Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wedded Bliss

It all started over nine years ago with "The Look"...

Eight years ago today I married my best friend...truly the most caring and devoted man I know.  I'm over the moon about being his wife and the mother of our two kidlets.  We've had a very unusual life together, filled with the unexpected and abundant in spontaneous blessings.  And I look so forward to the adventures yet to be experienced!

Here's to wedded bliss!  Hip, hip, hooray!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fashion Friday: Bibliophile Clutch

Today marks The Full Measure’s first “Fashion Friday” feature!  Since reading about French designer Olympia Le-Tan’s book clutches in the May issue of InStyle magazine, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of transforming a book into a fashion accessory.  I love to hunker down with a good book, therefore the idea of wearing my devotion sounded fascinating.
Audrey Hepburn certainly did her part to make clutching a book look chic in the 1957 film Funny Face…and now it seems other trendsetting Hollywood stars have rekindled the notion.  According to InStyle, Natalie Portman and Tilda Swinton have both been seen carrying book clutches to special events.  Olympia Le-Tan’s book clutches are painstakingly embroidered by hand to look like first edition covers of well-loved books.  The interiors are swathed in beautiful Liberty prints and only a limited edition of each title are made.  Dreaming of owning my very own Olympia Le-Tan creation, I began to wonder if I could transform a book into a clutch without the couture price tag.  And while it certainly wouldn’t have the extraordinary details of Le-Tan’s, it could still pay homage to the idea that smart can be synonymous with sexy when a book is clutched with style.
The first step was to select a book.  Several years ago I had purchased a stack of vintage books to decorate a pair of curio cabinets.  I’m sad to say the books were merely chosen for their looks rather than their content (I’m a believer in the “don’t judge a book by its cover” philosophy when it comes to friends and food).  There happened to be one book in the stack on gardening aptly titled Gardening: A Complete Guide to Garden Making, written by horticulturalist Montague Free and published in 1937.  It had a lovely worn appearance and neutral color, with a sweet illustration on the cover.  The first few pages were beautiful, too.  While it pained me to sacrifice the important content of the book, I did so in the name of fashion.

Second, I gathered supplies for the experiment.  Armed with a detailed tutorial for “How to Make a Secret Hollow Book” from the blog How to Do Stuff (who’s disclaimer states “some things described on this site are potentially dangerous/illegal” making me slightly nervous, but not deterred), I assembled Elmer’s paper craft glue, a ruler, mechanical pencil, paintbrush, small bowl and x-acto knife.

Since I wanted to save the first few pages of the book, I opened to the table of contents and began the process.  I then mixed a little bit of water with the glue in a small bowl (to thin the glue a tad) and brushed it liberally on the sides.  With the first few pages still separated from the rest of the book, I placed a thin piece of cardboard between the two sections (to serve as a spacer).  Next, I placed a couple of heavy boxes of plates (that come out on seasonal rotation) on top of the book and waited 30 minutes for the glue to dry.  I also placed a piece of tissue paper under the book to catch any errant drips.

After the glue dried, I used a pencil and ruler to mark half-inch margins around the four sides of my chosen top page.

Using the ruler once more, I then cut along the inside of the four lines with an x-acto knife.  I was able to cut out a few pages at a time and assembled them in a pile to use for later projects.

Once I carved to my desired depth (about ¾ through the book), I used a hairdryer on a cool setting to blow away any little paper particles clinging to the cut edges and then brushed glue on the interior edges.  I also erased visible pencil marks and used the last remaining glue to put a second coat on the exterior sides.  Placing the cardboard spacer between the carved section and the pages I wanted to save once more, I stacked the plates atop the book and let the glue dry overnight.

In the morning, I removed the stacks of plates and the cardboard spacer.  All interior and exterior edges were completely dry, solid and ready for the final step: lining the interior with fabric.  I selected a coordinating Alexander Henry bird print and then sized a ¼-yard piece to the interior.  I marked the size with a chalk pencil and sewed corners, also turning raw edges in.  Figuring all purpose tacky glue might work better at bonding the fabric to the paper, I applied it instead of the paper craft glue to the interior of the book and then pressed the fabric into place.

And within a matter of minutes…voila!  A book clutch of my very own.  I’m so glad I retained the first few pages.  They were just too pretty to discard and look wonderful with the fabric.  The size is perfect for a few essentials and when closed, looks as if I’m simply a hopeless romantic dreaming of the perfect English garden.

In preparation for the next opportunity to don my newest accessory, I rushed to my closet to whip up an ensemble.  On a lovely day – perhaps while perusing the farmer’s market downtown – I’ll pair it with a striped Kate Spade dress, vintage Rebecca Taylor espadrilles, Tom Ford cat eye sunglasses and my favorite summer cloche, handmade by Pinkham Millinery in Portland.

