Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gardens of Fashions

When it comes to clothes shopping, the last word in Houston is The Galleria, an enormous mall that houses the most elegant of stores in Houston.

And don't forget an ice skating rink too!

I always feel like I don't quite belong amidst the society set that routinely shop there, but from time to time I venture to undertake the hour long drive in order to visit Nordstroms and to keep abreast of the latest in designer fashions.

This week the Mall has hosted an event where landscape designers have created small gardens and flower displays throughout the mall. The fashion designers have come to town to show their latest collections amidst these gardens.

For $150 I could have bought a ticket for a luncheon and seen at least a few shows on a runway setting over lunch.

Being a bit of a frugal soul, I instead took advantage of the opportunity to see "informal" modeling in the small gardens on display for free.

The above dress was either by Pucci or Gucci, I couldn't quite make out what the model said.

The silk organdy (chiffon?) was crystal pleated, and the sleeves were unlined. When the model raised her arms slightly you could of sworn she about to float into the air. It was worth the hour drive just to see that dress!

But...this is the dress I would love to own. I could actually imagine wearing it in real life. Ah, the fashion as art/fashion as clothing dilemma.

When I discovered that the Galleria was going to have two hours of informal modeling, I wished I could find a friend come along and share the enjoyment. I decided to take the flier to work, doubting that anyone would be able to go with me.

Lo and behold: Friday my wine tasting buddy librarian Hope was scheduled for a half day at work, a short day to make up for the time she would spend at a rare Saturday campus event


We snagged a quick sandwich at Starbucks and headed down to see what we could see.

(I asked the model above if her bracelet was really a belt or a bracelet that just looked like a belt. She assured me it was a real belt, and that she had put it on her wrist all by herself. Cute trick, that.)

Now the mall nearest to both our houses is called the Deerbrook Mall. It has a Macy's, but boy, our Macy's doesn't hold a candle to the Galleria's Macy.

The two of walked through the Galleria's Macy gawking and touching all the beautiful spring dresses like we were hicks newly come up in the world.

The hemline details! The sleeve details (think origami...), the bright feminine colors! We both agreed that from now on all Macy shopping would be done down here; it would be worth the drive.

I wanted to check out Nordstrom's scarves, and was pleased to see that Nordstoms is also carrying a lot of dresses now. Just last year at this time I had shopped Nordstroms and could find only a few DVF wrap dresses that were too uptight and hot/heavy for Houston weather.

I told them they needed to get with the dresses already!

I'm so glad they listened to me...(smirk)

The modeling even included a few guys.

Bernie saw this shot and commented "Oh, double breasted jackets are coming back?"

Who knew my guy was so fashion savy.

This tiny fountain was adorable...wouldn't it be perfect on a balcony or small private patio?

This model was so sweet. I just couldn't get over how tiny her backside was. She could easily sit on a sheet of notebook paper folded in half!

I asked this model who designed her shoes.

"Guess," she answered. I was proud that I knew she wasn't being coy/snarky...and understood that Guess? is a brand name. (Duh...)

In all the store windows we saw gladiator style sandals. Whew. Not a good look for me! The name of the game was trend spotting; I found a cheat sheet for anyone wanting to keep up with trends:

Top trends for spring:

• Floral (BIG TIME!)
• Safari
• Graphic prints
• Bold colors
• Transparent (BIG TIME! it is lovely to see floral print on floaty fabrics)
• Tailored (I haven't seen attention to dressmaking details like this since the 1950s)

What's hot now? •

In: Exotic jewelry and chunky accessories are adventurous.• Out: Bangle bracelets go back in the box.
• In: Be bold in bright colors.• Out: Leave fall shades and muted tones in the closet.
• In: Floral prints and graphics perk up a handbag.• Out: Store that plain, old purse.

The gallery has three levels, and an ice skating rink that today was covered and used for the formal fashion show and luncheon. We were able to look down on it and see some of those with more generous bank accounts chatting away.

The flower tower pictured above was amazing.

