Sunday, March 8, 2015


“Style Icon” is typically an honor only bestowed on celebrities and the infamous.  Rarely does an ordinary civilian earn such stature.  This is the case, though, with one exceptionally chic New Yorker currently living in Chicago.  Robyn Mizrach has the innate flair that I can only aspire to achieve.  It starts with the mid-century modern abode perched high above Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.  When she’s not there working away on her forthcoming novel about Mies van der Rohe, she’s out on the town with her equally stylish husband.  I dare you to dive into her Instagram feed and not come up malachite green with envy!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Names are the labels we keep with us for life.  Yet it is something which is completely out of our control unless, of course, the stage is your calling and no ordinary moniker will do.  After all, Norma Jean Dougherty and Archibald Leach aren’t as marquee-worthy as Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant.  
As a parent, one of the more important decisions you will make is determining the name of your child.  Techniques vary from searching the Social Security registry of names starting from the bottom to assessing the characters of your favorite book to researching the surnames of your ancestors.  And all of this hard work can crumble when you see the chosen one stitched onto a faux-fur, bean-bag chair in the latest Restoration Hardware Baby & Child catalogue.  Nobody wants their child to be one of ten Olivers in their classroom, or do they?  I happen to have a name that was not common until 1973 when both the Allman Brothers and Seals & Crofts released singles titled Jessica.  Needless to say, I know a lot of Jessicas.  
When I was pregnant, my husband and I procrastinated on choosing a name for our baby.  About a week before my due date we had our list narrowed to about 5 strong contenders.  Our intention wasn’t to choose one name before the birth; we wanted to meet our little guy before we decided.  We went into the delivery room with two finalists.  Twenty-four hours after he arrived, with the birth certificate form in our hands, we were forced to finally choose.  My husband had his favorite and I had mine.  And then lightening struck me.
“It really comes down to what kind of man we think he will become,” I explained to my husband.  Each name conjured up a different image, a completely different aura and personality.  Would he be a Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, rough and tumble, daredevil, masculine guy?  Or, would he be a smooth and polished, debonair, aristocratic, Fitzgeraldian gent?  
Did I mention our little one had already completed countless circuits on the Sonoma Raceway at top speed in utero and, despite all medical predictions to the contrary, flipped from breech position at 37 weeks?  There was no denying it any longer.  He was anointed Wesley, our future fast-driving, risk-taking and daring boy.  

A few months later a work colleague inquired as to our little one’s name.  “Wesley….Wes Miller.  He’s going to be a race car driver,” he replied without prompting.  Stunned, I immediately recounted the story of that night in the hospital.  A few days later a DVD of The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and The Thomas Crown Affair arrived at my desk.  Outside of a rare whiskey, it was the perfect baby gift.  
So what was the other name we considered?  Ah, well we’ve locked it away in the event a dashing, gallant and elegant younger brother makes his big debut. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I’ve long been obsessed with learning about what makes the iconic and visionary tick.  Many of these pioneers have long been identified by their eccentricities and extraordinary quirks.  After all, marching to the beat of your own drummer is arguably prerequisite to making a meteoric cultural impact.  And while the anomalies that contribute to greatness pique my curiosity, I’m most fascinated by their slips into the prosaic.  What are the metronomic essentials providing the rhythmic undercurrent to their vibrant melodies?
For most of us, lunch is a mere pitstop, a necessary inconvenience.  Nothing reaches the depths of ordinary more than the “office lunch”, that which is taken at your desk and likely involves an unremarkable sandwich or, worse yet, an unevenly hot tray of gelatinous goo posing as lasagna.  I was thrilled when I found the lunch instructions of the legendary Diana Vreeland, proving that even the most captivating individuals had to slog through an office lunch on their way to immortality.  

Mrs. Vreeland always took her lunch at her desk and it was always ordered in from the equally legendary William Poll.  A simple sandwich, raisins and black coffee - it’s hard to see any difference between D.V. and oneself, except for perhaps the Scotch and cigarettes.  She even ate her sandwich from a napkin, no plate.  And if I’ve learned anything from studying the routines of these folks, it’s that having order and routine in the most trivial details is essential.  It’s as if having ultimate control of the minutiae helps clear the fog for one’s genius to radiate.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be in a position where someone is tasked with arranging my desk on the regular, but if I do, I will be sure to have a highly specific diagram to help guide them.

(Illustration of Diana by Miyuki Ohashi, which can be purchased from Buddy Editions. Lunch instructions and desk diagram courtesy of Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style.)

