Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a red velvet jacket, trimmed with a bit of black silk braid, that is probably a good decade (or even more) older than me. My guess is that it made its appearance on the scene in the late forties or early fifties. It is short and hits me just above my hips. It is a boxy cut so there is never a question if it will fit during and waxing and waining of weight. Mercifully the moths seem disinterested in it.
Since it is such an elder statesman of a jacket (showing some wear on the pile around the elbows) I only take it out for a few holiday runs a year, but without question it is a fan favorite and I always get so many compliments on it. Needless to say it dozed quietly in my closet over the pandemic years, and last year was a very abbreviated festive season with my mom in the hospital up to Thanksgiving and then with the time I stayed there. (A post from that time can be found here.)
So this year was the first in many years that I pulled it out again to wear yesterday, paired with high-waisted navy trousers and a silver (yes, silver – hotsy-totsy!) silk tank top. I have long found that dressing the part will get you part of the way to feeling it and I needed to pull out all the stops to find some ho, ho, ho this year for a dinner after work.
My evening out was preceded by a very long, frankly arduous and frustrating day at the office. As I alluded to in my post last week (it can be found here) fundraising is reaching a fevered pitch by this time in the calendar year. Some large events and important proposals have been layered on top of the usual frenzy truly making my head spin to the point of migraine meltdown early in the week. Yesterday I was sweating out the final version of a document right up until I had to leave to head over to a holiday dinner at our jazz club.
The evening was a mix of people I know and a few I did not, although even those I didn’t know only had a degree of separation really. I was a guest last night and so while I can never entirely stop my work brain when I am in our venues, the evening was not mine to run and fret over. Drinks and fried food eased us into the evening, always a good start.
The set featured Marilyn Maye. For those who do not know her, Marilyn is a 94 year young jazz and cabaret singer who is still belting out standards and last night with a sprinkling of holiday classics. Marilyn had her start as a truly tiny tot in talent shows in her native Kansas. Over time she moved from Wichita to Kansas City, and then later to the big time in Chicago where she began a long recording and successful performing career.
Evidently dinner club cabaret eventually gave way to more stage and theater work, and although I have seen her in our other, larger halls, she seems most wonderfully at home in the club atmosphere. In her sparkling sequin jacket, trousers and decked out in glimmering earrings and bracelets, she is every inch a dinner club diva.
As I settled into the music, my phone tucked away for the evening (although I did sneak this photo), which is rare for me because often when I am at a dinner in the evening I am working and need to be available to the staff who are also working. Last night as a guest I was able to focus entirely on the music.
The love songs lulled me into musing over my own good fortune to have found Kim (as they always do) and that put me in a good frame of mind. By the time she got to some holiday music (a medley with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town among them) my harden, cold, Grinchy little heart had melted. Somehow even as it was unfolding I knew it was an evening that I will remember and look back on – just a very special moment in time which will stay with me. Thank you Marilyn!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Some Pictorama readers know that I was among the folks who lost my sense of smell when I got Covid a few months back. It slowly returned, patchy at first, as did my coordinating sense of taste which had disappeared with it. Over time I could suddenly smell the river again during my run and found that I wasn’t just guessing when I salted the soup I was making as I habitually taste tested it.
As foretold, as it returned I found that smell in particular, was a bit more messy than taste. Some smells seemed to break apart somehow. Perfumes in particular would sock my nose with overwhelming notes of alcohol or something chemical after an initial whiff of something more pleasant. I favored strong musky scents briefly, probably because they were strongest for my limited ability. I routinely sniffed the kitchen herbs as I cooked. Whiffs of dill, oregano, basil, but also spice like cumin, coriander, red pepper, ginger and mace daily.
Citrus was the last scent to come back, as well as taste. (Frustratingly though the taste of summer corn and tomatoes also lagged!) I made a practice of smelling citrus in all forms whenever I could and testing different kinds. It remained flatly unavailable to me.
As it happens the perfume I have worn for many years is a citrus scent that crosses grapefruit with something like an etrog. If you are unfamiliar with etrogs, they are a lumpy looking lemon-esque citrus fruit which is perhaps best known for being part of the observance of the Jewish autumn holiday Sukkot. While not familiar with them or the holiday first hand, I am told that my perfume is reminiscent of it with a strong lemony citrus note.
Somehow during the course of the pandemic I ignored the fact that I was almost out of perfume (sitting home didn’t require much) and even more notably, I missed the fact that it was suddenly hard to find and purchase. So, I have been looking around and sampling citrus smells.
I tried a pricey Tom Ford which I liked until I actually put it on me. There is something very disconcerting about not smelling like yourself and scents, those I could in fact smell over time, had an odd way of changing with my body chemistry. I frequently thought I liked something and wanted to take a shower an hour later to thoroughly get it off me.
