Rant and Rave

Une Pomme de ma Tête

Isn’t it funny the things that we become attached to? When I look through my room, I have so many things: books, hats, clothes—the list goes on and on. And yet, when  you ask me to point out the things that I would take with me if I had to leave it all behind, it’s the funny, nearly valueless things that mean so much to me. Now I’m not saying I would leave me rings and jewelry PUH-lease. It’s just some of my favorite things are quite unexpected. Take for instance this picture:

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I randomally picked it up one day in a cute shop in Oxford called Arcadia (really a haven for vintage papers of all kinds). I think I probably got it because it was the only old magazine reproduction that was under 10 pounds, and yet, it has brought me so many smiles. One of my friends even referred to it as the “naked girl” picture. But that little French adventurer is more than a sometimes naked girl to me. She’s sort of my spirit animal. Well, the other day I looked at it and found myself caught looking at the white outfit. I couldn’t think if I had any hat that would be anything like hers and more or less gave the idea up. Literally, less than 5 days later, I was browsing an antique warehouse and came upon the on I’m wearing in pictures for 5 dollars. It was fate! I hope you like my interpretation.





Outfit Details: Hat: Thrifted | Shirt: French Connection | Capris: J.M. Collection | Heels: Loft


Silk Romper, Anyone?


As some of you may know who have been following me, I have recently aquired a very strong taste for the indomintable Australian myestery series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which I also mentioned as the inspiration for this post, and have been shamelessly sharing screenshots on tumblr here. Well, needless to say, I am intriuged by the series, but it’s a toss up as to whether I am more bewitched by the costuming or the story lines. That is to say, the costumes are that good. Seriously, her be-turbaned, dropwaist, fur lined, silk embroidered flapper chic is everything I want all the time.

Well, in one of the first episodes of the first season, she popped out of her boudoir wearing only a silk slip romper. The screen shot opportunity was limited (as you can tell), but since then I’ve been intent on finding something similar. It seems like the perfect garment: cool and loose against the skin, while still elegantly sensual and effortless. The only problem is that it is requiring a lot of effort. Namely, I can’t find any.

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So far, I’ve only been able to find the one below (now on sale at Anthropologie) as a close second. I’ve perused etsy and found two or three vintage options on etsy, but as could be expected, anything silky and vintage from the 1940s or before is pricing in the 200 dollar range.


Salua Chloe Silk Romper from Anthropologie.

I thought I’d now extend my search to reach out to you. Have any of you seen anything like this under 100? Or is that just an unrealistic dream? Are there any brands (small or large) who do this sort of thing? Please help!



Wednesdays for Women #8: Zenobia

In honor of the Kurdish victory in Syria over ISIS, today’s W4W will talk about one of the greatest Syrian Queens who had adept military skill of her own: Zenobia.tumblr_mbrcrsrvOR1rq5o2oo1_1280

Back in the day she ruled, she was officially ruler of the “Palmyrene Empire,” which is modern day Syria. She was the second wife of the King Septimus Odaenathus, but is better remembered for her attitude towards the Romans, which was less than friendly. “Ancient sources on her life and reign are the historian Zosimus (c. 490 CE), the Historia Augusta (c. 4th century CE), the historian Zonaras (12th century CE), and historian Al-Tabari (839-923 CE) whose account follows that of Adi ibn Zayd (6th century CE) although she is also mentioned in the Talmud and by other writers.” While these sources note her open challenge to the Roman Empire (which would shortly lend a hand in its downfall), her place in popular history is far more dramatic. Allegedly, Zenobia led an outright revolt against Rome, leading to her capture, which led her chained through the streets of Rome before she was beheaded by Aurelian.ZenobiaCaptive-222x300

