Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Trip to Brooklyn Flea

We hopped the subway to Brooklyn to brave the heat and check out the Flea Market. (Easier said than done - the weekend is when they fix the transit systems, so locals run express, eastern lines go west, and your downtown train will not run at all.)  Jean is holding her $5 red and black walking stick. We learned that they used to be carnival prizes from the 1930s-1950s. It quickly became, in Valerie's eyes, perhaps the most annoying accessory known to man after Jean used it point at things, to gesture wildly, to tap the beat of a Jackson Five song playing over and over in her head. Shortly after our arrival, we ran into Tim John, whose accessory of choice was an antique fan.

Although the weekend subway re-routing complicated our travel to Brooklyn, we took this subway sign as a good omen that our luck was about to change. Even though Valerie pointed out that the Jackson Five member's first name is spelled differently, it didn't prevent the loop playing in Jean's head all day: "A-B-C, it's as easy as 1-2-3 ..."!

On our walk from the subway, we strolled across Atlantic Avenue past the window at Betty Bakery that featured a lineup of beautifully decorated cakes.

We ran into sooooo many stylish women at the flea market. Learning to approach people to ask for photographs is a never ending process.  Sometimes we get up the gumption, and sometimes we don't. And sometimes, even after we've pulled our last ounce of gumption out of our bag of tricks, people turn us down. So we didn't ask everyone we wanted to, but we asked author and consultant Candelaria (click on her name for her website), and wanted to show you her gorgeous mane of gray hair.

On our walk around the area, we passed the Red Star Sandwich Shop and got a huge laugh at the chalkboard outside. Just had to share it with you.

As we headed back to the subway station, we had a great chat with Sharon Williams, who designs and sells jewelry as CEO of Shaz Gallery. Check out how she rocks color in her wardrobe and her accessories.

Then, having taken in our full complement of fun and vitamin D, it was back to business as usual.  When we emerged from the train, we went our separate ways, with Jean packing to go out of town, and Valerie getting her hair sharpened in time for Fashion Week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Now read this!

Got stuff?  Do bears (you know the rest)?

Last week, while noodling around on the internet, I came across something completely unexpected, as I so often do.  (In many cases these random things are more interesting than what I'm actually looking for.)  It was a reference to a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  Have you heard of it?  Did you know it was on the New York Times best seller list?  The back cover begins: "Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?"

Does this sound like us?

She promises "if you properly simplify and organize your home once [italics mine], you'll never have to do it again."

I ordered it on Amazon, and it arrived a few days later.  In one sitting I was up to page 54.  (The pages are very small.)  While everything I've read so far makes a lot of sense, and the thought of never having to organize again is very appealing, Life-Changing Magic may not be for everybody.  She doesn't say so, but she clearly advocates a zen-like lifestyle that's mostly free of stuff.  The picture of her on the back of the book has a very clever background designed to entice you without your realizing it: a tall broad shelving unit with almost nothing in it.  Her method works, she says, because getting rid of almost everything "in one fell swoop" will so change your view of stuff that you'll seldom feel the urge to buy anything again.

One has to take exception to the book's endless use of the expression "tidying up", because it's very clear that it's a polite euphemism for decluttering, as in you are a hoarder.  My apartment is generally tidy, but it's always cluttered, and yes, papers do accumulate like snowdrifts.  (Remember this post?)  Just say it, already, I've wanted to say when seeing the code word tidy.  I'm a hoarder.  I need to throw stuff out.  Lots of stuff.

Kondo advises, wisely, "Keep only those things that speak to your heart."  I can hear readers laughing.  That's why I bought all this stuff!  It speaks to my heart!   Don't ask yourself, she says, When was the last time I used this?  Ask yourself Would I miss this if it were gone?  She also says that it's best to break decluttering into categories.  Don't work by the room, she says.  A recipe for disaster.  And don't start with mementos, she says.  You'll be stuck on those forever, and never make any progress.

For best results, Kondo has a set order for decluttering ("tidying") by category.  To our readers' certain shock and horror, clothing comes first, followed by books, papers, miscellany, and finally mementos.  (No furniture?)   For our readers, clothing first is probably the recipe for disaster.  If you have nothing but tee shirts, you should suffer no ill effects, but if you have clothes you cherish, and chose with care, this is the equivalent of giving up your children so you'll have more space.   Then there is the monetary aspect.  If I were Daphne Guinness, I might throw everything into a bag (Kondo says her clients can easily fill and throw out thirty bags) and give it to a thrift shop.  (Of course, if I were Daphne Guinness, I'd have so much space and so much household help that 'tidying' would never become an issue.)  But not being Daphne Guinness, I am loathe to give much away.  I feel compelled to recoup some of my hard earned and hard spent cash.

