A tip o’ the hat.

Dear friends,

Guess what’s swarming all over Manhattan?

Hats.

Fedoras, Boaters, Panamas, Newsboys, Buckets, Berets, every kind of hat imaginable can be seen on men and women of all ages and all styles across the Big Apple.

If I had a buck for every time I turned to Kate during our trip to New York City and declared “I wish I had a HAT!” I could buy . . . well . . .  a hat.

I adore hats though I rarely wear them, save the occasional ball cap worn while canoeing down the river or a Coach rain hat I bought on deep discount and pull out during inclement weather. I try on hats every chance I get, but something always stops me from making the actual purchase.

Here’s one I’ve owned since Kate was a child.

I wore this hat one time. To Kate’s T-ball game in 1999. As I sat in the stands cheering her on, a small child playing nearby wandered over to me and asked “Why are you wearing that hat?”

“Because it’s hot,” I replied. “And I like it.”

“I don’t,” the young girl said very matter-of-factly before wandering off to write her name in the dirt.

I haven’t worn the hat since, though not because of that child’s withering criticism, but because it doesn’t fit particularly well and tends to fly off my head in the slightest breeze.

I keep vowing to buy and wear a fashionable hat and I keep failing to do so. Somehow I think middle-age women wearing hats in Midwestern small towns are a half-step away from crazy cat ladies in the minds of most people. But in New York . . . man would I have been in style.

For a glimpse of the vast array of hats I spotted during my trip to NYC, take a look at Bill Cunningham’s video essay from the New York Times. Bill’s a marvelous observer of style and I watch his segments often.  And who knows . . . maybe you’ll be inspired to buy a hat and I can live vicariously through you.

Bill Cunningham’s hats, hats and more hats.

With gratitude {for my sweet traveling companion who told me I looked lovely in every single hat I tried on during our trip},

Joan, who’s mustering up the courage to buy and/or wear a fashion hat before 2012 ends

A tale of two shoes.

Dear friends,

It was the best of fashion, it was the worst of fashion. It was the age of color, it was the age of drab. It was the epoch of glamor, it was the epoch of frumpy. It was the season of style, it was the season of comfort.

It — is my life in May.

I’m headed out next week to the teeming Texas cities of Houston and Austin for a four-day business trip. My itinerary includes a three-hour tour of NASA. (I’m not dropping names or anything, but I know a couple of astronauts so, you know, this is a really cool trip.) Anyway, I was pretty pumped about this part of my itinerary until I learned I needed specific footwear for NASA. As in — something I can walk and stand in comfortably for three hours, and no open toes or sling-backs.

I’m guessing you can figure out I have no such shoe. (I only buy cute shoes. So shoot me.)

Kate and I spent Thursday evening trying to find suitable (read: ugly) black shoes, since NASA also recommends trousers and I’m doing my best to “cute” things up a bit with my kicky Ann Taylor black pantsuit.

Here’s what I found.

Dreadful, I know. I aged 20 years as soon as I slipped them on. But they met all the criteria, including being surprisingly comfortable, so mine they are. I suspect they will get worn to NASA and never again, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay for our nation’s space pioneers.

Oh, and while I was at the store, I picked up these.

Now that’s more like it, baby! Purple suede, orange suede and gold lame. Is there a better combo to be found in a shoe? No, I say!

These adorable wedges might make an appearance at a Houston dinner party — I’m not sure yet — but I’m certain they will be seen at Kate’s graduation and they are most definitely going to Broadway. (Note to self: be sure to arrange a taxi from our hotel to the theater. Carrie Bradshaw might walk all over Manhattan in cute shoes, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.)

With gratitude {for new shoes and plenty of fun places to wear them},

Joan, who wore her spectacular suede shoes to the office yesterday and realized she was a towering 6’4″ in them, but seems to recall that Vogue declared “more is more” and surely that applies to stature, right?

A wondrous glimpse inside.

Dear friends,

I arrived home later than usual Thursday night and here’s what I found waiting for me on my desk:

Photo by Instagram

Is there anything that can make a girl’s heart skip a beat like a surprise package in the mail?

I removed the brown paper and it looked like this:

Photo by Instagram, X-Pro II filter

A wrapped gift and a handwritten note on February 2nd for no apparent reason? Be still my heart!

Turns out, it was an early Valentine. From my pen pal, Maridel. You’ve read Maridel’s comments on this space, no doubt. She’s a regular reader and a friend and a former colleague and a pen pal.

See that lovely hand-written note she sent? I get them all the time. I try to send a few, too, but she has me beat on the exchange rate.

Maridel and I worked together for many years. When she left our organization a few years ago, I was so traumatized that I wrote a short verse about how much I would miss her. I decopauged the verse, along with several clipped images, on the inside of a small, lidded jar and gave it to her.

Before you ooh and ahh, it was not my idea. (I’m not that clever.) It was an homage to my departing friend, who is both a stellar writer and an even more accomplished collage artist. I had long been a fan of her work, both her one-dimensional and her three-dimensional collages. We had enjoyed long talks about our mutual interest in three-dimensional pieces, especially those with surprises (like pictures or verse on the insides or bottoms of boxes or other containers), and the great fun to be had in haunting flea markets and junk stores in search of paper ephemera and found objects.

Whereas my gift to her was a one-off, Maridel (who’s a real artist) continues to create and to send me tiny surprises. I have two collaged seashells and a collaged stone from her scattered about my home, earlier treasures that arrived by U.S. mail.

Bet you’re wondering what was in the box, huh? Wait until you see it! It was inspired by what she called my “dress reveries” on this blog.

It is so full of visual delights, I literally gasped when I opened it.

If you’re not familiar with collage as an artistic medium or have never tried it yourself, think of this: every single one of those tiny images had to be hand cut and applied.

Collage is a medium for the patient artist, clearly. (Oy! All that cutting!)  Maridel’s creations are tiny puzzles that I love to observe and decipher.

And this most recent one is clearly a reflection of Joan-Marie . . . the images of fashion and flowers and home are so me.

And if I know Maridel, those three-dimensional petals on the side of the vase are also the work of her hand. I’m betting they are found objects she painted and reappropriated for this piece.

I really don’t have the talent with words to express my delight and wonder and awe at this gift. I think about how much thought and time my friend gave to finding and selecting the images. And to trimming them just so. And to positioning them just right. And to balancing color and texture and shape into a pleasing visual harmony. And to adding the three-dimensional petals as a final embellishment and touch of verve.

I think of all of that, and then I think she wrapped it up and mailed it to me, setting free her miniature work of art to bring beauty and love into the life of another.

And then I think . . . wow.

With gratitude {for dear friends and generous expressions of their hearts},

Joan, who packed up her collage supplies when she moved 10 months ago and thinks she just might have to get back in business (and who also thinks she may not sleep well until she finds an orange Chanel-esque suit in her size, just like the one on the vase)

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