Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Empty Closet

I dreamed I was hanging out with Tim Gunn last night, as one does, and may I say he is just as charming and kind in dream life as he is on TV.

Anyway, when I woke up, I confronted my double closets (which face my bed), and was struck with the vision of what they will look like when I retire.

The elegant photo was lifted from It Must Be F/8

95% of my wardrobe is for work. I don't wear my pencil skirts or silk blouses or heels on my days off. I wear jeans in various shades and simple tops, and cute comfortable shoes.  I wear almost no jewelry other than small earrings and a watch.

Not that I'm retiring any time soon, but we know how quickly time passes when you work 40 hours a week. I figure I'll work another 12 years, if I'm lucky and can retire at 66. I'd better stop buying clothes at least three years before I actually retire, in order to save some money and not wind up with a closet full of new things that I will just have to give away. I'll need a few dressy outfits for warm and cold weather (weddings and such) and a bunch of coats and jackets and scarves. I'll wear my watches regularly and my other jewelry once a month or so.

And then what to do with all of that empty space?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis

No cliche is safe from me.

I was in St. Louis for the Library Journal Design Institute a few weeks ago, a happy but tiring trip, as I drove down one afternoon and back the next night. We are embarking on some major space consideration which will lead to some big projects in the next three to five years. I hoped the institute would give me some forward-thinking ideas, and I also wanted to see the grand Central Library in its newly renovated state.

The director, Waller McGuire, is quietly charismatic (OK, dreamy), and you can see how the community - residents and city leaders - were compelled by his vision of a reinvented downtown and a magnificent library to serve the people. 

Honestly, my pictures are kind of crappy, so you should just go to the Central Library's site and enjoy the gorgeous pictures of the original Beaux Arts building and the amazing 2012 renovation.

The original ceiling in the Fine Arts Room re-creates the La Badia Church in Florence, Italy.

Exterior of the original building.
Ten foot high original alabaster floor lamps, valued at $250,000 apiece.
One of many ceiling medallions, this quote from Kurt Vonnegut.
Their new shelving is self-lit with LED bulbs . . .

 . . . and was designed just for St. Louis.
All of the quotes throughout the building were chosen by patrons of the library.
Original leaded glass book cases in their special architecture collection.
For all your wallpaper research needs.
I can't agree with all of their practices - for example, I never saw any desk staff (except for Circulation) actually helping anyone - but the building was packed with patrons. The security staff was friendly and knowledgeable and told me lots of fun things about the building. Their new auditorium was once a coal bin that served the massive boilers in the original building. 

The Design Institute was quite interesting. They had general panel discussions of construction, furnishings and space trends, and breakout sessions where they analyzed a particular project with the audience participating. Library Journal hosts these institutes twice a year, previously in Denver, Seattle and Cleveland: basically anywhere with an interesting library big enough to host 150 people. Librarians can attend at no charge, and the institute is underwritten by participating architects and vendors. 

Because there would be all of those architects and designers there, I fussed over my outfit. I also had to travel in the van for ten hours in whatever I wore. I chose neutrals and my most avant-garde jewelry and hoped for the best. 

No pictures, sorry, but it was basically this outfit, with camel pants:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black and White Cookies

I felt like one yesterday. I bought an awesome new sweater while shopping with Deborah, and couldn't wait to wear it to work.
Ann Taylor tunic sweater, Talbots wool skirt, Boden boots. The sweater is wool and nylon, very light and warm. The sleeves are the right length and it has a split hem (shirttail hem?) so it doesn't pull over my hips. My ID badge was my jewelry, with big red earrings.

This is one of those outfits that isn't super flattering (not much of a visible waist), but oh so delightful to wear!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finally Friday

Not exactly a hard week, but some challenging conversations. I try to be a good manager and often feel I miss the mark, but the thing I am getting better at is the "difficult conversation".

When you feel a little anxious, try to look good.

Almost exactly the outfit I wore on October 9! Different shoes and necklace.

I just returned a gorgeous pair of leopard pumps to Boden because they were just too long. Sad. They would be perfect with this outfit and many others. I will be trying a similar pair from Lord and Taylor and from Talbot's, though the Boden shoes were (obviously) my first choice.