But that’s clearly not what makes her worth a Wednesday, so I’ll get to the good part. After her husband’s death (or shall I say murder?), Zenobia took the throne in 267 (her son being too young to rule).  She was very well educated (allegedly educated in Greek and Latin, and fluent in Egyptian and Aramaic), and filled her court with intellectuals. At the time, Palmyra was more like a vassal state to a disintegrating Rome. However, it had the distinct advantage of being a trading stop on the Silk Road at a time where other opportunities up the road had been weakened. In other words, Palmyra was sitting on great trade opportunities a steady stream of inoming wealth in the midst of Roman disorganization. As Rome’s figurehead changed by the week, Zenobia sent her troops to Roman-owned Egypt, conquering it in the name of Palmyra. With Egypt under her belt, negotiations began, and she was able to expand her territory into then-Asia Minor right behind Rome’s back. “By 271 CE she ruled over an empire which stretched from modern-day Iraq across through Turkey and down through Egypt.” Whether she was autonomous or a Roman vassal was even more contested when she printed coins of herself, adopting the name “Augusta.”
zenobiaUnfortunately, Rome did get its act together under the authority of military man Aurelian. He began a march on Zenobia, totally destroying each town in his wake. When a few towns in he encountered the home of a philosopher he liked, he spared the city. Afterwards, Zenobia’s cities sent him their surrenders in advanceso that he was able to practically waltz into Syria. After three battles, two of which the Roman’s feigned retreat before capturing the calvary, Zenobia was captured. Her final days range in mystique from her being poisoned, escaping on a camel, going to trial, or just marrying a Roman differ on the source. Regardless, she was a great leader, known for her stamina, and the Al-Tabri records that she would march on foot with her troops long distances, could hunt as well as any man, and could out-drink anyone. We can only hope those fighters in Syria today display equal valor.

More info: here and here.

Sunday Brunch: Subscription Style


I am well aware we’re in the middle (to end?) of what could only be called a subscription box craze, However,  having no need for dog foods, random nail polish colors, or study snacks that don’t include coffee, I had yet to justify the ceremonial expense of at least 20 dollars for products I could better pick myself (or find in trial size giveaways around the perfume counter). Try the World changed my mind, or at least piqued my interest. Try the World is a subscription box that can only be described as a culinary geographical capsule. Each month (or sooner), you are sent a box full of foods from a region, along with a few cultural pointers and tips. They have just come out with an Argentinian box (and my mouth waters for those condensed milk cookies), but I got Morocco and France (pictured is Morocco). I thought it might be fun to share with you and review one.


So, my Morocco box came six items, advertised by the company to be the full size products. I am going to have to trust them (skeptically) on the size of the argan oil, which seems small compared to the way I know most people here buy olive oil. Anyway the 5 items were as follows:

  1. Couscous
  2. Sardines
  3. Baby Argan Oil
  4. Cous Cous Sauce
  5. Kefta Rub
  6. Palmiers

My overall impression (besides developing a new love for palmiers) is about a 6.5/10. Honestly, the cultural guide/ info. is nice to flip through but ultimately not that informative, and not really something I’d keep (except maybe the Moroccan movie list). I don’t think I’m super biased by having been to Marrakesh (the city the guide highlighted), because, though I gorged on kebabs, I didn’t really soak up the whole (or even most of the) culture in my 3 day stay there. Nexy wee should talk price. I bought my box subscription during a sale that gave me 2 for $40. Most of the times, they are $40 per box. That seems like a lot of money to me just to get a baby argan oil, generic box of couscous (I equate this on the cheap end of things, like sending me a box of rice from China… gee thanks), and a (well, admittedly pretty) can of sardines. The oil was good, but it all seemed like a way to keep costs down. In the France box, I felt the same way about the French salt they sent (…. really? I just paid 1/6 of $40 for some salt?).

The cous cous sauce was better, but almost the same as buying salsa from the grocery store. To me, the kefta rub and the palmiers were the nicest items. I’m probably ridiculously biased because they palmiers were so good. They are bite size butter cookies that seem folded like a tightly packed croissant. They were especially nice with coffee, and well worth the find. I haven’t had an occasion to try the kefta rub yet, but please feel free to direct me should you have any recommendations on how to use it with food. Otherwise, it too may be a sunk cost…

So in essence, I think these boxes are super fun (I got champagne truffles), and probably worth the $20, but I just don’t think the quality is enough to solicit any more than that, though the branding is really quite something. Watch out for their email list though… I get one like every week (no, I will not extend my subscription), but on the whole this was fun to try.  DSC_0084

Picnic details: Shoes: Bally | Scarf: Liberty London | Boater hat: Vintage | Toes: OPI: I lost my czechbook.

Wednesdays for Women: Red Emma

I began this summer obsessed with E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, a fact you may be all too familiar with given some of my recent forays into the Edwardian. But besides picking up sartorial cues, I also chanced upon today;s spotlight woman. Let me go ahead and warn you, some fact might meld with fiction.


But if it does, it is no less because of my own rambling imagination than the general chaos that was Emma Goldman’s life. Hoover, after all, called she and her lover, “beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country.”


Born in Russia in 1869, Goldman immigrated (though never became of citizen) to the U.S. (along with so many others) in 1885 at the the age of 16. It wasn’t until 3 years later that she would make the pivotal decision that would irreconcilably change the rest of her life. In those three years, she became a seamstress in Rochester and was married. When she discovered her husband was impotent, she tried to leave the marriage on several occasions.. When she finally secured a divorce, her parents threw her out for her lacking moral values. Taking her sewing machine, she left for New York City.

