Friday, October 30, 2009

Headless Outfit Series: Part Deux

Perhaps it's been an unusually beautiful and well deserved autumn, but I have heard more comments regarding happiness and fall weather than ever before. Autumn means not feeling so bad about wearing too much black. It also means eggplant and teal — together. Crisp, crunchy leaf weather means tights (and thigh-high knit socks!). And textures. Bittersweet branches mean crops and longs. And donning outerwear based on the maples: less when the green's still around and more when the tree out my window bares it all.

6:09 p.m.

I try to save every draft of everything I write. Sometimes, as with all writerly things, a most favorite vignette is tossed out for the good of the piece. The story just isn't going in that particular direction. Still, there are things worth saving. My grandfather wrote a book called Never Spit in the Wastebasket, and I believe him.

When I was 12, I took up the cello and sat first-chair through high school. As a senior, I was accepted to study cello performance for a summer at the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. Instead of a cello professor, Dr. Childs, a vocalist, coached me. We met in his office once a week, and while I played a Brahms sonata, he sang the melody. After a grueling rehearsal, he sat back, paused and said, “I don’t know the reason why Brahms wrote this piece, but what I’ve gathered is when he wrote it, it must have been raining. Tell that story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

8:56 a.m.

Liberty as viewed from the telescope in my father's hotel room.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Headless Outfit Series

5:11 p.m.

After-work snackettes are necessary whilst playing Scrabble with T.

A large, book (or two), preferably with many large photos and interesting captions, is necessary as I await my chance plant a Bingo.

Chipp Kidd with milky tea, honeycrisp apples and very manly bread and butter.

3:48 p.m.

I love these!

It's the moody toast pillow by a Seattle-based duo called Wonder Thunder. Check out their blog and more clever goods on etsy.

1:04 p.m.

Things that pair well on cold, rainy Fridays:

Oversized, textured sweaters and opaque tights in muted tones.
Frothy cappuccinos and coffee cake
Industrial-strength shea butter lotion and my dry, scaly lizard paws.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

1:41 p.m.

In the library I flip through dozens of last year's magazines. The chair I have chosen to sit in appeared cozy and comfortable upon first glance. Now that I have leaned back, I realize how deceiving wingback furniture with pretty patterns can be. The chair is stiff. It is determined to not let me sink in and simply sit. Perhaps it is trying to tell me not to get too comfortable. I will have to leave soon.

The public library is my favorite place to visit on days when it seems as if the rain will go on for weeks. On the top floor, where the periodicals are stacked and shelved, I am a silent page-flipper among other flippers. We cough and sniff and sigh and shuffle our feet across the carpet as the tin drilling of raindrops pings onto and off the roof. For an hour or two, we and the weather form a percussion section. The man at the table across from me takes a sneezing solo. A woman with tangly, forest-like hair controls the rhythmic scan and whoosh of the photocopier. We are without a conductor. The rain dictates our tempo — it beats quickly, evenly like the 32nd notes of a snare drum. For a moment it slows to a lazy pizzicato, but picks up again in sharp, metallic staccato notes.

I have had enough of our symphony, and I leave the periodicals to look out the vast wall of windows in the reading room. Water streaks the panes and flows in clear arteries across the glass. Thin streams converge into wider creaks and rivers. The flicker of a fluorescent light glares off of the window, pulsing a beat by which the water runs. No one else is in this room. I stand in front of the row of chairs that face outward, and I imagine I am on a ship, crossing a stormy sea. A sharp corner of the book in my bag gently nudges my thigh. It wants to be read in here, now. I'm forced to ignore it — I've been here too long already.

I walk out of the room (and walk back to retrieve the black umbrella I've just bought and nearly forgot), skip down the stairs, stare briefly at the new releases, exit into the rain and drive back to work.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

11:44 p.m.



It was (and I say this genuinely) heartbreaking to learn that Conde Nast is closing Gourmet as well as Modern Bride and Cookie.

Last night I curled up in bed with the October issue of Gourmet. I wondered to myself: if I had read this two days prior, nothing in the magazine, of course, would have ever hinted at its end, and I would have thought, wow, food magazines must be doing great. There's an astounding amount of variety within these pages and something for everyone, even a poor, young working girl like me.