All the flowers were real.
A few random shots. When was the last time you saw gloves on a mannequin?
Or peter pan collars for that matter?

The half circle shapes are the balconies of the Westin Hotel rooms. Imagine shopping all day, then going to your hotel, then going out for dinner, shopping a little more, then the next morning you start shopping again....

I consider great shoes to be great art. Wearing them is out of the question, but I can sure look.
(And I thought about Nurse Running Wildly when I saw them.)
Designed by Louis Vuitton.

(I'm not sure how I feel about the green bow....)

Great neckline! Prairie points used as collar!

The little ruffles on the jacket against the fringe on the dress: Interesting.
I did pop into Neimans and checked out the Philip Treacy hats. They were pretty cool, black and white, and priced just a few dollars under 1,000.
Well my friends, I wish we could head back down there for a bloggie photo shoot.
I hope this gives you at least a taste of the day, and inspiration.
PS to Lin: Give me a call or email me, OK? Maybe we could get together soon?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The big wedding up the road...

Texas girls all dream of getting married in a field of bluebonnets. Or at least having their bridal portrait feature bluebonnets somehow.

I don't blame them. The same brides also eagerly look forward to plopping their babies into a clump of the flowers and catching the baby blue eyes reflecting the beautiful blue flowers. If no human baby is available in the household, a dog will do.

(I haven't seen any cats pictured thusly yet. And my boy cats disappeared when I suggested a photo op once they understood it would involve a car ride.)

As more children get added to the household, they likewise are dragged to the flower patches each year. The result of this diligent attention to seasonal wonders is a visual journal of childhood. Many family have similar yearly pictures (the family in front the the Christmas tree comes to mind) but frankly I think a picture in the bluebonnets patch beats them all hands down.

One little Texas Miss is getting married next month. She is planning an outdoors wedding, a casual event. Her engagement ring features her fiance's great grandmothers' diamond surrounded by two round sapphires, a perfect nod to a bluebonnet color theme wedding.

But...lucky girl...she is able to take the theme one step further. Fourteen of her girlfriends will be at the wedding collectively known as "the house party." Personally I would really not want to see fourteen bridesmaids step---step---stepping down a makeshift aisle. The house party will instead just collectively gather about the bridal couple, providing a decorative backdrop and color cue for the event.

To assure the success of this tactic, the bride's mother has had dresses designed for each girl. The styles are each a bit different, and the color range is created to mimic the colors of blue to lavender shades of the Bluebonnets and rich coral red of the Indian Paintbrush, the sassy side kick bold flower friend of the shy demure bluebonnet.

Each dress has a hand fashioned rosette, and an antique silver buckle adorns the dresses with belts.
Frankly, I think these dresses sound adorable.
No word on what Jenna's dress looks like; she and her fiance claim to be traditionalist, and he will first see her dress at their wedding.
We do know that Oscar de la Renta is the gown designer. I love him and his designs. After studying the lives of the most famous contemporary designers in college, let me just say that most of them should be socially shunned by ladies of polite society.
Mr. de la Renta is a gentleman with class and style.
Our local paper showed several "possible" dlR bridal designs suitable for an outdoor wedding.
Boy do I love this one. So Jane Austen; the hat, the flowers tucked in the sash.

This was my second favorite. It was nice to see several dresses that were not the same-old-same-old over done to death strapless ball gown.

The paper also did a short article about other Presidential daughter's weddings. I remember this one:

I think she had sixteen, (or was it 24?) bridesmaids. How very conservative her dress looks now! I also remember when Trisha Nixon got married in June in the White House rose garden in a sleeveless gown. I was scandalize. Brides always wore sleeves!

I remember the press talking about the reason she was sleeveless was because they realized it would be terribly warm in the garden.

Isn't that funny?

Nowadays, brides dash through blizzards in backless strapless plunging neckline bridal gowns.

And nobody says a word.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Requiem On Springtime Gone Too Soon

Close your eyes and breath.

The jasmine ...




fills the air with scent.

