December 22, 2008

Live to Eat - My Life in Chocolate

I grew up in a family that celebrated the great things in life with food. A good report card meant a meal at my favorite restaurant. Winning first chair in the woodwind section of my high school orchestra deserved a three layer chocolate cake with strawberries and cocoa crème icing. 4th runner-up in the Miss Atlantic County (NJ) pageant was a feast of enormous proportions starting with a celebratory brunch featuring chocolate chip pancakes the morning after and culminating with a buffet dinner for family and friends that evening. I don’t dare to imagine what level of food frenzy would’ve erupted had I actually won the crown and moved on to the Miss New Jersey pageant. Anyway, such has been my life. In my adult years, I haven’t had any desire to change the role food plays. I’ve just learned to love the gym, daily power walks and eating healthy in frequent, dramatic spurts.

Chocolate has elite status in my business life as well. It’s no secret that my favorite chocolatier is
Vosges Haut Chocolat. Their artisan flair appeals to my sensibilities. I’m so enamored with their delicacies that I gave each member of my amazing staff a box of their Exotic Truffle Collection. Since the first proclamation of health benefits from consuming dark chocolate, I’ve made sure that a bar of delectable Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates No. 1 Dark 70 or a Maya Gold “Fair Trade” from Green & Black’s is always in my production room. Customers who’ve come to my design studio have sometimes been treated to a Brownie Cupcake from one of my much loved NYC bakeshops, Crumbs.

I recently had to make a grand apology to my boyfriend for a minor lapse in judgment that resulted in us having to miss a friend’s holiday party that we’d both been looking forward to for months. No number of “I’m sorry’s” would’ve mattered that night so I knew my creative mind had to come up with some expression of sorrow that would have a significant impact. Then it dawned on me. I live with the reigning king of food consumption so as the old saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. But what combination would bring joy, satisfaction AND forgiveness? Here’s my successful solution:

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Spiked Hot Chocolate

Yield: Makes 6 drinks.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup Frangelico
Garnish: whipped cream

PREPARATION
In a saucepan, combine the milk, the chocolate, the sugar, and the cinnamon and heat the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Add the rum and the Frangelico and heat the mixture, stirring, until it is hot. Divide the mixture among 6 heated mugs and top each drink with some of the whipped cream.



Recipe from JoyOfBaking.com

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (115 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (could also use walnuts or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup (56 grams) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder (optional)
1 pound (450 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (170 grams) semisweet dark chocolate chips
1 cup (170 grams) white chocolate chips

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let nuts cool and then chop coarsely. Set aside.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder into small bowl. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and eggs until pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes. When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. Fold in the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix only until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing evenly. With moist fingers, press batter to form 3 1/2 (9 cm) to 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. Bake cookies about 12 - 14 minutes or until the tops of the cookies become dry and cracked, but are still shiny. Do not overbake these cookies.

Remove from oven and place baking pan on a wire rack to cool. When cookies are firm, remove from baking pan and let completely cool on rack.

These cookies are best the day they are baked but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Makes about 24 large cookies.

Warning: This solution may cause over caffeinated intoxication.

While my life is full of adventures, both on the up side and the down, one constant will always be that an infusion of chocolate in any form will make everything alright.

Photo of Chocolate Truffles Courtesy of Vosges.com

December 15, 2008

Mobile Metalworks

Who knew the inventor of the mobile was so much more than an acclaimed artist! I recently discovered the innovative work of American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) at an amazing exhibit of his creations at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. What made this collection so important and personally gratifying to me wasn't the abstract metal monuments he created such as the one for the Olympic Games in Mexico City or the sculpture he created for the New York Port Authority. It was his little-known jewelry designs, mostly created as gifts to family and friends.

Calder's rarely soldered earrings, necklaces and bracelets show his incredible ability to bend and mold wire to his liking. I appreciated the visible plier marks in some of the pieces as I reflected my own adventures in wire wrapping. His creative mixes of metal and wood are breathtaking. Calder's designs were rough, unsophisticated. The bold brashness of certain necklaces brought to mind a time when women were not fearful of the eclectic and thought the "trend" was a dreadful bore. This was the jewelry that stopped conversations and illicited shocked stares of awe - cliche but true works of wearable art.

You can view Calder's Jewelry at The Met through March 1, 2009. The Whitney Museum hosts sculptures from his Paris years now through February 15, 2009. Learn more about the artist at calder.org.


