Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Must Reads

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

It was a long summer drive from one side of Wisconsin to the other side, and so I decided to fill up some of the quiet miles by telling my family about a book I was working my way through and just starting to get the hang of. Life After Life.

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The story tracks an unusual British girl named Ursula through various lives she could have led, or may have led, or did lead, in the ominous years leading up to World War II. As the story repeatedly resets both itself and when/where/who precisely our heroine is, initially the novel is a challenge to track and to attach emotionally to. But then once you do, you really do.

Every couple weeks I’d bring Hurly and my niece up to date on how Ursula had recently been living and dying, and literally every time I retold her unfolding tales to them, I’d have to pause for moments on end in order for my heart and throat to cooperate long enough to turn my stifled sobs into actual words.

My ceaseless near-tears weren’t so much centered around sadness in the story but around the humanity and warmth that radiates through the book no matter how grimly war and death continue closing in around Ursula’s world/s.

For deja vu and flukes and fate might haunt us all and lead us seemingly far off course at times, but Ursula’s soul has a compass, it becomes clear. Nothing can tamper with it for her (or, I’d like to now think, for any of us).

Life After Life is a thick, heart-throbbing mega-treasure and you must spend your April reading it!

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The author Kate Atkinson, must’ve been as moved and inspired by the characters in the novel as I was because she’s releasing a sequel/companion story to Life After Life titled A God in Ruins which, if you do your assigned April homework, you’ll be ready for upon its release on May 5.

Ruins shifts the narrative focus to Ursula’s beloved little brother Teddy. I’m not sure if his life and times will reset, over and over, as Ursula’s did. Either way, he’s now coming to terms with a post-war life he seemingly was destined to never have.

I can’t wait to spend time with Ursula and Teddy and their friends and family again. There’s a dog running around their story too. It always gets named Lucky.

Touring Tinseltown

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The Ace hotel was our main excuse to return to L.A., but Hurly and I spent plenty of time out and about.

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One of the stores we hadn’t checked out during last year’s visit was the California Surplus Mart which is where U.S. military goods go to live/die once they’re honorably discharged.

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Downtown at The Last Bookstore I picked up a small stash of trashy old B-movie worthy paperbacks I’ll wait to crack open ’til summer sizzles on in.

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Most mornings while we’re vacationing I excitedly rustled Hurly up out of bed hours before shops are even open. We try and kill time best we can, but often times we’ll just sightsee the outside of closed tourist spots, like the cold, misty exterior of the Griffith Observatory, three full hours before doors unlock for the public.

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Other than the CW stars we saw on the Ace’s rooftop, our only other real celebrity sighting was technically just a Bravolebrity. We went to Fonuts as featured on Eat, Drink, Love and the lovely Waylynn herself filled our box with half a dozen of the yummiest and most moist non-donuts we’ve ever had.

It was an amusingly unscripted little scene for Hurly and I, and though he isn’t much into donuts at all, he was way into the donuts, fo’sure. Those things stayed un-dry for days.

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Last year it was some candlesticks at Lawson Fenning I most regretted not bringing back to Minneapolis from L.A. This year it was this heavy handled copper bowl at Heath Ceramics. It weighed a ton and cost even more…

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Whether it’s early in the morning, or too early to head to our dinner reservations, Hurly and I have found that another good way to kill time and see swanky sights is to wander through other guests’  hotels.

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We looked at the famous palm-wallpapered coffee shop and hand-stenciled signage at The Beverly Hills Hotel one night.

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And enjoyed a quiet breakfast at the Kelly Wearstler-designed Avalon Hotel our final morning.

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I’ll skip pretty much any museum visit if it means I can scope out and pose in yet another handsome hotel.

Adventure Time

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

As soon as the snow sticks around, I’m giving up (for a while) on Anna Karenina and cracking open my copy of Shadow on the Mountain.

I spotted it at a Scandinavian pie shop in Wisconsin this summer and the first sentence and a half of the synopsis sold me.

Norway has been invaded by Nazi Germany! Fourteen-year old Espen
is quickly swept up into the world of wartime espionage…

That was it. That was all I’d needed to know. Shadow is just the kind of old-school boys adventure story I like to read once Christmas time starts a comin’ and winter picks up speed. 

And I didn’t even know/notice until literally six minutes ago that the inside is inked with Moonrise Kingdom-worthy maps, and lyrics, and pronunciation keys!

I really never figured I would’ve spied something so treasurable in an otherwise tasteless little pie shop.

Suddenly This Summer

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Yeah, so suddenly this summer I’m wearing a brand of sandals I never thought I would.
(Cause the soles are white like a Red Wing boot or something!)

And I’m stocking up on double-bar packs of chocolate from Iceland.

And I’m sporting a Panama Hat two or three times a week.