I revisited a few scents from when I was younger and was amazed at how much I disliked them, while finding them hauntingly familiar. Jasmine is one and while I still love to smell the actual plant I disliked every perfume version I tried. I wore Chanel for a period in my 20’s and early 30’s and I find it overwhelming now, although their Chance eau Fraiche was a citrus contender, but again there was something sort of heavy about it over time.
My grandmother wore a carnation oriented Chanel I believe, a pleasantly spiky scent that I have not been able to replicate, at least on me. (My very no nonsense mother tells a story of one day many years ago when I was still very little. She was taking the garbage out and suddenly she was surrounded by my grandmother’s scent. It was my father’s mother with whom she was close and she said she found it very comforting.) My sister wore Chanel too, No. 19 I think, but I don’t associate it with her. My mother has never worn perfume, but my father would bring it back for me and Loren from duty-free work related flights.
I find something I think I like but then I find myself asking, do I want to smell like this all the time after an hour or so. Kim was brought into a judgement call occasionally. He had a really bad reaction to one of the early musky scents I tried. The good news was that over time I was able to smell much better again.
I was on the verge of settling for a perfume by Diptyque (citrus but woody), when I tried looking for my Bulgari scent one more time and there it was! My beloved Au the Vert (Green Tea) unisex spray is available once again.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have two lovely little photos which were sent to me with packages from Rachel @wassail_antiques. I discovered Rachel’s business on Instagram during the quarantine period and I have written about the wonderful bits of jewelry I have purchased from her – mostly British items from the earliest part of the 20th Century – a parallel universe to what folks were wearing in this country. Similar yet somehow very different. (I have written about these purchases here, here and here for starters!)
Rachel is a gifted photographer and the images of her items always tempt. In addition, the packing upon arrival is always lovely and heightens the feeling that a gift has come in the mail. Several folks I buy from include some early photos or cards in their package (some shown above), but I always feel that Rachel has handpicked the ones she sends me, knowing my aesthetic predilections and interests. Two are shown here today. Neither has any identifying information on the back.
My favorite of these is the young woman with cat and dog. I imagine that this is a boat she is on, but it is possible it is some sort of pier seating near the water. I like her plaid trousers and of course that she has scooped up this nice stripped kitty of hers as well as her faithful dog companion. The water of course and some sort of cliffs behind her. Kitty and dog seem to be looking at something off camera in another direction, however she smiles for the camera.
The other is also wonderful although a bit harder to see. A little girl perches on this soldier (my guess is her father’s) knee along with the canine companion who poses on his hind legs. They are in a brick strewn yard with a tatty wall behind them, conceivably from Blitz bombing.
I have written about my quarantine and later pandemic pin purchases – a strange affinity for insect related items and also celestial, moons and stars, shooting comets, a pattern in my buying emerging slowly over several months. My fantasy life seemed to envision that I would return to the work world wearing jackets and that I would decorate the lapels with multiple pins of each – fly and butterfly pins, moons and stars. A yearning for the natural world? I have no idea. I had shown an affection for bees prior to the pandemic – bless their little organized hard working hearts! (My Queen Bee ring made for my by @murialchastanet_finejewelry shown below.) These pins were new affinities however.
Slowly this spring, the vision began to emerge as a reality. In fact I wear fewer jackets than I used to and the pairing is a bit more complicated than anticipated. However, the beaded butterfly pins (I wrote about these pins, made by British soldiers in internment camps during WWI, in a post here) have been a huge hit, although the celluloid firefly is a sure favorite. (That one came via Heather @marsh.and.meadow.) I recently acquired this nice fly below from yet another dealer (@therubyfoxes) at the same time I purchased a jewelry box from her (I wrote about the box in a post here), and it is perfect for somewhat subtle pairing.
What I had not anticipated is that in general I wear less jewelry than I used to in general. A strange shift in my vision of myself. One ring suffices where several used to routinely live. I have barely worn a bracelet since returning to the world – such as I have returned. However, I purchased two recently so we’ll see what happens.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a long-standing passion for acquiring those things which might contain others. By this I mean I find it hard to pass up cabinets and boxes. This means I find great comfort in wandering the aisles of a certain kind of home goods store fantasizing about organizing my life (and never taking the time to do it), however it is antique versions that are like catnip to me.
In the past I have written about a large, Krak-R-Jak tin on my home office desk which contains cards awaiting their eventual destination (that oddly popular post can be found here), one that contained Nestle nibbles which moved to my mom’s house (post found here) and finally, on another occasion, I wrote about an antique display case which I purchased locally as part of a vintage haul which I wrote about here in 2019.
