November 16, 2009

Versatili-Tee

The modern tee-shirt has got to be, hands down, one of the most versatile pieces of clothing available to man and womankind. Prints, solids, hand painted, embroidered, long sleeved, cap sleeved, fitted or full, there's a style and fit for every body. They are pure simplicity wrapped in plastic and bought in 3's or Art on Cloth. We wear them easily with jeans and unexpectedly with long satin skirts. My favorite classics were $19.99 soft, 100% cotton 3/4 sleeve boat necks by the GAP but since the company decided to squash my obsession and abrubtly discontinue them, I've found an excellent replacement in the Banana Republic Solid Fitted Tee (left) - a bit more expensive at $30.00 but they wash well and keep their shape. They look as fabulous under suit jackets for the coporate office as they do topping a denim skirt with tall boots on casual Friday. A much less expensive option are the Old Navy Stretch Crew Neck Tees. Ultra soft and at $14.50 stocking up on them in the wide array of colors available won't be a budget-buster.

On the luxe side of the spectrum, I love layering a J. Crew Cashmere Tee
under a long cardigan sweater for luscious comfort. For a whimsical edge, I adore my tee shirts by Lucky Brands. Of course this post would not be complete if I did not feature an indie discovery. I found the adorable Antisparkle shop on the artisan marketplace, Artfire. This small frosted cake lover wants to give these fun signature cupcake tee shirts to all of my sweet freak friends this holiday season.

Pretty soon I'll need a closet just for all of my tees. I'm afraid to count but I actually may already own enough to have a different one to wear every day of the year. Hey, don't judge.
Photo Courtesy of bananarepublic.com

November 9, 2009

The Uncommonness of Courtesy

Last week, a gentleman held a door open for me. It wasn't my dad, boyfriend or brother. This was a random person who obviously felt extending a courtesy wasn't an act of treason at that moment. My profuse thankfulness may have caused the man to have second thoughts about his actions but the truth is I was stunned. I rarely get to see even the most common courtesies expressed to myself or others lately. We've all been on the train, an elderly person loaded down with bags enters and seated, able-bodied people turn their heads away so as not to make eye contact. Or someone drops a pile of stuff, things scattering everywhere and people look down at the mess only to make sure they're able to step around it, continuing on their path to whereverland. It's a sad statement on where we've devolved as humans and I fear its another social epidemic.

Now, I'm not always a perfect, always-there-to-help person myself. As I type this post, I'm looking at a phone log that lists calls that I've needed to return for longer ago than I'm willing to admit here. I've been known to be so rushed and self-absorbed that pointing out to someone that they've dropped something on the street has been too much of an effort. I'm not proud of that. But I make every effort to make amends for that behavior every chance I get. My mom always said that good manners, being caring and considerate were the real keys to life's successes.

I'll never forget the day I was on a NYC subway and I noticed a woman facing the doorway with the back of her dress completely tucked into her pantyhose. Her whole backside was exposed to the world yet most of the other riders pretended not to notice or snickered at her obvious misfortune. I imagined how I would feel if I were in the same position. I would want someone to be courteous and bring the embarrasing predicament to my attention as soon as possible which is what I did. The fact that in her extreme humiliation or complete lunacy she snapped "Oh, I like it like that" did not deter me from extending common courtesies to others whenever the opportunity arises. I consider them my small contribution to a kinder, gentler world. Every little courtesy helps.

November 2, 2009

Get Thee to ETSY....Coffee Table Edition

Some day soon, I’ll get over my intense need for safety and security and pop the cork on my hard earned savings to purchase a new home. And when I do, I’ll finally be able to completely unleash my taste for contemporary design by filling the house with expressive, modernistic furniture. My favorite space in my current home is the living room. It’s where our friends and family join us for great conversations. When I work from home, it’s the one place where coziness reigns and sometimes it’s where the man in my life and I take pleasure in reading peacefully together, enjoying the rare moments of silence. A central fixture in most living rooms is the coffee table. Our current one is a functional slab of polished black wood. It lacks style and has no identifiable personality. It’s there to serve one purpose – to keep stuff off of the floor. But in our new home, the coffee table will also serve as an exciting work of art. During a recent search for a classic bookshelf to give as a gift, I discovered a few incredible artisans/craftsmen on Etsy who have created inspiring works in table form (see below). I may have to loosen the purse strings sooner than planned.

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade
SimpleGems.etsy.com


And remember, THINK HANDMADE and shop these talented artists and the hundreds of others (including yours truly) you will find on Etsy this upcoming holiday season.

