Here's to a Happy Holiday Season!

May it be filled with:

Beautiful music:

Good food and drink:
Source: afarnum.com via Kinfolk on Pinterest

Perfect weather, wherever you are:

via modernhepburn

photo via Dharma Rain Zen Center

And friends and family of all kinds.
via brown dress with white dots
via vineet kaur


Local Luxury

Was having some discussion about the idea of luxurious "things". To some, it's something expensive, to others it's the name associated with the thing. I keep coming back to Bruce Sterling: "It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross."

On that note, here's a short wish list of gorgeous things, all sourced from local (Portland) artists.

Strasbourg Birds scarf from PauperVoile (Jason Kinney)

Olo's Violet Leather perfume

Large Camden bag from Sara Barner

The Spark Dress from filly designs.


How to Avoid Work

Wonderful post from Brainpickings.org-- go read the whole thing!

Here's Maria Popova's introduction:

“There is an ugliness in being paid for work one does not like,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in 1941. Indeed, finding a sense of purpose and doing what makes the heart sing is one of the greatest human aspirations — and yet too many people remain caught in the hamster wheel of unfulfilling work. In 1949, career counselor William J. Reilly penned How To Avoid Work (UK; public library) — a short guide to finding your purpose and doing what you love. Despite the occasional vintage self-helpism of the tone, the book is remarkable for many reasons — written at the dawn of the American corporate era and the golden age of the housewife, it not only encouraged people of all ages to pursue their passions over conventional, safe occupations, but it also spoke to both men and women with equal regard.


Cheap Chic

As an art student in the late 1970s, I happened across a paperback book called Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy. I had discovered my style bible, eventually transforming it into a tattered and dog-eared thing with the corners of my favorite pages folded down. A decade later, I let it go during a misguided fit of decluttering. I've regretted it ever since.

Long out of print, it now sells for ridiculous amounts at Amazon. I wish I could find it again, not because it's worth so much cash, but because the lessons it taught me are still creative and exciting. This book was the real deal.

Cheap Chic was all about the principles of style. No strict rules (this was the 70s, after all), but full of lessons about embracing individual style (something of a new concept at the time), having fun with clothes, and being frugal about it at the same time.

Thanks to the blogs Notes to a Mouse and Mrs. Gorman, I can re-visit this treasure trove. From my favorite chapter on "Classics":
Sometimes Cheap Chic boils down to spending much more than you feel you can afford on the kind of classic, quality clothes we talk about in this chapter. We think it saves money in the long run. . . . There are still certain things you shouldn't fudge on no matter how cheaply you dress: the very best boots, a sturdy bag, a glorious jacket or shirt. You can't afford cheap boots that will last a year and then crack across the sole. If you had loads of money you could; but since you don't, spend your money where it shows the most.
This defined my fashion philosophy. Looking back, I see that it was exactly in line with what my blue-collar parents taught me: buy the best you can afford and only buy what you need, then take excellent care of what you have. They also lived by a folk saying (Scandinavian, I think): "Poor people can't afford cheap shoes". I remember my father polishing his sturdy black leather work shoes to a beautiful gloss every Sunday night. I often do the same: on Sunday nights I get the urge to clean and polish my shoes, de-fuzz sweaters, and repair anything that needs a few stitches. It's very satisfying.

My favorite style muse in Cheap Chic was Ingeborg Day and her "Cost-per-Wear" system. An enthusiastic student, I studied her style carefully and tried to emulate it as best I could:

Top photo from Style Bubble, bottom photo from Mrs. Gorman

I also fell madly in love with the look of this traditional French jeweler's smock. When I was living in Italy in my late 20s, I made a trip to Paris and-- miracle of miracles-- found one at La Samaritaine. I was thrilled, even though the chic sales assistant was utterly puzzled as to why I would want such a thing. I wore it with a long black skirt underneath and a beautiful wool Fair Isle vest on top.

Find the clothes that suit you best, that make you feel comfortable, confident, sexy, good looking and happy ... and then hang onto them like old friends ... Nobody knows better than you what you should wear or how you should look. (quote via Last-Year Girl, who has another nice post about CC.)

Why some brilliant publisher doesn't re-issue this, I don't know. I can only hope and wait.


