Friday, March 28, 2014

Has Spring Sprung?

The first day of spring was last week and while I know that’s a cruel joke for some of you as you’re still getting snow. Here in Seattle it is hit or miss- gorgeous and sunny some days and some days overcast with a bite. Still, I have my own gauges for spring and here’s what I’m seeing to make me think it’s here.

Strappy high-heeled, and sexy sandals

Massive shrubs of camellias in a rainbow of colors

Cute, fun, practical, and pink (of course!) sneakers

Gorgeous pink blooms that fill the air when the wind blows making it feel like you've just gotten married.

Floral accessories (Tory Burch bag)

Sweet shy narcissus with their graceful bowing heads

Crisp white shirts (even if they are tucked into an impossibly short skirt- which is cute- worn by an anorexic model)

What makes you think of spring?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

L'Wren Scott

Last week the fashion world was shocked by the suicide of L’Wren Scott, a U.S. designer noted for her body-conscious designs. For me, it was the fact that while her clothes were often form fitting they were constructed for real women with curves—not teeny tiny models with dead eyes.
 It’s been reported that her company was almost $6 million dollars in debt and that may have been a factor in her death. Whatever the reason, she was a woman of taste and refinement and will be missed. Scott’s Paris apartment:

Some of my favorite pieces from her 2012 Spring line:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Seattle: Sellers' Dream, Buyers' Nightmare

So here we are in Seattle—a fun town with a healthy diverse economy. All good unless you’re looking to buy a home. We've gone from a housing market in Portland where you stand to lose $30,000 to $80,000 when you sell your home and where initial offers to buy a home are 25% percent below the asking price is the norm to an alternate universe where the process goes like this:

1. List house on Wed or Thurs, begin private showings
2. Open house 3 hours each on Sat and Sun.
3. There is a review period, which is when all buyers' offers must be submitted (generally the Tues after listed). There is no preference given for first offer made. Bids with a pre-inspection attached are standard. All cash offers get top priority.
4. Bids below asking price will not be considered.
5. Offers reviewed, and if necessary "escalation clauses" invoked (i.e. keep increasing your bid by $10,000 until you're the winner)
6. House goes to Pending status one week (or less) after being listed.

You think I’m exaggerating, right? No, for once I'm not. And it’s not just a matter of insane asking prices- people are getting them. Since we've started looking our realtor has tracked the homes we've seen that have sold and closed and, on average they're selling for $20,000 to $50,000 over the asking price. All this is leaving my poor brain reeling, so I have to ask:

Anyone else live somewhere with a booming housing market? Does this sound familiar to you?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Around Seattle: Chocolati Cafe

It has been a gruesome winter for friends across the United States and for some it’s still going on. Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve also had our share of wild weather—if only because it’s been so unpredictable. Thankfully, there was only snow once (but everyone in Seattle freaked out anyway) but we’ve gone from balmy days when the temps rise and people start walking around in shorts to frigid and raining the next day. What does this mean? It means that on that on those dreary days there is nothing better than a steaming, rich, velvety cup of hot chocolate and I know just the place: Chocolati Café here in Wallingford. If I haven’t already mentioned it Wallingford is the charming (if a bit gritty) urban neighborhood where we’re renting a house for the time being. What continues to amaze both J and me is that within a radius of 10 blocks we have a grocery store, drugstore, dry cleaners, library, restaurants, and the post office. There is truly no need to drive and, for the most part, I don’t. When you add a café that specializes in chocolate, then, really, why would you ever leave?

One of my new favorite hangout on rainy days- they're always welcoming!
image courtesy of Richie D.

So many options! If you don't want chocolate, they have amazing coffee options as well.

Don't even ask- they're all handmade and range from coconut rum almond to sea salt caramel dark chocolate.

Not a chocolate fan? First of all, what's wrong with you but secondly, they have wonderful shortbread and other varieties of cookies.

