Posts Tagged ‘fashion’


It is (finally) feeling springlike here in the Northeast – the trees are budding, the crocuses are sprouting, the air smells of damp earth (and mulch), and our students are wearing flip-flops around campus. I’m sure we’ll have more chilly days, but I’ve got a vase of daffodils on my desk and a little spring fever in my fingertips.

I’ve been making spring plans for weeks, it seems, so here’s a list of the fun things I’d like to do, try and taste this spring:

  • Watch for crocuses, daffodils, blooming trees and tulips. (Pictured above: daffodils in Oxford, spring 2008.)
  • Fly down to Texas later this month, for a work conference and a weekend with family.
  • While I’m there, eat as much Tex-Mex food as I can. (Obviously.)
  • Wear brightly colored shoes. (My silver flats and new bright green loafers are begging for a few long walks.)
  • Bake with rhubarb.
  • Continue the #100happydays photo challenge. (Loving it.)
  • Treat myself to a pedicure (maybe while I’m in Texas).
  • Celebrate my husband’s 30th birthday in early May.
  • Host a spring-cleaning clothing and book swap.
  • Make some summer travel plans.

What’s on your list for this spring?

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winter gear essentials

This winter. I mean, seriously.

A blizzard that prompted a snow day, wild swings from mid-50s to single digits in the same week, piles of powdery icing-sugar snow that melted into gray sludge, only to refreeze into hard, icy lumps. And it’s not even the end of January.

This is my fourth Northeastern winter, and the third one with significant amounts of snow. By now, we know the drill: stock up on tea, warm socks and heating oil; buy ingredients for soup; pull out the down coats and the heavy-duty boots; and hunker down. Winter comes to Boston to stay a while.

I tell people, over and over, that the right gear makes a huge difference in how I survive the winter. Here’s the stuff that is saving my life this winter:

  • Keen snow boots, bought at the end of last season when my old ones (inherited from my sister) gave up the ghost. Lightweight, warm and waterproof.
  • My down coat – knee-length, hooded and toasty. (I got mine way on sale at an Eddie Bauer outlet several years ago.)
  • Fleece-lined tights, which Santa put in my stocking.
  • A bright cocoon coat. (I own the green one above, though they’re not selling that color this season.)
  • My enormous collection of tea. (The blend above is from Harney & Sons.)
  • And the mug my sister bought me to drink it in.
  • Tiny, tart-sweet, zesty clementines.
  • Lip balm, cuticle salve and hand lotion. (I love Burt’s Bees so much.)
  • My new slippers (a Christmas gift from J).
  • The electric blanket J bought two Christmases ago.
  • All the knitted cowls (I have five) and cozy scarves.

By the way, that image up there is my very first Photoshop collage. Color me proud!

What are your winter gear essentials? I’m always looking for more secret weapons against the cold.

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It’s cold around here (despite the freak 60-degree day we had – with heavy rain – the week of Thanksgiving). It will be cold for months to come. The last vestiges of my summer/early fall wardrobe have been relegated to the back of my closet or the dresser in the spare room. And my winter style uniform has reappeared.

katie green coat harvard yard

I work in a business-casual office environment (higher education). Most of my colleagues don’t wear suits (unless they have important meetings), but we also don’t wear jeans, even on Fridays. (This is one reason I sometimes wear jeans to church on Sundays: because I can’t wear them during the week.)

I also commute on public transportation, often through rain, snow and slush in the wintertime. I need polished, professional (but not overly buttoned-up) clothes, and shoes that will support my feet (and keep them dry). Over the past few years, I’ve gradually pulled together a winter style uniform, some variation of which I wear almost every day.

The formula looks like this: sweater/tee + scarf + pencil skirt + tights/leggings + boots.

If it’s raining or snowing, I wear my red wellies or snow boots and carry a pair of flats in my bag. I now own five winter coats: three wool, two down. (Plus a lighter trench coat for warmer, rainy days.) I have a growing collection of handknit hats. I own a few dresses I love, and sometimes I swap the sweater/skirt combo for a dress/cardigan or tunic/tee pair.

Here’s what I know: I feel more like myself in soft separates rather than crisp button-downs. I’m not big on busy patterns, but I do love stripes. I own a dozen or so scarves, which I swap out according to the colors of my outfit (and the weather: freezing temps call for warm handknit cowls). I’ve begun experimenting with bolder tights – red, purple or a brand-new teal pair. My black riding boots get a real workout in the winter, though I also own a brown pair. And I rotate my coats – especially my new jade-green one, above – according to weather and mood.

