Madame Fortuna

One Halloween, years ago now, I distinctly remember sitting on a sidewalk outside a bar in my college town, nursing a skinned knee and torn fishnets, and thinking, with disappointment, "so this is the end of Halloween." 
It was my first Halloween after graduation and I didn't really know what to do with myself. That year was one of my first without something to decorate, an event to plan, and I was far too big for trick-or-treating. Finding myself a little lost and without an outlet for my Halloween creativity, I directed my efforts and excitement into constructing an elaborate costume, the bearded lady, which was neither understood or appreciated by the college crowd. 
That night made two things clear to me: I had outgrown the college scene, and Halloween, the most beloved of holidays, was over for me.

This year, seven years after my sidewalk revelation, Halloween is back from the dead and better than ever, thanks to Madame Fortuna.

Of course, Halloween never actually died. In the years between my revelation and this year's resurrection, I have celebrated-- decorating the house and treating trick-or-treaters, but it's never felt quite right; it has always been missing that something special, that bit of excitement and magic the occasion had in my youth.

About a month ago, I found my brain bubbling with all these Halloween ideas: cemeteries, fog machines, ghosts, grim reapers-- real spooky stuff. I'm not sure exactly when Madame Fortuna entered the picture, but once she did, I knew this was just the interactive experience I was looking to create. 

After settling on the fortune teller theme, I began buying up every thrift store bed sheet I could find to make my fortune teller's tent. A few dye baths and one frantic sewing session later and I had enough purple striped fabric to stretch all the way around a popup canopy we were given for our wedding. I also found a dust ruffle that was trimmed with gold tassels that were perfect for trimming the edge of the gold canopy.

For the crystal ball, I picked up a very inexpensive milk glass light fixture and added a remote control, color-changing, LED light bulb. My beau wired it all up for me and I hid the remote under the tablecloth so I could change the colors and turn it on and off at will. 
I also took the opportunity to display a bit of my uranium glass collection illuminated under blacklight.

Using magnets, large pieces of black muslin, a construction light, and the moon I made for my wedding, I put together a little photo opportunity on the garage door. Several folks stopped and snapped a few pictures of their kids-- finally, the moon got some use as it was intended!

We had a rather low trick-or-treater turnout this year, but those that did stop by were really great-- some even came through a second time! It was so fun gazing into the crystal ball and "telling" the future. Highlights of the night were a group of young teenage girls that I told would be lucky in love (after my usual Halloween fortune), and a girl who, by the end of her visit with me, was convinced she had magic powers of her own.

In my little life, there have been so many memorable experiences and people, that have helped to create a sense of magic and wonder in this world. I realize now that, even if it is just on Halloween, I have the power to create one of those experiences for someone else. 

I really have to hand it to my beau, he's been so very patient with this whole project. He's not the kind of guy that particularly values creative endeavors or decorative excess (we're totally flipsides of the same coin) but he knew how important this was to me and I think he genuinely appreciated seeing the trick-or-treaters' reactions. 
Hopefully next year he'll want to put on a costume and join in the fun!

Speaking of next year, I'm already scheming. I'd love to put together a cemetery, complete with that fog machine I've always wanted, and have kids walk through it to get to Madame Fortuna's tent.

I'll have to hold off making gravestones for now though as our future is a bit unclear and another job change (and a possible location change) is on the horizon yet again. 
How nice it would be if Madame Fortuna's crystal ball could really reveal the future.


The Atlantic

Looking at these pictures now, less than a week after they were taken, it's hard to believe the weather permitted short sleeves and bare legs at the beach. 

Summer does not fade out gracefully in these parts, nor does it immediately concede to autumn come the passing of the equinox. The change of seasons here, on the coast, is a battle-- stretches of summer weather, punctuated by days of plunging temperatures and delightful sweater weather, only to have summer rear its head again. Generally, come Thanksgiving, autumn will have triumphed, claiming its victory for a few short weeks before war with winter is declared.  

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew brought us a heavy dose of sweater weather. Days before his arrival, in the calm before the storm, the air was thick with sticky tropical humidity-- souvenirs from his journey through Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Floridian coast. As he pushed past us, he left behind all that cool dry continental air that he had consumed throughout his travels, the air that in fact had weakened him and saved us from catastrophe.