DIY Cleaning Products

 via boingboing.

When my kids were little and I had mountains of laundry, I made my own laundry detergent. It was a pain (grating soap, adding ingredients at the right time and "cooking" the mixture) and the end result wasn't very elegant. But it was cheap and it worked. I stopped making it years ago, though. Even though my laundry has decreased dramatically, I may still try this recipe (see below), as it's a powder and doesn't involve cooking.

Currently, I make my own dishwasher detergent (I've been using the same recipe given in boingboing link, given below). It's easy and works better than the Trader Joe's powder I was using.

I use Mrs. Meyer's All-Purpose cleaner, diluted, for general cleaning; and I've always used the vinegar and water mix for glass. I also use plain white vinegar (with a drop or two of scented essential oil if I want to get fancy) for a fabric softener in the washing machine.

Dishwasher detergent:

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt (for scrubbing action)
Use 1 Tbsp per load (you can use a heaping tablespoon if you feel the need, but we do not).
Each batch yields 24 ounces of detergent. We recommend storing in a container you were going to dispose of anyway, like an old yogurt container or coffee can you can fit it under your kitchen sink. Feel free to double the batch, or multiply to create any amount you’d like.
For a DIY rinse agent, simply fill the compartment with white vinegar.

Laundry Detergent:

Homemade Laundry Detergent
Jabs says this is a great first project, “because the recipe that we have for homemade laundry detergent is just 3 simple ingredients. It’s soap — just a bar soap — grated, and mixed with a cup of borax and a cup of washing soda…You just use 2 tablespoons per load. So it’s that simple and it saves so much money.” Matt says most families can save hundreds of dollars a year with this recipe alone.

Credit.com (http://s.tt/1v2Zc)

Source: remodelista.com via LB on Pinterest


RIP Dave Brubek

You can listen to another performance and an interview here.


Analog Life

I'm an analog girl in a digital world. ~~Erykah Badu

(Miss Sophie just did an "analog edition" over at Les Anti-Modernes, and one of my favorite online shops to browse is Japan's Analogue Life, so thought it was time to indulge in my own version.)

Sorely needed for long, rainy Northwest winters. Just the thing for taking a greyhound on a late afternoon walk. Ilse Jacobsen rain boots, handcrafted of natural rubber in Denmark. Fleece-lined and very cozy. (Scored these for 70% off at Isaay.com.)

A couple of nice thick beeswax pillar candles for when you get home from that walk in the rain. You can drink tea and have some homemade chocolate cake by late afternoon candlelight, too.

Porcelain teapot from artist Naoto Okada, at Analogue Life.

A very easy, plain chocolate cake recipe. This one involves cocoa powder and buttermilk, and is from Laurie Colwin's More Home Cooking. My copy of this book is a first edition hardcover, pages yellowed and stained from 20 years of handling in the kitchen.

Karen Edward's Version of Cocoa Buttermilk Cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan.
2. Mix together 1 3/4 c. flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
3. To these ingredients add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix.
4. Turn the batter into the pan, bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

Colwin writes:
It is hard to encapsulate the virtues of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel-- the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like dream and tastes even better after a few days.... If you want to be lavish, you can dress this cake up by serving it with ice cream or créme fraîche. This mitigates its purist, minimalist virtues, but that is the way of chocolate cakes.


Currently listening to

All the Carlos Gardel I can find. Perfect for dark, rainy nights.


The Zen Master Goes Black Friday Shopping

From: Tricycle Tumblers: the official tumblr of Tricycle Magazine

Caro Scuro/Flickr

 When the Zen master Black Friday shops, it is not hard to understand! When breathing, breathe! When Black Friday shopping, shop!

When finding “jingle socks” and “scarves for her,” and “hostess gifts under $25,” just find them. Go to aisles 7 and 14 and 15 and find them!

Do not rush, but neither shall you go slow like the snail climbing Mt. Fuji, and miss out on the Crock Pot Spectacular.

Here is a koan: Customer Service, how does one translate this? Mu, in Japanese. Wu, in Chinese. Or, in English, nothingness.

Have a goal and simultaneously have no goal regarding the sutra, The Overpriced Holiday Toy List: You Should Have Bought The Toys Way Back in October When They Were Available.