I recently had to control myself over a Instagram post for a nifty little wood and glass display cabinet, forcing myself to look around the apartment and focus on where exactly I thought such a thing might fit. The joy of the thing that holds other things is that it holds the enticement of greater organization as a bonus. Not only this nifty object, but it will improve your life. (Now you get a real glimpse of how my mind works.)
Of course, not all boxes and containers are created equal and some really do serve said function and others sort of sputter and fail in the attempt. The failures really could produce several posts of their own. I went through a period of thinking that tins (not tin boxes which have worked well actually) were a good storage idea. Turns out they are not – always a bit hard to open they lack the easy access that turns out to be one of the hallmarks of happy and frequently used storage. They tend to look nice scattered around however.
Does it go without saying that one of the reasons storage appeals is because I own so much stuff? And live in a small space?
Recently without really focusing on it I have begun to acquire antique boxes for my jewelry. I own several jewelry boxes (including one wooden one that was my grandmother’s which my mom found and had refinished for me many years ago) and many of my rings and smaller pins live in a nice, but rather common faux leather travel box I would date from the forties I picked up somewhere in a bulk box buy I don’t quite fully remember. I have my sister’s jewelry boxes although I don’t use them regularly and instead store things in them. They do not quite work for me.
Rings, necklaces and earrings that came in boxes tend to stay in their boxes, although there are a few exceptions for pieces worn very frequently. (I refer here mostly to the “before time” when I wore and regularly rotated through my rings during the work week. My ring and jewelry wearing has not yet nearly reached pre-pandemic levels. I don’t think I have worn a bracelet in more than two years. My gold bangles languish. The healed broken ring finger still rebels against my wedding band.)
For all of this I have to admit that my most frequently worn jewelry lives in a series of dishes and piles in an unholy mess on my dresser which needs to periodically be set right.
A few months back an amethyst ring (birthstone birthday gift to myself) I bought on Instagram came in a lovely antique box – not its original one but an ancient purple one that it nestles in nicely. I like the way it snaps open with the click of a tiny mother-of-pearl button.
Recently, @therubyfoxes (aka Mia) was running an IG sale and I purchased this nice ring box above (I had just missed a group sale of several while I tried to figure out where exactly to find said sale – sometimes I think I am of less than average intelligence about such things!) and a lovely little travel case. I will need to decide which ring in the box and which items will find a home in the case. (Not only did Mia have to send a video instruction on opening said box, but further instruction once it arrived. The good news is that once I get the hang of things I do tend to remember them. I clearly did not inherit the mind of my maternal grandfather the engineer.)
And because it is nice to buy things to put in the boxes, I also purchased a coterie of insect pins from her which I really love and I can’t wait to decorate myself in the crawling and flying fellows for spring and summer. Some earlier purchases of butterflies and a celluloid dragonfly have been very popular on my lapels this spring already. (The butterflies, purchased from @wassail_antiques were evidently made by British POW’s during WWI and posts about those pins and the dragonfly can be found here and here.) Maybe the new case will be all insects.
Will more boxes lead to greater organization? Hard to say. I’m afraid that my track record implies otherwise, but it can’t hurt to try.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Many ongoing Pictorama readers know that my father, Elliott Butler, was a career cameraman for ABC News. Therefore, news of all sorts has been digested by my family in a variety of fashions but with great gusto over the years. A background of television and radio news is among my earliest childhood memories.
The radio news issued all day and into the evening from a large (12″x18″ ish?) brown box of a radio which sat atop of the refrigerator in each house we lived in until the last, when somehow it magically disappeared. It was on an all-news station almost all of the time, at least until my sister was old enough and tall enough to occasionally turn it to music. Back it would ultimately go to the staple of news however. (My mother allowed my sister her way with music in the car more often, but oddly I have little or no memory of every changing either. It was easier not to get in the middle of their minor tugs of war I guess.)
In those years television news was consumed mostly in the early evening and again later at night. It was viewed on a scratchy black and white television at first (I have vague memories of the landing on the moon viewed on the smallest and almost impossible to see little portable television). Occasionally we would watch a different television channel in an attempt to see my father filming a major story for his channel. A very large man, 6’5″, he towered over most of the other folks. He always wore a distinctive hat and these made him easy to spot.
As a small child I thought I would grow up to be a journalist. There is a photo of tiny tot Pam dressed up like a reporter which is on display in Mom’s house. I may take a picture of it and add it to this post when I am there later in the upcoming week. I held onto this thought as a possible career into adolescence, but it faded as my interest in visual art grew over time. I don’t think I would have been well suited to it in the end and I think it was mostly a response to wanting to be like my dad.