Unlike our inland neighbors, we fared surprisingly well here on the coast of North Carolina. We were spared Matthew's immense rain shield and his hurricane force winds and were able, once he had passed, to resume life as usual (after we cleaned up some downed branches and trees). The beach, however, was not quite so lucky as I discovered on my twilight stroll several nights ago. In spots, Matthew's massive waves devoured the dunes leaving little more than minute mounds where mountains of sand once stood. 

Matthew rolled into town on a Saturday, leading with a torrent of rain and departing with howling winds in his wake. All the while the storm lashed our home, I sat in our spare room piecing together a skirt from a swath of thrifted novelty fabric that celebrated the mother of all hurricanes, the mighty Atlantic ocean.

After the storm passed, it was so cold I was worried I'd have to wait to wear this skirt when it warmed up in the spring, but fall's fickle nature provided me with the opportunity this week.

The Outfit:
Sweater-- TJ Maxx
Blouse-- thrifted, no tag
Camisole-- JC Penney
Skirt-- thrifted fabric, sewn by me
Shoes: (seen below) Target

Sewing is a new hobby of mine and this skirt was the first project I've seen to completion on my own. The hem is crooked and the side zip is a disaster (perhaps this silky fabric wasn't the best to start with) but I'm pleased as Punch to actually have completed something.

I could not believe my luck when I stumbled on this fabric at a thrift store; the ships, the fish-- it was just the perfect bit of kitsch for my seaside life. And at $3 for several yards, I couldn't resist.

With my skirt, I wore a new thrift shop find that has gotten a lot of wear this season-- a semi-sheer blouse, and my favorite sweater that I lovingly refer to as my "rag." This lightweight knit is perfect for taking away the chill of  overly air-conditioned rooms in all seasons, and makes me feel  little less self-conscious when I wear it over a sleeveless top or dress.
 I have a few of these "rags" in my closet currently and I think, perhaps, something similar might be my next sewing project since they get so much wear.

I'm excited to give this pattern another try and hopefully hone my hemline and zipper sewing skills. I was a bit nervous about how short the skirt turned out, as most of my skirts fall below the knee, but it's not as horribly unflattering on my chubby legs as I had expected-- especially since this skirt will get the most wear during the summer. 

I wore this outfit to do some thrift shopping and pick up a few things for this year's rather elaborate Halloween projects. This year's spooky efforts involve dozens of flat bed sheets, buckets of fabric dye and lots of tassels-- I can't wait to share the results!


Cameo Summer

       At the end of February, my beau and I made the long drive back to New York to honor the memory of his uncle and to help his mother clear out her family home. My beau's grandmother had been a great collector of things, as had his uncle, which meant there was a lot to go through, a lot to throw out, and a lot to save. 
       After a week of hard, dusty work, we returned to North Carolina with a van full of treasures that we were tasked with re-homing. 

      In the months since, I've sent my beau's family treasures across the country and around the world, helping to recoup his uncle's final expenses and hopefully bringing some peace of mind to all involved with the knowledge that these old things will be appreciated.

While it was never really my intention to keep much of what we brought back, I've wound up feeling like I should hold on to some of it.  I just couldn't part with the sterling cake server used in my beau's great-grandparents wedding, or the ceramic Christmas tree made by his grandma, and the bracelet engraved as a gift from his great-grandfather to his great-grandmother seemed way too special to part with. Also, for obvious reasons, the ocean themed paintings, that hung in the family home for the better part of a century, had to become part of my home as well. 
Some of what I've saved has been things that feel at home in my home, some are things that most would consider family heirlooms, and some are things that I just plain like-- like this cameo. 
A bit of costume jewelry, nothing special or sentimental, I had every intention of adding this cameo to my shop, that is, until I put it on.

Since then, I've rarely taken it off, in fact most of my outfits this summer have involved the cameo. At this point, I have worn it enough that strangers, who have since become acquaintances, have identified me as the "girl with the big [expletive] cameo"-- hey, there are worse things to be known for!