Images Courtesy of Calder.org

December 8, 2008

Get Thee to ETSY....Holiday Edition

Welcome to your fashionable source for those very special things in life from the extremely popular shopping site, ETSY, a place to buy and sell all things handmade. Here are my December picks, highlighting the unique talents of ETSY sellers that I think you should know and whose work will surely bring a smile to your face:

gretchenmist

SweetLollipopShop

fuzzybunny

Kzsox

pepponi

coffeeclouds

ara133photography

trilliumhillart

Think handmade and shop these talented artists and the thousands of others (including yours truly) you will find on ETSY this holiday season.

December 1, 2008

Technology the Old School Way....Sort Of

BlackBerries, iPhones, Centros, BlackJacks….I’ve resisted the obsessive buying frenzy that accompanies each time a new communications device is introduced to the marketplace. And it’s been hard because I live with one of the most rabid new handheld technology consumers on the planet. Our home is filled with almost every style of BlackBerry ever made. Over the years, we’ve given some of the older models away to deserving friends and family members and we are currently looking for a few non-profit organizations to donate the rest. (Suggestions are welcome) Mind you, none of the new technology purchases made in our household have been done willy-nilly. Much research and people polling takes place before hard-earned dollars are parted with. CNET has become a trusted ally in our quests. I should clarify that I ALWAYS assist in the investigative process. I hunt down product reviews, package deals, etc. but one of the last times I actually pulled the trigger and opened up my own wallet was when my current cell phone, the Motorola SLVR came out and the only reason I bought it was because my trusty albeit antiquated Palm T/X needed a Bluetooth capable device to mate with in order for me to meet my growing business communication needs.

I am not technology averse. On the contrary, I was just as excited as everyone else when the iPhone was introduced as well as its current competition, the BlackBerry Storm. I was cautiously thrilled that there was one gadget that could do so many incredible things. I just wasn’t going to be one of those people who camped out in front of AT&T or Verizon stores, needing to be the first in my peer group to fall so fast for the hype to own this latest tool of innovation. Marketing be damned! I’m not that gullible. I’ve waited, talked to a few friends who own one, read all of the reviews and came to the conclusion that my current setup was not so bad. Sure, having an all-in-one device has its merits, convenience not withstanding. And I’m sure my shoulders wouldn’t object to a little less weight to bear from my already oversized handbags. The problem is if you lose one, you’ve lost it all. You’re completely off your game until you can get another one. That’s why I like specialists. I like the steakhouse that offers other types of food but makes sure that it does steak as steak should be done. I like lingerie boutiques that carry a great selection of bras and panties and not much else. When those printer/scanner/copier things came out, I was leery. I kept thinking that if one function broke down perhaps the other functions would become disabled as well. In older models, that became inevitable. So, I feel more comfortable with technology that does one thing well. Call me old school, if you want, but I’ll be sticking to what works – my Palm T/X for calendar maintenance & internet access, my Apple iPod Nano for tunes and my Motorola SLVR for voice communication.

By the way, no one in our household owns an iPhone or a Storm – yet.
Photos Courtesy of BlackBerry.com and Motorola.com

November 21, 2008

The "J" List

10 people, places and things that have influenced, dazzled and amazed me in 2008:

Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK)

Her funky, multicolored spirit has inspired me to believe not only can I live a “succulent” life but I can also write the Great American Novel one day. Read her lively, interactive book, Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper.


Havre de Grace, MD

Beautifully quaint Chesapeake Bay town = rest, relaxation, peace. Waterfront walks on the boardwalk, fresh seafood dinners, vibrant art scene, lavish bed and breakfast inns, antique store gems and elegant day spas. What did I forget? Oh yeah, big time golf.



Jo Malone White Jasmine Mint Cologne

The only fragrance I’ve ever worn that is so divine that it’s perfect no matter what the occasion, event or time of year.








I don’t quite understand how 4 drops of this stuff on your tongue can make the world seem like a much rosier place but I don’t leave the house without a bottle of this in my purse.







The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Read the history of the amazing Alabama quiltmakers who have crafted spectacular works of art then head over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where you can view 74 of these extraordinary quilts until December 14, 2008.






The New York Times Little Black (and White) Book of Crosswords

Will Shortz is the renowned editor of the famous New York Times Crossword Puzzles and you can find 200 of the newspaper's best in this sleek, spiral-bound book. Puzzles are part of my prescription for longevity. They challenge me to think in uncommon ways and some scientists believe that doing them can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.





