Sunday, July 7, 2013

Group Therapy

If you are an adult who chooses to live in NYC on purpose, you may find that you stumble on a rough patch (or 2 or 10). Some years ago, I decided that I wanted to outsource some of my angst, so I went for a therapy intake (I had also tried to go to therapy once before, but ended up dating the intake therapist for a few years. But that’s another story and unethical kettle of fish).

I wasn’t sure therapy would be for me, as I found it hard to complete one of the first tasks, which was to complete this sentence:

People who live in glass houses should…

I responded,

·      Make sure they have great home insurance policies?
·      Well, what type of glass house are we talking about? Do you mean a glass structure designed by Richard Meier or Santiago Calatrava?

I suppose my answers led Intake Therapist to place me in a high-functioning group therapy session. What does high-functioning mean? That we can speak at least 3 languages, do aerials and bake the perfect soufflé? I agreed to try one session, which included a garden variety of typical New Yorkers:

·      1 grossly overweight and overstressed male Wall Street trader
·      3 women who were battling anorexia and/or bulimia
·      1 male with social phobia (which is not the worse thing to be in NY)
·      1 fidgety fidgeter (too much caffeine?)
·      1 Very, Very, Very Angry Person (rage disorder)

Clearly I was in the wrong group. I should have been placed in a group of people who loved architecture, fashion and refused to answer stupid questions (is there a DSM 5 category for this?) Anyway, this is what I learned from the first session:

·      That 2 Tic Tacs can be considered a meal
·      That the world of a Wall Street trader is very stressful, yet the rewards can be great (and obviously full of calories)
·      When a very, very angry person bounces a chair forcefully off a wall, one should be very, very quiet.

Group Therapist managed to calm VVV Angry and urged us all to return for the next week’s session. Since most of us feared for our lives, returning seemed quite unlikely. Group Therapist assured us that the next week would be fun, as we would be doing a music exercise. I was curious as to what a therapeutic music exercise could possibly be, though I suspected it was some sort of ruse to get us all to show up again.

As it turned out, the exercise consisted of us all writing down our names on a piece of paper and placing them in a hat. We all drew names and we were to choice a song that reminded us of said name and person. I drew the name of one of the food+eating it challenged women. I chose a song I knew she would like (American Girl by Tom Petty), which she did.

When it came to be my turn, you can imagine my surprise when I read the lyrics that, in one girl’s mind, personified me:

Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton
Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of hay

Was this some sort of joke, Miss Anorexia #3? Who was she telling to pick cotton? I could have been in a French class or at the gym but I found myself in a dreaded group therapy session being insulted by someone who based her entire existence on laxatives and a piece of candy.

That was the moment I ended group therapy. I did learn something about myself, though: I learned that other people’s glass houses are nothing close in idea to mine.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fashion Haiku

Sometimes it is difficult is be concise. I decided to give myself some perimeters that will keep me tethered to keeping it brief. I’ve written some musings about fashion in the form of Japanese Haiku poems, which uses very few syllables within 3 lines. 

True Arbiter

There’s Suzy Menkes
 in the front row maintaining
her discerning eye.

Suzy Menkes via

A Question

Any human not in blue jeans
is now an icon?


PUNK is at the Met
and so are some artworks by
M. Marcel Duchamp.


Lynn Yaeger, I will
trade you Mr. Dishy for
a closet viewing.

(What? She really likes one of my beaus.)

Lynn Yaeger via 

(Formerly Yves) Saint Laurent

Hedi Slimane sir,
your last collection was jank-
will sell like hotcakes.

Gender Neutral

Anna Wintour/Marc Jacobs
wearing the same Prada coat,
I rather like this.

Anna Wintour and Marc Jacobs via The


Isabella Blow,
Anna Piaggi- both gone
the field lies barren.

Punk: (not much) Chaos, Some Couture

Not all and yet most
who went to the Met Ball served
High School prom theme looks.

Someone Read The Invite

In her black mesh dress
Miley Cyrus did me proud
I used mesh so much.

Miley Cyrus wearing mesh at the recent Met Gala.

Madonna and me in Holland in 1983 wearing clothing I designed for us. 


When there’s a stalemate
I watch Bowie videos
Healing style Rx.

