Monday, December 12, 2011

Now's the time! (Or, maybe, not.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I bought it on a whim, just an impulse buy. A gorgeous, long red scarf, the lightest of challis wool, kind of leopard-y with gray leopard trim. And it was on sale. I snapped it right up.

Okay, so that's not surprising, actually. But what is surprising. I took it home, and I wore it the next day! I snipped the tags right off, put on the scarf, and wore it to work. Very happy. Very proud of myself.

Now if you're thinking--uh, Hank? So what? Here's the deal. I never wear or use things right after I get them. If it's clothes, I hang them in the front of my closet, and kind of, look at them for a few...days. Or longer. And then, when something makes me decide the time is absolutely right, I wear it.

Problem is, once you wait, "the perfect time" gets more difficult to assess.

Jonathan and I went to Italy--I think ten years ago. We bought wine, of course, and had it shipped home. Brunello di Montalcino 1997 and 1998. Fabulous. We had to wait several years, of course, but was ready. Still, it was never quite the right time to drink it. One New Year's Eve we had a bottle, I think.

But this year-- I said--hey. This is ridiculous. We're drinkin' the wine. We had it for Thanksgiving. Delicious, yes. But so silly to wait. I mean--what if it had gone bad?

The champagne people gave me for the books? Sits there, waiting. My mother gave me some gorgeous, sensational red suede gloves a few years ago--incredibly thin suede, very elegant, with a tiny suede rose on each wrist. Too beautiful! I thought. I can't wear them.

But now I've remembered reading about a 9/11 victim... when they came to her apartment, afterwards, they discovered beautiful lingerie, all lacy and luscious, all carefully wrapped in a ribbon in her drawer. She was, apparently, waiting for the perfect time.

And now, I'm thinking about wearing the gloves.

Are you a saver? A Waiter? Or do you jump right in?

HALLIE EPHRON: There's nothing in my closet or drawers right now that I haven't worn, because the minute I buy something I use it. My mother-in-law was a waiter. A lovely woman, after she died we found, still wrapped in tissue paper, scarves and linens we'd given her years ago. Which I immediately adopted and USED.

It's the use-it-once things that break my heart. Like the sexy sandals that nearly killed my feet. The Eileen Fisher sweater that has just enough wool in it to really really itch. Can't bear to get rid of 'em; can't stand to wear 'em.

Though I think we might still have a bottle of Brunello in the basement... running down to check.

HANK: Let us know, Hallie, we could come over...

RHYS BOWEN: Oh Hank, this struck a painful chord with me. I'm a terrible saver, in fact I was about to blog on this very subject. I was raised with the concept of "saving for best"--the dress one only wore to church, the party shoes. I have a bag of cashmere sweaters that I wear only on special occasions. How silly is that. My daughter wears cashmere all the time because she likes the feel of it. So I'm trying to change.

I'm wearing my Christmassy clothes for the month of December, not just saving them for luncheons, because they put me in the festive spirit. But I have to confess that I have several pairs of shoes in my closet that were bought because they look gorgeous, but kill me after a few minutes and I can't get rid of them. So the Jungle Reds new motto should be "carpe diem"!

HANK: Or, Caveat Shoe-tor. Maybe not...why do we always believe that SOMEDAY they'll be okay? (Or maybe..we should all trade shoes?)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm all for "carpe diem!" I'm trying really hard to think of something I've "saved for best" or for a "special occasion..." I would drink out of crystal every day except I keep breaking the glasses.

I have, however, fallen victim, like Hallie, to the impulse buy that was a mistake but that I just can't bear to let go. There's the gorgeous pair of shoes in my closet from White House Black Market. Black and white crocodile-y leather, open-toed pumps with a little platform and six-inch heels. To die for! And I CAN'T wear them. They might as well be instruments of medieval torture. But they are so beautiful I can't bear to give them away. Maybe I'm waiting for my feet (and my spine) to be magically transformed, so that one day I'll slip them on and they won't hurt.

