Here's to Us!

Here's to Us!
M-T and Goddaughter, Maria Victoria

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It Was a Great Time To Be a Kid!

Had lunch with an old friend, yesterday, well…..old in the sense that we have known each other for ages and…..O.K., old in the sense that we are no longer young.  We may not move as fast as we used to, but our conversation runs wild, all over the place, and we still giggle like school girls.  Want to stay young?  Have a good laugh with a good friend as often as possible. 

We talked about the present (the latest aches and pains), the future (her grandchildren) and the past; and we drank a toast to the good fortune of having grown up in the 50s and 60s. 

The first pocket transistor radio (1957) – Sony TR-63.  I got one exactly like this for Christmas.  It stopped working two days later.
 
 
 
Goodbye Cruel World” (1961) by James Darren (né James William Ercolani) was my first 45 rpm record.  I played it over and over again until my brother sat on it and broke it.  

 


Here she is, Ladies – my Barbie doll.  I still have the bathing suit and the sunglasses, although those teeny, tiny little shoes probably got vacuumed up by my Mother. 

What a time it was to be a kid! 
 



We may have lain in bed at night afraid of the monsters lurking under our beds and hiding in our closets, but once daylight hit, we were fearless.  We rode our bikes down Dead Man’s hill, roller skated, played baseball, football and stickball in the street, hung upside down from monkey bars over cement playgrounds, ate sugary snacks, walked to and from school by ourselves and even talked to strangers --- all without helmets or protective padding. 

Courtesy of  Time Travel Kitchen
When my parents emigrated from France with toddler in tow (me) and one on the way (my brother), they bought a three-story row house in an Irish Catholic neighborhood two blocks from the Church.  It was one rough and tumble place to grow up.  We were constantly being stitched and casted, but we never let it slow us down for long.  Skinned knees were de rigueur in my neighborhood and were left bloody and dirty until the owner of the knee was called in to dinner.  Mothers said, “Wash your hands and knees before you sit down at the table.”  At any given time, roughly one-third of the population between the ages of four and fourteen was out of commission.  Someone was always splitting his head open and being marched down the street to the doctor’s office, head wrapped in a towel, by a frazzled mother wearing a housedress and a resigned look.  The mothers in my neighborhood took this sort of thing in stride. 
  

There may have been a time with the first one that she panicked every time he bonked his head, but the neighborhood was full of experienced mothers who were always ready and willing to help her through the first-baby jitters.  By the fourth or fifth kid, she was the one dispensing the tea and sympathy, along with such helpful advice as, “Really, dear, it takes them a lot longer to bleed to death than you might think.”  Basically, mothers accepted the fact that, no matter what they did, kids would always find a way to get hurt.  We came close once or twice, but I am happy to report that our neighborhood record was pretty good.  We had our share of mishaps, but we never lost a kid. 

Modern parents actually believe they can keep their kids from getting hurt.  What a concept!  To that end, they organize and supervise every minute of their children’s waking time.  And if any of these activities even has the potential for bodily contact they are outfitted in some sort of protective gear; and then for good measure they scare the you-know-what out of them.  And yet….(Surprise!!  Surprise!!)  kids still manage to find ways to get hurt.  Like it or not, it's in the job description. 
 
My best friend lived four houses down from me.  She had nine brothers.  One day, while Joanne and I were playing with our Barbie dolls, the youngest came home with a bloody nose.  Mrs. H took one look at him and said, “If you’re going to just stand there bleeding, do it outside; I just scrubbed that floor.”  Words to live by. 

 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Right Shoe for the Right Job

To know me is to know my love of shoes (See “Red Shoes and Glass Slippers”).   As a little girl, when others were looking forward to their Easter baskets filled with jelly beans, chocolate-covered eggs and marshmallow peeps, I was looking forward to a shiny new pair of Easter shoes.  I’m still that little girl who tingles all over at the thought of a new pair of shoes. 

