.

This is my stepfamily's house on Ingmarso, in the Stockholm Archipelago, taken early one morning as everyone else lay sleeping.

Being infinitely wise about people living in close quarters, they have also built an attached little house, known as, The Little House.

My stepfather acquired this land almost 50 years ago. Recently his daughter remodeled the main kitchen, beautifully. The counters, I believe, are teak, the cabinets stainless steel, all from Ikea. This should surprise no one.

When you wake up early, pull open a drawer and find pastry from the local bakery. The plastic bag closes with a miniature clothes pin, decorated with what appears to be a sailing flag. I want 65, please, since I'm sure I would lose many and feel sad if I could not return immediately to Sweden for replacements.

As you can see, the kitchen is now part of the living room. And, other than four small bedrooms and one bathroom, that's it for the main house. Can you see the red-painted wood chairs? My favorites.

There's little need for space in vacation cottages. You live outside. You shower outside. You eat outside.

The first night, we had salmon, salad, and potatoes. This should surprise no one. Potatoes are to Swedes as snow, mythically, is said to be for the Inuit. They have even invented special potato-poking tools to assess doneness. Often decorated with a carved wooden moose head. See the printed napkin on the right? Blue, white, gold, and paper. Oh boy.

Warmth, humor, and detail carry out past the home and into restaurants. One day we all got into a large boat, owned by my stepsister's colleague, and went to Sandhamn. Another island. One with a delicious restaurant. Where they serve chilled water in glass bottles decorated with a rope braid collar. My sister held the bottle and poured. Thanks, sister.

The napkin ornamentation was nice too. I love a monogram and chain stitch.

The kind restaurant owners had painted the ceiling a gorgeous cerulean blue, and mounted cobalt chandeliers for contrast. A gorgeousness overdose, really.

The brass hinge on the window next to my seat. They had me at cerulean, hinges were unnecessary.

What appears to be Libby's Corned Beef Hash, below, is in fact a dish called Pytt i Panna. Cubes of beef, ham, potato, onion and beets. While my tongue craved a crayfish stew, Pytt i Panna is what my stepfather wanted me to cook when he first got out of the hospital so I felt that fate was saying this needed to be my lunch. It was pretty good. Jamie Oliver agrees with me.

Even the most casual of places cater to aesthetic sensibilities. Later in the week we ate at the Ingmarso harbor cafe. This place used to be called something like Armadillo Willy's but came to its senses for the most part and reverted to cultural roots. Except the nachos but we will gloss over those quickly. A blue metal pail full of utensils and napkins. Sigh.

To say nothing of something called Planka, meaning "board." An aquavit and sealife taster. For my brothers-in-law.

I had beer and fried Baltic herring, or strumming. I can't eat pickled herrings, no matter how they pickle those poor critters, but fried in batter and nestled into some mashed potatoes and melted butter? Oh boy. Oh boy.

Finally, the stairs leading from the inlet dock up to the house. Whether the builder knew that the top landing would make a perfect place to sit, mug in hand, and watch the sun play on the water, I do not know. In a Swedish summer, home style includes skylight. And I love the way unfinished wood smells when it gets warm. Especially when it's old enough that you don't have to worry about splinters.

I can't forget my manners. The only Swedish word I know is thank you, but it's the most important here. "Tack," Swedish family, "Tack sa mycket."

Bended thingies from life is carbon, all about Scandinavian design
Mirrors from Cupboards & Roses, specializing in Swedish antiques
All others by me

Note: The scenery is yet to come. I haven't forgotten that all these home goods sat in the middle of the sky on some water.

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12 Critically Important Travel Notes

