Thursday, February 14, 2019

Shopping in February



Kate Spade handbags and accessories always contain colorful little cards with witty fashion quotes. I've saved a few because they make me think of my Aunt Meme (Marie), my godmother, and her sister Aunt Laura.  The two, both redheads, went hand-in-hand and were my grandmother's younger sisters.  

The one thing I learned from them was how to shop.  Every Saturday in winter when I was a twenty-something working woman, I drove to the bus stop near their houses where we would take a short bus ride to Filene's Basement in Boston. This was THE Filene's Basement, the original home of the Automatic Mark-Down.  Every garment had a ticket that displayed the price of the garment for four weeks.  The last date on the ticket was the lowest price and if you had the nerves of steel to wait it out, you could be rewarded with a dress or blouse for nearly zilch.  But you would also risk the chance that the item you coveted would be sold before it reached rock-bottom.  The aunts were great at this game and when they lost, their attitude was pure French - c'est la vie!  Being frugal shoppers who loved luxury though, it was a worthy gamble.

Both Meme and Laura enjoyed good-quality clothes more than anything.  Much of their chatter circled around clothes and fashion.  Meme wore the first white go-go boots I ever saw and she loved short colorful skirts and poor-boy stripped sweaters with newsboy caps.  Laura was more conservative and wore fancy dresses and trim wool coats - the kind with fur collars and playful matching cuffs but they both loved leopard before leopard was big.  Leopard scarves, gloves, and an occasional handbag or leopard tam.  They were nuts for leopard.  

When I shopped with the aunts, I looked for blouses and sweaters to add to my working-girl wardrobe.  But they had a knack for finding things I never knew I wanted like a rag-knit moss-green sweater, set off with a demure cream crocheted Peter Pan collar.  "Won't this go with the camel skirt you bought last week?", they asked.  Sometimes I felt they knew my closet better than I did.  They treated me to the rag sweater and many other things on our wintry shopping forays.

After a stand-up-only lunch at one of the strategically-placed hotdog bars located throughout The Basement (as it was called by diehards like us), we often separated for a little while.  I wanted to go upstairs to the "real" store to check out accessories and cosmetics. It seemed that I was always searching for the perfectly knit holy trinity of matching hat, scarf, and gloves.  But invariably, my purchases came from the Basement which the sister aunts always approved of.  Fortunately there were bins of makeup called "seconds", all jumbled together for the plucking.  I remember finding an unusual China-red compact by Calvin Klein in a funny oval shape that was loaded with pans of bright eye-shadow like a child's paintbox.  It was as we were standing over one of these bins that I was told rather firmly by Aunt Meme that I needed to wear a lip pencil with my lip color.  For one of those, we three traipsed up to the main floor where the aunts bought me two pencils from the Borghese counter, an Italian makeup line that was sometimes but not always, spotted in the Basement's bins.  I haven't been without a lip pencil since that day.

Being much older than my aunts, my grandmother never had an interest in accompanying us on these shopping trips.  Instead, she stayed home in her city apartment baking lemon squares and getting tea ready for our return.  We always stopped at Nana's to show her what we bought.  The aunts called my grandmother "Nana" when I was around - almost as if they had deigned her the grandmother of us all - the wise one who hung back but proffered opinions and ideas.  To this day, whenever I shop for clothing, I still lay my precious purchases out on my bed and examine each piece for quality and beauty just like the aunts did at Nana's post-shopping teas.  When I have a friend with me, all the better - as soon as I hand her a mug of tea across the duvet.  

My dear aunts are long gone now but I'm happy to report each stayed as vital, chic and on point as they were during our heady winter shopping days. Sadly, department stores and their basements did not fare as well over the years.  The aunts would not have liked online shopping without automatic markdowns and hotdog bars.

I still think of my vivacious aunts when Kate Spade tells me that "She had a way with words, red lipstick and making an entrance", or "She looks for adventure around every corner".  It really feels like she is talking about Aunt Meme and Aunt Laura and the love they had for clothes, anything leopard...all the good things in life...and most of all, me.


