After I posted last week's inaugural video Foulard 101 tutorial, I received several requests for options for silk squares. Your wish is my command! Both of these are ties I've featured before in "finished product" photos and that I frequently use with my large silk squares.
I've shown two versions of the basic fold, as sometimes a portion of the scarf pattern that I particularly like will be shown to better advantage with one or the other. Hermès scarves especially often have so much going on within the pattern that you can get an entirely different look from the same scarf just by folding it slightly differently. Twisting reduces the volume of the fabric, and lends a bit of "oh, this old thing?" insouciance to the look. (We love our silk carrés, but want to avoid looking too serious and da-dame.)
We'll do lots more with our silk squares, so if these ties don't appeal, stay tuned for future leçons!
So far, mostly good. Weather has been much cooler than normal for this time of year, so made one more swap at the beginning: a long-sleeve tee in charcoal grey for the taupe sleeveless tunic.
The good: so far all of the chosen pieces are coordinating nicely. I'm wearing jeans less and a skirt more. I've been focusing on varying my accessories more widely on a day to day basis, and utilized some pieces I hadn't worn in a while.
The challenges: there are a few pieces in my closet which didn't make the Gang of Twelve that I'd really like to wear right now. My Elie Moss tunic sweater doesn't look like it's going to hold up to a heavy rotation; it's started to pill in spots so I'm going to have to go easy on that one, which is a shame as it's really easy to wear with everything. I have an executive presentation coming up in a couple of weeks, and may need to step outside the boundaries just for that one day. Maybe not, but I'm allowing myself the option.
Observations: while this does make getting dressed a bit easier in the mornings, I'm finding that it still requires some planning and thought. I do much better taking this one day at a time rather than thinking about another three weeks of wearing the same pieces. If you're going to limit the number of items in your wardrobe, they really do need to be of substantial quality to hold up to constant wear.
Are any of you playing along with the Express Lane Wardrobe Challenge? If so, how is it going?
Just when I think I've settled nicely into a smooth and uncomplicated style groove, I spy an outlier piece that renders me absolutely gobsmacked with Want. Despite my current tendency toward Neutral Minimalism™, there's an irreverently girly part of me that just sometimes has to take center stage and sing, "C'est ci bon," and this 3/4 sleeve coat from Talbots taps right into that. This piece is channeling the Audrey-in-Paris-circa-1960 vibe, against which I am powerless.
I'll admit to a knee-jerk avoidance of pink in my own wardrobe in the past, less because of any inherent dislike on my part than a reaction against the presumed acquiescence to traditional femininity that the color so often conveys, and my own association with squeeing pre-teenagers who smack their pink bubblegum and giggle and doodle hearts and unicorns on the inside of library books. Yet, I've succumbed to pink's charms before, and was not sorry. And stylish bloggers like FAUX FUCHSIA have helped keep me open to the possibilities of pink. I've found that the right pink can be quite flattering and yes, even sophisticated.
Picture coat in question with black ankle pants, leopard flats, a black Chanel flap bag, a scarf...
This is my first attempt at creating a video tutorial, comment plier un foulard. Both of these ties I use freqently with my longer scarves, as they're easy, look great, stay in place, and aren't constricting around the neck.
Oui, the video's a bit rough around the edges, and I'm hoping that with time and practice my video skills will improve; still it was great fun to put together!
When I was pregnant with le fils thirteen years ago, I developed a large brown spot (melasma) on my right cheek as a result of hormonal changes. For a few years, I didn't pay much attention to it, or dabbed on a bit of concealer to try to minimize its appearance. But the color became more splotchy and uneven over time and concealer didn't really do the job, so I started trying various topical products that promised to lighten it, even a couple prescribed by my dermatologist. Nothing had any effect.
I'd begun hearing about IPL laser treatments* a couple of years ago, and began seriously researching earlier this year. I learned that IPL is often quite effective in treating brown or red discolorations, and asked my dermatologist if it might help with my brown spot. She said that while she couldn't promise it would work, IPL is one of the few treatments that has been effective in fading hormonal melasma. "Sign me up," I said.