Mindfully, is how to approach the sale rack of neckties.

Like a river that stays within its banks, this is our way, joriki, the power of concentration on free wrapping and free shipping.

How the swans land on the lake is how you want to land in the checkout line that snakes around the building and out onto the street.

Chop wood and carry water is our practice, but it also doesn’t hurt to carry cash.

Elizabeth Bastos
is a stay-at-home mother of two in the Baltimore suburbs. Her work has appeared at The Smithsonian, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker’s Page-Turner Blog, and she is a contributor at Book Riot. She went to Smith for English and Marine Biology so she knows a thing or two about spinelessness and buoyancy. Her personal blog is Goody Bastos.

Link here.


Happy Birthday, Astrid Lindgren!

photo from sweden.se

14 November 1907 – 28 January 2002
From wikipedia: she was an unwed mother, worked as a journalist and secretary before writing children's books, and was involved in a 1976 scandal over the marginal tax rate that brought down the Swedish Social Democratic government (though she remained a Social Democrat for the rest of her life).  A Russian astronomer named a minor planet after her in 1978-- "Asteroid Lindgren". She wrote Pippi Longstocking (my favorite) for her daughter Karin.


Advice from Molly Ivins

circa 2006:
I realize for many Democrats it has been so long since we won, we have completely forgotten the etiquette. And I realize I'm taking a chance here -- there's nothing more dangerous than overconfidence -- but you have to practice for victory as well as defeat.
First rule: No gloating. Actually, there is gloating aloud, but only in the exclusive presence of other Democrats. Gloating in the face of Republicans is rude and unsportsmanlike, and just gives them one more thing to complain about.
Also, remember there is a possibility there may be some Republicans on the civil service staff -- I have seen this when the R's win -- and it is really not good manners to watch them wailing around with their eyes brimming with tears.
Second, I'm sure we will all be full of grand theories if Republicans lose and we win. Dems will be ready to be helpful, offer advice and sort of try to perk the R's up. I do not recommend this. It somehow never feels right to me when R's are dumping truckloads of good advice on the D's that they are, actually, sincere about it.
Third, celebratory jigs, reels and renditions of "Danny Boy" are best limited to Irish bars.
Fourth, try to refrain from insulting Republicans en masse. A good start would be, "You know, it was mostly the ones under indictment that hurt you."
I sure do miss her.


The Beatles perform a bit of Shakespeare

And a good time they have, too, complete with audience "heckling".



Quote of the Day

Even if one's whole life were a mistake, there is always time to change.

--Henry Miller


Photo of Henry Miller from Banned Books.


We can't all be Queen.

Queen Marie of Romania, ca 1920

Life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong
And I am Marie of Roumania

-- Dorothy Parker (via and hat-tip to Deni McInyre @Pinterest)

p.s. I think I need to become a member of The Dorothy Parker Society.


From the British Museum: On this day in 1611, Shakespeare's The Tempest was first performed.

Title page of the First Folio

Christopher Plummer as "Prospero" in The Tempest (2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival)
Photo credit here.

Helen Mirren in Julie Taymor's 2010 film

John Cassavettes (with Susan Sarandon as Ariel) in 1982's loose adaptation by Paul Mazursky. Image via

John Gielgud in Peter Greenaway's quirky Prospero's Books (1991)


The Goblin Spider

From the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum:

Noted writer and linguist Lafcadio Hearn’s 1910 English translation of the ancient Japanese ghost tale, The Goblin Spider, transports children of all ages to an exotic world of samurai warriors, haunted temples, and monstrous goblin spiders.
According to the tale, there used to be many goblin spiders in Japan. During the day, they looked just like common spiders—but late at night, they transformed into huge spiders with bulging eyes and menacing pincers. Capable of terrible things, these monstrous arachnids also had the magical power of taking human shape.
Sadly, no credit given for the illustrator.

L' Haunting

Henri le chat, on Halloween.


"Here's the last thing that I'd like to throw out there before we all go 1856 all over for a while..."