Back to fiction . . .

: I have a pair like that. Leopard print stiletto heels. I am SO not a leopard-print stiletto heels kind of woman, but these are the kind of shoes you put on and suddenly you look like Sophia Loren. I wore them once, to a Bouchercon party my publisher threw. I was so crippled I could barely walk the next day. But have I given them away? No, I have not. As soon as I forget how much they hurt, I plan to wear them again.

As for the rest of it - I'm a user, not a saver. The family silver, the Spode setting for 14 that was Ross's grandparents' - I invent reasons to get it out. Ultimately, it's the same reason I'm hanging on to those damn heels: I enjoy having beautiful things around me.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: You know, I didn't see Hank's name at the top of this post and as soon as I read red, leopard-y scarf, I thought - "oh, it's Hank!"

Just so I'm clear, we're not talking about the slightly too young, too short, too tight items. The first thing that leaps to mind is a perfectly gorgeous, snowy white Anne Fontaine blouse which has rosettes instead of buttons. What was I thinking? I'll never wear it - because I'm not neat enough. It would break my heart to see the inevitable olive oil stain.

I'm proud to say I have gotten over my "saving it for something special" feeling about the two Chanel bags which have now broken into the rotation and make me feel special every time I wear them.

I have a harder time with stuff - linens, china and silver. I have to remind myself to use the nice ones. It was hard the first time someone broke one of my Waterford glasses or the wet dog climbed onto the Frette coverlet. But hey, it's only stuff.

JAN BROGAN: If we are talking about the slightly too young, too short, too tight items Ro mentioned, I have a short leopard dress I bought in Aix-en-Provence that I will NEVER, EVER WEAR unless perhaps, I decide to go as a hooker some Halloween. And at the time, I was shopping with my daughter who usually wards off such purchases and steers me to something classic that I don't really like when I buy it, but start loving six months after. I think we were both unduly influenced by all the French women on the streets who look sexy no matter what time of day it is and no matter how old they are.

Hank, I don't think I "save" new items of clothing, but I don't wear the good ones enough. Lately, I've tried to get over that because Ro, you might as well spill oil on that snowy white Anne Fontaine blouse because if you wait to long to wear it, it's going to be terribly out-of-style.

HANK: Yes, I so agree. Some things are the most perfect the moment you buy them...and somehow the magic fades as they hang there, unworn.

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm more of a saver. But I busted the tag off a sweater this week after reading what the rest of you had to say. I also have trouble with excellent greeting cards. If I pick out something particularly beautiful and special, I have to make myself send it. Otherwise, what is the point, right?

But my grandmother Lucille's green glass goblets? I can't make myself use them. I'd feel too bad if one got broken...and have no idea what they are so couldn't begin to replace them.

HANK: Lucy, you mean--you buy the perfect card, and then the occasion for sending it is never the right one? I've done that, too! So silly. And as for the goblets--what would your grandmother want you to do? (Especially now that you're her namesake?) I'll use my Gramma's crystal and silver compote dishes if you use the glass goblets.

How about you, dear reds? Are you users? Or waiters?


  1. I'm definitely a user. As soon as I get something new, I try to think of an excuse to wear it. My mom gave me a beautiful purple cashmere sweater Friday night. I wore it Saturday to a concert. And this week for work, I have a black zippered shirt I'm dying to debut. Of course, I've also bought my share of Little Mermaid shoes -- tortury things that make my feet feel like they're stepping on knives.

  2. Dear Hank--Wear the gloves to celebrate your mom and how much she loved you and knew who you were.

    One probably shouldn't give completely unasked for advice pre-caffeine on a Monday morning.)

    PS: I'm a use it/wear it/rejoice in it immediately kind of gal.

  3. Shizuka--that's so impressive! And exactly the spirit. ANd so funny--Little Mermaid shoes. That's how I'll think of htem from now on. *Why* do we do that?

    I have some Brian Atwoods, taupe suede with a brown velvet bow, a mile high. IMPOSSIBLE. Is there a way to make them into ...centerpieces?