Monday, February 16, 2015


I have a shameful secret. When all is quiet and darkness affords me a level of anonymity, I have an uncontrollable desire to peek into the windows of homes.  At dawn I witness these domiciles spring to life, as the inhabitants gradually surrender to their morning routines. With the advent of Instagram, we can now glimpse into these windows with permission. The gorgeous mid century modern abode. A quivering Eton Mess. Gorgeous tiles snapped on vacation in Morocco.  They are all curated for our pleasure, inspiration and envy.  
When we were still in the embryonic stages of dating, my husband and I peered for an inappropriately long time into the window of a Georgetown row house. The details can still be summoned in my mind, the beautifully decorated living room with the toy truck and building blocks abandoned so perfectly. This room was lived in, not a sterile masterpiece with any hint of life stowed away in a cupboard. Just beyond, a small gathering was in full swing on the patio, adults and children were mingling and mixing and, I'd like to believe, sipping French 75s. A knowing glance between us confirmed our shared desire for the same quintessence of family life.
I also find myself leering a bit too long at snapshots from the life of Paul and Sara Ruffin Costello and their gorgeous children.  They have that perfect blend of high style meets family practicality which I hope to imbue into our lives.  Take a peek with me:  

A photo posted by Paul Costello (@pthepaul) on

A photo posted by Paul Costello (@pthepaul) on

A photo posted by Paul Costello (@pthepaul) on

A photo posted by Paul Costello (@pthepaul) on

A photo posted by Paul Costello (@pthepaul) on

A new home

I have big plans for 2015 and as part of those, I will be relocating my blog to its new location here.  The decision to eventually leave the Blogger platform was a difficult one but this new format will allow me greater creative flexibility and I do hope you join me there.  I will continue to add new content here for those of you who prefer this platform until it becomes too burdensome.  


Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Big Year

I had spectacular plans for 2014 and, specifically, for this blog.  Unfortunately, I find myself up against the final weeks of the year and having only written my New Year’s post in the past 12 months.  My absence certainly hasn’t been for lack of enthusiasm or out of laziness.  In fact, 2014 has been a rather big year for my husband and myself.  

Beginning in March, we learned that we were expecting our first child in November.  This realization put us both in a tailspin - we were renting a townhouse that would never work for our needs as a growing family.  Our house hunt went from casually enthusiastic to aggressively anxious.  We looked at building a new home in a development, a bit of the lazy man’s approach to getting more home in an ever-expanding region.  (Seriously, I fear that Northern Virginia is quickly becoming the next Southern California).  Our hearts were never truly sold, even after walking through the perfectly antiseptic model home several times.  Yes, the layout and execution were ideal - but we’d be on a street of similar homes with mere inches between them.   It was all too cookie cutter for my taste.  

With every early morning dog walk I became more sentimental about our town, small and quaint with a rich history including such characters as JFK and Jackie, Elizabeth Taylor, Bunny Mellon, Linda Tripp (for real!) and a Hitchcock film (Marnie, if you’re curious).  As much as it would be easier to raise a child on street full of other small children, I’d rather raise a child in a place with character and history, eccentrics and the infamous.  

As time ticked by, we became ever more nervous.  We looked at homes in our neighborhood in a goldilocks fashion - too small, too much work, too restrictive.  There was that one home, though, that was just right except for the price.  It was slightly out of reach for us at that very moment.  “If only it were a year from now,” was a constant refrain.  Each morning we’d wake and check for our Zillow alerts as the price began to drop but not quite as much as we needed.  And then it did.  And we jumped on it.  On my husband’s birthday, we officially made an offer and a month later we were moving - literally across the street from our rental.  

Because of the baby preparations, we haven’t made much headway in decorating and finishing the home which would certainly be featured here.  That excitement will come in the new year as we adjust to life with our little man.  So, while 2014 was certainly a big year for us, it was a very personal and intimate one.  

You likely think me crazy for attempting to refocus my attention on my “extracurricular” creative endeavors with a new baby and I probably am (as I type this one-handed while cradling a hiccuping newborn) - but if his birth impressed anything upon me it was that I want my son to be imaginative, brave, bold and a maverick.  I can’t expect any of that if I don”t embody that spirit myself.  Here’s to new beginnings!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I am a true believer that committing one’s goals to writing and sharing them with at least one other person, or in this case publicly, helps to propel them to success.  My informal, empirical research suggests that keeping your goals a secret may actually hinder your efforts.  Consider the act of looking for a new job or place to live; by sharing your intentions with others, they can provide assistance as well as keep you on track.  With that said, I would like to share my hopes for the New Year with all of you -

**Be bold! Vanquish that other “B” word - boring.

**Live! Or rather, be more spontaneous.  I believe my husband will benefit the most from this one.  I’m rather rigid and fixed in my plans and do not like to deviate from them with regularity. Here’s to a new year of impulsive movie nights and impromptu cocktail parties!

**Speak! I want to learn a new language in 2014.  In the far reaches of my brain lives some German and even less French which have gone relatively unused in about 20 years.  Perhaps I will return to French or start fresh with Italian...

**Be kind! Have you ever noticed the change in someone’s face when you call them by their first name?  Bank teller, the teenager cashing you out at the market or even the unsung heroes of customer service who deal with irate individuals on the phone every day - they all brighten when someone is considerate enough to use their name.  Best applied after two underused words, “thank you”. 

**Bite the bullet! Forget what the Chinese may say, 2014 is the year of the house.  After renting for my entire adult life, which has worked to my advantage as my career has taken me from the Midwest to Los Angeles back to the Midwest to New York and eventually the Washington, D.C. area, I’m now keen to put down some roots.