  1. My uniform of black yoga pants, black tee, black pumas + LV and diamond studs usually works fine for travel. A shortage of water for laundry on the island meant I wore a white tee on this return trip. Not so good. I was almost saved by orange Havianas. Not quite.
  2. Some airports you have to take your shoes off, some you don't. The ones where you do it's bad to wear flip flops. It's good to have Purell. Just pour it on said flip flops after you have walked with naked toes across that icky floor. Insert feet.
  3. The Stockholm airport deposits you right into the center aisle of a Duty Free shop, once you come through security. Leaving people like me stunned and unable to proceed in a linear fashion. All I remember is the words Must Have. They were printed in many places.
  4. I will need to carry a camera round my neck, if I intend to continue blogging about travel. And to know what that camera does, of course.
  5. I do think that older couples, he in a blue blazer and khakis, she wrapped in a shawl and wearing large gold shell earrings, look terribly dignified.
  6. SAS service is fantastic. The flight attendants smile at you. They appear to mean it. They do a good job of pretending if they don't mean it.
  7. It's not terribly fun when your plane aborts a landing. You might have to shriek a little bit. "Woo!" is sufficient.
  8. It's unclear why business class, given all the stuff they give you wrapped in plastic, doesn't also provide trash bags.
  9. O'Hare is torture. New methods are devised every day. As a result, I can tell you nothing of use. Just prepare your soul.
  10. Fathers who travel with two young children and then read Alice in Wonderland to them on a Kindle are endearing.
  11. I've never come home from vacation before without a stressful job awaiting me. It's a pretty nifty system.
  12. Impatience gets you nothing. At least in airports.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Sentences From Sweden, Or, Saturday Morning at 3:33am PST

It's no longer Saturday morning here in Sweden. But it's still morning back home. For now I am briefly borrowing my brother-in-law's laptop to check in and say hello.

Talk to you next week. Have a wonderful weekend.

OK, 6.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Whilst In Sweden; We Have A Meme For July

A couple of memes. One, "Ten Things I Love," from Juleps and Jon Jons. She's a newish blogger, from down south. Please go say hi to her, if you have a minute. The other meme, seen in questions below, came from Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, a blogger of our certain age, as we say. Please say hi to her too, if you would be so kind.

1. What Experience Most Shaped You And Why? (That You Love)
My little conflation leads me here. The sentence, "That you love," becomes the answer. Learning to love, whoever and however, has shaped me. Because if we aren't who and what we love then we are who and what we fear. You either move towards or away. As my brother the Jungian analyst said, famously, in a wedding toast, "Always move in the direction of love."

2. If You Had A Whole Day With No Commitments, What Would You Do? (That You Love)
Well, since I have neither a job, nor a full nest, I do have whole days with no commitments. Many of them. And, clearly, I choose to write this blog:). Thank you for reading.

3. What Food Or Drink Could You Never Give Up? (That You Love)
Water. I mean, really, water. I am always thirsty. Getting older seems to turn one into an evaporation pan. A basin to the world. I might worry about becoming a pillar of salt, if I thought about it. So I drink a lot of water. Luckily, I also love the way water tastes. It does taste. Really, it does. What is your favorite version of H2O?

4. If You Could Travel Anywhere, Where Would That Be And Why? (That You Love)
Although it's often hard to see the possibilities, one can always travel anywhere in the world somehow. Except, in my experience, when one has recently given birth, at which point the universe opens up to reveal the unknown and a trip to the drugstore becomes a full voyage. That said, Sweden...

5. Who Do You Have A Crush On? (That You Love)
Ladies are allowed to have secrets.

6. If You Were A Leader Of Your Country, What Would You Do? (That You Love)
Ah. Ah. What would I do that I love, were I leader of the United States? Things I love, when nothing hinges on my activity, include reading, lying on sofas, writing, eating, sleeping, walking, watching Say Yes To The Dress. I do not think, however, were I the leader of the USA that I would love those things. Were I leader, the state of the nation would plague me so that I would have to get off the sofa.

I don't know the answer to our problems. Economic and political systems are terribly, terribly complicated. All I know is that the country is too divided right now. That somehow good minds with different opinions are unable to communicate, unable to collaborate, and unable to pose questions within answerable frameworks.

So were I leader, most of all I'd try to change the nature of our discourse. Separate politics from religion, separate economics from emotion, source some common ground and baseline beliefs from which to move forward, and set aside the irreconcilable into an agree to disagree category.

Perhaps once I had tried all that, I would need to go back and lie on the sofa.

7. Give Me One Savory Recipe That Doesn't Include Cheese (That You Love)

8. If You Could Spend Just One Day In Someone Else's Body, Who Would It Be? (That You Love)
I'd spend the day in the body of anyone I love. Simply to be able to better serve and make them happier by understanding how it feels to be them.