Tavalon Gravity Teapot

A great invention for tea lovers. Making the perfect cup without having to use those messy, drippy tea balls is a god-send.









I’m cheating on my boyfriend with a Rasta, a chocolate truffle made with Jamaican sorrel, fresh ginger, nutmeg, mango, white chocolate and hibiscus flower. It’s not a casual affair….


Somi

This New African Jazz & Soul artist has been likened to the late Miriam Makeba. That’s lofty praise but well deserved. I saw her live at Joe's Pub in New York City and I got it. Just listen to her song, “Ingele” and you’ll understand too.




The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation

As many families have experienced, cancer touched my family late last year when my mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. This incredible organization provided us a wealth of information and support during my mother’s treatment and recovery this year. Good news: Mom’s been cancer-free for over a year.

November 19, 2008

Pit Love

Like the Obama’s, we are in search of a great dog to be the next “spoiled brat” in our family. And just like our President-Elect and the future first lady have stated, we have and will continue to do our research and will make the proper selection once we have settled down from a transition into our new home (ours in Philadelphia, PA). This summer, we had a unique opportunity to spend some time with a dog who we’d hoped could join our happy home. He belonged to someone who thought they might not be able to keep him due to relocation. At first, I was a bit intimidated by this visit. Frankly, I was downright scared. I’d listened to all of the horror stories about this particular breed of animal and a lot of the misinformation helped me to make some incorrect assumptions. Nevertheless, we went forward with the visit and now Rico, the American Pit Bull Terrier has found a permanent place in my heart. All pictures shown here are of Rico taken by me during his short time with us. Not only is Rico and other members of his breed, one of the most gentle, affectionate dogs I’ve ever been fortunate enough to be in the company of, he reinforced the notion that there’s more than one side to every story.


I won’t use a lot of Style Baubles space listing the countless egregious and unfounded reasons people have given for fearing this entire breed but I will tell you that dog ownership in general requires LOTS of research including talking to reputable breeders and trainers, consulting with breed educated Veterinarians and reading as much historical info as possible through legitimate books and online resources. Here are a few sources that I believe give credible information regarding this much maligned breed:

United Kennel Club
American Kennel Club (info on close relative, the American Staffordshire Terrier)
Pit Bulls for Dummies


Responsible dog ownership requires that you balance your desire to own a dog with a great deal of your own life’s realities. As it turned out, Rico’s owner was able to keep him after his move. We were sad but because of our research we also realized that we would not have been the best parents for him anyway. The breed is energetic and also needs space and attention that we would not be able to provide immediately. Our upcoming transition may have been very disruptive for him in the long run. But when Rico comes to visit, we will welcome him with open arms and give him as much Pit Love as we possibly can.

November 17, 2008

Be Body-licious!

Let’s be real – our faces normally get all of the attention when it comes to skincare. We spend exorbitant amounts of money feeding our need to be blemish-free, wrinkle-free, soft, even-toned becoming slaves to brightly colored bottles and jars filled with the latest of lotions and potions…..whatever the endless stream of beauty propaganda from the fashion magazines, television and movies dictate we should do and be. Elbows and knees become afterthoughts in winter when we’re swathed in sweaters, leggings and boots. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Spring rolls in and we panic. Skin-bearing season’s right around the corner so we spend even more money to right the wrongs of neglect. It’s a vicious cycle that I choose not to participate. I am diligent all year long with all-body skincare. I find body products that work and I dedicate myself to using them religiously. Yeah, I do a lot of testing (my bathroom shelves do scream “help me”) but when I discover the right combination of body wash, lotion or cream and body scrub, I become a lifelong devotee.



I adore Bath and Bodyworks Aromatherapy Collection. I’m a fiend for the double duty shower gels and lotions in Tranquil Mint for promoting stress relief, Orange Ginger for energy and Lavender Chamomile for a restful sleep. Pampering ingredients like natural Soy Bean Oil keep my skin buttery-soft. I can't wait to try the Sugar Scrubs from Skin and Tonic, my latest Etsy beauty find. This summer, my fabulous facialist, Shalea, owner of Walker’s Apothecary in Jersey City, NJ turned me onto REN Skincare. Not only do REN products treat your skin with tender, loving non-synthetic ingredients, they don’t contain sulfates, animal ingredients or paraben either. And they smell absolutely incredible! The Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash and the Damask Rose Body Cream are my current favorites. Visit Renskincare.com to see the complete product line.

