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Wednesday, February 27, 2013


As I mentioned before, I am a HUGE fan of the Rose Ensemble, a choral group based here in the Twin Cities.  While I am not always able to attend all of their concerts each year, I always make a point to attend their Candlelight Concert which takes place each February.  Over the years, it has become one of my favorite winter events.

 The Rose Ensemble

On Saturday, February 16, some friends and I attended this year’s performance.  Once again, the concert was held at the Basilica of St. Mary here in Minneapolis, which offers an appropriate environment for this music. The acoustics there are quite lovely as the music resonates throughout the space.

 The Basilica of St. Mary

An hour before the performance, Jordan Sramek, Founder/Artistic Director of The Rose Ensemble, conducts a pre-concert workshop giving history and background to the music that will be performed that evening.  These education sessions are very informative and provide an excellent context for us as we approach the music we will be listening to.

Setting up for the concert

Warming up

I was looking forward to this concert of music from the Rhineland, as it was sure to feature some pieces from Hildegard of Bingen – a “kindred spirit” for me.  While there were a couple of Hildegard’s songs in the line up, the concert centered heavily the work of Frauenlob (Heinrich von Meissen) who I was not familiar before that evening – another good reason to attend the pre-concert lecture.

Frauenlob conducting his music

Frauenlob, a nickname, means “praise of women” or more likely “praise of Our Lady”.  The music we heard that evening was written to honor Mary and show her great love and devotion - although at times the text was rather uncomfortably sensuous in it praise.  As Jordan reminded us, the folks of this era hadn’t met the Victorians yet.  Frauenlob was so loved by women because of his chivalrous devotion to them, that it’s said the woman of Mainz carried his beir to the cathedral when he died in 1318.  Women also restored his tomb in 1783, and erected a monument to his memory near his tomb in 1842.

As always, the Concert was superb, and my friends and I had a wonderful time.

For the evening, I wore yellow cotton buttoned down shirt with a red cashmere sweater vest, which I paired with green corduroy pants from Lands End.  The finishing touches included a rep striped bow tie from Brooks Brothers with matching rugby striped socks, also from Brooks Brothers, and cordovan cap toe shoes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


It takes a lot of TLC to raise the sheep that bring us all that wonderful wool that makes up our finest clothes.  Some herding dogs realize this and go the extra mile to ensure quality!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


With the occasion of Ash Wednesday last week, we have now officially entered into Lent. With this in mind, a week ago I hosted my annual Mardi Gras dinner on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday.

My friends will tell you that I LOVE to entertain.  For me that is an important element of the “lifestyle” part of this blog.  While I love the traditional and preppy clothes, any true prep will tell you that if there is anything that they truly enjoy it’s a good party, and any occasion that affords an opportunity to party.  As I get older though, most of those parties have evolved into dinner parties so it’s no surprise that I celebrate Mardi Gras by hosting a dinner for friends.

Decorations are in place.

The table is set.

First a little history about Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” is specifically the day before Ash Wednesday, but it’s rooted in the Christian feast of Epiphany, celebrated on January 6.  Epiphany commemorates the Magi finding the Christ child, and on Mardi Gras we celebrate that connection with a King’s Cake in which a baby is hidden.  Just as the Magi - the three kings - searched for the baby Jesus, we look for the baby in the King’s Cake.

There's a baby somewhere in that cake!

The guests have arrived!

The time from Epiphany to “Fat Tuesday” is known as Carnival - or generically as Mardi Gras here in the States - and is a time for many parties and celebrations.  The celebrations as I said originally remembered the joy of the Magi in finding the Christ child, but in time, they became opportunities for (sometimes unbridled) revelry before the solemness of Lent.

My annual Mardi Gras dinner has become another opportunity for me to gather with friends during the sometimes long, and cold Minnesota winters.  With the chill outside I can always count on the love and warmth of my friends to carry me through to spring.

