Vintage-inspired Monday: In Stitches

When I was a child, I read a lot. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t any better way to spend my time. I’d check out stacks of books so high they towered over my head and I became good friends with the school librarian, Mrs. Kinney. At one point, Mrs. Kinney asked me if I had any other hobbies and suggested I take up cross stitch. My mother and I remember this very differently. I remember Mrs. Kinney being concerned that I had no other hobbies besides reading and suggesting that maybe I shouldn’t spend all my time with books. My mother remembers Mrs. Kinney simply suggesting I might enjoy cross stitch because it would suit me, not as a replacement for reading. Either way, cross stitch, with its orderly rows of little X’s, never really sparked my interest.

Nearly twenty years after Mrs. Kinney (and at least one well-meaning aunt) suggested I take up cross stitch, I saw a snarky message perched in my friend L’s apartment. She explained a friend of hers was inspired by a book of off-color cross stitch patterns.

There’s something appealing about subversive cross stitch. Taking that centuries-old craft and corrupting it, twisting it, there’s something delicious about that. Samplers of alphabets, proverbs and family trees are replaced by snarky sayings and rude phrases. Though, I have to admit, I’m not too keen on the rude sayings or curse words. I’ll take wit and subtlety over outright crass phrasing any day. But again, that’s part of what makes this idea so wonderful – anyone can do whatever they want with the medium, appropriating an art that in the past represented the education and molding of young girls into proper woman and allowing it to expand and evolve to reflect the diversity of interests and express the creativity of modern women and men. Many of these cross stitchers use resources such as the Antique Pattern Library and period samplers as inspiration.

There’s a flickr pool inspired by Jackson’s book where people showcase their creations. Some are truly beautiful and creative examples of needlework with a subtle twist. Some are really just hilarious or rude, and my favorites are delectably nerdy. I mean – the Royal Tenenbaums characters decorating part of a pop-culture sampler? Yes, please!

Flickr user Cross-stitch ninja

I have provided links to work that I want to share but is limited due to copyright, but I highly recommend exploring the flickr pool and Julie Jackson’s website. There are also many artists who take the concept of needlework to a new level, transcending thread and fabric to create artwork that deals with the topics of gender, culture and fashion. But that’s a topic for another day.

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What I like (this week).

Grey and white.

Though anyone who knows me will recognize my love for bright! happy! saturated! color, lately I’ve been drawn to shades of gray and white. Must be because I’m gearing up for winter – even while gazing out my window at the wall of vibrant green two story holly trees. I’ve also been spending a lot of time on Etsy, spearing my lips with my favorite Smith’s Minted Rose Balm, and choosing a green bean recipe to make for Thanksgiving.

Bud vases from Grass Roots Design.

Milk glass eye wash from DK General Store.

Caramel marshmallows from Whimsey and Spice.

Chickadee print from Rocky Top Studio.

Woven shrug from larimeloom.

Things i like, as of late.

BookBonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

French teenage decadence at its finest.

Music: Grizzly Bear.

Ever since Veckatimest came out 6 months, I can’t stop listening. And Yellow House (2006) is just as good.

Clothing: Guess what? I like sweatpants. I don’t wear them out of the house (anymore), but if I’m home, I am probably wearing these, the most amazingly comfortable and durable sweatpants ever.

Rock: Wait, what? Favorite rock? Yeah, bear with me. Quartzite projectile points.  So, lately at work I have been inventorying lots and lots of archaeological objects. I think it might be making me even crazier. After countless ceramic shards, the quartzite really stands out. And I think one of these would make a pretty badass necklace (as a reproduction, naturally…)

Pretty!

Madison Bar: I’m picking two.

Vintage for happy hour.  Genna’s for late-night.

There are sweet happy hour specials here on Wisconsin tap beers.

TV Show: First off, Mad Men will be gone for NINE MONTHS. Don Draper, why have you forsaken me? But all that drama means it’s time for more fun shows. A new one I’ve enjoyed lately is Parks and Recreation.

This is a new show that got off to kind of a rocky start, but lately it’s been consistently hilarious. While it’s nowhere near 30 Rock in terms of brilliance (an admittedly high bar), it’s been surpassing The Office lately, which is starting to grow a little stale. (And yes, the documentary-style camera work is directly based on that of The Office. I don’t care if they ripped it off, it’s the same network with a lot of the same people involved on it anyway.) The best part of the show is Amy Poehler. I kind of think she could be a comedy genius. Or savant, based on the characters she plays.