Do you have any favorite hangouts when the weather is crummy?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moving On: Seattle

After having been gone for almost a year and having proved myself to be such a lackadaisical proprietor, it is asking a lot to hope that anyone will return to this poor blog. Which is why I was pandering and jumped back into the fray with one of our culture's most overdone and self-congratulatory nights—the Oscars. Finding something snarky to write about this event was like shooting sequined, over-siliconed fish in a barrel and I managed to get a whole week out of it. 

But now it’s time to get caught up. I've apologized (sort of) for having disappeared for almost a year. I’d love to say it was exotic foreign travel that kept me away but the circumstances were much more banal and much less entertaining. Basically, my unemployment infected my husband and the company he worked for went belly up. That left me with a choking depression and an increase in all the stupid illnesses that are exacerbated by stress but it did give us a chance to reconnect in a way that is hard to do when you're both working full time.

Thankfully, J is a strong, brilliant, and responsible man and was fortunate enough (in this economy) to find a company who recognized his value. The only downside? Not a company in Portland. Mostly because there are not a lot of companies hiring in Portland. It's a fun city for retirees, trust fund babies, and the young, who are happy to work "little" jobs (waitress, bartender). J's new job was in Seattle, which was a more palatable destination than some of the other places he interviewed—Syracuse for one. Our biggest problems would be selling our house in market that has yet to recover from the housing bubble and, as we were to discover, trying to find housing in a market with a booming economy and a limited supply of housing. That is a post on its own but for now, I’m back and going to do my best to stay in touch and will, of course, be happy to hear from all of you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tell Me, Google Maps: Where is My Brain?

Last month I stayed in a hotel and on my first night, as I prepared for bed, I put toothpaste on my travel brush, ran it under the faucet, put it in my mouth and stood there. Stood there waiting for my SonicCare toothbrush to spring into action and not only brush my teeth in a way that “removes” more plaque but, more importantly, tells me, an adult, when one section of my teeth are finished and when to move on to the next area. It was probably a full 15 seconds before I realized I was on my own. I managed to do the job and do it for every night but when I arrived home I brushed my teeth immediately, because God knows how much damage I had done on my own.

Similarly, I recently yelled at my car’s dash when my severely outdated GPS told me to go down a road that is now closed for construction. And I don’t mean raised my voice. I mean screeched and came close to pulling over and abandoning the car because how the hell was I going to get somewhere without a cultured British woman telling me when to turn. Even a GPS is so old-school. Now I sue Google maps on my iPhone and a pert American girl tells me where to go (wait, that doesn't sound right). 

Also, I’m stymied by those spiky metal things people keep on key chains to start their cars. All I do is walk towards mine and once inside push a button.

It was at this point that I realized things have gone too far. Gadgets are wonderful and they make so much of life easier but where is my brain? If asked a phone number I turn to my iPhone. I do NOT know my husband’s phone number. Lists and reminders of any kind are on my Evernote app (greatest thing EVER), my ipad holds books (but don’t worry, I still read the real kind most often). Spelling? Who cares—autocorrect is everywearwhere.

I’m not going to claim ownership of this term but there is now talk (give me a minute and I’ll find it on Google, I can’t remember) of the externalized brain. In short, more and more of our knowledge is kept outside our mind. The days when someone could quote Shakespeare or recite a favorite poem? Long gone. Remember lyrics to a song? Why? I can look them up online. This state of affairs has been exacerbated by living in Oregon where even other humans are robbing me of the few mental processing skills I have left. In Oregon there are people who pump your gas. Yes, just like in the 1950s, Oregon is one of only three states that have gas station attendants. This means that, again, while traveling in my car (in the state of Washington), I needed to fill it with gas and have apparently forgotten how to do so. As evidenced by the fact that I pulled the nozzle out without releasing the handle and spilled an estimated $15.00 of gasoline onto my jeans and sneakers.

While convenience is a lovely thing what exactly is now taking up the space in my brain that used to know how to do so much?

How about you? What technology is your best frenemy?

