Marais USA

Finally, shoes made just for studious girls who love poetry and dream of living in Paris.

from top: two toned flats, $64, prince wedge, $72, oxford, $88, mercer flat, $52

The entire line is restrained, simple, elegant, and moderately priced. These are all admirable qualities.


Time to crack open a couple of fresh pencil sets.


Wheel, Two Ways

More new photos to come! Please do not re-use without permission!


Vintage Halloween!

(all photos from the vintage halloween flickr group)

When I was little, Halloween was my favorite holiday, and my family went all out. The preparations began early in our house; the lavish decorations came out of storage in the attic 2 weeks before the 31st, and for those 2 weeks I prepared gleefully for the night of candy, carousing, and costuming amongst the synthetic cobwebs, paper bats, and trash bag-ghosties my siblings and I draped from floor to ceiling. In retrospect, my love for Halloween seems entirely logical: it combined crafts, food, staying up late into the night, and the celebratory pomp and escapism of a day entirely devoted to being anyone but yourself. My costumes were almost always homemade; one particularly memorable Halloween when I was 10 or 11, I decided, after much careful consideration, to transform into a deity I invented and dubbed "The Queen of the Night". We went to the fabric store and picked out a beautiful black tulle, flecked with tiny silvery dots, and a legnth of silver sequins. We attatched the tulle and sequins to an old black dance leotard from my tap-dancing days, found an old cloak of my dad's, frizzed my hair into a spectacular orb, which floated around my face, painted with blue and silver moons. That night, the Queen reigned supreme, gliding swiftly through dark air that smelled like no other night of the year: smoky sweet from the roasted pumpkins lit on the doorsteps, punctuated with wild, delighted screams, and the rustling of bags and fabric.

I overstayed my welcome on celebrating Halloween, going trick-or-treating until I was 15; my last year I was outfitted as a "grunge", with sprayed-on neon orange hair, a clip-on nose ring from Claire's in the mall, old ripped pants, combat boots, my dad's "x-rayted" skeleton t shirt and a plaid. I can still remember the wary looks of some people that came to the door, to whom, I realized too late, I looked like an teengager who hadn't bothered to dress up and was raking the neighborhood for a share of candy spoils.

This Halloween, I will know my place. I will carve a modest-sized pumpkin and put out a candy bowl with good candies, none of that tootsie roll stuff. And I won't put one of those "Take ONLY ONE!'' signs, either. It's Halloween. Take as many as you can carry, while you still can.


Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine

(image, Lady Ledwidge “A huge pinky-beige sharkskin bed…to swim in every night,” says Flora of the bed designed by her father Andre Groult in the 1920’s. From show me the way.)

My first brush with the clash between natural female home remedies and thier opponents, drugstore and corporate pharmaceuticals, came early on, before I was a teen. My father is a family doctor, with a special interest in homeopathy and herbal medicine, and I remember even as young as 10 years old being astonished when a little playmate's mother poured me out a capful of gooey, candy-apple liquid in her attempts to quell the coughing of a lingering cold while over at her house. I had never taken such an elixir; I dutifully imbibed it and remember the pleasantly hazy, muffled hours following in my friend's playhouse. I've rarely dabbled in cough syrups since that day, but the first impression has lasted me my lifetime.

You see, at my house, when we were sick, we drank vitamin C powders, strong and acidic, barely dissolved in a glass of unpasteurized orange juice. Belly aches were treated with hot chamomile teas, picked in the summers in the rocky northern Spanish countryside that surrounded the little village my mother is from, along with 'tila', the catch-all for the herb that makes tea tinctures in that part of the world. With muccus infections, we were instructed to avoid dairy, except for natural unflavored yoghurt, which was prescribed for soothing the stomach as well. A particulalry terrible week in June when I was 14 in Spain was spent sweating and suffering from a bad intenstinal poisoning, which happened to me frequently when drinking foreign water and under-cooked eggs, taking 10 large oregano herb pills and fresh ginger to fight the sick. Hot compresses and fizzy bicarbonate was a common technique I learned from both sides of women in my family for stomach upset as well. Later on in high school, I took elderberry for my immune system and homeopathics for flus and viruses. My mother and I both used St. John's Wort for the winters, when grayness clouded our psyches.