Her first day in New York, she met Alexander Berkman. Whether fate or happenstance, he invited her to the meeting that was to change her life. It was an anarchist meeting, expelling the merits of “propaganda of the deed.” In other words, putting your money where your mouth is. Less talk more game. As you can imagine, this was a particularly dubious proposition when the aim is wildly anti-authoritarian like anarchy. Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.10.58 PM

After a few months, Emma found her voice on stage. Gradually she honed her ideas from those she’d inherited into a rallying cry of the oppressed lower classes. For her deed, she and her equally eccentric, communal-living, life-long, on-and-off-again companion, Berkman decided they would react the the homestead strike. The tldr of the Homestead Strike goes like this: Andrew Carnegie had striking workers, he didn’t like it. He brought in professional “Pinkerton” guards (as they were called) to beat the dissenting to a pulp (9 died). No more strike. Carnegie’s foreman was none other than the now-esteemed collector Henry Clay Frick (such a lovely house on the upper east side, such a stunning collection of European gems). Together, Goldman and Berkman decided to assassinate him and incite the lower classes. However, their ideals were upset when, despite Berkman’s dispatch of three gun shots, he was apprehended, and Frick survived unscathed.


While Emma stood for anarchy. The core of her mission was less about chaos and more about educating and helping the lower classes (or perhaps I am sympathetic). She was a trained midwife and masseuse, and she regularly employed these skills to supplement her meagre anarchist budget. In economic crisis, she preached (basically) communism. Her discussion of these classes “taking things by force” didn’t go over well. Still, this Union Square speech was a historic moment, though with tragic ends. Upon the assassination of William McKinley, the killer claimed that he had been inspired by Goldman, which didn’t really do her any favors. Berkman was still in jail, and the other anarchists were unhappy about the subsequent legislation her reputation inspired. The “Anarchist Exclusion Act” (passed by Congress, and approved by Teddy, who didn’t want to be a veritable shadow of his predeccessor) made questioning immigrants and subsequently excluding them based on their political beliefs (if they were an anarchist) admissable. It was highly controversial, and secularist Emma called in Clarence Darrow to argue in front of the Supreme Court on the anarchists behalf (though the Bill of Rights was not seen to apply to immigrants, allowing the questionings). goldmanShipley

But since she was already in the U.S., besides being in and out of jail like a bird on a cuckoo clock, Emma was safe. It was at this time she published what was one of the most liberal pamphlets of the time, Mother Earth, probably the first female anarchist publication (talk about niche). She continued to agitate for anarchism, and added access to birth control, and the folly of conscription to her list of causes. She was jailed several times for her birth control speeches (the Comstock laws deemed such material obscene and lewd) and later, her “conspiracy to induce people not to register.”

Still, despite all that, it wasn’t until after WWI, with the dangers past and industrialism slowing that Emma was bested. In the Red Scare of the early 20s, she was deported back to Russia. She spent the following years across Europe, always speaking, writing her biography, gaining (and losing) followers. She was able to live among anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, which she wrote about fondly. She died shortly after WW2 at the age of 70 from a series of strokes, which left her partially paralyzed and unable (ironically) to speak.Emma_Goldman_gives_eulogy_at_Peter_Kropotkin's_funeral

In some ways, she was ahead of the time. In others, she is still ahead of the time, and in the rest, there may not be a time. But among women, regardless of her vision, there have been few such vocal visionaries in the 20th century.

For more information…

Wednesdays for Women #6: Nellie Bly/ Elizabeth Jane Cochrane Seaman

I know if I publish the post at 11:50 PM, it would more aptly be called Thursdays for Women, but I will do better in future! This week I’ve been grappling with the decision of whether to take up Krav Maga. It would be pretty cool to be able to defend myself, but I’m balancing the “cool factor” with the staggering fact that learning how to do so would basically be $320 for two months. Eep! Maybe I’ll stick with the $55/month  yoga…

But on the topic of women kicking some serious butt, let’s talk about Nellie Bly. Her life is almost as legendary as it is fantastic. Before she became a famous social reformer, she casually bested Jules Verne’s literary challenge of travelling around the world in 80 days. At the tender age of 24, she did it almost all alone and in 72 days. But this was feat only came later in her career, after she virtually invented the trade of “investigative journalism,” as we know it today.


Later, slowpokes.