Monday, March 10, 2014

For the First Time Ever: A Cleaning Tip

After a week of Oscars glitz, eye candy and bling, I thought it would be good to come back down to reality, in the form of two of my least favorite words: house cleaning. In case you’re not aware, I’m not likely to win any housekeeping of the year awards nor am I even in the race for any. In fact, my attitude towards cleaning can best be summed up as this:

So, for me to use blog space to talk about a cleaning tip should indicate to you how MIRACULOUS this idea is not that it is the first sign of the apocalypse. Seriously, I haven’t been this excited about cleaning since…well, never. Here goes.

Who doesn’t love the sleek modern look of a glass-walled shower? It says clean and modern and in the case of the photo below: Zen, calm, ‘so rich we can have a window in the shower because we have no neighbors’. That is, right up until you use it for the first time. Then, increasingly, it says ‘streaky, gummy, and kind of gross’. Until now. I just learned that you can take a damp dryer sheet cloth and it removes soap scum immediately, without scrubbing. I had been using vinegar (because Windex is a scam and doesn’t work anyway) and it works but you have to work it. And then it smells. So, I tried this method and could not believe how easy it was. And you don’t need fancy Bounce dryer sheets—I used the cheapo Costco variety.

Given that we are in the midst of house hunting (more on that later) this is a game changer for me. Now, I can look at showers like the one pictured and think, ‘Ah, relaxing’ rather than ‘I will never clean that’.

There you go, what is likely to be my only cleaning tip in the lifetime of this blog. You’re welcome.

Do you have any tricks that make the painfulness of cleaning easy? If so SHARE!

Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 Oscars: The Guys

I thought I had covered the Oscars with the fashions and the jewelry but I’ve had a reader request to cover the men of the Oscars and if there is one group I listen to, it’s my readers. So, even though I’m fairly certain her interest has nothing to do with their clothes, I’m going to honor this request and look at some of the men of the Oscars.

 Even if you don’t know who he is, Pharrell Williams is the stand-out male attendee this year. Either you loved his tuxedo shorts or you thought they were silly or an affront. For me, given what this performer and entrepreneur has achieved, it’s not surprising. It’s not shock value, just Pharrell going his own way. I have more questions about his androgynous, dutch-boy-haircut date.

His performance in The Dallas Buyers Club was so moving I cried. His decision to white jacket it (with co-star Matthew McConaughey) is also fine- a bit evocative of the 1930s Humphrey Bogart years. What I can't condone? Why not get your split ends cut off and use a little bit of conditioner. If you're going to go long, you've go to treat it right.

I'm hooked on House of Cards so Kevin Spacey at the Oscars is not too surprising. What is is the dark blue tuxedo. In the light of this photo, it has a Frank Sinatra rat pack feel and that works but during the ceremonies it photographed as a bright blue and that was no good.

I'm not interested in an Oscar performance whose most notable feature is using the f word over 500 times but I AM interested in a perfectly cut traditional tux in navy. Such a dark navy it screams power and elegance. Well done.

Face it, this is what you were looking for. Don't pretend you care about Pharrell or Leo. Matthew McConaughey, all cleaned up and healthy looking, in a white dinner jacket and with cuff links and all that. It's called eye candy and he's owning it. What was nice was that his wife looked as good as he did.

Tyson Beckford worked the red carpet as a commentator but held his own against the celebrities. The tux may be classic but the velvet slip-on loafers take it up a notch. Plus, he's gorgeous.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

2014 Oscars Recap: The Bling

Next to the clothes, the most exciting part of the Oscars this year (aside from seeing Matthew McConaughey all cleaned up and back to a healthy weight) was the bling. It was a bit subdued but within those confines were some outstanding pieces. My favorites:

In the world of gems, opals are so far down the desire chain that most women don't even think about them. Plus, there is the fact that some say they bring bad luck- but not to Cate Blanchett. These earrings are my favorite bits of bling this year. Look at the gorgeous colors reflected in the stones! It is almost makes up for that scratchy tulle dress Blanchett is wearing that I imagine she stripped off in her limo before even making it back to her hotel. One can only suffer so much for fashion.