Most of the time, I love this uniform. It’s smart, proper, warm and stylish, and it means I don’t have to deal with wet, dragging pant hems (my least favorite thing), damp socks, or ironing in the morning (or the night before). It also saves me from having to make too many decisions while I’m rushing around in the morning (unless the tee or skirt I wanted to wear is in the laundry). I function much better if I can put off decision-making until after my first cup of tea.

But sometimes, I get a little bored with my uniform – especially because I know I’ll be wearing it for several (cold) months to come. So, stylish readers, any inexpensive tips for jazzing up my standard style formula? I’m all ears.

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I turned 30 last month, which felt rather momentous and completely ordinary at the same time. I’ve never been one to worry over milestone birthdays, but I did enjoy marking this one with our trip to Montreal, and of course, I loved the cards and gifts from family and friends.

Katie Gibson-4

For the past few years, I’ve made a list of things I want to do, try, accomplish and/or enjoy before my next birthday. I crossed off many of the items on last year’s list, but I am feeling less ambitious this year. (Besides, I’m already working on my fall manifesto.)

But I do love a good list, so here’s my fresh, new, slightly shorter one:

1. Try a new-to-me author every month, including the list of Canadian authors sent to me by a Canadian friend.
2. Knit myself a pair of cozy slippers (probably from this book).
3. Visit Nantucket.
4. Buy a go-to neutral handbag (black or brown).
5. Fly to San Diego to visit our friends who live there.
6. Go to the dentist (carried over from last year).
7. Visit Prince Edward Island.
8. Attend a carol service at Harvard.
9. Spend at least one lovely long weekend in NYC.
10. Visit a place I’ve never been. (Three of the above items qualify for this one.)
11. Get a massage (my husband bought me a gift certificate for my birthday).
12. Develop a regular exercise routine.
13. Write something I can be proud of.

(Photo by the talented Kristin.)

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yellow tulips longfellow appian way spring

  • When I successfully hand- or machine-wash an article of clothing labeled Dry Clean Only, saving on present and future dry-cleaning bills.
  • When I schedule a haircut, dental appointment or other nagging, grown-up life admin item.
  • When I return all my library books on time.
  • When I keep a plant alive through the winter.
  • When I put together an outfit of which my fashionista sister and mother would be proud. (This often involves at least one piece of clothing or jewelry given to me by one of them.)
  • When I have a successful phone conversation with someone I don’t know. (There are few things I dread more. Sometimes I actually pray for people not to answer the phone.)
  • When I pull off a new, complicated recipe or knitting pattern.
  • When I finish a difficult book.
  • When I send off a well-written book review. (Extra points if it’s a review of a difficult book.)
  • When I successfully navigate a new city, particularly if I do it by instinct.
  • When I buy a gift for someone and they love it.

What makes you feel absurdly, disproportionately, proudly accomplished?

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Stripes obsession

I avoided horizontal stripes for ages, out of self-consciousness and a horror of overemphasizing my curves. (Isn’t it odd how we pick up bits of assorted advice, some sound and others decidedly not so, and obey them like commandments for years?)

I am mostly a solid-colors girl, with scarves providing a bit of pattern and/or contrast during three seasons of the year. But this fall I am embracing the stripes. They are fun, sophisticated and snazzy. And, done right, they work nicely with my body, curves and all.

stripes red flats

journal stripes patio flowers porch

stripes smile scarf cafe

boots stripes central park
What patterns (or other trends) do you love? As seen above, I also adore scarves, leggings, ballet flats, my big-but-delicate silver hoop earrings, and the color red. (And I am a wee bit jealous of Abi’s charming hat.)

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About a year ago, I got several hints from the universe about The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Suddenly, she was everywhere – in friends’ blogs and casual conversation. I’d been briefly acquainted with Mary as a child, but we hadn’t hung out in years.

mary tyler moore hat

I’ve been borrowing the seasons from our library, and I watched the series finale a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t sniffle my way through it as I did when we finished Friends, but I did get a little misty as Mary looked around the WJM newsroom before turning the lights off for the last time.