I’m also rooting hardcore for happy-headed gymnast Gabby Douglas, going Nuts on my iPad, wondering if Fiona Apple isn’t too old now to be freaking her own self out so darn much, and last night I finished  Girl Gone.

What have you all suddenly been up to?

Preview: SnowGRADE Men’s Market

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It speaks volumes about Minnesotan style and values that the state’s quickly become home to arguably the most beloved men’s pop-up market in America, September’s annual NorthernGRADE.

Event founders Larry Felitto of J.W. Hulme Co. and Kat MacMillan of Pierrepont Hicks and @mrsphicks Shoes are at it again, launching NorthernGRADE’s cooler, if not frostier, spin-off SnowGRADE on Saturday Feb. 25th. Here they share the story behind their new pop-up, and tip us off on which American-made goods they’re aiming to take home.

Why did you decide to spin-off NorthernGRADE into SnowGRADE?
Larry: The response for the last NorthernGRADE event was overwhelming and more and more I kept hearing from attendees and vendors alike that we should do more of these throughout the year. People really had a great time.

SnowGRADE is adding workshops into the mix. What can people expect to see and learn?
Larry: There will be an axe restoration workshop, a home brewing 101, leather care workshop, leather tooling workshop and the fellas at Marvel Bar are talking about doing a cocktail workshop. I’ll be front row for this one!

Kat: Peter Geye is a local author, who wrote a book called Safe From the Sea. He’ll be there talking about his book and signing copies. His book is about a man and his father, an old sea captain, coming to grips with their relationship… it takes place outside Duluth. It is such an appropriate book for SnowGRADE. And Peter is quite a guy.

Tell me about some of the new vendors who’ve come on board for SnowGRADE.
Larry: Best Made Axe Co. and Northern Brewer are two that I’m most excited about seeing. Both companies, although not menswear, exemplify the heart and soul of SnowGRADE; the idea of American made, craft, durable and quality.

Kat: I am so excited to welcome Byrd and Belle’s modern and gorgeous iPad covers. Moonshine Coffee is providing the coffee, which is so delicious I will probably be highly caffeinated all day long.

Kat: Rancourt and Co. is coming in from Maine. They make traditional handsewn shoes and boots. Frost River is coming. Their bags are awesome! We’ve got a great crew.

How have you tempted out-of-towners to brave the Minnesota winter and attend the event?
Kat: I think folks from elsewhere feel Minnesota in February is something they have to do at least once in their lives. It’s about character building. Or something.

Is there anything you’re hoping to bag at the event for your own wardrobe?
Kat: A Cause and Effect belt. A Byrd and Belle iPhone case. There is a pen at Askov Finlayson that I have to have. It’s apparently used by the State Department and it’s very heavy and can write upside down or underwater, since I am always writing notes while scuba diving I have to have it!

Larry: Fairbault Woolen Mills just launched a line of beautiful new scarves in a variety of colors, I’ve got my eye on one of those.

Larry: I’m also a little disappointed I didn’t pick up a hat from Ball & Buck at NorthernGRADE so I might have to spring for it this time around.

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And there you have it. Better pad your wallets and bundle up, boys. SnowGRADE’s gonna be ice hot!

All Work And No Play…

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

It’s that freaky/fun time of year when dressing-up like someone else is encouraged, regardless of your age. (Although dressing like dead, outdated or imaginary dudes is something I personally recommend doing all year round).

As it’s Halloween month, BBC America’s been playing Kubrick’s The Shining seven or eight times a week, and re-watching it for the first time in forever has led me to seek out a little Cabin Fever Chic for my late fall wardrobe.

Faded plaid flannel would be the most Jack Torrance-ish shirting I could hope to hunt down, but the perfect 1979-ish print’s been hiding from me (somewhere deep in that snowy maze, I suspect).

This button down oxford from Club Monaco seems to suggest a shamed prep-school teacher turned hotel-caretaker though, and is just the right shade of old Colorado Tan. Woven with a subtle undertint, it almost makes the shirt literally “Shine”.

These red-soled suede shoes from Quoddy were my first steps toward my transition into a Torrance. I can just as easily see Jack pairing them with pajama bottoms and a cableknit fisherman’s sweater as I can imagine Wendy tying them on over some red tights and a corduroy jumper dress.

The real trick in turning into a 1980 Torrance though is wearing a thick, insipid turtleneck under just about everything.

And then accessorizing with either a roque mallet or a hatchet. (Club Monaco just sold out of theirs, so I’ve been walking around town miming that I’m clutching one instead).

I’m 167 pages into the original book now. It’s not as inspirational as the film, sartorially – but it’s sadder and not so sarcastic. And hopefully by the end I’ll maybe work out how to rock bloody bathrobes as ready-to-wear.

Until then, creeps, REDRUM and Happy Halloween!

