Family love: Grace

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my (immediate) family. This is the seventh installment. You can read the other posts here. All wedding photographs courtesy of the wonderful Meredith Perdue.

Gracie, Petunia, Chicken

Coming third in the family birth order, we have the natural rebel, the original maverick. To some, it may seem a disadvantage to be born after two other sisters, to get proverbially lost in the shuffle. But little Adrianna Grace wasn’t going to be forgotten very easily. She came into the world screaming and, as my parents say, didn’t stop screaming for the first three years of her life.

My mother likes to say that all of her babies were pretty easy — except Grace. Grace formed her own opinions about reality very early in life and stuck to them with outrageous tenacity for such a tiny human. The famous story about Grace was her self-imposed hunger strike when she was about four years old. We had asparagus that night for dinner and Grace refused to touch it. The family rule was that you had to at least try everything on your plate. Grace insisted she couldn’t even look at it without feeling near death. Mom told her she couldn’t have anything else to eat until she tried the asparagus. Grace refused. Breakfast came. Mom gave her a stalk of asparagus before her cereal and said she had to try it. Grace refused. She did not eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner for two full days, since she was greeted with a tiny stalk of asparagus before each meal. On the second day of the strike, Kelsey, the sweet one, came sobbing to Mom, saying, “Please, Mom! You have to feed her! She’ll STARVE!”

Starve she might have — if only to prove a point. Once Grace’s mind is made, you cannot change it. (As children, we found that reverse psychology worked pretty well on her.) Her natural stubbornness might sound like a fault, but it has served her as a virtue in many ways. Because of her natural independence, this child does not take “no” or “nobody does that” or “that’s weird” as a rejection; rather, as an opportunity to explore, to pioneer new territory. Girls don’t just take off on a six-month trip around the (predominantly) third world? No one gets their yoga teacher’s license at the age of 16? Most humans don’t have that many thrifted clothes in their entire lifetimes? People don’t just visit almost all the continents — and pay for it themselves — before they turn 20? Well, you haven’t met Grace. She lives to push boundaries.dover beach

She was an incomparably beautiful baby: White blond hair, round blue eyes, little doll-like features. (Despite a penchant to look like Jeff Daniels in a strange number of family photographs…) She is still extremely beautiful today, as everyone who knows her can agree. Her impish grin flashes at the most unexpected moments.

In our childhood, I was not a model big sister to her. (Truth be told, I was not a model big sister to anyone, but especially to Grace.) Kelsey and I were close in age and we were natural playmates. When Grace came along, I saw her as a disruption to the family order. Kelsey was my BFF… and this mewling porcelain doll-baby, the natural favorite of my father? What were we to do with her? Torture her, of course. And leave her out of play dates. And begrudge her presence when Dad told us we couldn’t go anywhere unless Grace was invited, too.

Thankfully, this prejudice against Grace tagging along wore off as we both grew up. Interestingly enough, I think we became extremely close once I left for university. We started talking about art and ideas and new music and found that our temperaments had far more in common than we had ever thought before. Grace bathes with elephant in Nepal

Today, I depend on her. My life is far less interesting when she is not around. She makes me laugh and she makes me think. My favorite moments in life are lounging on the couch with her in Davidson, watching trash TV, simultaneously talking about all of the great food we’re going to make and the new ideas we’ve latched onto.

She’s incredibly accomplished. Her photography and her paintings are laudable by any standards. She is as strong as a little sun bear, thanks to her years of yoga practice. She dresses with the structure and flair of a true artist. She writes a blog that’s way better and more popular, for good reason, than mine. If I ever want to impress someone, I just have to start talking about what Grace has done in her short time on Earth. She’s accomplished more in her 19 years than most people accomplish in their entire lifetimes.

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Grace is sensitive and profound and loving. She is my true hero. Among my family members, I think I understand Grace the best — or, at least, that’s my perception. It may very well be true that I haven’t even begun to get to know her. Because let me tell you: There are miles and miles to this girl’s soul.

Monday Snax with a slideshow

Shaun and Ann-Marie get married and we see a ton of other people!

Photos from our whirlwind weekend in Chapel Hill can be found here!