October 26, 2009

Scrub - a - Dub

Let’s be real – our face gets 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 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. When skin-bearing season’s right around the corner, 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'm a self-proclaimed beauty victim and I do a lot of testing (my bathroom shelves scream “help me”) but when I discover the right combination of body wash, lotion or cream, I become a lifelong devotee. A rich, luscious body scrub? You’ve uncovered my true beauty product weakness.

While on a month-long vacation this summer, I indulged in many fabulous spa treatments but none more decadent than the Carolina Cloud Nine at the Sanctuary Spa on Kiawah Island, SC. The spa describes the treatment as “a superb experience for your hands and feet, this Epicuren treatment starts with an invigorating full-body exfoliation and luxurious thermal steam. Your rain shower rinse leads to an application of facial quality moisturizer for soft and silky skin. Finish with a nurturing hand and foot massage. Choose from Mandarin Orange Scrub, with essence of orange, apricot, walnuts and almonds, or Papaya Pineapple Scrub, for more sensitive skin.” The 90 blissful minutes I spent in low country heaven were well worth the $250 price tag.

At home, I adore Bath and Bodyworks Aromatherapy Collection. I’m a fiend for the sugar-based body scrubs in Tranquil Mint for promoting stress relief and Orange Ginger (pictured above, left) for energy. I recently purchased the Moroccan Rose Otto Sugar Body Polish by REN Skincare. Roses are my favorite fragrance and this scrub does not disappoint. Not only do REN products treat your skin with tender, loving non-synthetic ingredients, they don’t contain sulfates, animal ingredients or paraben either. I’m going to make my next body polish purchase from a cool indie shop at 1000 Markets, Pink Bricks. Since Sugar-in-the-Raw is my absolute favorite sweetener, Pink Bricks’ Turbinado Sugar Body Scrub has got to be a winner!

So take my advice and start now. Treat your body right this winter and let exfoliation be your friend. You’ll be body-licious for Spring on Day 1!



Photo Courtesy of bathandbodyworks.com

October 5, 2009

Eating Royalty

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with cupcakes. I have them available at all times in my jewelry design studio for customers. That’s what I tell people but the truth is they’re there to feed my addiction. I serve them for dessert at all of my parties. I give them as gifts and when traveling to a new city or country, I research their availability before going. I just discovered Cupcakes for a Cause and I couldn’t be happier that eating my favorite food and giving can be mutually beneficial. I follow fellow cupcake fanatics like @cupcakeblog and @tweetmycupcake on Twitter. I’ve eaten so many of them, I consider myself a cupcake connoisseur. One thing I don’t do is bake them. I leave that to the true professionals like Crumbs in NYC and Cupcake Salon in Jersey City, NJ or Velvet Sky Bakery in the Philadelphia, PA area.

What makes a great cupcake and the best cupcake flavor combo (cake/icing) are always debatable issues. My manly man likes them very simple – a rich, ultra moist dark chocolate cake with a light layer of bittersweet chocolate frosting, no jimmies, sprinkles or other adornments. Pumpkin Carrot cupcakes have become very popular with my girlfriends since they found this
recipe. But I am in sugar coma heaven whenever I have a regal Red Velvet cupcake in my hand. Yeah, if you polled cupcake lovers everywhere, you’d probably get the same answer but there’s a reason for that. The combination of the special cocoa that gives the cake its great flavor and the majestic cream cheese frosting makes this dessert a royal treat. The best I’ve ever had came from a customer who made them using southern cooking diva Paula Deen’s recipe but added a secret ingredient that she swears she will never share. I'll be making jewelry for her forever just so she'll keep bringing me my fix.

They’re perfect with sparkling wine, a hot cup of medium roast coffee or an ice cold glass of skim milk. Because of their diminutive size, they can be easily transported but who are we kidding? Their smallness can lead to our largeness. I DON”T CARE! They look great displayed on fine silver platters or plastic plates. They come in infinite varieties and will put a smile on the face of little girls and grown men. They’re grand sweetness in small packages and I love them. Yum.


Photo Courtesy of The Food Network

September 28, 2009

The Generosity of Jeans

Jeans are the fashion gift that just keeps giving. They are undoubtedly the only items in my wardrobe that, with the exception of in formal or conservative corporate environs, work every time. The styles, fits and price points are endless. Decorative stitching and denim washes make jeans more versatile than the go-to black trousers. Don't get me wrong - black pants will always be a must-have staple in your wardrobe but jeans allow you to show more of your own fashion personality.

