Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When I worked at the boutique, there was one regular customer whom I adored. Well, we all did; it was hard not to. Her name was Lucie; she was French-Canadian and spoke with a distinct, lilting accent. She was the sunniest person I've ever met, bubbling over with energy and friendliness. She also had a lot of style: she always wore high-waisted trousers, which she then cropped to her ankle and wore with Repetto ballet flats. Although she was short, somehow this looked marvelous on her. She also had a casual disregard for size, and would routinely and refreshingly buy things much too big and then make them look perfectly casual and chic. Often she'd wave and smile to us as she rode past on her bicycle - sometimes with, I swear, a baguette or a bunch of radishes or some tulips in the basket. She was an architect. She loved to cook for friends on Sunday afternoons. We'd all laugh and speculate about how magical her life must be and sometimes we'd all say we wished we were living it. We didn't really want to be her, though - we just wanted her to be her, and to sometimes come in and bring a little sunshine and fantasy with her.

I remember, distinctly, deciding that she would be a role model for me. Not stylistically - I don't think anyone else could have pulled off her look - but in the way she treated people, in the way she brightened our lives with her genuine interest and small acts of consideration and the way that, as a result, she had an aesthetic of living that was tangible and appealing.

I don't know why I'm talking about her like she's dead or something when I'm sure she's very well and probably right now wearing cropped trousers and Repettos and, whatever the facts of her life, being a positive influence on those who don't really know her. I hope to run into her some time, and deliver a strange, intense speech of gratitude. I thought of her today, for the first time in a long time, simply because my pants were hemmed a little shorter than I wanted. Now, I'm not even sorry they were. I wore them out with vintage Ferragamo flats and a tee shirt and a sweater jacket and actually felt pretty sharp.

So: I've been trying like the dickens lately to be mindful and not get caught up in thoughts and generally fight the Black Dog in various vague ways (because it's boring and I hate to be bored) but one thing is getting in my way. (Two, if you count the mouse holocaust I've been responsible for this week. There's one left. Like Vito Corleone, I've murdered his entire family and now he's on the run, alone. Probably plotting my death. I can hardly blame him. Revenge, as we know, is a dish best served cold - possibly colder than a mouse's lifespan will allow for.) Anyway: I have been very depressed about my birthday, which is a week from today. What a cliche, I know! And irrational, too. And yet, I feel cold dread whenever I think of it. The idea of making anyone assemble for my benefit mortifies me. But doing nothing is a little sad, too. When I was 25, a bunch of friends and I went to the National in Brighton Beach and it was fantastic - but now I blush at my audacity in asking them to do that.

So, here is what we do. I am taking the precautionary measure of ordering myself, as a birthday gift, a box of pralines - my favorite treat. I am also going to order myself flowers. Knowing these are on the way takes a great deal of the pressure off, somehow - as if I can check the box that says "birthday." I asked my parents to get me a new pair of slippers, and I have a sneaking suspicion I will be getting them. Anyway, as my grandfather says, a few generations ago, people didn't even have birthdays. Or, as he put it, "in the Old Country, who knew from birthdays?"

For my part, I've taken of late to sending my loved ones birthday boxes of candy from a southern abbey I read about online. I'd heard that the candy was delicious and liked the idea that the industry helped the abbey stay self-supporting. But I've never, personally, received any, and maybe it's a good general rule to do some sort of test run with these things. I had my first suspicions when I sent a box, via the website, to my dearest friend El. in Baltimore. She emailed me that the caramels I'd sent were yummy and the "accompanying booklet, fantastic." Hmm. Then, my godmother sent me her thank-you note: "The caramels are delicious, as is the insert of the joyous nuns, working away in their twee little aprons - so unique, and so you." Anything being "me" generally means, "odd," and I was becoming distinctly alarmed at the thought that I'd already dispatched a box to Slim's mother in California. He happens to be out there for work and so I asked for a report on the candy. He wrote: "The accompanying booklet includes such gems as "my heart and flesh cry out for the living God, happy are that who dwell in [his] house" with a picture of a nun in an apron laying out caramels."

Happy birthday, indeed!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Now, one person's perfect cream cardigan is not another's. But I have, after long and fruitless and rather dilatory search, found mine! (FWIW, as we say in the trade.) Etsy, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Check Out My Ridiculous Miniature Tam O' Shanter!

Came in the mail yesterday! That's not Birnam Wood, but rather a couple of vases of greenery from the local park.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Small Thing

Okay. I know no one else is going to be half as delighted as I was by this, but check out these muffin papers! The gay, retro plaid! And I just picked them up at the supermarket! (Yes, these are blueberry muffins.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010



Started with mishigas, I'm afraid.

My parents met my train from Philly (more on that trip shortly) and, after I'd unloaded various sweetrolls and loaves of cinnamon-swirled, Mennonite-made baked goods upon them, we determined that we'd head for far Brooklyn, where they're (vaguely) considering living since my mother fancies being "near the water."

