Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Susie Homemaker

Today I felt the itch of spring cleaning and organizing. Yesterday's post had me thinking about our bedroom armoire, specifically its disheveled and unappealing contents. Yeeshk! I did not feel like capturing that before...
Phase one only had two goals: 1. Prevent antique shelving from staining or snagging vintage and antique linen and 2. Be easy enough to achieve without major time or financial commitment.
I dumped out the contents of the most offending shelves (the top shelf currently houses plastic and tissue paper wrapped needlepoint and seasonal cushions, which don't need further protecting for now) and went to get some contact paper. Of course,contact paper is not a long term solution, being that it is cheap, ugly, plastic-y and not in keeping with this armoir at all. I want to eventually line this armoire completely with thin cedar lining, so I can throw out all the lavender sachets, moth balls and cloves everywhere (I have become as moth prevention obsessed as my late mother, unfortunately only after the moth-fatality of a Burberry cashmere scarf...sigh).
Snip snip, stick stick and voila! somewhat improved surface for storing linen. I only removed a thin strip of the backing on each side, to avoid unnecessary (possibly damaging) adhesive to stick to the shelves when I want to go on to phase 2 (cedar lining).
Although my contact-papering skills leave much to be desired, I did try to redeem myself in Martha Stewart's eyes, by stacking my bed linen according to size and type inside old/no longer used pillowcases. I'm also happily recycling the million plastic baggies from my LP deliveries and Ralph Lauren sheets. Zippered, clear storage pouches? Please, people pay money for those....
{still not quite perfect}
I delivered the final Susie Homemaker coup de grace, thanks to some packing-paper-on-index-cards-cut-out-with pinking-sheers-and-attached-with-jute-cord labels. Yessir. I is crafty.

Is there anything a pretty label doesn't improve?

Now the inside of the armoire will make me as happy as the outside! The drawers house fabric napkins, my zodiac crystal Val St. Lambert coasters and napkin rings.
Just to round out my feel-good Tuesday, I did my good Samaritan deed of the day by helping an octogenarian lady reach a bag of frozen Broccoli florets at the grocery store. That's what it's all about, isn't it?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Friends in High Places

So this is not at all the blog posting I had in mind for today. I was going to talk about my recent closet/slipper purge (postponed), but I can't contain my excitement about possibly adding to our family. And by family, I mean antiques. Yes, I lurrrve me some antiques.
We are fortunate to have made a friend who goes on monthly or bi-monthly trips to France to hunt out estate furniture from French castles and stately homes. He then restores them to their former glory, making sure not to remove any aspect that is original and still functional.
Our inaugural piece from him was a much needed bedroom linen wardrobe. It's made of beautiful, rich walnut with solid wood interior. Better yet, it has two original drawers in it (currently used for napkin rings) and comes apart for travel (so clever!). I drool every time I see it.
Our Louis XV (1880) Walnut Armoire, pre-delivery to our house!
It is rare to find the crown intact, without repairs!
Our antiquing friend has just returned from one of his trips and my heart skipped a beat when he showed me our possible sibling bookcase. Thankfully he is not just knowledgeable, but honest too, so he revealed to us that Louis XV wardrobes like ours and it's sibling, originally always came with mirrored fronts, as they were intended for bedroom use. Many antique dealers will sell glass-fronted armoires as original. I think this fact is nice to know, but right now I am specifically looking for a vitrine/glass fronted bookcase to display my collection of china, so I don't mind a little non-original glass! 
Louis XV bookcase/vitrine - should we match or not?
My heart is aflutter, because I cannot decide if I should match our bedroom wardrobe with the bookcase (notice the classic shell shaped crown and curved top, typical of Louis XV and a very close match to our existing bedroom armoire). Gorgeous, isn't it?
Close-up of the carving and solid oak interior
Notice how the interior of antiques meant for daily use is usually constructed of harder wearing wood, such as oak. The only slightly odd thing I just noticed, is the front of some of the shelves and the drawers appear almost veneered, or lacquered. Although this probably wouldn't be enough to make me not love it, there is another option, which I also looooove.
Bookcase option 2: More French Country than French "estate"?
This is also made of walnut and from the same period and I love the seeing the wood grain on the doors. The straighter and angular lines of the doors, juxtaposed with the soft and slightly simpler carving on the crown of this bookcase really appeals to me. Possibly, marginally, more than the matching Louis XV bookcase.

