Brooklyn Tag Archives

Baby’s First Purée

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If WordPress allowed for sub-headings, the full title of this post would be, Baby’s First Purée: A party in baby’s mouth, A pain in mommy’s butt. 

Early motherhood seems to be riddled with moments that were better as fond daydreams than as reality. The greatly anticipated journey through solid foods with Leo has been one of those (…still ongoing) moments that was better imagined than in practice.

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I had planned to share this post weeks ago: my triumphant Pioneer Woman mission of hand-making meals for my baby. Unfortunately, my pioneer woman visions were quickly replaced by the reality that Leo was bewildered and a little grumpy at the prospect of eating food.

I boiled, sautéed, steamed. I mashed and blended. I put away an auxiliary stash of delicious, handmade food in the freezer as I had been told to do.

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At first Leo would apprehensively tongue the purée he was presented with. Then his face would take on a look of confusion and disgust. He would begrudgingly swallow or, just as often, casually expel the contents of his mouth.

Worse than that, each time during the dinner dance, he would utter the animalistic growl of frustration that we’ve come to dread. It’s the sound a meat-grinder makes when you turn it on but forget to put the meat in: metal on metal. He makes this sound when he’s hungry but we’re not meeting his requirements. It happens occasionally at the breast when my milk isn’t letting down quickly enough. And now it was happening…every single time…when we fed him solid foods. It is the sounds of my nightmares.

Needless to say, my dreams were dashed when my hard work of preparing and blending baby’s first purees seemed to go unappreciated.

Perhaps it was the fantasy of a full-bellied, soundly snoozing babe that had me so excited to introduce purees. Perhaps it was imagining Leo’s first foods as a gateway to our whole future together: rife with exotic travels and tastes.

Or perhaps it was ego. Another notch on my “perfect mommy status” belt: nourishing my baby with my body and then by my sweat and elbow grease. Since our breastfeeding journey had led us to supplementation at 4 months, and no matter how much I rationally understand that supplementing is ok as long as baby is getting what he needs that’s all that matters, maybe I thought this was my way of somehow taking back the status I had lost.

Regardless, I felt defeated and nearly gave up on the whole concept until I read that it can take up to 15 times of introducing the same food before baby responds. He’s learning a whole new approach to eating, after all.

So we tried, again and again.

We used prepared foods, sometimes doctored up with cinnamon or paprika from our spice cabinet, to get an idea of his tastes before I would make the foods on my own. And now that he’s graduated to stage two foods…blends…I feel more confident sharing watered down versions of our dinners with him.

He seems to be getting the hang of things. Though there are some foods he still doesn’t care for, there are many that he flashes big smiles at the taste of. I have come to realize the joy that I had originally anticipated in introducing my son to a world of new flavors.

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Therein lies the beauty, of course, of becoming a parent. It is learning that happiness doesn’t come from a perfect, manicured version of mothering but rather, the montage of messy, head-scratching (and head-aching) scenes that we navigate and become stronger as a result of. It is meeting the fear and unpleasantness head on and rejoicing in the ever-present silver lining.

Leo’s First Apple Purée:

  • 2 sweet eating apples (Pink Lady, Gala, etc.)
  • Water

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  • Peel, core and quarter the apples
  • Sautée in a pan with water until soft
  • Blend in food processor until smooth
  • Add a dash of cinnamon

Voila!

A Fashion Cure for the Baby Bump Blues

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With an ever-growing bump eliminating some favorite outfits from my pregnancy wardrobe, I have had a hard time feeling fashionably relevant lately.  Moreover, the general pregnancy “blah’s” enhanced by the doldrums of winter have been making it difficult to even put in an effort to dress up on some days. That being said, I know all too well that how I look has a direct effect on how I feel. However seductive (and, honestly, practical) it would be for me to spend every remaining day of my pregnancy in stretchy fabrics that transition effortlessly from daytime to sleep time, I feel a lack of motivation to seize the day each time I dress down or, more accurately, fail to dress.

For example, I have been living inside my deliciously warm LL Bean down coat because, why not? It is winter, after all. The coat is a fail proof barrier against the elements and it is the only coat I have left that actually buttons around the baby belly. But, how do I feel when a friend invites me out to a party or an event after work and I am faced with having to show up in pair of glorified pajamas swaddled by a wearable sleeping bag? I feel like skipping the outing and heading straight home to bed, is how I feel. Not so healthy for a person that, while appreciating a lot of alone time, always has an overwhelming sense of rejuvenation when out-and-about. Self isolation imposed by body self consciousness is not going to fly right now, especially when a new baby will certainly necessitate a lot of home alone time come spring.