Mary’s story bears several parallels to my own over the past few years. True, she’s a single girl and I’m married, so I’m already done with the dating travails that sometimes bedevil her (though her love life is never the true focus of the show). But we both have struggled, and sometimes triumphed, as we’ve adjusted to new cities and navigated the rocky path of being career women in what is (still) often a man’s world. (And we each have a few stalwart friends in our corner, though unfortunately mine don’t live in my building.)

mary tyler moore rhoda

(Image from Hooked on Houses)

Mary is (nearly) the only woman in the WJM-TV newsroom in the early 1970s. The sexism she deals with is more overt than any I’ve ever encountered. But we both are pursuing that tricky thing called “work-life balance” or “having it all” – holding down a financially and emotionally satisfying job, while enjoying an active life outside of work and nurturing deep friendships. (And for heaven’s sake, both she and I would like a little time to ourselves once in a while.)

Mary’s pursuit of a successful life and career is not effortless. (Despite her hospitable spirit and impeccable fashion sense, her lousy dinner parties are a standing joke.) She loves her friends at the newsroom, but often gets caught up in their crises, and Rhoda and Phyllis (her upstairs and downstairs neighbors, respectively) do their part to keep things lively (and complicated). She never does get married, that we know of. She is bright and beautiful and capable, but she’s also just another girl trying to make a living, find love, sustain friendships, “make it after all.”

Therein, of course, lies Mary’s charm: who among us hasn’t dealt with cranky coworkers, awkward dates, deadlines at work and a stretched-to-the-breaking-point budget? Who hasn’t headed home to a hot bath after a stressful day or a frantic week, only to be interrupted by a friend’s crisis or a family member’s emergency? And who among us (especially women) hasn’t struggled to balance our people-pleasing instinct and cultural conditioning as “nice girls” with our drive for success?

I loved watching Mary find her feet, eventually summoning the moxie to talk back to her gruff boss, Lou Grant, and the self-absorbed anchorman, Ted Baxter. By the seventh season, she has grown into a feisty, independent but still compassionate woman who knows what she wants out of life (even if she can’t throw a perfect dinner party). She may not have all the answers (though she does have a hip little apartment and a fabulous wardrobe), but by the end of the series we know: she, and we, are gonna make it after all.

Thanks, Mary, for the laughs and the inspiration. I’ll be coming back to visit you in Minneapolis once in a while.

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I’ve always loved summer for all the obvious reasons: no school, long light evenings, road trips to visit friends and family, lazy afternoons spent at the pool or sprawled across my bed reading. (Of course, some of those pleasures have shifted or disappeared in adulthood.)

Summer in Texas is so long that I’m always aching for cool temps by the time they roll around. So, since moving to the Northeast, I’ve come to appreciate summer in a new way. It’s chilly (or frigid) for so much of the year here that I’m savoring every bit of summer as never before.

book sandwich raspberries farmers market

A reading lunch at the farmer’s market

I love the way the light moves across the wooden floorboards in our apartment, starting early in the morning and not fading away till nearly 9 p.m. I love the cool breezes that waft (most of the time) through every open window, and the whir of the box fan as we lounge in the living room. I’m grateful for the window a/c unit in our bedroom, newly reinstalled, but while J likes to hole up in there, I prefer to be out in the living room, where it’s warmer but lighter, more open.

This summer has been hot so far – the last few weeks have felt more like Texas than Massachusetts – but apart from a few sweaty subway rides and an aversion to turning on the oven, I don’t care. For as long as it lasts, I am addicted to summer.

I am digging into stacks of summer reading and eating pints of Ben & Jerry’s raspberry Greek frozen yogurt with chocolate chunks. I am buying bags of cherries and pints of blueberries, and walking down to the Copley Square Farmer’s Market at least once a week for raspberries in blue paper pints, sleek golden zucchini and other goodies. We are eating pasta with fresh tomatoes, zucchini quesadillas, homemade pizza with mozzarella and fresh veggies (my one reason to turn on the oven). We are drinking gallons of Simply lemonade (plain and raspberry). I am stopping by Starbucks for the occasional iced chai (and air-conditioning).

starbucks iced chai

I’m wearing every skirt I own, especially the white linen one and the colorful cotton ones, and eyeing my favorite stores for more sundresses. I am reveling in bare legs and red toenails and new freckles and sandals every day. I am loving the Sunday evening cookouts at Ryan and Amy’s, and regular walks on the beach with J. Most of all I love the long, lazy evenings, when I putter or read or do a little writing, stretching my arms and legs and heart into the endless possibility that is summer.

What are your summer addictions?

