Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sugar and Spice


Despite the sleety Saturday weather, we knew what we needed to do next.

No trip to SoHo is complete without a stop at Balthazar Bakery.

So off we schlepped from Pearl Paint to the best breads in the city, slipping and sliding in a few spots while we got our bearings and finally came to Spring Street.

SoHo was alive with visitors from the tri-state area and foreign countries alike - all intent on getting their shopping on.

And once inside, the tiny bakery was crammed full of people, jostling for position and craning their necks to see what was for sale.

In front of the croissants and brioche, some lovely little desserts tempted those ahead of me.

But for this trip, it was no time for pastries - and we would be in and out of there in 7 minutes. I was squarely focused on the items that would travel well for a day wandering the city:

A few chocolate madeleines...

A multi-grain loaf... (which, in the end, was way too overdone for my taste)

A perfect French boule...

And to top it all off: two decadently frosted chocolate-on-chocolate cake doughnuts.

It was these doughnuts that helped Mr Spandrel and me ease into a lazy Sunday the next day, while we enjoyed the warmth of the house and the lights on our Christmas tree, as I regaled him with tales of the trip to the city, reconnecting with my dear old friend.

But, oh, did I mention brunch?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wherein I Take a Long Time to Get to the Point

So a week ago Saturday, December 20 to be exact, the New York metropolitan area was digging out from a sizable snowstorm, and my friend who was staying outside of the city and I were checking conditions.

"It's looking good!" she reported during our 7:30 a.m. check-in call, just before we each were to leave our respective houses to head to train stations in two different states.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Primarily because I hadn't seen my friend for two years, and also because I adore visiting New York. So of course, like many things I love and do way too infrequently, I'd built this up so much in my head that not going would have been a major bummer.

After meeting up in the city, our first stop was Pearl Paint, in Chinatown, trolling for art supplies as a gift for a nephew.

After running the gauntlet ("Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags-Handbags" the men muttered under their breath, as people scurried around, burying their heads in plastic garbage bags full of knockoff purses and wallets), we made it to the craft haven.


The two of us could have spent all day there.

Aisles and aisles of supplies of every type, from paint to pastels to pottery.

A billion different varieties of pencils!

Boxes in which to contain your finds.

Shiny plastic folders for storage and paper-toting.

And all manner of drawing paper and other media to use as a blank slate and draw inspiration, whether of the spiral-bound variety or even Moleskines.

Amidst the holiday hubbub, it was the proverbially serene oasis of calm, the store clerks inventorying the wares and occasionally offering their advice or scrutiny over our selections.

We made our way through three or four floors' worth of merchandise, and made our purchases before heading back out into the sub-zero temps, bound for more shopping...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lovely

Despite my best intentions, it's all so focused on stuff, this time of year. (This aside from all the worky-work that needs to be done by 12/31.)

It's enough to make the idealist in me just want to cry.

But it makes me extremely happy that people - of all ages and walks of life - can band together and think like this.

That an event like this could take place.

This, this gives me hope.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dreaming of an Aimee Mann Christmas

My sister and I decided on the spur of the moment, late this week, to go to Saturday night's Aimee Mann Christmas show at the Keswick Theater.

To our surprise and chagrin, it was much less focused on Aimee Mann and her band, and more on the special guests, who included Grant-Lee Phillips (eh), Nellie McKay (ordinarily, someone I'd have wanted to see perform, but again, eh) and Amos Lee, who just the only one who really had it going on and boy that guy can sing. Oh, and the profane stylings of the Hanukkah Fairy.

Finally, at the end, Aimee and band played a few of my favorite songs from the Magnolia soundtrack (Save Me always gets me).

Before the show, as we walked through the ticket gates, I'd just been thinking to myself, all these people at a very local theater, and nobody I know here?

A moment later, I walked right into an old friend in the lobby. Gotta love those cosmic-fun moments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Favorites, Part I

Among my favorite Christmas tree ornaments is a miniature pink-frosted cupcake house that has a delicately fluted base and a tiny door, out of which a jaunty little mouse is peeking, welcoming you inside.

My Mom gave it to us to commemorate our first Christmas in our house, and it has stood the test of time.

Each year, unwrapping it and finding it a place of honor on the tree results in much giggling.

Unless I think about it too hard, the weirdness of finding a mouse in a cupcake - or in your house, for that matter - doesn't really cross my mind.

It's just one of those super-cute things that makes me smile at the incongruity of it all. A photo will be forthcoming, as soon as we unearth all the holiday decorations. (Someday...)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not An Everyday Sight

A mall-weary Dad pushing a double-stroller ferrying a baby and a toddler.

Tucked in between said baby and toddler, splayed across the stroller?

A life-sized stuffed baby zebra.

Economic Barometer

For the first time in years, I've been out shopping - albeit briefly - on Black Friday, as well as the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.

All three days made me concerned for the economic outlook this holiday season.

I know everyone's been reading the same articles I have, how retailers are going to slash prices like crazy the closer the holiday gets.

But still... I'd expect some crowds in the largest shopping mall on the East Coast. It was laughable, the paltry number of people I saw out shopping.

The sales associates at Nordstrom? Bored to tears.

Kate Spade? They could vacuum the place and nobody would have minded.

Cole Haan, where they had a big "30% off everything in the store" sign beckoning? The saleswoman looked ready to cry.

And it's not just the higher-end stores that were feeling the pinch - JCPenney was a ghost town.

Even JCrew, which on a normal Saturday has 5 or 6 people waiting to make purchases, had a fast-moving line - full of people with returns.

When you can go to a Best Buy store at any time on Black Friday and there's no line - I mean, zero people waiting - something is wrong.

This does not bode well, people. It's going to be self-perpetuating problem - if we buy nothing, the economy will stagnate.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Ease of Tradition

After this Thanksgiving, where we shook everything up and tried some new recipes, I know the real reason why traditions are maintained: they're infinitely easier!

Although it was a breath of fresh air to try something new - did you know if you boil cranberries, sugar and fresh-squeezed OJ long enough, it gets gelatinous all on its own? - using all-new recipes definitely added a layer of stress to the festivities, at least for me.
  • Will these potatoes turn out?
    (Sure, but a little more salt wouldn't hurt.)
  • Does the stuffing need more chicken stock?
    (Yep!)
  • How long do you cook a double batch of maple-glazed carrots?
    (Less time than you think.)
In the end, there were no major disasters: it was all edible and rather tasty.

And thanks to our guests who brought a fabulous selection of desserts, it ended on a sugar high.

But in the end, the most important thing was the gathering of people we care about!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Hubbub Countdown!

A random sampling of the last-minute shopping I've been doing:


  1. Flowers

  2. Sour Cream

  3. Rye and sourdough breads

  4. Cereal for breakfast

  5. Milk (1% as a get-through-the-winter treat)

  6. Oven mitts (or, as my Dad calls 'em "Kitchen Gloves")

  7. Junior Mints Deluxe
    ("Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It's chocolate - it's peppermint - it's delicious!")
  8. Hot cups for coffee (with lids!)

  9. Cookies from Daryl's Bakery (chocolate dipped, covered in jimmies, some with raspberry or apricot jam - ostensibly for the kids)
  10. More parsley

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! More later.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Out with the Old

This year, we are casting aside all the old recipes we've been using for the past, oh, 15 years plus, and trying an all-new menu.

Mr Spandrel found most of it in a magazine, and it sounds delish.

There is much gnashing of teeth in my family over the change.

"No creamed corn?" my Mom asked incredulously, knowing that we will never hear the end of it from my Dad.

"Pilgrim Pizza?" my aunt asked (as I wondered what the hell that would involve).

"Are you making a corned beef and cabbage?" my Mother-in-law pondered. Um, no.

The last few years have gotten stale; we just want to mix it up a bit. Oh, my family groans when they hear about it, but what about tradition?

Just like Marge Simpson admonishing Lisa to "Get away from that Jazz Man!" they simply fear the unfamiliar.

It'll be more work for us, since everything's under wraps. So we're having more people bring the appetizers so as to further mix it up. (In years past, people brought a side dish to help out.)

But we are hopeful that it will make us look at Thanksgiving in a new light.

And just maybe it will inspire us to be thankful for more things than ever this year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Convergence

John Hodgman. Moleskine. Writing. Procrastination. The New Yorker.

All right here.

Things I Don't Get

The Twilight Series thing. I mean, vampires? Why?

The beauty people find in logo-covered status bags. (I'd rather have gorgeously tumbled leather.)

Running.

Buying a house way out of one's price range. (The ever-present, abject stress would mean I'd never sleep!)

The bubble skirt.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Diet: Blown

Just had a really delicious Barefoot Contessa dish: lemon fusilli with arugula. The zoing of the lemon juice counteracts the peppery bitterness of the arugula, and the result is amazing.

But don't let the title fool you: it's far from healthy, in that it's all encased in a heavy cream sauce. (I know!!)

Typically, when I see heavy cream as an ingredient, I buy light cream instead. But the last couple of times I'd experimented with that, the cream broke up and the sauce never really jelled properly.

It's not often that I eat anything with heavy cream, so now I'm feeling a big sluggish.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm curling up with a good book and planning my morning walk to work some of it off.

You can find the recipe online here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Meal Plan

Some people I hadn't seen for a couple of months commented on my having lost some weight recently. I'm an eats-when-bored type, and I've been losing a little bit of extra weight lately, so they asked me how I did it.

