Thursday, October 29, 2009

Polaroids: The Toy Box

I took these photos of some of my childhood toys during a trip back home to California last fall (well, my Blythe, Catherine Jr., is actually my adulthood toy, as is the Susie Sad Eyes). Anyone remember Teddy Ruxpin or Rainbow Brite? Teddy used to freak me out when he flicked his eyes from side to side. Ah, memories.

Leggy Vera


Catherine Jr.

Speechless Ruxpin

這些都是我小時候的玩具(除非Catherine Jr.跟Susie Sad Eyes以外... ).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Legumes of the Week #8

Flowers near my parents' house
My parents' garden in northern California
  • Facehunter came to Taipei! He also had a party here last week, which I totally missed. His photos gave a good idea of how awesome Taipei street style can be.
  • The Valentine Journal takes a look at Invisible People, amazing sculptures by artist Jin Young Yu.
  • Aileen Zakka's beautiful Polaroid photos taken on film that was accidentally (pre-) exposed. One of the things I love about toy camera and instant photography is that the mistakes are often gorgeous and serendipitous.
  • I'd never heard of pajaki, or Polish paper chandeliers, until I read this post by Lovelorn Unicorn. They are beautiful!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10.27.2009 Lace and a lion

Dress: gift from my Mom, bag: Cambridge Satchel Company, tights: store in Shida night market, shoes: Aldo, necklaces: Aldo, Tree & Kimball and Eric at Booday

It's finally layering weather again in Taipei! This is my tentative entry into the colored tights trend. Hosiery is very cheap in the night markets here and I also have pairs in bright purple and red -- but I don't feel comfortable wearing those. I love them on other people, but they make me feel like a harlequin. Wearing navy blue tights with brown shoes is a good compromise for me. I like to think my look says "I have a basic understanding of color theory, y'all!"


My bag is from the Cambridge Satchel Company. My necklace was purchased from a cool store here in Taipei called Booday. I recently wrote a story about Booday's lifestyle brand (PDF link), includes a magazine, a t-shirt line and a cafe. They also promote indie designers, artists and musicians. The necklace is made by an artist named Eric and features tiny vintage celluloid animals he collected while traveling in the US.


My lace necklace is by Tree & Kimball. I last wore it in an outfit photo back in July. It's a bit hard to see here because it's close to the color of my skin, but I fiddled with the contrast on this photo so you can get a better idea of how it looks. Here is its Etsy listing.


Thank you for all your well wishes on our new kitten last week! George is doing great so far and we are working on cat-proofing the house. It's amazing how much stuff he can get into. Last night, I caught him trying to eat paper. I have no idea why he'd do that -- I can't imagine an ATM receipt tastes very good! Crazy cat! (By the way, that was one of my nicknames in college. I have no idea why! Old lady Cat would have made more sense.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Legumes of the Week #7

Cherry Blossom in Sunnyvale, Ca.
Sunnyvale, California

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Guys rarely make passes...

... at girls who wear glasses. Ugh. When I first got glasses, one of my Mom's friends actually said this to her (well, in Mandarin and she didn't speak in rhyme, but you get my point). She continued, in all earnestness, that it would be really, really hard for me to find a husband. I was only seven years old. Fortunately, I have a cool mother who had no interest in getting her daughter married off before puberty, and she let me keep my man-deterring specs.

I remember the conversation because I just thought it was so weird (and not just because getting married was the last thing I was interested in doing as a second grader). When our optometrist told me I was nearsighted, I was thrilled! I thought glasses made me look so grown-up and smart. My first pair was pink with little red and blue accents, like the stripes in peppermint candy. I wore them with a red cord, which became my style signature in grade school:


A few years later, I was in sixth grade and it was time for me to get a more serious looking pair of frames. I got a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles. They look really big and owlish now, but I remember all the kids in school who wore glasses had aviator-style specs, too:

I miss that dress! The mullet-perm, not so much.