Patsy, now on sale, but only in a 40.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Big Lady, Little Lady

Museum of Contemporary Art, November 2013
Darren and I went to hear Susan Orlean speak at Northwestern Law School (Chicago Humanities Festival strikes again) and then had lunch at Mity Nice in Water Tower. A fantastic day!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

I spend a lot of time window shopping online (I know, you're stunned), so I thought I would collate everything I have in various carts and see what it amounts to. Then I sorted the list in various ways; by type, by store. I am omitting the dozens of things that i am watching on Ebay, or we would be here all day, and Sundance doesn't save your items in a cart more than a few days.

Leather and fleece boots (L. L. Bean)
Gray lace dress (Garnet Hill)
Gray Eileen Fisher wool dress (Garnet Hill) 
Red shirttail cashmere sweater (Garnet Hill)
Red polka-dot sweater (Kohl's)
Two Dana Buchman tanks (Kohl's)
Black Lysse leggings (Macy's)
Large Sakroots travel tote (Macy's, and it is ADORABLE)
Long bright yellow cardigan (Talbot's)
Pine green work trousers (Talbot's)
Leopard calf-hair pumps (two styles, Talbot's)
Navy pumps (Amazon)
Snakeskin pumps (Amazon)
Leopard wedges (Amazon) 
Black polka-dot pumps (Amazon)
Born shearling moto boots (Amazon)
Grey Miz Mooz tall boots (Amazon)
Leopard calf-hair Donald Pliner pumps (Amazon)
Red ankle boots (Amazon, and they have been in that cart at least a year)
Three leather/bead bracelets (Amazon)
Ocean blue avant-garde sweater (Peruvian Connection)
Lace tee (Jones New York)
Yellow-green straight leg jeans (Jones New York)
Caramel drape-neck top (Jones New York)
Bottle green leather jacket (Nordstrom)
Embellished grey cashmere sweater (Nordstrom)
2 pairs of winter boots (6PM)
Winter walking shoes (6PM)

There is some overlap with my Pinterest boards, but less than I thought. The items in the carts are things I'm seriously considering, and I'm testing to see if my desire for them will last. Pinterest is also very useful for the companies that won't save my cart info, like Sundance, or for items where I just love the concept. I'm probably not actually going to buy a Vivienne Westwood coat.

34 items that I lovingly selected and put aside for a future purchase! Why then, when I actually buy something, do I generally not go back to these carts and purchase some of these items? 
  1. The cart piles up and equals $400, and I can't bring myself to either spend that much or choose only one or two items from the group.
  2. I discover something somewhere else (often eBay), buy it, and figure I can't then afford the lovely things lingering in online baskets (though Amazon will remember them forever, apparently). 
  3. The hope/certainty that if I wait long enough, those things will go down in price. 
  4. I look at my stuffed closets and 40 pairs of boots and I know I don't need anything more ever, for Heaven's sake, Roberta!
  5. I review the carts and think the items don't really jive with my style goals. For example, I want to buy some pretty, graceful tunics, yet there aren't any in the carts. Hmmm. Apparently I have goals and then I also have GOALS.
 And then, hey, it's Friday and I haven't posted a single outfit photo!

I am loving grey lately and want to wear it every day. The red beaded necklace and bracelet are new via Ebay, and I love the grandiose scale of the links.

You can't really see the chain behind my neck, but it is black burnished metal - also good-sized links. Below is a more true rendition of the color. The little red beads are quite sparkly.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Rich Weekend, Part Two

The Vivienne Files has ten rules for subtracting ten years on her blog, beginning with:

1.  Take an interest in current events, in fashion, yes, but also in art, music, food and decor.  Stay connected!

The annual Chicago Humanities Festival gives me this opportunity in bulk every year, by offering dozens of great talks and performances at cheap as chips prices. This past weekend I went to two.