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I’m getting through a lot of books lately, and the stacks are (as always) growing. Here, what I’ve been reading:

book journal tea writing breakfast

A little reading with my tea

These Ruins are Inhabited, Muriel Beadle
I found this one at the Montague Bookmill (shelved in the fiction section!). It’s a delightful memoir by a journalist whose husband was a visiting professor at Oxford in the 1960s. Like me, they spent a year in Oxford as wide-eyed Americans who soaked up all the joys (and some of the frustrations) of English life. Some of the details are quaintly outdated, but much of Oxford’s character endures (as always). Beadle’s stories of rambling round the city and meeting all kinds of English folks (and fellow expats) are charmingly familiar. So much fun.

Emily Davis, Miss Read
This is the life story of Miss Clare’s dear friend Emily Davis, longtime village schoolteacher. Best enjoyed if you’re already familiar with Fairacre and its mores and citizens. The more time I spend there, the more I admire these quiet, hardworking, kind country people. (Link is to a 2-in-1 edition including this book and Miss Clare Remembers.)

Bloomability, Sharon Creech
Domenica “Dinnie” Doone, who has spent her childhood moving around the U.S., spends a year in Switzerland attending the boarding school where her uncle works. She misses her family, but meets fellow students from all over the world, learns to ski and starts to believe that anything is “bloomable” (her Japanese friend’s word for “possible”). Sweet and fun. (Recommended by friend and reader Allison.)

What I Wore, Jessica Quirk
Quirk runs a popular fashion blog (which I found via Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy). Her book is a practical, colorfully illustrated collection of tips on building a wardrobe of mixable basics, layering and accessorizing for each season, and putting your own spin on classic styles. Lots of her advice is basic, even obvious, but it helped me take a fresh look at my closet (always a good idea during the change of seasons, especially after recently reading Overdressed).

Boy Meets Girl, Meg Cabot
I so enjoyed The Boy Next Door that I checked out its sort-of sequel (same setting, mostly different characters). Told in emails, scribbled notes, to-do lists and instant messages, this is a lighthearted story of love, office politics and navigating the single-girl life in New York. Predictable, but fun – perfect for a holiday weekend.

Glory Be, Augusta Scattergood
An unusual take on the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, from the perspective of 11-year-old Glory Hemphill, who lives in Hanging Moss, Mississippi. She writes a letter to the editor when the (segregated) town pool closes, befriends a new girl from the North, and (I love this) stands up to her best friend when he expresses some bigoted opinions. Scattergood evokes the Deep South perfectly; I could almost feel the humidity and see the lightning bugs. The ending is hopeful, but I appreciated that it wasn’t all neat and tidy. (For more, see Beth Fish Reads’ review.)

Oxford, Jan Morris
This is a classic account of the city I adore: a great introduction for Oxford newbies, but with plenty of interesting tidbits for those of us who already know and love it. Morris loves Oxford as much as I do, and she examines many aspects of the city: its religious heritage, its often chaotic college system, the rise of industry and the Cowley motor works, its vegetation, its architecture, and on and on. Her narrative rambles at times, but is mostly fascinating and always thorough. Recommended if you really love Oxford.

The Wicked and the Just, J. Anderson Coats
A fascinating glimpse into medieval Caernarvon, Wales, told alternately from the perspective of Cecily (an English transplant) and Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh girl forced to become Cecily’s servant). Both characters are prickly and not immediately likable, but I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know what happened. (Also intriguing: Gwen never refers to herself as “I” until at least two-thirds of the way into the book.) The plot is based on a historical revolt by the Welsh in 1294, against the English burgesses who were taxing them unfairly. More info at the book’s site.

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
A perfectly plotted, truly creepy tale from the Queen of Mystery. I couldn’t go to sleep without finishing it (and then I had to dip into a Miss Read book to calm me down). A cast of distinctly unlikable characters find themselves marooned on an island off the Devon coast, and an unknown murderer starts picking them off one by one. An ingenious (if unsettling) piece of work.

Tyler’s Row, Miss Read
Well-meaning village folk (including all the usual suspects), ambitious renovation projects, cantankerous neighbors, lively schoolchildren, Miss Read’s matchmaking friend Amy, and wry musings by my favorite English schoolteacher. Another winner in the Fairacre series.

