Sunday, February 17, 2019

An Abundant Life - A Flower Blooms In Winter

I met the entrepreneur and author Alexandra Amarotico last spring on one of those last of the cold days that made us all wonder whether or not spring would actually ever arrive. There was an art event at Modrn Sanctuary, a spa that is no ordinary spa, with a Pink Himalayan salt room where you can sit and have refreshing breaths of air and run your fingers and your toes through the pink pebbly ground. The group hosting the art show were some very awesome young men I'd recently met at Contra Galleries, their artists collective and gallery space where they show art and host an amazing variety of events. This particular event in the spa was near their own space, and they explained that it was just another way they'd thought of to go out in the community and connect with other like-minded people doing interesting and wonderful things. This is the way I have run my own business for years, connecting with people I like and seeing where and how we can collaborate on out-of-the-box types of projects, and so I was prepared to meet more wonderful people that night because those are the types of people that this group of young men gather around them. When Alexandra arrived, we started talking about the work she was doing in the fashion and lifestyle industries as a Social Media and Marketing Consultant and her fashion and lifestyle blog She Is Red, and I suggested that there might be some areas that we could talk about a blog post for, either about Alexandra herself or some of the projects she was working on. We kept in touch through Instagram, and then one day recently I saw that she had written a book that was about to be launched at an event at the LIVELY Experience Store in Manhattan, and I sent her a quick message to say that maybe now was the time to get together for a blog post because surely with this new book there was something wonderful, new and exciting to write about. I went to the event fully expecting a lovely evening, and it was. And though I'd already thought Alexandra was a lovely young woman, there was something about that evening, perhaps the experience of writing the book, that had brought out a certain something in her that seemed even lovelier. She was radiant in fact, glowing with warmth on a cold February night, and as the book was about Hygge, it seemed that she was a reflection of it along with something more. The title of the book is "The Secret Joy of Hygge," with the subtitle of, "A Practical Guide to Cultivating Happiness In The Everyday," and she was the perfect picture of that description. She is a walking example that practices what she is preaching, and that night she seemed to be glowing from within.

The LIVELY Experience store is a lovely one, with lingerie, swim suits and undergarments made with the idea of comfort and self care, and on the night of the book launch it was filled with flowers from BW&P Floral, sparkling Ramona, light Hygge bites from Ole & Steen and lots of good cheer. As we sat and listened to the lovely entrepreneur Alex Michael May discuss the book with Alexandra, we learned not only a bit about Hygge, but also were inspired and encouraged to find our own path to accomplishing goals and dreams. The first thing we learned is how to pronounce this Danish word - "hoo-gah" with a little curving of the double o's as only the true Danes can do, but there is so much more than just a word. It is a way of life, of finding the specialness of the little every day things and making every day moments special. Some examples that Alexandra spoke of - lighting candles rather than saving them for special occasions, having that bottle of champagne instead of saving it, wearing a special dress just because you want to wear it - began to remind me of some very special memories of my childhood that have continued to influence my life today. Drifting through my memory banks came a long ago vision of a trip to Bennington Potters with my mother, buying some cups that she said were perfect for cocoa because of their curved-in rims that would keep the hot chocolate hot, and then using them all winter for fresh whipped cream topped Droste cocoa made carefully on our antique stove top by whisking the ground cocoa from its colorful tin into carefully heated milk with just the right amount of sugar. To this day I still make cocoa that way, and each time is as special as the first.

Alexandra's book is delightfully written - it feels like a perfect cup of cocoa that has somehow found its way onto the page, and in addition to personal anecdotes and explanations of terms, there are practical suggestions of how to bring the joy of hygge into every part of your life. Yes, you can have hygge moments at your office, and yes, hygge can accompany you on your daily walks, your commute to work, and around your city or town and community. There is a gentle kind of mindfulness that reminds us to take a moment to enjoy the moment, to take time to see and feel the things that give us glimpses of happiness that can then fill our vision with light. The more I began to think about this lovely message, it began to seem that the secret joy of hygge might actually be found in ourselves all along, and if we on our journey are like Dorothy who clicked her heels together, Alexandra is the sweet presence who touches us with her fairy wand and helps us find our way home.