My first menstruations were accompanied by my mother's fervent opposition to my use of tampons and Midol, which, from the locker room commiserations and bathroom docterings, I gleaned, where the preferred methods of 'dealing' with the particular monthly ordeal. My use of tampons were forestalled until college, 18 years old, where I experienced them as another sort of independence, similar in nature to the tongue stud (large, glinting, sapphirate) I had punched through my cartilage in a Richmond, VA tattoo parlor with my best friend. My mother's thinking was that it was simply not natural to put bleached and scented cotton inside yourself, and while I mostly agree with her on this, many years later, I still use them, albeit unbleached and organic, when I can.

Last fall, I had another one of those moments where the natural teachings of my mother and father ran up against the manner in which women treat their bodies when things go awry. I had my first yeast infection, and it hurt. Not having my family network to treat my admittedly banal and secret condition, I turned to the 'ladies' aisle of my local Chicago CVS pharmacy. Vaginitis, the medical term for a yeast infection, is actually an overgrowth of bacteria in the vaginia. Usually the vadge has a natural balance of yeast and good bacteria in it, and self-regulates through your life. Contraceptive pills, douching, soaps and perfumes, baths, menopause, sex, STDs and the use of antibiotics(which indiscriminately wipe out all bacteria, good and bad), can cause the overgrowth of Candida yeast in the vagina, where it will overwhelm the good yeast and wreak havoc in the happy pink environment.

All I found in that aisle were commercial chemical nuclear-grade products, which made me intensely uncomfortable. The remedies were smelly, greasy, and terribly unrecognizable. A typical dose of Monasil, I learned, will kill everything in the vicinity of where it is applied, like low-grade chemo. Regardless, I bought a pack containing 10 ampules, which I was to put in my vagina twice a day for 5 days.

Before I did anything that night, I returned to my roots: I found internet home-remedies and I called my dad. He agreed with my assessment of the pharmacy solution as over-aggressive and harmful, and suggested I find my own way in treating myself. Yoghurt, something I'd been using for years, was the first course of action, being gentle and inexpensive, and highly therapuetic in yeast infection cases.

These remedies helped my clear my infection, and better yet, they were self-directed, passed on through women's at-home, DIY traditions, inexpensive, natural, and unreliant on large, corporate dictates governing over women's health. My first yeast infection taught me that I'm fiercely opposed to others telling me what to buy and do, trusting my body's functions; I'm all for Planned Parenthood, especially if, like in Illinois, you can receive treatment for free through state-health initiatives for women, but uninstitutionalizing day-to-day health care for women has become a real practice for me, and I'd rather trust on age-old natural remedies over sticking the equivalent of cough syrup inside of me, without knowing anything about my condition. I would rather know I have an arsenal of time-honored women's knowledge on treating ourselves; why would I instantly trust a product marketed to 'disinfect' myself, to pathologize my body and its imbalances?

Here are 4 highly effective natural home remedies for helping yourself when you have a Yeast Infection: ie, The natural answer to Monasil:

1. Yoghurt

Use plain, unflavored, ideally unpasteurized organic yoghurt. Some women prefer to soak and coat tampons with room-temp'd yoghurt, and insert it overnight. You can also simply scoop some up with a small spoon or your fingers and gently insert it. Keep inside for 4-8 hours, using a pad if you are afraid of leaking(which is not smelly . . . it's only yoghurt!).

My first impression learning that yoghurt was helpful in clearing infections was that it was intuitively comfortable, having used yoghurt before on stomach cases, and sometimes even on my face. It is highly effective, as it replaces the natural flora of your vagina in a gentle manner.