A whole post could be devoted to my father’s work wardrobe which was devised with a stunning combination of practicality and his mother’s underlying sartorial sensibility. I look at images of how cold it is in the Ukraine and I know my father would have been there sporting an Eddie Bauer long down coat which covered even his long frame (the size of a sleeping bag to a young me) and down trousers to match for extreme cold. Layers of long underwear and wool (he was religious about wool socks in winter cold and for a quiet man he could nonetheless preach their virtues and how wool keeps you warm even when wet), would have been topped with a wool (itchy) watch cap on his head.
In warmer weather he favored safari suits for their myriad pockets which light meters and other tools of his trade might be stuffed. Years of standing outside for hours a day helped fine tune his work clothing to a perfect pitch.
Dad bought for quality as well as practicality though and he liked shopping, unlike my mother who frankly has barely ever noticed what she wears as long as it is temperature appropriate and not confining in anyway. (My mother has a hatred of pantyhose which is well documented in the family. You could sometimes coax her into a pair of tights if weather permitted, but an event which required pantyhose of her roused her ire immediately. She often threatened to just strip them off and leave them on the sidewalk as she had seen stray pairs thus on the streets of New York. My mom imagined women like herself who couldn’t take it another minute.) I inherited my father’s love of clothing and fabrics although in terms of style and design we differed some.
My father was equally at home in a suit and owned a fair number of them. There are things he never wore – shorts and cotton or linen suits number among them, as was any fiber that wasn’t natural. I believe this impacted my own opinion of what men (as in boyfriends and eventual spouse) should wear. He had specific ideas about my attire and I wish I had asked my sister if he tried to impress these on her as well because oddly I don’t remember that he did, but no one ever really told Loren what to do.
The background of radio news helped my mother gauge if my father might be called away or kept at work. It was local New York news on the radio in those days although we always lived in a New Jersey suburb. My mother’s brother, John Wheeling, worked for CBS radio and so that was the radio station of choice. (He had a variety of jobs writing, producing and on-air, a few years in sports at the end of his career. He once did an on-air report on a hurricane from our house, surrounded as we were by flooding waters.) As I said, we were a news family. Between the commute and his schedule we rarely had dinner with dad and I was always surprised by my friends who had set dinner hours for when their father would come home from work each day. Other than weekends and vacations it was a novelty to find him home in time for dinner with us as small children.
Dad woke to a clock radio of also tuned to news, loud enough to wake the whole house at least briefly. I too still wake to a clock radio, but with the more soothing sounds of WQXR classical radio although hungry cats have sometimes gotten to us first.
For most of his career my father traveled to news locations across the country and the world. First using film which would need to be developed before going on air, grabbed by three in the afternoon by messengers who would get it back to the newsroom, then moving to video and finally the ability to send it via phone lines and satellite for broadcast. News bureaus did not exist robustly across the country and the world in the early days of news and he would travel, frequently by car but sometimes by air, on a routine basis, storing up a list of restaurants and stores he liked to visit in towns across the US and occasionally countries he went back to visit later.
As a media consuming family, transistor radios and portable televisions multiplied around my childhood home. I was very attached to both and have memories of carrying a small Sony radio around with me, not to mention hours spent in front of a small black and white (also Sony) television in my room.
His work was of course occasionally dangerous. He covered riots at a time when the news wasn’t seen as friendly or potentially necessary documentation of an event. He hung out of helicopters and traveled to areas of political unrest. He knew colleagues who were killed while on the job in war torn areas and he was smart to take his safety seriously. I cannot watch television news without worrying about the crew in dangerous situations. In my mind my father is always among them.
In his retirement he himself became very attached to radio news – an amazing fondness for NPR and also a show called Car Talk notable since he had little interest in the mechanics of vehicles. Sometimes I would find him returned from a trip in the car, sitting in the driveway until some story or segment ended. In the last years of his life he would be peevish about CNN and how often their stories repeated on a loop which he would nonetheless watch. Meanwhile, my mother has in turn become a CNN addict and it is on the television in her house constantly. Her flatscreen television so large I believe I can see the pores on the news anchor’s faces.
After a year of Covid and election coverage frequenting our television I banned CNN and television news in our house to try to regain a sense of proportion and sanity around ongoing current events. I continued to consume my news primarily from the newspaper – I have subscribed continuously to the New York Times since I was in high school when I accepted a special subscription offer which continued through college. Although I still subscribe to the hard paper, like most people I read it mostly online these days. During the pandemic delivery times got later and papers were left in our lobby so it wasn’t possible to read the hard copy over breakfast as is my habit any longer. Online access allows me to investigate other news sources as well and I think if I had more time I would subscribe to the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal daily as well.
However, the outbreak of war in the Ukraine combined with long days spent with mom now, has drawn me back to watching television news, witnessing those horrors has continued even upon my return home. My diet of news television increasing again as I worry about those delivering the news as well as the events they are covering.