Close up of French bookcase option 2
Which one would you pick?
I think the second one is my front runner at the moment, but depending on the exact hue of the wood in person, I may swing one way or the other, since I tend to prefer saturated deeper wood.
*Fingers firmly crossed that my beau agrees with my picks and is feeling uber-generous!* But honey... it's not expensive if you consider that these purchases will outlast us all, to be cherished by future generations. Really we are investing in our future children. Think about it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Master Packing List

Since my days of business travel, I have packing for an overnighter or three day trip down to a science. I don't like weighing myself down with things I don't absolutely need and prefer to breeze through security as fast as possible, so I can sit and enjoy a Starbucks.
A packing list is essential to avoid packing multiples or forgetting something. My biggest tip is to use multi-purpose and travel sized wherever possible, e.g. PJ top that can also be gym/workout top, lipstick that can double as blush and vice versa. Here is what I use as a guide.

  • Foundation & applicator (I prefer sponges for travel as they can be thrown out)
  • Concealer
  • Lipgloss/carmex or lipstick
  • Cream blush (saves on need for brush)
  • Eyeliner(s), usually one black and one chunky colored one
  • Facial cleanser (baby wipes are great)
  • Facial moisturizer
  • Body moisturizer if you really need it
  • Shower gel & puff
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner (& any required haircare/styling products)
  • Deodorant
  • Tools: hairbrush, razor
  • Non-essential tools: Blowdryer/straightener, tweezers
  • Repeat after me: One change of clothes per day is sufficient. If you can, wear the same slacks or jeans, as well as sweater and jacket/scarf as the day you are travelling.
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • PJ's / lounge clothing / work out clothing (taking off your "outdoor" clothing once in the hotel helps keep your clothes looking fresh for a second day)
  • Either: Polo shirt & button down (one per day per man travelling - polo for day, button down for night)
  • Or: long sleeved or short sleeved top (one per day per woman travelling)
  • Sweater or cardigan (no more than TWO per week)
  • Seasonal: scarf, hat, gloves, winter coat or similar (Barbour works for all occasions and destinations, layer a quilted one under a waxed one for extreme cold and options!), sunglasses
  • Slippers (let's face it, hotel room floors are gross even in 5* hotels)
  • Shoes (if possible, wear the pair you want to wear the whole trip)
I try and pack coordinating outfits that I can mix and match, so navy/white striped tops and navy or tan bottoms, brown shoes for this trip!

Items for our trip - delicates and toiletries not shown

  • Driving/reading glasses
  • Camera (fully charged)
  • Mobile communication/entertainment device, e-reader etc
  • Chargers & adapters for all devices you're bringing
  • Keys (house, car and to wherever you're going, if applicable)
  • Travel itinerary, passport, ID, driving license (as applicable)
  • Jewellery (I usually wear everything I plan on wearing on day one, so no packing required), belt (fabric avoids issues through airport security)
  • Travel pillow
  • Magazine or book (if electronic device is not sufficient entertainment)
  • Handbag/purse (I like Longchamp Le Pliage bags as they fold up, weigh nothing and take up no space)
Nosy pocket Dachshund (optional)
Large LL Bean tote ready for the trip
These are just my essentials for a basic weekend out of town. Depending on your trip's purpose, length, season and your lifestyle, you will of course need other items as well, such as business suits, ties, gym shoes and clothes, sunscreen, bathing suits. What are your essential packing ingredients?

Kindly excuse my temporary absence...Wishing everyone a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monogram Bliss

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I am predisposed to start obsessing with jewellery. I am very fortunate to have an attentive and generous hubby (love you DEC!), who spoils me rotten in the jewellery department.
To give him some ideas *customized items take longer to arrive, nudge nudge, hint hint*, here are some of my current favorite blingies, which are dying to make it into my jewellery box.

Top of my wish list this year is a gold monogram necklace.

Gold lace monogram necklace <via> 

Fortunately they are readily available online at virtually every price point, from 18k gold plated, to gold filled, to different price points for the 14k solid gold (steep, cheaper and cheapest). The most difficult decision would be whether to choose classic yellow gold, which goes with everything or rose gold, which is less common. I particularly luuuurve the ones on super dainty ultra thin chains, so the monogram looks like it's hovering on a nearly invisible gold filament. *Sigh*
Although I shouldn't admit this, I am also quite partial to engraved monogram disk necklaces spotted on many celebs. Perhaps those are best suited as commemorative necklaces for new mothers (engraved with their baby's monogram)?
Of course, in settings where a monogram necklace might attract too much attention, an elegant and understated pair of monogram earrings would be a suitable alternative!
Monogram lace earrings <via>
Again, there are silver versions (studs or danglies) and gold versions (lace posts) to suit each Valentine's beau's budget.
Swell Caroline Triple Letter earrings
For a more every day jewellery wardrobe, I am currently lusting after Swell Caroline's monogram earrings in fun color combos, like pink with green, navy with orange or turquoise with green. I can see me wearing these to run errands, hit the gym or even to complement my Lilly P wardrobe in the summer.
KJP Drift Knots earrings
I also love silk knot or silk button earrings, of which KJP has a very nice selection. The nostalgic and nautical packaging certainly ups the dahling factor.

