Sunday, January 27, 2013

Derailment of Best Laid Plans

Hello Kittens.

You know what they say about best laid plans...I had today set aside as a catch-up day.  I was running around the beginning of last week like a chicken with its head cut off trying to recover from the flu the week before and get ready for a trip up to the Bay Area to celebrate the birthday of one of my best friends.  I can look back and compose a list of the things that contributed to me feeling sick the second I got off the plane at LAX yesterday evening, but I won't bore you with those details.

I am a miserable excuse for a Book Club Leader since I am only about half done with 'What Makes Sammy Run?' which was supposed to be finished today (I now understand why a book a month is the commonly accepted norm).  I still have 'Breakfast at Tiffany''s pulled out and ready to watch.  I need to prep the next lesson in the This Charming Dame series.  I have vacation photos to upload.  I should really be doing some work since I took a few days off.  We won't discuss the emptiness of my fridge.  And what I really want to do is finish my tea and take a nap.

So, this post is a request for some patience and also me admitting to myself that my resolution to NOT live my life in crisis mode might not be going as well as I'd thought.  I just have to believe I'll get better at this and try to be more patient with myself...having more of an 'all or nothing' mentality won't help me out in the least.

I shall catch up with you later.  Enjoy your Sunday Lovelies...hopefully it involves brunch!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Let's Get Literary - Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's

Hello Kittens!

Since my LBD posting, I've been experiencing a mini Breakfast at Tiffany's obsession.  I started thinking, though I haven't seen the movie in a while, I have seen it a few times...but I've never actually read Truman Capote's 1958 novella.  Because there aren't enough titles on my Book Club list, I decided to remedy that and give it a read.

First edition cover. Pick up a copy here

The novella is a story told in retrospect, set on the Upper East Side of New York in the autumn of 1943.  It is completely told from the viewpoint of an unnamed man who we know only as Fred - a name given to him by his eccentric neighbor, Holly Golightly.  Holly is referred to as a Café Society Girl, one who does not have a job, but lives on the generosity of wealthy men and the benefits of running in the right circles.  One of the misconceptions is that she is a prostitute, but Capote had gone on the record to say that while she was a party girl and was paid by men to hang on their arm, she was NOT, in fact, a hooker.  Holly herself addresses the issue - "Not that I've warmed the multitudes some people say: I don't blame the bastards for saying it, I've always thrown out such a jazzy line."

Holly is unconventional.  Her driving force is her quest to find herself, find a place where she truly belongs.  I get the feeling that she feels that as she hasn't attained that sense of belonging, her actions have no consequence.  To her, everything is temporary, because everything has always been so.  It can be seen in her attitude toward her cat.  "Poor slob...poor slob without a name.  It's a little inconvenient, his not having a name.  But I haven't any right to give him one: he'll just have to wait until he belongs to somebody.  We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don't belong to each other: he's an independent, and so am I.  I don't want to own anything until I know I've found the place when me and my things belong together...It's like Tiffany's...not that I give a hoot about jewelry.  Diamonds, yes.  But it's tacky to wear diamonds before you're forty; and even that's risky.  They only look right on really old girls...wrinkles and bones, white hair and diamonds: I can't wait.  But that's not why I'm mad about Tiffany's...You know those days when you've got the mean reds?"  "Same as the blues?"  "No, the blues are because you're getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long.  You're sad, that's all.  But the mean reds are horrible.  You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of.  Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is...what I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's.  It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing bad could happen to you there, not with those men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.  If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name."

Despite her lack of convention, you cannot help but fall in love with Holly.  When you see the world through her eyes, there is something magical, something captivating.  She represents a freedom, living for the moment without regard for much of anything aside from having a good time and embracing who you are.  She is described as "a crazy.  A phony.  But a real phony." because she truly believes in what she says.  She embraces the fact that she is 'a lopsided romantic.'  As she sees it, she's simply being true to herself - "Good things only happen to you if you're good.  Good?  Honest is more what I mean.  Not law-type honest - I'd rob a grave, I'd steal two bits off a dead man's eyes if I thought it would contribute to the day's enjoyment - but unto thyself-type honest.  Be anything, but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I'd rather have cancer than a dishonest heart."  Holly loves passionately and freely, accepting people as they are and is very much ahead of her time with her views on love and equal rights "I'd settle for Garbo any day.  Why not?  A person ought to be able to marry men or should be allowed.  I'm all for it."