Other than some strategic dressing to de-emphasize my problem spots? And being too busy at work most days to snack?

"I'm eating less," I told them. They laughed, in that "Why didn't I think of that?" way. "Really, I'm eating less," I said.

But I didn't tell them one of the most effective ways to make it happen.

And that is planning. Because I get in trouble with food if I don't think about it until it's too late and by lunchtime I'm gnawing on a chair leg, overcome by hunger pangs. There are a few other things that keep me on the right path, food-wise.

Specifically:
  1. Menu-driven. The super-organized Mr. Spandrel got us on the kick of planning the week's dinner menu on Sundays - then we shop for the ingredients we need. Saves time, money and thinking about what to eat after a long day at work. And if we're having a richer dinner, I have a salad for lunch.
  2. Brown-bagging it. Bring lunch at least a few times a week makes a big difference. Not only is it cheaper and more reliable, but the portion sizes are more controllable. Typical: Boar's Head Turkey, wheat bread, lettuce and tomatoes when in season. Whole grain Fig Newtons. These days, an apple.
  3. Adora calcium chocolate - by far the best chewable calcium supplement. It's a real piece of chocolate with 500 mg of calcium, but without the strange calcium taste. And it feels like a treat!
  4. Always eat breakfast. Mine is the same thing every day - a certain combo of cereal that keeps me filled until lunchtime, orange juice, and sometimes tea. If I'm starving or didn't have a real dinner the night before, I'll have crispy wheat toast with strawberry jam (Bonne Maman), too. Tea in the wintertime.
  5. Have places you never, ever eat. For example, I won't take food into my home office. So spending lots of online time at home means I don't snack as much.
  6. Out of sight, out of mind. When we have snacks and goodies at home, we put them away. If I don't see them as soon as I enter the kitchen, I'm not as likely to scarf down too many.
  7. Snacks go in a bowl. I have these cute little blue bowls we use for snacks, and a portion fits neatly into one bowl. So rather than eating the whole bag of whatever it is, I pour just a bowlful. (That doesn't mean I never go back for seconds, but it's easier to control!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sign of the Times

Village Earth Bead Market, the bead store where I first got hooked on making jewelry, is closing at the end of this year.

Aside from teaching hundreds of people to unleash their inner designer, the owner had done all kinds of fundraising for girls' schools in Africa.

So it was more than just a place that sold pretty things.

This is the second bead store - among the five I've frequented these past few years - to close in six months.

While I realize that paying for gas and food takes priority over baubles, I still think it's a shame that small, local businesses - and those that inspire creativity - are among the first to suffer in a poor economy.

Please remember them when you're shopping for holiday gifts this year.

Buy local. And support the artisans in your neighborhood.

For more on Village Earth Bead Market, see their website.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Falling for It

A few of my favorite things, Fall edition:
  • Butternut squash ravioli
  • Gala apples
  • Brussels sprouts with bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Tweed jackets
  • Driving through forests of gold- and red-leafed trees
  • Brown leather boots
  • Steaming cups of rooibos tea
  • Carrot cake
  • Small-town Fall festivals
  • Election Day, especially this one

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Wonder

As Americans, we are obese and unhealthy. This is an interesting experiment.

The realities of feeding oneself on just $1 per day illustrates a vicious cycle: If you're too poor to afford fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, there's absolutely no way you'll be able to maintain your health.

Affordable, fresh food. We ship it in from every other country and ship out our own produce.

Salmon caught in the U.S. is processed in China before it hops a flight back to end up in your neighborhood supermarket.

Our food supply had just turned wrong-wrong-wrong. Wasteful, inefficient and wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cruel Shoes

A few years ago, I was in a little shoe boutique, minding my own business (OK, I was ogling the wares - so sue me!), when I heard a loud, two-beat ka-boom!

At the same time, I felt the floor shake.

I'm a little skittish, especially with loud noises. So I got startled and looked around to see what caused it.

The source? A customer, turning away from the register, had fallen down off her ultra-stylin', just-purchased platform shoes - landing right on her behind.

After making sure she was OK, I left the store, mortified for her, not wanting to tempt fate, myself.

And you know? With all those sky-high, pencil-thin heels out there, the memory plays through my mind each time I go shoe-shopping.

Why don't shoe manufacturers make more styles with two-inch heels and a wide base? Yeah, I know - style, but still - surely they can make a stylish shoe that we can walk in and avoid falling over in!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote, Baby, Vote!

Random 2008 Election Day Memories...

Seeing 4 neighbors I knew voting alongside me, before work. I seldom see these people at the start of my day, and I have to admit, it was sort of pleasant, in an "I Like My Community" sort of way.

Thanking God I didn't have to wait hours in line, like many others I know.

Feeling that something big and historically significant was about to happen - even if my candidate loses, there is still a "first" to be had with the other party winning.

Laughing at my last-minute sustenance-grab, a water bottle and a Pop*Tart I shoved into my purse, in case I had a long wait ahead of me.

Admiring how, after Mr. Spandrel voted, we calculated that by 10:30 a.m., more than 35% of registered voters in our polling place had stepped up to vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Perfect Fall Day

On Saturday, I was again doing errands in Chestnut Hill, a rather preppy part of town.

As I turned a corner, the trees with their orangey leaves framed a slim middle-aged man on a three-speed bicycle, his schoolboy glasses fogging up from exertion. He wore lovely lace-up brown boots and khakis topped with a navy peacoat and a carefully knotted plaid scarf.

And attached to the back of his bike seat? A perfect wicker basket filled with Macintosh apples.

The whole scene made me grin for 10 minutes.

Ah, fall is definitely here!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Iron Man: A Clunker

Now I'm the first to admit that I prefer indie films to blockbuster hits, but I was really, really looking forward to Iron Man when it came out.

(Robert Downey Jr. is one of my favorite actors since forever.)

However, at the time it was in the theaters, our social life kicked into high gear and I completely missed it while it was in its first run. Then, the last month has been pretty hectic, and movies fell off my radar altogether.

But on Halloween, I was watching the Iconoclasts episode with Jon Favreaux and Tony Hawk interviewing each other. After seeing Favreaux tootle around in the souped-up car that was in the movie, I was even more jazzed to see it on DVD.

In a weird clairvoyant moment, while I was watching the DVR'd episode of Iconoclasts, I spotted the mail that had just arrived. "I really hope that Iron Man is in that Netflix envelope," I thought to myself as I pawed through the pile.

I tore it open, and saw that it was!

Sadly, the movie lived up to neither the hype nor my expectations. And before you think, "Oh, she's got girly-girl tastes in movies," let me inform you that Mr. Spandrel himself hated it. We agreed that it was both too long, too short on details to make it interesting and involved way too many leaps of faith, even for a superhero movie.

Although, does he really count as a superhero, when he doesn't really have some kind of unique, innate power that he draws from? It's really more of a costume that he puts on, which provides the super powers. I mean, I could have hopped up and become Iron Man if that were the case.

I have to agree, though, being able to fly like it does would make for some exciting times.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Clever Costumes

Over the years, I've admired the creativity of my colleagues at certain Halloween-celebrating organizations, friends, colleagues and kids who come to our doorstep seeking candy. Among the best have been:

* Washer/dryer set: this involved some boxes and white paint

* Windswept guy: he'd gelled his hair to the side and wired his ultra-baggy clothes to stick out in a westerly direction, tie askew, crumpled leaves and newspaper stapled to his outfit, which he topped off with an inside-out umbrella

* A creek: a colleague's kid did this one, by attaching blue and green cellophane to a navy sweatsuit, gluing goldfish crackers, leaves, rocks and sticks to mimic the topography

* An thermometer: a foil-wrapped bike helmet, a white sweatsuit, some shiny silver duct tape for the mercury and black electrical tape for the measurement markings.

* "Tree man": Self description offered by a four-year old who just toddled up to my steps just now - in a brown sleeper and hoodie combo, festooned with multi-colored fall leaves and sticks and glitter affixed all over.

Truly, I love those clever, homemade costumes the best.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Words I Like

  1. Kodachrome
  2. Estuary
  3. Vermillion
  4. Sanctuary
  5. Fortitude
  6. Exacerbate
  7. Elan
  8. Silverado
  9. Sublime
  10. Surprise

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maple Leaf Rag

Fluffy piles of them are all around, in various shades of orangey-brown.

Maple leaves the size of your face beckon to me in nearly every neighborhood I drive through, lately.

There's something about the size that is enchanting and beguiling.

Maybe because they remind me of the times I've jumped in those piles as a kid.

Or the fact that I am just obsessed with driving through leafy lanes where the golds and the reds of the fall season remind us that summer really truly is over.

Sign of the Times?

Saturday was awash in rain, one of those weird fall storms that just rained on and on and on.

All told, I drove about 15 miles that day. I seemed to loop in and out of pockets of everything from torrential rain and light sprinkling showers.

That didn't stop me from driving around, doing errands.

And as I drove past the train station I used to take into the city, I stopped at a light.

A few feet away, a fully opened red umbrella sat in the middle of the street, like symbolism in a dream.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calendar Girl

It's that time of year, again. Staring down the barrel of 2009, I walked through the bookstore the other day and spotted a few calendars that looked interesting.