~

Update:  Some of you wrote personally to me and that was a lovely thing.  I hope to respond to each and every one soon.  And thank you for the comments you made on my last post - it was music to my ears!

I have decided to migrate my blog to another platform.  It may take a while to do this.  I will link the new blog in this space.  My goal is to bring everything past and present to the new space.  I believe the space will look nearly the same too.  I'll know more about that soon as it does involve certain steps and a bit of work.  Email me if you have any questions or concerns or if heaven forbid, you don't find anything here one day.  emilyatheart@gmail.com


Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Lovely Inconsequence


Did you know that the phrase "a lovely inconsequence" was penned for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy?  Historian and public intellectual Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was having dinner one evening with John and Jackie Kennedy.  Asked later to describe his beautiful hostess, he noted that there was a studied elan about her like a "veil of lovely inconsequence".  It has often been said that real bien de sa peau elicits a slight feeling of carelessness about a creature.  Those who have it make their beauty or chicness look as though it were almost an afterthought.  This is very different from being deshabille, which means to add a little tart-ness to a woman's look.  Examples that come to mind are a smudge of lipstick as if one has just been kissed, hair that looks like one recently arose from bed, or maybe a slightly tight skirt.  Jackie Kennedy was never this but she did make her style appear effortless - almost carefree - as when a pretty woman faces the mirror one last time before stepping out and then suddenly tosses a wispy scarf around her neck that was hanging on a doorknob nearby.  But in reality, the "inconsequence" is actually a part of the plan.  And when it's gently applied, it's quite lovely...

I have received word from Google that they are no longer going to manage blog comments.  I could not make heads or tails of their email but my guru-daughter is trying to decipher it all for me.  We are not sure if you will no longer be able to comment at all or if something easier will replace it.  Commenting with Google has always been challenging anyway. 

When I began this blog, it was to practice different writing styles and present first-person narratives as well as editorials on topics I love and hopefully make parallels to paid writing to build an audience.  I could link my paid work on the blog but the "voice" of my articles is not really "mine" anymore and not always at a grade level that I would prefer to represent me.  That's just the way the freelance world is now.  Some of my posts have turned into articles which make editors happy.  But they tell me that the blog no longer represents the work I do for them.  Their suggestions are to either stop blogging altogether or upgrade the blog to build a brand, let third parties manage it, and link all my work in one place. The goal then is to become more marketable and gain more exposure.  

I've always been a writer.  From my first published piece at age 9, to the marketing material I've written and sold, to random freelancing and then to this blog.  I know I must write and always will.  Just not sure where I will write in the future.  Maybe I'm behind the times but I never wanted a space to write that would charge money or have those dreaded "clickable" phrases and ads.  I always just wanted a clean space to emote from and hopefully emote to kindred spirits who would find their own selves in between my words.  

But so many of my favorite blogs have upgraded and blogging itself is on a downturn.  Some bloggers are producing magazines to be read online for a cost.  I guess I'm old fashioned at heart.  And I find it difficult to read magazines online - I like to hold them in my hands.

So, if my blog began as just an inconsequence of my personal writing plans, it has turned out to be something far more important to me.  I will always have a need to express myself whether it's through a book, an article, a blog or even a private diary.  I'm just not quite sure yet what lovely turn my writing may take in the future...

~
If you find you cannot comment, you may always email me at emilyatheart@gmail.com.  For now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Things Said in Winter


Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow...   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost 


I laughed outloud at a meme I saw recently.  It only said, "I'm sorry for the things I said when it was winter".  This could describe a few people in my life who desperately hate winter's cold, wind, and especially, snow.

I have always loved winter until just a few years ago when I fell during a snowstorm.  It took weeks...no, months ... for my knee to recover.  If it hadn't been snowing so hard, if I hadn't been trying to shovel off my car so quickly to get to work, and if I had made a better judgement about the boots I was wearing at the time, I would not have fallen.  I wouldn't have fallen if it had been spring - of that I'm sure.

