Monday, October 31, 2011

Beautiful Thing(s) of the Day: Jack Spade Knits

I know Jack Spade is men's wear, but his stuff is so great that I buy it for myself. My iPhone case is his "eyePhone"case, and I just think it's so clever. 

The BTotD today is Jack Spade's mittens and hats. They'll take you right back to riding the bus in elementary school, but a little bit chicer. 

 Dino Hat, Eye Mittens, and Air Quote Mittens. Yum.

Best of the Best: Jerel@119

As I said in my post about Alan Bilzerian, I grew up having a mother who took me to all her favorite haunts in Boston. Besides clothing stores, art galleries, and restaurants, these places included bringing me with her to her salon where her wonderful hair-guru, Jerel DeFrancesco, would cut her hair. Fast-forward a few decades and he's still at it, but now with his own salon, Jerel @ 119, located on (you guessed it) 119 Newbury Street. Jerel is a good friend by now, and, like any good friend should, tells embarrassing stories about me. His favorite involves following me around the salon when I was five, trying to get me to stay still long enough to give me a trim. I think I eventually started to cry and went home with a slightly uneven 'do that was not in the least his fault. Jerel also did my hair for my high school proms, before I met my current boyfriends' parents, and recently cut off a lot of my long, long hair to give me a more professional look. He's been there for the big moments.

Besides being a good friend, Jerel is a hair master. Whether it's just a trim or a big cut he never disappoints; he listens to clients so that they never end up with anything other than what they expressly asked for. And not that I get my hair colored, but if I did, his highlights would be in the perfect places and make me look as though I've just spent a few weeks in the sun. Many of my friends and my mother's friends go to Jerel--we've got them hooked.

The space of the salon itself is as great as its namesake. The purple curtains and brass grates in the fireplaces give it a slightly Gothic look, yet the decor manages to feel clean at the same time. Everyone who works there is kind and welcoming, and the friendly chatter mixed with the sound of blow-driers will make you feel right at home. Go check it out online, call 617-236-5157, or email

Here are some shots I took when I was last in, and a few my mother took of me post-cut.

The master at work.


New hair!

 Wearing two gifts from my grandmother, the lovely Nana (whose birthday is this weekend!): Marni boots and a vintage Hermes scarf. Other visible items: Barbour Classic Bedale jacket, J.Crew Pants, Balenciaga sun-glasses.


Mama, all about accessories: Tiffany & Co bag, Alan Bilzerian scarf, Repetto booties. 

Dapper. Unfortunately, he was dropping f-bombs really loudly up and down Newbury. But at least he looked good, right?

Oh, and we stopped in at Winston Flowers. Because how can you not?

It All Comes Full Circle: Happy Halloween

I'm going to test your Halloween costume reading level. The following picture is:

a) clever/witty
b) stupid/ridiculous
c) glam and elegant
d) slutty
e) none of the above

The correct option is e) none of the above. Anytime a kid dresses up, as long as they aren't dressed wildly inappropriately (like a stripper or pack of cigarettes), the answer should always be f) cute. My cousin Kiri (left) and I (right) were dress-up pros. Halloween was naturally our time to shine. My friends and I also did some serious costuming, and though I don't have any pictures of our greatest outfits on my computer at the moment, I'll see if I can dig some up at home. Mine include but were not limited to: Groucho Marx, the requisite princess and witch, a baseball player, a bear (as in one of the three parts of "lions and tigers and..."), an alligator, a clown, etc. 

Our elementary school gang would traipse around the neighborhood in high spirits collecting bite-size bars and trying our best to be charming and cute at the door in hopes of being told to "take an extra few pieces." We walked around the neighborhood until our feet started to hurt or it started to rain, at which time our parents took their increasingly whiny cartoon characters or mermaids home. Or their robots, in the case of my friend Rufus at age five. He wore a box with doorbells pasted on out of which he could not see and his dad had to choose the candy for him as he said "trick or treat!" with an echo from inside the box. His mother held his hand and guided him down tricky front steps. Ah, youth.

In college, I did don my share of not quite trampy but still slightly skin-bearing costumes. It was fun--the ultimate excuse to be a little bit bad--but Halloween post-trick-or-treating age has always felt like more effort than it's worth (plus, you're garaunteed to end up in one of the categories a) through d), and by default those aren't as awesome as looking adorable as a little kid; costumes only go downhill after age 11 or 12). When I was a kid the holiday was a huge event, something special: how often did we get to hang out with friends on school nights and play dress-up for hours on end? It was a holiday with year-long anticipation, and weeks-long costume planning. It was thrilling. Now, Halloween is another night out, just in a weird outfit. It's no longer a big deal where I get to accompany my best friends down streets where I'm convinced a goblin lurks. 