So, when Rachel invited me to last weekend’s Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show (so thankful that she has her finger on the pulse as I have somehow lost the beat…) my mission was clear: attend show, hunt for treasures, find something that makes me feel like my “old self.” A.k.a a fashion cure for the baby bump blues.

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It only took about 20 minutes of walking around the vast room of exquisitely curated wares for us both to question, “Have we died? Is this heaven?” Needless to say our hearts were a flutter with the seriously gorgeous pieces on sale by vintage boutiques (notably Another Man’s Treasure and La Poubelle Vintage among many others).

While silk dresses, high waisted trousers and fitted camisoles called my name aplenty, the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show was not the place to shop for maternity wares. But stylish coats, big in size, easy to transition to post-pregnancy and a welcomed alternative to my aforementioned LL Bean puffer, offered the wardrobe edge I was looking for. I tried on a few coats that were totally “me,” but that were only almost able to fit around my bump. I realized, instead of donning a piece of clothing that would only make me yearn for a flatter tummy, I wanted to celebrate my current shape. It wasn’t until trying on a 1960’s stunner from Thriftwares of Brooklyn that I learned this was possible. The subtle bell shape of the double-breasted leopard coat (pictured above) offered room enough for my belly and, magically, when Rachel tried it on, proved to maintain a chic shape even on a much smaller frame. Thus, my how-Stella-got-her-groove-back coat was discovered.

Alas, today it is raining in NYC so I left my new favorite piece at home. But it is sure to bring me many joyful, winter days of pregnancy and beyond.

If you’re interested in checking it out, the next Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show will be the weekend of April 7th and 8th.

Advance tickets can be purchased here.

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Mojito Watermelon How-To

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One of my best friend’s favorite stories to tell is from five summers ago when we were in the midst of a classic New York City heatwave. Back in our airconditioner-less Bushwick apartment, Joe and I were at each other’s throats; the infernal heat thickening our blood and making us crazy. I sent my friend an S.O.S. and she demanded that we drop everything and come to her apartment, a 5 minute walk away. We did as she said and rambled through the streets, dripping with sweat—he in cargo shorts and a well-loved Jordan jersey, me in cut-off jean shorts and bandanas worn as both shirt and headband—to her front door, where we were greeted by a wave of frozen air and a plate of watermelon salad.

Cut to the summer of 2016 (not quite as hot and in which we have an air-conditioned bedroom). It was last Tuesday night at the Beirut concert in Prospect Park, sitting with our other best friends and enjoying a perfect evening outdoors. Just as the show was drawing to a close we were approached by a sweet-faced stranger, holding a platter of salmon-colored shapes. “Do you guys want some mojito watermelon? I made it for the picnic, but I’m not going to take the leftovers home. I’ll just throw it out if you don’t want any.” Of course we wanted some. Not only did she have me at “mojito…” but, as paragraph one of this post describes, I have a very positive history with watermelon dishes. We all took quick bites and gushed over how good it was. Our benefactress rattled off the ingredient list and then disappeared into the sunset. I was hooked and wanted to make it myself.

A Google search yielded mostly recipes for watermelon mojitos (which, OK, also look DELICIOUS), but after some digging I did find a recipe from Country Living that describes how to make this dish. It calls for sugar, which I don’t think it needs at all, so I experimented a bit and came up with my own, similar version. The fact that I can use the fresh mint from my garden really appeals to my farm girl fantasies…here it is!

+ Ingredients +

  • Watermelon
  • Limes
  • Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Mint

+ Directions +

  • Cut up watermelon in nice chunks.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and lime juice.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Top with fresh, chopped mint.
  • Enjoy chilled

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Ta da!

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Enjoy! xx

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Solstice: New Season|New Vision

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We gathered on Monday night to light candles, burn palo santo, make art and connect in Winter’s fresh wake. It was a solstice celebration in the best way possible–entering the next phase in the spirit you’d like to maintain. The dawn of a new season, especially one with the new year fast on its tail, always makes me think about what more I can be doing. Sometimes this can lead to a pity-party in thinking of the things I don’t make enough time for in favor of other, less creative/soul fulfilling activities like sleeping and eating pizza. But, other times, it presents itself as an opportunity to take inventory on what I am spending the majority of my energy on and which practices should carry on in this new chapter and which should be quietly dismissed into the night. Here are a few of those practices I wish to continue and grow…

C R E A T E :

One thing that I know I want to make more time for in this new season and new year is creation of all manner. Recently having taken on new responsibilities with a fabulous designer, I have found myself with less time to cook, collage, think and write. I am gloriously enthralled by this new professional role, but I do miss unfettered time to engage in my favorite activities. Spending time in the tangible hum of minds at work in peaceful creation on Monday night was invigorating. Anytime I feel uninspired to make something or write something or do something, I want to call upon my community of inspired souls so that we can bring out the best in each other and create some magic.