Having established that they do not, in fact, want to live in Far Rockaway (even though I thought all the bungalows were pretty neat) and after several hours of bickering and back-seat driving and sniping that made my shoulders tense, I suggested by way of distraction that we try a famous, venerable red-sauce seafood restaurant in Coney

Having gotten lost a few times, bickering a lot, deciding that they may, in fact, wish to live in Brighton Beach and being told to "just follow" some Italian motorist who then sped up and lost us, we arrived at the early-bird hour of 5:30 and settled in for baked clams, linguine with clam sauce and a glass of Chianti. There were tables of oldsters celebrating birthdays nearby, a tuxedoed waiter with a Russian accent, and comforting food, and we all relaxed and had a very nice time. And then.

It seems it's the custom of this restaurant to let every table try its luck with Pachango. With the check, the waiter produced a black bag and instructed us to choose a number between 1 and 90. If the number he drew from the bag matched our pick, the meal would be on the house.

"42," said my decisive father instantly.

"56," I said.

"Choose one," said the waiter.

"Your choice, Priscilla," said my dad, turning to my mother.

"Okay...42," she said.

The waiter shook the bag and produced tile.


A gasp went up.

"PRISCILLA!" shouted my father accusingly. "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?"


"I'll pay," I said nervously, just as the waiter interjected that "it often happens that way."

"DAMMIT," said my dad, as my mother's defensive screams rose to hysteric proportions.

"Please don't make a scene," I hissed as their escalating shouts began to attract the notice of the elderly diners. "It wasn't meant to be!"

"But it was," said my father grimly. "That's the point, it was." He waved off my offer of payment and, still grimly, proffered his card.

"Well, I think we're losing sight of the main point," I said brightly as they stared at each other with smoldering rage. "My miraculous psychic ability and the fact that I'm never wrong."

We filed out to the car, where someone had left a folded piece of notebook paper under the windshield. "Sorry I lost you," it read. "Glad you found it. - The Guy You Were Following to the Restaurant."

My father maintained a morose silence all the way to my house. The rain began to pound. My mother thought we'd gotten lost about ten times and became angry and hysterical. I was very glad to get home, put on PJs and watch Criminal Minds with some knitting.

This morning, I called them with some trepidation.

"Hi, darling!" said my mother gaily. "We're at a tag sale!"

"Wait, I thought you were 'divesting' before the move," I said, momentarily diverted.

"Oh, well, yes, but we need to be on the lookout for treasures."

"Well," I began, "I just wanted to make sure everything was okay...you seemed really upset about...the Pachango game."

She laughed happily. "Oh, we forgot all about that," she said.

Anyway. This morning donned gray and chilly and British. I donned the brightly-colored skirt I like for this weather and went to the Essex Street Market for groceries. Then I walked over to Granddaisy Bakery on Sullivan and had a delicious sandwich of goat's cheese, marinated beets and arugula. Next door to that is the Yoghurt Place, so I bought some of their homemade Greek yogurt and a small container of compote. Then, over to the far West Side for a little cider donut at Locanda Verde, and another mile or so back to the subway. Just my kind of Saturday: a morning of aggressive walking and exploring and treats and an evening of friends - in this case to see a lecture at the Center for Fiction in the late afternoon and later a drink with an out-of-town friend at Milk and Honey.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bicycle Diaries

This evening rode to Saraghina and had an eggplant saltimbucca with Slim. I thought I'd share with you the bicycle-riding playlist I've been listening to lately even though, yes, that's technically dangerous and irresponsible especially when listened to without a helmet like some of us.

As I mentioned, my folks are selling their house. I just found the listing online and it gave me a funny feeling. This was my room! I hope someone nice - ideally a child - ends up with it. The light is very good if you suffer from migraines, although the ghost of Ty Cobb does live in the closet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We've Been Asked...

...to submit pictures of ourselves to tech for a "new layout." I don't photograph very well, so I guess I'll use this one, since it was taken by a real photographer. I've been told that it doesn't much look like me, but I think it captures the barely-checked hysteria of my more manic moods, which I like!

And Another Thing...

I'll be in Philly come Thurs to talk on a thing somewhere. That's me in two days. Hit me with your tips! I don't know Philly! (I am staying at a B&B somewhere highly historical that serves muffins. And I have to talk on the thing. But other than that, am free as proverbial bird as the crow flies and want to see stuff! And do stuff! I mean besides the obvious stuff that I've done! Fine: I mean pastries, vintage stores and medical oddities.)

Nerd Alert!

I am going to let you in on a secret - although I guess it's not one to anybody who's viewed my profile. For the past few weeks, I've been compiling my tips and recommendations into one place! Here it is. I personally love peoples' recommendations when I visit a place, and I love New York so dearly that it always pains me for someone to "waste" a meal here - even me! So I hoped to help folks I know narrow it down. However, the compendium has gotten so sprawling that I fear it'll be just as off-putting as any guidebook! Oh, well...