The obligatory Paris landmarks. A few beachy ones. A snarky Ann Taintor. And miles and miles of animal calendars. (Why?)

But I'm jazzed about finding one I like. I get the same textural "ooh!" opening up a fresh calendar as I do cracking open a new notebook and taking a pen to page.

Clean slates, and all that. And print on paper.

(Basically, I've had an attachment to office supplies of all kinds for my whole life, so there's some deep-seated psychological thing going on here, I'm sure.)

Partway through this year, I started a new job. At the time, I didn't have a spare calendar to stick in my cube and it was so late in the year, none could be found.

As a result, my decor is extremely minimal; I moved in amidst the accoutrements left behind by my predecessor and have slowly been ditching the things that aren't helpful.

Things have been so busy, that taking the time to fully move in has taken lower and lower priority.

So the calendar will be the linchpin; when I find one of those 16-month versions, I'll tack it up and really feel like I've moved in and taken root.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Runway Episode 14: TGIO (or, Thank God It's Over)

Zip it up, this season's done! I can't remember a show where I've been so bored for so long, wondering why I was still watching, week after week.

I am glad that the winner was Leanne. But then after seeing Korto's clothes in action, I was a bit bummed she didn't get the nod. Korto's big, statement-piece jewelry really made the looks, and since she made them, even more snaps for her.

Don't worry, Korto. You've got talent, and winning that prize doesn't always amount to much (Sorry, Leanne!). You'll be fine and someone will back you.

Kenley's garish colors were just cheap-looking. Purples and fuchsias together? You'd see dresses like that at Kohl's, or on the clearance rack at Marshall's. Although spectacularly made, the dresses themselves were over- (or should I say under-) whelmed by her atrociously immature color story. I was so glad to see her summarily dismissed by Heidi once the decisions were made.

(Was I the only one, though, who thought it odd that Heidi didn't deliver the typical commentary about what earned the designer the auf before she bestowed the kiss of death? Oh, well. Guess it doesn't matter.)

The colors in Korto's line were sophisticated and bright without being manically happy. I loved them. The sheen was such that I couldn't envision wearing anything in her line, but I loved the feel, the consistency, the creativity.

In the end, aside from the interesting petal details (an evolution of the noodle!), Leanne's slipping in that she'd used sustainable fabrics probably gave her that added green edge that made her line more marketable, or more newsworthy.

Ultimately, of the three, Leanne's designs are the ones I could most covet. (I mean, probably not the bulbous skirt that overemphasized the model's hips, but that belted, multi-hued petaled-skirt/corset combo? That was hot!)

So, in the end, one of the best designers won, so at least the season ended on a slightly higher note.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Project Runway Episode 13: Beware the Temptations of Asymmetry

It's the difference between a perfectly executed hairstyle and a 'do where the stylist decided she needed smoking break halfway through but declared you done, pumping you up with talk of the cutting-edge style represented by your new "asymmetrical cut."

Haircuts and clothes, especially, require a solid understanding of the rules so that one can break them effectively. Coloring outside of the lines first requires being able to see the lines and knowing why they exist.

It takes a tremendous amount of skill to pull off asymmetry in design. What looks like randomly placed elements typically treads a fine line between desirable and disastrous.

Jerrellicious
Jerrell's wedding gown represented the latter. From the grayish, shabby-looking tulle, to the swirl of taffeta crinkled around the model's body like gold-sprayed craft paper, not to mention the disaster of a bodice with the flaps over the chest... it was just one poorly executed idea after another. (And don't get me started on those gems plopped in the middle of the chest.) I liked the colors and textures he chose, but little else. The bridesmaid's dress was, well, I hate to say it, but it was dreadful - cheaply shiny and with fake flowers to boot.

Sadly, I knew in my heart, as soon as I saw Jerrell's wedding dress hadn't changed much since Tim's critique, that his days were numbered on the show. Like a Saab driver in the 90s, Jerrell goes his own road, and much of the time it involves piling it on and piling it on. He needs to learn editing so that he can let his creativity really flourish and sing.

Korto Loses Her Way
Korto's wedding gown seemed lumpy in addition to overwrought... with that weird tiered effect at the waist and knees - she actually made the model look chunky. The bridesmaid's dress was only bridesmaid-y in that it had been hacked down to look different in length from the bridal gown. Meh.

Her collection, from the Tim visit, looked very Korto-esque. Well-made. Interesting to a point. But in the end, predictable. She is not an over-the-top, make-a-loud-statement designer.

Kenley: Little Girl Lost
Here's my biggest problem with Kenley's outbursts. First, if you're involved in fashion, you just simply cannot say unequivocally that you're not inspired by a particular designer. Especially if someone far more experienced and knowledgeable calls you on it.

If they see something, there must be something to see, get it?

Sure, you may have steadfastly ignored the videos on the web showing McQueen's similar dress, or held your hands over your ears when fellow fashionistas regaled you with tales of a similar dress, all while shouting "La, la la - I can't hear you, la, la, la!"

But Kenley, tell me you didn't page through a magazine or accidentally click on by some coverage, or spy even a flash as you clicked past the Style network? You're in the business, for crying out loud.

Even if you didn't, just wait - let the judges speak.

Kenley's head-shaking over the McQueen comparison was childish, as was her previous behavior in reaction to the judges' comments. She needs to learn to listen and then defend. It's far more powerful if you hear people out, and then defend yourself with a well thought-out argument. Best comment from Heidi all season came for Kenley's wedding gown: "It's Crazy Good!" Admittedly, the kooky feathered wedding dress was impressive. But from what I saw of Kenley's painted prints, the color scheme for the collection overall seems far from sophisticated.

Leanne: Variations on a Noodle
Leanne's architectural, nature-inspired creations? What an interesting set of ideas she put out there! Those wavelike flaps with the different colors, fluid lovely draping, emphasizing movement in a modern, sleek and interesting way. Love it.

(Actually, I kept thinking that they looked more like ripples on water than waves. But wave is a much cooler and sleek-sounding word to use when explaining work that's inspired by water and how it flows. So kudos to her for thinking like a marketer.)

Leanne's complete rework of her wedding gown, and her willingness to learn from her superiors, to take valid criticism however harshly or randomly it appears to be dealt, to incorporate what's relevant into her solution, and most importantly, press on? That is the mark of a professional.

And even if she doesn't triumph in this trumped-up contest?

She has an interesting career ahead of her, for certain.

Prediction
Leanne wins, Kenley is second, Korto is third.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heaven in a Tinfoil Cup

Staying home from school with a sore throat, at least before my tonsillectomy as a six-year-old, usually involved a cadre of special "sick treats."

One of the best was Hanscom's egg custard.

Smooth as silk, it was topped with a golden brown haze of nutmeg dots, nestled in a tiny crinkled-foil cup. I'd scrape off the nutmeg bits and eat those first.

Hanscom's Bakery was a Philadelphia institution, with outposts even in the suburbs. For a while, I recall a corner of the Acme had a Hanscom's display, with treats stacked high.

My grandmother had treats from Hanscom's, too, from time to time. Although, with Nanny, I recall more frequently having a whole chocolate frosted Tastykake Junior to myself and thinking it the very definition of heaven. I don't recall her ever making my sister and I share; we always had our own slab of cake.

While I've always been a cake girl, those egg custards are the things I associate with Hanscom's, and which I miss dearly. Smooth and filling, they were a great comfort food.

I could really use one of those custards. Right. About. Now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Nation of Whiners

When Bravo rewards Project Runway contestants like Kenley with more screen time and artificial praise for projects they have no right to win, merely to keep them in the game and potentially keep eyes tuned to the screen, it's cheapening the entire enterprise.

A competition? Hardly.

TV under the guise of competition? Now we're getting somewhere.

And rewarding the people who complain the loudest, cajole their colleagues and generally behave the worst -- all while trotting out the saved-til-the-end, made-for-tv sob story -- not to mention attitude for miles? Ugh, ugh, ugh!

When Project Runway's first season came to an end, and Jay McCarroll walked away with the well-earned first prize, I kind of mourned the show's newness.

At that time, with Wendy Pepper cast as a villain employing a strategy, most of the other designers, from what I could see, seemed to view the show more purely, as a means to establish themselves, build their businesses and get the word out about their design point of view.

Once the show aired, and a savvy auditioner could see that a persona could get you farther than raw talent, from that point onward, the die was cast.

Project Runway was no longer a competition based on design talent (if it ever was); rather, it was a competition to see who made for the best TV.

This isn't a new and startling development. But it's something that has hit home recently, since I've been tiring of all these reality shows.

And so that's it, with the Project Runway season finale, I'm swearing off of them, at least until I can stand it no longer.

(Thank God 30 Rock is waiting in the wings.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Odd Man Out


Everyone feels it at one time or another, right?
Sometimes it can be a good thing, though.
Embrace your inner iconoclast.

Project Runway Episode 12: Pre-Finale Rip Job!

Dear Bravo:

What you deem "Good TV" just won out over good design. Fooey!

It's no longer a surprise - or even mildly intriguing - when you end the so-called competition without the number of winners you set out to. No laughing and high-fiving amongst the winners? (Mr. Spandrel even noted, while passing by the TV on his way to the other room, that "Nobody looks happy?")

That's because they weren't!

Kenley's poor-me impassioned pleas, not her talents as a designer, won her a reprieve for her godzilla-mermaid, flappy-scaled dress. Heck, every creative type has been an outcast at one time or another. I got news for you, Kenley, you are just -- just mean and unpleasant!