Trust me, if you treat your body beautifully this winter and you’ll be body-licious for warm weather season on Day 1!

Photos courtesy of bathandbodyworks.com and renskincare.com

November 14, 2008

Live to Eat

Dining on elegant meals served on expensive porcelain plates by amazingly well dressed, attentive wait staff in Philippe Starck-like rooms has always been a favorite form of entertainment for me and my boyfriend. That is until the economy’s brutal downturn made spending $150 - $200 for such gastronomic frivolities both unwise and unwarranted. The Harrison, Gotham Bar & Grill and The Modern will remain our favorite New York City fine dining establishments and we sincerely hope they successfully weather this fiscal storm so that we can return in better times. But tightening our belts has allowed us to explore some of our more economical local eating establishments on a regular rotation. Over the river (that would be the Hudson), near my design studio in cosmopolitan downtown Jersey City, NJ, we frequent the ever popular Marco & Pepe for weekend brunch. The French Toast is made with a decadent, buttery croissant…there are no words to describe. South City Grill has become our regular place for date night because of the scrumptious Crab Cakes (as good as Maryland’s) and the superb Prime Rib, which my steak connoisseur man says rivals some he’s eaten in a few Zagat top-rated steakhouses. I’m excited about OX, a hot, new addition to the neighborhood, which I hope we’ll be able to add to the list soon.


But what we are most happy to be doing more of is cooking at home. I’ve awakened my dormant chef skills and created some pretty amazing home-cooked meals recently. I’ll be featuring one of my dishes (or someone’s dish I’ve claimed) each month in a new Live to Eat series here on Style Baubles. The dish that has received recent raves is my mouth-watering Shrimp Creole. Actually, I can’t really claim the original recipe. The late, great 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley is responsible but I’ve added my own flair so I could legitimately put my name on it. I won’t share my secret adaptations but I can definitely let you in on Ed Bradley’s incredible version:

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
about 4 medium 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic, about 3 cloves
1 cup chopped celery
2 to 3 stalks 3 green peppers, seeded and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups cubed tomatoes, about 4 medium
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons **Matouk's Hot Calypso hot sauce, or more to taste
2 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined.


COOKING INSTRUCTIONS


1. Heat two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic for five minutes. Do not brown.

2. Add the celery, green peppers and jalapeno peppers to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about four minutes, stirring often. Do not let the vegetables become soggy; they should remain crisp.

3. Add the tomatoes, parsley and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and stir in the *Matouk's sauce. Remove the bay leaf.

4. Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan over high heat and sauté the shrimp for one minute. Pour the tomato mixture over the shrimp, stir well and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and serve with rice and lemon wedges.

Yield: Six servings.



Feel free to substitute chicken (cut into cubes) for shrimp – it’s just as delicious. You can substitute another hot sauce for Matouk’s but it will change the dish significantly. **Here is a place where this potent hot sauce can be purchased online. (Be forewarned – Matouk’s will open a flaming hole in the top of your head if overused.) Although a true New Orleans chef may question this version's authenticity, you can serve this delectable dish with confidence.

I believe that the opportunity to eat wonderful food is one of the many great reasons to get out of bed every morning so join my Live to Eat revolution every month. Enjoy Life!

Ed Bradley's Shrimp Creole Recipe Reprinted from nytimes.com
Shrimp Creole Photo Courtesy of bhg.com



November 12, 2008

Sweater Girl

Warm, fuzzy, soft, seductive…. just a few words to describe the most versatile piece of clothing a woman can have in her wardrobe – the fine-gauge wool or cashmere button cardigan. At least that’s my humble, fashion - tinged opinion. I may own the largest collection of cardigans on the East Coast. I am particularly fond of J. Crew and Ann Taylor’s sweaters because they score high by meeting the stringent requirements of my chic-meter: 1) they are impeccably made with high-quality fibers and top-notch workmanship 2) they come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and 3) prices must not make me nauseous or break out into a cold sweat. It also helps if I don’t have to leave my house to purchase them.