Again for best results, Kondo says you should set a timetable for your decluttering.  From start to finish, everything should be done within six months.  Do not follow the usual advice.  Do not go slowly, or throw out one thing per day, or throw out one thing for each new thing you bring in.  Adopt a slash and burn philosophy, and keep to the timetable to maintain momentum.  Great advice, again, although this will be hard for those of us who want a bit of return on our investments.  I have sold some things on line, and sold other things to consignment shops, but unless you price everything at 99 cents, it probably won't all go in the allotted six months.  This is not to say I disagree with Kondo's advice.  Personally, I think decluttering is a wonderful, even enviable, goal.  I just worry about how to accomplish it within her rules.

I still have 150 pages to go, and I like what I'm reading.  So far the most important thing I've taken away is Kondo's fundamental reformulation of the central issue:  "We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of", the idea being that most of it will go, only the very best will stay, and afterward we can own our stuff, instead of our stuff owning us.

Sometimes when I'm reading a book I turn to the last page to see how it ends.  I don't mind knowing the ending - the fun is in finding out how it happens.  But in this case, I'm not looking.  I'm afraid I'll follow her advice, get to the end, and the last line will say Oh, silly!  I was only kidding.  You didn't really believe me, did you?  Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Disclaimer: Valerie's closet is really far more organized than this.  Claimer: She really does have all this stuff.  And more.  And shouldn't.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Savvy Shopper: The $100 Challenge


It is our shared philosophy that you don't have to spend a fortune to look good. To prove that point,we periodically do posts called "The $100 Challenge", in which we put together an entire outfit costing $100 or less. Not that we're competitive or anything, but we do like to out-do each other from time to time. (OK, Valerie the gauntlet has been thrown!)

Click here to view Valerie's June 2015 challenge. Click here to see my last challenge in July that was built around a black jumpsuit.

Jean says: As August draws to a close, I put together a number of pieces to create a look anchored by a wonderful tulip-shaped polka dot skirt, to which I added a sleeveless tunic, three-quarter sleeved top, neck ruff, comfy flats, and a head-wrap.

The skirt is by Lunn, a sister company to Lilith, and is 94% cotton and 6% elastane. While the dots are black, the background looks grey in certain lights and in other situations, reads as a brownish taupe. When we were at Beacon's Closet in May, to my everlasting joy, Valerie found it for me on one of the racks.  [Valerie says: We try to look out for each other that way.  It's tough, and works less than 50% of the time, but having that extra pair of eyes can score you neat stuff you might otherwise have missed.]  At $25, its cost was much less than retail. The sleeveless tunic is by one of my favorite Israeli designers, Alembika. It weighs next to nothing and can be wom over a skirt, leggings, slacks, or a dress to add interest. It was purchased for $20 earlier this spring, during that same foray to Beacon's. The $19 3/4-length sleeved top by Airism is from Uniqlo. Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic is an Airism spokesperson, so I'm in good company.

A pleated fabric neck ruff with a snap on the back is an unusual accessory, also lightweight, that dresses up the look and will pack flat in a suitcase. At $15, this one was incredibly reasonably priced.Want to make one for yourself? Check out this YouTube video on how to make an easy Elizabethan ruff!  (Not dexterous?  Find some nice ones on Etsy.)  I added a reversible cotton head wrap from Enz's, a Rockabilly boutique in the East Village, which was one of three purchased for a total of $33 (or $11 each). And my comfy black nylon and rubber Skechers walking shoes were purchased earlier this Spring at an outlet store in Las Vegas for $15.  So, here is the final tally: $25 skirt; $20 tunic; $19 Airism shirt; $11 head wrap; $15 shoes and $5 socks, for a grand total of $95.

Take the challenge and tell us how you do! Til we meet again -- behave!  (Or don't, says Valerie, after all, we seldom do.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

40+ Style Comes to New York

40+ Style, is an encyclopedic and constantly updated style bible written by Sylvia (no last name, like us, Madonna, and Cher).  If you're not already familiar with it, click on our link now, so you can see the vast array of topics of interest that Sylvia covers. Among her most popular articles, she said, are Best Shoes with Arch Support and How to Hide Your Belly, with links on 40+Style's home page.)  Based in Singapore, Sylvia is doing something of  a grand tour at the moment, having already visited Europe, the West Coast (where she did a blogger meet-up in Vancouver), and now New York, where she will convne a meeting of New York area bloggers.  (Is that sort of like herding cats?)  We were most delighted to meet her ourselves this past weekend.  Her reputation preceded her.

Sylvia was introduced to us via email by another fellow blogger, the gorgeous Judith Boyd, aka Style Crone, who assured us that we would love Sylvia and have a great time with her.  She was right on both counts.