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C O N N E C T :

 

I am starting a new section of the blog called “Wisdom Wednesdays” as another way to reach out and connect with the people that give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The essence of Naked City Style is a platform for me to share what inspires me in hopes of giving the reader some inspiration along the way. What inspires me most are the innovative and rad people that I interview and spend time with for these stories. What I hope to be a weekly installment, “Wisdom Wednesdays” will be q&a’s with admirable humans that push limits and create incredible things by sheer self motivation and determination (not to mention a little help from their friends).

And speaking of friends, I’d like to take a pause to truly appreciate the gorgeous goofballs | the true-blues | the insanely talented, special, radiant beings that I am lucky enough to call my friends. Thank you for all that you do to bring me up everyday.

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C OM M A N D :

What might seem like an aggressive goal for any new beginning, I view “command” as a positive, uplifting, life-affirming stance. In that vein, I want to take ownership for my choices and responsibility for all that I do, good and bad. In this new season and new year I won’t let my demons mandate how I view myself or how I spend my time. I will command the energy, the self love and the determination in myself to kiss the sun. And I will have a blast doing it.

 

With wishes for you to lift latches, swim in raindrops, never not smile, breathe fresh air and do something totally new, Happy Winter.

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Old Haunts

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To know that you’ve done your time in New York City is to have recognizable phases. To be able to look back and say, “oh, that was my couch surfing phase”, “that was my living above the bodega phase”, “that was my I had a ton of time and used to walk home from work/go out drinking on week nights phase.” These phases all have routines—kineticly responsive routes, familiar cashiers at the grocery store, Sunday morning rituals—that, as deeply entrenched as they are during the 3-5 years of your experience, become erased and replaced once you move on to a new phase. As quickly as these routines slip out of consciousness, they just as quickly flood back in a bathtub of nostalgia when spontaneity finds you back in your old haunts.

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I rode the M Train across the Williamsburg Bridge this past Wednesday night to meet the ladies out for dinner and drinks and to toast a new month. Walking through the station at Delancey/Essex was like stepping back in time. And I found it funny, as I actually stopped to read the signs to ensure I was approaching the correct platform, that  just three years before I could have traversed the subway station in my sleep.

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That particular stop on the M, and the surrounding neighborhoods (my former neighborhoods), symbolizes a time of extremes. The joys were extremely joyous and the trials, extremely trying. It was my youth. In a few splashes of memory, the time is marked by backyard birthday parties next to the fig tree, Nina Simone records at dinner time and feverish interaction with people, places and things that were all fresh and full of potential (and stories that were written and are still to be written). It was my phase of complete exploration in New York City as an adult, sandwiched between my time away in Korea and my current New York phase—that of blissful stability, overflowing abundance of gifts and gratitude for all that I’ve learned and all that I have to learn. A time when my youthful adventures are behind me and my heartfelt, bold, mature adventures are just beginning.

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I was moved, as I often am when I think about the Bushwick days, to look through old pictures from that time. A tapestry of art making, love, baby faces, best neighbors and growth into the woman I am filled my computer screen and filled my heart. It brings me joy to let these photos—these memories—have their place on Naked City Style as an homage to all that was and all that will be.

Cheers to old haunts.

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Hands of Creation

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Fall, in its infinite crispness and newness, always brings me deeply in touch with my meditative side. I turn inward after the mania and excitement of the summer months and celebrate the opportunity to get back to routine and back to nesting after summer’s nomadism. Fall is also my favorite time to delve into life’s slow arts—cooking, crafting, creating in all manner—and so it is appropriate that I should have the pleasure of introducing to these pages a wonderful creator who has come to discover the slow art that moves her most and who is making her life for it and from it.

It was still the height of summer when I first came to visit Ivy Weinglass at her studio in all her sprightliness and warmth. It never ceases to amaze me that, while wandering the streets of Brooklyn, one can be in the presence of such magic, tucked away just beyond sight and consciousness. And so it was that I came to discover her ceramics studio, cool and earthen smelling in delightful contrast to the tinny August heat, nestled in an unassuming building off of a dead-end street in Williamsburg. Here Ivy spends her days in the company of other artists who share this studio, the healthy buzz of creation filling the railroad style space and the gift of a grape-vined secret garden in the back to escape to for moments of calm.