Angela Moore bracelets
Last, but not least are Angela Moore bracelets. I love love love these! They are hand painted beaded bracelets with the cutest subjects, from ladybugs (on sale!!) to lighthouses, nautical or classic pink and green. Hmmmm, decisions, decisions! So far, their $17 international shipping has put me off and I haven't stopped crying ..a bracelet can't weigh that much, can it?
Kindness to DEC for taking note of my ever-changing and expanding wish list and for *fingers crossed* adding to my stash of pretties...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Salt & Shoes

My beloved riding boots (before)
Salting season has begun and as city excursions call for more of a riding boot (sans thoroughbred) than duck boot, it is time to conduct the annual shoe maintenance.
Dry, scratched up and wrinkly boots in need of some TLC
To begin, take a pair of dirty/used leather shoes or boots, mink oil, some clean paper towels or rags.
Mink oil is essential for good leather maintenance
Mink oil looks white in the tin, is fairly odorless and has a lard-like texture. Most cobblers or shoe stores sell mink oil and a small $15 tin can last a lifetime, since you only need a small amount each time you do this. First, clean the boots or shoes with a damp cloth to remove any mud or salt already accumulated on the leather.
Damp boots without protective mink oil
Next, apply mink oil generously with a dry soft cloth. I used paper towels since I couldn't find my Loake shoe care kit (ahem...), but any clean cloth will do. You might even use ready-for-the-trash-cut-up-gym-t-shirts, if you're frugal like me. 
...generous dollop of mink oil....
..massaged into leather...
Massage the mink oil into the leather, using a circular motion and focusing on wear creases around the top of the foot and ankles. Fill any scratches in the leather with extra mink oil and then massage all over the entire boot until evenly coated. You will notice that the leather darkens slightly as it becomes moisturized and saturated with minky goodness. Don't worry, with wear this lightens up again. Repeat on second shoe.
Mink oil saturated leather
Pause, admire handiwork, swear you were a cobbler in a previous life and then...
Take a clean cloth, wipe off any excess grease and proceed to polish in a rapid back and forth motion. I find it easiest to wear the boots at that point, to stabilize and fill out. The finished result is a beautiful buffed sheen which is waterproof and ready for the saltiest winter roads and wet weather, hurray!
Boots ready for the winter

This pair is ready for navy skinny jeans, Petit Bateau stripey sailor top and navy Barbour Liddesdale. Now please excuse me while I repeat this process with my other 234,902,390 pairs of shoes. Tip jar's over there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Black Swan

Last night we watched the much heralded Black Swan. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did, given that most hyped-up movies tend to be disappointing in reality.
Director Darren Aronofsky by contrast has produced a real masterpiece in Black Swan, the story of a ballet dancer performing the role of her lifetime as both the white and the black swan in a New York ballet company.

Natalie Portman as the Black Swan

Natalie Portman as the white swan

Normally, I find Natalie Portman's pained facial expression tiresome. Not in Black Swan however. Her performance was haunting and beautiful, leaving me feeling somewhat shaken inside. Ballet dancers are such admirable people. Their dedication, painful and backbreaking hard work for even the smallest parts make this a difficult life to choose. Black Swan very effectively shows what toll this sort of strict lifestyle and perfectionist mentality can take on a dancer.
As a child, I was fortunate to be taught ballet and though I quit when my sister no longer wanted to attend classes, deep down I have always wished I had stuck with it. Ballet seems so magical to me. I have probably seen 20-odd Nutcracker performances, yet each time I feel moved to tears. Crippled feet and distorted body image aside, ballet dancers have an almost inhuman control of their movements and their body. While my flexibility exercises are limited to putting on my socks, ballet dancers are able to kick up one leg to a standing split while on pointed toe (also known as arabesque penchee, bien sur). Incredible!
Gravity defying arabesque
For now, I will just stick to putting on socks, though. Bloody nails aren't really a good look for soon-to-come-out-of-hybernation-please-sandals.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Food for Thought

Yesterday we took our ill-advised monthly trip to Belgium, to pick up some urgent supplies. By urgent, I mean my chocolate stash was teetering on the brink of depletion. Fortunately DEC's cellar of exotic brews was equally dwindling, so we decided to brave the snowfall and drizzle to undertake the six hour round trip. Little did we know that our GPS had decided to no longer take us direct routes, preferring instead to route us the... shall we say...creative...way through rural backroads. When it's pouring down with sleet and there is no street lighting nor other cars to illuminate your path, there's no better route than through the mountains doing hairpin turns. Fun times.