We had the additional bonus of meeting her photographer, Denton Taylor, one of whose projects closest to our hearts is Silver-Haired Beauties, a catalogue of 40+ women who embrace the natural color of their hair.

We met at one of our favorite restaurants, B Bar, where the food and service are great, the ceilings are high, the light is natural (from skylights), the atmosphere casual/hip, and the noise level is hushed, so real conversations can take place.

Before we left the restaurant, we were stopped by Barbara (left) and (another) Sylvia.  Older women have a way of gravitating toward one another, as if we are members of a secret club with a secret handshake.  Sylvia, who was there with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, approached us at the table. It turns out that her friend Barbara is friends with one of our pals, Helen Uffner. Small world.

Sylvia (the Sylvia of 40+ Style) had asked if she could take a few pictures of us that day, so after breakfast we took them to some places with great visuals.  Have a peek here at one of them, along with other mementos of her visit to New York, on Sylvia's Instagram account.

On our way for some location shooting, we ran into this woman on Houston Street who had just come from Whole Foods.  There is an expression 'drape oneself in the American flag', and this is about as close as one can come to just that.  We had to share her with you.

We stopped for pictures in a local community garden.

The Liz Chrystie Garden on Houston Street at Second Avenue features wonderful flowers and trees, comfortable benches, and a fish pond!

We stopped for photo ops at several other places we won't show you just now, until the weather got the best of us.  To completely turn the Edward Bulwer-Lytton opening sentence on its head, it was a bright and muggy day - the kind that brings up talk of frying eggs on sidewalks, and persuades adults to open fire hydrants for the relief and fun of the children.  We made a short trip to Fabulous Fanny's to see if we could bring Sylvia into the sisterhood of hat lovers (no, but we'll keep trying - see Sylvia's Instagram for Debra Rapoport's more successful effort), and then by unanimous agreement we stopped at Van Leeuwen's Artisan Ice Cream for a treat and more conversation (in a far less hushed atmosphere).

Here, long after the ice cream was gone, we imposed on a stranger (as we so often do) to memorialize  our meeting, before going our separate ways.

If you would like to participate in Sylvia's 40+ Style blogger meet-up in New York, here's a link.  Maybe we'll see you there!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Yoko Ono at MOMA

We are at the age now where we occasionally feel old nostalgic for long-forgotten moments of our past.  They pop up at totally unexpected times and remind us how long it was since we were teenagers.  For example, this weekend the local rock and roll station played songs by a quartet of lads from Liverpool so popular that concert halls could not hold all their fans, and they had to perform at Shea Stadium.  They got the idea because it has now been fifty - yes, that's 5-0 - years since the Beatles performed there.  If you remember that (we do), that should give you a twinge of nostalgia.

It was also the forty-sixth anniversary of Woodstock, another milestone for many of us.

But for a real wallop of nostalgia, what could beat a live concert by Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, which we went to see on Saturday night at the Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective of her work is also on view?

We weren't allowed to take pictures of the concert itself, so our two photos of Yoko were taken surreptitiously immediately afterward, when the audience was beginning to rise in standing ovation. While we were waiting for the concert to start, we were treated to "Bottoms", a 1966 film by Yoko and FLUXUS Group. Each of 365 derrieres-in-motion filled the screen, one at a time. Needless to say, it set the tone for the rest of the evening and made it obvious that Yoko hadn't lost her sense of humor -- or of anarchy.

Born in 1933, Ono is now 82 years old. She looked quite small and frail on stage and even had to pause the show at one point to ask her guitarist open her water bottle, but she can still sing at full throttle.  Behind her, throughout the hour long event, were videos we assume to be of herself and her family in the 1930s.

The small concert hall held only 200 seats, and made for a very intimate experience.  Leaving the theater, we saw this couple ahead of us in marvelous white suits.  Imagine what fun they must have had getting dressed.

MOMA's exhibition "Yoko Ono: One Woman Show 1960 - 1971" runs through September 7th. So make haste to see it. Many may be surprised to learn how long Yoko was a working artist, painting, drawing, filming, performing and exhibiting in New York, long before she ever met John Lennon.

Her irreverence was evident at every turn.  This 1961 piece, "Painting to be Stepped On" (sumi ink on canvas, ink on paper), was just that.

Her 1964 "Bag Piece", first performed during Perpetual Fluxfest, Cinematique, New York, on June 27, 1965, has been recreated at MOMA and visitors are invited to don the black bag and perform on a 6" raised wooden platform. The photo below is of an intrepid museum-goer rolling around the floor and stretching out in the bag in a number of very non-yoga poses. Truth be told, although Valerie had arranged for both of us to be in the same black bag at the same time (or possibly two black bags at the same time - we're not exactly sure), Jean chickened out, in no small part because of fear of both of us stumbling off the platform and injuring ourselves. It is a well-documented fact that we are both klutzes.  Can you imagine the risks inherent in the two of us performing in a big black bag (in which we couldn't see what was going on outside or inside?) in a strange space -- on a raised platform?