So since my tumble, I have Fall Fear anytime it's snowing.  And this has made me say unkind things in winter.  BUT...in order to get through a real true New England winter, it is better to focus on the positive and so I give you some of my winter pleasures.

Citrus

Winter is the time of oranges, grapefruits, lemons.  Take advantage of the wealth of refreshing and fragrant fruit that is best in winter.  I especially love clementines which are easy to carry to work and very sweet.  It makes winter a bit sweeter too.

Movies

There is never a better time to watch movies at home than in winter.  But going out to a theater for a film is nice too.  Sometimes I bring a small blanket with me if I think the theater will be chilly.  I pocket some dark chocolate from home too and if the theater sells coffee, a hot steaming cup keeps me from snacking on popcorn.

Cafes

Speaking of coffee, small cozy cafes are perfect in winter.  A warm sweater and scarf and a book plus a mug of your favorite hot drink, is a nice way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Museums

I love visiting museums in winter, especially art museums.  It's fun to buy a few postcards of favorite spring-like paintings in the gift shops to take home and meditate on.  Museums have lovely cafes too.

Soups and Stews

I really enjoy cooking soulful dishes on the weekend which make great leftovers for the week ahead.  It almost feels like self-care to have something nourishing simmering away on the stove and scenting the house.

Slippers

Slippers have been elevated in status in recent years.  Sheepskin-lined, boiled wool, cashmere, faux fur -cozy house slippers make cold afternoons bearable.  I have quite a collection for various at-home activities including a traction-soled pair for running out to the recycle bin and to fetch the mail.


Perfume

The other day a co-worker floated by a few of us and we couldn't help noticing her refreshing floral scent.  We remarked that she smelled like spring and she candidly revealed the name of her innocent little perfume.  I become weary of my complex and heavy cold-weather fragrances by the end of January and long to spritz on some sunshine and flowers.  A change can give you a new mindset as the snow flits down for days on end.

Pastels

My good friend Karen, puts all her fall magentas and burnished-colored clothing away on January 1st.  She declares that Pastel Winter has begun and peppers her wardrobe with cool baby blues and soft greys.  Her clothes mirror the pale icy landscape of the northern Great Lakes region in the dead of winter.

Lipstick

Like my need for wispy spring scents, I always need a fresh new lipstick in January.  I don't want any persimmon or garnet lip colors - only bright clear ones like raspberry or translucent "jelly and jam" colors.

Hand Creams

I am a hand cream addict and if I hear of a new one, I always try to find out more about it.  I especially like the simple indie brands I find on Amazon.

Hats

Never have winter hats been so popular.  If you have a black coat, infusing it with a colorful hat with a pompom gives it life.  I've seen so many this year and women are wearing them on not just the most bitterly cold days but nearly everyday.  This trend is long overdue as most of our body heat escapes through an uncovered head as told to us by our grandmothers years ago.  Hats are worth a little messy hair if they keep you warm.

L'Editions Deluxe

Winter is perfect for picture books, coffee table books and even children's books.  Revisit old favorites and thumb through pages of lovely illustrations be they of houses, gardens, or fashions.  Throw a shawl over you shoulder and sit at the table with a cup of tea and travel to exotic places, plan a night garden for summer, or study vintage fashions and old homes. 

Toast

Is there anything more old-fashioned than toast?  In winter, a nice piece of toast with your tea in the afternoon is so homey.  A little butter with some jewel-toned marmalade (back to the citrus theme) will make you feel like the Children's Hour has returned to the house.  What other time of year can we pause for toast and tea but winter?

Leggings

The J. Peterman catalog that I received before Christmas stated that a woman's legs should always be swathed in something wonderful.  I can't think of anything more wonderful than a pair of fleece leggings and I am living in them.  They are warm, stretchy, and great for running to the basement to fetch the Crock Pot.  They're also comfy when you curl up for your afternoon nap under a knit throw.