As we grow up, we leave behind some novelty. But what we lose in novelty we gain in contributing to others' memories. It's a different kind of wonderful to be able to sit in a warm house on a Monday night and hand out candy to a little witch who looks a lot like you did as a five year-old. I guess Elton John was on to something with his "Circle of Life" ditty for the Lion King. And so are the little kids who dress up as Simba. Or as the Lion to my Bear. I can't wait to see the little ones trundle down the street this evening--I'll be sure to give the cute and charming ones extra candy. Just kidding. But seriously.

P.S. Devoted readers, what were your best costumes or funniest Halloween memories? Leave them in the comments, email them to, or tweet them to @char_is_wilder . Best ones get posted. Or, better yet, email or tweet me pictures of your best costumes (this year or past) and I'll post the winners!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lust List: Early Storm Style

The weather gods seem to have thrown us here in the Northeast for a bit of a loop this weekend. Halloweekend and we get a snow storm? A little early, in my opinion (I sometimes ask myself why I don't move to warmer climes, but then remember that I'm nothing but a New England girl and give up). Seeing as though the cold moved in early and those of us sleeping in the suburbs are without power and FREEZING, here's a lust list for wintry weather. Feast your eyes. And comment on your favorites or something you think I should have included. Mainly because the comments work again so you can!

1.  Montcler Damian Hooded Down Jacket

I love the colors and textures of this. The fur is subtle, the suede in all the right places, and the green of the body hits my weak spot for military styled clothes. It reminds me a bit of the old 70s jackets from Bean or Land's End, but way high end. It's also not in the least bit cheap, but whatever. It's called a Lust List for a reason.

2. L.L. Bean Boots, 8 inch

A classic seen all over New England (and a wardrobe staple at Colby College). Ensure warmth with gortex liners or heavy wool socks. You can also get a shearling lined version in a 10 inch dark brown.

3. Mont-Bell Ultra-Light Down Parka:

According to their website, this jacket is lighter than a cotton tee and compresses to the size of a Nalgene. Great for travel, staying warm, and looking totally awesome while you're at it. Thanks, Amie, for the tip--I'm so into it.

4. Armada Big Brand Beanie

When my cousin texted me from Middlebury, VT asking if buying an Armada beanie would make her a poser, she asked me to be hoenst in my response (she's a skier, but not a die-hard). So, because she asked, I said "Yes. Would I buy it anyway? Yes." This one above is a pretty bad-ass hat, in my opinion.

5. Belle by Sigerson Morrison Shearling Bootie

The first pair of wedges I ever owned were Sigerson Morrison. Irrelevant, but he will always have a special place in my heart. So these are for the snow bunnies out there who won't give up their heels for hell or highwater. They look like motor-cycle boots for a babe in Minnesota--I dig it.

6. J.Crew Cashmere Gloves in Lemon Zest

Nothing pulls a snowy ensemble together better than a bright glove. They're key for warmth, too, especially in Boston. I remember going out to my car on winter mornings to drive to school as a senior in high school and having to hold the wheel with my hands inside my coat. Otherwise I risked frostbite. These would have been nice. Or any glove, for that matter...don't quite know what I was thinking.

7. Madewell Counting Clouds Circle Scarf

I should also admit I'm a sucker for neutrals. This scarf looks like a combination of two that I already own, and yet here I am, lusting after it. Oh well, at least I'm consistent.

8. Patagonia Better Sweater Hoodie

I've got my eye on this baby: the fleece feels like a cotton/wool blend, and it's great looking. Nice enough to wear to a casual office as a warm layer, too. 

9. Smartwool Snowflake Fairisle Sock

Let's be real: feet are crucial, and cold feet suck. Smartwool feels like a snug little home for your feet. These are almost ugly, but tip the scale to a sort of dorky fabulous. 

10. L.L. Bean Wicked Good Moccasins or Minnetonka Sheepskin Hardsole Slippers

Speaking of feet, put either of these on. Similar to walking on a cloud. At least, I imagine.
Now, if anyone has a sub-zero sleeping bag they want to lend me, I could use about thirty more for sleeping. Though I must say, the Patagonia Nano Puff (below) did me well as a pajama top. I live in it. Literally.

Also, send power vibes my way. Or call Nstar repeatedly.