9. What Women Writer---Living Or Dead----Do You Most Admire And Why? (That You Love)
Phew. Exempt from any writers I might admire but not love. That still leaves far too many to choose amongst. So I'll pick the first who comes to mind. Louise Erdrich, author of The Beet Queen and a subsequent series. Poetic, funny, romantic.

As a nod to Sweden, I would like to pass this on to the readers and commenters of Privilege who I believe live up North. Some people do memes, some do not. I am not passing on the obligation, only the recognition.
  1. Tabitha, up in the north of the UK, new to me, an archetypal Grande Dame in dress and style.
  2. Paula, from Germany, and an enthusiastic commenter here who warms my heart.
  3. Metscan, blogging in Hagaland. That's Finland. She has horses, exquisite taste, and a Nordic tone to her voice. Need I say more?
  4. Courtney of Glacier County Honey, a bee and honey business in Montana. Yes. Bees.
  5. The Class Factotum, in Wisconsin, for her dry humor and irascible temperament.
  6. Peonies and Polaroids, Scotland, photographs, dreamy and crystalline weddings, bunnies, and cursing with dry cultural aplomb.
  7. Lauren, blogging in Manhattan. Yes. I count that as the North. May be the most verbally gifted person I have ever met. Her blog is a little impenetrable at first, as she doesn't care much for standard punctuation. But it's absolutely worth the effort. If you like to read, don't miss Beyond Thundertome. I can't explain.
  8. The Preppy Princess, Michigan, I think. That's North. Definitely North. From here at least. Writing sly commentary on preppy and other kinds of fashion. She is one of the best-mannered people I've ever met. In the true sense. If you like preppy gear of any sort, please go look at her blog and her site.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whilst In Sweden; The Daily Brainstorm Launches

I would like to announce the launch of The Daily Brainstorm. Says Barrie Davenport, editor-in-chief, "The Daily Brainstorm is an aggregate blog with some of the best bloggers on the internet, focusing on helping people have a more meaningful, passionate and interesting life."

The Daily Brainstorm was founded by Mary Jaksch (of Goodlife Zen, Write to Done, and the A-List Blogging Bootcamps & Blogger Club) and Geri Langlois, who is the technology genius behind the venture. Barrie Davenport (of Live Bold and Bloom) is the Editor-in-Chief and Katie Tallo (of Momentum Gathering) the Managing Editor.

I met this group via the A-List Blogger Club. Somehow they found the energy and drive to put together very interesting read. My posts from Privilege can be found there - but you know me already. I invite you to take a look, and subscribe if the articles interest you.

Here's who you will find.

Leo Babauta, Zen Habits - recently named #1 on Time Magazine's list of the 20 most important blogs of 2010
Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project - author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
Mary Jaksch, Goodlife Zen and Write to Done
Barrie Davenport, Live Bold and Bloom
Katie Tallo, Momentum Gathering
Steve Aitchison, Change Your Thoughts
Arvind Devalia, Make It Happen
Justine Musk, Tribal Writer
Doug Armey, The New Wealth Paradigm
Jeffrey Tang, The Art of Great Things
Anastasiya Goers, Balance in Me
Karol Gajda, Ridiculously Extraordinary
Carolyn Rubenstein, A Beautiful Ripple Effect
Jules Clancy, Stone Soup
Justin Dixon, A Little Better.Net
Lisa, Privilege
Suzannah Freeman, Write It Sideways
Chris, Zen to Fitness
Linda Gabriel, Thought Medicine
Julia Dimon, Travel Junkie
Lisa, Workout Mommy
David Bradley, Science Base
Farnoosh, Prolific Living
Jeff Nickles, My Super-Charged Life
Erin Pavlina, Spiritual Wisdom for Conscious People
Albert, Urban Monk
Manal Ghosain, One With Now
Jean Sarauer, Virgin Blogger Notes
Alison Kerr, Loving Nature’s Garden
Sala Kannan, Veggie Belly
Mike Lieberman, Urban Organic Gardener
Angela Artemis, Powered by Intuition

Perhaps I will see you there.

Note that no compensation has been or will be received from any of these links.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Whilst In Sweden; The Sturdy Gal Wears

No little black dresses over here. Of course my sisters and I had to confer to make sure that was really OK. Feels a little naked for High WASPs to travel without a way to dress for dinner.