Breath deep.


The garden outside is warm.

Beneath the trees is perfection.



Leaf shadowed shade.

Red cardinals call chip chip.

Blue jays add their bugled notes.

Mockingbirds race to feed their nested young.

Butterfly wings color the air.

Nothing is pressing right now.

I will go and sit outside.
Watch, embrace this beauty.

Cherish now the temporal glories of spring.

Arms and legs glisten with Deep Woods Off.

Mosquitoes rejoice in Springtime too.
They feast upon my forehead.

When Man fell from grace there was consequence: Sweat soaked brow and weeds.

Mosquitoes upon the forehead too?

(Did you know Houston has 55 varieties of them? And that they bite both day and night?)

I surrender. Wheel out my bike, determined to enjoy the fragrant air.

Outside the leafy shade the sun is hot...too hot.

85 degrees, and the day is yet young.

Mosquitoes, heat.

The twin terrors of Texas envelope me.

Unwilling to surrender,

I pluck a gardenia.

Add milk dripping star jasmine tendril.

Drape honeysuckle vines within the shallow vase.

Lemony magnolia scent brightens the room encased by windows shut tight against the heat.

The fragrant outside is now brought inside.

Scented treasures in flower form, horded in a crystal vase.

Safe from the heat, trapped within glass, severed, they wither with each passing day.

I (like them) now safe as well,

am also trapped indoors.

Air conditioned air (thrumming like artificial pulse) will serve to keep me

vaguely alive

as I steel myself for summer.

This is but the first month of spring.

I mourn; the season is gone.

There will be eight summer months

to be endured until winter.

(April is National Poetry Month. The writing above is my contribution to the event. )

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Millinery: Books that float through the air

I just yesterday came across this link to a ton of millinery books that you can read online for free!

Whoo-hoo! Sweet! LOVE free books that I don't have to shelve, dust or worry about returning on time!

But in the mode of "Great Minds Think Alike" (or perhaps hatted heads have simultaneous brainstorms...) my fellow milliner Cristina has beat me to posting about this collection and has already posted a delicious review of one particular book in the digitized University of Wisconsin collection.

Entitled "Woman as Decoration", the book was written in 1920 by Emily Burbanks.
Based on Cristina's comments, I have just moments ago started reading through it, and bounced onto the this page first:

I've noticed a few grumpy gripping blogposts out there (not that I am naming any names Heidi...) and the idea of pouting in your boudoir (in pearls that should be both real AND long enough to reach below your waist) was enough to make me want to cook up a real good ruffled mood just so I could flounce off to my own boudoir and stay there the rest of the day in the name of being decorative!

Dear Readers: This book has it all. Tips on how to assure that you are decorative while riding in a car, with your pets, gardening, on the lawn, at the shore....the list goes on and on. For years now when I have been asked about my ambitions in life I usually reply that I hope to gracious and decorative. But if I have to choose between the two, I'd choose being decorative.

(This answer goes over really big during job interviews. It helps me to know if the people I am interviewing with have a sense of humor. If they don't, then I don't want the job anyway!)

Ahh, don't you just love it? A whole book devoted to this delightful idea of just being decorative.

You can read the entire book on line here.

Be sure to take a peek, and come back and tell me what was your favorite chapter!

California Girls take on another beach: Gail's visit continues.

I asked Gail what else she would like to do while she was here visiting besides seeing the bluebonnets and hang out with Laura and me and the cats.

She said she would like to visit Galveston Island.
So Saturday morning we packed up and drove south to the beach.
(This "drive south" to go to the beach is almost as weird as "drive east" to go to the beach. Lately I have been sooo confused.)

Gail and I both have parents living in the San Diego area, and we often manage to both be in San Diego at the same time. When that happens, we always get together to walk on the beach.
How perfect it is that now we could walk together on a different shore!

Galveston is about an hour and a half drive from my house. The day was clear and beautiful and we yakked a mile a minute all the way there. As we drove over the long bridge to the island we both commented how much it all looked like San Diego. Once we started driving into Galveston we began to rubber neck to see the great old mansions along the main drive. There are some doozies there!