My Perfect Moment with Grace Coddington

Thanks for asking me
about fabric in Paris-
glad I could answer. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Never a Girlfriend

I was watching a television show about a couple’s comical travails. Things were going well between me and the TV show until the lead female character gets engaged. Then it is revealed that this character has been previously engaged five times! I hate her. I truly hate her, even if she is fictional.

I’ve never been married. I think the marriage boat has been set aflame and has permanent sailed away from me. I’m probably being punished by the marriage Gods for using ‘boat’ as a wedding metaphor. I resent not getting married. I should be on my second or third divorce by now. I hate being called a “girlfriend”. At my age, one doesn’t call a woman a ‘girl’. It is insulting. A girl does not have the life experience I have. A girl does not have the arsenal of skin care products that I have. A girl does not let herself only be photographed upside down because it is her better side. And does the ‘friend’ part of the word mean I’m supposed to be friendly? These days, chance would be a fine thing.

There needs to be a word for an attractive older woman who has relatively kept her figure and has perhaps a slice of her former charming personality left that she lets out for a viewing on alternate Tuesdays so she may have the chance to meet a nice middle aged man who will of course come with his baggage checked in at my emotional front desk and that will mean in his case at least one ex-wife and one or more children that I will have to love as he does unconditionally even when they introduce me as Dad’s girlfriend.

I’ve tried using the word paramour. I like the word paramour (as a word), but it is so Elizabethan. Actually, it is so Middle English (or Old French). And it doesn’t really work. It denotes an illicit type of relationship as well as a being a word used for lover (and lover is just not a good enough job description). I’m just not up to doing anything illicit these days. With age comes the ability to not run very fast. And I don’t wear the type of shoes that one can run in.

I could be called a courtesan. If I time traveled and lived in the noble court of King Charles II. I don’t know how those gals did it, those courtesan women. Not only did they have to have sex, they had to be attractive and well dressed. They also had to be ready at a moment’s notice to engage in witty conversation about music, art and be abreast of the latest political news. I can handle the well- dressed part. For everything else, I would have to hand him a newspaper. And hopefully there are some escort services listed in the back.

Concubine is not a good word either. It feels very harem making. I also don’t like the word mistress. Or whore, slut, hussy, lady of the evening, tramp, trollop, vamp, temptress or floozy, except for comedy reasons. But I do like enchantress. Enchantress sounds so magical. I would love it if a man would introduce me as his enchantress. It sounds so seductive. Like I could hold an audience in sway, while he pulls rabbits out of a hat. 

I’m supposed to be married, or widowed or something other than a girlfriend by now. I guess I could be called a female companion (no, this sounds like an archaic product, like a plastic rain scarf). I could be called a female associate that I spend some time with type of chum. A woman person amongst the things in the world enchantress consort. I think I’ve just solved my title problem. I hope this term catches on. If you ever need to greet me, see that you use it.

Me in a Yohji Yamamoto skirt, a skirt so big that it barely fits in a car. And I can't run in these McQueen heels. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Flavor Revolution of ‘Anarchy in a Jar’

My passion for Anarchy in a Jar started innocently, with a small jar of blueberry jam that was given as a gift. While I love blueberries, I am not usually a fan of blueberry things. Now though, I can happily admit that Anarchy in a Jar has altered my view. The jam was a perfect combination of berries spiced with anise seed and juniper, but there was also a surprising addition of rum. This jam found its way on top of something every day until it was gone. It was so delicious that I wanted to try all that Anarchy in a Jar had to offer (I’ve tried many and they all were equally distinctive and ambrosial).

The utterly scrumptious 3's Company Triple Berry Jam.

Anarchy in a Jar was created by Laena McCarthy a few years ago. She started with a small production of jams, marmalades and chutneys, but the demand for Anarchy in a Jar grew rapidly and has expanded beyond the borders of Laena’s Brooklyn environ. I sat down with Laena at Smorgasburg to find out more about the genesis of her delectable concoctions and what new and imaginative flavors she’s been cooking up:

The savor master Laena McCarthy of Anarchy in a Jar.  

When did you start your company?
I started Anarchy in a Jar in 2009.

Did your formation of Anarchy in a Jar happen at the same time that your beau, Ben Flanner, was starting the urban rooftop organic garden The Brooklyn Grange?

Ben and his former partner had created the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. Ben was creating and building The Brooklyn Grange when we met.