Sense prevailed. Here's as dressed up as I will be. New metallic orange Havianas. A new belt. Which I'm pretending is Artsy. Do not break my heart and tell me otherwise.

Khakis. Diamond studs, I mean, I'm only going to have one pair of earrings for goodness sake.

And L.L. Bean chambray. I had to buy a man's shirt. The women's weren't classic enough. And then, of course, it was too big. So then, of course, I had to take it to the tailor. Surely you have tailored a basic before? Maybe just not quite this basic.

I'm going to pretend I look like Katherine Hepburn. Channel her wind-swept hair and wind-burned cheeks. Sit on a rock, stretch my feet before me, clasp my knees. My khaki-clad knees, sure, but still knees..

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Packing Strategies For Midlife, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:46am

Up early. Time to pack.

I like packing, as long as I have enough time. My strategy is to put everything out the day before I go. That allows me to survey the territory (otherwise known as look at stacks and stacks of my stuff), and consider. When I have time to look, I usually get it right.

When I hurry, I almost always get it wrong.

Younger, I bulled ahead, charging, horns lowered, shoulders working. What I lacked in finesse or foresight I made up for in stamina and quick reflexes. Now I know I have to see things to think about them. It's hard to see when I rush around.

Cognitive skills come in many styles. Some people can only think about things they have picked up, held, or walked with. Some people have to effectively embroider anything they are going to know. Visual, gross motor, small motor, whatever your bent, when you are older and faced with something important you've got to rely on the tried and true. You need a sharply honed sense of your cognitive habits and skills.

But I look ahead. This approach to aging can lead to an ever-closing spiral of limiting rituals. If you never see anything new, can you still know anything new? If you try to focus on what you know you're good at, do you find yourself doing less and less? The young suffer little repercussion from waste of time and effort. They can flail. Little damage done. Just compensate for thoughtlessness with activity. Sheer volume of new experience will guarantee anyone who keeps their eyes open some new knowledge. I'm 53. The shift is real.

In midlife you've got youth and age to either side, and you want to understand each so as to sit fully in your self. Whether or not your self is sitting on a sofa.

This morning I'm just packing. I'm only 53. No expectation that the meaning of our time on this earth will reveal itself, with trumpets. Harps. Or timpani. At least not this morning. A brown paisley belt lies on the settee. I'm also bringing sunhat, camera, and European plug adaptors. Time to move wet laundry from washer to dryer. The cycle complete alert has buzzed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation Far Away From The Modern World, Or, The Stockholm Archipelago

Have you ever wanted to take a vacation from 2010? To step into an Ingmar Bergman landscape, especially a happy one? How do you feel about granite beaches, wide skies, wild berries? Consider the Stockholm Archipelago.

On Sunday I'm off to spend a week in Sweden. This time, unlike the visit to Belgium, I'm surprising no one. Hence this preview. My stepfather, my mother, my sisters and their families, my daughter, and my stepfather's children and grandchildren, are all converging on my stepfather's summer house. Or, as I think they call it in Sweden, the sommarstuga. On an island called Ingmarso. This trip, we will shop only for milk at the general store, or airport trinkets. Little black dresses are unlikely to make an appearance. We will match our flip flops to our life preservers, at best.

This is a part of the world not often seen unless you're Nordic. Most of the lodgings on the multitude of Archipelago islands are private houses. And residents are reluctant to rent out their summer homes. Summer is short, up North, and sweet. To be celebrated.

The islands, which depending on what you call an island and not a large wet rock, number in the tens of thousands. Some are for sailing to, and sitting on, surrounded by the Baltic. Others are for houses, a few roads, no cars. In these places, all businesses are located in harbors and reached by boats. A few islands have more developed infrastructures. But they are by far the minority.

If you want to visit the Stockholm Archipelago, here's how. Fly to Arlanda. One of the nicest airports I've ever seen. Stay overnight in the airport hotel. Cute. Done up in the Scandinavian school of decorating. Then take the ferry to your island.

Smadalaro Gard

A few hotels are available. Some bucolic and traditional, as above. Some maritime, and traditional, as below.

Grinda Gasthamn and Hostel

Some modern, bleak, apocalyptic, and probably soul-searingly peaceful. Especially when the apocalypse allows for furry rugs.