Holiday Haul pt. 2

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The second batch of Santa’s bounty.

1. Wasp Queen Honey Flavored Syrup (in the sweetest jar ever).

2. Quirky-Colored Prize Ribbons.

3. Imported Indian Bowl & Spice Spoon.

4. Yesterday’s Candy (edible today).

5. Little Bottles of Liquid Luxury.

6. Military Grade Notebooks.

7. Sweet Potato Chocolate Bar (I’m enthralled yet half-afraid!)

8. Letterman Jacket Patch (to attach to almost anything except, probably, a jacket).

I’m saving my favorite present for last. (Be sure and check back!)

Holiday Haul pt. 1

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Two years ago, I felt I had to meticulously photograph all of my Christmas gifts before I could properly use or enjoy any of them. And out of that sudden, strong urge I launched The Treasury just a few days later.

The way I see it, there’s no point in something being delightful unless it’s dutifully documented.

My yuletide tradition continues for a third year. I present to you (and, really, to myself) a selection of the Christmas gifts I was lucky enough to have given and received this happy, holiday season.

1. Vintage French Workbooks.

2. Rogues Gallery Key Fob.

3. Gem-like Game Dice.

4. Bandit Boy Screen Print.

5. Retro-Perfect Stabilo Pens.

6. Not Chocolate-Covered Cherries, but Chocolate-Flavored Cherries!

7. Vintage Book on Style.

8. Made-In-America Robin’s Egg Colored Duct Tape.

More and more it’s the little things – the ones that typically show up in my stocking – that give me the biggest smiles at Christmas.

The Best of Twenty Ten

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

An editor by nature, and by trade, I’m a real sucker for any “Best Of” list since they efficiently illuminate what was or still is relevant and radiant, while whittling away the extraneous.

Unless we count my nearly two years of Treasuring as one giant list itself, I’ve never posted a proper list. I thought I’d look back through the digi-pics of 2010 to tally up the top 10 treasures I’d measure as “The Best of The Year”.

1. Favorite Accessory
My new, U.S. issued Aviator Kit Bag. After one machine wash, and one mini-trip to New Orleans, it’s proven itself to be the perfect carry-on suitcase in terms of size and studly style.

2. Favorite Flashback
A TV junkie, just about everything’s been re-runs since early December. But Universal’s HD cable channel, roster-ed with random re-runs of hits from all eras, has been providing me with a dozen Charlie’s Angels episodes a week. It was my first favorite show as child, and it’s finally aged enough now to no longer seem dated and dull (which it did to me a few years back). Now every single tunic, discotheque, and Tom Selleck cameo highlights how chic and swanky the late 70s and early 80s were.

3. Favorite Finger-Painting
The J. Crew shorts I cropped myself then coated in 5 different colors earned me internet high-fives as well as veiled death threats, but I wore them rogue-ly and regularly all summer, to that magic point on the far side of self-consciousness. These shorts and the sideways glances they brought on taught me that if I’m not making someone’s eyes roll over what I’m wearing, I’m just not doing my job.

4. Favorite Follow Up
After two whole albums and a boat-shoe-box’s worth of B-sides, I’ve never heard a Vampire Weekend song I didn’t like. The CONTRA album was more Californian and yet noticeably colder than the New York band’s debut disc, but the sound of shivers in the sunshine made me happy and happily sad, over and over and over this year.

5. Favorite Mistake
I’ve ordered a lot of treasures over the internet these past years, but these vintage black boots were the only package that never arrived. (NOOOO!) I’m still too torn up inside to tell why I loved them so much, or type up all the outfits I would’ve worked up around them. Rest in peace, black boots. I know, without you, that I won’t.

6. Favorite Flavor
The black licorice macaron I chewed in slow motion on the windy steps of a church somewhere in Paris.

7. Favorite Escape
No one saw this coming, not even me, but somehow I became a fan of prison break books. Papillon is the ultimate, the tall-tale-sized autobiography of a Parisian criminal’s repeated escapes from prisons in French Guiana, including the Devil’s Island colony. The protagonist’s will is so strong and sturdy that even when he must endure years/chapters trapped to sunless, solitary confinement, his tone remains brave and bright. The Steve McQueen movie version of the story isn’t criminal, but it lacks the disarming charm of Papillon and his incredible adventure.

8. Favorite Fad
Reddish-orange pants, or orangey-red jeans. But we all already knew that.

9. Favorite Forty-Four Minutes
The best “hour” of TV I saw all year was Mad Men’s season four episode “The Suitcase”. There’s always been a “Will they or won’t they?” tension to Draper and Peggy’s relationship. Not “Will they or won’t they?” fall into bed, but “Will they or won’t they?” fling aside the stressed charades of their 1960s social roles for forty five seconds, and just look at one another for who they actually are. In “The Suitcase”, they finally did just that, puked-on dress shirts and all. It was a long time coming, and it was a sweet and needed relief.