And tell me how you can justify allowing some trumped-up pageantry charge dangle Korto over the edge of the Auf Precipice. Just because the woman isn't a loud mouth, she should be punished?

My prediction for the selection of the real final three during the finale?

The designers show up with their collections in tow, but are told they have to make a wedding gown out of muslin or some other weird, restrictive fabric, proving who has the most vision and last-minute chops under duress. In an hour.

And either Korto or Leanne will explode in the pressure-cooker that is the looming-in-the-distance Fashion Week. Kenley will adopt that tough-girl-from-the-50s stance and blabber on and on and on and on until the judges say "Uncle."

Jerrell will summon some kind of kooky muse that inspires him to create something intriguing and over-the-top that gives him the win that legitimately gets him the Bryant Park show. With a tut-tut from Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, telling him he'd better be focused on finishing and touching up those raggedy hems.

And maybe Leanne's Judy Noodles garments will get the nod. Or maybe Korto's African-inspired big-look designs will get her in, all depending on how the nerves fray...

But to think that Kenley, with her Mad Men frocks and her wackadoo prints is showing in New York City with the imprimatur of the Project Runway Final Three?

It almost makes me want to not tune in.

But I will, because I want to see everyone else, and I mean everyone. I just may need to hit the mute button every time Mean Girl opens her big mouth.

Sincerely,

Spandrel

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Netflixable: Burn After Reading

While down the shore last week, we had one rainy-awful day that made taking long walks on the beach unpleasant, if not impossible.

So, we did just like I did as a kid during vacations: we took in a movie.

Unfortunately, the theater in the town we stayed in had nothing playing that we were interested in (the latest Nicholas Cage debacle, for instance, and the DeNiro/Pacino movie that just looked a little too violent for vacation fare).

Luckily, we found a theater just a few miles away that was showing Burn After Reading. I love all the Coen Brothers movies, whether they make sense or not. And John Malkovich just seems so unhinged.

This one received so-so reviews, but maybe because there was not much going on that day, it was totally dreary and rainy, and my expectations were set pretty low, entertainment-wise, but I loved this 97-minute goof.

Mr. Spandrel gave it an "eh," mainly because he felt that it was hard to see where things were going during the first half of the movie. The minute the credits rolled, the woman sitting on the other side of him burst out with a "Worst. Movie. Ever!"

But I thought the connections that were revealed made sense, there were laugh-out-loud points and randomness such as you'd find in life. That's all I'll say.

That, and add it to your queue when you have a chance.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Project Runway Episode 11: Sayonara Suede

Suede really got the shaft this week. Poor guy. Although his talents were limited and his character was annoying - especially given the third person references - he seemed like a nice enough guy, unlike Kenley, who struck me as evil from early on.

Kenley really crossed a line when she basically dissed Tim and his advice. Especially galling when she essentially took his advice the previous week.

Why didn't Michael Kors really call her on her 'tude?! She should have received the fashion-is-about-criticism-girlie, so get used to it talking-to that he'd given other designers in the past.

Kenley needs to grow up, take the criticism for what it's worth, learn from it, retool and move on.

Another site pointed out that this season, the producers went more for character (oh, really?) and less for talent.

Personally, I'd take talent any day.

It takes more creativity on the editors' and producers' part to make a good season out of it. Picking "characters," as pseudo as they may be, cheapens the show and makes for much more boring television.

Good thing Bravo still has a shot of keeping the show in their stable!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flow


Gardening is just not in my genes. But an appreciation of others' horticultural handiwork is. This is part of a garden that I walk by on the way to my favorite place to meet friends, relax and enjoy a salad.

The past few seasons in fashion, shades of green have been pretty big; so much so that it's something of a cliche, having worked its way down to the Targets of the world and back out again.

But I adore all the shades of greens you can find in nature, and pairing them with deep purples and vibrant blues makes both colors just pop with electricity.

I'm in awe of gardeners who can interpret "Plant 24 inches apart in bright sun, will grow 8 to 10 in tall" and know that they'll have an undulating carpet of color before summer's end.

Perhaps a course is in my future, and that may help. Understanding which plants are good for support and background while others need to be propped up to shine may help my own planning efforts.

They say that fall is the best time to install perennials, so after we get back from a quick trip to the beach, that's on my agenda, too.

In the wake of this week's financial turmoil, it might be restorative to think about nature, and not ones and zeroes and decimal points for a while.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Project Runway Episode 10: It's Fixed, I Tell Ya!

You could call it divine intervention, fate, karma, what-have-you.

I say those buttons in Heidi's bag were stacked.

That the producers matched up the designer with the model/graduate that would make for the most interesting show.

How else could you explain Kenley getting the vintage mini-me? (And what of the rant how Tim doesn't understand her style, that she's not cutting down that tulle? Yet on the runway, just an inch or so of the stuff peeked out from the hem?)

Jerrell designing for the printmaking major who'll work as an artist's assistant? (Can I tell you? I love-love-love this look! I would wear it myself tomorrow if I could get my hands on it.)

Joe - whose lower-level skills make him fit-challenged to begin with - being given the largest model? (Did that jacket have tails, as in tuxedo?)

And Suede being paired with the photographer who loves pants - an item that he just can't sew? (Toward the end, I could hear the producers nerves begin to fray because, drat! She fell in love with his mall-rat dress.)

Saddling Leanne with the mother-daughter team that was all a-twitter with opinions for just-add-water instant drama? (You could see her head spinning as she had to rework the dress after the first fitting when it was too matronly - and probably "too Leanne." But in the end, her pleats made an appearance, and all seemed well, despite throwing her into the bottom three for a little bit o' drama.)

The only one who seemed unfazed was Korto (who in typical Korto fashion, kept her laid-back cool with her model... but I think Korto's really in the zone, has the skills, knows her stuff, and realizes that she's just got to keep producing whatever she likes and she'll be safe).

This particular episode was poorly filmed edited. I kept wanting to tap people on the back and ask them to get out of the way and let me see what was going on. Obviously, a tactic of the director's, keep things hidden until the runway show, but still annoying.

Are we there, yet? I'm getting so bored with this season...

So, Joe and his interview costume didn't make the grade.

Kenley again looked miffed when the judges didn't give her the highest grades.

Jerrell hitting all the right notes with his artsy-fashionable take on an artist's assistant.

And while the jacket ended up being a fitted, gorgeous triumph, Korto's design would have been more flattering to her model overall if the skirt had been just a couple of inches longer. I think the judges just didn't want to insult the college grad by saying so. Regardless, the client adored it.

I still say the final three remain:
  • Jerrell
  • Korto
  • Leanne
But who'd be surprised about that, at this point?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Good Things

Lavender buds.
Friends you've had since you were six.
Colorful textiles.
Electric blue patent leather handbags.
Moleskines.
Knives with heft.
Tomatoes so good you eat them like apples.
Walking under a canopy of trees.
Cheerful banter.
Seeing with fresh eyes.
Knowing someone understands you.
The unexpected Roz Chast cartoon.
Amelioration.
The foam at the edge of a crashing wave.
Good sleeping weather.
Spotting a cache of butterflies.
Being pleasantly surprised.
The glide of a pen over smooth paper.
A perfect cartwheel.
Bananas with no spots.
Undulating waves of flowers planted by someone who cares.
Using your strengths.
Biding your time.
Biting your tongue.
A coupon you forgot you had.
Well-worn shirts.
Oft-read books.
Togetherness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Project Runway Episode 9: Odd Man Out

Yeah, so I guess the judges decided it was time to let Blayne go out in a blaze of glory, manifested by neon pink and turquoise poufs that cascaded oddly down his model's body-stockinged garment.

He was kooky, but self-consciously so. He was savagely tan, resembling a turkey ready to pop out of the oven. And he wanted to unleash the ideas that rattled around his head onto the runway.

Ah, Blayne, we hardly knew ye. Well, we knew ye enough.

Obviously talented, but very young. Just like Stella called it. "He knows nothing." Live a little, Blayne.

Kenley's model had triceps-on-steroids shoulders pumped full of air, the proportions staggeringly ridiculous. The plaid in the top and the tull-laden puff skirt were just awful. Bad fabric. Bad design. Bad self-promotion. I predict that Kenley's either getting auf'd this next episode or she's in for the long haul, and we'll have to suffer through her like we did Wendy Pepper. And we'll have to sit through her boring Betty Page-inspired collection [yawn!].

But enough of the baddies.

Sagittarius Saves the Day
Jerrell is hitting his stride with his textile mix-and-match skills, which were put to good use these past few challenges. His Sagittarius garment was far and away the best - he earned that win - and he obviously took inspiration from Tim's comment that the design was on the precipice between utter disaster and taking the prize.

And I give Jerrell a ton of credit: Rather than shrink back from his design, second-guess himself, and present something weird and half-baked, he looked like he just forged ahead. We haven't seen much of Jerrell's design process... I wonder if that's because it's being saved for the last 2 episodes. (Or it's just too boring to capture on film?). I couldn't tell what fabric that little jacket was made of, but the colors and just worked together.

My sister's a Sagittarius, and although she'd laugh to hear this, I could totally see her rocking that dress.

Leanne's exoskeletal Scorpio was interesting in concept, but in execution, looked a little, I dunno, flappy.