Like the cameo, this 60s Sears dress is a new addition to my collection and has been one of my summer staples since I picked it up on our travels in July. 
With lightweight, linen-like fabric, and cheery salmon hue, it has been just the frock to beat the southern heat in style. 

Scarf-- thrifted
Cameo Necklace-- my beau's grandmother's 
Pearl earrings-- a gift from my beau

Dress-- Sears Fashions, purchased at Antiques & Interiors, Great Valley, NY (highly recommend stopping here if you're ever in the area)

Shoes-- Christian Siriano for Payless

The color of this dress reminds me of a cooked shrimp, so I wore it to our town's annual shrimp festival on Saturday night. 
Since moving here six years ago, we've only missed one shrimp festival, and while it's nothing more that some concessions, craft vendors, and live music, it's the highlight of life here in this little fishing community, so we go, eat some fried shrimp and funnel cakes, and generally have a nice time. 

The night always ends in an insane fireworks display that, in years past, has had us fearing for our safety as embers rain down on us, and always has us asking, "was that the finale?" 
This year was no different, but the wind was blowing in our favor and we were saved from that additional excitement of dodging bits of burning cardboard while we enjoyed the show.

 Images of shrimp fests past borrowed from the festival's Facebook page

It has been a great cameo summer so far! 
Here's to discovering another signature accessory for fall.



Here we are, once again, in that lush green limbo of late spring, when the first flush of seasonal color has faded away, and the burnt brown of summer has yet to descend. 

This time of year, mother nature dresses herself in green and white, wrapped up in the pale-trumpets of blooming bindweed, trimmed with lacy viburnum blossoms, and crowned with glorious blooms of the southern magnolia. 

And, without realizing, I follow suit, wrapped in my own frock of green and white.

It's been two months since my last post, and lately I've been feeling less than inspired.
Work, life, and nearly two solid weeks of entertaining house guests has sapped any energy, creative or otherwise, I've had.

It's times like this, in a moment of creative drought, that I am incredibly thankful to still be blogging. 

While the blog is a great outlet when my brain is bubbling with inspiration, it's also fantastic for resuscitating my creative spirit as it is constant encouragement to keep getting dressed and to keep exploring my world-- always searching for the perfect secluded spot to snap a few pictures. 

And, while I did little more than slip on a frock and stop by a city park (far from my goal of a grand historic site) I feel renewed-- my spirit revived. 

Last summer, after my visit to the Pelletier house (one of the few historic sites in town),  I had dismissed the small city of Jacksonville as little more than a modern monstrosity of big box stores and fast food joints, so when I stumbled on this old water-treatment-facility-turned-park in an adorably historic part of town (that I had no idea even existed!) I was in awe. 

As I tread its mile or so of boardwalk paths along the river and through the swampy forest, I could feel the strain of the past months slipping away as I admired the flora and fauna (deer, turtles, and a myriad of birds), and lined up photographs in my head. 

When I reached the end of one boardwalk, I was surprised to find a historic civil war plaque commemorating a river raid that took place in 1862-- I got my historic site after all!

And best of all, save for one fellow explorer, I had these wooden paths and trails entirely to myself and was free to set up my tripod without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortably self-conscious (though I suppose that's the advantage of exploring on a rainy weekday afternoon).

It's rare that I run into vintage clothes at an auction but one Saturday night this winter I got lucky and happened into an auction house with a whole rack of them. 

Thanks to my bid master beau, we won the entire rack and this gorgeous green and white gown was among them. While many of the other frocks are headed to my shop, I just had to save this one for myself.


It's a bit too big for me, a problem that is quite rare these days, but with its glass buttons, scalloped details, and gathered hips (below), I couldn't resist this dress.
I love how sheer and lightweight it is-- I can see getting a lot of wear out of it this summer.

I'm sure I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again, but there is something so wonderful about being able to just slip on a dress, select a pair of shoes (my Miz Mooz wedges in this case), slap on some lipstick (Besame's red hot red here), and head out the door feeling confident in the way I look. 



