Live more elegantly without spending a dime

Fresh flowers are lovely, but editing a room cost nothing and can make it look brand newDarlings, do you long to live more elegantly in this sometimes harried and vulgar world? You’re not alone. I often meet young women who yearn for a more serene and elegant life. It is within reach, but you have to work at it.
Get unpleasant tasks squared very early in your day
Too many of us are bogged down by untidy homes, lack of exercise, or piles of undone work. Get up 20 minutes earlier if necessary and do whatever you loathe or avoid the first thing in the day without thinking about it. Just do it and then relish your accomplishment and freedom for the rest of the day. You will be surprised how painless tidying up or working out becomes after it is habit. And you will feel better and more serene –really!
Set aside time for relaxation and quiet
I know you are busy. It is frantic world, but time to relax and renew is essential to an elegant life. Set aside small blocks of time to walk, breathe, and clear your mind. You will be amazed at how much calmer and more creative you become with a regular time-out from the world’s constant buzz.
Stand up straight and become more body conscious
Good posture is the cornerstone of elegance. It prevents fatigue and makes everything you wear look better. It also makes you look thinner and taller! Take core building classes and yoga to develop better posture and a stronger core. Walk like a diva.
Cultivate beauty in your daily life
Fresh flowers are fabulous. You can also add beauty to your life by rearranging objects you already own with a fresh eye. A bowl of fresh fruit or vegetables can look inviting. Fluff pillows, dust books, and enjoy your home. Read and study décor and art books for inspiration as well as to educate your eye. Many attractive homes are a mixture of high-low finds. Jeff Lewis, the star of the popular Bravo show, Jeff Lewis Interior Therapy, often works wonders by editing and rearranging rooms.
A similar editing process applied to your wardrobe will result in a more elegant look. Bite the bullet and donate anything that doesn’t make you feel fabulous. Trash stretched out or stained clothes. Play with your accessories and try out new combinations. Learn to set aside time to care for your clothes. Going over clothing with a lint brush, damp cloth, and needle and thread can save you a fortune at the dry cleaner as well as making you look more soigné.
Darlings, elegance is attainable but it needs to be nurtured. Surround yourself with those you admire and share your need for beauty.

Beauty on a budget

Vicky OliverIf your budget is tight these days, but you still want to look like a diva, tryVicky Oliver’s makeover for frugalistas. The tips are from her book The Millionaire's Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire, Even if You're Not. Vicky is an expert at splurging big on a tiny budget, so try her tips and look like a million!
Treat Your Hair to a Day at the Home Spa
Does your fringe look frazzled? You could make an appointment with a salon to solve the problem, but that would involve tossing $30, $40, or $50 down your hairdresser’s sink. Instead, vow to add shine to your locks for no lucre. Treat your hair to a day of pampering worthy of a magnate-in-the-making with an ingredient that hails from the grocery store: mayonnaise. For deep conditioning, don’t hold the mayo. Instead, take a half cup of mayonnaise and comb it all the way through damp locks. Let it sit for fifteen minutes. For best results, cover your hair with a shower cap. Then wash out the mayo (thoroughly!) with your regular shampoo. Your hair will feel salon-conditioned, without the salon prices.
Lose Weight Instantly with the "No-Diet" Diet
Did you know that 99 percent of diets are destined to fail? Few bodies can tolerate deprivation for long. Instead, master a new habit and dress thinner. It’s the painless way to lop off weight that won’t come off any other way! Wear high heels (every inch visually subtracts three pounds). Brush contour on your cheeks (doing so will appear to subtract two pounds). Slip on monochromatic clothing (you’ll automatically look eight pounds thinner). Wear control-top pantyhose (to visually subtract five pounds). Voila! You will have shed 18 pounds without having to invest in any special diet foods or a support group. Results from most actual diets last but a few months. Results from dressing thin are guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Walk Tall
It is hard to trade in one’s parents for taller models, but one can always keep one’s eyes peeled for clothing that elongate the body. This helps add stature, which can only enhance one’s natural elegance. Seek clothes that draw the eye up and out. Then pair them in new ways for maximum impact. A slip dress over skinny pants or leggings updates your wardrobe to catwalk slinkiness. Sometimes you can "cheat" a longer leg by wearing skirts that sit higher than your natural waist. Wearing dark pantyhose (or any clothing that creates one unbroken line) can also streamline your appearance, until you look almost waiflike. Supermodels aren’t just born skinny; they also learn to walk tall.
Sleep Your Way out of a Visit to the Dermatologist
Botox temporarily paralyzes muscles to prevent them from wrinkling. Unfortunately, Botox also promotes long-term wallet paralysis. Before you squander a fortune that you don’t have on injections, serums, and potions, try to sleep your skin into peak condition by finding your ideal sleep quotient. How do you find your magic number? Keep a snooze diary. Pay special attention to your mood, energy, and health after varying amounts of rest. Also, listen to all compliments. If friends start asking if you’ve "lost weight" or what you’ve been doing to look so fresh, it could be a sign that you’ve found your optimum sleep amount. Before you invest a lot of money in anti-aging injections that supposedly turn back the clock, try setting your real alarm clock for a good night’s sleep. Then be sure to do the same thing tomorrow night.
Put any Perfumes You Don’t Love to a More Spiritual Use
If someone gifts you with a fragrance that makes you swoon, don’t automatically toss the perfume in the trash. Instead, try adding a couple of drops to your bathtub and distilling it with several quarts of water. Then bathe in it. The scent may sit better with you that way, and you won’t be throwing away hundreds of dollars. The ancient Egyptians believed that perfumes could help one attain spiritual perfection. More recently, science claims that certain scents can help lift moods. Citrus-based scents may help promote happiness; rose scents may promote calm; the scent of bergamot may relieve anxiety and stress. Experiment until you find the scent that soothes and promotes your well-being.
Twitter Yourself Glamorous
Do you feel as though you are six degrees removed, not just from Kevin, but also from anyone who brings home the Bacon? That no longer has to be the case, thanks to Twitter. With its unique micro-blog technology, we are all just one degree removed from the most glamorous stars on the planet. Sign up today to follow your favorite celebrities, many of whom will provide loyal fans with a steady stream of insider tips on everything from dressing elegantly to skin, hair, clothing, and makeup pointers. The beauty of it is that all of this top-notch celebrity advice is free. Ain’t life tweet?
Give Yourself an Online Makeover in Lieu of an Offline One
Department store makeovers only seem as though they are free. These beauty lessons can be risky business for the budget-conscious, as salespeople will be more inclined to try to sell costly makeup products now that the holiday store traffic has eased. Fortunately, an "online makeover" really costs nothing and generates proven results, at least as far as your social life is concerned. Take a good, hard look at your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles. On LinkedIn, beef up the Summary section. Ask former colleagues to recommend your work. If you’re an entrepreneur, add a company website or a link to your Twitter account. On Facebook, update your status and your profile picture. The upshot? More people will reach out to you and you’ll activate your social life without spending a cent.