I rarely wear a traditional suit anymore because my collection of plush, jewel-toned cardigans is such a stylish alternative to the oh-so-common blazer. My long and trendy cardigans are great over skinny jeans and ankle boots. My favorite to-the-hip cardigans look fabulous buttoned, left open with a sexy camisole underneath or belted for a sophisticated look. I’m falling in love with the funky, limited-edition embroidered cardigans I just found by Sue of Heavy Threads Clothing. Sweaters can be found in all price ranges from the $49.50 Cashmere cardigan from Old Navy to the $348.00 Victor Glemaud Double Cardigan at Henri Bendel. And accessorizing cardigans is a breeze! I can’t wait to pair my slate grey pencil skirt or charcoal wide leg pants and black J. Crew Merino Melanie button-cuff cardigan with a bold, statement necklace like this one from my Eclectic Collection, a chunky bracelet similar to this one from my Uncommon Splendors Collection or an elegant pair of earrings like these from my Opulence Collection. Trés Chic!


Of all of the things that fill my closet, the cardigan will live on forever as my go-to piece for almost every occasion. I guess that makes me a Sweater Girl for life!

Photos Courtesy of jcrew.com

November 10, 2008

Sensitivi-Tea

Caffeine fueled days and nights have been my way of life for far too long. My jewelry design company is all encompassing and frequently demands my alert and undivided attention. At times that call to duty has meant bypassing sleep, exercise, occasional meals. I may have sold my soul when I allowed coffee to become my remedy of choice for assistance in maneuvering through my complex world. I fell hard for its notorious reputation for having an almost immediate impact on your psyche, for giving you a somewhat false sense of power, that blast of seemingly endless energy. But then there’s ultimately that dreaded “crash”….


There was a time when I was able to do everything the right way. I got proper rest, I worked out consistently 5-6 mornings a week. I ate 3 balanced meals a day with 2 healthy, nutritious snacks. I drank lots of herbal and artisan teas. Upon awakening, I sipped a simple Tazo Green Ginger Tea with an Alvita Panax Ginseng Tea chaser. Mid-morning, I would indulge in a delightful cup of Orange Blossom White Tea from The Republic of Tea. After lunch, a rich full bodied Organic Lapsang Souchong from SerendipiTea would set a soothing tone to the rest of the work day. Bedtime would mean soothing Chamomile Citron from Mighty Leaf Tea Company.


Saturday afternoon’s were spent making new friends in really cool Tea Bars in New York City like Tsalon. I shopped for the latest in Teaware at Crate and Barrel. I discovered new, hip online handcrafted Tea Retailers like Teavana, Ocean of Tea and Tea Noir. Besides, the history of tea is so darn fascinating! In this wonderful tea-filled world, I felt energetic euphoria but never the inevitable wiped-out sensation that coffee highs sometimes left. (Note: Black, green and white teas do contain some caffeine.) Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee too. It will always have a place on my diverse beverage menu. (Coffee love blog post coming soon!) But I've found such a calming sense of ceremony in drinking a cup of tea. If my day was hectic, tea helped to make it feel balanced. If I had big decisions to make, a cup would keep me centered. Let’s not forget all of the recent medical news that includes glowing buzz words and phrases like antioxidants “could be filled with cancer-fighting ingredients”, “helps to prevent heart disease”. So I’m bringing tea back because in this exciting, insane and complicated world we live in, anything that helps to make sense of it all makes perfect sense to me.

Photos Courtesy of rishi.com, republicoftea.com and amazon.com

November 6, 2008

Get Thee to ETSY!

The world of handmade goods has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. So many gifted artists plus more and more selling venues both online and off mean fewer straightforward ways to find those hidden gems of talent. I've recently noticed some very saavy bloggers, fashion writers and fellow Tweeters on Twitter giving easier access to rising stars by featuring amazing creatives at work. I'm showing my support by using this forum to introduce you to a few of my "fav" fellow artists on the extremely popular shopping site, ETSY, a place to buy and sell all things handmade:

Gaia Conceptions

Paper Art Studios

Old Money Botanicals

Whimsy and Spice

Fray

Tea Time and Roses

Lady Bird Land from Alison Strines Designs

"Get Thee to ETSY" will become a regular monthly spotlight on JulRe Designs Style Baubles, highlighting the unique talents of ETSY sellers that I think you should know and whose work will surely bring a smile to your face. Call it your fashionable source for those very special things in life. ENJOY!