  4. Oh, thanks Laura. Yup, my very plan. I THINK I can.

    And, smiling, I could have prediected you were a rejoicer. xoo

  5. You gals are inspirational this morning - YES to the unused shoes as centerpieces. What a fun idea for the girlfriends lunch or dinner.
    Jan, you would look so magnificent in that dress. Hank, the gloves are wonderful..what is it about fabric that's looks like roses that is so cool?
    this post reminded me of the old bumper sticker DON'T POSTPONE JOY.

    Shizuka, you always look lovely and the black zippered shirt sounds killer!

  6. I'm a saver but I'm trying to cure myself. Lately I've been forcing myself to wear "good" clothes on an ordinary day, rather than waiting for a special occasion - which never seems to arrive. This year I've determined to use the good china for more than Christmas dinner. And what the heck, I might even let the Waterford be touched, hehe.

  7. Oh I am a user!! I can remember a friend of my Mom's being rather shocked that there was a small cut glass creamer on our dinner table for everyday use... Well, this may also be why the 'good' china and glassware is chipped.. we used it!!
    I do like the shoe centerpiece idea.. too bad mine would all be flipflops & sneakers.. I haven't bought a pair of dress heels since forever.. but boy I sure like looking at them!!

  8. So--shall we make a pact? Today, USE something special. I'm in.

    Let's see...lemme think...we can celebrate the first week in December. I'll use special china for dinner. Yes! I will. Tomorrow.

    And, whoa, can't believe it..maybe I'll break out a new dress for the party tonight--yes, Monday, but it's the holidays.

  9. All this discussion got me thinking about my canned goods. Sorry, my mind always goes to food. And THERE, boy do I have impulse purchases with sell-by dates that have long expired. Crstallized ginger -- three packages of it. Canned chipotle peppers. Jams... lots of jams (fig, cherry, cassis -- when all I really like is raspberry.) I feel a New Year's resolution coming on.

  10. It depends. I have shoes older than my daughter, and I may have worn them three times, but they're too good to throw away, and they still fit. For that matter, I have a pair of ice skates I was given when I was 16--when was the last time I went ice skating?

    I think my own personal prize goes to a set of Baccarat wine glasses I bought at the Baccarat showroom in Paris--in 1971. They are so thin that you can flex the bowls. Of course I don't dare use them!

  11. Yeah, Hallie, what if you NEEDED Angostura bitters?I mean someone might want a Manhattan, right?

  12. Sheila, you can flex the bowls? That's downright scary--but still, they're made to use. Well, maybe not those...but you can put them in my shoe centerpiece!

    With maybe a few a of HAllie's jelly jars.

  13. I'm a user - never knowingly underdressed. Huge damask napkins every night. Dumpster-dived and designer bags on the same coathook in the laundry room. Flower garden denuded because they're all in vases in the house.

    Hank, those gloves are heaven.

  14. I realize I have a bottle of Bollinger champagne in my garage, waiting for the perfect moment. After this inspirational morning I'm tempted just to pop that cork and drink it on an ordinary night with John. What do you think?

  15. But if you use everything every day, how will you know when it's a special occasion?

    Guess I'm a mixture--I like to wear new clothing right away, for the most part, but like Hallie I save foodie items for some fabulous fantasy dinner I might have.

    Come to think of it, that's why I have an inordinately large fabric stash of sometimes exquisite silks, wools, and linens collected from hither and yon. Saving for that special time, which means some special time when all the stars align: Enough time to design and make a perfectly fitting garment that takes the most advantage of the gorgeous fabric. Uh-hunh.

  16. Flower-picking. Cat, that seaprates the men from the boys, I must say.

    I solved it, sort of, by having part of the garden kind of over-planted and designated for cutting. And I STILL hesitate. This spring, I'll attack. Having my own flowers inside is such a treat.

  17. Karen, becausse every day is special in it's own way?

    And Rhys, you have LOTS to celebrate. I say--yes.