I've been thinking about glasses lately because I saw some cool posts about spectacles on Lulu Letty, Fashion for Writers and Diary of a Vintage Girl. I also accidentally washed one of my contact lens down the sink last week. This was the day before my husband found the dog in the park; I had to spend the whole day at home watching him, so I couldn't run out and buy a new pair. As a result, I had to wear glasses the next morning while I was out doing an interview. To my surprise, I found wearing them outside quite comfortable and even the lack of peripheral vision didn't bother me. And, just like when I was a little girl, I loved how my glasses lent me some gravitas.

As an expat living in Taiwan, I sometimes feel very conscious about my accent and limited vocabulary as a non-native Mandarin speaker. This is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of people are surprised by the way I sound, because I look Taiwanese. To compensate, I really make an effort to express myself through my clothing while at the same time appearing professional. It's my way of telling people "hey, I might not sound the way you expect me to, but I have a point of view and I have my act together. I make my style decisions deliberately, and that extends to the way I conduct the rest of my life."

When I added my glasses to the mix, it was like wearing a mask in a way. I felt protected. My glasses are a bit nerdy, but at the same time their rectangular silhouette is fashionable in Taiwan. I like to think the message they send out is "I like to read and I am fluent in Taiwanese popular culture!"

Unfortunately, I forgot that whenever I wear glasses, I do this weird twitchy thing with the right side of my face. Last year, I wore my specs to Chinese class. One of my classmates interrupted lunch to ask, "Catherine, are you winking at me?" I totally forgot about that until the other day, when Ron told me during lunch that I was twitching. It's unconscious and I think it is because my face is unaccustomed to the extra weight. After all, I've worn contacts almost every day for the past 17 years. Unfortunately, I had lunch with Ron after my interview. I seriously hope I didn't spend an hour doing this to the designers I was talking to:

Gar! Anyway, I've decided to stick to contacts for now. It'll save me a certain amount of public and professional humiliation, but it pains my heart when I see the kind of truly awesome vintage frames available out there. Check out these amazing specs from Vintage50sEyewear:

And as for the whole "guys rarely make passes..." thing... why would anyone want to date, let alone marry, a guy who judges someone based on their eyewear!?! Sheesh!

Monday, October 19, 2009

10.17.2009 A sort-of nautical air (and a new fur child)

10.17.2009 A sort-of nautical air
Dress: Modcloth, cardigan: Modcloth, bag: Earth Tree fair trade store, shoes: Aldo

A few days ago, the wind stopped howling, the rain stopped pouring and I got my act together long enough to haul myself (and my husband) out for an outfit snapshot. Woohoo! The dress, which has little lifesavers printed on it, is by Tulle via Modcloth and the cardigan is also by Modcloth. I last featured this dress on another gray and gloomy day in June. I like to think my outfit has a 1940s flavor (I don't really wear my vintage clothing very often in Taipei, since it is so humid here).


I've also made it my personal mission to imitate poses I've seen on vintage sewing pattern sleeves -- and in my own head, like this curtsy. Am I even doing the curtsy correctly?


The paintings that I am standing in front of have actually been attached to boards and put outside to straighten before framing. Our neighborhood has quite a few frame shops, but this is the only one that always has watercolors outside, which seems kind of risky. But I guess they know what they are doing!

It's been a crazy week. You might remember the abandoned dog I mentioned in my last outfit post. It turns out he was not abandoned, but lost. Our neighborhood vet quickly reunited the dog with his owner. We missed him, but were somewhat relieved because not only was he a senior citizen dog (16 years old!) who needed special care and his owner's love, but our landlords would probably have flipped out. But just a couple days later, Ron picked up a kitten that had been abandoned near our house. When it rains cats and dogs, it sure does purr!

Taroko George, the golden cat

We've decided to adopt the kitty and have been busy cat-proofing our house and buying scratching posts and a covered, filtered litter box to show our landlords that we are responsible pet owners who won't let our kitty wreck the apartment. Our rental contract doesn't forbid us from keeping pets, but we'd like to remain on good terms with our landlords. For more about our adventures with Taroko George (our new cat) and the stray/abandoned animal problem in Taipei, check out my other blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Groovilicious Taiwan

A few weeks ago, I purchased a DVD of what may be the greatest movie of our time, "Stardust (群星會)." Released in 1970, Stardust covers the lives of several Taipei showgirls as they deal with feckless boyfriends, suitors who use way too much hair pomade and silently disapproving parents, all the while wearing the most glorious pantsuits ever sewn and half their body weight in false eyelashes. It's a bit like "Valley of the Dolls"... but in Taiwan and even more fabulous.

