Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Love at First Sight: Merino Ethereal Ruffle Cardigan

Yesterday I made a long-overdue trip to my closest B&M to return a few impulse buys and ride-alongs that didn't work (including, sadly, the Malabar sandals that look so cute on the always-smashing Miss A Bigger Closet here -- they didn't fit my skinny feet and looked, well, ridiculous. Drat.)

I had no intention of buying anything seeing as how I've been on a bit of a binge this spring and summer. But my PS/SA shrewdly and casually said "Hey, I do have one sweater to show you..." That girl is good at her job.

What she showed me was the very, very lightweight, silky merino wool "Merino Ethereal Ruffle Cardigan." J. Crew rather elaborately (as usual) describes this gem this way:

We're utterly enamored with this ladylike cardigan (and think you will be too). A dainty ruffle of crinkled silk chiffon trims the delicately flounced neckline, giving it that certain je ne sais quoi. It dresses up your favorite jeans and pairs perfectly with a pencil skirt. Spun from the finest whisper-weight Italian merino wool in a 14-gauge knit. Fitted. V-neck. Three-quarter sleeves. Hits at hip. Import. Dry clean.

This cardi fits TTS, and has 3/4 sleeves and a wonderful drape on the body. What the pictures don't show very well at all (best, I think, if you look at the Dark Rust color) is how well JC has succeeded with the trim this time. The buttons are adorable and the crinkled chiffon truly is delicate and so feminine -- AND is a beautifully-coordinated, slightly lighter shade of the color of the wool.

The Heathered Cypress (picture above) size M came home with me, along with the Deco Patent Leather Belt in Ripe Avocado that blends with this sweater (and echoes the slight glossiness of the buttons) so beautifully. I think this color will be a lot of fun to play with and will jazz up my neutrals and my jeans this fall. Unfortunately it is the dreaded Dry Clean Only. But since I discovered Dryel (so sorry, neighborhood mom 'n pop dry cleaners, nothin' but love for ya sincerely), I'm not especially deterred by a DCO tag.

My B&M also had this cardi in Dark Rust, which is very pretty but looks similar to Glazed Pecan, and the Barely Peach, which IRL isn't as dark as it appears online -- it looks to me more like this spring's Warm Blush. Been there, done both colors enough already.

What do y'all think of this cardi? Too much like too many recent JC items (how they do love that chiffon trim!)? Or does it ring that "Welcome to my closet!" bell in your head too? :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Detouring from the Crewse Lane for a Stop in Catheland

Every few weeks, it seems, I surface and have time to blog (although I manage to find time to read YOUR blogs quite a bit, I must say!) Today I'm snorkeling up to tell y'all about my weekend last week. This is seriously OT from the Crewniverse of usual discussion, so skip on outta here if you're jonesing for a fashion read because I won't be providing that for you this time.

There WAS fashion, of a sort, involved in my weekend junket, but it was fitness fashion. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Ryka, Asics, Lucy, OhMyBod and UnderArmour reigned supreme. My weekend was spent at the annual Cathe Friedrich Road Trip in Glassboro, New Jersey, where I was once again (for the 5th time) one of the Road Trip Coordinators -- meaning that I've been working for months behind-the-scenes planning this yearly fanfest & workout lollapalooza event with Cathe, her staff and my very dear friends who are the Co-Coordinators.

For those of you who don't know Cathe, let me clue you in. She's the best-kept secret in the world of fitness, in my biased view. Cathe pioneered one of the very first at-home step videos in 1989, and since then she's carved out a niche catering to the advanced (or aspiring to be advanced, like me!) exerciser who is aiming for a time-efficient, gym-quality workout but wants or needs to workout at home. She's created over 120 workout videos covering everything from hi/lo, step, boot camp and kickbox to strength training, circuit training and stretching. Being the die-hard fan that I am, I have collected and used ALL of them, love them all even though I have favorites, and can tell you just about anything you wanna know about them! In the crowd picture here, that's Cathe, third from left in the front row, having a good time at our Saturday night party, flanked by her usual "crew" of video regulars who dropped by and backed up by happy Road Trippers.

Cathe's now a working mom in her mid 40's (but she looks a decade younger), and she's wickedly buff, impossibly tiny, really beautiful and on top of that one of the nicest, warmest, most generous and certainly most hard-working women you'd ever meet. She co-owns a beautiful health club (Four Seasons Health Club: http://www.hugeclub.com) in Glassboro, New Jersey (just outside Philly) with her longtime business partner. She still teaches four or more weekly classes there and keeps a low and modest profile around the gym -- except when the Road Trippers invade. :-) Five times since 2005, 105 of her delirious fans from around the world have met at her gym in Glassboro for a whole "Road Trip" weekend crammed full of classes with Cathe, teambuilding games and socializing, a DJ-led Saturday night party and, of course, many fabulous refueling meals.