I could barely constrain myself from kissing the ground when we finally made it home long after nightfall. I'm not sure how much longer I could have put up with the Chimay cheese fragrance emanating from the trunk. I could have sworn someone snuck a Limburger into our grocery bag.
At least I am now able to enjoy a couple of my favorite items once again:

1. Pere Joseph & pears
Pere Joseph (I realize it's missing it's accent, thank you) and pears make for a delicious food pairing. Pere Joseph is an "abbey" cheese, purported to have been developed by monks. Mmmmh oh heavenly creaminess. The grainy sugary texture of pears offsets the richness of the cheese nicely. Sprinkle on a bit of Paprika powder and you've got perfection. Williams pears of course go well with most cheeses, but my favorites are Pere Joseph and Caprice des Dieux, the latter being a French Brie.

2. Lavazza & Cote d'Or
As a tea (with milk!) drinker, my knowledge of the finer points of coffee is limited.
I became a convert to Lavazza (and, to a lesser extent, Illy) when I discovered it didn't need sugar or milk to brew a very enjoyable strong espresso.
But no coffee is complete without my favorite flavor-enhancer: Belgian chocolate. Who needs sugar when you have chocolate? I'm particularly fond of Cote d'Or (again, I'm aware of the missing accent) dark chocolate. Cote d'Or "fondant"-"puur" has a minimum of 48% chocolate content. If you prefer even darker chocolate there is Cote d'Or Noir de Noir (blackest of black), which has at least 54%. Any more than that and I think it becomes too bitter, crumbly and better used for baking than eating straight from the pack.

But enough about food! The third thing on my mind this Sunday is Summer! After the horrendous weather we had yesterday and the biting cold we've had to endure without the benefit of beautiful snow or skiing opportunity, I think I am ready for the sun. How soon is too soon to start showing off my new Lilly Pulitzer duds? I'm thinking about phasing in a Murfee soon, just to defy the dreary uniform of Barbour and wellies.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Showing your Stripes

As I bid adieu to my old (albeit very young) blog, I soothe myself with a look at my stack of striped tops. There, there, my pretties. Momma still loves stripes. Don't you worry.
I might as well confess my obsession with stripes in my first blog post. Air out my clean laundry. The beauty of stripes to me lies in their neutrality, their simplicity. A striped top can seamlessly go from dock to restaurant to even pajamas. Contrary to popular lore, stripes also look good whether you're a size 2 or a size 20. So show your stripes!
Let's focus on the first stack of stripes in my closet:
I feel better already, don't you? There's something very soothing about nautical stripes. Let's inspect a fraction of the short-sleeved selection:
I don't discriminate. I am an equal opportunity stripe lover - wide stripes, skinny stripes, thick tops, long sleeve tops, turtlenecks. Ralph Lauren, Petit Bateau, LL Bean, J Crew... you are all welcome in my closet. There is room for everyone.
Don't believe my commitment to Le Stripe is sincere? Perhaps this will convince you:
If this makes you happy, we are on the same wave length. What does a peek inside your closet reveal about you?

...and so it begins (again)

Ahhh, back to humble beginnings. My former blog will be no more... soon it will lie sad and unwanted in the gutter of blogland, rejected and unloved. Such is the harsh reality of a new blog, it must go through initial trials and tribulations, stringent google search testing. Here's to second chances!

Kindness to all my fellow bloggers who've welcomed me with open arms. I hope to live up to your expectations.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lilly Pulitzer Reveal Part II.

I was barely coming down from my LP induced high, when RueLaLa decided to deliver the final K.O. to my bank account a day or two later...
Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen tote

This actually matches a cardigan I forgot to mention from the LP sale... I plan on wearing both with skinny white pants and silver sandals, proudly waving the matchy-matchy flag!

I managed to snag a pink polo shirt and Roslyn skirt before all the best stuff was sold out in my size. Not that I should be thinking about adding to this collection... but should there be another sale... you know... in a decade far far in the future.... I shall be focussing on PJs, bags, shoes and cashmere. I think I've got the dresses covered for now :-)

What did you get at the sales?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lilly Pulitzer Reveal Part I.