Yoko's first solo gallery show was at AG Gallery, New York, July 17-30, 1961. The poster for "Paintings and Drawings by Yoko Ono" was designed by Yoko and George Maciunas.

Her 1967 "Half-a-Room" features artfully arranged domestic objects cut in half, most painted in white. Anyone who ever experienced roommate or spousal issues may have fantasized about creating a similar domestic arrangement.

"Painting to Hammer a Nail" from 1961 consists of a painted wood panel, nails, metal chain and painted hammer.

Her 1961 "Painting in 3 Stanzas" is made of sumi ink on canvas, vine, wood, aluminum, thumbtacks and cotton cord.

Yoko's "Water Drop Painting (Version 1)" dates from 1961 and is of sumi ink and water on canvas, glass bottle and cotton cord.

Ono has been a controversial figure most of her life.  She has her champions and her critics (don't we all?!), but for those of us wondering if we can retain our vibrancy, relevance and love of life as we move through the '-genarian' phases of life, she sets a wonderful example. In closing, ponder the words of her famous poster.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Last Friday night, in a very lucky encounter, we ran into Chloe Pang on 1st Avenue and Houston Street.  Although it had been more than a year since we'd seen each other, we picked up right where we'd left off eons ago.  When she mentioned that she's downtown a lot, we talked Chloe into meeting us the next day at the mural of Godzilla and Gamera to scope it out for last Sunday's blog posting on The Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer.

Chloe is arguably one of the most multi-talented people we know: a classically trained concert pianist, artist, milliner and photographer! But most importantly, she is always up for anything. Aha! How many people do you know think it a perfectly reasonable proposal to help us photograph ourselves being attacked by and putting our heads inside the open mouth of Godzilla? Not too many, we bet. On top of that, she's not only a knock out, but as you can see, she is also blessed with a wonderful sense of whimsy. The perfect accomplice!

Chloe exposed us to a new way of photographing ourselves with our iphones. The effect is what we've dubbed "the ghost in the machine". (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Perhaps if we understood it better, we could explain it to you. Suffice it to say, the result creates an interesting illusion of multiple incarnations of a person in the same frame. By chance, once again, we ended up in coordinated outfits, this time in black and white -- with straw hats -- Valerie in Kokin and Jean in Henrik Vibskov. Luckily, last Saturday, even the weather cooperated with mercifully low humidity.

Using the panorama setting on her iphone, Chloe photographed us walking across the front of the wonderfully colorful mural. In this case, where it makes Valerie look like she's chasing herself, each of the images is clear.

Through some other voodoo, Chloe could also create a wonderfully slow-mo blurred effect, enhanced by Valerie's fancy footwork.

Jean just had to get into the act.  If Valerie could be a twin, then by golly, she would be a triplet.

The sci-fi effects were perfect for Gamera and Godzilla. Needless to say, until we can figure out how to do this ourselves, we'll just sit back and enjoy Chloe's handiwork. Happy trails, people!

Sunday, August 9, 2015



We saw this fantastic mural painted on a wall, and because it's too hot to work or travel or dress up, to say nothing of doing a thought-provoking post, we decided it would be a low budget way to have fun if we could photograph ourselves in front of it.   It's a huge mural, so we're going to do a slow reveal.

Here we are, peaceful, law-abiding citizens, threatened by the reappearance after all these years of Godzilla!  (You can tell it's lower Manhattan by the Freedom Tower behind him.)

But wait!  As if that weren't enough, Gamera, the giant turtle, is menacing midtown Manhattan.  (You can tell by the Empire State Building.)

In our first moments of terror, we are nearly overcome by the powers of evil.  (Double click for better effect.)

But in a flash we gather our wits, and fight the enemy on his own terms, save the city, and live happily ever after.  (Yes, double click here too.)

We have to thank the beautiful, talented and very good natured director/milliner Camilla, who happened by this afternoon just as we were about to start working on this project.  Camilla asked if she could photograph our hats, and before she knew it, we had roped her into taking a dozen of us in return for as many photos as she wanted, on a different background.  She has a GREAT eye, and saved us at least an hour of labor we would have needed to set up our tripod and camera timer.

And most of all, thanks to Ichibantei Japanese restaurant (that's their name in the center of the mural), which put up this hilarious story in glorious technicolor, when they could have put up nothing, or mere dull advertising.  KUDOS to you, Ichibantei!