2. Garlic

Garlic is known for its antiseptic properties, and is used for colds and general uses. This sounds totally freaky, I'll grant you, and I've never tried it, but many women swear by it: unpeel a clove of garlic, making sure to not nick it. Wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth, though some people don't. Put it in your vagina, making sure not to push it up as far as you would a tampon. Helpful before sleep, make sure to remove it after 6-8 hours.

3. Cranberry juice

A lot of women I know drink cran juice to eliminate YIs. The only problem is that they drink super-sugary, 'cranberry cocktail' drinks. This remedy does absolutely nothing; in fact, the sugar content that they drink all day is only worsening the condition, as a lot of sugar only feeds Candida. For this remedy, only pure, unfiltered cran juice can be used, the sour, dark kind. It can be found in many groceries, as long as it is labeled 100% and free of sugar. Trader Joe's carries a great cranberry juice product. If you don't like the acidity of the jice, cut it with water, and sip all day.

4. Violet

Gentian Violet is excellent for YIs. Make sure, if you go this route, to buy distilled genetian extract and dilute it 1:2 with water. In general, using extracts should be done carefully and with research, as direct undiluted contact can be harmful. Whole Foods carries this product, but make sure it doesn't contain alcohol. With gentian violet, you need to 'paint' the vulva, including the labia. It does stain a bit, so wear black undies or a pad! This is a highly effective treatment, usually clearing up infections within one treatment.

If you have any questions, do please email me! Home-remedies can be scary at first, I realize, and the point in them is sharing with others who have experience in them.


Keep tuned for home-remedies for cramps and headaches, as well as natural female contraceptive methods.


Food Rules, Illustrated.

Illustrated food rules, chosen by Micheal Pollan for the NY Times Food Issue, more here.


Night Swimming

Underwater photos taken with the Lomo Frogeye, a plastic underwater camera, from Photoma.

Some News . . .

In an effort to streamline my life online, I will be merging my other Dazzling Dear blog dedicated to art and design (http://dazzlingdear.tumblr.com/) with this one. The Tumblr will remain, and carry on as a dedicated site for typography class work and photo work. A new DD design for this blog is also in the works!


Crusted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts . . . .the word sends chills down many people's spines, remembrances of being forced to finish the little green offenders as children haunting us still as adults. I had never tried them until recently, coming from a household that apparently wasn't too keen on them to begin with. I will admit that prepared in certain ways, the sprouts can have an unpleasantly bitter flavor, so the key is to eat them right away, while they are hot from the pan/oven. They are also really yummy raw, grated into salads with carrots and other root veggies, with a taste reminiscent of raw cabbage.

This preparation is quite minimal; make sure to choose small, tightly closed brussel sprouts. I used asiago cheese when I made these, but many cheeses will work here, especially harder and saltier cheeses, like Parmesan, Gruyere, sharp Cheddars, Gouda and Manchego. You can throw any number on toppings that would pair with the cheese of your choice . . . I like pine nuts, hazelnuts,walnuts on top and for the meat eaters, pancetta or bacon. Experiment with flavor combinations, brussels are available all winter long, being a winter green, so they're available fresh in markets for many months!

24 small brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated cheese of your choice

Begin by washing your brussel sprouts well, trimming any outside raggedy leaves. Cut in half legnthwise and brush gently with olive oil, being careful to leave the halves intact.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Make sure that the skillet isn't too hot, as it will cook the outer leaves too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan cut side down in a single layer, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, checking every so often; the bottoms of the sprouts should brown only slightly. Cut into a sprout to test the tenderness; if it's still a bit hard, give it another 2 or 3 minutes.

Once tender and slightly browned, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until cut sides are deep brown and caramelized. With a flat spatula or spoon, toss and tip to round sides to brown those slightly. Season right away off the heat with salt, pepper, and the cheese. Eat immediately.


Fig Jam

I actually made this jam about 3 weeks ago, when black mission figs were at their absolute peak. I had about 20 leftover from a figapolooza of party appetizers (thinly sliced figs with prosciutto on top, drizzled with honey on rustic bread) and wanted to make something quick and delicious. The cinnamon in this recipe is very subtle, but can be omitted if you don't like the spice.