I hope to exude a studiously-chic vibe…with a little extra change jangling in my pockets.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marveling at Motherhood

I’m so sorry I’ve been remise in writing this past month!  There are seasons, be they short or long, where routines shift.  In my case this has been a season I’ve now titled, “Adventures in Parenting: Time Spent is Never Wasted.”  My children are both at ages where they seem to need constant attention.  Lately, I keep a super-close watch on my two-year-old to keep her out of trouble (she finds it, too) and I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching my six-year-old swing a bat during baseball games.  I watch my two-year-old’s eyes grow large with wonder as she presses her nose against the glass at a jewelry store, and I watch my six-year-old sound his way through a difficult word while reading a sentence in a book.  I watch my two-year-old walk up to an elderly lady at a restaurant just to say hi and offer a smile, and I watch my six-year-old help his dad in the yard.  I watch my children fight and roll around in the mud as if stain-fighting detergent grew on trees.  I watch their minds change as much as their moods.  I watch them sleep.  I watch them laugh.  I watch them grow.  I try ever so hard to be sure they feel loved and give them my attention.  And while I enjoy it, I’m sometimes exhausted.
Last month, I also watched my mother become a caregiver again.  Both her children are grown with families of their own, and she and my father greatly enjoy retirement.  But when her mother (my grandmother) was scheduled for emergency open-heart surgery with one day’s notice, Mom’s routine changed dramatically.  She became the parent to her mother.  While my grandmother needed constant attention on her improvement, Mom faithfully put her life on hold to watch and care.  There were nights at the hospital where she refused sleep just to watch her mother sleep.  I know she had to sacrifice her comforts during that time, but I also know how much it meant to my grandmother that she was shown love.  My mother was also able to see a new side of her father while he learned to be more self-sufficient.  Without prompting he began to run errands and fold the laundry, as well as express his gratitude for my mother and aunt’s assistance with genuine feeling.  Something my mother did not expect, but greatly appreciated.
Lesson learned: time spent with loved ones + routine shift = unforeseen blessings.
This lesson is quite apropos considering the joyous celebrations of both Easter and Mother’s Day these past months.  Both occasions were beautifully simple for us this year…opportunities to be present and praiseful.  They will most likely set the tone for all other holidays this year, as our routine shift seems to have made my husband and me more spontaneous, if merely in an effort to retain some semblance of sanity.  Just when I was feeling especially exhausted by the joys/challenges of motherhood, my son and I shared a very special moment together as the sun faded on Easter evening.  We spent Easter weekend at the Oregon Coast with family and friends and had to make a five hour trek home on Sunday evening.  The kids were worn out from the day’s activities and my daughter went straight to bed when we arrived home.  Once she was settled and my husband’s head hit the pillow he was fast asleep, too.  My son padded into our room though and snuggled with me to read one of my favorite children’s books, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.
I’m a sucker for children’s stories.  And it doesn’t matter what time of the month it is, I sniffle through certain scenes in the Disney movie Cars and brush full tears from my cheeks at the end of the book Corduroy.  This beautiful story is no exception – in fact, it has become the rule.
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes was written by DuBose Heyward for his daughter in 1939.  He also wrote Porgy from which George Gershwin formed his famous opera Porgy and Bess.  (The beautiful ballad “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess is a staple piece for me at symphony and concert engagements, and I am in deep admiration of Mr. Heyward’s lyrical prowess.)  Illustrator Marjorie Flack fashioned the most glorious images around Mr. Heyward’s tale of Cottontail and her journey to becoming an Easter Bunny.
In the story, Cottontail – a plain brown country bunny with “a little cotton-ball of a tail” – set her sights on becoming one of five Easter Bunnies, for they were the kindest, swiftest and wisest bunnies.  As she grew, she was repeatedly told by the big white bunnies in fine houses and swift Jack Rabbits with long legs to mind her true place in the world.  She kept the dream in her heart, but time marched forward and she became a wife and mother to 21 babies.  At one point she stopped dreaming of becoming an Easter Bunny.  Her growing children were in need of her full attention and she taught them how to mind the house.  Each was given a special task and learned to do their task with precision. 

One day, word spread to Cottontail and her family that one of the five long-time Easter Bunnies had grown too slow and there was to be a new bunny selected to take his place.  Cottontail proved to be the perfect candidate for the position as she displayed her ability to be kind in how she ran her household, swift in how she rounded up her 21 children and wise in how she taught them to master each of their responsibilities.  She was therefore elected the newest Easter Bunnny and left the country on Easter Eve to fulfill her responsibilities while her children tended to the house – after all, she had taught them to be self-sufficient.  That evening she proved to be not only kind, swift and wise, but also brave.  She was given a pair of gold shoes to complete a very difficult task, which she did with courage.  As the sun rose on Easter morning and with her egg deliveries done, she returned home to find everything in place just as it should be and all 21 bunnies asleep in their little beds.  The tiny pair of gold shoes hung in a special place on the wall from a special hook – a reminder of her accomplishment.
The story’s simplicity delivers a wallop of a message.  That Easter evening, I needed a little push to put more faith in motherhood.  For so many mothers with a dream, trying to “be it all” can be downright draining and the reward often seems hidden from sight.  But just like in the story, the reward becomes clearly evident if we first put the time into teaching our children to tend to life.  Which takes dedication, patience and many wonderful watchful hours, days, months and years.  Snuggled up with my son and the story, I felt at peace, but all the more motivated to invest in my children.  All the watching and waiting is never for nothing and always for the best.
Gianni Penati
February 15, 1965 issue of Vogue