Friday, May 22, 2015

The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats

I read this for the fifty classics project and because W. B. Yeats is one of my favorite poets.  It doesn't really read like an autobiography, but is an account of the literary, artistic, and theatrical luminaries he associated with.  Many of whom I hadn't heard of.  If you are going to read this, it might be helpful to brush up on who was important in the arts in the 1880's-1910's, as well as refresh your knowledge of the pre-Raphaelites.  I am familiar with Oscar Wilde, of course, and Yeats' description of how he decorated his house is one of the gems in this book.  (All white with touches of red.  It sounds like Wilde's drawing room would have been at home in any modern decorating magazine, but must have been deemed singular in the 1880s.)

Here are some pictures of Yeats.  Handsome, no?  I was so struck by his resemblance to Daniel Day Lewis, I had to make sure DDL didn't actually play Yeats in a movie.

Young Yeats

W.B. Yeats or Daniel Day Lewis?

I think we can all agree that William Butler Yeats ranks with  literary hotties such as Charles Lamb and Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Thank goodness he had the sense not to grow dreadful Victorian facial hair.

The Autobiography turned out to be a challenge.  It starts out kindly, with Yeats' memories of his childhood in Sligo, but soon you're grappling with the complex literary and spiritual societies Yeats associated with.  He was a member of The Golden Dawn, for example, a society that studied mysticism and the occult.  He was also active in a movement to resurrect Irish literature and drama.  I think of Ireland as having a strong literary tradition, and in my opinion, the Irish are the best writers in the English language.  But Yeats, of course, would have been unaware of how enormous his own contribution to Irish literature was to be, and was writing about the pre-Joyce Ireland.  The Autobiography concludes with his experiences in Sweden, accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

I don't know how to conclude this post.  I might have said that I feel enriched for having read this, but Yeats writes in the Autobiography about the limited mental capacity of people who are always trying to enrich themselves.  I never thought I was a genius, but it's unpleasant to see yourself grouped with the lumpen proletariat.  Oh well.

Let's conclude with a poem.  Yeats was my grandfather's favorite poet, and sometimes he would recite for us, from memory, his favorite of Yeats' poems.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Building a Professional Wardrobe Part I: What Doesn't Work

After college, I worked as a nanny, and before too long I was married and at home full time with my own babies.  When I finally got around to starting a career (nineteen years after graduating from college!) I wore scrubs to work every day.  When I left bedside nursing to take an analyst position, I had reached my forties without ever having had to create a work wardrobe. So there I was, entering a professional office environment for the first time in my life, with nothing but my SAHM and student clothes.  Which were awful and inadequate, even for our business casual dress code.

An example item from my SAHM wardrobe.

So I bought some clothes, but I went about it in a stupid way and now I am going to show you some of my silly purchases and explain why they don't work in a professional wardrobe.

J. Crew

What's wrong with this skirt?  For one thing, the stiff fabric and the pleats are unflattering.  This skirt looks terrible with any top that's not tucked in. If I wear it with a sweater, I look like a walking version of the Charlottesville coal tower. It isn't easy to mix and match, and it's only suitable for fall and winter. I wear this skirt, at most, three times a year.  I'm going to keep it, because it has its uses, but it's not practical.

Cville coal tower  or Patience in her brown skirt?


Friends don't let friends buy clothes from Boden. Seriously,  Boden's clothes are often disappointing. This looked fantastic in the catalog. A skater skirt? What was I thinking?  I wore it to work once, and regretted it the whole day. 

J. Crew
Weird, uncomfortable fabric that is neither warm enough for cold weather, nor cool enough for warm weather.  The back zip, which I thought was a neat style feature, just catches my hair.  Goes well with some of my trousers, so I'm keeping it for now, but I hardly ever wear it.


Like the plaid skirt, this is a one-off.  The sleeves contrast with the body of the jacket, which looks hokey, and it has blue elbow patches. I can't wear it very often, and in general, blazers are just not my thing and tweed is really not my thing, and tweed is not Zara's thing.  They didn't do it well. Why did I even buy it?  Because I was intoxicated by the low post-holiday prices.  When it's time to get dressed, I always ignore my blazers and go for a cardigan.