How do you source your ingredients?
I source my ingredients wherever I can find good, delicious elements. I use responsible farms. I’m inspired by talking to people. I usually start with a seasonal fruit, like 600 pounds of organic blueberries. I found the most delicious berries grown by a handsome farmer from Maine (it didn’t hurt that he was handsome). Sometimes GrowNYC is a great source of ingredients. I can suggest it and they can find it. They are a wonderful resource.

A Lime and Pandan Marmalade & the spicy Hot Fireman's Pear Jam w/Chipolte & Cinnamon.

I adore your logo design and jar! Who came up with the design?
I did. I just played around with types of fonts, shapes etc. I knew the type of jar and label I wanted, so I created it.

Are there canners in your family?
I first learned canning from my Mother. I used to help her can and prepare preserves when I was young. It’s been fun helping her as an adult too.

I find your flavor combinations absolutely dreamy. Do you find yourself dreaming about jam and chutney recipes?
Oh yes!

This disappears all too rapidly at my place: Grapefruit and Smoked Salt Marmalade.

A mutual friend gave me a jar of your spinach pesto. It was the best pesto I’ve ever had, and I make a very good pesto. Would you mind telling me the secret of your pesto?
It had very little spinach in it. It was a ramp pesto. I first had ramps in Italy. I’ve always loved the flavor of ramps so I thought I’d create my own pesto using them.

Your jam and jelly flavors are so inventive. How have you been inspired by your travels?
I have done a lot of traveling and I’ve lived in various parts of the world. I lived for a year in Antarctica. I do love meeting people and cooking with them. A great way to get to know a place is to experience the food. I also have friends who are bartenders and they are very helpful with flavor ideas. One of my favorites is the Clover Club Bar in Carroll Gardens.

I’m such a savory girl, but I’m so in love with your jellies and jams. I have a feeling you are a savory girl too. What attracted you to produce such sweet delicious things?
I eat more savories, but I do love both sweet and savory. I think I eat more savory things. I love the perfect combination of sweet, salty and savory.

I can't wait to cook w/this one: Sugar Plum Fairy Jam with Shiso and Ice Wine.

You can find stockists, workshop info and Laena McCarthy’s book aptly titled Jam On: The Craft of Canning Fruit on the ever evolving Anarchy in a Jar website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And Then Along Came Sandy…

You would have to have been deeply removed from your very own head, news media or nature itself (if you live in the tri-state area) to not know of the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. It’s been almost one month since the storm pummeled our shores, demolished our electrical power lines, felled buildings and flooded our homes. There were people who lost their lives and people who lost all of their belongings. Existence in this region had to be analyzed, reconsidered, reconfigured and will never be the same.

A view of lower Manhattan after the Con-Edison transformer explosion.

I knew I was prepared for the storm (I finally had a use for all the damn candles that always manage to find themselves wherever I am). Or so I thought. Nothing could prepare me for the bright aqua lightning, the aberrant buzzing sound of the circling wind, and seeing an uprooted large tree fly by my window. I was aware there could be power outages. I just didn’t think they would last for over a week. I had to figure out an all-purpose wardrobe: something that was warm, comfortable and could be waterproof if need be and tolerated if it needed to be worn for many days. I hadn’t thought about clothing in this way since I was a young Girl Scout preparing for a camping trip. I did have to entertain myself for longer than I thought I’d have to. I drew, I wrote and I read; my Kindle became my best friend. Gone were public transportation, electricity, warm showers and sarcasm, like so many of the things I took for granted. I came out on the other side of Sandy inconvenienced and a bit dazed but unscathed. I consider myself very lucky.

Cement slabs that once supported a boardwalk in Spring Lake,NJ.Photo by Erika Belle.  

The first Sandy related benefit I attended was at Mister H club in the Mondrian Hotel in Soho. It was organized by the fashion website StyleLikeU and called for donations of much needed household cleaning supplies. I’ve worn black rubber gloves to nightclubs in my day and as a former bar/club owner, I’ve carried many a full trash bag out, but it was a first for me to bring trash bags and packaged gloves into an event (along with giant bottles of bleach, soap and sponges).