  18. When it comes to clothes, I'm a user. I hate to shop for clothes so when I buy something I wear it right away. Shoes--well, like Deb I have back issues, so I'll join you all with the stiletto centerpiece. The only shoes I wear now are flats.

    Hallie, so funny about the food. My husband, Ben, is like that. He goes to the store for chicken and potatoes and comes home with jars and tins of exotic foodstuffs that sit in our cupboards until they've expired and have to be thrown out.

    With house stuff, though, I'm a saver. I come from poverty and never had much in early adult years that I didn't make myself, so there was nothing to save. Then Ben's family died on us. Our house now holds the china, glasses, silver, linens, etc. of three whole middle-class households. I love having all the beautiful things and have wonderful memories of his grandparents and parents associated with each, but i keep saving them for special.

    But tonight, I think I'll break out the damask tablecloth and the Waterford glasses and Noritake china. We'll celebrate the first week of December with you, Hank!

  19. I'm with Cat. I have loads of antique roses and I CUT them. I make huge blowsy bouquets for the kitchen, where I'll enjoy them the most.

    I have my mom's china as well as my own, the same pattern, and I'd be happy to use it more often except it has a gold rim and you can't put it in the microwave:-)

    My big issue is the clothes I wear around the house every day. I don't know about you other work-at-homes, but I wear AWFUL things. Worn out, baggy old shorts in the summer, shabby old mismatched sweats in the winter. Maybe I need to treat myself to some Juicy Couture....

  20. Linda, hurray. We'll toast to you..maybe Rhys can join in with her champagne!

    And ah, yes, Debs, the dreaded metal on the plates. There's a modern problem for you! (Like the no-sterling in the dishwasher..sigh.)

  21. For a gal who insists she's not a collector, I've got a surprisingly full china cabinet -- and do try to use most of it regularly. Not quite sure what to serve in the mugs my parents got as a wedding present with handles in the shape of naked ladies, though ... .

    Love the image of the shoes in the centerpiece!

    Hallie, crystallized ginger is excellent in shortbread, esp with a dark chocolate drizzle. As the family foodies, we end up with all kinds of odd things our relatives are attracted to but know they wouldn't use. "Oh, let's give that to Leslie!" Every so often I pull one out and see what we can do with it. Working my way through 8 kinds of salt. Fig jam is great with goat cheese on bruschetta. But what to do with the Road Kill Rub???

  22. I hate shopping. No. I REALLY hate shopping. When I go to buy something, it's a search and destroy mission because I need it. Once I procure whatever I'm after, it gets used/worn/distributed immediately.

    Hank, I've used cowboy boots for centerpieces, why not heels? I think that's an adorable idea! I'm all about comfort when it comes to footwear. And clothes. I'm old and comfortable like a fuzzy blanket. LOL

    And seriously, all you collector/hoarder types? USE IT! WEAR IT! ENJOY IT! ;-)

  23. When it comes to clothes, earrings and most shoes I'm a wear-it-now kinda gal--I've even worn the shoes before getting out of the store, esp. the really comfy ones!(Sometimes I rationalize I'm "breaking them in") But, like everyone else, I've also had buyer's remorse when it comes to the impossible to wear (but cute)footwear that languish in the closet for years. (I did purge some decades old ones a few years ago, felt so much better!) And I've made a few mistakes with the impulse SALE items.

    Hallie,I often think we're twins separated at birth--my kitchen pantry gets wildly out of control with those beautiful and exotic food items, tho' I do actually try to use most of them at least once, when I can see them or recall that they exist in there! I'm with you on goals for the New Year!

    When I pick flowers from our yard I tend to leave at least one or two blooms to look at outside, but love to fill the house with the rest.

    We don't entertain as often as we used to, so the "good stuff" hasn't seen the light of day as often, but I'm going to change that and make more ordinary days a celebration! This has been a fun & inspiring post and I've really enjoyed everyone's comments!