Alexandra Amarotico
And "The Secret Joy Of Hygge"
At The LIVELY Experience Store
242 Lafayette Street
New York City

Entrepreneur Alex Michael May
In Conversation With
Author and Entrepreneur Alexandra Amarotico

Flowers By The Lovely BW&P Floral

Sparkling Sips From Ramona

Hygge Bites
From Ole & Steen


Jannie Susan

Sunday, February 10, 2019

An Abundant Life - Perfect Style

Nora Gardner designs clothing that puts you on the top of the world. It's a rare and wonderful thing that happens when you walk into a store and everything you try on makes you feel literally like a million dollars, and I can honestly say that it's not very often that I've had that happen. But when I walked into Nora's store the other day to take some photos for this blog post and she suggested I try some of the pieces on, I had that rare and wonderful sensation that I was someone very special and that I could do anything I wanted to do in the magically beautiful clothing I was wearing. It had been a long day full of meetings, with more in the evening after I left Nora's store, but somehow when I started trying on her wonderful creations my whole mood shifted and I felt ready to conquer the world with a smile. Nora herself came from a background in the financial industry, so she understands both the surface aesthetics of office culture and the underlying messages clothing can convey. And she also, perhaps more importantly, understands that though women enjoy feeling powerful and very much want to be respected as equals, there is also a thorough enjoyment in wearing something that is both professional and that is flattering as well. In reading over the comments and reviews online after my visit this past week, I saw that I'm only one of her brand's many fans. In comment after comment women praised her designs to the skies, expressing the feelings I'd had when I first tried on her clothing, that here was a treasure I'd found that was a unique and special personal gift to me.

The clothing is well made also, so well made that it not only hangs perfectly on the body, but it will also last and continue to look beautiful in season after season. Timeless styles with some twists here and there, classic cuts and strong comfortable fabrics that drape and hang well while not creasing or showing wear during travel or long days into night times and beyond. The pieces are made in New York City, in garment industry shops that promote fair practices and healthy work environments for the craftspeople who carefully and knowledgeably add their expertise to each part of the process, so shopping there is supporting a sustainable local industry that promotes excellent business practices.

Nora Gardner has created a brand that not only has her signature style behind it, but that every woman can wear and enjoy for any work or professional outing and any special night out. With pieces that can mix and match and layer and unlayer, each one is a masterpiece in classic style. I spent a number of years in the financial industry and other highly professional, competitive offices, and after trying on Nora's clothing I wished I'd known someone like her back then. But now that we have her it's a time for celebration - of everything that we have always wanted in clothing but never thought we'd be able to find under one roof.

I was lucky enough to have a first look at the new Spring line that had just come in, and I have to say that Nora has created some truly exquisite pieces. Everything I tried on was not only a perfect fit, something that is really hard to do, but also I loved each and every one and could imagine exactly where I could wear them. Though I love beautiful clothing, people who know me know that I'm very careful in my shopping - I only buy things that I truly love and feel are important purchases and I could have bought everything in the store. Even some colors that I don't usually think of as being my most flattering somehow were perfect and it was hard not to just say I'd take everything. The staff is excellent and the experience in the store is delightful in every way. Nora herself was there when I was visiting - she is there often for the day to day business of the business and also for the special events that she plans with her versatile staff, and having a chance to have her expert knowledge and input is a lovely surprise and addition to the overall experience of the excellence of her brand.

My mother always said that everyone should have at least one Chanel suit, and I think if she ever met Nora she'd be shopping there too. The pieces I brought home with me will be treasures each time I wear them, and because of their versatility and lovely wearability I'll be wearing them often. I've always been someone who loves to travel, but packing is always a chore. I like to travel light, with one carry on even before these days of limited baggage, and choosing what to bring that will give me variety and comfort can be difficult. After shopping with Nora I'm feeling inspired to travel, not just because of the travel itself but because I know the clothing I have will look beautiful wherever I wear it. There's a wonderful old song about flying to the moon and swinging upon a star - with Nora's clothing I think it just might be possible.

