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Okay, menswear challenge, without teams – it’s a crazy difficult challenge for a bunch of designers who usually do women’s wear. With women’s clothes, if you’re not very skilled or are in a time crunch there are still lots of shapes and styles you can do that are pretty forgiving and hide flaws. Not so with pants. They show all the mistakes and are not easy to fit. Maybe if David Beckham had been the guest judge some of the designers might have tried a men’s skirt, but for an on-camera look for Tiki Barber or most any other celebrity, you have to go with pants. Plus, two pieces for an on-camera look is pretty minimal. Jack did a nice job of making his two pieces pretty interesting, but ultimately it’s just a shirt and pants. My sister pointed out that this would have been a perfect team challenge – two people could do a better job of getting out a 3 or 4-piece look that really works and is interesting. As it was, most of the designers were lucky just to have a finished product at all. I also noticed that most of the models were walking as though they were afraid the clothes would fall apart.

I went back to the photos on the Runway site, because I wanted to see more of the details, but with all the dark colors the pictures weren’t very helpful. I was surprised more of the designers didn’t go with a knit shirt or sweater option – definitely easier than a tailored shirt. Here are some impressions:

  • Carmen: it was a mess. If she had done a better job on the execution and made a shirt, the design probably would have been good enough to pass this round, although still not inspiring. I did like her color choices.
  • Christian: he made some interesting choices for a tailored look, but the jacket was poorly fit (mainly the sleeves) and so it looked sloppy.
  • Kit: boring color combo, but I like the idea of using fleece; that was very smart. It’s much easier to work with than suiting fabrics, and adds a less conventional texture. If she had made more interesting color choices, she might have pulled off the win.
  • Rami: I actually really liked this look, but I think it might have been a bit too casual for an on-camera look for Tiki Barber. Also, the proportions were great for his model, but probably would not have suited Tiki very well.
  • Sweet P: what can I say? That shirt was a disaster. She’s lucky she made it through.
  • Steven: not a bad look except for the ascot, good choice on the knit, but if I remember correctly when the model was walking, the pants were a really poor fit (I think the crotch was way too low).
  • Victorya: props for trying to do something a little different with the jacket, but the look didn’t really work for me.
  • Kevin: the lavender was a bit much, but otherwise I liked the look and thought it was Tiki-appropriate.
  • Chris: I don’t think head-to-toe black works on-camera, and I don’t like collarless jackets. The construction looked fine from what I could see, but this look was just passable for me.
  • Jack: I liked his fabric choices and thought the execution was good; this would have been better with a third piece; without a vest or jacket it just doesn’t seem quite polished enough for a tv appearance.
  • Ricky: the judges said it all; even if it had been finished, it would have been a boring black suit.
  • Elisa: execution seemed good; I wouldn’t choose the look for Tiki Barber, but I think she was wise to do a knit shirt.
  • Jillian: I don’t remember noticing any construction issues with this one, and I’m amazed that she pulled off a 4-piece look. Maybe a bit boring, but a lot better than some of the other stuff we saw.

Anyway, it was an interesting challenge, but largely interesting because of the process and not so much for the results. I would rather have seen a slightly easier challenge with better chance for good results – as mentioned above, make this a team challenge and it becomes much more do-able.

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My friend Lisa told me about this and I liked the idea enough to pass it on:

When one of her coworkers tries a restaurant and really likes it, she will pick up several matchbooks or business cards from the restaurant, write her name on it and pass them out to her other friends and coworkers. Now the whole group does this, and they each have a little collection to sift through when they need a recommendation or when they are trying to remember “what was the name of that Cuban restaurant that Karen told us about?”

We had a nice, easy Thanksgiving this year. Eric’s aunt hosted, and all we had to do was bring one side dish. I’ve had a few requests for my recipe which I got several years ago from the Los Angeles Times, so here it is:

Sourmash Whiskey Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. sweeet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sourmash whiskey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Steam sweet potatoes until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove cover and cool. Simmer sugar, butter, juice and salt, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Simmer until mixture has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add whiskey.

Layer potatoes, overlapping slightly, in a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Drizzle syrup evenly over sweet potatoes. Cover and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove cover and baste sweet potatoes with syrup. Replace cover and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove cover and baste again. Cook uncovered until potatoes are completely soft and golden, 15 to 30 more minutes.

Notes: I use more than 1 tsp. salt – usually at least 2; for the whiskey I use Jack Daniel’s; I steam the potatoes in the microwave, and I like to get them more than “just tender” or else the cook time for the rest of the recipe takes longer than stated.

On Friday we went down to the San Diego Zoo, and afterwards we stopped at a place near Balboa Park called Extraordinary Desserts.  They have an amazing selection of delectable-looking treats, and since we couldn’t make up our minds we took home 3 of them! The lemon bar was delicious – not too sweet and not too tart, with a nutty crust. Eric had some sort of chocolate bun that was very rich and yummy, and we also brought back a chocolate chunk shortbread that we haven’t eaten yet but which looks really decadent. Highly recommended.