Oddly we started seeing barricades on the side streets and groups of police officers at every intersection. Was there going to be a parade or something? We slowed down and asked what was going on.

Bad news: This was the start of a Spring Break party weekend in Galveston for a nationwide fraternity. Forty five extra police officers had been brought in to assists the Galveston police force for crowd control. We should expect gridlock traffic to begin any minute and for things to get pretty wild pretty fast. In fact, they thought the crowd was supposed to have already arrived an hour ago and were wondering what was causing the delay.

I asked if we could still visit the historical neighborhoods and the historic downtown area. The police officer shook his head, and suggested that if we wanted to do that we would need to do it RIGHT NOW, and we might soon have a problem getting through traffic and around the barricades.

Gail and I looked at each other in disbelief. This must be one bad a** fraternity to cause all this concern. I took a deep breath, prayed quickly and said decidedly:

"This is not going to impact us at all. Let's do lunch first, then we'll go downtown and into the historic neighborhoods, then we'll head west along the beach (boy did that sound odd) and go walk on the sand and dunk our toes in the water."

We drove a little way down the beach front to this restaurant:

Perfect! I wanted Gail to try some Cajun food anyway. The parking lot was jammed pack.
Just as we pulled in, a car right in front of the door pulled out. Rock star parking just for us, as my kids always say.

The menu looked great to me.
Gail announced she doesn't eat seafood.
(Funny how you can know someone for 29 years and still not know something like that...)

I suggested she try the muffuletta. Specifically she should order the half portion.
I went ahead and ordered the fried fish po' boy for myself.
We both agreed on hush puppies on the side.

While we were standing there an order for crawfish came out.
Gail looked at the pile of crustaceans and asked what they were.
The person behind the counter plucked one of the crawfish off the pile and handed it to her. "Here you go, try one!" she said cheerfully.

Gail walked over to me holding the crawfish gingerly.
"How do you eat one of these things?" she asked.

I took "bug" and told her you pulled the meat out of the tail, and then you suck on the head.

Since this crawfish happened to have a rather large claw, I told her she could also eat the meat in the claw. "It's like a tiny lobster" I told her.
"I don't eat crustaceans" she told me.
"You don't eat lobster?" I asked in amazement.
"No. I've seen a program on PBS about crustaceans. I know what they eat, and I don't want to eat them."

(Back to the librarian's trueism: Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss...)

She agreed to try a bite. I cracked open the tail and pulled out the almond sized piece of meat for her to try. She agreed it was spicy and flavorful, she was glad she had tried it and no, she wouldn't not be eating it again.

I should have been paying more attention when she ordered her lunch. She forgot I had suggested she order a half portion of muffuletta.
She ordered a full portion.
This is what she got:

Yup, everything is bigger in Texas. Muffuletta is a big bun filled with shaved ham, melted cheese and green olive relish.
She managed to eat one quarter and a bite more of the sandwich before she was stuffed.

We watched the ocean waves from the restaurant window as the beach was right across the street. The water was clear and green; another miracle as usually the Gulf of Mexico water is cloudy and slightly muddy. We jokingly refer to it as the Gulf of Yoohoo, after the famous chocolate drink.

I drove her by the University of Texas Medical Branch, a medical center that takes up several large blocks of Galveston. The barricades didn't prevent us from driving to the Historic downtown area, where there was only a rather light collection of tourists wandering the street, despite a huge cruise ship being docked at the end off the street.
(We've both been on cruises and know how a town can become flooded with tourists when a cruise ship arrives.)

We walked and poked around the various shops for awhile.

Nautical themes were common....

I thought she should buy some of these tee shirts for her co-workers to wear on "Casual Dress Friday."

She told me where she works (Focus on the Family) they don't do Casual Dress Friday.
But if she ever wanted a day to be her last day at work there, wearing one of those tee shirts would probably do the trick.

Some local art...