Excellent post from Charles P. Pierce:

Here's the last thing that I'd like to throw out there before we all go 1856 all over for a while. This entire campaign has been fought out over the issue of whether or not we are all members of a viable political commonwealth with implicit mutual obligations to act through our government — a self-government that is, or ought to be, the purest creative project of that commonwealth — for the common good, or whether that government is a some sort of alien entity repressing our fundamental entrepreneurial energy. Over the next few days, I believe, we are going to see that argument brought to the sharpest point possible. If you want to see how this event will "impact the election," look to what answer to that question emerges from the storm. It will tell us a lot about the election, and about ourselves.

Read more here.

Hurricane Sandy from Space on Twitpic
Hurricane Sandy from space

Stay safe, everyone.




Just in time for Halloween!

From Mother Jones:
Experiments on mice have shown that it is possible to rejuvenate the brains of old animals by injecting them with blood from the young. [Saul Villeda], who led the work, found that blood from young mice reversed some of the effects of ageing in the older mice..."Do I think that giving young blood could have an effect on a human? I'm thinking more and more that it might," said Villeda.
I was sure this was the plot of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie with Tor Johnson, but I was wrong.

It was Bela Lugosi!



I love me some Margaret and Helen.

I am no longer afraid of Tagg Romney despite my lack of Secret Service protection. Your dad is a dumb ass liar. Bring it on, son. I mean it. Really.
Margaret, I can’t imagine that there are many, but if a woman still plans to vote for Mitt Romney chances are she owns a car elevator. I am sure there are a few exceptions to that rule, and I imagine they will leave a comment here soon enough. I’ll keep their head shots in a binder so we can talk about them later.

In other, more superficial news, I got a haircut. My below-the-shoulder curly locks were whacked to just above the shoulder (4 or 5 inches). I feel positively shorn, and I miss my rather dramatic hair.

The real test will be if anyone else notices. I'm guessing no.

Waiting for this in the mail:

I have been wanting something from Le Bouton for ages. And when this popped up in her etsy shop, dear reader, I caved.

And you know, I think these boots would be just the thing to wear with it. Right now they are all sold out, but I am closet cleaning for the money to buy a pair when they come back in stock next month (fingers crossed).


Oh, and there's also this...

Binders Full of Women!


Hilary Mantel (more about her here), one of my favorite authors, has won (a second!) Man Booker Prize. I'll let my pal Kate the Driveller explain:

historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and one she particularly excels in (my introduction to Mantel was her richly multifocal French Revolution novel, A Place of Greater Safety and Bring up the Bodies shares that completely unpretentious and consummately precise dense prose style)...

This is the sequel to one of my recent favorites:

And there's a nice profile of her in The New Yorker, entitled "The Dead Are Real".


"Window Licking"*

*lèche-vitrine in French (a more poetic term for "window shopping").

Current lusts:
These shoes from etsy. Yes, I know they're summer shoes, but I want them. Black or grey?

Look at this gorgeous cashmere cable sweater. In Cloud. (No, don't look at the price. This is just for fun.)
From the new online boutique Mill Mercantile, found via Lovejoy.

Nice Lab Coat from Black Crane (great designs from a husband-and-wife duo Alexander Yamaguchi and Momoko Suzuki):

And can you "window-lick" an entire blog? I am confessing to more than a little envy of this woman's blog/life. She's talented, lovely, makes her own very stylish clothes, has 4 (correction: 6!) photogenic children and a beautiful house. Did I mention she is French? It's always a pleasure to discover a thoughtful new blog.


Poverty and "Responsibility"

This is so good:
The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted...
The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier. 
And the Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, tries to live on Food Stamp money for a week and kept a Facebook diary about it. He reported feeling "hungry and tired", and after he was running late and didn't have a chance to make breakfast or pack a lunch one day he wrote:
I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Every single politician who wants to cut food stamps should be required to do this. Every. Single. One.

Another good piece here.

And because I just can't let the Big Bird Meme (or "Sesame Street vs. Wall Street") go:


The Doe Bay Sessions

"A group of cello-wielding maniacs" - Spacelab Magazine

The Portland Cello Project! Enjoy. (via Hollister Hovey)

The Doe Bay Sessions (2012) - Portland Cello Project from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.


Happy Birthday, Buster Keaton!

Born October 4th, 1895. Here's a visual valentine to one of the most elegant comedians ever.

Source: flickr.com via LB on Pinterest

A nice essay about Buster Keaton is at the New York Review of Books, here.