Tag Archives: style

Sparkling Stones

by Kate

I lost the diamond from my engagement ring. There was a loose prong and, I think, a long stranded sweater involved. Returning from a dinner party I brushed my ring finger and gasped to discover only the sharp spikes of the setting, the stone long gone. It was an interesting moment of soul searching, there in the car in the early darkness of late winter. I knew that the diamond was gone, and that another would not be forthcoming. I couldn’t imagine wanting one. We have so many dreams for our young family- a bicycle carriage, a bigger home, an old piano to put in it. I’ve never dreamed of diamonds.

I didn’t miss the diamond that night. What I missed was the wild exhilaration of the young pizza delivery driver who worked at a little Italian hole in the wall in Pittsburgh and courted a girl far away in the mountains of North Carolina.

By chance, we were passing by the pizza shop in question when I discovered the gaping hole in my engagement ring, the ring that he had purchased on that spot after putting out the word that he was looking for a diamond. A legless obese man who passed most of his time in the shop scratched his head a bit and mentioned that he had a divorced daughter who had a no need for her beautiful ring, but did need some cash. Soon, the deal was done. On a high ridge overlooking the Ohio river, that young delivery driver asked for my hand. When I accepted, he put the ring on it.

The moments of our courtship and engagement were enchanted, and I am grateful for every second, but what I realized that night was that losing the ring didn’t mean losing any of those memories. I still have them all, along with the thin gold band that my husband put on my finger four years ago today, when I became his wife.

vintage gown mariachi wedding suit

The engagement ring was beautiful. The diamond was shaped like a teardrop, which sadly suited the storms of tears that I am prone to on a regular basis. The setting was high and the ring was pointed and oh, it was sharp. So was I. I was a headstrong, highstrung newlywed with a sharp tongue and a chip on my shoulder. I hope and believe that in the past four years, I have become softer, smoother, gentler, and stronger- just like my plain gold wedding band. Wearing it alone reminds me of what I want to be as a wife.

Deep life lessons aside, just this week I made a fantastic discovery. Shopping with my sister Clare in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, we came upon a case of faux engagement rings for the fantastic price of five dollars a piece. Suddenly it hit me. Losing my engagement stone gave me free rein to wear any size and style of engagement ring I wanted. I walked out of that shop looking like a MUCH more affluent woman.

engagement ring

I love simplicity, and I love costume jewelry. I love pretending I am a high society lady at the entirely UNpretentious public pool up the street.

black one piece white hat summer 13

Most of all I love my husband, who is still wild, and still exhilarating. Thanks for the ring- but much more than that, thanks for the marriage.

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Dressing Up

by Kate

Once upon a time I had a billowing red ball gown.

sophisticated city couch woman ballgown

And as I am a harpist, and Valentine’s Day is drawing near, just the other day I began to wonder where that billowing gown had gone.

The mystery was solved this morning, when my sister Mary sent me an email containing pictures from my niece Claire’s visit to the farm last weekend. Due to heavy snow, a planned ice skating outing turned into an afternoon of dress up with the everpresent collection of assorted evening gowns and bedraggled finery.

dress up farmhouse

Nature, or nurture? I’m not sure. I certainly wasn’t that poised when I was in second grade. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that poised till I was about 27.

socialite sophisticate dress up

On that note, I have to wonder if Claire is actually studying my photos for tips…. or if I should start to study hers.

dress up

In any case, I’m clearly not going to get that gown back for Valentine’s Day.

Tale of the Magical Blue Cardigan

By: The Evil Sister’s Kind And Benevolent Sister…

Once upon a time there lived a girl named Mary Brigid. She had a deep desire to be an instrument of peace in the world, so after many years of desiring to do foreign mission work, she set out to Russia.

mary in vladivostok

Upon leaving for a land far away, Mary took with her some useful possessions. Mary knew that in order to stay happy and warm in Russia she would have to have magical clothing. Mary’s evil full-blooded stepsister, Kate had left Mary a wonderful blue cardigan. Perhaps the selfish and evil Kate had not exactly left the cardigan behind on purpose…

But a known fact of this tale is that the sweater made Mary happy. Very, very happy.

MORE BLUE

Not only did the sweater make her happy it even made her feel less tragic when she had to wear a certain apron of which she greatly despised when working with the aged at a slum hospice.

volunteer nurse apron russian vladivostock volunteer

The sweater was so magical that whenever she wore it, she felt more generous. Perhaps the said magical cardigan did not knit these pictured mittens (a kind Wisconsin resident did), but Mary was very happy to wear it the day she gave donated items to an orphanage that took in deaf and ill children.

volunteer vladivostock

After a long winter in Russia, it was time for Mary to leave. When packing Mary took careful inventory of all that she had brought with her to the cold kingdom of Vladivostok. While there, Mary had accumulated many icons. She also was gifted with beautiful jewelry from a Priest friend who hailed from Bombay.