The reconstruction and cleanup has started in earnest, but there is still much work to be done. There are more many benefits to attend for those in need and for those who have lost their homes. Please continue to support this recovery in any way that you can (money, volunteer work, food and clothing donations) I found these sites very helpful for direction of where and what to donate:

The American Red Cross, NY (aid can also be given to NJ & Connecticut chapters)

A remnant of the Jersey Shore. Photo by Erika Belle. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Degen: Deux

I recently walked around much of lower Manhattan with my seminal good friend Kimberly Logan-Hynes. Kimberly is the Costume Shop Manager of the Florida Grand Opera. She and her lovely daughter Lucy were in Manhattan for a vacation, but both also had an agenda to complete. Both women wanted to visit yarn stores, as they love to knit. I always wanted to learn how to knit, but being a lefty and only finding right handed instructors has kept knitting something I can only admire from afar. For me, fall and winter are merely an excuse to wear sweaters.

Kimberly needed to find a specific shade of blue yarn to complete a project, and I was rather confident that this would be easy to accomplish here in New York, with so many specialty shops that cater to artisans of all types. We started our mission at Habu Textiles, which is a shop where one can find many varieties of yarn from Japan, and ended at Purl Soho, which once inside I saw yarn of every width and color (almost). There were other stops in between, but despite our nearly Arthurian ‘yarn quest,’ the desired shade of blue was a no-show. Kimberly vowed to continue her search elsewhere. Who knew what a labor of love knitting could be?

Who indeed. As a matter of fact, my friend Lindsey Degen knows well the passion for knitting. Her Degen line is mainly knitwear – though knitwear as you’ve never seen it before. Her Degen S/S 2013 collection was inspired by the individuality of ‘street style’ and her desire to move away from the trappings of technical design into a more liberating ‘do it yourself’ or ‘make it yourself’ ethos.

Lindsey assembled a group of like-minded designers and artists to help her execute this season’s endeavor. Cobbler Chris Coulthrust, in conjunction with Converse sneakers, created the fantastic footwear. The crochet hats were produced by the milliner Amy Cakes, and Claudia Baethgen designed the denim wear. The melded and multifarious jewelry design was by the artist Meredith Iszlai and Lindsey Degen.

Lindsey believes that the revolution will be craftivised and she implores us to take action, own our decisions and ‘make it’! And hopefully we will be able to do this by finding and making it in the colors that we need.

Two cool looks by Lindsey Degen. The set installations: Sam Jaffee and Lindsey Degen.

Cropped 3/4 sleeve sweater worn with a necklace made in collaboration w/Meredith Iszlai.

Multi-colored short tank worn with a hat by milliner Amy Cakes. 
'Pizza' bra worn with a beautiful crotched cowl. 
These fantastically great Converse were designed in collaboration with cobbler Chris Coulthrust.
The ring is by artist & jewelry designer Meredith Iszlai. Nails by Myrdith Leon-McCormack for M2M.

On him: 'It's Like That' shorts. On her: A denim mini by Claudia Baethgen.

The talented and lovely Lindsey Degen. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Attached to A Détacher!

I asked my friend Monika Kowalska her inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2013 season. Mona (her nickname) replied, “Cotton, I really love cotton.” On view this season was a collection of her wonderful cotton wovens and knitwear. Mona is the designer of clothing and accessories for her label A Détacher, which means “to be detached” in French.  

Mona designed for a number of small clothing companies in Italy before moving to Paris to take the helm of the design team at Sonia Rykiel. After that, she moved to New York and created A Détacher in 1998. Her store in Nolita is a stalwart go-to location filled with beautiful items that are dependably unique and wearable. Every season I’m excited to see the fruition of Mona’s creativity. Her singular aesthetic is a magical balance of fashion that is refreshingly new and instantly timeless. And as always, the collection was expertly styled by Haidee Findlay-Levin, assisted by Caitlyn Leary and Gemma Harben. 

Model Nina Collet before the runway in A Détacher S/S '13. 

A fantastic cotton jumpsuit. 

Ulla Reiss in a romper with a twist. 

A detail from my favorite jumpsuit. The alpine print was designed by Monika Kowalski & Caitlyn Leary.

Two looks plus the great hair styling created by Hirofumi Kera for Shiseido.

Pre-show sandals on parade! 

Valery in lovely brown top with an eyelet dot pattern.

Masha in an ecru sweater. The makeup was designed by Miyako Okamoto for Shiseido.
All photos by Erika Belle.