Holly has a very laissez-faire attitude about most things, but there is a sadness to it all, to her.  She doesn't allow you to glimpse it often, but when she does, it's heartbreaking.  "Never love a wild can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get.  Until they're strong enough to run into the woods.  Or fly into a tree.  Then a taller tree.  Then the sky.  That's how you'll end up...if you let yourself love a wild thing.  You'll end up looking at the sky."  I get the feeling Holly wants to be all things to all people, genuinely wanting to make them happy, but doesn't quite know how to do that while making herself happy.  "I do feel guilty, I guess it's because I let him go on dreaming when I wasn't dreaming a bit.  I was just vamping for a time to make a few self-improvements.  I knew damn well I'd never be a movie star.  It's too hard and if you're intelligent, it's too embarrassing...I don't mean I'd mind being rich and famous.  That's very much on my schedule, and someday I'll try to get around to it; but if it happens, I'd like to have my ego tagging along.  I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Tiffany's." 

For those that have both read the novella and seen the movie adaptation, I think it's easy to forget the sadness of the novella once we see the movie and see Holly flitting around.  The feeling we are left with from the movie is the ease with which she moves...the aesthetic that we've come to associate with the film and the character.  'One could see that Holly had a laundry problem, the room was strewn, like a girls' gymnasium...she was on her knees poking under the bed.  After she found what she was looking for, a pair of lizard shoes, she had to search for a blouse, a belt, and it was a subject to ponder, how from such wreckage, she evolved the eventual effect: pampered, calmly immaculate, as though she'd been attended by Cleopatra's maids.'  What stays with me is the sadness of the character.  Someone who is so desperate to love herself and find a place to belong, that everything essentially becomes collateral damage.  I've tried to keep the plot out of this posting, so I won't tell you how this ends, but I can tell you, it ends differently from the movie.  And since I'm a little like Holly, a lopsided romantic, I have to say that I missed the Hollywood ending with this one.  Good thing we have the film.

Her quest to find her own personal Tiffany's is one that is universal.  I'm still looking for that brand of magic.  Have any of you found it?  If you have, what is it?  And if not...bonne chance, chatons!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Charming Dame Lesson 2 - Own a Little Black Dress

Or two.  Or three. get the idea.

I have heard said that a TRUE Little Black Dress can be worn to any occasion.  A wedding.  A funeral.  A cocktail party.  The opera.  Work.  I disagree.  While I believe black works everywhere and at any time, I don't believe one dress can work for all of the occasions above.  Besides, what fun would ONE Little Black Dress be? 

Chanel is credited with 'inventing' the Little Black Dress as we know it.  It was unveiled on October 1, 1926 in the pages of American Vogue.

Fantastic LBD history!
In a time when women dressed with the idea that more was more and black was reserved for mourning, Coco Chanel did what she did best...went against established ideals.  She stripped all the adornments and all the colors and patterns away.  She went black.  Simple.  And invented classic.  As far as I'm concerned...Perfect.  Though it wasn't until Audrey Hepburn and the Givenchy dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961 that the LBD truly made its mark.  That particular dress was so influential that it was auctioned off for charity in 2006 for $800,000.  Impressive, no?

photo credit
Today the LBD is a beloved staple in essentially every woman's wardrobe.  I have several and love them all!  As I said before, I don't believe there is one dress that can work for every occasion.  The good news is, you've got options!
photo credit
I believe that between two or three, you can cover all your bases. Here is how I cover mine.  I would have donned the dresses to give you a better idea of what they look like on, but seeing as how I live alone and haven't been feeling very well the last few days, these photos will simply have to do.

First is my favorite.  This classic wiggle dress is simply fabulous!  In it, I feel like I stepped right out of the late 50s.  It works for almost any occasion, though it can be a little much for some situations due to the va-va-voom factor.  I've worn this dress to a funeral (with a sweater) and numerous cocktail parties.