Why is Moby Dick such an entrancing subject for filmmakers and other visual artists? This was the key idea for a program/performance by Blair Thomas, who was (among other ventures) a founder of the Redmoon Theater and now runs his own puppet theater in Chicago. He has been workshopping sections from the novel for years. He uses shadow puppets, Bunraku, oversize floating artifacts, human actors, and musicians. The performance can be very intimate and very large and physical; furniture and performers on wires and ropes, being flung about the stage. You can see wonderful images at his website,

Mr. Thomas gave a short performance using shadow puppets, of what is a single paragraph in the book, the backstory of one of the sailors on the Pequod. A successful blacksmith loses his happy family, home and occupation to drink. The puppets were freestanding on a table, and a handheld light cast their images against a large crumpled paper scrim. When one of the characters died, Mr. Thomas tipped the puppet forward, and its stand was revealed as a headstone. This single action was quite thrilling. He gave the narration, wearing a long black skirt and a long-sleeved black blouse. Then we watched a short film showing various aspects of the Moby Dick staging, and finally he came back out in more conventional clothes and talked with his interviewer. She was fairly starstruck and obviously a big fan. Overall, it was compelling and I hope will bring many people to see his performances.

The second event was less successful (in my opinion), being a talk on language and imagery of animals in Shakespeare. At least, I thought that was its premise, and the speaker began there, but got off into fairly high-level thinking about language and symbolism and . . . well, she lost me. I did learn that Shakespeare only used the word animal eight times in all of his plays, as at that time it was considered an adjective (like primal or abnormal), and he much more frequently said beast or creature. The flip side of this scarcity of the word animal, was the much more thorough integration of even an urban dweller's life with the animal world in the 1600s: pets, working creatures like horses or cattle, pigeon coops on every roof, sheep grazing in Hyde Park, etc. But this was also long before Darwin or even Linnaeus, and the world of beasts was much more magical and imaginative. Bees were born out of ox carcasses, bearcubs born as lumps and licked into shape by their mothers. 

Some of this I knew (and loved), so I enjoyed her few slides of Medieval bestiaries and tapestries, but her talk left Shakespeare, and I was struggling to hear, and the chairs were hard . . . I left after 40 minutes and took the early train home. I didn't feel I had wasted my time or money though, not for ten bucks and such a lovely day. Her mention of the Aberdeen Bestiary alone was worth the price of admission.

And of course, before I went to the lecture, I went to Water Tower and found this at a very good price:

This bag is also available at QVC  for even less than I paid for it! Not very much less, or I'd be annoyed, but enough to make it worth mentioning, and in more colors too. I'm extremely happy because it meets my requirements very nicely.
  • Red
  • Pebbled leather
  • Single strap
  • The "right" size
  • Minimal hardware
  • Outer pockets

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Rich Weekend, Part One

This weekend I was rich in learning, entertainment, time, food and friends.

Friday evening I went out to dinner with two good friends in the field, to Mercat a la Planxa on Michigan Avenue. It was amazing, even if the name makes me think of meerkats on a plank. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of one friend, we ordered the tasting menu. And not il poco tasting menu, either, but il grande. Here is what we ate, though I'm convinced I've forgotten something. Heidi can correct me. When I got home I scribbled down everything I could remember, but I'd had at least three glasses of very good wine. 

Bruschetta with fresh tomato, lemon and garlic
Dates in bacon
Manchego cheese and apples
Jamon Iberico sliced so thin you could see through it
Rabbit in pasta with sour cherry sauce and a foam (I forget what the foam was about)
Egg and potato frittata
Farro with baby pattypan squash and hazelnuts and watercress
Grilled octopus and potato rounds (little potato cutouts the size of Liberty dimes)
Tiny fried sweet Padron peppers
Morel risotto with slivered asparagus
Flatbread with short ribs, cheese and a bacon jam
Beef tenderloin

The restaurant was beautiful, and cheerfully loud, the service lively, and every bite was delicious. Heidi and Pam weren't as thrilled with the octopus, so I got the whole plate to my greedy cephalopod-loving self. By the time the perfect beef arrived we were in a bit of a stupor from wine and deliciousness. It was expensive, but all I can say is it was an experience worth many times more than, say, a pair of pants.

Three cheeses, mustards and sliced apples.

Still to come, the Chicago Humanities Festival!