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A voracious crafter of all disciplines, Ivy has tried her hand at many projects. And something that she may do just to pass the time inevitably yields enviable and covetable results. Her vintage bandana bags and quilts, for example, are straight out of a southwestern, wanderlust dreamscape, conjuring images of cowboy kisses, dusty road trips, and sleeping under the stars. Likewise, her latest adventure in embroidery has garnered well deserved attention from all angles and adorns the wearer in a happy neo-grunge halo. But it is her work in ceramics that, above all of her other artistry, makes her feel completely herself. She found the craft after a stint of creative drought and took to it feverishly, compelled by the challenge and patience that it required. And here she is today, creating truly stunning pieces (now available at ABC Carpet and Home {yeehaw!} among many other awesome outposts across the country) that feel simultaneously ancient and cutting edge, original and universal. She says that her devotion to long hours in the studio surprised her at first, having thought of herself previously as someone lacking in attention. But the nature of working with clay has found her in complete meditative clarity and possessing a work ethic with a laser beam focus to achieve the pieces that she envisions.

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Perhaps her most iconic pieces are her ceramic hands. Always having been drawn to the symbol—collecting hands of all mediums from thrift stores, markets, etc—she conceived of her own motif completely out of function, to serve as an elegant spot to snub out her beloved palo santo sticks that she burns incessantly in her home. (It is her practice, even, to gift purchasers of her ceramic hands with a stick of palo santo, known for bringing balance to the spaces in which it is burned.) The result, of course, is the perfect, soulfully pleasing designs that enchant every person that lays eyes on them. The ideal talisman to adorn our homes with as we settle into these months of sacred nesting, with shorter days and falling temperatures.

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What I find so special about Ivy’s story is that she has truly made a life of her passions, seemingly unfettered by any commonly used excuses or frequently referenced obstacles like time, money, and the thing her mom calls “monkey brain” (aka the chief demon of all creatives: the little voice that tries to stop us each day as we sit down to make our art). Her recipe to keep focused when the voices of doubt and distraction surface is to take a break. When her work flow is off and things don’t feel right in the studio, she escapes completely until she is ready to return to the task at hand. And it turns out that sometimes those days away are more important to her continued work than days spent at her bench. She references, and I couldn’t agree with her more, that we have to be our own best cheerleader if we are ever to accomplish (and still find joy in) our work. Ivy also fights against the societal constraint to put money above all else by reveling in the beauty of trade. She’s found many other incredible artists on Instagram whom she has cultivated relationships with and made exchanges of her work for theirs, rendering her life and her spaces full of amazing artifacts that fuel her creativity. But money inevitably comes with great effort and determination, and I am so happy for all of Ivy’s well deserved success.

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It is the solid influence of friends and family and the vision of other creatives that keeps her motivated and inspired. She is intimately aware of the fact that when you keep trying your hand at “making it” in the creative arena, something is bound to stick. And like the sage she is, she acknowledges that inevitably  one will have to keep trying to break through to the next source of inspiration. One thing that she never hopes to be is complacent, understanding that complacency is the ultimate enemy of creativity. And so Ivy strives to keep learning, keep exploring and keep building upon her creative foundation. And we, the awestruck admirers of her work, couldn’t be happier for it.

To purchase, or for more on Ivy’s work, visit her at her brand’s website: IIIVVVYYY.

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The Brooklyn Bruja

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I was happy that big fat raindrops were falling on the day I visited Melissa McGill’s home studio for this shoot. We had wanted to take our photographs outdoors—her brilliant red hair would have looked stunning punched up against a colorful Bedstuy backdrop—but my creative spirit always feels most open during a storm, and what better time to collaborate with such an electric, soulful beauty as Melissa?  Besides, it gave me the opportunity to explore her wondrous space and share it with you here.

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Walking into Melissa’s home is like walking into a still life curated by time: rife with natural curiosities, happy plants in all shades of green, keepsakes and totems of a lifetime of adventure and experience and, of course, the tools and treasures of her labor, all perfectly placed and humming with good energy.  Founder and creator of Morphologically NYC—a line of hand crafted aromatherapy wares for the body and home—Melissa has made it her mission to help heal and hearten all who use her exquisite products.  Nothing is more apparent when walking over the threshold of Melissa’s home, a proverbial pot is always bubbling on the stove, her home (as well as the host), is always warm and welcoming and a testament to a life lived in wellness.