I wish I had a photo of what this really looks like on, but I can't find a full body shot.  So this photo of cocktails in the library of the Los Angeles Athletic Club will simply have to do.

The next dress is also inspired by the 1950's.  I consider this my vintage-inspired party dress.  This one is super fun and with the fact that it's in satin and has a great back, it's a lot more dressy than my other LBDs.

The upper back is opaque with a button closure and gives the dress an interesting element.   I've worn this dress for a New Year's Eve bash, a charity benefit, and a movie premiere in New York - it worked fabulously for all of them!

The third dress is a really light and gauzy summer dress that is perfect for those hot summer evening parties.  Comfortable, cool, and flirty, yet there's still a dressy element to this one.  I've worn it to summer evening birthdays, cocktail hours, and art shows.

This last dress might not look like much on the hanger in this photo, but I was invited to a casual outdoor November wedding this year and I needed a warm dress.  Though I did not set out to buy a black dress to attend a wedding, it shouldn't be a surprise that I ended up with one.  The fit on this one is similar to that of a wiggle dress - for some reason, I felt like I belonged in a Robert Palmer video.  I think this might become my go-to winter dress for occasions that are a little less formal as it also worked really well for my friend's holiday party.

So if you don't have a Little Black Dress for every occasion, you should really rectify that immediately.

To see my inspiration for the 'This Charming Dame' series, please visit Quite Continental Charm School.

Happy Shopping Kittens!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Cinematic Experience - The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946

Good Evening Kittens!  How was the weekend?  Mine was fabulous - comprised of wine tasting with the ladies of my extended family, watching The Golden Girls with my Oma, brunching and shopping with one of my dearest friends, and a relaxing evening tonight with a glass of wine and a cuddly kitty in my lap.  It was lovely.

On Friday night, I was not feeling very well and knew I had a lot to gear up for, so I curled up on my couch and watched the Film Noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by James M. Cain.

watch the trailer
While this film is not on my Film School list, I hadn't seen this in a very long time and because it was a cold, windy night, this seemed like a good fit.  This film has it all - a beautiful Femme Fatale, a handsome stranger, love, murder, double-crossing, and repercussions for your actions that will always catch up with you.  All in all, a really good time!


This is the story of a drifter, Frank, played by James Garfield, who continually claims, 'My feet, they keep itchin' for me to go places.'  His itchy feet bring him to Twin Oaks where he sees a Man Wanted sign and decides to take the position doing odd jobs around the diner.  We then meet Cora, played by Lana Turner.  Her introduction is absolutely brilliant.  It establishes so much in so little time.  I have heard it described as the best character introduction ever.  You be the judge...

In approximately one minute, we establish the attraction between the two.  We establish the fact that Cora is used to getting her way.  We establish that Frank also gets what he wants most of the time.  And those facts will create quite a problem - one that will be rather interesting to watch play out.

As in most films of this period, the two instantly fall in love, but there is the problem of Cora's husband, Nick, played by Cecil Kellaway.  Nick, who owns the diner, is much older than Cora - their marriage is not one of love, but rather one where Nick gains companionship and Cora gains financial stability.  Cora and Frank decide to run away together - attempting to hitch a ride instead of taking Nick's car.  As Frank explains: 'Steal a man's wife, that's nothing.  Steal a man's car, that's larceny.'

After Cora realizes that running off with Frank will leave her with nothing, the two decide to go back to formulate a new plan.  It does not take long for them to realize that if Frank were out of the picture, the diner would be Cora's and they would be set.  So starts the scheming.  Their first attempt on Nick's life is thwarted by a cat who gets electrified and takes out the power.  As is so eloquently stated, 'Cats are poor dumb things.' 'Yeah, they don't know anything about electricity.'  Gotta love the dialogue of this period!

Before a better plan can be formulated, Nick decides that he's going to sell the diner and that he and Cora will be moving to Canada to take care of his invalid sister - and that fuels the desperation to get him out of the way.  Cora's desperation is palpable, 'You love me? Then what do you do? You let him take me away to some miserable little dump of a town where I'll rot the rest of my life away waiting on him and his half-dead sister?'  