A Sad Bird Morning

This morning we found a bird on our porch, dead after it had flown into the window of the dining room.
My dad put his dish-washing gloves on and picked up the bird--he said he couldn't even feel it, it was so light. Our cat, Snug, was watching us from inside the dining room, and my dad held it up for him to see. Snug went crazy, batting at the window. We could see his little kitty mouth opening in plaintive meows.

We took the bird to the base of a tree in our backyard and my dad nestled it among the pine needles.
Here are the pictures I took. I know it seems a bit morbid, but the little guy was so beautiful and sad that I felt I needed to honor it in some way. I love the patterns on its back, it looks like a luscious silk.

See Snug inside the door?

Troubleshooting, blog style

I must say, one of the best but unforeseen advantages to keeping this blog is that I've learned quite a bit about HTML and how to make websites do what I want them to. You might have noticed that this blog has undergone several incarnations in the past few weeks--I couldn't find the template I liked the best. The one I had up just before today was great, but for some reason wouldn't let people comment. That was a real big downer. SO, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the new and improved Wilder Things! I think this one will last. We'll see. But in the meantime, PLEASE COMMENT, BECAUSE NOW YOU CAN! Thank goodness.

Also, while I'm rambling, guess whose totally awesome boss ordered them their first business cards!? This girl! Check them out (and I'll probably post a picture when they arrive because I'm that excited about it). 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beautiful Thing of the Day

Found this Steven Alan bag and just loved it. Leather and such a lovely suade color--a deep purple or blue, and I like that I don't know which it is. A quick Lust for a Friday afternoon. Coming this weekend: an afternoon at the Newbury Street salon, Jerel@119, and some fashion finds. Check back often!

Friday Links: To help you get to the weekend

Here are a few Wilder Things I've found on the interwebs recently. Hopefully they make your Friday go by a little faster as you procrastinate at work, and hopefully your weekend can be spent in a place like the photo above (Seargentville, Maine, 2009).  

Watched By Steve, a blog put together by two women who work in a bookstore. Inspired by the cover of the bio of Steve Jobs, definitely worth taking a look at. Pretty funny.

Whitney Johnson BIF Conference (Click on BIF talks 7, then Whitney's thumbnail and name to watch her talk) This was pretty inspiring for me, because a) I think Whitney is a phenomenal person as well as business woman, and b) because it talks about going it on your own and following your dreams with honesty. She says, "it can be lonely, it can be scary." I appreciate that-- most of the time you get the inspirational poster with the "GO FOR IT!" text that completely ignores how totally terrifying it is do so something wild.

Guillermo Cervera's Surfing Photos Cervera is a combat photographer who, to get away from the horrors of war, takes surfing photos in his time off. These are beautiful, tranquil shots that pose an opposition to the fighting in Libya that he had been shooting.

Miles High: Muse  This is the Tumblr account of Miles McAlpin's new clothing line, Miles High. The previews of his stuff are fantastic, but this site what really gets me going. It's a collection of photos and quotations with an aerial theme. Check it out, can't wait for the line.

Requisite Halloween Link That is actually pretty cool: a collection of Life photographs showing the holiday then and now.

Thoughts from the Diamond For those sports fans out there, check out Bobby Whelan's baseball Tumblr. Informative and thoughtful from a guy who's seen the inner workings.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Guest Post: Size Matters, by Deborah Weisgall

Well, folks, it's a big day here at The Wilder Things. First of all because Rosie the dog went to the car place to get my mom's tires fixed with her, and secondly, because it's the first guest post on the blog! The guest blogger today is Deborah Weisgall (aka my mother) who has written for many major publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Fortune, The New Yorker, and especially The New York Times. She is the author of three books, and is in talks for her fourth. And speaking of car places, I present to you:

Size Matters (On Buying a Car)
By Deborah Weisgall

My first cars were Porsches.  They were cramped and loud.  Driving them, I flew.  We—the car and I— were both a little bad.  I drove too fast.  On the interstate I raced anybody who asked; I turned back roads into roller coasters.  I could pry the dog into the back seat, maybe the cat, but certainly not the baby, too.  I rarely drove the last one, a beautiful Targa with oxblood leather seats.  When I discovered the mouse skeleton inside the sleeve of the gearshift, it was clear that it was time to give it up.  A colleague of my husband bought it and races it.  I can’t get it out of my head.

So I bristle when the BMW salesman says: “You don’t want manual transmission.”  It’s not a question.

“I do want manual transmission,” I tell him, “but it isn’t practical, all that sitting in traffic.  And do you know what a clutch does to the backs of heels?”