Our girl Nellie, or Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, as she was known then, was born to a mill worker turned entrepreneur. When her family moved to Pittsburgh, Nellie was aghast at a local newspaper’s column “What Women Are Good For” and wrote a head-turning letter to the editor, signing it “Little Orphan Girl.” The editor was so impressed, he ran an ad looking for this orphan, and when he found Nellie, he gave her the chance to write an article. After seeing her resulting work, he offered her a job, and she joined the newspaper and adopted the name Nellie Bly. Discontent with fashion (unlike this blogger) and gardening articles, Nellie tried to write about women factory workers, and when suppressed on that end, became a foreign correspondent in Mexico, until she was forced to leave after denouncing the local dictator as a “tyrannical czar.”

Thrown out of Mexico, she sought asylum… literally. She left her old newspaper and sought refuge with Pulitzer’s New York World, but her “refuge” was to take a funny shape, going undercover as a mad woman. She feigned insanity in a boarding house and to a number of doctors, convincing the staff at Bellevue that she should be committed (and getting a bit of media attention in the course of the matter). Once inside Blackwell’s Asylum she was surprised to discover the sordid conditions: dirty water, people roped together, rats crawling freely about the area. After 10 days, she was released at The World’s behest, and published Ten Days in a Madhouse, her account of her time inside. She concluded that the frigid water thrown on them coupled with the poor food was enough to make anyone go insane. Huge reform both for asylum entry and conditions were undertaken by a grand jury which supported her findings. An additional $850,000 was committed to the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections following her findings.


It was after the asylum venture that she travelled around the world (meeting Jules Verne along the way), and she held the world record for a month or two (not bad considering she was given two days notice of the trip). In later years, she married a millionaire (and in a most ironic turn, took the name Seaman… hold the jokes), and became president of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co., adding to its patents dual inventions of a milk can and a stacking garbage can. When the company went bankrupt (due to employee embezzlement), she returned to journalism and reported on the Eastern Front during WWI and the rising women’s suffrage movement.

She died of pneumonia at 57, two years after women got the vote.

Wednesdays For Women: Nautical Edition- The Sea Queen of Connacht

Since women were historically considered unlucky on a ship, our contributions in maritime archives are too sparse for comfort. Still, regardless of sexist rules, women have made their presence on ships (whether known or unknown). However, few have been so openly lauded as Grace O’Malley, or Gráinne Ní Mháille.


Grace O’Malley was the daughter of an Gaelic chieftain –which might make her a princess, according to Disney– who also happened to be a shipping and trade magnate around the early to mid-1500s. However, “shipping” in the 1500s, looked distinctively less like Fedex, and more like the playground of Jack Sparrow. People who wanted to fish anywhere off the clan’s castle-laden coast had to pay a surcharge.  After her father’s death, she took over the family business and became the leader of the Ó Máille clan, whose lands spread over what is now County Mayo.

According to lore, Grace always wanted to sail on her father’s ships, but he wouldn’t let her. One popular retelling has her father refusing because “her hair would get caught in the ropes.” In response, Grace cut off her hair, earning her the nickname Gráinne Mhaol, or bald Grace. From what I’ve read about her, not much is known, except that she pretty much did what she wanted. She was powerful and passionate, and she knew how to command men and influence people. The most famous historical event associated with her is probably her audience with Queen Elizabeth.

When her two sons (from her first marriage) and half-brother were captured by the English governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham, Grace appealed to Queen Elizabeth directly for their release. For context, the English had been steadily encroaching on what had been self-governed Irish chieftains. Bingham, and by extension Elizabeth’s authority flew directly in the face of everything Grace O’Malley’s family stood for. With this in mind, Grace refused to bow to Elizabeth before negotiations and allegedly had a knife under her dress (for her protection) when she went to meet Elizabeth! Speaking to each other in Latin, they were able to charter a release on the agreement that Grace stop supporting Irish rebellions and Bingham would be removed. It’s unclear how long each of these agreements were abided by (Bingham came back), but it must have been a sight to see these two women, both powerful and rich in their own right, chatting across a tea table.


Otherwise, she was a general sea prowess, laying siege to the coasts from Scotland downwards, and adding to the wealth that she had by her father’s business, mother’s lands, and a thing or two from husband/ lovers along the way.  As to my favorite legend about her, taken from wikipedia, the story goes as follows:

“During a trip from Dublin, O’Malley attempted to pay a courtesy visit to Howth Castle, home of Lord Howth. However, she was informed that the family was at dinner and the castle gates were closed against her. In retaliation, she abducted the Earl’s grandson and heir, Christopher St Lawrence, 10th Baron Howth. He was eventually released when a promise was given to keep the gates open to unexpected visitors and to set an extra place at every meal. Lord Howth gave her a ring as pledge on the agreement. The ring remains in the possession of a descendant of O’Malley and, at Howth Castle today, this agreement is still honoured by the Gaisford St. Lawrence family, descendants of the Baron.”