Melissa had a houseguest during my visit—a miniature Yorkie named Bubba, a sweet little girl who stole the show and somehow made it into almost every frame we shot that day.  There is also a house mouse happily living in a fancy new cage—saved from an untimely death and immortalized in a framed portrait that is displayed on Melissa’s mantel. The true protectress of the house, Melissa’s 19 year old cat Mephistopheles, wisely spent the day sleeping, hidden in the fabulous mess we created of vintage, thrift and coveted designer pieces that Melissa has collected. A couple of these outfits that laid strewn about, in the organized chaos that only those truly clothes-minded can understand, she had picked up from a local Brooklyn street vendor the day before this shoot. Having left a decade long career in the industry to make some magic of her own, her day-to-day is still a flurry of fun sartorial choices.  A stunner with a background in performance art who rolls with a veritable coven of stylish, driven goddesses like herself, Melissa feels just as much at home in some wild costume she has created—red lips and skull ring ablazin’—as she does in an understated pair of denim jeans and chuck taylors with a bit of studded embellishment left over from her metal kid days.

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“I’m holistic, but I have an edge too; it’s important that people understand that about me.” A woman who meditates daily and eminates a feeling of calm, Melissa also has an infectious, feral personality.  She’s exactly the person you’d want to call when you’re feeling ill to ask for one of her custom aromatherapy blends and perhaps curl up on her couch while her spritely energy soothes you, but she’s the same person you’d call to catch a midnight concert and dance into the morning light. She would probably wear a hit-the-floor black dress to the latter, perhaps with some feathers braided into her hair.

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A vision of humility and grace, Melissa is the first to tell you how blessed she feels in this new entrepreneurial chapter of her life. “I don’t like to use the word too much because it feels insincere, but I really do feel so blessed.”  She certainly puts as much good into the world as she receives back and fosters a univeral connection with all people.  Her willingness to talk to everyone and to listen to advice as she “dives all-in” in pursuit of her passions will undoubtedly be her key to continued success, both in life and career.  Just remember when dream chasing to “carry a tube of bright lipstick with you for when you have a surprise first encounter and can’t do anything else to prepare but show up.”

Proof that you can take the girl out of fashion, but you can’t take the fashion out of the girl.

 

 

For more on Melissa and her exquisite brand and to shop her products, visit www.morphologically.com

Window Portrait photo credit: Dawn Marie West

To The Original Icon, Happy Mother’s Day

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In honor of Mother’s Day I had wanted to create a tribute to the fashionable moms and daugthers in recent history (re: Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lisa Bonet and Zoe Kravitz, Anna Wintour and Bee Shaffer).  Yet, while flipping through online galleries of these lovely women, I realized more and more that the individual whom I most wanted to pay homage to was my original fashion icon–a true Betty–my mother.  A self-proclaimed hater of shopping (except when it comes to buying accessories and plants for the garden) my mom wouldn’t describe herself as a fashionista.  Yet I credit her, and thank her more than she knows, for teaching me by example to embrace vintage and electic pieces and mix them in with more staid, functional classics. Being a first generation Brooklynite with French and Italian parents she may as well have invented the “look” of Park Slope as we all know it now.  Wide brimmed hats, boyfriend jeans embellished by her own embroidery and patchwork, airy linen dresses and espadrills.  She was a teenager in the 1970’s, afterall, a time when Brooklyn was still a far-and-away destination from the established island of Manhattan, budding with its own counter culture.  She was a dancer who studied at the Performing Arts school of Fame fame (she wasn’t in the movie herself but a close friend of her’s was) and later at the Sorbonne in Paris where she tells stories of the bohemian life, taking baths with her cousin and then roommate to conserve water and scraping the mold off of the cheese from the makeshift ice box for lunch.  Stories like these are why, among so many other reasons, she remains of paramount example to me.

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A fearless lover of life and travel into her later years, she just returned home from five weeks traveling through Laos, Cambodia and Thailand with my father.  The two of them bonded over the vagabond lifestyle in their formative years as a couple and have continued fostering it until this day–moving from New York City to Maine where the culture and landscape lends itself more readily to weekend adventures, sprawling backyards and storage for boat, ski and camping equipment.  Her style was always, and is to this day, ammassed of a collection of pieces that tell a story: Italian hiking boots (a bit of her heritage), silk scarves collected in her travels or gifts from loved ones, pearl jewelry purchased by my father on an international flight.  For some it may be hard to pin-point exactly what vibe she is trying to portray.  And that’s because she’s not trying to portray anything.  Her style is very much her own: eclectic, functional, and classicly my mother.

So today, and everyday, I thank her for all that she is and for instilling in me the desire to be my own person, both in fashion and in life.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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