Interesting challenge this week: create a 2-piece look for Sarah Jessica Parker’s Bitten line at Steve and Barry’s, spending no more than $15. I can tell you, as someone who sews, that the idea of trying to do 2 pieces for $15 gives me heart palpitations. It’s one thing when you’re mass producing and can buy fabric in bulk, but for a one-off it’s a very difficult thing to do. Fabric is getting more expensive, but you could probably still pull it off except that when you add in buttons, zippers, whatever other notions you need, you’re bound to go over budget. Maybe the designers get some of that stuff for free, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a stock of zippers and buttons at Parsons…

Anyway, it was a team challenge, so with only 7 designs we got to see a little more of each one:

  • Rami (with Jillian): boring. Disappointing after last week, and his sketch looked a lot more interesting than the actual outfit, which was basically a big belted shirt with leggings. Meh.
  • Christian (with Carmen): butt ugly jacket. Dress was fine but boring. Deservedly in the bottom two. Carmen surprised me – I had her pegged as the tough type, but she’s a cryer.
  • Ricky (with Jack): I really liked this dress – I would totally wear it. Is it the most inspired design ever? No. But it’s still very good.
  • Elisa (with Sweet P): Although I’m not a fan of capes in general, I thought Elisa pulled off a very interesting design that looked way better than her sketch. I’m glad she’s still around. Spit marks aside, I have hopes that we might actually see some good and interesting design from her.
  • Kit (with Chris): cute, wearable, but unmemorable. Still, I thought it was a better fit with the Bitten line than some of the other choices.
  • Victorya (with Kevin): another cute, swingy dress. Victorya strikes me as the type whose construction will always be impeccable and who has a distinctive, but possibly narrow style (sort-of like Laura, but for younger tastes). We shall see. I liked the vest.
  • Marion (with Steven): I’m torn. I didn’t like the fringe-and-flashdance look, but I didn’t think the outfit was as bad as the judges seemed to. And there have been far bigger turkeys on Runway that didn’t get the boot (e.g. the jumpsuit Santino made for Kara Janx, or the ice-skating outift he made for Sasha Cohen that looked like a turkey costume). Still, based on his two looks for this show, I can’t say I’m really sorry to see him go.

I was happy to see SJP on the show – a much better “icon” than some from past shows (Miss America, anyone?). Hope it bodes well for the rest of the season.

Belated Episode 1 recap: Season 4 of Project Runway finally started last week, so I am a happy camper. I love this show, in spite of my hatred of nearly all reality tv. I really don’t like to watch people being bitchy and melodramatic, but I put up with it for Runway because I love fashion and I love watching the creative process of people who are, in many cases, still learning and developing their own point of view.

I was happy that they skipped over the tryouts this season and went straight to the competition. However, the challenge confirmed my suspicion that most designers on the show do better with a bit more structure. Ask 15 different designers to make a skirt using only black and white fabric, and you’ll be amazed at the variety and ingenuity. But ask the same designers to just show their point of view and you get…not much. Think of Michael Knight from Season 3 – he did great in so many challenges, but his collection at Bryant Park was not good.

The one difficulty with an individual challenge for 15 contestants is that you don’t get to spend much time with each design, so my initial impressions were vague and I had to rely on photos online for filling in the details. Here are my impressions:

  • Jillian: meh. Not bad, but not inspired.
  • Christian: the design was fine, but the color palette seemed a bit old lady to me.
  • Jack: cute dress, but nothing special about that design. Looks straight off the rack.
  • Kevin: meh. Didn’t like the fabric choices.
  • Chris: nothing spectacular about the design, but I liked his color palette and fabric choices.
  • Marion: couldn’t believe this one didn’t end up in the bottom two. Hideous and unflattering.
  • Kit: Well constructed, but ugly. Didn’t like the design or the fabric combinations.
  • Steven: simple suit with a few interesting details. Nothing spectacular, but I’d like to see more from him.
  • Carmen: bleh. Looks like a genie costume.
  • Sweet P: not the most flattering silhouette, and her fabric reminded me of a shower curtain, but not too bad overall.
  • Ricky: boring, but not as bad as Marion’s dress. Thought he was more deserving of a pass than Marion.
  • Victorya: Cute, stylish, not too original, but I liked it.
  • Elisa: cut off the train and it’s actually an attractive dress. I’m curious to see if she keeps veering towards the crazy or can be reined in.
  • Simone: sad to see her go so soon; I suspect she could have done better. On this challenge if she had just skipped the little jacket and finished her dress, she probably would have passed.
  • Rami: quite lovely draping and construction. I wasn’t wild about the flower, but it’s a minor quibble.

Well, I ran the Dana Point Turkey Trot 5K yesterday. I can’t boast about my time, but at least I managed to run the whole thing! Pictures are not up yet, but I will try to post a link when I can so you can see me crossing the finish line, with my face bright red from exertion. What better way to justify eating myself sick on Thanksgiving?

Another good quote from Leading for Growth:

Whether they like it or not, leaders have the power to scare the hell out of people. If you don’t fully explain what you are up to, you leave people in the dark, and people in the dark have vivid imaginations…You’ve got to give people information, and lots of it, so they don’t wonder what is really going on and start imagining all sorts of worst-case scenarios.

Very true, especially if you haven’t established a level of trust. People who don’t trust you have no reason to give you the benefit of the doubt and every reason to assume the worst.

I have wussy feet; I get blisters all the time, and my feet never seem to toughen up. I’ve always used a ton of Band-aids to prevent and treat blisters, especially when I am trying to break in a new pair of shoes. So I was very curious when I first saw Band-Aid Blister Block stick. I’ve been using it for a month or so now, and I LOVE it. It looks like a tiny deodorant, but it doesn’t leave any white residue. It fits easily even in a small purse, and best of all, it really works. I haven’t had to use regular Band-aids since I started using this stuff.

I’m reading Leading for Growth by Ray Davis. I’m only on chapter 2, but here’s a quote I liked from chapter 1:

Think of your own business and industry. What do you and your competitors do that is boring, stale, or bland? Is there something that is numbingly similar across every company, including yours? If so, you have a great opportunity. (p.13)

Well, at least in libraries, the “numbing similarities” are probably too numerous to count. But I like looking at our services through this prism and seeing what opportunities shine out…much to think about here.