Random Category: (What, “rock” wasn’t random enough for me?) I have a favorite scent. I wish it was a perfume, shower gel, shampoo and essential oil. I wish State Street smelled like this, instead of patchouli, garbage, and last night’s beer. It’s a candle from Anthropologie and I need a new one.

Musty Monday – Unexpected Christmas Movies

It’s Thanksgiving week and everyone (and by everyone, I mean retailers) is rolling out the Christmas decorations. There are certain movies that are considered Christmas classics – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (with Hermey the elf and the scary abominable snow man!), A Christmas Story (You’ll shoot your eye out!), It’s A Wonderful Life (I’ll give you the moon, Mary.), and White Christmas (Snow, snow, snow, snow, SNOOOOWWWW). However, the classics play over and over and sometimes it’s good to throw some others into the mix. Many of my favorite movies that remind me of Christmas don’t have Christmas-centric plots, and a few have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but still put me in a Christmas mood.

The Thin Man

I’ve already mentioned my love of The Thin Man. Loy and Powell’s banter is spot on (and enviable, doesn’t it look like they’re having fun?). It’s about a reluctant retired detective and his eager wife trying to find the missing “Thin Man,” but it contains my favorite Christmas scene ever. There’s also a pretty rocking Christmas party. Plus, the only person who gets the “round up all the suspects in one room to reveal the murderer” scene better is Agatha Christie. Watch it in your fur coat with a pitcher of martinis.*

The Best Years of Our Lives

If you get sick of It’s A Wonderful Life but still want a taste of bittersweet sentimentality, try this. Also starring Myrna Loy, this explores the lives of three returning soldiers and their families after the close of World War II. Of note is the performance by Harold Russell, a paratrooper who had lost both of his arms. He won an Academy Award for his first and only role. It’s a bit sentimental but still relevant – war still affects everyone differently. Caveat – I don’t think there is a Christmas scene. Watch it with a milkshake and a handkerchief.

The Apartment

Jack Lemmon is wonderful as the clueless and naive yes-man and Shirley MacLaine is by turns charming, spunky and tragic. No, it’s not about Christmas, but the main action happens during Christmas. Plus, let’s face it, sometimes all that cheery happy peace and love goodness can get overwhelming, and this is the perfect anecdote – just the right mix of humor, drama, and heartbreak. Watch it in front of the Christmas tree with some spaghetti and meatballs and a Tom & Jerry, skip the sleeping pills.

Some other favorites include: Christmas in Connecticut (baby-switching and hijinks galore!), The Shop Around the Corner (Jimmy Stewart! It’s the inspiration for both You’ve Got Mail and In the Good Old Summertime)Meet me in St. Louis (Two words: Judy Garland), Little Women (pick your version – but I like the one with June Allyson as Jo), and Holiday (Hepburn and Grant are hilarious together).

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

*I’ve included links to full versions on YouTube for reference, but if you haven’t seen any of these yet, do yourself a favor and rent a copy.

**All movie poster images from Wikipedia.

Photo Friday: Because want to go back to Paris.

More than the huge, panoramic city shots, or those of the Eiffel Tower/Arc de Triomphe, I think the best photos of Paris are street scenes- life happening on the micro level.

auro in paris: back again, just alone. for a while.

From [auro]\’s photostream

This entire Paris series from Laurent Nivalle is pretty brilliant, with the type of faded colors that I love.

From Laurent Nivalle's Paris series

My favorite neighborhood I visited in Paris was Montmarte. (I missed Marais, which Amy tells me is the very best. Next time!)

Montmartre

From Breno Peck.

Montmarte flea market, 2009

From my Paris set.

And because we love the vintage, here are some photos of Paris street scenes during the WWII occupation.

Some recommended viewing.

These days, a similar thought bubble has been appearing over my head quite often. Sometimes it’s because of something I happen to see. Sometimes it’s because of something I think, or wonder about. Self-editing, however, is crucial, so you will not find these types of things here.

Also, I wanted to use this as an opportunity to plug Clark & Michael (pictured above), which is most likely the best internet TV show…ever. (And no, I am not qualified to make such a statement.) But really, how can you go wrong with Michael Cera playing a character who is basically George-Michael Bluth with an anger-management problem? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I highly recommend watching all three seasons of the greatest television show of all time. Really. Or just borrow it from a friend, because I guarantee that if you’re in the 18-35 demographic, at least one of your friends owns this series.

If you’ve never seen Arrested Development, you’re probably sick of people telling you to watch it, so it’s the last time I’ll ever plug this show online again. (But we just want to make your life better, and more fulfilling. So much more fulfilling. )