Snax:

Katsuya Kamo, Hairstylist, at His Home in Tokyo. I tend to shun clutter, but Kamo’s packed walls and cultivated collection of items really appeals to me. The beetles make me think of Prufrock. (The Selby)

Sachiyo Nakamura Exhibition in Tokyo. This showroom looks like a dream to me. I will always be in love with Japanese patterns. (Upon a Fold)

Interiors. I absolutely love all of these rooms and had to resist the strong urge to pin them all myself. (TeenAngster)

Hot Tea Is More Refreshing than Cold Tea. Wow, so interesting. So my Japanese host mom knew what she was doing when she repeatedly gave me piping hot cups of sencha on 103-degree days. (Discovering Tea)

At the End of an E-mail, Everyone’s a Valedictorian. Helpful suggestions on how to close your e-mails with more appropriate and tone-specific signatures. (The Hairpin)

Circles of Influence. A fun graphic showing famous writers who influenced other famous writers. (English Muse)

At Home with Elke. Yes, please, glorious home in Provence! Doesn’t this also look like the setting of one of the recent Anthropologie catalogs? (French by Design)

10 Questions for Ellen Picker. Ellen is a friendly face around town and a great young photographer. The Charlotte asks her a few questions about work and inspiration and includes some beautiful examples of her work. (The Charlotte)

Frida’s Corsets. A sad but interesting detail from the life of Frida Kahlo. (The Paris Review)

Super-Saturated Colors. The juxtaposition of these dabs of color really appealed to me. Paintings by Michelle Armas. (Anne Louise Likes)

Catherine Campbell’s Tea-rific Illustrations. Campbell sketches sad-faced ladies in tea cups. It’s very charming. (ModCloth blog)

Voguepedia. People who know about fashion will have more fun with this than I will, but it’s still a cool feature: Vogue, in encyclopedic form. (Voguepedia)

Old Navy’s Performance Typo. It pays to have an editor around when you’re in the business of making graphic tees. (Mighty Red Pen)

My Dreamboat. I think John Travolta is totally gross, but this fitness book of his is probably the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. So serious! So much spandex! (Lucy Can’t Dance)

Who… Is… Hansky? I just love that this is happening. (Best Week Ever)

My personal fashion icons

I’ve never purported to be fashionable. I tend to wear things until they wear out. I might dress like a soccer mom sometimes. Almost all fashion blogs are extremely boring to me. I don’t know anything about how to put an outfit together.

And yet. I really want to be “fashionable,” whatever that means. I am surrounded by many women who unfailingly rock whatever they are wearing. I envy them and simultaneously I love watching them wear just about anything. These are not famous people, but they should be, because they know how to wear the hell out of a garment.

To name a few of my personal fashion icons:

GRACE

Grace has been obsessed with fashion since she was a child. She wore my mother out by insisting on changing her clothes every few hours. When Grace was five, my mother finally gave up battling her every Sunday on what she would wear to church. So, little Grace showed up for Sunday school in a “101 Dalmatians” bathing suit, a pink tutu, and snakeskin cowboy boots. The kid was very forward-thinking.

Once Kelsey and I left home, Grace took over the giant walk-in closet that was supposed to be shared between the three of us. Instead, it’s now a bedroom-sized space for her gargantuan wardrobe. Kels and I like to joke that she has a preternatural sense of where everything is, despite the fact that it often looks like a disaster. If we happen to borrow a T-shirt from a folded stack of about 50 T-shirts, Grace knows. She comes into the closet, sniffs the air like a wolf tracking something, and says, “Did you take something?” (We swear she knew when we took some of her dresses and skirts and other enviable pretty things home with us when she was abroad.)

Grace is the person you want by your side when you venture into Goodwill or any other thrifting location. Scanning for gems in a thrift store might be her spiritual gift. She pulls things off the rack that look totally absurd and gross, but the minute she puts them on, they are transformed and she looks like a goddess. We all hate her for it.

Her style has evolved over the years and I think it’s become increasingly crazy, which I like. She is a huge fan of layers. Whether she’s layering vests or skirts or bangles, she likes to wear many things at once. She does not believe in minimalism when she dresses and yet she always makes it work. Grace, thanks for being my perpetual wardrobe inspiration and for always showing me how I can wear something better.

CATHERINE

So hot right now
L to R: Catherine, Emily, and Jonathan. All three of them should be my lifelong fashion icons, really.

From the first day I met Catherine at UNC, I have been enamored with her wardrobe. I always want to look exactly like her.

Even though I have never been to Europe, my general sense is that Catherine has a very European style. (She’s half English, after all, and has family in France.) Catherine is extremely cultured and elegant. She partakes in the finer pursuits; she is a gifted ballerina and violinist and speaks beautiful French.

Her wardrobe always speaks of this elegance, and yet it is very versatile. One day, she will wear a gorgeous dress from some Paris boutique; the next, she will look incredible in her running skort, t-shirt, and big earrings. I don’t know how she does it.