Monday, February 11, 2013


For several years – actually a couple of decades - I have wanted an Irish fisherman’s sweater.  The hard part of that was initially being able to afford one on a just-out-of-college budget, and then later finding one I liked.  Last year I decided to remedy that and purchased my first fisherman’s sweater.

Fisherman sweaters, also known as Aran sweaters, originated in the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, and are distinctive for their intricate designs and textures.  These lovely cream colored sweaters were originally knitted from unscoured wool which retained its natural oils and allowed the sweaters to be water repellant – much needed when you’re battling the wind, rain, and sea on a daily basis.

Many people have argued about when these sweaters were first knitted.  Some say it was as recent as 1900, while others say that it goes farther back in ancient history – citing the pattern’s appearance in the Book of Kells as proof.  Regardless of when these sweaters first appeared, their beauty and function has enshrined them as a fashion icn.

The variety of cables and other patterns that these sweaters come in has even added a bit of folklore to their history.  Tradition tells us that the patterns were related to the various clans, and were used to identify the bodies of fishermen who died at sea and were washed up on the shores.  While I’m not certain how true that lore is, it does speak to the importance and long tradition of these sweaters.

So having first been introduced to these sweaters in college, it was my goal to own one or two (or more?).  Having procrastinated all of these years, I finally made the decision to purchase my first fisherman’s sweater last fall.

I had discovered Wool Overs, a company out of the UK, and was attracted to their fisherman’s sweater.  I purchased the sweater along with their Nordic sweater and couldn’t wait for them to arrive.

Finally the day came and they were delivered.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, so excitedly I started to wear the fisherman.  Initially it was OK, but over a few weeks I found it didn’t wear very well.  It was adequate but not great.  The sleeves were a little off, and the cuffs wore at different lengths - if I rolled the cuffs back the width was noticeably different.  I began to feel that while the sweater was nice, the quality just wasn’t there.  Although I wear it now and then, I’m really disappointed in it.

Now enter sweater number two!  As many of you know, I LOVE thrifting!  One day last fall, while thrifting, I found a fisherman’s sweater – I had never found one before.  It was from Kilkenny and was also made in the UK.  I was immediately drawn to it.  The first thing I noticed is that its quality was much better than the one I had purchased earlier.  I also loved the color better.  This one was a much richer shade of cream, while the one from Wool Overs was a lighter, whiter cream color.

The difference between the two sweaters was amazing!  The Kilkenny sweater was of superior quality, in a nicer color, and in a pattern I loved (I did like the Wool Overs pattern as well).  I was also pleased that by finding the Kilkenny while thrifting, I was able to get the better sweater at mere fraction of what I paid for the other.

So there you have it.  Not all Irish fisherman’s sweaters are created equal.  While I recommend this style of sweater to everyone, I also caution people to take their time in order to find the best quality they can.  These sweaters are true classics, never go out of style, and will last you for many years.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Yesterday, New York’s Grand Central Station turned one hundred.  It was an event that has caught my attention as we paid homage to this great landmark.

REUTERS/Courtesy of Library of Congress/Handout

 REUTERS/Courtesy of Library of Congress/Handout

Built between 1903-1913, this shinning Beaux-Arts building has been an iconic structure for New Yorkers for decades, and has survived a number of economic declines and several demolition attempts.  One of the strongest critics of its demolition was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who said:

"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, 
until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? 
If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to 
fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they 
ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a 
stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel 
and glass boxes."

Eventually, as threats of destruction continued, this monument was designated a “landmark” by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which helped to halt future demolition attempts.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Today, this landmark operates 700 trains per day serving over 700,000 people, and is still the world’s largest terminal, covering 49 acres with 33 miles of track.

Just as iconic and classic clothing endures throughout time and never goes out of style, so too, has this great building endured the many decades standing as a testament to style and form.  Happy birthday to Grand Central Station!  May you have many more years ahead.

Below are few photos of this Great Lady over the years.

AP Photo/Farm Security Administration, John Vachon


Library of Congress

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images