Korto, I loved the color interpretation of her Aquarius dress, but damn, it looked like a caftan and the same flowy shape she's done a kajillion times before. Is it me?

Other Hot Messes
Terri = disaster (Hello? What does shiny red have to do with a lion - I mean, other than offal?). Suede getting called out by the Duchess for his third-person shenanigans - ha-ha! - clearly zapping his delusions of grandeur.

Oh, yes, and Joe's ruffled rust mess made it all the more evident that he is employing the "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you" strategy. Which is kind of lazy. Or what less talented people do.

Really, if Blayne hadn't indulged in that fabric explosion and instead played it safe with a more traditional garment, we'd still be seeing his goofy betanned grin next week. Ah, well. Can't blame him for going for it, I guess.

Final Three
These are my hopes for the final three:
  • Korto
  • Leanne
  • Jerrell

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Heart Sweet Leaf Tea

I admit, it was the Granny cartoon mascot that drew me in one day while at a gourmet market, looking for something to drink with my overpriced lunch.

But one sip of this stuff, and its cane sugar sweetness, and you'll never go back to high-fructose corn syrup sweetened Snapple.

(Digression: I once met a guy who traveled on business with a full case of Snapple Lemon Tea in his luggage - his assistant confirmed that every day he glugged down two bottles of the stuff before his first 8 a.m. meeting and simply could not operate without it.)

Anyway, Sweet Leaf Tea has become my obsession, and while their Lemonade Tea is pretty good, and they have the obligatory Peach and Green Tea versions, their original Sweet Leaf Tea is just spectacular.

Go out and try it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

List Envy

My lists are seldom this entertaining.

Or detailed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

You, Sarah Palin, are No Tina Fey

Much has been made of Sarah Palin's presentation, specifically, her glammed-up look... and what she calls her "librarian glasses."

Since seventh grade, I've worn eyeglasses. And as family photos prove, in various forms: my own frames have ranged from super-sized 80s goggles rendered in mauve plastic to my favorite current pair of rectangular ones by Face A Face, tortoise fronts with oversized striped temples.

Those rimless frames, I do not understand. They strike me as frames for people who don't want to look like they're wearing glasses - but I know some stylish people who have interesting versions.

But for styles like Sara Palin's, I just think they look strange in photographs and on TV, with that floating temple hanging off the ears, and a bridge suspended mid-air, balanced over the nose.

A full frame is more in keeping with the librarian theme - the kind that are actually sported by Tina Fey.

[And now I'm kicking off my heels and climbing up onto the soapbox:]
Can we please stop it, already, with all these comparisons of Sarah Palin to Tina Fey?

How lame are the Daily Show dudes - whose Democratic and Republican convention coverage was otherwise spectacularly funny - when they mash up the words brunette and glasses and decide that makes the two women doppelgangers?!

There's just no comparison.

Aside from the outspoken Democrat position, not only does Tina Fey not have the same temperament - political or otherwise - as Ms. Palin (um, hello? Tina supported Hillary), I'd also like to point out that she wears real eyeglasses.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Project Runway Episode 8: The Day the Music Died

So, I could see where this was headed. Although she lives in the meatpacking district area, Stella is just such a marked contrast to Diane Von Furstenberg, that despite her ability to adapt the challenge to her point of view, we were headed for a terrible train wreck.

Or was that simply the story we were fed?

Kenley's dress, while the fit and execution (sewing-wise) looked pretty strong, I must be the only person in the country that hated that wacky print. I thought the lace lace collar was dreadful and the black belt just wrong-wrong-wrong. She nailed the silhouette, but she came in second for a reason...

Leanne, you Quirky-Girl, you are surprising me! The dress was just beyond chic - it called to mind the Anette Bening character in that movie (from the 80s?) Bugsy. Sexy, flowy, emphasizing all the assets. The jacket looked like a modified hoodie that the judges somehow just decided to ignore in making their choice, which was just as well.

Joe got a major reprieve, and should just pack his bags because he'll be on the road to nowhere sometime soon.

Granted, Stella's heart didn't seem entirely in it, and maybe that's the problem.

And a part of me is convinced she threw the race. (Perhaps the first time anyone's thrown the competition in the show's history? Can you think of another?)

The seatbelt skirt last week barely held together. The trash bags, for crying out loud!

When getting her auf smooch, she acknowledged her own ego was probably too big to last long in this alterna-reality world, and I think she was right.

I mean, she knew she was outta there.

Witness, her exit ensemble: Her leathuh, full makeup and shiny blowout. Brilliant!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Brooching the Subject

Often when I see women sporting brooches, the look is kind of old-school, school-marmish, or a throwback to the late 80s linebacker-shouldered power-suit days.

Or they're little itty-bitty things, like barely a commitment to wearing jewelry.

But Michelle Obama's brooches during the Democratic National Convention gave a nod to fashion, a certain kind of style sense, one that I can't quite put my finger on.

The starburst speech on her teal dress added to her radiance during her speech. Brooches lined the neck of her fuchsia and black Thakoon dress on the night Barack gave his address.

Clearly, whether she's styling herself, or someone else is providing advice, keeping the fancy framing her face is a great tactic; every closeup shot of her applauding caught site of the sparkle, which was just enough, very chic and not at all over the top.

She's like her own assemblage of a Thousand Points of Light with those brooches, turning heads and laying claim to a style all her own.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Moved to Tears

When I was growing up, music was a huge part of my life. I played several instruments and considered pursuing performance as an occupation. Somehow I changed my adolescent mind and my major, but music remains a huge emotional outlet for me.

It's also an emotional inlet, in that listening to can trigger highly emotional reactions. Perversely, if I'm going through a stressful time, or need time with my thoughts, I can't listen to much music. I need the silence, to hear an idea rattling against the cage and give it some voice.

But there are several pieces of music that have - from my first listen - prompted tears, a joyful release that is incomparable. If it weren't for their incongruity, they'd make the ultimate playlist whenever I felt like I needed a good cry that would lift my spirits. There are others, but these are the ones that come to mind:
  1. The Flower Duet from Lakme: Whether it's a British Airways commercial or an angelic opera compilation, those high-note harmonies are the primary trigger.
  2. Ave Maria: Probably from my earliest recollections, at a regular mass I'd attended as a child; later, for weddings and, sadly, funerals.
  3. Another Train: By the Poozies. These women are doozies when it comes to harmony, with nary an instrument to keep them on pitch.
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody: The first time I heard this song, I turned the volume of my tinny little radio all the way up, drinking in every note, thrilling at the stylistic changes and operatic choral parts.
  5. Bridge Over Troubled Water: Like some cliche from an after-school special, over and over I played this Simon and Garfunkel song as a college freshman, when I felt weary, down and out, or just plain homesick.
  6. We Belong Together: Pat Benatar was a constant during the 80s, but it's that children's chorus, dammit, that gets me every time.
  7. Rilo Kiley's A Better Son/Daughter: A former coworker included this on a mix CD and while it triggered some tears on the first listen, it helped me stand tall as I left a job that I hated.
  8. Skateaway, by Dire Straits: It's the off-handed softness of this melody and how it just slips out of Mark Knopfler, who could probably pen a jingle for potato chips that would make me tear up, too.
  9. Breakfast in America by Supertramp: There's a tuba, or a trombone, that is just such a surprise, it gives me a little catch in my throat each time I hear it.
  10. They Say It's Spring, as warbled by Blossom Dearie: First discovered on the Target commercial a few years ago, each springtime since at the arrival of the first cherry blossom, I play it and tip my hat to this girlish-sounding jazz maven.

Project Runway Episode 7: Saturniquet

Now, I realize that this is just a season full of product placement gone horribly awry.

But making clothing designers work with car parts? Atrocious.

Although like Rachel Zoe (and is it me, or does that girl look like she's ingested too much Ketel One at 4 a.m.?), I think Korto's jacket was something I could wear tomorrow. (OK, maybe not tomorrow, because I'll probably be cleaning up my house if I get motivated, but still, you know what I mean.)

First, I believe Jerrell should have won if we're looking at innovation and technique and point of view.

And while Leanne did something interesting, I don't think giving any woman mega-hips, that she needs to stuff her undergarments with muslin to pouf up, is advisable. I mean, who wants their hips to look bigger? Sure, you could fool people with the whole effect, and by nipping in the waist, create something kind of architectural and not literally against the body (which the "fabric" didn't really allow for, anyway).

I'm betting the judges liked what Leanne did with the fringe and gave her the win for not keeping the seatbelt in its original form (although, I'm sorry, I took one look at those piles of mauvey-taupe seatbelts and thought, "Weaving!" so I'm not sure how innovative weaving seatbelts really is - sorry, Korto).

And Blayne, have you learned nothing if not to make sure the top of your dress actually fits?

Suede's model looked as if she had fashioned a skirt from one of those mylar pom-poms that you'd see at a football game.

While I used to be a Terri fan, I'm definitely tiring of her 'tude. And yes, like someone muttered under their breath, she does seem to just have 4 patterns that she recycles again and again. (To wit: Hasn't she worn an outfit similar to the one she designed?)

What the heck was Kenley thinking? Looks like poor Germaine got into a fight with a lampshade.

And thank God they auf'd Keith, because if I had to put up with one more week of his excuse-laden, bitchy whining and misunderstood-artist rap, I'd put my foot through the TV!