One of my favorite things about Catherine’s style is how she picks an accent piece and wears it with everything for a week or more. Sometimes it would be a pair of earrings. Sometimes a bracelet. Sometimes a lavender-colored pashmina. Regardless of the weather or the situation, Catherine would wear that one piece. She brought class to every environment. Whenever I see her, I am usually stunned by how amazing she looks. I think she can do anything.

ANGELA

So fashionable right nowAngela pretends like she doesn’t know about fashion, but she always looks 110% incredible, so I don’t believe her. I’ll give her a compliment about whatever fabulous thing she’s wearing and she just says, “Abby, stop it! I love what you’re wearing!” And I’m wearing some dingy T-shirt and jorts or something like that.

Angela excels at minimal outfits with a lot of personal panache. On their own, the separate items of her dress seem simple and plain, but when she puts them all together, she looks nothing short of magnificent. (It helps that she’s also exceptionally beautiful.)

COURTNEY

I think Courtney was probably an artist in her former life, because if anyone knows how to use color, it’s this girl.

I had the great fortune of getting to live with her during my senior year of college. CoCo was always busting up in the living room wearing something fabulous and making the rest of us jealous. Her use of color is inspiring to me and I wish I had her sense of how to combine things for maximum effect.

Courtney is also very capable with mixing and matching, as her 30-day project demonstrated. She has a way with clothes and should be soundly commended for it.

CATE

Cate and Charlie. Source: Stolen from Cate's Facebook.

Mary Boyce and I were talking at church the other day about how we want to dress more like Cate. Cate just had a baby and looks like a rock star. She has the most incredible look that’s a mix of spontaneity and deliberate lines. She also dresses almost exclusively in whites and neutrals, which I find compelling and amazing. Because of Cate, I want to buy more white things. I foolishly think that if I only had more white pieces, then I’d look as fabulous as she does all the time.

Also. If I had a friend who was my male fashion icon, it would definitely be JONATHAN (see photo above with Catherine and Emily). He’s taught me the dire importance of tailoring. And I very often just want to steal most of his clothes (especially his shirts, which are amazing).

Do you have any friends, family that you’d consider your personal fashion icons?

Monday Snax

Mama and baby
A perfect dinner out at Blue Mountain Brewery. Baby Leah is trying to decide what kind of beer she wants.
MB!
The tenacious Mary Boyce saved us from a perilously grumpy waitress.
Guion and baby Leah
Guion is undeniably good with babies.

We had a beautiful weekend in Charlottesville; the weather was exquisite, as the humidity had fairly retreated and we were left with idyllic warmth. Paul and Christie invited us on their Friday date night and a small group of us went to Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton (a few photos above; more on Flickr). We went to a church potluck and then we hosted a potluck of our own last night. It was all very wonderful.

Win and Tracy were visiting with the purpose of scouting out a place for Win to live in a few weeks. By the grace of God, Win is living in probably the coolest house we’ve ever seen in town: the Massie-Wills historical home, built in 1830. It’s amazing. He is one lucky dude.

Potlucked Snax:

Pratt’s Ex Libris Collection. Well, of course I’m posting this (if I haven’t already…) The Pratt Library’s collection of gorgeous book plates. I wish people still used these things. I know I would. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

Weird Writing Habits of Famous Authors. I enjoyed reading about the habitual quirks of some of my all-time favorite writers, including Eudora Welty, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, and T.S. Eliot. (Flavorwire)

Other People’s Houses. A collection of dreamy photographs from the domestic lives of some of today’s most beloved bloggers and photographers. Who doesn’t love a dash of beautiful voyeurism? (Other People’s Houses)

Jennifer Egan Fever. It’s worth catching. (The Paris Review)

South Sudan: The Newest Nation in the World. A series of powerful photographs from the birth of South Sudan. Welcome, South Sudan; we wish you great peace. (The Atlantic: In Focus)

Iceland, Part 10: Blue Lagoon. I know I just keep posting Kris Atomic’s photos of Iceland, but I can’t help it! This place looks so otherworldly. I must go. (Kris Atomic)

Kimono. A collection of gorgeous, modern-looking kimonos from 1920s-1930s Japan. (Anne Louise Likes)

Wasabi Wonder. More from Japan: Ever wanted to know what wasabi looks like in real life, i.e., coming straight out of the ground? Take a look! It’s such a fascinating and weird plant. I bet that friendly-looking farmer just reeks of wasabi all day long. But what a gorgeous place to farm! (Tokyo Photojournalist)

Paper & Kyoto: Shops to Visit. Even more from Japan: Uuugh. This post just confirms what I already ardently believe: That I have to get to Kyoto soon and that the Japanese create the world’s most beautiful stationery and paper products. (Upon a Fold)