I was instructed to arrive 30 minutes early on the day of my appointment so they could apply a topical numbing cream. Some doctors apply the IPL in lighter strengths, so the potential for discomfort is less and no anesthetic is used, but effectiveness is reduced so more sessions might be required. My derm likes to "turn up the volume" so that each treatment is more effective. After 30 minutes, I was instructed to rinse off the numbing cream, and to lie down on the treatment table. The doctor applied a gel and started the treatment, doing a couple of test pulses of light to gauge my tolerance. I gave her the thumbs up and said I could take an even stronger pulse (I'm sure the numbing cream helped). The pulse of light does sting a little bit (some have compared it to having a rubber band snapped against the skin), more so on the areas of discoloration, but my doctor moved in a regular and rhythmic fashion, and I grew accustomed to the feeling quickly. Treatment over my entire face only took about 15 minutes.
My face was a bit tingly immediately afterward, but I think that was more from the numbing cream than the laser. Then for about an hour, my skin felt as if I'd received a slight sunburn or was sitting directly under one of those outdoor heat lamps, but this also subsided. The areas of discoloration were an angry purple for about two hours, then faded back to normal. Some of the literature says you can do IPL on a lunch hour and go back to work afterward, but I probably wouldn't, more out of vanity than discomfort.
The brown areas (including some other sun damage I hadn't really noticed before) turned darker over the next day, and looked a bit like very fine coffee grounds, but were smooth and easily covered with concealer/foundation. After a few days, the dark spots began to flake off, and the skin underneath was much more even in tone. Even my brown spot had faded substantially. But what really amazed me was how much smoother and better my skin looked overall. The texture was really improved, and I'd swear some of the fine lines have been erased.
It's been eight weeks now since the treatment, and I'm still very happy with the results. My skin still looks much smoother and firmer, and I'd say my melasma is at least 50% lighter, and even enough in tone that I can more easily cover with concealer. I'm ready to sign up for Round 2, and this time do my neck and decollete too!
*Not a link to my dermatologist's office.
(Note: I'd tried to snap some before and after pictures, but our camera just doesn't have the resolution to show the changes.)
When I was in college, I received what I considered to be the best fortune cookie fortune ever, "ART IS YOUR FATE, DON'T DEBATE." (Yes, it was all caps.) I carried that fortune around in my wallet for years until my purse was stolen at a party. Oh well. I never had much artistic talent beyond basic color and composition, but I've always loved art, and always enjoy visiting museums, galleries and even attending the odd (and I mean that in both senses of the word) art performance piece.
Last week in comments, Kathy asked for some ideas for what to wear to an art gallery opening. These would be my suggestions for a fairly straightforward "cocktail attire" level event. Depending on the gallery, the type of art, the general level of formality where you live, and your personal style, you could dress some of these pieces down a bit with trousers or boots instead of the pumps, or go a bit more bohemian with some artisinal jewelry or scarves/wraps. Hope this is helpful!
This last weekend definitely had its highs and lows. Saturday afternoon I was finally able to squeeze in a manicure after weeks of trying to make the time, and that night we had a lovely dinner at Akasha with family to celebrate le monsieur's birthday. Everything we ordered was just amazing, and we all enjoyed the opportunity for a leisurely meal with some fantastic wines. Sunday, however, was an incredibly stressful day; trying to keep a developmentally disabled but energetic thirteen year old entertained on a grey and drizzly day takes every ounce of energy we have. We're talking seventy pounds of almost pure Id. One can only visit the indoor mall and Target for so long. The attention span is very short, and the day is very long. (We're trying to find some structured weekend activities like special needs social skills groups, but in the meantime we're on our own.)
Add in laundry, grocery shopping, and the usual weekend chores, and by Sunday night, I was in serious need of some rescue! Fortunately I'd picked up a tube of Eve Lom Rescue Mask last week based on a recommendation by maquillage maven Donna Artz in this video. I've always been more than a bit skeptical when it comes to claims about do-it-yourself masks based on previous lackluster results, but this one delivers. Just taking a few q u i e t minutes after le garçon had gone to bed to pamper myself a bit was a heavenly sanity-saver, but even better were the results. When the mask came off, none of the day's stresses showed on my skin, which now looks smooth, soft, refreshed and revived. Rescue Mask is a winner!