A very interesting series of events unfold and it is really worth seeing if you have not already done so.  Is the title still a mystery?  Only after you watch this film, will the following quote make any sense...and once it does, it's quite smart:
'You know, there's something about this that's like, well it's like, you're expecting a letter that you're just crazy to get. And you hang around the front door for fear you might not hear him ring. You never realize that he always rings twice...The truth is, you always hear him ring the second time.  Even if you're all the way out in the backyard.'

Happy Viewing!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Vino Love 01.08.2013

Sort This Out Cellars - 2008 VinoNostra

Good Evening Lovelies!

I think wine is one of life's great pleasures.  Aside from loving wine itself, I also love the experience of finding a new vineyard, a new blend, pairing a great bottle with the perfect meal and a good friend, and I LOVE sharing my love of wine with those who either haven't given wine a fair chance or haven't had someone help them understand all the choices they have.  Whatever your taste preference, there is something out there that you will like and I will have a fantastic time helping you find it.

All that aside, one of my favorite things is coming home after a long day at work and unwinding with a nice glass of wine (and perhaps a bubble bath).  

Where is all this vino love coming from?  Well, for me, that's pretty standard, but specifically tonight, I did not end up leaving the office until after 8:00 and still had to run to the grocery store - which meant that I got home right before 9:00.  This is what happened as soon as I took off my coat:

I opened up this bottle without realizing how phenomenal it was going to be.  This is Sort This Out Cellars' 2008 VinoNostra - I bought it without tasting it last June when I went up to Santa Ynez with my mother.  We went up for a Wine Club BBQ at Gainey, one of the wineries she belongs to.  We stayed in Solvang and heard the music from Sort This Out Cellars' tasting room once we got back to the hotel, so we ventured down for a drink.  The tasting room was pretty kitschy with a rockabilly vibe, so while it was a fun atmosphere, I was immediately skeptical of what they would be pouring - but the wine was surprisingly good.  It might have been all the wine that had been consumed that day, but I ended walking away with this very interesting looking bottle - a limited release secret red wine blend that is a nod back to Prohibition Era wine making.

Since the VinoNostra blend is top-secret, I've been trying to figure out just what varietals are in this bottle (I suppose I could make a case that I am imbibing for scientific purposes, but really, that would be a lie).  An interesting aspect to this wine is that each sip seems to bring out something I didn't taste before.  I'm pretty sure it's mostly cab with some syrah, perhaps a little cab franc, and grenache for the subtle sweetness.  This is a super smooth wine without overwhelming tannins, it's fruit forward, exhibiting light dried fruit flavor and subtle hints of chocolate and spice.  I will definitely be getting another bottle of further research will be required!

While the whole concept for this winery doesn't seem very sophisticated, it speaks to just how unpretentious wine can be.  And how fun!  This is from the Sort This Out Cellars' website: 'Inspired by an old picture of the Rat Pack outside The Sands hotel in 1961, we called upon the values of a time when men had character, and women had curves. A time when you could smoke, drink, curse, and have a good time without apology. We built our wines around this classic American adult spirit, so eroded by political correctness and fear, to create wines that were unapologetic in their character. Wines that pair with good times and friends. We make wines that are just as at home at the poker table as the dinner table.'

Salud Kittens!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This Charming Dame Lesson 1 - Get Your Passport

Get Your Passport.

Seems simple enough, right?  Well, if you are one of the 55% of Americans that don't have a passport, I will tell you that getting one can be a HUGE pain!  Especially if you are like me and procrastinate to the point that you may miss your vacation because you simply haven't gotten around to actually renewing or getting one.  So I suggest you start the process now. Even if you don't have a trip planned.  ESPECIALLY if you don't have a trip planned.  If you don't have one, or if yours is expired, you should remedy that situation - and quickly!  Being able to travel on minimal notice can open you up to opportunities that are sure to be fabulous!  Although it did not require this passport, the best trip I've ever been on was a trip to New York for which I had two days' notice.  The lesson with the passport is this: with it, you will be ready for anything!