Intricate Pattern Notecards from Wild Ink Press. So beautiful! I always feel like I need more stationery, even though it’s almost never true. I also love the “literal” cards at the bottom of the post. (Oh So Beautiful Paper)

The Supermom Myth + Follow Up on Breadwinners. An additional post from Jenna of Sweet Fine Day, just because I always like what she writes and I think she’s a wise, judicious woman. (Sweet Fine Day)

Five Women Who Changed the Face of Ballet. I loved reading about these dancers, mainly because I’m gearing up to read Jennifer Homans’ widely acclaimed Apollo’s Angels. (Behind Ballet)

Sarah Palin for Newsweek. Noted photographer Emily Shur talks about her casual cover shoot of Sarah Palin for Newsweek. Shur really humanized Palin for me in a way that the “liberal media” have not. It’s an interesting little vignette, at least. (Emily Shur)

Dear Mom. Catching bunnies snuggling together? The best thing ever. Guion, I think you should know that even though I’m obsessed with getting a dog, I’m also still obsessed with getting a bunny. Or three. (Maura Grace)

How Handwriting Builds Character. If this is true, I must have really well-built character. Kidding! (The Atlantic)

Megegan: Un an plus tard. What a beautiful woman. And I’m so very interested in the things that she happens to be carrying around with her. (Au coin de ma rue)

On the Street: Via Fogazzaro, Milan. This looks like a still from a film I’d really want to watch. (The Sartorialist)

Women’s Magazines Are Obviously Horrible. This is true and hilarious, but I still really love reading In Style and People on the beach… (The Hairpin)

Instant Cat Pants! Why do kittens do the things they do? We may never know. (Pawesome)

The Lost Roles of “Arrested Development.” Rainn Wilson as Gob Bluth?? Can you imagine it? I certainly can’t. I love Rainn, but let us all say thanks that we were gifted by the glorious presence of Will Arnett. (The Bluth Company)

Monday Snax

That is one fresh baby.
Welcome to the world, Leah Catherine! Dear friends Tara and Andrew welcomed this sweet baby on Saturday morning, just in time for Tara's first Mother's Day!

We had a full, busy, and sunny weekend and it was just perfect. I spent most of my weekend around dogs, which naturally made it a wonderful one; I had my volunteer orientation at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, which I loved. I can’t wait to go back there and walk some more attention-hungry puppies! After getting home, I took a two-hour walk with my beloved Bo. The next morning, I walked our rector’s dogs with Mary-Boyce and then we all went to go see the newest addition to our community, Leah Catherine! Such a sweet baby and SO much hair! Tara looked amazing and we are just so excited to get to hang out with her and watch her grow up.

Snax with a bowl of perfect strawberries:

The Princess Party. This is about a week late now, but I just wanted you to appreciate all of the gorgeous details from Cate’s royal wedding-watching party. Didn’t it look amazing? I feel very privileged to have received an invitation. We had such a good, thoroughly girly time! (The Charlotte)

Rainbow Gatherings. I have an abiding fascination with off-the-grid living communities and I love photo series of these groups of people. Photographer Benoit Paillé spent a series of years with people from the Rainbow Gatherings, which happen all around the world. The people are so haunting and unusual; so many of them look like they might have lived a thousand years ago. (Behance)

Super-Secret War Dogs Are Basically Bionic. This is crazy. Titanium teeth!? Headpieces with microphones so they can hear and respond to handlers’ remote commands?! (Daily Intel)

A Mother’s Day Report Card. A day late, but this is still hilarious. “Helping me with math homework: Average.” (Passive Aggressive Notes)

A Mother’s Prayer, by Tina Fey. A hilarious but heartfelt prayer from the funniest woman alive.  “When the crystal meth is offered, may she remember her parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.” (Peonies and Polaroids)

Best Countries to Be a Mom. Is anyone surprised that Scandinavia rocks this list, too? #1, Norway. Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are also in the top 10. The United States is not. (The Hairpin)

Around the Farm. I’m not going to lie: This is kind of our ideal life. Fairytale, dreadlocked children in a tractor? Homemade biscuits? Chicks in a bin? Bring it on. (Farmama)

House G. A sweet house in the Netherlands that was once an old barn. I’ll take it! (Wolf Eyebrows)

The Art of Disney Animation. A collection of sketches and proofs from old Disney films; makes you appreciate the artistry behind those chirpy little films you watched as a child. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

The Man Repeller on Makeup. Ever since Catherine told me about The Man Repeller, I’ve been hooked. Here the main Repeller herself shares her favorite makeup products. I love her. (Into the Gloss)

