Friday, January 13, 2012

Project Style ~ 2012 ~ Sometimes It's The Little Things...

Monday morning, I decided to stop for breakfast on the way to work. The weather was dreadful, I was recovering from a bad cold and felt a little down, and I needed coffee…and pancakes. I went to a moderately upscale café downtown, couldn’t find a parking space close to the front door, and had to walk in the rain. I arrived cranky and bedraggled.

Being an avid people-watcher, I noticed a stylish gentleman crossing the street. Except for the black umbrella he was carrying, he seemed oblivious to the downpour. He was wearing a black trench coat, a derby-style hat, and a black cashmere scarf. He entered the restaurant, hung his umbrella by the door, and sat down at the table next to mine. He greeted me with a polite “good morning.“ The waiter brought his coffee and he drank it contently, while reading The New York Times.

He was probably around seventy years old, with white hair and twinkling blue eyes. He was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, black trousers, a crisp, white shirt, a black cardigan sweater, and expensive shoes. His posture was excellent and his manners impeccable. His mode of dress was elegant, but quite understated…except for one thing. As he crossed his legs, I got a flash of fire engine red socks. “How cheeky,” I thought. “And, how stylish!” Somehow, my day became a little brighter.

That’s the thing about style. It doesn’t have to scream or jump up and knock you over the head. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. More than anything, it simply requires attention to details. In his case…the distinctive glasses, the freshly ironed shirt, the pulled-together blacks in varying shapes and textures…and then…BAM…those socks…just the thing to give his look a little pizzazz, without trying too hard.

Looking around these days, I don’t see many truly stylish people. I see a lot of reasonably attractive people who are perfectly presentable, albeit, unoriginal. And that is, I suppose, a style statement...being clean, well-groomed, and dressed appropriately to fit in without drawing too much attention to themselves. But it’s kind of boring.

Then, there are the people who seem not to care at all, or the one’s who are defiantly trying to freak us out. They’re making a style statement too…not a particularly pleasant one…but that’s fine. I just wouldn’t hire them…

My own personal style is identifiable, but perhaps a tad lazy. There are days when I’m pulled together, and others when I’m schlepping through the mall in sweats and flip-flops. I wear a lot of black…it goes with everything, and requires very little pre-planning. I prefer “wash and wear.“ I don’t iron, so most of my clothes are stretchy…or wrinkled.:) I like black jeans too. My hair is long and zero maintenance. I don’t dye, and I blow dry on the way to work with the car windows rolled down. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I usually wear mascara, blush, and lipstick. I like to be comfortable…maybe a little too comfortable…

So my first project for Project Style ~ 2012 is to take my personal style to the next level. Not to completely change the way I look, but to pay more attention to the final product. I like the black…I like the hair…I have nice things. But I need discipline…and punch. I don't want style to rule my life, but I need to at least look in the mirror before I walk out the door. And I’d like to add unexpected details…like the red socks…to elevate my look and help me sparkle in the “sea-of-black” that is so prevalent in the world of art and design. Personal style is expression…a noble stand against blandness, apathy, negligence, and sloppiness. Style says, “I’m interesting…I'm unique...I’m intelligent…I’m confident…I care.”

Have a stylish day!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Naturally Clean And Fresh...How Elegant!

Do you know what is really elegant? CLEAN and FRESH!

I’ve become obsessed with natural, home-made cleaning products. I have sinus and allergy issues, and dust and allergens are NOT my friends. My Eustachian tubes are sometimes swollen and blocked, and I have an apparently terminal case of post-nasal drip. Also, I’m allergic to my dog, Ralph….and trust me, he’s not going anywhere!

But I’ve discovered that I might also be allergic to the very products that I’m using to clean with. Commercial cleaners are usually harsh and often toxic. So I’ve been researching and experimenting with home-made cleaning products…and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised and thrilled with the results. The added plus…it’s way less expensive to make your own products, and it’s not really difficult or time-consuming.

Here are some of my favorite concoctions, so far…


Equal parts white vinegar and distilled water. Put in a spray bottle…so easy.
A tip for cleaning glass - use coffee filters instead of paper towels…no lint residue.


The vinegar and water mixture above also makes a great air freshener…just a few spritzes in each room.

Tuck an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator, on the top shelf of a bookcase, on a kitchen counter, or near your pets sleeping area (out of reach)…to absorb odors. Sprinkle a little on your bathmats, on your pet’s bed, and in your shoes too while you’re at it.:)

Also, to make the house smell great, simmer a few cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in a large pot of water, uncovered, for thirty minutes or so.


1 cup lemon juice
1 TBL olive oil
1 TBL water
Put in a spray bottle ~ shake ~ spray onto furniture and rub in a circular motion with a soft cloth. Wait a few minutes, and then wipe off, again in a circular motion, with a clean soft cloth.


Mix baking soda with a little liquid dishwashing detergent and water for cleaning stovetops, tubs, showers, sinks, grout, toilets, etc….anyplace you would normally use a powdered, abrasive cleaner.


Add a cup of white vinegar to a bucket of hot water…


Put a few drops of a favorite essential oil in a spray bottle filled with distilled water…shake…and spray on freshly laundered linens, or on your pillowcases before you go to sleep.

And for Ralph and his buddies…


This shampoo is specifically formulated to deal with dander, which is the real culprit when it comes to being allergic to your dog. It was suggested to me by a professional groomer to bathe Ralph weekly with this shampoo, to keep his hair trimmed short, and to brush him regularly (a few times a week.) She also suggested wearing a dust mask when I play with him or groom him, but that just feels dumb and Ralph is really offended…

1 cup of mild dishwashing detergent
1 cup of water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup aloe gel
1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal - pulsed in the blender to form a coarse powder

Mix together and put in a plastic bottle for easy pouring.

If you could clean with fresh, natural, eco-friendly, non-toxic products that are less expensive than costly, toxic ones…why wouldn’t you?


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Project Style ~ 2012 ~ Books With Style

I’m kicking off Project Style ~ 2012 with a good book and a fine cup of coffee. The book is True Pleasures ~ a memoir of Women in Paris. The book jacket reads,

True Pleasures takes us on a personal tour through the lives, loves, and losses of the most celebrated women of Paris, from Marie Antoinette to Colette, Edith Wharton, Nancy Mitford, and Coco Chanel. As she walks in their footsteps, Lucinda Holdforth draws inspiration from the fascinating women who created and nurtured the world’s most civilized city.”

It sounds lovely and the first few pages have been very promising.

Here is a list…and this is just the beginning…of some of the books I plan to read this year in my quest for style…

True Pleasures…a memoir of Women in Paris and Why Manners Matter ~ Lucinda Holdforth
Let’s Bring Back ~ Lesley M.M. Blume
DV ~ the autobiography of Diana Vreeland
Encyclopedia of the Exquisite ~ an anecdotal history of elegant delights ~ Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
The Complete Claudine ~ Colette
Cheri and The Last of Cheri ~ Colette
The Age of Innocence ~ Edith Wharton
George Sand ~ Elizabeth Harlan
The Art of Seduction ~ Robert Greene
Lunch in Paris ~ a love story with recipes ~ Elizabeth Bard
Bonjour Tristesse
~ Francois Sagan
Living a Beautiful Life
and Gracious Living in a New World ~ Alexandra Stoddard
Rat Pack Confidential ~ Shawn Levy
The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (yes, really!) is getting cold. Happy New Year, my friends!