And if you love makeup and haven't yet checked out Donna's video tutorials, go now and have a look. She's gorgeous and funny, honest and real, and incredibly talented. I've been inspired again to step up my routines (both skin care and maquillage) and am very pleased with results so far (more in upcoming posts).
Once I began my list , it quickly became apparent that I'd need to go for 12 items instead of the 10 I'd originally intended, as I often have to layer due to variable office temperatures. Here's what I've included in my capsule wardrobe:
Jeans (dark blue)
Black ponte slim pants
Black ponte pencil skirt
Black silk tank tunic
Taupe silk tank tunic
Black 3/4 sleeve top
RouilleDark green linen jersey 3/4 sleeve top
Dark rust lightweight wool cardigan
Grey felted asymmetric sweater jacket
Taupe long wool crepe cardigan
Grey v-neck tunic sweater
Black 3/4 sleeve lightweight jacket
Bonus item: Olive trench raincoat as outerwear for the occasional rainy day. I'm not including this in my 12, as there's probably only a 5-10% chance I'll need it. My list is predicated on normal weather for this time of year which ranges from 65-80F and only sees a few days with any precipitation.
Additional caveats: I'm not counting tights or leggings in as part of my 12, as I think of these as accessories and I'm lumping the occasional camisole into the Lingerie category as I generally wear underneath another top, mostly hidden, so not counting those either. And I'm also not counting the housework/gardening/dog grooming or going-to-Disneyland clothes.
--I edited this list quite a few times, both before and after I did my PotF*. I realized that I would be totally comfortable with 15-18 items, but thought the exercise was better served by limiting myself to 12.
--The category I've gone heaviest on is top layers (cardis/jackets) but feel I need the variety where it shows ("tabletop dressing," à la Duchesse).
--I'm already twitchy.
--I didn't want to go totally with neutrals, but as soon as you introduce color into the mix, it complicates things, and colors have to be chosen carefully. I ultimately chose two versions of a redwood/rust color. one dark rust and one dark olive green, both of which work with all of the neutrals and with each other.
--I also realized that sticking to one silhouette (long over lean) also helped make the selection easier. There are a few items in my closet currently on heavy rotation, but I didn't include them here as they didn't adhere to the selected silhouette.
--Expect to see lots of scarves this month! :-)
The Express Lane Challenge starts Sunday...this should be an interesting experiment!
Edited to add: After one more run though, I've subbed out a dark olive green 3/4 sleeve top for the rouille. It will work better with the black items, yet still plays nicely with the dark rust cardigan.
In recent years J.Crew has become the retail equivalent of your preppy college roommate who was kind of quiet and wanted to date the frat guys, and whom you lost touch with after school but then ran into a few years ago at Trader Joe's and over periodic lunches learn that she spent several years in her 30's trekking through the Andes photographing lichens and now is into healing crystals and has a tarot reader on speed dial and bursts into song in line at Starbucks and holds birthday parties for her parakeets. All fifteen of them. But every now and then she says something so insightful, so grounded, with such amazing clarity, that you keep making lunch dates with her.
This little masterpiece of cotton/nylon/spandex blends in beautifully with almost any ensemble and spans Southern California's seasons, such as they are, with ease. It holds up to washing, travel, and being balled up in the bottom of a tote, all without pilling. My navy Jackie has been a quiet workhorse in my wardrobe, always ready to help keep me grounded. Wandering through J.Crew this week, I spied this cardi in two must-have (for me, anyway) colors: a dark olive and a dark steel grey. At 30% off, how could I resist? (These colors don't yet seem to be available online, but the store had plenty of stock in these and other hues, so keep checking.)
Also spied-and-tried on my J. Crew travels, for those of you who may be flirting with the idea of a marinière but haven't committed yet, may I suggest this one:
Unlike many of J.Crew's tees, this one is cut with love and forgiveness. It's long, yes, but not narrow. (Alas, too long for me.) The material is light, though not tissue-thin, and has a nice drape.
Have you recently found any amazingly sane pieces in unexpected places?