10. Favorite Fantasy
Lying on the beaches of Mexico on an extra large, linen deck-towel– shaped island. I got the towel in August, the plane ticket in November, and soon enough my fantasy will turn reality!

2011 has a lot to live up to.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Come December I like to read boyish old adventure stories. Two years ago it was Call of The Wild, and this year I decided to give the Hardy Boys a try for the first time ever since the back cover of Case #8: The Mystery of Cabin Island mentioned the action took place on a snow-covered island over Christmas vacation.

My sister and I used to have an un-secret stash of Nancy Drew books lying around as kids, and honestly, my favorite moments of any of these teen detective books is whenever it describes what the young sleuths are eating. It’s always cozy comfort food like chicken and biscuits, or flapjacks with syrup, or stews served alongside cold pitchers of milk. To me it’s essentially literary snacking, the plot-lines pretty much filler ’til the next mention of cobbler, or creamed corn, or fresh caught catfish.

In The Mystery of Cabin Island, Frank and Joe Hardy’s wealthy old client Elroy Jefferson receives a holiday gift he believes to be from his missing grandson. It’s a can of plum pudding adorned with fresh pinecones!

Upon reading that, before flipping another page, I searched online for canned plum pudding, hoping someone still sold a tin of the classic Christmas dessert in packaging appropriately retro.

The closet I came upon were various “Christmas Puddings” which definitely are old-century and cinematic enough for me. Since the cupcake and the French macaron have already enjoyed their return from nostalgic novelty to the sweet-tooth center stage, I’m thinking the proper pudding deserves a royal resurgence.

Served warm under brandy butter or custard, it’s a rich reflection of (seemingly) sweeter, simpler days.

Gift Guiding

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Sadly, I already sent off my list o’ wishes to Santa and his many elves this past weekend, so it’s too late for me to hope St. Nick will stock my stuffing with any of these re-printed military pamphlets from WWII this Christmas.

At under 10 bucks a pop, they’re cool and classic for either getting or gifting, packed with wartime wisdom (possibly) worth remembering today.

From what’s sure to be the best of the bunch, the 1944 Germany Manual: “Don’t be too ready to listen to stories told by attractive women. They may be acting under orders.”

Even today, in our lives of relative peace, that’s an arch little instruction worth following still.

On The Scene: Northern Grade Men’s Market

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Sitting smack-dab between the two coasts, Minneapolis isn’t often invited into the big fashion action, but Saturday’s Northern Grade Ad-Hoc Men’s Market proved that both the men and the makers of Minnesota are sturdy and style-minded supporters of the Made-In-The-USA movement.

With manufacturers Red Wing Shoes, J.W. Hulme, and Duluth Pack but three of Minnesota’s revered and revived brand names, there really was no better state in the Union to celebrate the return of American Style to its rugged, well-made roots on a September afternoon.

Hosted within the Architectural Antiques store in Northeast Minneapolis, local mens boutique MartinPatrick3 anchored the handsome action with checked selections from Gitman Bros. Vintage and luscious leather overnighter bags from J.W. Hulme.

A black-to-brick rainbow of Red Wing boots rose over a salvaged fireplace mantle and past two rows of pre-war, movie theatre seats. (I hadn’t seen so many crepe soles in one place since I stomped out of my closet just three hours earlier.)

The Kansas City boys behind Baldwin Denim were among the friendliest at the retail event, offering expert advice on achieving the perfect dude-denim fit.

One of the brands I hadn’t recalled bumping into on the boy blogs before, Taylor Stitch, showcased the fine fabrics behind their shirting with a stash of swatches set all around our big, black world.

The rocking and most of the rolling at Northern Grade was provided by Erik Kosinken and his back-up band, featuring Your Lord Jesus Christ on (invisible) drums.

These two-toned Hulme bags were my favorite find at all of Northern Grade, although I hadn’t realized it until after I’d left. Soft and unstructured like a weathered old windbreaker, they couldn’t look better had you dug some out of the trunk of your Dad’s sedan and snatched ’em without telling him.

The Rock-Ola jukebox wasn’t up or running during the event, but with Dolly Parton and Dean Martin both trapped somewhere deep inside, don’t think I didn’t consider plugging the old puppy back in.

Carefully curated vintage watches and antique books on topics including sailing and stables were stashed near the back of the MartinPatrick3 station. Their mix of old and new items, as at their North 1st Street shop, always emphasizes the beauty of both yesterday and today’s goods.

I’d received a reminder e-mail from MP3 halfway through the afternoon making me wonder (then full-on worry) that the event wasn’t going so well, attendance-wise. But when I arrived I was plum pleased to see how buzzy and bustling the mini-market was.

Man, oh man, the place was alive!

Minnesota, you done made me proud.