Garnet Hill
I swear it looked work-appropriate in the catalog.  In real life, it looks like a nightgown.  That said, it's brilliant for fat days, thus an ideal choice for the first day back at work after Thanksgiving.  I'm keeping it in order to have something to turn to in a "none of my pants fit" emergency.  I would really like a classic print knit wrap dress, but this isn't it.


I bought these shoes (Keen) thinking they'd be a good alternative to the Dansko clogs I usually wear.  It IS useful to have a pair of comfortable non-clog walking shoes, but these stumpify my legs and also flayed all the skin off the back of my ankles.

I learned that buying clothes without a plan left me left me in a position of having to buy even more clothes because I owned a closetful of disparate items that didn't work together. In general, clothes that don't work are those that can't be worn through at least three seasons and don't work as mix and match with multiple items. (An exception to the mix and match rule is dresses.  A basic dress that you can throw on and maybe add a scarf or cardigan is invaluable.)

Now you've had a tour of the more shameful items in my closet.  I hope to write again soon about basics that I've bought that have helped me put together a more cohesive work wardrobe.  What about you?  Any mistakes in your work wardrobe?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Slices of Life

Last week was absolute shit, both at work and at home.  My left shin is a bloody mess due to anxiety-provoked psoriasis scratching. Whatever. The whole point of life is to suffer, right?  I usually find comfort in books, but last week I was reading The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian.  This is one of the last of his stellar Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series and the first of these books to be disappointing.  Now I am reading The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, which is good, but not a comfort read.

Jon and I often do something celebratory on Friday nights, but this week I went on a tidying spree and tossed out a huge pile of papers and old magazines and catalogs and gathered a bag of items to take to the Salvation Army.  A cathartic clean is a good way to end a difficult week.

Saturday, after the gym, and in a more cheerful frame of mind, I rode my bike to the farmer's market, ostensibly to buy local strawberries, but also to visit Jon and friends at the Mad Hatter booth.  I spotted one of Charlottesville's iconic local residents, dressed in leather lederhosen, pull out an inch-thick stack of two dollar bills to pay for his purchases at one of the farm stands.

I spent a good chunk of the weekend learning to sew knit fabric.  I had a huge piece of stretch knit that I got for free and Grace asked me to make her a maxi skirt.  I wasn't sure about sewing knits without a serger.  I've had bad luck in the past, and my sewing machine manual wasn't very helpful, but it does make a sort of tiny, tight zigzag stitch that made a nice, secure, un-puckery seam.  I used a jersey needle.  The skirt itself isn't perfect, but just knowing that I can sew on knit fabric gives me so many more sewing options.  I wear a lot of knits and there are so many nice patterns for knits, particularly among indie pattern designers.  I felt a bit limited, sticking to woven fabric.

I didn't have a pattern, but used this tutorial. I would never have purchased this fabric.  It's thin and skimpy, and I'm not sure what it's intended for.  An online fabric shop sent it to me by mistake and let me keep it even after I notified them of the error.

I found some great library books with projects suitable for leftover yarn and fabric scraps.  I finished this wool gauntlet, and I think I have just enough yarn left to complete its mate. I can't even remember what I made with this yarn originally.

There's supposed to be a little strap across the wrist,
with leather buttons, which I'll knit if I have enough yarn.

I also watched An Education, (for the second time) which is a great movie.  Set in 1961,  it's about an Oxford-hopeful English schoolgirl who is introduced to a glamorous lifestyle after randomly meeting a charming and worldly man.  It stars Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard and the cast includes some of my favorites: Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, and Emma Thompson. Highly recommended.  Have you seen it?

Oh, and I won the Gordy's Pickle Jar giveaway from Relay Foods!  A free jar of Gordy's Cajun okra, hot chili spears, and bloody Mary mix are coming my way.  A nice Mothers' Day surprise, and, I hope, an omen of a better week to come.