Charlize Theron's dress was one of my favorites and in her usual impeccable way she chose this $15 million dollar Harry Winston diamond pendant as her only piece of bling. Point, set, match to Theron!

Emma Watson pulled off her usual hip chic on Sunday (except for a weave at the back of her head that was messy- in a bad way). I love the short nails with dark polish and all her bling-y rings. Dressed up but still youthful and fun.

Jessica Biel raided the Tiffany vaults and made it out with these two classic and elegant pieces. A perfect complement to her strapless sheath dress.

Penelope Cruz pulls off traditional chandelier diamonds from Chopard. The right choice against her updo and muted make-up.

Although the side-swept hair craze made me feel stabby by the end of the night I loved these earrings on Sandra Bullock, simply because they were dangling. They provided a great accent to her face.

Images from: Citizens of Fashion

Monday, March 3, 2014

2014 Oscars Recap

What a night last night! And I’m not referring to the fact I opened a Diet Coke after 7pm. No, it was that most hallowed of self-congratulatory nights in Hollywood—the Oscars. If you missed it and are anxious to learn the details of who won and what they said, you had best try another site. I watch it without sound and am really only interested in the clothes and the jewels. So, without further ado, here’s my take on what happened—good and bad (of course!).

Let's start with good...which gives me time to choose my words carefully for the bad.

This feels a bit safe but Amy Adams look impeccable in Gucci. I just would have liked a bit more bling (beyond coral earrings).

In both shape and color this is exquisite. Camila Alves in Gabriela Cardena

Another vote for deceptive simplicity. At closer look the ruching and horizontal folds cascading on the organza overlay are meticulous in their execution. I can't even remember the last time Charlize Theron made a fashion misstep.

Kate loves 1930 bias cut satin looks and with her slender frame she can work a deep decolletage without looking cheap.

I'm not in love with the silhouette but the color of this Giambattista Valli gown is gorgeous on Penelope Cruz 

Apparently, the woman in the background is unable to control her jealousy as to how sharp and chic Portia de Rossi looks in this Naeem Khan. I love the cut-out, modern macrame feel of the fabric and the shape echoes her slicked back hair. Tough but feminine.

She may not be setting trends but Robin Roberts always graces awards shows with appropriate elegance. Another lovely look!

Now, sadly, on to the not-so-great looks.

Oh, Goldie...Goldie. Much of this I blame on the pressure from Hollywood to look exactly as one did when they were 23- forever. She simply doesn't look alive anymore and her choice of gown echoes the same look she's been wearing for decades. I may be alone in this but I would love to see her looking her age--without fillers and tucking and pulling.

The smile will always be grand but sometimes Julia's choices work against her. The lace peplum adds unnecessary bulk at her waist and the bodice makes her look saggy.I get that it's Givenchy but it's not flattering.

I can already hear the outcry because Lupita is Hollwood's sweetheart right now. This is a lovely gown by Prada and she wears it with such joy- that I can appreciate. I would merely say that when a woman's breast bone is more prominent than her breasts it is more flattering to cover up. This wold have been perfection with a bateau neck.

Where to begin? Sally Hawkins looks as if she pulled his Valentino out of mummy's closet and was then caught wearing it. The gown is beautiful but a complete mistake for her. That plus the fact that she looks as if she hasn't brushed her hair make the entire look a mess.

I get that Whoopi thinks fashion is beneath her and wants only to march to her own drum but might not a bit of pride in one's appearance be worthwhile? This is a hot sloppy mess. Sleeves dangling too long and an outsized bodice and skirt. It's embarrassing.

That's all for today but I will be back with a look at my other favorite part of the Oscars- the jewelry. And an explanation as to where I've been for the last eight months (NOT having children) is not far behind. 

Tell me, dears, what were some of your most and least favorite looks of the Oscars.

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