Gypsy Queen Marina. The strong brow and the devil-may-care attitude! I feel like she wears whatever the heck she wants and manages to look fabulous all day long. (Tales of Endearment)

This Is How We Do It. All I want is to be invited to one of Brian Ferry’s dinner parties. How magical. You can almost hear the sparkle of conversation in his photographs. (Brian Ferry)

A Beautiful Hair Story. A photographer documents the daily regrowth of her hair after cancer treatments. (Design for Mankind)

Meet Riggins. My friend Megan just got a tiny kitten and named it Tim Riggins, after the Friday Night Lights rebel heart-throb. Well done. (Thoughts from a Nest)

Week 7: One necklace

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Of all of the challenges I have planned, this week was, by far, the easiest challenge. But it’s in homage to my dear friend Catherine (who also invented the phrase “Monday Snax”). Catherine has impeccable fashion sense and during our years together at university, she would go through weeks during which she’d wear one accent piece–be it a scarf or a pair of earrings or a bag–with everything. I was always impressed by her stylistic bravery and her ability to incorporate so many different styles and colors into a coherent outfit.

This week, I wore the necklace above with every outfit. It’s one that I made out of an uncomfortable ring and a now-retired Japanese 5 yen coin. In some ways, this was a silly little fashion exercise, but in other ways, the coin was a reminder to pray for Japan, for my host family, and for the ongoing recovery efforts there. I liked the reminder each morning as I put it on.

Next week, I will be writing a thank-you note each day to the memorable teachers in my life. Onward!

Monday Snax

From our recent hike to Crabtree Falls

Autumn is still dragging its heels in coming to Charlottesville, but the mornings and early afternoons have been quite pleasant. That feeling you get when you’re sitting in direct sun, but it’s just warm, instead of sticky and oppressive? I’ve missed that. It’s coming back. Slowly. We had a nice weekend adventuring with friends–taking a hike to Crabtree Falls (photo from the summit)–and just lazing around the house together, which was really great. I’ve missed doing that. Last night, we watched “A Very Long Engagement” for the second time, and I was reminded again how much I love Jeunet’s method of storytelling in film. He’s writing a novel with moving pictures! I love it.

This week’s Monday Snax are sponsored by Reuben, who is, as of this morning, still alive and pretty! Now, commence time wasting!

In Character, Starring… This is one of my favorite features from Vanity Fair: collecting actors and asking them for a face or depiction of a certain elaborate scene. Jeff Daniels’ take on this is really the best. I’m so impressed. So entertaining and funny. (Vanity Fair)

Stupidity and Politicians. A quotation from Bertrand Russell that I find to be regrettably relevant to the current political atmosphere. (1,001 Rules for My Unborn Son)

Renovating a French Farmhouse. Um, I can has?? (New York Times)

President Obama Holds Lemonade Summit in Virginia Backyard. Haha. (Daily Intel)

Oh, What An Angry Person You Are! Young actress Tatum O’Neal’s cheeky response to a fan letter from 1982. I’ve never seen her in anything, but I want to after reading this letter. (Letters of Note)

The Colors for the 2011 Spring Season. I’ve never understood this. What group of powerful designers gets together and decides, unilaterally, what the colors for the season will be? Is there a G8 summit of fashionistas? Do they have a Style UN? (Delphine Ephemera)

Luca Luca Spring 2011. I don’t normally find much interesting about fashion blogs, but I was really struck by this collection from Luca Luca. I want to wear all of those clothes all day. (Love Made Visible)

Baby massage. Joanna Goddard, of A Cup of Jo, and her baby, Toby, show how a baby massage is done. It’s so adorable, and I’m not even in to babies right now!

Law Schools Now Require Applicants to Honestly State Whether They Want to go to Law School. (The Onion)

Margot Was Already the World’s Worst Roommate. Hipster pug! For whatever reason, no other breed looks more disdainful or ridiculous in clothing. (Hipster Puppies)

Dancing With the Stairs. I had to cover my mouth when I saw this one, to prevent myself from a tiny laughter explosion. (Regretsy)

Gossip Girl Recap: We Make Our Own Fairy Tales. Important Disclaimer: I don’t even watch this show. I really don’t. We don’t have cable. But I love reading NY Mag’s recaps of every episode, because they are so hilarious and highlight the extreme absurdity of this show. Even if you don’t watch it, you will think this is funny. (CoCo, I’m sorry. I know you think of Serena and Chuck and Blair and Nate like your own family.) (NY Magazine)

Nancy Drew. Retelling those cheesy–and often very weird–Nancy Drew covers. (Hark, A Vagrant!)