During our three and a half days in the Napa Valley, we visited over a dozen wineries. I'm going to show you the two that were my favorites, because they were small family operations, and our visits were very low-key and personal. The first, Rubissow, was previously unknown to us, but as a result of a pledge to our local public radio station, we'd received a certificate for a tour and tasting as a premium. Le monsieur arranged our visit in advance. Located in the Mount Veeder region, it wasn't on any of the winery maps, so we had to look up the address online and navigated by iPhone GPS.
Up a single lane gravel road, and up, and up and up, until we reached an old farmhouse near the crest. The view of the Napa Valley was spectacular.
And Barbara our guide had everything ready to go. She opened the first bottle, and we got right to tasting.
Glasses in hand, we walked through the vineyards, all terraced on steep hillsides.
Up, up, up the road some more we walked, until we reached the crest of the hill, and then down the other side a little bit, overlooking Napa and San Pablo Bay. Barbara told us there are something like five different micro climates over the 45 acre property, and they grow a variety of red grapes: merlot, cabernet, syrah among them. She explained how the owners and winemaker are very much into the concept of terroir, the unique properties that any wine will have based on the soil, climate, and type of grape. All wines are "estate," which means they are all made only from the grapes grown on their own vineyards here.
The Rubissow family is very committed to organic and sustainable growing practices. We met Peter Rubissow who now runs the winery with his sister Ariel. Their father who originally bought the land and planted the vineyard is now mostly retired.
We spent three hours there walking, talking, and sitting on the porch of the old farmhouse that had stood on the property for over 100 years, tasting some amazing red wines. Yes, we bought some, and if you run across any Rubissow wines on a restaurant wine list or in a wine shop, I recommend you give them a try. I particularly liked the Trompettes, but everything we tasted was amazing.
Most vineyards/wineries have dogs around, to keep the gophers and other critters away from the crops. This was one of the two Rubissow dogs, and a real sweetheart.
The next day, one of the tours we arranged took us to Ancien Wines.
Like Rubissow, Ancien is a small boutique winery. While they do purchase their grapes from a variety of vineyards, they also are very much into the terroir of specific grapes and regions, and making their wines to express each unique terroir. We tasted Pinot Noirs from the three regions represented by the soil samples below, and were amazed at the difference in the attributes and taste of each.
Muscat grapes ready for fermenting. Wine grapes are much sweeter than table grapes.
Merlot grapes in process of fermenting.
During this process the grapes are stirred by hand several times a day. The temperature is checked regularly to be sure they are within the optimum range for the yeast. Grapes will ferment here for about one to two weeks,
then they are crushed,
and placed in French Oak casks to age.
Each one of these casks costs around $1000, and is used up to three times. The oak imparts flavor to the wine.
After many months, the wine is then placed in bottles and aged some more.
While many wineries are open to the public during regular hours, both Rubissow and Ancien wineries require appointments to visit, but they are worth the effort!
A few years ago while watching the movie Sideways,le monsieur and I were absolutely floored by the quantities of wine the characters in the movie were drinking. I joked that I had a contact headache by the end of one dinner scene where, if I recall correctly, four people went through four or five bottles of wine. Now, une femme loves her vins, just to be clear. But these days, a glass or glass-and-a-half is about my limit in any six hour period without risking a headache or lousy night's sleep. But even given my physiological constraints, I was able to enjoy quite a bit of wine tasting with no ill effects by just being mindful and following some simple steps.
First, most wineries/tasting rooms charge for a round of tasting; anywhere between $10 and $25 seemed to be the going rates. Most folks will pour one ounce per taste, and if you multiply by 3-5 wines per winery and 4-5 wineries per day, one can easily consume 4-5 glasses of wine without realizing it. Le monsieur and I almost always split a tasting, meaning one glass between us. Most of the time, we ended up dumping a good bit of each taste, though there were a handful that were just SO good that we finished the one ounce between the two of us.