But really... Enough of the bizarro-world materials, Bravo. I'd rather see them give the designers strange constraints like:
  • Sell their drawings on the street for 2 hours to raise the money they need to buy fabrics at Mood.
  • Give them just a teeny budget and see what they can wring out of Mood's inventory.
  • See what they'd create from the same pile of materials (real ones, not car parts) and how their personalities and design points of view represent. Can you imagine what Stella would do when faced with a dollop of silk organza?

This last challenge is the most interesting to me. I've always been amazed at how people who are into beading and jewelry design will take the same set - a jumble of beads, colors, accents, pendants and thread - and create something totally unique to their point of view.

Sure, you see glimpses of the same color palette; that can't be avoided. But if I hear anyone else say their design is innovative, when really it's only unique to something done in that room that day, I will just spit.

Here are the picks I'd most like to see in the finale:

  • Leanne
  • Jerell
  • Stella

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Project Runway Episode 6: Drama Queens

Last week, when I saw the previews, I was just thisclose to not watching the drag queen episode that was scheduled for last night.

Chris March be damned - and he was one of my favorites last season - I just didn't feel like watching the designers create some wackadoo outfits that I'd never in a million years wear.

That's it. I said it.

The whole reason I watch Project Runway is that I think somehow, it will give me some fashion inspiration.

Day in, day out, I wear suits because they're easy, they fit and I know a few good manufacturers that fit my gigantic frame (I'm tall for a woman, and can't buy off the rack because of it - grr!).

But they're boring. Lowercase "b" they're so boring.

Yet the thought of wearing sequins to the next staff meeting, or a belt the size of a dinner plate, simply makes me break out in hives. That's why I'd mentally written off this episode.

So I was much-surprised when I found myself enjoying this episode. Not only for the design worthiness, since you got to see who really had the chops for serious construction and figure-flattering designs and pretty impressive execution.

But most of all, I enjoyed seeing the drag queens, both in an out of costume.

Seeing these guys like you'd see on the street traipse in during work day to try on the designers' wares, really drove home how much of an art form drag really is.

It takes a lot of artistry, possession of skill for dressing one's own body (and for some, mega workouts, to be sure!), and the ultimate in emphasizing the good and downplaying the not-so-hot aspects of one's physique.

While Varla kind of annoyed me with her Ann Margaret persona, she looked smokin' in that pink jumpsuit! So, Joe, my hat's off to you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Project Runway Episode 5: Bungle in the Jungle

Well, product placement is the name of the game with Project Runway, but promoting Lipstick Jungle? I thought that show was doomed!

Anyway, Brooke Shields is just lovely, and I'm glad she's back to work... although when I saw her do that hands-together, Namaste move as she exited the room after explaining the challenge, I rolled my eyes skyward.

So!

Pairing up the designers this early was interesting, to highlight the personalities and see how people do under pressure.

If it were the winter Olympics, I'd compare this to pairs skating.

You know, where one team member is holding the group together and the other is the artistic yet emotional wreck of a human being?

Or the two are high-energy showstoppers, like some hell the Energizer Bunny hath wrought?

Or they're stone-faced and stoic, methodically plodding along to the end of the routine where you wonder how the heck they got here?

Alas, it's not winter, it's summer Olympics time, and all the team summer sports just don't inspire the same metaphors in me, so there goes that...

Anyway, it warmed my heart to see Jerrell welcome Stella with no pity, just open arms even though he had last pick and she was the one nobody wanted on their team for kickball again. (Sorry! Schoolyard flashback!) Something about the way Jerrell totally rah-rahed up as Stella sidled up to him, noting that he had leather in mind and could use her skills? "That Jerrell is a good egg," I thought to myself.

After his laughable, Annie Get Your Gun meets Holly Hobbie ragdoll getup for the Olympics last week, I really thought he was a goner. But while he juuuust squeaked by last week, his design this week should have won the challenge, hands-down. The colors were sumptuous, and that belt around the middle was just divine.

I'm thinking Brooke simply doesn't have confidence in her own post-baby midsection and shrank back at the thought of cinching the waist. But Jerrell? Well done!

Keith's design, I don't know. Those angel-wing sleeves in that drecky print? (Kudos to Tim for steering them away from the sing-songy Kohl's blouse print that Kenley was gunning for - awful!) I just don't see what were the judges oohing and ahing over, with this dress. I just don't get why a skirt of shreds looks modern.

When I see unfinished, shredded chiffon, I think, "How long will that take to unravel?" But then, I'm practical, that way. (And what is it with all clothing taking on that planned obsolescence, made-like-crap so you can toss it after a season business? Who has time or money to constantly replace their clothes? I have a shirt I've worn three times that I noticed the collar was already coming apart - as in shredding away from the seam!)

It strikes me that Terri is the type of control freak who will simply self-destruct if she has to work with others. Heck, at least Suede was honest about his hesitancy to cut a blouse free-form when he knew the fabric was at a minimum - and all she did was berate him for it when it didn't turn out well (I guess it was she who saved the day with the gathered neckline?). While I don't like Mr. Third Person, I think Terri needs to take a chill pill. Outfit score? Just eh.

I'm going to call Korto the Volumizer - everything she makes has gigantic quantities of fabric. This jacket looked like a leftover costume from the local dinner theater performance of The King and I, while the dress was totally ill-fitting. With a plain-Jane sheath, it's all about the fit.

Oh, Kelli-Kelli-Kelli. True, that leopard-trimmed getup for a show with the word "Jungle" in it was way obvious, and the execution was a little mall-diva-wear-ish. But I think Michael Kors was a bit strong with the "Slutty, slutty, slutty!" reference. I've seen sluttier on this show - at least it wasn't short. At least she made Daniel re-do the skirt. At least she made a jacket (although this show's photography is awful when it comes to black; the light is just absorbed by the fabric and you can see Zero details over the tube). She would have done better leaving the leopard in the pile at Mood, and finding inspiration in the teal and black fabric.

Blayne should have gone home - they kept him simply for his weirdo-ness. His outfit was inappropriate for day at a high-powered office or for night. And sure, Leanne should have spoken up. But what makes a good designer isn't necessarily their ability to commandeer and direct and steer a group project in the direction that they solely want it. But at least he had the ethics to stand by his design and insist he'd be the one to go home if voted the losing design.

Personality trumps design, yet again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Part of Who We Are

For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about underpinnings. Infrastructure. Support systems. And then I go and start my weekend off with dinner at a friend's house. This friend is a marvelous cook -- a modest one, too -- so if she ever read this, she'd cluck a "tut-tut" and change the subject immediately.

But there were five of us girlfriends there, each with her own story to catch up on, and in some cases, seek advice on.

The air was electric. I'm convinced it's the important people in our lives who make us greater than the sum of our own parts. And each of these women is remarkable on her own. But collectively, we're a supportive force to be reckoned with.

When I'm enjoying myself fully in a social situation, there's a moment where I sit back and mentally take stock of the moment.

This time, I was grateful to be part of this circle of friends, who met by chance but stayed together by choice, a bunch of early-to-bed types who started this weekend by staying up well past midnight because the energy in the air crackled and the food was beyond compare.

I made a resolution right there, that rather than veg in front of the TV, to take action and really start my weekends on Friday nights. No Ashley Paige reruns, or Project Runway obsessing, or even Jamie Oliver food shows (a staple of our weekend downtime).

That fun-filled evening laid the foundation for a restful respite from hither and yon errands, and I felt more contented than I have in a long time because I felt more fully present in each moment of the last 48 hours than I have in a long time.

What do you do, to make your weekends really last?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Project Runway: Que Sera, Surreal?

With the Olympics about to begin, what a surprise that the designers were ordered to create women's wear for the opening ceremonies. This could have been an interesting challenge if we had the designers from last season, wouldn't it? Just imagine what the edgy, Kit Pistol would have come up with--or some of the other more talented Season 4 designers?

Let's see...
  • Chris's design would have employed human hair on the shoulders of a track suit. Like fringey epaulettes.
  • Alisa would have imbued the fabric with the sweat of athletes of years gone by. Then after the ceremony it would be recycled into ribbons for the rhythmic gymnasts.
  • And of course Christian would have come up with something fabulously skinny and unwearable that only David Beckham would have been able to pull off, most likely featuring denim.
Lucky for the Season 5 designers, they didn't have to actually work with Olympians who would wear their designs... I can't help but think that having to fit athletes, with their various built-up muscles, would have been an exercise in futility. Well, except for Joe's ho-hum skort and jacket combo (and am I the only one who thought the flap on the front looked like a dinner napkin she'd tucked into her front?).

About Jennifer, last night's auf'd designer, Nina was kind by noting that Jennifer has a hard time letting go of her own style, and she was absolutely right about that. And Jennifer was glad to get back to her "surrealism." Honey? We saw no evidence of your surrealism. Unless you were hiding a dripping clock in a petticoat somewhere. Last I checked, the element of surprise was one of the harbingers of a surrealist painting. Maybe it was a surprise to her that she was auf'd?

Still, I couldn't see anyone tucking themselves into Korto's winning, color-blocked leather vest and yet another extremely wide-legged trouser (yawn!) completely lucked out that so many people got so many things wrong last night. Terri rocked it more than Korto, I thought, with her gorgeous jacket -- I would buy that in a heartbeat; loved the seams.