Mary realized that she didn’t need most of her clothes anymore. She wanted to leave them behind with her friends at the hospice. When folding the magical blue cardigan Mary sighed and placed it in a pile of clothes to be donated to the hospice. She shuddered when doing so. Mary was well aware that going to Russia was a dangerous decision that she had made. However, picturing the wrath of her evil sister, Kate when she discovered that her sweater was left behind as a gift for dying at the hospice was a much more ghastly thought to consider. Laying all caution aside, Mary choose to donate it to her friends at the hospice.

Sadly not every story has a happy ending. Though Mary did return safely from her travels, she is still held accountable for that cardigan ALL the time by her big evil step/real sister, Kate the Mighty, queen of Drama.

Alas… its’s such a shame when people have such cold hearts that they don’t want dying people to stay warm.

 

(But if you must read Kate’s account of the magical cardigan, see here: The Perfect Cardigan)

The Perfect Cardigan

By Kate

Once, briefly, I possessed the perfect cardigan. Two deep pockets, soft thin fabric perfect for layering, in a deep and soothing blue. The cardigan fell perfectly about the body and made every outfit I had work. The cardigan cost $7.99 at Forever 21, but was definitely the most valuable part of my wardrobe. I was engaged to be married, it was spring, the world was new, and my cardigan was perfect. The world was beautiful.

Kate Casey Engagement Hat

Sadly, my time with the perfect cardigan was brief.

I don’t know if you have sisters, or if any of them steal your clothes, but I doubt that any sisters out there hold a candle to my sister Mary when it comes to blatant sartorial thievery.

sisters spring

Oh, Mary. She looks sweet and speaks softly. She wears flowers in her hair and cares for small children and bakes pies and cookies for the whole world- but when it comes to her sister’s clothing, that girl is entirely cold blooded. When I am visiting, Mary will upend and sort through all my clothing, deriding and ridiculing the pieces she does not approve of, and making mental notes on the ones she is interested in. Shortly before I leave she will creep in and liberate those pieces, stealing them so smoothly that I am 500 miles away before I notice. She has no shame, and a total belief that any item of clothing that belongs to her sisters should belong to her if she wants it, AND she is infuriated if you borrow any of her clothing without telling her. But the perfect cardigan brought Mary’s unfortunate clothing habits to a new level.

First, she stole it. Then she took it with her on a missionary trip to Vladivostok, Russia. THEN SHE DONATED IT TO ORPHANS. Might I add at this point that though the cardigan was perfect for me (and apparently for Mary as well) it was cheap and thin and not warm at all. NOT the perfect item of clothing for a Russian orphan in the winter, at ALL. The final touch, adding insult to injury, is that every time this topic comes up Mary sniffs and says sweetly that she can’t imagine why I am SO selfish and materialistic and unwilling to help the poor.

I have been searching for a new perfect cardigan ever since. It has been a long, futile hunt and I now possess a ripped blue cardigan sweater, a short sleeved long green cardigan, a fuzzy black hideous but extremely useful cardigan, and a red australian wool cardigan that I meant to take home to Wisconsin this winter so Mary could steal it because it is pretty and well made but has no pockets. However, all my searching has been in vain. Nothing could replace that blue cardigan.

Until, last weekend, I went looking for an air mattress at Target and took a slight detour to the clothing section of the store.

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It turns out my new perfect cardigan isn’t blue after all. It’s somewhere between citrine and chartreuse.
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And since I’m not planning to see Mary for several months, maybe I can keep it for awhile.

Train Travel

By Kate

I begun and ended my recent journey on trains.

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Last week my family landed in the kind and frozen city of Minneapolis. Five strangers immediately offered friendly unsolicited advice and directed us to the light rail station, where my tall husband bent his knees a bit and purchased tickets.

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We watched a train speed in and out of the station at lightning speed, and moved quickly to catch the next arrival.

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That light rail sure is quick.

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That train led to the next portion of our journey, which involved an exploration of the Mall of America, followed by a gorgeous winter wedding. After the wedding I headed home with the kids for a week of wood fires, wild siblings, sauerkraut making, and barn building on the snowy ridge. It was great to be home and I have many words and images to share with you from that time.