I own 35 pairs. I counted for the first time last week so that this post would be accurate. I really should say I own 35 pairs that I can wear right now. There are actually more. As excessive as that may sound, I'll justify it all by saying that no two pair looks exactly alike. There's something different that they each have to offer and that’s the beauty of jeans. Take for instance my Victoria's Secret Super Flare jeans (right) with a comfortable fit (it's
all about the stretch!) and decorative back pockets. They look great with bulky sweaters and fitted tops but I always wear them with stiletto heels. At $59.50, I can own them in both washes. The closest this curvy girl will ever get to the trendy ultra skinny jeans are the Matchstick jeans by J. Crew. The dark rinse wash make them perfect for creative casual Fridays or dinner out. Hey, I've tried them all from the pricey 7 for all Mankind and J. Brand to the GAP and $29.99 Levis. I've recently discovered the brand Not Your Daughter's Jeans at Neiman Marcus with realistic rises (no booty exposure here) and fabulous styles. But my all-time favorites for fit, function and fashionability (my new word for “great style”) are the Modern Denim Trousers from Ann Taylor. This company knows that women come in all shapes and respects that by offering a jean that not only fits perfectly but is both classic and sexy.

So you see the world of jeans is a generous one with huge selections for all tastes, sizes, occasions and pocketbooks. Hmmm...I just heard those VS Super Flares are on sale and come in a new wash! Maybe just one more pair....



Photos courtesy of GAP and Victoria's Secret.

September 21, 2009

The Customer's Always Right and Other Unfortunate Myths

We had an exceptionally bad experience at a local restaurant yesterday. I woke knowing that I would never be able to continue my day if I didn’t write about it. Let me preface this by saying I'm not a particularly patient consumer. By definition, I'm intolerant of poor customer service and especially unforgiving when spending my hard earned money results in dissatisfaction. I think this attitude keeps me keenly aware of how I treat my own customers as well as how I respond to their needs and desires. Because I've experienced my fair share of bad attitudes and reckless detachment from retail clerks and other service providers, when I receive phenomenal service I shout it from the rooftops. In my own business, I'm always in search of new ways to have the wonderful people who buy my jewelry and keep me in business during this particularly tough economic downturn wanting to sing my praises and return time and time again. I'm human. I have made mistakes. But the one thing I'm proud of is that I can admit them when made and I will make every effort to make things right immediately. Now that you know this about me, you will understand my burning need to tell this story....

My town boasts many eating options from fast food to fine dining and since I'm such a foodie, I look forward to ending a hard work week with a great meal or celebrating the culmination of a fantastic weekend with a fabulous brunch. There's a popular establishment conveniently no more than 2 blocks from my home that's known for having a creative brunch menu and after other restaurants have come and gone, it remains as popular as ever. We'd stopped going a few years back but yesterday we couldn't remember why so despite a gnawing feeling that there was an important piece of information we were missing, we took a chance and stopped in for fresh squeezed orange juice, duck pork sausage and French Toast made from rich, buttery croissants. After waiting 1 hour for our food, I checked my tolerance level, took a deep breath and inquired rather meekly to our waiter if our meal would be arriving soon, I was met with a bored sigh and an attitude that felt like it was screaming "You have no right to ask about your food! Don't you see we're busy here?!" Ahhhhhh I remember now. THAT'S why we'd stopped coming. And that's why next time we will remember to never return. We noticed other patrons experiencing the same exasperating situation yet most seemed numb to it. Have we really devolved into a society that just accepts bad service and dreadful behavior as a consequence of the times? Has requiring common courtesy become an exception rather than the rule? If we had just been told that the kitchen was swamped and even a semi-sincere apology had been offered, I would've had no burning desire to write this post. We would've happily enjoyed our beverages and chatted merrily until our meal arrived. Instead, we left feeling slightly bruised and abused. I guess as customers, we just weren't right for this restaurant. I guess it doesn't matter that I have a voice, a rather loud one at times and I intend to use it. My mother taught me that we teach people how to treat us by what we show we are willing to accept. That restaurant owner will be getting an email from me.

September 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Marketplace

I continue to be amazed by the amount of extraordinary talent in the world of handcrafted artisans. One could spend hours scouring shopping sites like Etsy and ArtFire to see that creativity abounds. There's a sense of community among the artists, a mutual respect for each individual craft as well as a healthy dose of competition just to keep everyone striving for higher quality and craftsmanship. I’m proud to be a part of this group.