November 3, 2008

These Boots Are Made for Loving

Obsessions are not all deviant. In fact, I’m a firm believer in healthy fashion fixations. And since shoes have been one of my lifelong fascinations, I’d like to share a few of the members on my Fall 2008 Fantasy Footwear team:


Left to right: Christian Louboutin Leather & Suede Boot, Giorgio Armani Platform Ankle Boot, Alexandra Neel Platform Boot
Photos Courtesy of Style.com

A couple of pairs of great boots are an absolute must for my Fall/Winter wardrobe, not only for their empowering effect (high heels give me perfect posture) but the versatility in styles. Whether you prefer ankle boots, or thigh highs (!), one inch or five inch heels (eeek!), any option will give you a fashionable alternative to flats and pumps. In better economic times, I have spent a pretty penny on a spectacular pair. Thankfully, there are some great online boutiques like
Zappos, J. Marco, Shoes.com that have fabulous boots for almost every budget. Don’t wear boots because you can’t find a stylish pair for your wide calves? J. Crew has a great selection.


Left to right: Nine West Danicka Boots, Ginger Goff Suede Boots, J. Crew Beckett Boots
Photos Courtesy of ninewest.com, jmarco.com, jcrew.com


Word of Shopping Advice: The boots that are truly made for loving are the ones that respect all 26 bones in each of your feet….

October 31, 2008

Scary Studio

I’ll be spending my Halloween in a very frightening place – the production area of my design studio. The picture on the left highlights a very small area on one of my design tables. I dare not show more as I fear for my reputation. I know it’s not pretty but it is what it is. The table looks the way it does because I can not create jewelry on pristine spaces. I’ve tried. For some bizarre reason, I must be surrounded at all times by colorful clutter. Only then do I begin to “feel” a bracelet coming on or a necklace surface from the deep, dark crevices of my creative mind. Don’t laugh. It’s my reality.

So on this All Hallows Eve, while greeting the neighborhood children with boatloads of assorted sweets and confections, I must temporarily relinquish control of my sacred space and “tidy” it in order to not scare away guests that will be attending a private trunk show I am hosting with a friend on Saturday. I’ve been asked to actually demonstrate how I go about designing my jewelry and the best place to do that is where it actually happens, so I was told. I’ve selfishly kept this part of my studio off limits to the public for obvious reasons but my friend made a cunning plea, I promised without thinking through the consequences and now I must honor the ill-gotten commitment. This trick is definitely not a treat…

Save some organic candy corn for me.


If you live or work in the New York Tri-State or Philadelphia, PA areas and would like more information on hosting a JulRe Designs Private Trunk Show in your home, at your company or at our Jersey City, NJ Design Studio,
email us.

October 29, 2008

Colorful Inspirations

Creative insight can come from varying sources for most writers, designers and other artistes. The evolution process from concept to finished product can be a holistic, spiritual but always very personal experience. My own method of discovery may be birthed from the fertile, green trees that line my street one day or the gleam of a golden sprinkle that lies atop a rich carrot cupcake from my favorite bakery in Chelsea. At times, it comes from the admiration of another jewelry designer like the incomparable Laura Gibson. But the resource I call upon most often to clear the artistic cobwebs is the work of the late abstract Russian painter, Wassily (Vasily) Kandinsky.




Here’s what
Wikipedia has to say about the artist's own process:
Kandinsky's creation of purely abstract work followed a long period of development and maturation of intense theoretical thought based on his personal artistic experiences. He called this devotion to inner beauty, fervor of spirit, and deep spiritual desire inner necessity, which was a central aspect of his art.

A lot of my jewelry has truly been inspired by Kandinsky’s apparent freedom from restriction in some paintings to the precise, geometric qualities in other of his works. To own a Kandinsky original will remain a dream but in the meantime, I will continue to visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York City often to breathe in the vivid, color-filled work of this artist. Learn more about Kandinsky here.

Photos Courtesy of Guggenheim.org

October 27, 2008

Water Works

My fellow beauty junkies, I’m going to share another one of my closely guarded secrets. This one’s big because I like keeping my cosmetic treasure chest close to the vest, letting out snippets ONLY when I’m about to bust with an overwhelming need to let the world know about a great discovery. I have a girlfriend that gets so annoyed with my inability to share my beauty finds that when she comes to visit, she immediately heads for my bathroom and proceeds to do her own investigation.


