Category Archives: BEAUTIFUL LIFE

ERICA JONG – MOTHER MADNESS

I ran across this article by Erica Jong on the madness of modern motherhood through another favorite author: Elizabeth Wurtzel.

The article made me sit back in my chair and I have been thinking of it randomly for weeks.  Perhaps because I am raising two children across two very different decades, or perhaps because I am a working, single mother who is responsible (most of the time) for daily life or perhaps just because there is a small feminist (Charlotte Perkins Gilman are you listening?) ember somewhere inside of me,  I find relief in Jong’s words.

(Admittedly, I have read every book that Jong ever wrote and have always adored her humor.  Fanny, one of my favorite Jong books, was written in response to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill.)

Although I made the conscious decision this last year to take more time for family life, I am still the breadwinner AND the bread baker.  And I stand by my decision and will tell anyone who asks that it was the best decision I ever made.

When my son was young, 29 years ago, I didn’t have that option (which is a luxury).  Yet, I have shed many a tear and endured many moments of guilt and self-loathing in thinking about decisions I made. The last line of Jong’s article feels like an absolution to me:  “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”

Read the Wall Street Journal article and tell me what you think:  Mother Madness

And don’t miss the additional piece by Molly Jong-Fast:  Growing Up With Ma Jong

*Raphael. The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna. 1500. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

TO DO

Outline and (most) first drafts for book number three submitted and approved – check.

(Thank you Melanie – celebrate tonight!)

Plan workshops for 2011 – check.

(Spots are filling up fast – reserve one today and join us.)

Holiday gifts made and wrapped – check.

(Order today using our code HAPPYHOLIDAYS20 for a 20% discount and we will ship it wrapped. Easy.)

Sign out early, pick Maggie up from school, make gumbo, read, build a fire, watch a movie, bake cookies, nap, cocktail with friends, write a letter, holiday video, family pictures, sit still, sigh…

*Photo from Lisa “Are You Kidding Me” Eisner of the E.B White Chair & Gumbo:

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HÔTEL DE CRILLION

My four-year-old daughter Maggie this morning while looking at the laundry hamper:  “Mama, you REALLY need to do the laundry. I’m just saying…”

Some days you just need to be running down the halls of the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris.  I’m just saying…

*Photo from my friends @  Le Deux Garcons – taken sometime last decade. xo

I WILL SEW MORE.

Over the holidays, I will take more time to sit and sew.

Over-the-Arm Pincushion – instructions from Alabama Stitch Book – on the back porch swing.

Did you know that sewing, cooking and all acts of hands-on making stimulate happiness and over-all well being?

From Kelly Lambert:

“Lambert shows how when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly-mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the well-being that comes from meaningful effort.”

Thanks to Catherine Newman for sharing Kelly’s work:

Lifting Depression:  A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power

JULIE GILHART + THE DALAI LAMA

Many of my regular readers know a bit about my history… but to sum it up for those of you that are new:

In the year 1999, I took (what I thought to be) a four month sabbatical from my life and loves in Vienna, Austria. Beginning on an island off the northern coast of Venezuela, my plan was to end my travels in New York City, spend one month, then go home to Vienna.  That never happened.

I went to New York City, one month became two, two months became three and – obviously – I never moved back to Vienna.  In the course of my extended sabbatical, I cut apart and reconstructed a t-shirt and a company called Project Alabama was born.  The history of Project Alabama and my subsequent move to Alabama Chanin has been well documented – no need to elaborate.  However, the simplified version above skips over so many, many people who are intricate to making Alabama Chanin the company that it is today.

Julie Gilhart from Barneys New York is one of these people.  She came to a make-shift “showroom” in the Hotel Chelsea and that first collection of recycled t-shirts came to life.  She consequently went out into the fashion industry and told everyone she met about the work.  Julie and the amazing buyers at Barneys have bought, sold and paid for every subsequent collection since the year 2001 – including the difficult time during the transition from Project Alabama to Alabama Chanin.