And a brief flirtation, and we were ready for some ice cream.

LOVE this old historic ice cream parlor and candy store. The Houston Hat Net always drops in here when we visit Galveston, and we sit in the old fashion sweetheart chairs and enjoy a delicious cone together and show each other the goodies we have found.

Next we headed to the historic residential neighborhood called Ships Mechanic Row. The houses are all from the late 1800's, and are now being restored.
Gail was fascinated by the outdoor shutters on the houses. Hurricane protection you know. They are not just a decorative feature.

Mechanics Row had more bird song and fragrant flowers that I could imagine. Doves were cooing from every tree. I had always wanted to walk the neighborhood to really look at the houses, but have passed on the chance before due to heat or time constraints.

This time it all fell into place. We even got to talk to several home owners that were out planting their front walkways and happy to visit with us as we strolled along.


The side walks were even historical!

We drove through the area rubbernecking for several blocks. I vowed to return with my bike to properly enjoy the area. Gail pointed out that would be a good idea, as I was routinely running stop signs as I was busily looking around.

Good thing no police officers were around. They were all busy waiting for that scary fraternity to arrive....proof that all things work know the rest....

I wanted to find Garten Verein, a historic building in a park on "O" street. Laura had been in a wedding at the Garten Verein, and it impressed me so much I wanted to show it to Gail.

The Garten Verein gazebo building (above) was built in 1880; it is one of the few buildings in Galveston that survived the horrendous hurricane that demolished the city in 1900.

It was such a great place for a wedding! The wedding pictures were taken just steps away under this wisteria arbor:

Anyway, I was proud of myself that I had found the park again without using a map! Of course since I had remembered it was on "O" street, it really wasn't too hard to find. As a librarian, I do know my alphabet.

What is interesting is that Galveston streets were set up with an alleyway between each street. Houses were built in the alleyways; these were not considered any different than being built on regular streets, except they were numbered as half streets.

This street sign made us laugh: We both drink a lot of water and need to be mindful of where the next potty stop possibility might be. Several times we said things along the line of not needing to "go" right now, but will probably need to in a little bit.

This street sign seemed like a perfect expression of potential future need breaks.

From there we headed west along the coastline.

I found a beach access drive and parked alongside a bramble of berry vines.

Gail caught me berrying at the beach in mid April!

Ripe! And a tad salty too....

Gail kicked off her shoes and called her daughter back home in Colorado Springs so she could hear the ocean while her mom waded into the ocean.
I still can not believe how beautiful and clear the water was!

Simply gorgeous weather too!
Of course we walked and gathered seashells, focusing on ones with holes so we could string them later to make a garland.

The water was pleasant. We had brought our swim suits, but it was already after four, and we decided not to go for a swim. Really, I wish we could have.

Black faced Laughing Gulls chuckled at us as we headed to Walmart for a "break".

Up the road kites of all kinds filled the sky; a large building marked "Kites for Sale" was just off the road.
Nice to see a successful and happy business prospering like that!

I drove Gail though some of the beach house communities that Bernie and I visited awhile back. We decided which house we would want to own if we could.
And what color we would want to paint it!
(She likes yellow, I like blue grey...or maybe pink.)

As we headed back into town we saw gridlock. It began about three blocks from where we needed to turn to get off the island. People were already being arrested; young people filled the beach front walkways and parking lots. It took us maybe ten minutes to get to where we needed to turn off, and after that it was clear sailing all the way home.


Across the bay we could see the oil refineries going full blast. At night the refineries glow orange, and it is not at all uncommon to read about explosions and fires happening there. Facinating to see the enormous facilities where our oil gets processed into gasoline.

The bridge from Galveston. The bridge in has wavy edges; as you drive along it feels like you are plowing through waves.

It was a perfect day.
I still want to go back to Galveston again.
There is just so much to see.
I'm just so glad that I got to see a little bit more of it with my friend.

(Some of these pictures were taken by Gail, some were taken by me. I just LOVE having a friend who is a shutterbug like me!)