I stumbled upon H2O+ Sea-Derived Skincare many years ago during those carefree, frivolous times when Saturday shopping sprees were the norm and leaving the mall with your arms fatigued from the weight of the countless glossy bags you carried deserved a badge of honor. It was during one of my forays through the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center in New York City that I was drawn to this bright white, cheery space with shiny aluminum and glass shelves, artfully organized with bottles and jars of a unique contemporary design. I knew immediately that those bottles and jars that filled those shelves would soon fill mine. I walked out with my first jar of Face Oasis™ Hydrating Treatment, “a moisture-intensive gel that hydrates the skin while firming and diminishing the appearance of fine lines”, filled with Marine extracts of wakame, sea lettuce, and sea fennel and “helps attract, transport and distribute moisture equivalent to eight glasses of water.” It was love at first application. The H2O+ line is “focused solely on water-based, oil-free skincare” which makes it great for virtually all skin types. Although I started with the Oasis™ line (best for Oily, Dry or Combination skin), I have since become a fan of the Sea Results™ Collection with its menu of fabulous anti-aging products with straight from the sea ingredients like Spirulina and Nori. Most products are lightly fragranced or fragrance-free - great for even the most sensitive skin.

I’m loyal to anything that elicits amazed, slack-jawed expressions when I share my age. While most of the credit for my youthful spirit must go to great genes, wonderful family and friends, an amazing boyfriend, a business I'm passionate about and healthy living (most of the time), I must also give props to H2O+ for helping to keep the age-busting wolves at bay. You can purchase H2O+ Skincare, including superb its body care products at

www.h2oplus.com.
Photo Courtesy of h2Oplus.com

October 23, 2008

The Author Within

I'm writing a best-seller. Until now, I've kept it a closely guarded secret and those that know me will now be scratching their heads and wondering if I've taken that final leap into insanity. There's no doubt that my life is already filled with uncontrolled levels of complexity. The fact is I've been writing this book off and on for 6 years, trying to fulfill a dream I've had since childhood. Without giving away too much of the premise, it's a fictional love story about two people who meet through the infatuation a mutual friend has for one of them. And of course jewelry plays a huge role in how all of the characters connect. Here's the thing. Writers block is not my issue. Procrastination is not my excuse - this time. It's not really a lack of time or any of the common excuses one gives for not completing a project. It's my unnatural obsession with making sure the locations, the scents, the surroundings I write about are factual. I've been drawing on so many resources: the Internet, encyclopedias, conversations with residents of Chicago, IL (where the story takes place). I'm hopelessly lost in the research! The latest fixation I've called upon to expand my knowledge of jewelry and gemstone lore is the book Jewels, A Secret History by Victoria Finlay. Ginormous mistake!



I've been fascinated by the rich, impassioned stories Ms. Finlay tells about those "sparkly trinkets" we ogle in Tiffany's or drool over on the glossy pages of Vogue. From Cleopatra's Emerald mines to the fact that Peridot sometimes falls from the sky, this book is filled with alluring legends and written in a manner that makes historical facts captivate, not bore. In my humble opinion, this book should be in the library of every aspiring and established jewelry designer. It will allow you to be able to speak about your craft from a totally different and rather glamorous perspective. It will complete you. Fashion history buffs will absolutely love it too. And for me, perhaps it will someday help to make my best-seller a fact-based reality - if I can ever get my head out of it....

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

October 22, 2008

I've Been Wu'd....

I paid an unusual amount of attention to the Spring 2009 RTW Collections at NY Fashion Week in September. Typically, I’m not a fan of the fashion calendar - clothing shown so far from the time it can actually be worn or purchased can cause an anxiety attack. But I’m so starved for something new and exciting to look forward to. I’ve written too many times to mention about the small cache of American design houses that have never let me down – Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. As dependable as they are, I’m always looking for that one remarkable designer who can break through and give me the sophisticated classic lines that I love but with a bit of fresh whimsy. I think I found just that designer – Jason Wu.


Photos Courtesy of Style.com

Jason’s designs are at once ladylike and slightly devilish. The flowing A-line skirts he showcased are perfect for dressing up with one of his jewel-toned cashmere T’s and accesorizing with one of the color-filled bracelets from my Uncommon Splendors collection. In my opinion, his sheath dresses are his specialty. You can tell that he appreciates the female anatomy with his use of form fitting silhouettes and delicate detailing. I’ve never seen pleats and draping like his! The use of fun fabrics and brilliant colors give Jason’s clothing a quirky edge but it’s not overdone. Actually, it’s all perfectly Wu – nderful….

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