I’ve previously featured some of my favorite fellow artisans from Etsy in this space but a few months ago I discovered a new marketplace for talent. I was so impressed by the caliber of the art available that I immediately wanted to join. Ahhh but it was not that easy. Unlike many online shopping venues, 1000 Markets only allows participation based on a jury system which picks a select group of artists that meet their criteria for high quality crafts. I’m so happy JulRe Designs LUXE has been selected and I continue to enjoy challenge of making sure my work continues to meet not only my high standards but those set by 1000 Markets and the various themed markets that make up this eclectic venue.

Here are just a few items from some of my favorite merchants at this incredible marketplace:


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(right column, top to bottom)

Dye Diana Dye

WB Eckert Studio

quejimenez


(left column, top to bottom)

Safiya Beauty

Whimsy and Spice

Ceramics by Vadim


THINK HANDMADE and shop these talented artists and the hundreds of others (including yours truly) you will find on 1000 Markets this upcoming holiday season.



Photos Courtesy of 1000 Markets

September 7, 2009

When a Rose Is Not a Rose


While walking through a field of wild flowers has always been an aesthetically pleasant experience, it's never been appealing in liquid form captured in a spray bottle. I've become more of a citrus or fresh scent gal because most floral fragrances smell clawing and suffocating on me. I make an exception with roses. In fact, I've gone through many bottles of Jo Malone's Red Roses over the years. Despite the "grandmother's perfume" rap that rose-based fragrances sometimes get, this particular version is light, airy and incredibly sexy. I call it "young love in a bottle". The man in my life asks for it by name. Enough said.
 
But since I'm always searching for the next new scent and constantly tryin
g to find that one fragrance that can become my signature, I became intrigued by the exotic Tuberose, a night blooming flower that originated in Mexico and contrary to its name, is not in the Rose family. Perfumers often use this intense scent as a middle note in blends but when I first discovered the lusciousness in its singular complexity in Tubereuse by Annick Goutal (above left), I knew I may have found nirvana for my nose. It happened again when I was given a bottle of the exotic Velvet Tuberose by Bath and Bodyworks (above right). Deep, rich and heady, this one's slightly dangerous. Wear with caution! And since my dresser is already filled with fabulous Eau de Toilettes from Jo Malone, adding her fresh version of Tuberose to my collection was a no-brainer.

This fall, I'm going to enjoy wearing Tuberose as the perfect accessory for the season's long cardigans, leather pants and suede boots. The rose that's not a rose is still quite "scent-sational" to me.

August 31, 2009

Beware of the Buzz Kill - a Coffee Saga

I’m having a love affair with coffee again and I’m not ashamed to proclaim it to the world - especially since certain health officials have finally extolled its beneficial virtues. There was a time when I’d sworn off the dark, steamy liquid heaven and switched to its lighter, less frenetic sister, tea. I blogged about it last year, convinced that the “buzz” I got from coffee ultimately wasn’t worth the rapid heart beats, withdrawal headaches and sleepless nights. And I still believe that to be true, kind of. Honestly, nothing beats the zing you get from that first cup in the morning, how it creeps through your bloodstream, awakening every single cell in its path. The rush you receive when your brain receives the dose, like bubbles of energy bursting in rhythm. But if it were just about the buzz, I’d end this post here.

Recently, I went to a fast food restaurant (that will remain nameless) to try what their advertising people have worked hard to portray as “café-quality” coffee, airing commercials that show hip people sitting in cool clubs listening to smooth Neo-soul music and crisp spoken word. I bought into the hype! I saw me and my girlfriends sipping these trendy beverages in cute little dresses, being exceedingly cosmopolitan. The buzz kill came when I bought one of these drinks and gagged at the unpleasant flavor and bitter aftertaste. Yes, my drug of choice must not only be stylish, it must also taste good.

In my town of Jersey City, NJ, we have Starbucks, Gloria Jean’s, Van Houtte, all national chains that do coffee well. It’s what they do. It’s their specialty. Even Dunkin’ Donuts gives good coffee because they don’t try to compete with a million other things on their menu. My town also boasts a few artisan coffee shops that are exceptional like Legal Grounds and AHYMN Espresso Bar & Café. The baristas must study the art of coffee and have found their niches from Italian press to grinding their own beans. I make my rounds through all of these establishments. I spend money, way too much. What is it about other people’s coffee that makes standing in long lines or waiting more than 10 minutes to get a fix acceptable? I figure while I’m there I should ask as many questions as I can about what makes a great cup of java in hopes of duplicating their efforts at home. Is it the grinds? Or do the beans have to come from Columbia or South Africa? Sometimes I get answers; most times I get blank stares. And while spending $3 - 4 everyday on my favorite beverage was fine in a better economy, it’s not a wise move now. Enter the greatest invention since the DVR – the Keurig machine and accompanying K-cups which solve everything: a consistently great tasting cup of coffee in a wide variety of roasts and blends right in your own home or office. And at what comes out to about $.25 - .50 a cup, you won’t ever have to worry about your buzz (or your wallet) being killed.