As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the shoes.  And choosing the right shoe for the right job can make all the difference.  Here’s what I mean:
 

Shoes for Running


Nike Running Shoes
Always on the run?  These are the shoes for you.  If I were a runner, I would do my running in these.  Very cool. 

 
Shoes for Strolling


Cendrillon (Cinderella) Ballet Pumps –Repetto
Since I’m more of a stroller than a runner through life, these ballet flats are more my speed and definitely more my style. 


Shoes for Driving


Clarks Dunbar Racer in Tomato Red
We spend so much of our lives behind the wheel, and vacation season means peak driving season.  A great pair of driving shoes can make all the difference to your feet, particularly if you drive a stick shift (manual transmission), like I do. 


The rubber strips on the sole and heel of this leather driving shoe insure a firm grip on the pedals, and there’s enough support to make them a great all-around walking shoe.  So, save the wear and tear on those expensive high heels you scrimped and saved for and invest in a good driving shoe. 

 
Shoes for Flirting

These gorgeous “Dorothy” stilettos from the delightful Blog “High Heels and High Notes” are just made for fun and flirting.  And, should things start to heat up with that sexy stranger with the hazel eyes, you can be (no place like) home in three clicks of your heels.  What happens next is up to you!

 
Shoes for Dancing


Red Pointe Shoes
What better way is there to dance through life than in a pair of red pointe shoes? 

Last month, New York City Ballet principal dancer, Janie Taylor, danced her farewell performance in the arms of her husband, principal dancer Sébastien Marcovici.  At the tender age of 33, the ballet world lost one of its brightest stars to a progressive auto-immune disease. 
 
Ms. Taylor’s fragile beauty always stood in stark contrast to the incredible athletic vigor she gave to every performance.  It was a mesmerizing combination.  She will be greatly missed. 

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, she revealed some of her beauty and travel secrets, and said she was “…looking forward to wearing more attractive shoes after retirement.”  Aha…a kindred shoe spirit! 

A few years ago, Ms. Taylor danced with choreographer and fellow corps de ballet member, Justin Peck, wearing a Chloé collection.  The collection, called “Ethereal,” was inspired by the art of the dance, and clearly the pairing between the clothes and the dancer was also inspired. 

Enjoy. 

 
Janie, we will miss you.  Happy shoe shopping! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Trends – Can We Talk?

Last week began with snow and ended with rain, but today is a beautiful, sunshiny spring day.   Time to sit down with my blogger BFFs and dish about what we can look forward to (or not) this spring. 
 

FULL SKIRTS

Aren’t they just oh-so-feminine? 



Kiernan Shipka – photo courtesy of iVilllage

This is how to do a full skirt, especially if you’re petite (I hate the word “short.”).  In fact, I love everything about the whole outfit, which is flirty, feminine and fun. Kiernan Shipka has done everything so right here:    
 
1)  The tiered skirt accentuates her tiny waist and flares out in a way that reminds me of the skating skirts I used to wear on Saturday afternoons at the roller rink.   It hits just above the knee, showing off her shapely legs.  I would probably lengthen the skirt just an inch or two, a more universally flattering length.    
 
2)   A cropped top is the perfect pairing with a full skirt (save your longer tops for straight/pencil skirts), and the flared sides beautifully balance the flare of the skirt. 
 
3)  This whole outfit is a master class in how to mix patterns, down to the high-heeled, animal print shoes (fabulous!!).   The trick to mixing patterns is to pair large patterns (skirt) with small patterns (top and shoes) while keeping everything in the same color palette. 

O.K., so maybe the outfit is a tad young…….or maybe not…….  Ladies, you don’t have to be a 20something to wear a full skirt, but you do have to have a waist and you need to choose your skirt shape carefully.  Here’s what I mean. 

Roses Floral Skirt

Isn’t this rose-covered full skirt lovely?   As pretty as it is, it’s the wrong choice for most of us “over a certain age,” and here’s why: 
 
1)   The gathered material right under the waist band, creating that dreaded dirndl effect, adds bulk right where we don’t need it – at the tummy. 
 