Flowers

A local grocery store has wonderful winter blooms.  I love white lilies because when they open, they scent the entire house. Ditto, hyacinths.  I have to have a selection of flowers in winter somewhere in the house.  Of late, I've been trimming a few wee blooms from my bouquets and putting them in a small vase for my nightstand.  They remind me that spring will come again.

White

Wearing white in winter makes a great juxtaposition.  While everyone is in black, white stands out.  It looks unexpected and chic.  My favorite sweater right now is a thick cream wool with a sparkly button on the shoulder.  I imagine myself a snow princess when I wear it. If you are lucky enough to own a cream coat, pair it with a matching hat or baby pink accessories.

Music

Atmospheric but gentle music is very meaningful in winter.  I enjoy my favorite pieces via my little speaker.  Wafting music keeps me company when I cook or fills the silences as I read. If you plug "Winter Music" into a search some nice pieces come up.  Youtube features pictures of ice skaters and pets frolicking in the snow with their selections.  Classical music that evokes winter scenes is calming to the soul.

Dreaming

I think it's important for those who find winter challenging to have an eye to warmer days.  I like having goals for spring such as getting in better shape or saving to buy a new spring raincoat.  It helps to keep your eyes on the prize in the reverse dog-days of winter.  Having a goal in winter is exciting as you plan for warmer weather.  Keep a journal about your goal and outline the steps to achieve whatever it is you want whether it's saving up enough money for a long weekend in Nantucket with a few friends or buying a fancy new bicycle for carefree summer rides.

I'm not perfect and I've said some astonishing things "when it was winter" but little luxuries offer solace on winter's darkest days.  Perhaps Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a gentle cast to the long wait for spring's appearance that we all feel about now.  We may have miles of winter left to go but we can at least travel them lightly and with pleasure.



Friday, January 18, 2019

Martin Luther King Day


This blog post refers to Martin Luther King Day and not the man, Dr. King.  Most businesses do not close on Martin Luther King Day but it is a nice holiday to have off because it falls a few weeks after Christmas and is usually a restful cold day that makes for a nice long weekend.  And so it was for me a few years ago.

My boss had asked me to hire an assistant to help us through winter when our accounts became busy.  No one applied for the job save a young man.  He seemed right because he had a car for errands and was truly interested in helping.

At first I didn't pay much attention to my new assistant and only saw him when I dropped off more files.  He seemed eager to learn and soon became indispensable to our busy department.  He was always agreeable and worked well with our clients.  For the most part, I left him alone to his work.

But one day he told me he liked my socks.  He seemed to really mean it and it was a simple as that.  Another day near Christmas when it had snowed hard, he asked me if I would drive him to his car in the outer parking area.  Next he took me to dinner and we began emailing each other after work during the holiday season.

I discovered he was a musician and a poet and his email missives charmed me. There were musical notes between each word and he wove melodies into my life again.  He made me a CD of his favorite songs and I sang with it in the car on the way to work.  We laughed, we confided, we shared.  I was falling in love - something that hadn't happened since I had met my husband, twenty years before...

When my daughter was a baby and after her father had moved out, not wanting much to do with either of us, I made a heartfelt promise that I would not date or look for a new husband - I would just be the best mother I could.  And that's exactly what I did until my daughter was grown.  And whole.  And until the man who noticed my socks came into my life, I just hadn't been interested anymore.

After Christmas, on Martin Luther King Day, he asked me to spend the day with him.  It was a grey, blustery winter one and I wore a romantic black felt hat with a thin silk ribbon around the brim.  The air promised snow as we drove to the North Shore of Massachusetts towards the sea.  He wanted to show me where he grew up, where his mother raised him after his father died, and where he first learned to play the guitar.  On the way, we stopped at a lovely little spot for lunch which overlooked barren marshes with lonely swaying grasses.  If I had longed for romance all those years raising my daughter alone, I had it now.  We were the only diners at the little shingled inn and were lucky to have a grandmotherly waitress who seemed to sense our status as new lovers.  Maybe our clasped hands across the table told her.  Or maybe it was the frivolous hat I chose to wear that day.  She kindly lit the small candle on our table.