Second, many of the characteristics of any given wine will be apparent in the nose. Sniff three times for every one taste. Swirl the wine in the glass a bit to break it up, then stick your nose right down into the glass and inhale. See what aromas present. Floral, plums, berries, grapefruit, peppers? Then sniff again. What else can you discern? Sniff a third time, and then a small sip. Don't swallow right away, hold in your mouth and let the flavors develop. "Chew" or slurp a little if you're feeling adventurous. Swallow, then wait. What is the "finish" of the wine? Swirl and sniff some more if you need to. Then, unless your socks are royally and truly knocked off, dump the rest in the buckets provided. No one will be offended, I promise.
Professional wine tasters will spit their tastes rather than swallow. For most public wine tasting venues, this isn't really an option, so small sips are key. You can get as much of a read on a wine from a tiny slurp as a big mouthful.
You may be tempted, but don't rinse your glass with water between tastes. The water will dilute the wine and impact the flavor. But do nibble on a bite of something bland like a cracker or bread, or rinse your mouth with water between tastes if that's all that's available to clear your palate.
Speaking of water, it's REALLY good idea to carry plenty or water with you, and try to drink 8 oz. or so after each round of tasting. Staying hydrated will also help stave off headaches. Stop for lunch, and eat something with some fat and protein that will help slow down absorption of any alcohol.
Don't feel obligated to buy bottles of wine or join wine clubs. You WILL get the sales pitch. You're probably paying for the tasting, so even if the wine guy or gal pulls out the "special" bottle of the Super Exclusive Vintage WooWoo Estate Reserve and pours some while saying "sshhh, don't tell my boss I gave you this," don't let yourself be guilted into buying wine that you don't really want or is out of your price range. If you drink wine regularly and find something you love that isn't readily available in your area, wine clubs can be a good option, and save you some money. If you do decide to buy some bottles of wine on the spot, most places will ship to you. Some charge more than others, and depending on how much you're buying in one location it may make more sense to just take the bottles with you and stop at a UPS shipper on your way home, unless you're driving rather than flying and don't anticipate being in the heat for extended periods of time. (Don't leave wine in a hot car!)
Remember that the "best" wine is the one YOU like, and trust your tastes. Just because everyone else's eyes are rolling back in their heads in ecstasy over that Sauvignon Blanc and to you it tastes like library paste doesn't mean that your palate is wrong. Even the "experts" disagree about wines.
And finally, if you're tasting, have someone else do the driving!!! Designate a non-drinking driver, or take a guided tour.
Tomorrow, some of the highlights of our winery tours and tastings.
As I mentioned, this excursion started *early.* By 6:15am we were on site and watching the balloons being prepared for flight. First the bags are inflated with giant fans,
then the air is heated with propane jets. The warmer air inside the balloon is lighter than the surrounding air, thus creating lift.
It's really pretty to watch. Once the balloons are upright, we climb into the baskets. Our balloon and basket were the biggest, carrying fourteen people plus the pilot.
The first balloon ready to go...
Soon after, we were airborne.
We mostly cruised at about an altitude of 2000-2500 ft. The winds were very light, so we drifted slowly down the valley. There's no steering a hot air balloon; you go where the wind takes you.
Looking back up the valley, northward toward Saint Helena.
And south toward the city of Napa and San Pablo Bay.
Another southward view.
And westward toward the Mt. Veeder region.
The balloon bag itself was 85 feet tall and 65 feet wide. You can see the flames from the propane jet, which puts out a LOT of heat! Other than the occasional noise of the jets, you float silently and smoothly through the air. It's very serene.
After drifting slowly southward for about an hour, the landing site was decided upon. Above, the first of our four balloons touches down.
The ground crews work quickly to deflate the balloon and pull to the side so passengers can safely exit the basket.
The second balloon was a little off target, so a line was dropped to the ground crew who pulled it to the correct landing spot.
Our pilot landed us "on a dime" in the desired spot. To quickly deflate the bag, there's a very large vent on the top that the pilot opens once we're on the ground. The crews then "milk" the air out of the balloon from bottom to top up through the vent, and tie the bag up for transport. They have several sites in the valley where they have permission to land, but want to get out of the way quickly as this is a working vineyard with a harvest in progress.
After landing we were picked up in vans and taken back to Domaine Chandon for a champagne brunch. I've had few days that have begun in such a fabulous way.
If you're interested, the company we rode with was Napa Valley Balloons. Une femme enthusiastically recommends!