2)   It falls at mid-calf, which can cut you off, particularly if you are petite.   I find a mid-calf length on a full skirt can be a bit matronly on anyone over 40, unless you are very tall and thin.  Still, if you want to wear a mid-calf, full skirt, pair it with a shoe or sandal with a high heel.  The mid-calf look with ballet flats only works on you taller gals.  We petites look as if we’re standing in a hole – not a good look. 
 
Kaleidoscope Pleated Skirt ($99) – Talbots

This full skirt, flat under the waistband with pleats flaring away from the body, creates a more flattering silhouette, although……..the sweater would not have been my choice.  Clearly, it was chosen for its complementary color, but it sits awkwardly on the skirt, because it’s too long, and the ribbing at the bottom doesn’t help.  In my opinion, this sweater would be more flattering with a straight skirt. 
 
BOLD GRAPHICS
 

Cate Blanchett – photo courtesy of iVillage
This dress definitely makes a bold statement, and Cate Blanchett pulls it off beautifully.  Of course, a dress this distinctive must be worn sparingly (“There she is, again, in that dress with the big, blue flower.”).   I find the length a bit awkward, but I think it could work with different shoes.  Although the neutral shoe is a good choice, a simple pump or sling back, which shows more of the foot, would have worked better than this fussy shoe that fights the dress for attention and cuts her off at the ankle. 

 

Mirrored-Floral Dress ($189) – Talbots
Instead of a dress in a bold graphic, how about one in a bold floral?  Even if you live in a tiny NYC or Paris apartment, you can still show off your green thumb by wearing your spring garden.  A beautiful floral dress can perfume the air with a breath of spring with every step. 
 
SPRING COATS
 
They’re back!!!   Yeah!!   This is a spring trend we can ALL wear. 
 


Symphony Textured ¾ coat ($189) - Talbots
Popularly referred to as a Topper or Duster, the spring coat is a breath of nostalgia for me.   Every Easter I had a new spring coat with dress, hat and shoes to match.   One year I was a symphony in powder blue.  I can still remember those powder blue, patent leather high heels – they were to die for!! 
 
This fully-lined, cotton blend Topper in bright Azalea will add just the perfect touch of spring to your outfit.  The beauty of the ¾ Topper is that it absolutely goes with anything, and you don’t have to worry about the length of your skirt or dress. 
 
Sadly for me, this coat only comes in Azalea, which is not a color I can wear (sigh!).  Oh well…..
 
Here are a few items on my wish list for spring.   You’re never too old to dream. 
 
 

Spring Wish List


Friday, March 21, 2014

Put Your Best Face Forward This Spring

Spring officially arrived yesterday, and I couldn’t be more delighted.  Frankly, my love affair with winter was beginning to cool, and a spring fling is just what the doctor ordered. 

In my previous post Is There No Loyalty Left in the World?,” among other things, I talked about brand loyalty (or lack thereof) to makeup and beauty products.  I mentioned that, while I mix and match colors and high end/low end makeup lines, I am essentially loyal to my favorite makeup line, LauraMercier.   So, I’d like to introduce you to some new finds and some old friends from Laura’s line.   


I don’t know about you, but this winter’s frigid exteriors and over-heated interiors took a toll on my skin.  Like most women I have combination skin -- oily T zone; drier cheeks.  This winter I noticed some dry patches for the first time in my 60+ years. 

So, when I got a sample of Laura Mercier’s Repair Crème with my on-line order a few months ago, I decided to try it.  Because I have very delicate, sensitive skin that is easily irritated, I approach new skin products with extreme caution.  Imagine my delight when, after only a few days, I noticed a big difference in how my skin felt and looked.  I was, however, less delighted with the price -- $98 for a 1.7 oz/50 g jar.  Still, there’s no denying that you get what you pay for, and I don’t mind (well, not much) paying for a product that really delivers on its promises.  Maybe it’s the Yeast Extracts or the Peptides or the Argan Oil, but whatever it is, it works.  I use it sparingly at night, but it can also be used in the morning, if you prefer. 

