Wednesday, April 29, 2009


My first "real" knitting project. Not bad. It definitely looks home-made, but then I think that's part of its charm.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Used Bookstore Treasure

Saturday morning I went downtown to have my hair done. As I was a few minutes early, I stopped into a nearby used bookstore to see if I could find any thing on my collectible books wishlist.

Now, this bookstore isn't the world's greatest treasure trove of rare books, but in the past I have found a few gems (to me) such as Osa Johnson's I Married Adventure with its iconic animal-print binding and Alexandra Stoddard's first book, Style For Living, in immaculate hardcover.

Usually I browse a number of sections (biography, women's studies, children's series, among others), but today I just popped up to the third floor to look at the jumble of fashion, etiquette and decorating books tucked into a little closet. Many of the volumes have been on the shelves since I first moved to the area: I've been eyeing four volumes of the Social Register from the 1970s for years but have resisted purchasing. Why would I need them? However, since I have a great interest in the 1960s Jet Set culture--think Slim Aarons--it might be fun to have them on hand to browse... Hmm. I'll probably break down one of these days.

I was seeing all the usual and I was about to leave, when I saw this sitting on the floor, propped up against the shelves:

Now, if you've read my post which includes my Amazon Wishlist, you know that I'm coveting The Best of Flair by Fleur Cowles. Flair was a magazine, edited by Fleur Cowles, published from February 1950 through January 1951. Twelve issues. It was special (also called "legendary" and "revolutionary') because of its pull-out-the-stops dedication to superb design and production values--you'll see why in a moment. Contributors included members of the top echelons of power and fame. Flair survived only a year, they say, because the incredible costs of its production brought about its demise. I've only seen it once before; when the re-print first came out, in the mid nineteen nineties, I was working in a bookstore on the Monterey peninsula and one of the other booksellers had ordered it for her mother as a Christmas gift. We opened it up and oohed and ahhed over the beautiful spreads and clever cut-outs.

So I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw "Flair" writ across the cover of this unassuming gray binder. Inside:

All total, the first six volumes (half the total tun), in incredible condition, of Flair. Bound together. And no price.

I had to hurry, and I thought hard. It had been a long time since I'd done any research on the magazine and at the time I wasn't even sure how many issues of the magazine were ultimately published. I knew the price of the reprint--of course as a librarian I keep a copy of my Wishlist in myFilofax--and I calculated furiously. After all I had a hair appointment looming!

Should I wait and research a price after my appointment? What could I afford to pay? (Not much...we're having our house painted and of course there's always those damn tuition bills!) What was it actually worth? How savvy was the bookstore owner?

I hastily determined that I wanted to pay $20, I would pay up to $50 and any more than that I would go home and do some research. I knew that the risk was once the bookshop owner had it in her hands, she'd have time to look into it too and that could be expensive!

I approached the counter with a polite smile and handed her the binder, mentioning as casually as I could that there was no price listed and could she tell me what it might be? She slowly ruffled through the pages and turned the binder over in her hands. "It look like it has book marks in it."

"Oh, no," I said quickly,"those are inserts. This particular magazine was well know for its inclusions!" She looked at me suspiciously.

Damn! She's been warned that this might be something special! I'm such an idiot, I thought.

She considered again. Finally, she said, "seventy-five."

Damn! Over my budget, but...

"Will you take fifty?" I asked. "How about sixty?" she replied. Done.

So here it is. From the Paris issue:

Look at the little cut-outs! Like an advent calendar!

From the Men's Issue:

A playbill is inserted into one issue:

A pretty fashion spread about roses:

Also from the Paris issue, a picture of (and accompanying article authored by) Evangeline Bruce, wife of the French ambassador, David Bruce. I first became enamoured with Vangie Bruce reading Leticia Baldridge's A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome. Ms. Baldridge worked for the Bruces in the American Embassy in Paris. She wrote admiringly of Ms. Bruce, and I did some follow-up research. Evangeline Bruce is a renowned author in her own right, as well as being recognized as one of the foremost hostesses of her time. The Peak of Chic recently posted an entry on Evangeline Bruce's decorating style.