But lately, the bad economy always burns the good ones (no pun intended). The septuagenarian of a magazine is closing its doors — ones that opened international eyes to more than really good food. We didn't just learn how to be better cooks. Gourmet taught readers to make food a lifestyle. Through each succulent page we learned to eat. We learned to be polite but discerning restaurant patrons. We learned that dining is not just about the food — it is about the whole experience.

Since I got a job (one, conveniently, in magazines) shortly after graduation, I was thrown into the schedule of an 8-5 quite quickly and without much preparation. All I wanted to do for the first two weeks of work was come home and sleep. But that wouldn't do for more than a fortnight.

Cooking has become a way of decompressing after work — doing something with my hands when I have spent all day at my computer. Now I think about food almost as much as I think about clothes. And in reading Gourmet, some fantastic blogs and critics, I have started to think differently about food. It is not something to simply consume; food is a catalyst for social involvement. Humans connect over food.

When I think about New York, I think about Tartine. It's a cozy French restaurant that sits among brownstones in the West Village. I went there with a friend I see about once or less-than-once each year. Hearing that it was a bring-your-own sort of place, we each picked up a bottle of wine (I managed to score a fake i.d. earlier that day), proceeded to get lost, finally found our way and joined the other patrons who lounged and drank in the chilly March evening on the restaurant's sidewalk as they waited for a nook (I say nook because it was just that) in the restaurant. I remember having this minute-long imagining that I lived in the walk-up across the street, could skip over to Tartine whenever I wanted, and later meet friends just a couple blocks away at the then-"now", now-"then" Magnolia Bakery.

We were engulfed by Tartine's ambience. I think we must have waited for an hour to get inside, but no one minded because despite how cold we were, it was fantastic to chat on a sidewalk and have a glass of wine.

Gourmet did that. The magazine set the scene. The writers didn't want to only tell you about the food they ate. They wanted you to feel like you were there with them. Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl came to Gourmet after working as the food critic for the New York Times, where she challenged the "finest" restaurants and explored palates outside of the posh New York restaurateurs. This final issue marks Reichl's tenth year with the magazine, and in her letter, she talks about the constantly evolving food industry. "We are in the midst of a great cooking revolution," she writes, "one that has happened so gradually that few of us are even aware of it." She says that in ten years, food as come a long way: Yeah, we're sustainable! Yay, no trans fats! Go local farmers! But the idea of simply dining — in or out — has traveled a long way too. The design and presentation should be thoughtful and relevant to what you're eating and where you are. And when we think about why or why not our dinner was fantastic, overall experience takes precedence over cuisine alone.

After a bottle of wine, we shuffled our slightly-frozen selves into the tiny, dimly lit, shoulder-t0-shoulder restaurant and squeezed into a spot between two other parties with the window behind us. There wasn't much room to actually turn around for a glimpse of the restaurant, but at that moment there also wasn't much point; we drooled over the menu. I remember the goldeny-crisp, pencil-thin pomme-frites that spilled over a perfect steak. And the salmon — how it melted, satiny and rich, beneath my tongue.

Gourmet and food writing (and even the film Ratatouille) has taught us to taste. Food is not fuel. Okay, technically, it is. But I don't see it that way. Food is why the word "savor" exists. And when we're brunching or snacking or dining, we should actively expand our gut and our food vocabulary and our tastebuds. I was recently pointed to the Observer's superb food critic Jay Rayner (who also wrote for Gourmet), and I was drawn to this moment he had when he tried several terroir-based dishes:

"The duck skin scratchings, all crisp fat and crunch and salt, made me feel giddy and ashamed at the same time."

I had no idea I wanted to try duck skin scratchings until I read this. Now it's all I can think about. My love of food is why I spend almost as much time daydreaming about ingredient combinations as I do imagining up the outfits I will be wearing this autumn.