She could definitely sail, but more than that, she controlled a good deal of the coastline, levying more “taxes/ fees” on those who used the coast, at risk of murder… Either way, she has been represented as the embodiment of Ireland and called the Sea Queen of Connacht.

Shoutout to these South Korean women, known literally as haenyeo, or “sea women.”

For more on actual women pirates, see Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Keep in mind, we know of them because they were the only two women convicted of piracy, so in actuality they may not have been the best pirates…

For newspaper articles on disguised 19th century British women sailors, these will not fail to amuse!

I do not own the rights to the banner image, which is the bronze statue of Grace O’Malley found at Westport House. Grace O’Malley was reportedly the 14th great-grandmother of the generation of sisters currently running the Westport House Estate.

Wednesdays for Women: no more data edition

Hi there, so I have run through my data allotment on wordpress, and I’m waiting for a few funds to come through before I can invest in more space for more pictures. In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about a few women-related stories buzzing around:

1. Karlie Kloss is funding twenty scholarships for high school age girls to take a 2 week coding class with the Flatiron School in New York. Get more info. about #KodewithKarlie here.

2. Ever wondered why there’s no women on money? Rumor has it an elementary schooler did too, inspiring her to write to Obama (eventually winning her a coveted invitation to the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt). This little story has inspired a movement called Women on Twenties. The premise being that a woman replace Andrew Jackson, who history has not been so kind to, since he was not so kind to Native Americans. He might have beat the bank (famous last words), but that only holds so much currency. You can get involved/ vote here if you’re interested. Personally, I have a soft spot for Eleanor (UN Charter!!), but pick your favorite candidate.

3. My best friend has started her own podcast. It’s called “Not an Idiot,” and the premise is that she researches different things she’s interested in to prove to herself she’s not an idiot. I think she’s the only one with doubts. This woman introduced me to This American Life six years ago, and hasn’t stop dreaming about creating her own “radio show” ever since. Try it out! Her voice is pleasant, and her second episode, launched today, is called Write Me In, and it’s about what it takes to create a screenplay.

4. At the moment my two favorite ladies (after MK&A of course–I can’t even get over how much I love The Row and Elizabeth and James) are two Chicagoans by the names of Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, and let me tell you why. I have always been interested in politics, history, and current events, but I have never found a way to tap into what seems like a maze of information. If I want international news, am I supposed to go to the page of every country? Enter TheSkimm. A novel news concept that basically tells you what’s going on quickly, easily, and without you having to worry about which political party has put their spin on it. It’s basically like your polisci major friend filling you in on what happened over the weekend while you were too busy gushing over the Cinderella movie. And it’s so quick! Just a short email every morning, complete with linked charts and articles (if you care to delve deeper), and you are ready to act like you engaged in the world. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Down with Diffusions and the Retreat of the Middle Market

I was saddened to hear last week Marc Jacobs was canceling his Marc by Marc Jacobs line in order to bolster his brand before going public. This comes just a few weeks after Kate Spade called it quits on their Saturday line (though it will apparently be making a belated comeback in Kate Spade stores ?!?!). This is simply too much to take in at once. I know I buy predominantly secondhand items, but I’d like to at least keep my options open.

Instead of wallowing in my own misery, I am led to question where the problem lies in bringing name brand items to a middle market price point or “diffusion lines.” Target seems to do it well. What is going on here? I offer no solid answers, but find it odd considering that we are supposed to be emerging from the recession. One article suggested that Saturday just tried to take on too much at once, but this could hardly be the answer for Marc by Marc Jacobs. In a comment to WWD magazine, Sebastian Suhl (CEO) said “Marc Jacobs would still produce items at the contemporary and luxury price points, while looking to flesh out the middle area—low three-digit pricing—as well.” That sounds like a good plan to me, and remarkably like the Kate Spade approach. While these two brands are in two very different places (with LVMH backing Jacobs as he launches his IPO, while Kate Spade and Company, once known as Liz Claiborne, is an old time contender), they are approaching the middle market in the same way at the same time (and right as Gap is showing a profit!). Does anyone have any insight? If so drop it my way so we can send it along to Isabel Marant and Valentino. If RED or Etoile disappears anytime soon, I will declare myself a groundhog and sleep out this winter.