High Fashion:

Celebrity Profiles:

I now of course want to find the last six issues; I'm haunted as to if there is another binder somewhere and where it may have landed! I've set up a search in Ebay and I'm still trying to figure out what is a good price for these treasures. In the meantime, I'm loving everything about my find--the ads are as much fun to read/gaze on as the features--and I feel so lucky!

Now if only my luck holds out tonight for the Mega-Million drawing...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


So I'm on the second week of Fat Flush and the cravings I have demonstrate just how unsophisticated a person I am.

1. Lofthouse Cookies. Since my sons went out on their own, my husband and I have developed an unhealthy obsession with grocery store cookies, in particular those soft iced cookies from Lofthouse. I just looked up the nutritional information; do you know ONE of these cookies has 190 calories!? I usually eat a minimum of four at a sitting! (Thus the Fat Flush.) Another great grocery store cookie is Meijer's Sugar Cookies. We usually buy one container of each.

2. Powdered Donuts. When my husband and I were in college and our son was a baby, on Saturday mornings we used to buy powdered donuts, our neighbors would come over, and we would all lay on our pulled-out sofa bed eating the donuts and watch PeeWees Playhouse. Everytime I see them in the grocery store, I think about how delicious they are with a tall glass of cold milk and I know I could eat the whole bag, as long as the milk held out.

3. Dairy Queen Midnight Truffle Blizzard. They advertise this all the time on television recently, and it absolutely kills me.

4. Communion Bread. Last weekend during communion, my husband and I (we joked later) were wickedly tempted to grab the host/loaf from the pastor's hands and run down the aisle with it a la Jean Valjean, knawing voraciously on its delicious carbs.

5. Cupcakes. Preferably Red Velvet with rich cream cheese frosting but I'd settle happily for the Hostess variety. But I'd want more than two!

6. Any dessert from Babalu, which sells "desserts as big as your head!" When I lived in Santa Monica, I'd run over just before going to bed and select an enormous slice of pie to ensure sweet dreams.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Magazine Subscriptions

The gorgeous Jessica Lange. I think she's incredibly cool.

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. It was a pretty weekend here; Saturday there was a marathon through our town and my husband and I awoke early and went out to watch the racers (and grab some pastries at the local bakery). I scrubbed the winter dirt off my Saab convertible and gave it a good polish--unfortunately it's still too cold to take the top down, but I'm ready! Our neighbors came over with a bottle of wine later that night and then Easter Sunday: church and, afterwards, lamb chops and couscous and spring vegetables.

Today we're starting our bi-annual Fat Flush. Hmm. There'll be little joy around this household for the next two weeks!

Anyway, I was going through my list of magazine subscriptions and I found it interesting to see how my subscription list has changed either because my interests have shifted or, sadly, the magazine went out of publication. What do you read now? Here's what arrives regularly at Chez La Vie:

Bon Appetit (husband)
Cook's Illustrated (husband)
New Yorker

Town & Country

Vanity Fair

I recently let my subscription to Vogue lapse; about a year ago I stopped ordering Harper's Bazaar. I'm really looking for a style magazine that has less outrageous fashion and more useful presentations. Does anyone remember Mirabella magazine? I loved that magazine--that's the type of fashion magazine I'm looking for and it no longer exists. Upscale, but realistic. A bit of eye candy that I can actually aspire to.

The one home magazine I loved, Domino, has of course recently expired. I also used to subscribe to Cottage Living, but I was going to cancel it anyway before it went out of business because it seemed so focused on building new cottages, not decorating old ones. Other magazines I liked that died were Blueprint, Victoria (the original, not the new version), and House & Garden (with Dominique Browning as the editor). I saved all my old Victorias and Dominos. I also save my T&Cs. The rest I cut up and file.

What might I occasionally pick up in line at the grocery store or while browsing in Borders? InStyle, Elle, House Beautiful and of course US (in particular when I'm headed to the beach!). Maybe WWD. My husband likes car magazines as well as those with muscled men on the cover (for the workout routines, not the hot guys--apparently).

What magazines come to your home?