Just before dusk, when the smell of ice was in the air, we took one parting drive down a snow-touched sandy road leading to the beach.  After parking, we gazed out onto the steel-grey water and watched the shadows from the darkening sky.  I tried to imagine what it must be like in summer warmth with beachgoers and colorful fluttering towels, and the sun scattering diamonds on the grains of sand.  Inside the car I shivered into his warm arms and this thrilling new world which seemed as bright-hued as the scene I had just envisioned.  And as I told him about my revery, he smiled and nodded into my into my eyes.  But I wondered how long this relationship could last and just where it would end up.  It was intense and exciting but like most all-consuming things, there was a touch of agony in the "us".

Despite our romance, no one knew and I was still his boss.  He also had a young child.  And if that didn't make it complicated, he was gone most weekend nights, traveling to play his music.  As well, I was a bit older and had my own issues -  my daughter still needed me and I couldn't travel with him.

Soon the work he was hired to do dried up and we couldn't keep him.  This didn't cause a rift but I did feel things shifting and changing.  I think we both knew we were not meant to be forever.  In early spring, he told me he was moving to Florida to play with a new band and be closer to his ex and their little boy.  Inwardly I cried.  Our differences, although not glaring, where not the ingredients for a realistic mid-life relationship.

Our last time together was oh so bittersweet.  He cut his hair for me to see what he looked like without his short ponytail as I had asked him once.  His dark hair was smooth and shiny and looked blacker and sleeker than it had before.  I stroked it sadly as he rested his head in my lap.  He kissed my fingertips as I willed the lump in my throat to go away.  Our last moments, although not tragic and wrenching, were sentimental and sweet.  And I don't think I imagined it...I know he felt it too.  As he held me in his arms that last time - and this sounds terribly corny and for that I'm sorry -  he sang/whispered in a faint voice, "Oh Donna...I had a girl".

I was sad for about a day.  Mostly I was just so glad I had the chance to love again and that someone had thought me lovely (as he often said).  He had opened me up like a flower and made me dream again and for that I was truly grateful.  His memory lingered on as a promise of other wonderful and more lasting things to come.

Today I have no idea where he is although I did hear from him once more - he sent a touching postcard with a picture of a beach.  It was the sunny one from my dream.  He wrote that he hoped I was well and that he still thought of me now and again. And I wasn't the least bit surprised when I realized the card had come on Martin Luther King Day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

L'Edition de Luxe



When winter finally settles in, I often think of this painting by Boston artist Lilian Westcott Hale.  It's called L'Edition de Luxe and depicts a private interior world that makes me long for something I can't quite grasp.  Perhaps it is the soft light filtered by the white curtains which seems to bathe the image in a wintery afternoon glow.  It magically casts a shell-pink tone that echoes the delicate flowers on the polished table.

Carefully balanced and beautifully rendered, the entire composition is an "edition de luxe", just like the luxurious volume the model is reading and to which the painting seems to refer. It's a large book, perhaps an art book, which calls out to be savored while opened up on a tabletop. How many excellent "coffee table" books like this do we have in our homes that are forgotten and never taken out to be devoured so luxuriously?  I know I have a few.

The very phrase "L'Edition de Luxe" describes so many things in this image, such as the pretty quilted mat upon which the flower bowl sits, the dark and restful printed wallpaper, the dish displayed high on the shelf, the cameo at her throat and the tortoiseshell combs in her hair.  Why ever not should a young woman such as this exist in such a exclusive world of her own?

I think what I envy most is the time our model has to slowly pour over and turn the pages of her beautiful book, seemingly in the very middle of the day.  Now that is the height of luxury and there certainly can't be a better time for such pursuits than in the dead of winter on a random afternoon.