August 24, 2009

The Quest for Togetherness (or Tote Bag Envy)

You’ve seen them. Those women who look as if they rolled out of a bed of sheets and into a bed of roses, perfectly coiffed, not a speck of disarray. They walk with proud, perfect posture and jaunty steps usually with some kind of fashionable handbag clutched under their arm, in the crook of their elbow or slung over their well-toned shoulder. I envy their “togetherness”. It takes planning and dedication to pull off such fabulosity on a daily basis. I’ve reached this pinnacle of fashion savvy often but a consistent effort eludes me. After some careful observation, I'm starting to believe that the trick is the frequent touch-up – making the bathroom or ladies room wherever you are your frequent beauty sanctuary. Perhaps if I were able to carry all of the necessary touch-up essentials plus all of my daily life accoutrement in a bag that was beautiful and functional….

So, I’ve set out to find the perfect tote bag for Fall. Here you will find my Top 5 list of the most heavenly handbags:

Coach bags have been a perennial favorite of mine because of their exceptional styling and superior workmanship. I’m in deep love with the Studded Sabr
ina Bag (above left) right now.

Neiman Marcus has finally figured out that Emerging Designers have incredible ability and wonderfully unique things to offer. The Tano Speakeasy Hobo and the Max’s Kansas City Bucket Hobo by Alison Wood have both made my list of enviables.

The Smythson Nancy Quilted Zip Bag (right) is designer hot and chic. While in a color I would abuse and I’m sure in a price range that would make my heart fail, it will forever be on my wish list.


And if you d
on’t know about 1000 Markets, you’re missing out on a treasure chest handcrafted goods from talented artists. It was there that I found the classic Olivia Bag by Neiko Designs (left) that I’m REALLY excited about.

I’m completely overwhelmed by the wonderful choices at all price ranges at my disposal so my quest for the perfect fall tote bag continues. But once I find the bag for me, I’ll have one less excuse for not having that “together” look more often. Well, I’m sure I’ll find many other reasons.



Photos Courtesy of Style.com and 1000Markets.com for Neiko Designs

August 17, 2009

Stops, Starts & Other Random Delays

This is my first Style Baubles blog post in over 3 months. I could give you endless convoluted reasons why I haven’t been able to write a single word in that time but it would just go to show how incredibly chaotic I've allowed my life to become. I’ve never shied away from admitting my weaknesses but I guess I’ve done it so much lately, even I’m bored with the exercise. So instead of using this post as a sort of penance for my writing sins, I’m going to just say that I feel the blog juices returning. There are lots of exciting things taking place in the world and my personal universe is no exception. Fashion never takes a break, eating great food is more fun than it’s ever been and I continue to meet wonderfully talented artists, crafters and designers online and off. I’m going to try my hardest to prevent my history of stops, starts and other random delays from getting in the way of doing what’s right in this space. Hey, I’m so pumped up, I’ve taken to writing about my own jewelry on another blog. So on to writing the next piece! Hmmm…is that the sun shining again?

May 11, 2009

I Love a Shopping Spree!

***THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED***

And I love our JulRe Designs Insiders!
They belong to an exclusive club that receives advance notice of our new collections, members-only sales and special discounts via our eNewsletter. As members, they can also receive complimentary Gift Cards, Goodie Bags, even FREE jewelry!


I want to spread more love by giving away a $150 Jewelry Shopping Spree at The Shop at JulRe Designs to one lucky NEW JulRe Designs Insider!

Here are the rules:

DEADLINE EXTENDED!

• To be eligible, become a JulRe Designs Insider by joining our Guest Registry beginning May 11, 2009 through June 21, 2009. Join by providing your email address through the Guest Registry box located in the right-hand column of this blog

• We will randomly select a winner on June 22, 2009. The winner will be contacted on June 23, 2009 by email and must respond by June 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time in order to receive Shopping Spree instructions. If we do not receive a response, we will select a new winner on July 1, 2009.

• Only residents of any of the 50 states in the USA, Puerto Rico and Canada are eligible. Those who have joined our Guest Registry and received our emails prior to May 12, 2009 or have previously unsubscribed from the Guest Registry are not eligible. All eligible entries must come from this blog. Contest ends June 21, 2009 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time.