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

群星會 (Stardust), 1970

Like I said, groovilicious!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Legumes of the Week #6

Little boy and shadow
Fulong Beach, by me

It's been a while since I've done one of these! Some of these links are a bit older, but still awesome:

  • This wonderful Flickr group focuses on beautiful pictures of everyday objects. If you love flipping through Japanese zakka magazines, you'll enjoy the photos here.
  • Embroidered poetry at Craftster. I'm a big fan of the pieces that look like handwriting on paper.
  • Matilda's Delights whips out a "vintage frightener" of an ad that illustrates why I'm glad I don't live in the 1950s and 1960s even though I love clothing from that era.
  • This photo from Shorpy reminds me of my college so much that it makes me miss being an undergraduate. Going to the library was like going to a magical place filled with secret warrens and hidey-holes (which I would sometimes literally hide in. Sleep deprivation makes you do intriguing things).

  • Milk Tooth presents an awesome collection of Struwwelpeter graphics. To see this creepy cautionary tale come to life, check out this animated video:

Monday, October 12, 2009

10.10.2009 Embroidery and denim

Dress: Cartoonland, a store in Taipei that sells retro cartoon memorabilia and dresses, vest: Modcloth, bag: Earth Tree (地求樹), headband and wooden bead necklace: Aldo, shorter necklace: People Tree

One of the things I keep forgetting about Taipei's autumns and winters is that they are very cloudy! It's been particularly oppressive for the past couple of weeks, which is why I haven't been posting outfit pictures. The fierce wind and lack of sun make it very hard to take good photos, which is why this one is indoors and a bit blurry. Argh!

The good thing is that it's cold enough to start layering again. I'm wearing a cotton dress with white embroidery around the collar and a denim vest to give some shape to it since it's basically a muumuu. You might be seeing this combo a lot in my outfit photos since a lot of dresses sold by Taiwanese brands are one-size-fits-all and don't have a waistline. I think they do this because it's cheaper than manufacturing different sizes, but unfortunately these tunics make me look like a barrel. I do love the embroidery (you can't see it very well, but the thread is almost as thick as crewel embroidery and it's fairly well-detailed) and the bell sleeves on this one, however.

One of my tasks this weekend is to take my cold weather clothes out of their boxes and re-sole my boots and other winter shoes. I haven't gotten around to it because autumn totally snuck up on me -- one day it was muggy, the next day it was cloudy and windy! I know I complain about the sun a lot because it gives me migraines, but come back sun! All is forgiven!

In other news, some idiot abandoned their dog in a park near our house. My husband found her in a cardboard box while he was out drinking his morning coffee and reading the newspaper. You can read more about the dog here. I've been taking care of her all day and we're going to help her find a nice new home, since our landlords won't let us keep dogs (grrrr!). She's a very nice dog and it makes me so angry that someone just tossed her in the park in a grimy old cardboard box. I just don't understand people who adopt a dog or cat without realizing that it's not an automated stuffed animal!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Martha Stewart... foxy lady!?!?!?

Don't get me wrong-I know Martha Stewart has always had those patrician good looks and I've heard before that she was a model. But I didn't know that she was downright foxy... as in Bond lady, swimsuit model, I'm going to tempt Don Draper in an alternate universe foxy:

For more, check out Apartment Therapy Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I love living in Taiwan, p.1: Jos Designs wooden hair sticks

One of my favorite things to do in Taipei is visit artist and designer markets and pick up things I'd never be able to find back in the United States. Take Jos Designs wooden hair sticks, for example. Each one is carved out of hardwood and inspired by motifs in traditional Chinese art:




I have two carved from blue sandalwood and they smell wonderful.