And now, I present to you...a photo of my passport to prove that I have one!

Also, I assure you that while the timing of this was a perfect tie-in to this post, the following truly did happen.  A few days ago, I was trying to figure out how to augment the subject of the passport I already had, and out of the blue, a friend of mine asked, in all seriousness, if I'd be interested in going to Paris with him in the spring.  I have never been to Paris.  I have always wanted to go to Paris.  I have had French swirling around in my head since watching 'Coco Before Chanel'.  And I'm pretty sure that even though I only took French in high school, I could pick up a decent amount of conversational French within a few days of being immersed in it.  And I don't have the funds to go to Paris.  Le sigh.  So, I have stumbled across yet ANOTHER resolution for this year - save up for a fancy trip to Paris next spring!

While you enjoy the musical stylings of the iconic Edith Piaf (her voice embodies vintage Paris and has the power to transport you there), let me present to you the vintage version of Paris that I carry around with me.  While, yes, many things are undoubtedly different, I feel like Paris is one of those cities that still embraces going glam for no particular reason.  For having coffee at a small sidewalk café in what, anywhere else, would be considered an obnoxious hat.  For leisurely strolls in couture.  For champagne at every occasion.  

To me, all things French are synonymous with l'amour.  And I'd be in favor of finding love in Paris, because really, what would be more romantique?  Strolling hand in hand along the Seine, stealing kisses atop the Eiffel Tower, or on a bridge, or in front of a book store.  I get the impression that Paris is a city that has love in its DNA (if a city had actual DNA).  It's part of the culture.  Being in love with a city, with life, with love itself must be a wonderfully magical thing to experience...and come next Spring, I hope to experience those things firsthand.

Bonne journée chatons!

To see my inspiration for the 'This Charming Dame' series, please visit Quite Continental Charm School.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Debut of The Vintage Project Book Club

Hello Kittens!  I just created a page for The Vintage Project Book Club. 

Who's interested in joining this very upscale, very exclusive club?

I'm starting a book this weekend that isn't on the list, and have decided that the first official book club read will be the first one listed - 'What Makes Sammy Run?' by Budd Schulberg.  This is the first selection in LA Weekly's tournament to find the Best LA Novel Ever. 

Find it on Amazon

I'd like to start this novel next Sunday (January 13) and want to give those of you who are also interested a chance to get back to me, finish any books that you might currently be reading, and procure a copy of the book.  Since I've never been involved in a book club before, I am looking for feedback regarding how much time we should allot for each one, I'm thinking one a month would be good.  You can essentially come and go as you please - reading only what interests you and what you have time for.  Also, members near and far are welcome - for those who are local, we can physically get together (please be forewarned that hats may be mandatory for these meetings).  Those who are a little further out, perhaps cannot make meetings with their schedules, or have an aversion to hats, nibbles, and delicious libations are welcome to participate in discussions via page comments.

Please take a look at the new page and let me know what you think.

The Vintage Project Book Club

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Cinematic Experience - Coco Before Chanel

Happy New Year Lovelies!

I hope you rung in the New Year with fabulous people around you and fabulous bubbly in your glass!  Mine was spectacular - one of my oldest friends and her husband came into town for a few days and on New Year's Eve, I had a small gathering at my place.

After my guests left this morning, I put the apartment back together, pulled out a movie that I received as a gift and not not yet watched, and settled onto the couch.  I felt that kicking off The Vintage Project with Chanel was appropriate.  Coco Before Chanel or Coco Avant Chanel is a 2009 French film chronicling how Gabrielle Chanel transformed herself into the Coco Chanel that made history.  Before seeing this film, I had no idea just HOW fabulous she was.  Or that she held so many feminist ideals which led to us having her to thank, at least in part, for corsets not being part of our daily uniform. 

'Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.' -Coco Chanel
If all you know is the Chanel suit, I highly recomend this film.  Even if you know more, this is still one worth watching.  Just be aware that there are subtitles.

Bonne Nuit Kittens!