Jerrell? You have got to be kidding me, with that Holly Hobbie getup you threw on that model? You are lucky that somebody in that judging room thought the mix-and-match fabrics meant you had a clue. (And what was with the Robin Hood costume? Unless you actually steal from the rich and give to the poor, you should just give that hat the heave-ho.)

Keith's dress with the puff at the bottom should be burned. That was an insult to women athletes, everywhere. Heck, an insult to women.

The gladiator outfit that Stella wrought wasn't as awful as I'd predicted.

There is something about Kenley... I'm not sure if it's pure evil, or if she's just picking apart the competition. With immunity in hand, she clearly saw Daniel as a threat, and I can't help but think she meant to lead him down the rosy path of ruin by suggesting he avoid the Wonder Woman cliche, when it could have been the very thing to save him! (Poor lad, he looks sick to his stomach in every episode; I hope this doesn't do him in.)

Something about Kelli's outfit makes me think, 70s homemaker Mom, smoking a cigarette out back before her kids come home from school - probably the farthest thing from an Olympian outfit you could put out there, aside from Jerrell's monstrosity.

A circle skirt? Really, Suede? Hm...

Leanne, stop adding things onto your clothes. Just make great clothes. Period.

Actually, that's a tip for all of you! Make it sew!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Progress: Incremental

I guess it doesn't count for my own list if it's Mr. Spandrel who successfully grows the tomatoes.

With no vacations on the horizon, and a lack of area volcanoes, I'm not sure how feasible #54 is right now. (And heck, even #58, 69 and 70 are looking like 2009 at the earliest.)

On the plus side, specifically #37, I have been making more sandwiches, including last week's killer grilled cheese with asiago, havarti, tomato, basil, a drizzle of honey, all fried up to golden perfection.*

As for #46, I'm reasonably certain we've added 7 more recipes to our collection, mostly focusing on asparagus, zucchini and spinach.

With my new job, #39 is definitely advancing. I'm all about using my strengths, these days. Although I should also add weight training to the list, because my physical strength seems to be sapped (or maybe that's from the heat?).

And yes, I did do #74, although sadly, I don't have a photo of said gift. So you'll just have to take my word for it.




*Disclosure: I heard of this combo on Oprah, as she talked about her friend Gayle's obsession with sandwiches.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Losing Track of Time

This weekend, I had the fortune of meeting with a former coworker for lunch.

We went to one of my favorite haunts - a breakfast-and-lunch restaurant in a converted greenhouse, serving fresh salads and delicious baked desserts. I dug into an excellent greek salad with wheatberries and barley, the healthiest thing I've eaten in eons.

We laughed, we caught up on office politics, asked about the folks in each others' lives and heard all about her friend's new babies (twin girls - what a hoot!).

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the table beside us seemed to turn with alarming frequency. But our waitress gave us breathing space for a leisurely lunch, and dropped the check to be paid anytime, and kept our iced teas full.

We even picked at carrot cupcakes with real cream cheese frosting, the likes of which I've had nowhere else.

Suddenly, we realized they were ready to close, so we settled up, and sauntered outside. I glanced at my new watch (a birthday-gift purchase to replace my battered old one).

When I saw it said 2:30, I thought, "Hm... that was a nice, long, two-hour lunch."

We meandered up to the bookstore, I bought a gift for a friend. We continued our chatter a few more blocks to where she'd parked her car and said our goodbyes.

When I got back to my own car, I dug through my purse, and retrieved my phone to call Mr. Spandrel.

As I clicked it on, I noticed the time on the phone: 4:30. That's odd? Why is it so far off? Then, as I started up the car, I noticed the clock on the dash registered 4:30, too.

So while it hadn't stopped, my brand-new watch seemed to do something more nefarious: it lost track of time.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project Runway Episode 3: Bright Lights, Big City (Or, Are The Judges Blinded By the Light?)

Last week, it was Kenley who got gypped. This week, it was Leeanne in favor of Kenley.

Kenley's nightmarish green/purple dress with the bulb of ombre purple tulle forming half the hip of the dress? We're supposed to be impressed with a cheap-looking, garish color scheme and a bubble skirt that looks like she ran out of fabric? Incomprehensible. But then, I don't get Marc Jacobs, either (well, except for the handbags).

With Leeanne's design, you could see the inspiration of the grate around the tree, and how it came to fruition in fabric - just superbly conceived and designed, if a bit literal. (But why she continued to say the shapes were "organic" when it was clearly a man-made iron grate? I mean, if she'd modeled it after the tree trunk, I could see, but I didn't understand that reference.)

With all the interviews with Keith, I thought for sure that the reality show editing-clue machine was out in full force, and thought the kiss of Death was Michael Kors likening his god-awful dress to a swirl of toilet paper.

And then they go and diss Emily for an errant ruffling, albeit over a dress that was clearly well-made, with some shape? I was no Emily fan, but she got totally screwed.

It's a topsy-turvy world, this season.

While I'm the first to admit I'm disconnected and out of touch with club fashion, I must be really far gone. Because although I have been a Terri fan, I just did not understand her outfit. I thought the top looked incredibly dowdy - like the front half of a mother-of-the-bride dress that someone bought on sale.

Although honestly, Terri's design was not nearly as dowdy as Jennifer's clock-watcher dress.

And whoops! Heidi dropping the bomb that she just didn't care to see any more of Jennifer's designs, seemingly evar?! That made me worry for the bookish-looking, earnest girl who somehow found her way to Italy.

Tip: If you consider Salvador Dali an inspiration ("My design style is Holly Golightly meets Salvador Dali!" she eked out, when under pressure from the judges to explain herself), you'd better have melting, dripping clock faces on your garment, not a literal translation of a clock design on a sleeve.

And what of Jerrell? Didn't see a peek at him other than with his nighttime face mask, and then he shows a ruffly display of respectability? While not exactly night-life fare, I say good for you, Jerrell! He kind of came in from left field.

Suede's dress this week looked stiff and cheap, like something you'd find smushed in the racks at Forever 21. The longer he refers to himself in the third person, the more insufferable he becomes.

The Mad-Max themed fire hydrant-inspired outfit that Kelli designed looked interesting, but the detailing got lost on TV, what with all the matte-black fabric that just soaked up the light. It looked interesting, what little we saw of it.

Blayne, surprisingly good and better than anything he's done so far. And I like that when compared with his inspiration photo, you could see where the color ideas came from, although nothing I could ever imagine anyone wearing in reality.

Daniel, shiny-blah lame pageant gown cutoff? Joe, you literal-minded man, you! Eh, let him stay. Korto? Again with the black fabric that we can't really see the detail, but your silhouette looked good. You can stay, too.

But talk about silhouette, and staying true to your vision? The silhouette of Stella's garment showed she was totally in her element with this challenge... Despite not being able to turn on her camera for much of the allotted inspiration-capture time.

(How the woman doesn't set herself aflame is beyond me...)

Sure, it's likely an act, or it could be sleep deprivation, or all the partying she did in the 80s. But girlfriend knows her way around a grommet mallet and managed to annoy the heck out of some of the show's most annoying people, so Stella? Bang away!

What did you think?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Casing the Joint

Although I am really enjoying my iPhone, I must admit: I am an uber-klutz.

More than once, its shiny smoothness coupled with my Butterfingers means I nearly drop the thing every time I use it. And I'd be sick to see it crack into a kajillion pieces.

So I ventured to the local Apple store (which STILL had people lining up outside it to buy iPhones).

The Apple store teenager-slash-salesperson hanging by the cases was showing a bunch of people the virtually indestructible case he recommended, made by Contour. Of course, the Apple store was fresh out of their cases, he said, because they sell out as soon as they get them.

I chatted with another person who was looking for a case, whose iPhone sported a big, weird, flappy leather cover type of case, that kind of defeated the purpose of the small form factor. But he said he'd lost his first iPhone, then dropped his replacement, and was now on his third (still a 1G), and he wasn't taking any chances.

So because I need something, fast, I just ordered this geeky case. I've rationalized that the grippy sides will make up for the added bulk. And I don't care what anybody else thinks: I already look like a dweeb, handling my phone so gingerly.

The case hasn't even arrived, and already, I'm thinking: How boring! Black rubberized iPhone case on top of the glossy black iPhone? Bleah.

So here's an open call to all you industrial designers out there: go make a rubberized, grippy holder for the iPhone that protects it from the impact of accidental drops, in an interesting color combination, or a texturized outer edge that doesn't make me feel sorry I'm adding to the phone's heft.

Right now, I embarrassed to say I stow my phone and all its cords and plugs all zipped into a quilted case that I toss into my purse. As a result, I've missed a bevvy of calls all because it's muffled by this doll-bedspread of a bag.
Can't get much worse than that, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Runway Episode 2: Attack of the Zzz...

Well, Project Runway episode 2 just had to wait. After sitting on the sofa, watching the torturous ascent of the Tour de France riders up L'Alpe D'Huez, I was zonked out. And it was only 9:45!

Anyway, today I watched the recording and feel that this episode should have a warning label that reads Caution: Objects being filmed are more boring than they appear.

Now, having the models act as both client and fabric shopper certainly posed some potential for conflict. But actually? All that happened was a whole lotta whining. Stick a bunch of control freaks in a room with stuff they didn't choose and a client that may or may not have ideas, and it could be a recipe for disaster!