The final stragglers of my Lilly Pulitzer shopping extravaganza during the New Year sale have finally all arrived. I admit, I went a biiiiiit craaaaazy. Well ok, a lot crazy.
I wasn't prepared for all the nice stuff that would be on offer! Rookie mistake.
My funds were already depleted from the Christmas gift giving palooza. But when there are such important matters at stake, there is a determination (read: greed) that rallies from deep within, separates the lint from the dimes in your pockets and hits "purchase". Because if you don't, you regret it... in June.

I went in with a plan: Check out everything first, add to cart, review cart, then check out. Yeah... errr... force majeur ruled against that plan.

Lilly Pulitzer Delia dress
Up first: The Dalia dress. This baby was coming home to Mama! I have a few LP shift dresses that are slightly too big for me (ok, future maternity wear kinda big), so I ordered the Delia shift in a size smaller than my regular size and it fits perfectly.

I love this pattern so I didn't get much further down the page before I had another item to check out...

Lilly Pulitzer Evie dress
...and then again... (I bought it in blue)

Lilly Pulitzer Jacqueline dress
...and again...
...and again
Lilly Pulitzer Bowen dress

I realized my shopping frenzy was a bit one-sided, so I rounded out my loot with a Paley cardigan in pink, an Opening Ceremony clutch in pink and...a tie for hubs. That's right, I thought of others. *Hoping this earns me some brownie points with hubby for part II of the LP shopping reveal....*

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunday Blues

Every Sunday, at some point, I run out of chores I want to do. I trawl the blog world for entertaining updates, only to find depressingly few new posts. So here is my vow: Every Sunday, I shall post an update to my blog of three things that are currently on my mind.

1. Nautical stripes in clothing
LL Bean French sailor 3/4 sleeve top

LL Bean have really stepped up to the nautical plate. I ordered the french sailor turtleneck for winter and was pleasantly surprised by the weight and quality of it. One wash down and it still looks brand new. So I ordered the 3/4 sleeve version in white/navy and it's equally nice. For Christmas I received two Petit Bateau nautical stripe tops and although they are softer on the inside than the LLBean version, the PB is slightly more fitted at the shoulder, which means if you size up you end up with very long sleeves and a slightly longer than ideal overall length. LL Bean offers 15% off your entire purchase right now using code JSK5165.

2. Chai
Starbucks Chai tea concentrate

I lurrrves me some Chai. A friend of mine back in the college days introduced me to it at Whole Foods, and I've been hooked since. I buy the concentrate since I refuse to spend shopping money on $5 lattes and would easily drink these all day, if they weren't so calorific and caffeinated. The clove, nutmeg and vanilla all meld together for a wonderfully peppery and warming beverage. It tastes surprisingly delicious "on the rocks" in the summer too!

3. Jersey Shore

Yes, that's right. JERSEY SHORE. There, I said it.
I refused to watch it. I balked at those who knew the names of the cast. I cringed when I saw pictures of them drunk on a beach at 11am in the morning. Now, I am one of them.
I can't wait for the next episode, to see if Deena manages to stay upright for 24 hours, to decide if Mike "The Situation" was better as a man wh*re with a soft side or a snitch with a crush on Snooki, to comment for the millionth time how Pauly D looks like Bart Simpson from the side and to inspect from all angles JWoww's plastic surgery results. Ronnie and Sammi can go away. Please. Leave the Ron Ron juice.

Thank you DEC for lowering my IQ in such an enjoyable way.


Let me introduce my sidekick, Sherman.

Sherman, aged 1.

We are a package deal. My husband, DEC, and I had just reached California in our drive from Washington State to the East Coast, when my birthday came around. Even though my birthday happens every year (shocking, I know), someone was unprepared. Don't get me wrong. Jewelry, fancy clothing and accessories are always nice. As is a spa day. But I always wanted a puppy, and what better time to get one than while you are in a hotel, with about a month of road tripping still ahead of you, with your life packed up and being moved cross-country? Ahem.
Let's just say we took the house-training crash course. I'm sure the dog whisperer would not approve.

You'll be pleased to hear it all turned out just fine, thank you very much. Why? Because Sherman's not just any ole' cute pup. He's a trooper. He's a pleaser. And he's the best, most cuddly, lifelong gift I've ever gotten.

He is a piebald miniature Dachshund, who loves to dance....

... wear goggles...

.... play fetch...

... and recover for tomorrow's exhausting adventures by sleeping like a true weiner in his human bun.

Bonne nuit!