For more information, email contests@JulReDesigns.com.

GOOD LUCK!

March 5, 2009

Get Thee to ETSY….Twitter Edition

Welcome to this month's fashionable source for those extra special things from the extremely popular shopping site, Etsy, a place to buy and sell all things handmade. This edition features the beautiful work of just a few of the talented artists I’ve met on my favorite social networking site, Twitter. I love what they do and I think you should know about them. Their amazing work will surely bring a smile to your face:



Think handmade and shop these talented artists and the many others (including yours truly) you will find on Etsy this upcoming season.

March 2, 2009

The Fine Art of Entertaining

Throwing a great party is not an easy task. It’s an art that not all can master and there may be a few reasons for that. In my opinion, the most important element to a successful party that will keep people raving (or blogging) for days after, is a thoughtful guest list. An eclectic mix of people, not necessarily one that’s heavily weighted with family or friends that have known each other for years, but people who have common interests or who have interesting life experiences, delightful personalities and no known conflicts with any other guests are a sign that a host really wants everyone to have a pleasurable experience.

My boyfriend and I attended a dinner party last Saturday that is my new model for mastery of the fine art of entertaining. I knew the hostess and her beau but not so well that there was nothing left for me to learn about them. Of the 4 other guests, I was acquainted with only one other. Similar degrees of separation existed among the other couples. This allowed for lively, loud, laughter-filled conversations filled with new cultural and societal topics, political viewpoints, relationship rescue tips, a few business transactions, just wonderful discovery. Before the amazing food, before the wine cellar that could rival most fine dining establishments, I give kudos to our hosts who so obviously cared more about creating a joyous, convivial vibe for us than anything else.

A note about that food: The themes of the evening were French & Portuguese. The hostess had recently returned from Alsace and the host is a native of Brazil so the inspired menu (a definite conversation piece) consisted of appetizers including stuffed olives, artisan cheeses and a Brazilian BBQ of Filet Mignon strips served straight from the grill on a wood palette that we skewered and dusted with a tasty garlic herb powder. The sit-down dinner began with a rich carrot ginger soup, perfectly seasoned and served at just the right temperature. The main course consisted of an exquisite Coq au Vin and the creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Dessert was a delectable Pear Tart with wild berries. The select wines were expansive from a sweet, sparkling Cava from Spain to a smoky Pinot Gris, so I’m told. I don’t drink alcohol and knowing this, the hostess made a pitcher of a refreshing non-alcoholic Sangria just for me. Entertaining personified.

February 26, 2009

The Comfort Factor

Before you call me a fashion victim, know that in my more “mature years”, I’ve come to appreciate comfort. While I’ll never deny my love for sky-high stiletto heels ala Christian Louboutin, the ability to actually take grown-up steps is much more important these days. Last spring, I had a month long mid-life crisis. I had secret online affairs with Zappos, Endless and Piperlime. It was so bad that I knew our UPS guy’s children’s names. Shoe boxes took over my closet and most of the floor space in my bedroom until my boyfriend found out and subtly suggested therapy. I willed myself to stop the compulsive shoe shopping long enough to realize I was so out of control that I could actually open a fully stocked boutique. But in the midst of the psychodrama, I rediscovered a shoe company that has long been associated with comfort but had lacking on the fashionable style side. Clarks, the British shoe company known for its hearty, superbly constructed footwear, has a line sold in the US called the Artisan Collection. It’s starting to show some real fashion-forward consciousness.

The “Navan” (pictured above in Red), has a walkable 3 inch heel with a sexy cross strap upper and a cushy foot bed. I feel supported in this shoe and it comes in a great selection of colors (I own them in Brown too!). The “Korbin” sandal (shown at right in Brown) has a trendy Grecian flair and is so cute, you’ll want to wear them everywhere. You can get a pair in colors to match every outfit. Let's just say these are not in short supply in my closet! Not all of the shoes in the Artisan Collection are adorable but I think Clarks is heading toward the chic zone with some of their Spring ’09 additions. Prices range from $80 - $95. I believe Zappos has the biggest and best selection of the Artisan Collection but you can also purchase them from Piperlime.