A week ago, I spent the first day of the last year of my twenties reveling in the splendor that is the southern spring. With the beautiful weather we've been having lately, I could think of no better way to spend my birthday than once again visiting Airlie Gardens.

In every season, Airlie is a testament to the natural beauty of the Carolina coast, but in spring it is simply resplendent. 
Each pilgrimage I've made to the gardens has been in summer, seeking refuge from the broiling sun on Airlie's moss-draped, live oak-shaded paths, but with each visit, as I approach the camellia garden, I swear that next year I'll visit in spring.
And this year I finally did.

The azaleas were beautiful too!

Airlie is a sprawling place, and though the parking lot was quite full (to include a school bus), the garden, at times, felt like a secret one-- just me and the flowers.

Despite the seclusion, I was still incredibly anxious about dragging my tripod along to snap a few photographs. While I love photographing what I wear and where I wear it, I always feel a little ashamed of the seeming excess and vanity of it all.  

But, after seven years of blogging, I can see the value in what I'm doing-- the value of having the better part of a decade of my life, my wardrobe, and my thoughts bound together here at the sea. The idea that years from now, whether I'm still blogging or not, I can look back at this chunk of time and see who I was, where I was and what I was wearing, is pretty amazing.

No matter how much I justify these photo sessions, I still find myself uncomfortable in front of the camera while in public however Airlie, of all places, is the perfect spot to embrace vanity and excess. Built in 1901 by the folks for whom the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" was likely in reference to, this sprawling garden is about anything but moderation.

While time spent amongst plants and in nature has a rather restorative magic of its own, Airlie has a lingering residue of magical evenings, high society galas and Gatsby-esque social events of the season. Wandering the grounds, I like to imagine guests, dressed in their finest, flitting to and fro under the pergola, boating on Airlie lake, or pitching woo in a quiet corner of the camellia garden. 

There's always a note of melancholy with these imaginings as I realize that, as time passes, fewer and fewer places like this will exist. We must enjoy them while we can.   

Pink jacket-- Lilly Pulitzer, hand-me-down (story here)
I really love the acrylic buttons on this jacket, but didn't realize until after I got home that I was missing one! Luckily there is a replacement button stitched inside the jacket. 

Necklace-- Belonged to my great-grandmother, sent to me as a 24th birthday present by my grandmother.

Dress-- 70s/80s Kevin Stuart Petites, thrifted. 
A bit of a polyester monstrosity, I thought there was no way I was going to like this dress, but I tried it on anyway. My polyester aversion was no match for its pastel hues and pleats-- plus it was under $1.00!
My headband is the original belt to this dress.

Bow belt-- Delia's, years ago

Shoes-- Payless. 
I later swapped out these little punched pleather flats for white plimsolls, also from Payless.

Purse-- Target

Sunglasses-- Forever21 

Orange Airlie Admission badge

Lip color-- NYX matte lip cream "Antwerp"
I'm not super fond of this lip product, the color is pretty but the formula is clumpy and drying, but at a few dollars, what can you expect.

With large, dreamy blossoms that look like a cross between a rose and a peony, the camellia is by far my favorite plant that I have discovered since moving south. A native to Asia, many of Airlie's camellias were hand selected and imported from the continent over a hundred years ago (what a wonderful job that would be to travel the world and select pretty flowers!). 

There is such a delicate old time elegance to the blooms, and with their glossy evergreen foliage (during my summer visits to the garden, I must have walked by so many shrubs that I had no idea were camellias!) the bush is attractive year round.  

This trip to the gardens set my spring fever ablaze so it was no surprise that I found myself doing a little plant shopping on the way home. And with my love for camellias newly rekindled, it's also no surprise that I came home with a flowering shrub of my own. 

The camellia is a "messy" plant, but what a beautiful mess it is! 

I selected a "Lady Laura" camellia that, after a lot of prep work, I planted along the west side of our property line. I also transplanted an azalea and rhododendron into this area and hope to create an Airlie-inspired line of shrubs. 

It felt so good to get my hands dirty and to work outside to create something beautiful-- I hope to do it again soon. 
Here's hoping that my 29th year is the of the green thumb!