I luckily have had the opportunity to get to know Julie Gilhart over the last decade and the honor to call her “friend.”  And through this friendship, I heard the following story about a year ago:

It was the year 2000 and Julie had taken some time at the end of the year to hear a lecture from the Dalai Lama. After this amazing experience, she returned to her office at Barneys early in 2001 to be confronted with a pile of fashion week invitations and catalogs that covered the span of her desk and reached above eye-level.  The sheer amount of information was overwhelming.  She sat there looking at the pile, wondering where to start when a colleague from Barneys stopped by her office.  The visitor picked up a brochure from the Dalai Lama that Julie had lying on her desk, thumbed through and remarked, “This is everything we don’t do.”  Julie looked at the colleague, replied, “You are right.  We have to get out-of-here right now.”  She looked at the pile of invitations and catalogs on her desk, reached for a random item and pulled out a hand-made catalog from a new company:  Project Alabama.

Consequently, Julie called the number on the catalog, took a cab to the Hotel Chelsea, and Alabama Chanin came to life on that day.

Amazing to me that a decade of work can come from one simple moment of faith and belief…  stemming from a committed, brilliant, beautiful, rich, spiritual, whole, funny, light, surfing, friend of a woman.

Since those simple beginnings in 2000, I have had the opportunity to lecture and hold workshops around the globe on sustainability in design and to act as an expert in the fields of micro-economics and the use of local labor.  Alabama Chanin and me, Natalie Chanin, are what we are today because of the unfettered belief and support of Julie Gilhart. I am deeply indebted.

Julie’s recent departure from Barneys New York marks a new milestone in her own personal journey; a journey that I am sure will be filled with richness and beauty.

**T-shirt #90  “Sister Shirt” – shown above – was part of that very first collection and photographed by me.

SHRIMP, LOBSTER, OKRA

My daughter Maggie was digging around in a drawer the other day and found a deck of cards from New Orleans that my son, Zach, bought over fifteen years ago.  They were purchased at the gift shop of a paddle boat on the Mississippi River. It was New Year’s Day and I remember that we thought the ride was a little boring and turned to playing Gin Rummy for distraction.

Since that time, the deck disappeared, has been buried in drawers, carted around the world and surfaced this week only because Maggie is ALL about playing cards these days.  She pulled out the cards – called Louisiana Cajun: Deck O’ Meals and we started playing using rules from UNO.

You might remember seeing these “Deck O’ Meals” cards at one time or another; each card has a Cajun recipe on the face-side and the front of each card is an illustration of recipe ingredients like shrimp, lobster, okra, bell peppers, etc. Because of these illustrations, Maggie deemed our new game “Shrimp, Lobster, Okra.” The other day as we were playing, she was in the lead, got down to one card and when the excitement overcame her she screamed out “SHRIMP!”

Zach and I have had such a laugh and, of course, the rules of the game now require the winner to yell “SHRIMP.”  I actually caught Zach yesterday morning reading the recipes and day dreaming of New Orleans. One of the best cards – the 8 of Diamonds – includes a recipe for “Smothered Alligator.”

I got on the web this morning and found out that the cards are actually quite well-known and the recipes have circulated through all sorts of sites.  According to my (brief) research, it seems that the recipes themselves are highly rated.  I suggest that every family order a few decks for holiday gifts and spend some time playing (and perhaps eating) “Shrimp, Lobster, Okra.”

I wrote to our long-ago traveling companion to remind him of our “Deck O’ Meals” on the Mississippi River:  “Funny how things from the past will jump up and grab you when least expected.”

“Shrimp, Lobster, Okra” or the Louisiana Cajun: Deck O’ Meals


HOLIDAY GIFTS

We sent out our Holiday Gift Guide today…

I know that it seems early; BUT, Maggie has been listening to “Frosty the Snowman” for about three weeks and begging for the decorations to come down from the attic. Yes, I know that Thanksgiving is next week; but, have you tried to argue with a 4 year-old?

So, the decorations box is down. My vintage, aluminum Christmas Tree – inherited from my grandparents – is unpacked and decorated.  Holiday tunes fill the house and the weather outside is a cold, winter rain. So, we are in full holiday spirit and I am grateful for the holiday gift of a 4 year-old.

Our front door is decorated with a mixture of  mums that have seen better days, beautiful, giant pumpkins, turkey drawings and now, an Alabama Chanin style wreath and home-made snowflakes and reindeer taped into the windows.   So, you will forgive me if I am already writing of Holiday Gift Guides?

I have even started to make our holiday gifts to put under our little tree.

‘Tis the season…follow the link to find some holiday cheer from all of us @ Alabama Chanin:

Alabama Chanin – Holiday Gift Guide 2010