Formula for a happy fashionista? Comfort (always first) + Fashion = ☺

February 23, 2009

How I Got My Mojo Back

I was in a slump. I'd stopped writing Style Baubles blog posts a little over a month ago. Not on purpose. Let’s say I thought that cliché excuse “I’ve been so busy” actually did apply to me. It’s not just the writing that stopped. Many times I’d find myself sitting at my design table with multitudes of gemstones in infinite colors but my creativity had taken a vacation. I stopped finding fun in my regular Sunday brunches with a true friend, a comedienne, who’s been with me through thick and thin. Some of my favorite foods had lost their appeal. For me, a TRUE foodie, that’s an alarming signal. So when I took some time to find out what what was at the root of my lackluster-ness, I examined what had changed in my life. After analyzing my daily routine, I realized that exercise had taken a back seat on an increasingly regular basis. My first Twitter tweet on most mornings used to be either something about the pain I was experiencing after a particular workout with a trainer or how I dodged a particular class with a tough instructor at the gym. I guess I was operating on the principal that if I couldn’t actually get to the gym then workouts were non-existent for that day. Basically, I lost my own mojo by not being creative about how, when and where I get the exercise I so obviously need for my total well-being.

Now that I’m being realistic about my daily challenges, I’ve become a huge neighborhood power walk enthusiast (weather permitting) and a devotee of some really cool exercise DVDs. Crunch Fitness offers a series of short but extremely effective workouts by instructors who won’t bore you and work hard to keep you motivated from beginning to end. One of my favorites of the series Total Resculpt, is taught by Kendell Hogan whose infectious smile, rockin’ body and motivational prodding will keep you going even while he’s killing you with endless bicep curls and leg lunges. Dance your way to a healthier heart and a better attitude with Giselle Roque de Escobar in her Cardio Salsa class. Burn some fat while kicking some booty with Super-Charged Kickbox Party and bundle of energy, Jeanette Jenkins. The selection is huge (I own them all) and include yoga and Pilates instruction as well. Most are suitable for all fitness levels. Because they average 30-45 minutes in length, I find it much more difficult to come up with believable excuses for missing my workouts. I purchase my DVDs online from the Barnes & Noble website because I’m a member and I get great discounts but you can buy the Crunch Fitness series and other wonderful workout DVDs from Collage Video and Amazon.com.

Since I got my fitness mojo back, I’ve returned to my clear-headed, motivated, creatively stoked self. And although there are times when even sliding a DVD in the player is a struggle, at least I know that later in the day or at a more convenient time my exercise options are easy and will be there for me whenever I need them. It's very cool!

January 22, 2009

Reckless Anointments

The endless chatter about First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe choices for Inauguration Day got me to thinking about those who have chosen to put needless, tiresome labels on the already heavy shoulders of this accomplished woman. I love fashion. I’ve even made a career for myself in fashion. And I have my own opinions about the brilliant lace ensemble by Isabel Toledo that she wore for day (loved it!) and the creamy, one-shouldered evening gown by Jason Wu (not my favorite). But when I hear commentary that anoints Mrs. Obama as “the savior of the American fashion industry”, I worry. I was horrified at a comment that basically called her selections an “embarrassment for our country”. What? It’s just a freakin’ dress!

Thank goodness that we live in a country where we have the right to speak our collective minds about any and every topic we choose, where we are so incredibly blessed to have the right to opinions but when we start to tie world issues to a person’s own sense of style, a clear picture becomes evident of just how thoughtless, feebleminded and one dimensional some can be. When we put overdone emphasis and pointless markers on people who have much more important things to focus on like being a great mother and the quest to help bring a sense of peace to military families, it’s no wonder why our skewed priorities have brought us to this troublesome place we now find ourselves.

Fashion is so many wonderful things but it’s not the stuff great countries or great people are made of.


Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

January 12, 2009

Astrological Madness

My planets are aligned. Jupiter has entered Aquarius and crowned me the celestial favorite this year says Susan Miller, my favorite online astrologer. She also says I will attract many new people to my path and I will benefit from my association with many of them. I can see that this is already happening through my many new associations on Twitter, new design clients and an informal, inspirational group of fellow entrepreneurs in my town. The fact is astrology is so much more than zodiac signs, horoscopes or compatibility charts. Wikipedia says “Astrology (from Greek ἄστρον, astron, "constellation, star"; and -λογία, -logia, "the study of") is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs in which knowledge of the apparent relative positions of celestial bodies and related details is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters.” I’ve been following the monthly astrological guidance of Susan and the daily and weekly forecasts of Bridgett Walther for many years. Call me new age-y but astrology makes me feel that there’s just one more influence that can give me a perspective. It may not be based on real science but its fun and a lot of times uncannily accurate.