He looks at me, uncomprehending.

“High heels,” I say.  “Scuffs them.  It’s not pretty.”

He nods; he gets it.  I’m a bimbette; I want looks, not guts.  “Then you don’t need the bigger engine—I mean, it’s an option.”

I smile.  There’s something kind of sweet and hopeless about it; he’s giving me what he thinks women want.  He assumes that cars are not my thing, that guys are the ones who kick tires, who fantasize about 0 to 60 in a nanosecond, who appreciate a snarling grill and tight steering.

“The car I drive now is a bit underpowered,” I say.  “It’s a 325 wagon.  I have to throw it around to get it to do what I want.  When I bought it, you had to go to Germany to get a wagon with a bigger engine.  328 is better.  Even bigger would be better.”  The salesman gives me a worried look as he takes my license to photocopy.

And I really want a Porsche, I think, but I really need a back seat.  I want a small car, fast and nimble, that can blow away any other car on the road, carry passengers, animals, and my baggage, psychic and otherwise—and one that has a place for me to put my pocketbook. When I think about cars, I’m a mess of contradictions. 

“But where can you drive a Porsche, I mean, really drive it?” my husband asks.  “You’ll get caught for speeding.  And all those guys will want to race you.”


“It’s dangerous.”

After a couple of decades of marriage, you know when not to respond.

I ask the salesman to find me a road full of potholes—my current car is tricked out with M series amenities like performance tires and tight suspension.  It rattles like a stage coach in the Mojave whenever I venture off a perfectly paved road, which in New England by March does not exist.  I’ve had the rims on this car straightened a couple of times, and loading snow tires in the trunk is no fun, and why spend half the year without those sexy chrome spokes?

I know, I know.  I could drive a Cayenne.  Porsche, I guess, designed that car for what women like me want (or what they think women like me want)—or for their husbands, for those occasions when they have to schlep the kids.  A family Porsche?  The Cayenne is more like a Lutheran hymn—A Mighty Fortress—on wheels.  The car looks like a Neolithic fertility goddess, all those high, fat curves: big tires, big boobs, big butt.  It’s a Teutonic Dolly Parton, which translates into Brunhilde.  Not for me.  I love the music, hate the myth.

And then there’s the Panamera—gorgeous in pictures.  Four doors: this could be it.  I go take a look.  What can I say?  There’s a famous passage in one of the first mystery novels ever written, when the hero walks into a house and sees a woman standing at a window.  She’s slender, she’s small, she’s perfect.  And then she turns around—and she’s ugly.  That’s the Panemara.  Except that the woman turns out to be the real heroine—and maybe the truth is that the Panamera is a little out of reach.

I try an X3.  My husband is all for it.  Yes, it’s roomy; yes, it bounces happily over potholes.  But the new ones are bulbous, wider than the sexy, scrappy, Jeep-like first version.  They know who buys those Cayennes, and this is a Cayenne wannabe.  You probably can’t even get a standard shift.  Is this who I should be?

An X5 is huge, out of the question.  A Series 1 convertible.  Totally adorable.  The dog would just make it in the back seat, or the occasional unhappy passenger.  I open the trunk—and there is none; it’s filled with the retractable roof mechanism.  If I’m going to do that, I can do better.  A 6 series convertible?  Too big, no room even in that trunk, though I love the little parking place finder, sort of like always having my mother and her parking karma with me.

But there’s something about all these cars that isn’t authentic, or vaguely inappropriate, like a guy wearing a Speedo who shouldn’t be.  A lot of them feel like responses to focus groups.  They’re full of features to make people happy, and they seem like compromises.  I’m not a man having a midlife crisis.  I want a car that’s sure of itself, that understands its purpose, that’s tough, that’s honest.  And I have to admit it; I’ve been happy with my Series 3 wagon.  So I won’t get the M trim and tires this time around.  The car does what I want it to do.

But what is that?  Doubts again.  Our daughter has her own car now; she’s an adult.  How much baggage to I really have?  How much do I need?  How safe do I want to be?  Mostly I throw my pocketbook on the passenger seat.  What do I really want? Holy mackerel, I think, I am having a crisis.  I do have a lot of baggage; I load all kinds of things into my car: skis, groceries, paintings, dog food, the dog, the cat, a kayak, my daughter, my husband, often both at the same time.  This is good; it translates into pleasure, connections, love.  And for all those reasons, I want to be safe.

That night, I’m reading a John Le Carre thriller with a car chase.  There’s BMW in it, an old one, a 2002.  The car does okay.  It keeps the hero alive at high speeds over some seriously rutted Swiss cow paths.