Hotel Furillen, via Luxury Insider.

I found these on the web. If my family has better suggestions, I will update when I return.

It's unclear whether I will be in touch at all, from the island. It's remote. Not set up for a wired life despite the ubiquitous cellphone coverage. But I will be taking the usual pictures, and thinking the usual thoughts, and making the usual effort, eventually, to convey to you what I have experienced. And I'll be here Saturday morning, saying the usual things. Sometimes we have adventures, and sometimes we do the usual. If we're lucky. Too much of one or the other is not to be wished upon anyone.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Sturdy Gal Dreams Of A Grand Resort, v.2011

In recent weeks the fashion industry has been showing its Resort collections. High WASPs love resorts. They are places of tennis, sand, and alcohol. What's not to like? We aren't sure, however, what the point is of Resort collections, shown in the summer, and not available until 2011. We think it's an "industry thing," which makes us think of commerce, which makes us have to lie down.

As long as we are lying down, we will look at the clothes. Good news. There's something for everyone.* The Sturdy Gal, Artsy Cousin, and Grande Dame can all participate in what the fashion pundits have deemed a "2011 Resort trend." Good news. For us, or for the industry, of course, I cannot say.

But one might wonder, what trends of the season does the Sturdy Gal like?

Brogues, otherwise known as boy shoes. Black and white. Belts that hold your pants up.

Akris, via simple+pretty

If it's a girly day, we change out pants for a skirt. We don't, however, frown. Sturdy Gals are nothing if not cheerful. And we aren't sure why this woman is so cranky. After all, she's modeling and she's over 16. Shouldn't she be full of joy at breaking ground?

Organic, by John Patrick, via simple+pretty

We can even do dresses. Bottega Veneta bags are our secret vice. We have been known to pat them on the sly.

Bottega Veneta, via simple+pretty

Given these predilections, you can see why the Sturdy Gal worries about her Artsy Cousin. Artsy lives for prints. She adores a good floral, even those haunted by ghosts of upholstery past.

Kenzo, via

And, while the Artsy Cousin will sometimes wander into Sturdy Gal territory, tending on those occasions towards the wistful colors of seaglass green, fallen peach, and dusty berry,

Calvin Klein, via simple+pretty

she is never happier than when she glows like a multicultural flame. Which the Sturdy Gal just doesn't get. Why would anyone want to wear clothes that, um, show up?

Alberta Ferretti, via

Now the Grande Dame is, of course, another story altogether. She lets her wild side out. On vacation. Sometimes. Dramatically. With dignity.

White looks so good with a perfect tan and fabulous sunglasses. The Dame rules in Lanvin. Meanwhile Sturdy Gal dreams secretly of a love that would blow her skirt askance. Failing wild romance, a trade wind or two will do. Too bad the sunscreen she is never without lessens white's impact.

Lanvin, via simple+pretty. It appears that the above is a wedding dress. The Grande Dame is considering the etiquette of such a choice.

For a cocktail party, the Dame toes a structured line. Sturdy Gal perks up. "Really? That counts as dressing up? Can I wear flats? Take off the bracelet?" Sturdy Gal makes some allowances for glamor, but none for pain in her feet, or accessories that interfere with eating.

Chris Benz, via simple+pretty

There always comes a moment, in the midst of vacation, when the Grande Dame mutters, a little grimly, "Resort be damned. I say it's a dinner dance and I'm wearing long and tight. Long, tight, and black." The intellectual Grande Dame loves the semiotics of this dress, brazen references to beauty caught in symbols and hieratic rites. Or maybe it's the lace. She's a sucker for lace.

Oscar de la Renta via The Grande Dame's friend, is Oscar.

The Sturdy Gal, having arrived early to the dinner dance as she does to everything, sits and eats her salad. At the sight of the Grande Dame in her finery, Sturdy Gal cocks her head. If she squints, she is reminded of favorite tees with silly sayings. Writ large, as they say. Writ wizard. Not a bad thing. Everyone wants to make a mysterious and magic entrance, come the Resort.

*The Sturdy Gal, Artsy Cousin, and Grande Dame are High WASP style archetypes. If you're curious, just type the names into the blog search box and see what we're talking about. In future, I'll put up a page devoted to explicating this curious taxonomy.

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