Mercury, the planet of communications, has just entered its first 3 week retrograde period for 2009. There will be 3 more this year, 1 more than usual. When a planet goes retrograde, it appears to be moving backwards, at least from our perspective on Earth. In astrology, this typically means that travel plans are disrupted, electronic communications like emails and faxes could be lost, one-on-one conversations can be misconstrued. It is advised to not sign or enter into any contractual obligations or buy new electronics because whatever you do may have be returned, re-done or re-worked once Mercury gets back on course. Unless you’re a believer, you’re probably laughing right now but during Mercury’s last retrograde period for 2005 and 2006, my computers imploded and all data was lost both times. In 2007, I missed receiving 3 very important emails with call to action requests on 3 different days during a retrograde. Last year, while traveling to Philadelphia by train, the tracks which we were traveling on separated causing a 4 hour delay. I can give even more examples of frustrating situations that have happened to people I know during Mercury’s fury. Coincidence? Bad luck? Perhaps but I lay low when this planet’s in a time warp. The best astrological advice I’ve received for how to coexist with these forces is to use the time to reflect and regroup. It’s the perfect time to organize your existence and plan for the future. Yes, life goes on and we are powerless to stop it but we can use caution in our everyday decisions and dealings. Check out this 2008 Mercury retrograde calendar and try to remember what kooky but significant events may have occured that could have been the result of this planetary phenomenon. If you’re still not a believer, that’s ok. I’ll bet that now when your Blackberry stops working or you don’t receive an important voicemail message from your boss, you'll remember this blog post and wonder...

By the way, this retrograde period ends on February 1st. Oh yeah, backup your laptops now too.

January 8, 2009

A State of Optimal Health

Deepak Chopra writes in his book, Perfect Health, that “the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body”. I know this to be true in my never-ending quest to seek more balance in my life. While Western medicine will always be my preferred choice whenever I have a medical issue, I am not jaded enough to believe that there aren’t any other methods that can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional methodologies. I’ve developed a particular interest in the holistic approach to health, Ayurveda (Sanskrit meaning “science of life”), a centuries old practice from India that may have had roots in Buddhism. The use of natural medicines (herbs), consumption of the freshest of whole foods and lifestyle practices such as yoga, massage and meditation is an appealing way of living. Studying Ayurveda is compelling, something I’ve put on my “bucket list”, not to become a practitioner, per se, but to gain more knowledge of how enveloping these ancient principles can work in today’s overstuffed, overwhelmed, over stimulated world. The Kripalu School in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, is one of the best and offers various levels of certification and training.

Since I started suffering from hormonal migraines a few years ago, I’ve gone through the normal pain relieving stages most migraine sufferers go through: over-the-counter meds, change in diet, perhaps eliminating dairy (which can be a trigger in some), doctor prescribed drugs. Massage hasn’t been a relief nor has caffeine. Quietly chanting “pain go away” 100 times has been useless. Hiding my head under pillows and weeping has proven to be just a method for terrifying my boyfriend. So I’m trying acupuncture, the traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves sterile needles being placed and manipulated in strategic locations in your body’s meridians. I’ve been told by trusted sources that Jill Blakeway at YinOva Center in New York City works miracles. I’m making an appointment.

I do the research. I ask questions, get recommendations and ask to see credentials. I take my quest for optimal health seriously but with a mind open to new ways and new philosophies. Especially in these times, caring for your mind, body and spirit together are essential to our overall wellbeing. Whatever ways you choose to live your life well, don’t stop, keep exploring, stay healthy.

January 5, 2009

For the Love of Gemstones

Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are lush precious stones that while not as popular or as coveted as diamonds, all played essential roles in helping me to create some of the most passion-filled jewelry I’ve ever done. I have spent the past few months using these stones as well as others that are unique and unheralded such a vessonite, andaluscite and prehnite to make a very special LUXE collection of jewelry sold online exclusively at 1000 Markets.

I usually don't promote my jewelry in blog posts. I've preferred to share the beauty of other's accomplishments. But this body of work came straight from my soul. The true passion for what I do as a jewelry designer is spoken through every necklace. The process was complex, maniacal and sometimes took too much from me. I worked long hours on colors and dimensions. I researched new gems and then began feverish, obsessive hunts for the dealer or vendor that sold the best quality. My eyes burned as I twisted tiny wire into loops and pulled silk threads through needle eyes so small that my magnifying glasses steamed up in revolt from the pressure.


But through it all, I would not trade one sleepless night, missed meal or pierced fingertip. It’s every designer’s dream to be able to connect so closely to their work and I think this collection has brought me full circle. Please enjoy. Now, will I ever be able to part with any of it?!

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