My 3 would do the same; it would lay down its life for me, no question.  It’s not showy.  But it’s sleek, it’s fast, it’s smooth; even with automatic transmission it handles like a sports car; it holds enough.  It’s just right.  It fits me, who I really am, what I really like.  What was I trying to prove?  I’ll get the new one in Deep Blue Sea.  I turn off the light and sigh.

“What is it?” My husband rolls towards me.

“Nothing.  Just life.”

“Do you really want a Porsche?” he asks, apprehensive. 

“No,” I say.  “I’m happy with what I have.”

He sighs with relief.  “I was worried,” he says.

Browsing: You know you should buy it when...

My mother (the slim, glamorous maven in the above picture) befriends people the way Coco Chanel defined a world of women's wear: often and with style. She has lived in the Boston area for about forty years now, and has probably more friends than anyone I know. But the wonderful thing about her friendships is how she befriends people she connects with no matter who they are or what they do. This includes, but is not limited to, her buddies at the gym, doormen who valet park her car at various hotels throughout Boston even though she isn't staying at them, artists of great fame, writers of debatable fame, waiters at her favorite restaurants, the UPS name it. She has a wonderful way of making her friends feel respected and appreciated. She is genuine.

I would argue, though, that some of her most fun friendships come in the form of sales associates at stores. I should also add that my mother has impeccable taste. And the sales people she loves love her back, because unlike many women who shop at the stores, my mother really cares about her friends who work there. It follows naturally then, that I basically grew up at Alan Bilzerian, in Newton and Boston, MA. I got my first nice purse there, my prom shoes, etc. All the big moments. My mother's friend Gretchen calls her when new stuff comes in, and in we go to the city. We don't always buy things, either. Gretchen just lets us know so we can come bask in the beauty of the objects (which really do resemble fine art). These are real friendships, not interactions designed only for transaction.

So anyways, we recently went in, and if the Lust List was online clothes porn, this was like watching clothes mate with each other in person (in fabric, if you will). I tried on a Rick Owens jacket that made me want to sell drugs on the street corner to afford it. Speaking of selling drugs on street corners, Gretchen, my mother and I decided that's how you know if you should invest in a piece of clothing: it should make you want to do terrible things in order to buy it. My friend Hilary and I were just discussing the other day how it can make more sense to buy really nice pieces of clothing less often rather than buying cheap clothes all the time. Even on a working girl's modest budget, if you plan right, you can buy things from your own Lust List. It just means valuing quality over quantity. Unfortunately, no amounts of planning would get me this Rick Owens jacket, but that's why I took a picture. So that I can pretend.

And if I thought the Rick was good, when I got to the Isabel Marant rack I nearly died. Remember that Navajo Print Tunic I posted about a few days ago? Well here it is. In white AND in black. Ugh, I'm drooling.

As if that weren't bad enough, I got my paws on these two sweaters:

Talk about the perfect chunky white sweater. And the fringe up top seems so silly and yet SO fantastic to me--a sort of "screw you" to anyone who thinks it's too much.

And then, the Repetto flats and boots. So delicate, so elegant. Perfect, really.

This boot below is an Alberto Fasciani. The embossing...sigh.

So as you can see, the store is a Mecca for those who love beautiful things. Even though most of the stuff there would take me months to save for, it's still wonderful to go in and browse. I believe that fashion can be just as much fun to look at and imagine owning than to actually own. Except when you find the piece that you'd sell crack for--then you know you should probably take out your wallet.

Bonfires and Youth Soccer

These fire pictures look a little hellish (maybe I should have titled this post "Abandon Hope Ye All Who Enter," but it seemed too dire--sorry, Dante). 

One of my absolute favorite things is the smell of wood burning on a chilly day. When I was little my dad and I, driving home from soccer games, would delight every time we passed a brush fire, and the smell still makes me think of Saturdays filled with youth soccer, orange slices, trips to Friendly's for post-game meals with my best friends, and the pride with which we wore those bright green uniforms (see below photo).

While I had to let the Mia Hamm dream die (a sad moment, I can assure you) I still love the memories of those soccer Saturdays. And I'm so, so lucky that my best friends are still the ones with whom I played on those Lincoln fields. We might not have had the best record (and by not the best record I really mean we won maybe one game in two years), but we certainly had the best time. 

Anyways, here are some bonfire pictures. Soccer and flames aren't generally related, but maybe that's the beauty of The Wilder Things: here, they can be!