In the five years we've been doing Cathe Road Trips, Cathe's celebrity has grown tremendously. She is now a regular on FitTV, she's on Facebook, she's on Twitter, her Fitness by Cathe products are in stores nationwide, she's been on Good Morning America, she's been featured in magazines, and it's been reported that her worldwide fanbase now "hits" her websites more than 10 million (!) times each month. I couldn't even imagine how many million kick-butt videos she's sold. (The "I wanna look like THAT" photo here is from Cathe's kickbox workout that's part of her 2008 series release "Four Day Split".) But somehow, she's still mostly flying under the radar, and since she's by nature a little shy and very self-effacing, she kinda likes it this way. I asked her recently if she gets mobbed when she travels with her two young sons, and she said that almost no one ever approaches her in airports, on a plane or in public. Seeing as how this pint-sized powerhouse is so much a part of my daily life, I'm always surprised that most people I meet have never heard of her. But I'm flat-out amazed that to this day most of her gym's members haven't got a clue that she's famous -- and getting more famous fast. To them she's just the gym owner and a great instructor -- even though Cathe's video filming studio is on the premises, even though her merchandise is prominently for sale at the front desk, and even though her fans regularly make impromptu "pilgrimages" to take a class with her. Mysterious, huh? Proof positive that people often don't look far beyond the telescope view of their own daily lives, I suppose. In any case, the members at Four Seasons always seem amused (although they're pleasantly tolerant) when 105 starstruck people (mostly but not all women) invade their gym with cameras blazing and Sharpies ready for autographs.

Let me pause to say that I'm aware that this post must sound to some of you like so much public relations ballyhooing. But I assure you I'm utterly sincere. Cathe's been life-changing for me, and not just because she's gotten me fit, raised my consciousness about my own health and wellness, and provided me with an endless supply of challenges -- she's also responsible for my having been able to meet and make dear friends with like-minded Cathe exercisers all over the map. Some of my closest friends now are women (and a few guys) who I first met through the web world of Cathe. I see most of them once a year at our Road Trips, but our friendships are nourished by phone calls, cards, gift exchanges and an endless string of chatty e-mails. And I am so glad to have had circumstances evolve that have allowed me to get to know Cathe personally, too. I count her among my inner circle of BFF's.

So forgive the bragging if you can, folks. I'm shameless. She's my pal, I'm proud of her and I love her, and I consider it a privilege and a blessing to introduce people to her. If you want to know more, read on. :-)

I've been a regular member of Cathe's online forums (Click here to visit: http://www.thecathenation.com/forum/) since the mid 1990's -- we've always called ourselves "Catheites", but recently Cathe's webmaster began to call us "Cathletes", a term that we've all adopted and use amongst ourselves. I know, it's a little silly, but it's awesomely empowering.

Cathe now has two main websites, one (Cathe dot com: http://www.cathe.com) devoted principally to information about her and her products (which include her fitness DVD's, of course, as well as the Fitness by Cathe line of at-home fitness equipment and accessories, plus shirts and hats and all manner of cute "Cathe gear"), and one (The Cathe Nation: http://www.thecathenation.com) devoted to our "Cathlete" community. At the Cathe Nation website we're able to create, share, record and track our own workout "rotations", as well as blog and communicate in lots of other ways with other Cathe devotees. Almost 20,000 of us are Cathe Nation forums members.

So, as I was saying, last weekend 105 of us from all around the country and the world gathered for Road Trip 2009. From Friday afternoon until the last "early bird" class at 7 on Sunday morning, Cathe taught like the Energizer Bunny (and looked gorgeous throughout it all, honest to goodness.) She led us in two step classes, one stretch class, one boot camp class (she actually taught this twice, but we were split into 2 groups for this one and while one group "boot camped" the other group either listened to a guest speaker or took an optional yoga class with a guest instructor), a lower body blast class, a kickbox class and, sprinkled throughout other classes, abs and upper body blast work. On paper that sounds almost impossible, but we all did it, and everyone went comfortably at his or her own pace without any pressure. Just awesome. We ate very nutritious food in large amounts, and we ate gooey bakery cake in large amounts, and we drank coffee and water by the gallon and played games and danced and laughed and oohed and ahhed over the gifts in our Cathe RT 2009 goodie bags and proudly wore our new "Cathlete" shirts.

It was, as always, an emotion-filled weekend (mostly very high highs!), and one that came and went way too fast. A highlight of my year, EVERY year, and one that I hope I'll be able to keep doing until I'm so old that when I take that microphone to do my usual "WELCOME!" speech the younger Road Trippers will look at each other and whisper "HOW old did she say she is?????"

I'm happy as a clam in the mud to share Cathe info with any of you who want to know more. Hit me up here (as my sons say), or e-mail me at jcauncmom@gmail.com.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled Crew-gramming. Loving that plum raisin color in the new rollout!