 
 
Laura’s new spring Renaissance color collection ($55) for eyes and cheeks is just gorgeous.   Spring is all about youth and rebirth, and the bright cheek colors are the perfect way to bring a youthful flush to your cheeks.  The neutral eye shadows work with any eye color, and they have a lovely shimmer to them. 
 
A word of caution, Ladies, shimmering eye shadows, while beautiful on young eyelids, are not as flattering on those of us d’un certain âge.  I always advise choosing matte eye shadows; however, a little shimmer on the brow bone (usually the smoothest part of the eye area) can really open up the eye. 
 
And, if you want to do a little shimmer on the eyelid for evening, here’s a trick I often use.  I take a shimmer shadow, such as Laura Mercier’s Star Fruit (my favorite), and put it on the brow bone and the lid, then go over the lid with a matte powder, such as Cashmere.  That way, I get just a hint of shimmer on the lid.  It works beautifully.  I finish with a deeper, matte shade in the crease, such as Bamboo and I’m good to go. 

Of course, you might want to create your own color collection.  In that case……


Just pick up Laura’s 6-well, Customizable Compact case for $10 (also comes in 3-well), choose your favorite blush and eye shadow shades and pop them in.  No more hunting through your makeup drawer; everything’s in one slim, take-it-anywhere-with-you case. 

Mine contains two blushers and four eye shadows, and I never travel without it. 
 
Kate Bosworth - photo courtesy of iVillage

This spring, you’ll be seeing a lot of bright, orange lips.  The color orange actually comes from autumn’s color palette (my color palette) and is not an easy color to wear, especially on your lips.  My daytime lipstick for lo these many years has been Laura’s Crème Lip Color in Tangerine.  It’s more subtle than orange, but still brightens my face and works beautifully with my skin tones and red hair. 
 
Our eyebrows seem to need more attention as we age.  For the last few years, I have been filling mine in with Laura’s Brow Definer Gel ($20) in Soft.  It’s a wax/gel formula that looks totally natural and really lasts through the day.  The jar is small, but you only use a tiny bit, so it lasts forever.  At night, if I want a more dramatic brow, I’ll mix it with a deeper shade of eye shadow.  Eye shadow by itself is too powdery to stay put, but mixed with the waxy gel, you get a custom color that will stay put all night. 


Here’s a brief, how-to video on eyebrows from iVillage that you may find helpful. 
 



Next time, I’ll pick up on some of my favorite spring trends.  See you then…….

Friday, March 14, 2014

Is There No Loyalty Left in the World?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Beauty’s ‘Cocktailing’Hour, the author, Elizabeth Holmes, talks about high-end beauty junkies who spend a great deal of their time either on the internet learning about the latest make-up products and techniques or trying them out.  There was a time when a gal went to her favorite make-up counter at the local department store for all her beauty products.  My Grandmother wore only Max Factor, and my Mother swore by Revlon.  Today’s young beauty junkies not only mix and match products, but they mix and match product lines.  A frustrated artiste at heart, I’ve been mixing my blushers, lipsticks and eye shadows to get exactly the right shades for as long as I can remember.  But, I do tend to be loyal to my favorite cosmetic line, Laura Mercier (Read about My Three Make-up Must Haves).  Is Brand loyalty as old-fashioned as pan-cake make-up?  Is loyalty itself an old-fashioned concept?  Is there no loyalty left in the world? 
 
Ah, mais oui, there is.  In the world of opera, people are still loyal unto death…..a bit extreme, I admit, but when accompanied by gorgeous music, it can be ooooh so beautiful. 