But now I am home again, in the city, and I am thinking about the train trip home. I made that trip wearing my late Grandmother’s absolutely fabulous coat, which features a huge fox fur collar.

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Now, my grandmother not only made the best beer brats in the world (see this post for the recipe) she was also an incredibly stylish woman. I had never seen this coat before she died, but I fell in love with it the moment I set eyes on it.

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This coat was made for train travel. In fact, I felt as though I was time traveling as well. There were only two tiny problems. The first was the fact that the fur blocked my peripheral vision, making it easy for me to knock my very small child over with my baggage now and then.

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Thankfully my little traveling companion is pretty tough. The second problem is that there is something about that fox fur coat that just screams city to me. I can think of 1000 reasons to wear that here in Pittsburgh. In Middle Ridge? Sigh. Not so much. I’m afraid that coat might be a sign that l’m meant to be a city girl, at least for a while. So I’m glad the last train carried me smoothly home.

I love traveling and I love trains. I love both of my homes- the farm on this snowy ridge top and the brick house halfway up a steep ridge in the city of bridges.

Defining Style

by Kate

Oh, the rocky road to personal style. These days, I live in a real live city.

pittsburgh portrait style

Pittsburgh may not be quite like Paris (though it does look like it sometimes!) but it does boast a real fashion scene full of very sophisticated and stylish people. I am not one of them, but I do appreciate the fact that I can walk down the street in bright mustard yellow or pleather leggings and a sweeping cape and (sort of) generally blend into traffic. I am pretty sure this would not be the case in the streets of the small towns near the dairy country from whence I came, although it IS possible to drive a tractor to the grocery store, or tie an Amish buggy up at the hitching post without drawing a second glance.

Granted, even in Pittsburgh the hat I wore to the recent baptism of my son may have gotten a second glance or two.

baptism hat

Still, there is a part of me that measures the success or failure of my personal style not by the outfits I wear in the city. Somehow a part of me will always believe the essence of my personal style is measured by what I wear on Christmas Eve in the choir loft of the old German Catholic parish church across the country road from my parent’s farmhouse. The theoretical opinion of that congregation of familiar farm families kneeling in the candlelit stillness means more to me than any urban fashionista ever could.

This year I won’t be there.

In Wisconsin, my family is beginning to gather, with the college kids returning and the wood stove burning. I’ll see them soon, at a big wedding coming up after the holidays, but I’ll miss them on Christmas Eve, and I’ll miss my own great fashion moment of the year. I’ll be waiting for pictures of my sisters, arriving at church in style.

You can find our Christmas stories here:

Christmas in the Clamor and the Chaos

We’ll All be Home for Christmas

Christmas and Coming Home

The Spirit of Christmas

and more urban style adventures here:

Frumpiness and Pleather

Pittsburgh is my Paris (A Bibliophile’s Dream)

Taking the Leap

by Kate

Three years ago, I married a mariachi.

That is, I married a half Mexican schoolteacher in a custom made Mariachi suit, on a windy Wisconsin ridgetop, in the church across the road from Sweet Ridge Farm.

I wore my Grandmother’s vintage satin wedding dress and my mother’s veil.

My mother had worn this wedding dress as well. I had been dreaming of wearing this dress since I was a little girl, and was thrilled to carry on a tradition in the third generation.I am guessing that my grandmother wore very high heels when she was married in this dress.

The day was full of blooming peonies in the beautiful bouquets designed and created by my sister Mary…

and the air was full of rose petals.

The celebration on my brother’s organic dairy farm was exuberant, as was famous moment in which the hoop skirted bridesmaids in ballgowns climbed the silo.

Granted, the hoop skirts did have to be left behind for this stunt to work.

A moment which, to be honest, horrified my brand new big city raised husband, who was gesturing with all his might for me to climb back down, preferably in a ladylike manner. I did come down….. eventually.

It was a gorgeous day for grand sweeping gestures and great romance and castles (or silos) in the sky.

Three years later, our feet are on the ground, and our life is taking root here in a city far from the rolling ridgetops where I was raised. I am less a blushing bride and shaped more like a vast ship at sail at sea….

but our married life is deeper, and (mostly!) smoother, and overall much easier than it was in the whirlwind of wedding and moving and getting to know each other and settling in to new roles and a new joint life. Happy Third Anniversary to my husband! Thanks for putting on that mariachi suit, and letting me leap down off the silo and into this new life.

There are lots more posts about our weddings here:

Our Red Dirt Royal Wedding

Red Dirt Wedding Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

How I Became a Slattery- A Love Story

Before We Dance

Petticoat Junction