Fig Jam
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 lb. mission figs (about 10-12 figs)
1 3 inch strip lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick, or 2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 lemon juiced

Add water and sugar to a pot and place on medium heat to dissolve, stirring often. Thinly peel a 3 inch long piece of fresh lemon skin, and juice of half of the same lemon, discarding any seeds.

Wash and remove the stems from the figs and cut into small pieces. Add to the sugar mixture in pot along with lemon zest, cinnamon stick or powder, and lemon juice. Bring the mix to a light simmer, stirring often to break up lumps, and leave the pan uncovered. Cook for about 1 hour or until the mix thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.

I love this jam by itself on bread or crackers, with goat cheese, spread on a piece of fine dark chocolate, and with dishes containing rosemary. I bet this would be the perfect base from which to experiment making homemade fig newtons too!


Browser Shopping at: Rare Device

I'm broke. Who else is broke? Let's see a show of hands. You there in the back, with your hand down and the monocle! You're in the wrong class (or the right socio-economic one, lucky duck!) because today we're going fantasy shopping at Rare Device, a San Francisco design shop and gallery! Oh well, you can stay if you promise to share your spoils.

Let's begin, class:

Rare Device excels in cultivating a charmingly modern rustic style, using local artists of the same mind to litter its shop with handmade homegoods and art.

We begin with their ceramics, which inspire a passionate object-lust in me unmatched by few other things.

rainbow bird tile , the mason jar, sake set, Diana Fayt salt and pepper cellars, Terracotta and ceramic vase

The bird tile is a functional trivet, so when it's not on my (fantasy kitchen wall) it's on the table, supporting my casseroles. The mason jars I would stuff with a few birch tree-branches in the fall, and fill with homemade sangria in the summer. And oh, that sake jar. Not a household that consumes sake regularly enough to justify its intentioned function, it would be resting on the floor with its aesthetic brethren, the Ikea PS vases. The salt and pepper cellars are a perfect answer to the ubiquitous wood or acrylic shakers that most everyone uses, if you don't insist on fresh ground pepper and sea salt. And the terracotta-peekaboo-top ceramic-glazed vases I would love to turn into squat pendant lamps, with the help of a friendly electrician and a cord set.

small tripod pot

I especially love the oh-so-ingenious tripod pot. Not only is it gorgeous, it would eliminate the huge water marks left by traditional flower and plant pots on my wooden deck.
Jo Bayer barnacle container

Isn't this barnacle hanging container the loveliest? I'd love to see 3 or 4 hanging in a row over my work desk to hold paintbrushes, tacks, and other sundry object. Sigh. Someday, barnacle loves!

Moving on to light-emitting objects:
letter lights, , milk glass pendant

And on the subject of ingenious, how about these wonderful letter pendant lights? I would love to get four to spell out 'H O M E" over our farmer's style table. The milk glass light captures my love for the delicate rustic style of the vintage milk glass trinkets I amass religiously. The light shining through these babies looks like a perfect glow for a dining area and I love the saucer repurposed as a base.

Taxidermy 202: Advanced

So the taxi-trend is reaching a fever pitch, and here is an advanced specimen for your consideration:

Rachel Denny cabled knit buck head, swallow bk pewter cast bird feet

Aren't these delightfully odd? The Rachel Denny knit deer head, made of poly, wood, and wool knit, is a sophisticated, coy, and beautiful twist on the dead things we have been tacking to our walls and perching on our mantels in the past year. Those adjectives do not normally co-exist together, readers! For those of us in upper-tax brackets, the $650 will find you a recipient of a smart little deer to call your own, in a decidedly handmade soup-to-nuts approach. Swallow (a Brooklyn NY outfit), marches on with some charming pewter-cast bird feet. I would prop this on our fantasy dining room table and encourage dinner-party guests to speculate on the species of bird-feet this cruelty-free piece is based on. Fun and decorative? It is!

Rare Device, what can I say? I'm in love. Thanks for letting us press our grubby noses to your shop windows today.