Werther – Metropolitan Opera Production – photo by Brigitte Lacombe
In the 18th century world of the young poet Werther, you fall in love instantly and remain hopelessly, passionately in love….. until death.  The best way to describe the opera Werther by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) is to say that it is sooooo quintessentially French.  The gorgeous music, one moment as light and delicate as a soufflé, the next all swirling, dark passion sweeps you away in its arms. 

The new production at the Metropolitan Opera is absolute perfection in every way from the period sets and costumes, updated to the 19th century, to the magnificent cast.   It’s impossible not to get caught up in the magic spell they weave from first to last note. 

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Werther simply IS the embodiment of the brooding, love-sick poet,,,


And French mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch as Charlotte makes it easy to see why he has fallen in love with this delicate beauty. 



Werther and Charlotte – Metropolitan Opera – photo by Ken Howard

The opera opens on a lovely summer evening in the garden of a country home in 19th Century Germany, where Werther meets Charlotte for the first time.  He has come with a group of friends who are to escort her to a party.  Naturally, he falls hopelessly, madly and utterly in love at first sight and they dance the night away in each other’s arms. 
 



Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
But, there’s a rather large hitch in the proceedings.  Charlotte has promised her dying Mother to marry the solid and rather stolid Albert, Werther’s friend, who is conveniently out of town. 
So, despite Werther’s desperate pleas and protestations of love, she tells him they can never be together for she must remain loyal to her promise to her Mother and faithful to her fiancé, Albert.  Pauvre Werther is devastated. 



Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Later that fall at a village celebration, Werther confronts Charlotte, now married to Albert, and again confesses his love, which she rejects.  Werther has tried to remain friends with the couple, but finds it too painful, so Charlotte asks him to leave the village and not return until Christmas.  Werther reluctantly agrees.  Alone, he gives vent to his feelings and thoughts of suicide in some of the most beautiful music ever written for a seriously depressed tenor. 
 

Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera – photo by Ken Howard
Christmas Eve finds Sophie alone in her husband’s home reading and rereading the passionate letters Werther has been sending her since his departure. 

When, suddenly, Werther appears.  What follows is a snippet of one of the greatest show-stopper arias ever written for a love-sick tenor. 





Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Werther can contain his emotions no longer and he takes the struggling and frightened Charlotte into his arms and kisses her (“Oh WOW!” to quote the lady sitting next to me.).  Terrified by his unbridled passion, Charlotte breaks free and locks herself in her boudoir.  Utterly dejected, Werther runs out of the house. 
 
Albert returns home to a frazzled wife and a note from his friend, Werther, asking to borrow Albert’s pistols.  Werther says he will be taking a long journey and needs them.  It doesn’t take Albert long to figure out what has happened in his absence, and he coolly orders his servant to deliver the pistols.  I have always thought that this was a terrific coup de théâtre, using Albert’s pistols – so poetic, so French. 
 
As soon as Albert leaves, Charlotte rushes off to try and stop Werther, but……………


Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Of course, she is too late.  The unhappy poet has already shot himself and dies happily in Charlotte’s arms as she finally confesses her love for him.  The joyous sound of children singing Christmas carols can be heard outside.  The End. 

As I left the theater, still wiping the tears from my eyes, I looked at my husband and asked, “Would you have killed yourself if I had rejected you?” 

Sensing the verbal trap I had laid for him (We do that all the time to our men, don’t we?), my man-of-action, ex-Army sharp shooter husband looked me straight in the eye and said, “I would kill for you.” 
 
Oh WOW, to quote the lady sitting next to me. 
 

M-T’s Note:  Tomorrow, Saturday, the 15th, Werther will be simulcast in HD from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York at 12:55 pm Eastern Time in theaters and cinemas around the world.  An encore screening in local theaters will take place on Wednesday, March 19th, at 6:30 pm ET.  Click here for details and to find a theater near you.  Whether you’ve already seen Werther or never seen it before, you don’t want to miss this fabulous performance of one of French opera’s most beautiful gems!!

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