Nora Gardner
40 East 58th Street
Ground Floor
New York City


Jannie Susan

Sunday, February 3, 2019

An Abundant Life - Serious Art

I've been a fan of comic books since I first started reading the Mad Magazines that my brothers collected and read until some of them were falling apart. One of my brothers loved to draw - he was a musician too, and I know now that I can call him an artist, but back then before I began to understand the creative impulses that some of us need to work out, I just used to say he loved to draw. All of my brothers were much older than I am, and I used to idolize everything they loved. They were the coolest of the cool, and so anything that they had or liked was something that I admired and wanted to be and do. I used to sit on my brother's lap while he was drawing in his room, and I loved to watch him create images out of the white space on a page. His drawings were often cartoons or comic book images, based on the R. Crumbs of the day or things he'd seen in Mad Magazine or some other comic books, but though he was an excellent copyist, they were his own also, images of things he had in his head that took place on a page. Sunday mornings in my family's home growing up were for the Sunday funnies in the Boston Globe. My brothers and my father taught me very early that the only things really worth reading were Doonesbury and that anything else was just fluff. But I did like the fluff, and I read each cartoon cover to cover, week after week, leading me up through high school and into college with Garfield and Matt Groening and of course there were the "Nine Types of Boyfriends" and did I forget to mention? The New Yorker that came every week that I tried to read to act grown up but all I really ever wanted were the cartoons. I learned years later that lots of adults loved to read the New Yorker for the cartoons, but back then I thought there was something childish in me that went to them first, and I wondered when I would ever grow up enough to enjoy reading the magazine for the articles. I did eventually get to that place, but it's the cartoons that still keep me reading, and any time I see a comic book or a cartoon or a graphic novel, that's the thing that will keep me interested.

Mana Contemporary in Jersey City is a contemporary art center full of so much creativity that it's a joy to go there on any given day. Twice a year there are open houses, when many studios are open to the public and it's an incredibly inspiring experience to walk from floor to floor and room to room and discover people creating in so many different ways. On a visit a little over a year ago I wandered into a studio that was filled with comic book art. They were having an opening in conjunction with the open house, and there was a definite feeling of a party in the air. Scott Eder and his wife Marcia are the co-owners, and they had opened this location of their gallery a few months before. I wandered in because I saw comic book art, and I've kept going back ever since. Scott has such a wealth of knowledge and he is happy to share it, even with someone like me who doesn't know anything except that I like the way comics look. He has some of the highest quality artists showing in his studio, some who have written books, and he is also a collector for more than twenty years with insights and experience that are truly awesome. If you're looking for a place to go to share your love of comics, whatever your own knowledge base is, stop by for a visit and introduce yourself, you'll be glad you did.

Last summer I went to an opening for Serpieri, an Italian artist whose work is collected widely. He was there for the opening and I have a wonderful video clip of him sketching as he signs one of his books. As he speaks in Italian, a friend who is translating says that he is talking about the fact that Bob Dylan is playing in the background and that he remembers every drawing he's done by the music he was listening to, and that "he always draws better when Bob is playing." These are moments that are precious for any art lover, and for someone like me who loves comics in a way that stems straight back to my oldest and dearest memories of my cherished and revered brothers, to be able to share time with someone as knowledgeable as Scott and to see the artwork and meet the artists who have created it is priceless.

Scott has been in this business for too many years to count - though he is still very young, he's been a collector as long as he can remember. As a paraphrase of the old saying goes, it's not the years in your knowledge but the knowledge in your years that makes all the difference. For Scott, it's a passion that he has fed with research and study and conversation with the people who make and create their vision into reality, and he's created a space for those artists and the people who love to collect and to meet them to find themselves right at home.

Scott Eder Gallery
Mana Contemporary
888 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, New Jersey

Scott Eder With Serpieri
At The Opening For "Druuna Goes West"

A Creative Space For Artists

Priceless Moments For Collectors


Jannie Susan