Most of my enjoyment of similar pleasures takes place at night when the day's work at last is done and I am ready to collapse into my bed.  And that's perhaps the very thing I long for when I look at this work - the time to indulge...

So maybe this is the winter to dust off those sumptuous tomes and settle in with a distilled light over my shoulder.  Or enjoy other luxurious and exquisite things such as warm bubble baths, CD's of arias, or lovely old films.

Lilian Westcott Hale seemed to believe in the importance of beauty and craftsmanship.  So many of her paintings were of quiet women engaged in simple pursuits at home.  And that just seems so perfect for wintertime, don't you think?


~
Tell me about your favorite coffee-table books or other ways you pursue l'editions de luxe.
  

Monday, December 31, 2018

On the Twelfth Day of a Feminine Christmas

And so it is New Year's Eve...

I hope there will be some romance in your celebration as the holidays are a wonderful time to reacquaint yourself with your significant other and enjoy a little old-fashioned flirtation.  The opportunity for an amorous rendezvous with a significant other are few and far between in this hard-edged world of ours and tonight of all nights, it is the perfect chance to dress up a little and see the new year in together.  William Powell and Myrna Loy got the memo as seen above.

But if you are alone this New Year's Eve, there is nothing wrong with romancing yourself.  Make a lovely dinner, cuddle up with a good book or movie or watch the revelers on TV.  Tonight is also the perfect night for the original Saturday Night Bath with all the bubbly fixings.  A small glass of bubbly wouldn't hurt a bit either.

My mother always says that New Year's Eve is for amateurs and for real style, it's better to order Chinese takeout and stay under a cozy blanket.  She may have a point.  But if you're lucky enough to have been invited out to a boisterous party, I urge you to go.  At least for a little while.

As for me, my partner is away, so I will be under the covers.  Perhaps I will be dreaming up new blog posts for the future...I have one in mind this very moment.

I hope your Christmas was everything you wished for and I sincerely thank you for your readership.

More soon....and Happy New Year!


Ah!  There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort ~ Jane Austen


Saturday, December 29, 2018

On the Eleventh Day of a Feminine Christmas

If you are anything like me, you are itching to take down your Christmas tree.  And now that Valentine's Day has invaded your local drugstore, it may feel incongruent to have all your decorations still up.  In addition, our weather has turned positively balmy and although I haven't lost that Christmas-feeling entirely, I'm already thinking about January.

And it's really too bad.  The world just keeps on chugging towards the Next Big Thing.  But I won't let it end my personal Christmas.  Like the lady of the house above, I'm wearing my apron too.  And although I'm tidying up a bit, my wreaths still hang and my candles are still lit.  I bought a large bouquet of flowers at the market yesterday which includes a fresh Star of David and some winterberry.  It looks so pretty and festive on my coffee table in my old Christmas vase.

It's ok to start thinking about the new year and what it will bring - afterall New Year's Eve is but a few days away.  But let's dig in our heels and not give in to all those ads for gyms and diets.  I'm still enjoying the last of the eggnog with ground nutmeg.  And like our lady above, I even baked another batch of cookies.  January will arrive right on schedule whether my tree is up or not.

Are you still celebrating?

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

On the Tenth Day of a Feminine Christmas



The lady of the house appears to be getting a wrist watch for Christmas.  I think Sister received a watch and some skates and there is Brother engrossed in the machinery of his new train. I love the happy disarray of the household due to the scattered wrappings, ribbons and gifts of a well-spent Christmas morning.

This year I participated in a giving tree and also an Adopt-A-Family program.  So many people are skeptical about where their giving actually goes and if it really reaches people in need.  I don't think it matters at Christmas - the important thing is to give and to help because the giving is as much for oneself as for anyone else.  I cried more than once this season watching news reports of some of the ways my community gave to children.  It hurts to think that not every family has a Christmas like the one above.