Tartine is charming, and in a number of ways. You get to wait on the sidewalk and drink your own drink (like a delinquent!). You practically sit on top of one another inside the restaurant. You also must pay cash, and we didn't have enough for dessert. However, I will go back and order the cheesecake the woman next to me was "mmmm-ing" over. Remembering those few hours in New York, I don't immediately think of the food. In fact, I can't put my finger on one thing. In a short piece from this issue, Gourmet writer James Rodewald calls this idea the "spirit of dining out," and it's true. It was the experience and the joy (yes!) of catching up and sharing dinner with good company.

Conde Nast, I wish you'd change your mind. But if there is an issue to announce an end, this October is it. One might say that October to restaurants is the September to fashion houses. It's also Reichl's 10th anniversary as editor, the magazine's 70th birthday and the start of a new year in food. I'm not yet ready to cast my copy to the "already-read" basket of magazines, and I will look forward to reading the last issue, November. But tonight, Gourmet and I will curl up again, and I will savor every last bite.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

3:46 p.m.

Ways to feel productive when you haven't done much:

1. Go for a very long walk, but wear legitimate work-out clothes. You'll feel like you're doing more than you really are.
2. Shower. Extra points if you shave your legs.
3. Get over your fears of changing strings (this might only apply to me), and put new ones on an instrument. In my case, after nearly two years (gasp) and a very stupid mistake, I just put new strings I my cello.
4. Play the instrument.
5. Buy a rolling pin.
6. Use the rolling pin to make this very easy and delicious bread recipe. If my apartment is any indication, anyone's kitchen will smell incredible.
7. Play Scrabble.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

9:34 p.m.

What is better than vegan chili?

Topping it off with super-sharp cheddar cheese and cheddar cheese crisps!

8:47 p.m.

If there had been a way to spend today's chilly, grey afternoon it would have been a leaf-filled and windy walk through Richmond Park. But since that could not be, I went to the Ragtag and saw John Keats' England from my seat.

Bright Star is a beautiful film. Jane Campion has captured the magic of young Keats' work through two fantastic leads (Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw) and two hours filled with endless imagery which, much like love, exhausts and inspires the senses. The story is based on the true relationship between the poet and the girl next door, Fanny Braun. The script, stripped of superfluous lovey-dove, is honest and aching. Unlike a Jane Austen-based screenplay, the relationship here unfolds gently, slowly. No one falls in love after three days. And since it is a love we know cannot be (Keats had no income and gained acclaim posthumously), both Fanny and Keats tread cautiously. But as more letters are written and poems are read, we the audience fall with them into their agonizing love.

The original soundtrack is a nod to Mozart and quietly underscores Keats' word-filled pages and the sweet silence of a walk out-of-doors.

The cinematography is visual poetry. Bright white rooms and the colorful clothing of Fanny's own creation contrast against stark, snowy midwinters and Keats' dark, brooding study. Many times the characters' realities converge outside in a blinding sunlight or stormy day. Or, if Fanny enters the poet's study, she catches him (and us) off guard. We know why he called her his Bright Star.

Go see it!

11:44 a.m.

Would my landlord clean the outside of my windows as an early Christmas present?

Friday, October 2, 2009

3:34 p.m.

Seven eyes. I love my new shirt.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


This is really too bad.

Where do we draw the line? When is art breaking the law? I found it interesting that the Tate Modern is closing the entire exhibit and not just removing the photo. To me, it shows the museum's dedication to the exhibition — every photograph is there for a reason, and they all work together to tell a story of the artist, Richard Prince.

And it appears that Brooke Shield's tweeny photo should be the least of Scotland Yard's worries. The exhibition, Pop Life, contains so much explicit material (and much of it hardcore pornography), that many of the exhibits provide warnings to audiences.

Perhaps Scotland Yard also needs to hop on over to the National Gallery and demand Bronzino's "naked painting" to be taken down.

Or, maybe they could go to all of the card shops and throw away the Anne Geddes babies. Actually, that might not be such a bad idea.


Breast cancer awareness month doesn't have to mean yucky, stiff t-shirts with sponsors all over the back. Check out this amazing collection of beautiful products you can purchase to help spread awareness. A percentage of every purchase will be donated to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity. I love the undies. I'm not sure I could handle the Smeg fridge, but I'd wear that tee by Warehouse all year long, at least until Valentine's Day! And isn't that what awareness is all about?