Three Bags Full, Leonie Swann
A smart, funny, highly unusual detective story – the detectives are a flock of Irish sheep trying to find out who killed their shepherd! They are unusually intelligent sheep, of course – though they don’t always understand humans. (Neither do I, for that matter.) Such fun and really inventive – a great mystery spiced with philosophical discussions.

What are you reading these days?

(This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.)

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may books reads reading part 2Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline
Cline traces the rapid rise of “fast fashion” chains, which sell billions of pieces of shoddy clothing to Americans every year. She visits factories, talks to industry insiders and takes a long, hard look at her own closet, vowing to shop less, and shop more sustainably, in the future. Made me want to examine my closet and either a) never buy clothes again, or b) do a lot more research before I plunk down any money on my next shopping trip. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 14).

The Royal Treatment, Lindsey Leavitt
This sequel to Princess for Hire, which I read recently, was even better than the original. Desi’s work as a “sub” for princesses when they go on vacation (or want to avoid tough situations) has emboldened her to try out for – and win a starring role in – a school play. She begins to suspect her bosses at the sub agency aren’t telling her everything (she’s right), and she handles a few sticky situations rather well. Hilarious, with such a sweet ending. Book 3 comes out next month!

Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, Gustavo Arellano
As a Texan, this book made me salivate (and decry, again, the sad lack of Mexican food here in the Northeast). Arellano tells the tale of how Mexican food, from chili to tacos to salsa, has spread across the U.S. He focuses on California (where he lives), but he does chronicle the journeys of various Mexican food items and restaurant chains around the country. (Abilene, birthplace of Taco Bueno, got a mention – though he left out Rosa’s, my favorite homegrown Tex-Mex chain.) From World’s Fair expositions to canned tortillas to salsa and chili cook-offs, this book was fascinating and hunger-inducing.

Dying in the Wool, Frances Brody
Kate Shackleton, World War I widow, takes on her first paid investigation: trying to locate a friend’s father, who disappeared several years ago. The setting – Yorkshire’s woolen mills – was interesting and the mystery was fairly plausible, but somehow this book felt a bit lackluster to me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Maisie Dobbs and Bess Crawford; Kate was certainly less subtle and less engaging than either of them.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Sara Pennypacker
Stella loves the quiet routine of living with her great-aunt Louise on Cape Cod (while her mom goes off to “find herself”). Tough, snarky foster kid Angel is the only sour note. But when something happens to Louise, the two girls band together to live on their own and manage a few vacation cottages, while clinging to the hope that they’ll finally belong to a real family. The writing is quietly evocative, and I ached for both these girls to find a real home at last. Lovely.

An Irish Country Girl, Patrick Taylor
Mrs. Maureen Kincaid, housekeeper to the two doctors of Ballybucklebo, recounts a story from her childhood in County Cork to a group of wide-eyed children and becomes immersed in her own memories. Lots of Irish mythology here, and I loved learning Maureen’s story – everything from her family life to how she received the gift of second sight to how she met the man she loved. Warmhearted and evocative. (I love this series.)

The Boy Next Door, Meg Cabot
Told entirely in emails, this is a fun New York love story involving a case of mistaken identity, hilariously nosy coworkers and a 120-pound Great Dane. The protagonist, Melissa (a small-town Midwestern girl), is sweet and funny and completely believable, and while a few of the other characters are stereotypes, they’re still a lot of fun. Frothy but smart – a great intro to Cabot’s books. (For the Meg Cabot read-along over at Book Club Girl.)

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall
The human race has always thrived on story, and Gottschall sets out to explain why. His main point is that we are “wired” for story: it is integral to the way we think of ourselves, shape our societies, choose careers, relate to others, and fall in love. (He didn’t have to convince me, and I did get a little sick of him hammering the point home.) Some of his examples were fascinating, and others seemed chosen primarily for shock value. He does touch on various fields as they relate to story: neuroscience, psychology, religion, the book and film industries, even role-playing games. Interesting, if a bit heavy-handed at times.

The Thread, Victoria Hislop
A gorgeous, sweeping, richly detailed story of Greece in the 20th century, from two world wars to civil unrest to massive population relocation (Jews and Muslims), featuring two natural disasters that devastated Thessaloniki. I loved the crowded, colorful, multicultural neighborhood where main character Katerina lives; it’s peopled by wonderful characters. Lovely descriptions, and though the plot is often heartbreaking, it gave me a deep admiration for the Greek people. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 10).

(This post contains IndieBound affiliate links. Graphic by Sarah.)

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