But really, aren't the real-world constraints that designers have to work with pretty similar?

You're new, you're just starting out. Your backer won't pay the millions you need for silk shantung, so instead, maybe you have to go with the polyester his brother Jerry just got a big shipment of at his warehouse in New Jersey.

Or maybe you're established, or at least have a name worth licensing, and so you farm out the work to China so you can manufacture your stuff in the quantity that Target needs to deliver to suburbia USA. But... something goes horribly wrong in the translation.

It's probably the most realistic aspect of this challenge.

Throwing in the "Green Fabrics" aspect made it just too overwrought, just like Wesley's dress. And toss Natalie Portman in as a guest judge? Oh, dear.

That's why I'm convinced that unless she sends another trashbag down the runway, everyone's favorite kooky biker/rocker chic Stella is going to be sticking around for quite a while - the producers have got nothing else. At least you want to see what kind of antics she's up to with her wheatgrass shakes and her crazy musings. Is it me, or is Stella like the two-face girlfriend they referred to in Seinfeld? In one shot, she's the slacker kid with no makeup and pigtails who looks like she needs some allergy medication, and the next, she's in full makeup and vixened out for a night on the town.

Stella's dress did manage to inject a little bit of her own style into a cocktail dress, and it looked reasonably well-constructed.

That's more than I can say for the Suede's garment. While I liked the strips zig-zagging all over the place, reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstrat, I didn't like that the straps looked uneven at the shoulders, that the top fit her poorly in the bustline, that the hem seemed uneven and the crinoline was too poufy.

While Suede's persona/character is incredibly annoying (enough has been said about his third-person references), there is one thing for which I will give him a pat on the back: his admission that all he was thinking about what was his Mom would say when she heard he won. OK, you redeemed yourself a bit! For now.

Blayne's dress was just eh, with the black hole on the side threatening to eat the model's spleen.

Daniel's dress: too short, too shiny, but the sleeves were cute.

And talk about short? Emily's dress was a flashing waiting to happen. Too high a skirt, too low a bodice. Too little fabric overall.

Jerrell's model looked like Jennifer Lopez during her Puffy days, a dress cut down to her pupik, skirt too hairy, just all wrong.

Jennifer's dress surprised me - in a good way! Aside from making her model look like a spokesmodel for ING Direct, I loved the fluid, drapey lines and the way the gray and the orange interacted.

Keith's dress looked like slick, satin drapes you might see in a New Jersey McMansion. Too high in the front.

While Kelli's dress wasn't awful, it showed none of the creativity and kick-down-the-door thinking that garnered her first place last week. But then, without having control over the fabric choice, I guess she didn't do too badly. Hers looked like a shorter, mini version of Betty Page's. I mean, Kenley's.

For me, Kenley's dress deserved the win. It was wearable, it was thoughtful, and she utilized the materials her model bought in a measured way.

With a midnight blue (or is it French blue?) to work with, Terri's design definitely stood out... but what I really like was the ruffling at the neck. Nice work! The rest of the design was kind of blah, but hey, having to work with someone else's fabric selection had to have eaten into your design time, right?

And oh, no, Korto! What were you thinking, giving even your model fins? (For me, another Jump the Shark allusion.) The poor girl looked like a Buick! I have high hopes for Korto, and I hope she pulls it out next time. Because she's looking a little out of touch after this design.

That brings me to the sad, brown gowns.

The brown satin trio really took such different approaches. Joe's dress was cute, but not designer-worthy, just meh. Clearly, Wesley's dress was overwrought, with too-tight seams that rippled across the model's body, making her look dumpy in the process.

Leanne's loopy-de-do brown dress, I thought, was the best use of that crappy brown satin fabric of all three. I could have done without the pocket strip on the bottom, and instead if she did something petal-tastic with the skirt, in keeping with the layered theme she started on the top? She could have really had something there. But then, maybe there was a fabric shortage? (But God knows there was enough of it in the house, if not on her own design table. Surely Joe could have spared a square after he was done making his picked-up-at-the-mall gown.)

I'm exhausted. There's just something about the pacing of this and the first episode that just didn't hold appeal for me. It's as if Bravo has its interns doing the post-production, knowing that the show is destined for Lifetime next season.

Even Tim Gunn seems frustrated with this crop of designers. His make it work, and hot mess references sound so tired and shop-worn. This show needs a jolt!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Queen Was Right

"Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me!"

Oof. Early this morning, waaay early, as in 3:00 a.m., a rollicking series of thunderstorms crashed through our part of the state.

The lightning lit up the bedroom, caused the power to flicker a few times, and then continued on for a good half-hour.

At one point sounding like a veritable explosion, complete with fiery orange brightness.

I thought something had been hit - a transformer, a tree, something? - and had caught fire. But no.

Did I mention that thunder and lightning scare the bejeezus out of me? They do.

Other people have told me, "Oh, we watched the most beautiful summer storm from the porch during vacation! We could see the lightning crackling all over the valley!"

Me? I'd be inside under the bed with my fingers in my ears.

This was the very annoying kind of thunderstorm, where just as you thought it would end, and you'd calmed yourself enough to get drowsy enough to fall back asleep, the sky crackled with power and boomed over and over.

So today, sleep-deprived and addled from the humid heat, feels like I've been operating on an even slower speed than usual.

Here's hoping I can stay up long enough to watch Project Runway.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Project Runway: Bad Mood Rising


Well, this recap is dedicated to fellow blogger FishWithoutBicycle, without whose Comment in my previous post, pointing out my goofball scheduling error, I would not have seen the show in real time! Thanks again, Fish!

Truly, I wanted to be able to stand up and say "Yeah!" in support of this show's last season on Bravo. The bizarro-world move to Lifetime I think is setting this show off its rails and I'm afraid that already, the shark has been jumped. Let me count the ways...
  1. Another supermarket challenge to kick things off? Yawn. You will simply not be able to keep the audience excited over something where they already know the inherent risks. We know food is a problem and that tablecloths end up kitschy. All right, already!
  2. Trotting out - literally - Austin Scarlett to introduce the challenge and judge? Isn't this guy's 15 minutes long gone? He so clearly tries to channel Yves St. Laurent whenever he shows up anywhere that it is just Annoying. Capital A.
  3. The Safety Dance: As you'd assume, the designers took one of two approaches: Use a fabric substitute and play it safe or go so far out on a limb that you can barely recover. Overall effect? Bo-ring.
  4. Saving Grace: Kelli, the Vacuum-cleaner bag savant. Spotting the full-sleeve tattoo-age I thought, Sweet P Part B? Then I saw her doing the dippity-do in a vat of dye or whatever she used with the bleach to paint her "fabric." "Oh here we go, another outer-space, artsy-craftsy Elisa," I thought to myself... And so she surprised the hell out of me when she pulled out the resulting marbelized skirt design! The browns and the greens were lovely together! The top was atrocious, those two snowflakey doilies at the chest? Blech. But that hook-and-eye closure in the back made of spiral notebook springs? Damn! What a way to lace up a corseted back! Creative in the extreme.
  5. Stellllllaaaa! Oy, if I had a dollar for every time Mr. Spandrel yelped this from the office, I'd be able to purchase a Louis Vuitton bag without feeling guilty. The girl's outfitted Blondie and Joan Jett and Sebastian yet she couldn't twist, wrap, slice, dice, twirl, tweak or otherwise beat into submission some trashy garbage bags? Shame on you, Stella! You strike me as a scrapper, and scrappers make do.
  6. The Yang to Siriano's Yin. Seattle's Blayne is the Season Four Boy Wonder's opposite in so many ways. First, there's the obvious West Coast/East Coast parallel universe. Then, where Christian had talent, Blayne is just a pretender. While Christian's patented catch-phrase generator helped establish his character from Day 1 (even I have mumbled "Looks like a hot tranny mess" from time to time over the past year, although Amy Poehler does it best), Blayne is just a me-too wannabe also-ran. Christian's pasty complexion belied his spending way too much time hunched over a sewing machine, while Blayne works on turning his skin into the consistency of tumbled leather. Don't get me started on his design. You rip up a few sweatshirts, splash 'em with paint and call yourself a streetwear designer? Please.
  7. In the "Oh my God, what have I done?" camp: Solo-cup boy (aka, Daniel, the sensitive Bird-Man) created something utterly unwearable. I mean, how on earth would this woman sit? Bend? Breathe? Jump on a bus--let alone slide into a cab?! He was saved only by the curvy silhouette and the model's dark hair, which looked fabulous against the royal-blue color of the dress, which, really, was more like plastic armor. There is no way this should have been considered a brush with greatness: the fact that it was one of the two best speaks more about the low-calibre of competition than its inherent goodness as a design.
  8. Give those girls a cookie. Is it me, or are too many of these designers "camera ready?" Too many lanky-limbed, coltish girls all look like they themselves were strutting down a runway a season or two ago.
  9. Enough with the quirky characters, already. The blue faux-hawked Suede? The Salt Lake City dude (Keith?) whose bio says he just sort of decided to be a designer one day after doing artwork for a shoot? The mysteriously bland-seeming Jennifer, who does embroidery for Blumarine in Italy?
  10. The Onion. Jerry's haircut was just distracting from the first time he appeared on camera onward. I once worked in PR for a client whose coworker was described as looking "Like an onion." This guy was a blond version of Jerry.

To be continued...