    PS- Hank, those gloves are GORGEOUS. You *must* wear them, ASAP!

  24. I did think once upon a time about taking some of the gorgeous tablecloths we inherited and turning them into one or more jackets. (Special jackets with patchwork or embroidery or other folk-art techniques are my true weakness.) But I haven't sat at my sewing machine for more than emergency mending in over a year and don't expect to have a chance to do anything like that in the foreseeable future. Writing novels has taken over my life--or at least what free time I had after freelance work. *sigh*

  25. Breaking stuff doesn't matter if you mix and match anyway. I'd never put six identical plates on a table, so a set of five in the cupboard is fine. And if worst comes to worst and all but one
    are broken, the last one becomes a treasured plate/glass/bowl that I use when it's just me and the couch and Commander Adama.

    I do get the impulse to keep inherited breakable or wear-outable things intact, but I've been to so many estate sales where clearly no one wanted these treasures that I think I'd still rather use them

    How do you know when it's a special day is a good question, though. From the food, the number of glasses for different wine, the extra candles and flowers, the sprigs of rosemary wound round the napkins. The strands of fairy lights wrapped around the chair of the guest of honour.

    "love of decoration" does sometimes shade into "off my meds".

  26. Deb, you should definitely splurge on some Juicy. The sweats are super comfy, of course, but make you feel somehow less schleppy than other ones. Maybe because you can still look like a girl in them? I'm wearing mine right now.

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  28. Shizuka,
    You realize you were one of the winners of the Challenge, yesterday right?

    And that you have to email me your address so we can send you your prize?

    See yesterday's post!!

    And congrats again!

  29. Hank, 'fraod I'm a waiter. I drive my friends who are not, crazy.
    Hope you don't mind if I butt in with my Mexican cookies recipe, requested by Hallie.
    Mexican Fiesta Balls

    1 cup butter (uh-huh, 1/2 pound) room temperature
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    2 cups sifted flour
    1/4 cup cocoa
    1 tablespoon dry instant coffee
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
    1/2 cup pecans
    1/2 cup powdered sugar (or not)
    Using an electric mixer beat butter until smooth and gradually add the granulated sugar. Add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add all dry ingredients which have been combined in a bowl with a whisk. Fold in cherries and nuts. Chill until easy to form into 1-inch balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 325• for 20 minutes. If you want to dip them in the powdered sugar, do so while still warm. Makes 5 dozen 1-inch balls.
    We have been known to substitute carob for cocoa, or to make them without nuts and powdered sugar.

  30. Ann, thanks for the recipe!

    Cat, love the fairy lights around the guest of honor's chair--that's a keeper!

    And Deb, I love my schlumpy old sweats. I get back into them as soon as I come in the door. And wear them until they're in tatters and my hub insists they get thrown out...

  31. Ann, I bet no one saves any of those cookies!

    Cat, mismatched plates. Doing it. I always use different dinner plates and from the salad plates and different from the dessert plates, but I never though about intra-mixing. Wonderful.

    Which I agree, means one-of-each is terrific. Life-changing.

    Okay, wearing the gloves TONIGHT! I just realized they go with my dress whichI have also never worn. I will think of you all in my finery!

  32. Ann - THANKS for the recipe! I'm printing it out now. Somehow I was expecting there to be a little chile in them...
    These look like bourbon balls only better.

  33. Great, Hank! You will look gorgeous, of course!

  34. Hallie, That's an interesting suggestion. Our kids continue the tradition, so I'm going to suggest to them that they try chipotle or some other hot spice in a few and see what they think. If I could eat them, I think they might just be very interesting.

  35. Oh, it depends. Shoes and bags I use right away. Just Saturday I bought a new wallet and was switching things into it at the stoplights - and I was on my way home, but I couldn't wait!

    Clothes go in the closet with tags on. I eventually get around to wearing them.

  36. Nancy Jo, that's great! I can just picture it...

    Tomorrow, come back--there's lots more to talk about. Can't wait to hear what you think!