It is very much a work in progress! I am adding to it all the time...


For the last 2 hours, have been torturing myself by going down the whimsical, lovely rabbit-hole of design-and-vintage blogs. You know the ones. All these beautiful girls with amazing vintage wardrobes who are either terribly hip and live in an amazingly ingenious apartment in Brooklyn or terribly romantic and live somewhere bucolic down south, all of whom seem able to craft and make anything, have beautiful, well-ordered lives and etsy stores and beautiful blogs into the bargain.

Ugh. I feel inadequate.

However! I have noticed it always adds a touch of class to post a vintage pic on one's blog. So. I give you my grandfather, Moe, with his girlfriend Anne. Before my grandmother.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ladies Who Brunch

Hosted a brunch today for my colleagues.

I wanted a daytime event so's no one would have to make the schlep after dark, despite the shabbiness of stealing a Saturday.

I served:

-A new fritatta of my own invention containing smoked salmon, cream cheese and caramelized onions

-Roasted asparagus

-Croissants and Pains au chocolat from Ceci-Cela, which one can buy, frozen, then proof and bake at home for maximum good smell (Butter, jams)

-A fruit salad of pineapple, mango, strawberries, blackberries and a little papaya and kiwi for color

-Yogurt and granola for an egg-frowner, although no one ate them

-Cofee and tea (the guests brought the fixings for bellinis and mimosas)

Someone joked that our get-togethers are exactly what someone might imagine: in the course of four hours, periods, lingerie, purses, politics and dolls were all discussed, and I produced for inspection a doll (it has real hair and we needed to demonstrate something), a pair of sandals (they'd just arrived in the post), and a polka-dot brassiere (the latter to show that TopShop underthings are perfectly okay.) I really do have the best coworkers - and job! - imaginable. (Jenna wore the most spiffing jumpsuit you can imagine, too.) Then I kicked everyone out so I could go somewhere.

A special thanks to Slim for doing a ton of cleaning last night in prep. And this after I was especially babyish yesterday while running tax-related errands at the bank, fidgeting and sulking and only snapping out of it when, by the hand of divine providence, the Treats Truck appeared and I was able to buy a brown-butter sandwich cookie. The house looks beautiful (or at least does until I start looking at pictures of apartments like this!) and, with the exception of some curious yowling of indeterminate human-or-animal origin, the neighborhood was on its best behavior too.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This gentleman is, apparently, an 8th cousin once removed. Having spent an evening with his blog, I am pleased to call him a relative, and wish him best of luck in the upcoming general election, in which he's running as an Independent candidate in Cambridgeshire. I also, in the grand tradition of shirttail relatives, do believe I'll descend upon him and his wife and pay them a prolonged visit - their area looks very beautiful! In return, they're of course more than welcome to holiday in Bed-Stuy.
If I have been a bit quiet lately, it's because it's been unseasonably hot, and in hot weather, I Go Strange. Going Strange (a phrase from the Arkansas branch, all of whom went strange with some regularity) for me involves not eating, not sleeping, getting furtive and peculiar and chuckling to myself, and odd notions. You can see, I think, why it's wiser to abstain from the written word during these periods.

But! A few good things have happened!

- The Girl Scout cookies arrived. (Largely thanks to the efforts of Willa, who was relentless in her pursuit of Thin Mints.) We are hoarding them, due to the shortage of 2010.

- Because they knew I was feeling low, my dear friends G and C surprised me with the most gorgeous bouquet of orchids, which is making me very happy (when not Being Strange.)

- Last night, the ghost abruptly started the antique alarm clock going - which, given that we haven't used it in months, means he had to wind it! And it's still going strong, 18 hours later...

-Had a lovely exchange with a reader in London named Becky whom I very much hope to meet when I next make it over there.

- On Easter Sunday, dragged myself from bed to attend the Easter Parade briefly in navy suit and bonnet. Bill Cunningham snapped me! (Although I don't guess I'll make it in with all the superior flamboyance on display!) I pretended to be oblivious, which is, I think, the done thing.

- Some guy was kind of stalking me on FB, being very peculiar and crude in very poor English. So I blocked him. (Oh, that wasn't actually one of the good things.)

-Just got the best card in the mail from the dear Lindsay D of Asheville, who always has the best cards, generally. They come from a terrific local letterpress.

-The other day, I took a long bike ride and ended up in Carroll Gardens, where I happened to meet the most charming person, Lauren, with terrific style and lots of Personality. Anyway, we got to talking and it turned out she was a fan of the website, always lovely to hear. Indeed, it was so lovely to hear that I was emboldened to write a mash note to a fashion blogger whom I've long admired. She was kind enough to write me back, and it made me think that I ought to reach out that way more often! If someone's work brightens your life, why not tell them. New resolution.

-Karaoke tomorrow - am thinking of breaking out "Wuthering Heights." Would go with my semi-Strange mood.