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….

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