I wonder if Mother was gifted that pretty yellow robe too.  It's a winner.  Not many women wear robes these days.  I've noticed a trend towards cardigans over nightgowns and pajamas these days.  I have a lovely cashmere robe which was given to me a few years back.  It is so soft and so very cozy during the winter months.  I think a robe is a very feminine garment and yet, when a robe is worn by a man, I think it can be very masculine as well.

These are just musings on a bright Christmas morning here in my land.  It actually snowed all day yesterday - thick white flakes that didn't give us a white Christmas but certainly added to the Christmas atmosphere as I made the Christmas pudding.  I hope for you all, a messy, untidy, beautiful Christmas Day!


Bright sun shines across the drifts,
And bright upon my Christmas gifts...
~
(From A Child's Song of Christmas)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

On the Ninth Day of a Feminine Christmas


Men aren't wearing ties that much anymore.  A once slam-dunk kind of gift for the men in your life, ties are rarely seen, even in the city.  I did come across a pattern for a handsome knitted tie that I just might be tempted to make if I knew a man who would wear it!

I read someplace that the best gifts for men are about quantity.  In other words, if you decide on lowly socks, buy multiple pairs and box them abundantly together.  The same with underwear or t-shirts, or heck, even beef jerky.  That seems easy enough.

But what if you want something different for your man...something special?  I think books are always a great gift.  Even if a man doesn't read, he must surely have interests of some kind.  A vintage book about his particular passion is a nice gift.  It shows that you know him and care.  If it has a pretty spine, it's a win-win and even if it remains untouched, it will look nice on the shelf where you both can enjoy it.

When I shop for Christmas gifts, I think in terms of small luxuries.  That's easy when you are shopping for women though.  Luxurious cashmere gloves, perfume, a jeweled compact...all lovely gifts for females.  But what does a man want for Christmas?  Maybe a consumable.  I bought my tea-loving son-in-law a tin of high quality teas last year and it was a big hit.  What about a locally-brewed beer or the aforementioned beef jerky?  I've seen some gourmet jerky at HomeGoods recently.  Get him something that simply "strikes his fancy", something he wouldn't necessarily buy for himself.  A friend bought her husband a "Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit" and he thought he died and went to heaven.  No.  Not really.  But I don't think that men are that hard to buy for when you think in terms of foodstuffs. 

And if he does wear ties, there are some still out there.  Get him three or four though.

What did you buy your man this Christmas?

On the Eight Day of a Feminine Christmas

My grandmother had the loveliest china and she was quite proud of it.  Probably because she bought it herself, piece by piece, at RH Stearns in Boston.  And she used pin money which was money she saved, also piece by piece, from household funds.  Nana Mac loved fine things and she wasn't about to let her life as a wife to a furniture salesman keep her from having the most beautiful china in the world.  I am now the steward of her pretty dishes and I use them often.

But back in 1981, brides were eschewing acquisitions of traditional nuptial accoutrements such as crystal, silver and china.  I had selected some contemporary everyday stoneware at the department store where I registered for gifts.  And although she didn't say so, I think my grandmother was disappointed.  She never had a traditional wedding because she married during the depression.  She wouldn't have considered registering for gifts because no one had any money to buy them.  That was when she set about acquiring her own things for her life with my grandfather.

I, on the other hand, had an opportunity to tell our family and friends exactly what I wanted.  For the most part, I blended my traditional esthetic with my soon-to-be-husband's contemporary taste and this meant classic old-fashioned china was out of the picture.  But I think because my grandmother's china had come to her through sacrifice, the Christmas before I married, she handed me the sparkly little card above with a $100 bill inside where she had unabashedly written, "Now you can start your china".

I framed the notecard a few years ago under sun-protected glass and it hangs in my upstairs hallway all year long.  I love the sparkles and the simplicity of the horse-drawn sleigh in the snow.  But I especially love my grandmother's message - the gentle nudging to do something traditional - something she really, really wanted for me.  And just after Christmas that year, I chose Royal Copenhagen's Tranquebar, a watery-blue china pattern with tea cups the same shape as the ones in Nana's lovely rose-colored Adam's Lowestoft.

She was pleased...