Height and comfort

Juicy Couture Wedges $195One the hottest shoes this summer is a wedge. If you have trouble wearing heels, but would love some extra height, a wedge may be the answer to your prayers. This season designers have let their imaginations go wild designing this classic shoe. You can find funky wedges, low sporty wedges, and whimsical wedges.

You can wear wedges with almost anything, from casual ensembles to business suits, if you choose the right silhouette and materials.

Beauty bargain

I love St. Ives, the value-priced line of skin care products available at drugstores. If you have not tried them, you are missing a treat. I keep tubes St. Ives Apricot Scrub, Invigorating Scrub in the bath and by the vanity sink. I use it head to toe as a body scrub, and three or four times a week on my delicate, dry facial skin. It smells divine, and at about $4 a tube, I can be lavish in getting my glow on.
Now I have a new favourite: St. Ives Scrub-Free Exfoliating Pads. These glycolic exfoliating pads are a mini facial in a jar. They gently smooth skin, unblock pores, and help to fade discoloration. I adore them. I have use similar brands costing more than $60 a jar because these little pads are so good at making skin glow as well as keeping it smooth and soft.
The St. Ives pads smell divine and contain pure lactic acid. At only$5.99 for a jar of 60, I can treat my face, hands, chest, and back.
St. Ives products are a true beauty bargain. These pads are truly fabulous for anyone who is plagued with breakouts, or staving off aging.

Mad about Mad Men

Mad Men's  Christina HendricksIf you love retro, you must be a fan of the show Mad Men and its stunning star, Christina Hendricks. Now you can reproduce her hairstyle at home.
Mad Men Hair Department Head Stylist Terrie V. Owen reveals her on-set hair how-to for achieving Christina Hendricks' signature "Joan" style.
Terrie's Recipe for Joan Harris Hair:
You will need:
A curling iron or you can set your hair in large sized hot rollers
A teasing comb
A natural bristle hairbrush, such as a Mason Pearson
Bobby pins
Setting spray, such as White Sands Liquid Texture Thermal Styling Spray
This style is best for long hair, at least shoulder length or longer.
I like to set the hair with my favorite White Sands Liquid Texture Thermal Styling, and then with a 1-inch large barrel curling iron, to curl entire the head. Clip each curl and let the hair cool off before you style.
Once the hair has cooled off, brush out with your natural bristle brush. I like my Mason Pearson.
Section hair into two sections ear to ear, so you have a front section and a back section. Then make a third section: a ponytail piece in the mid, crown section of the head, and secure it with elastic. That ponytail will be your volume and height at the top of the head. Clip this hair out of the way.
Starting at the back, nape of head, tease the hair with a comb and then sweep up all the hair with a brush and pin with bobby pins. Pin the section all the way up to the ponytail, so you have an upswept look.
Then move to the front sections, start on one side, tease the section of hair and smooth with your brush then pin each side up just as you did in the back until all hair is pinned up all around the head. If you have bangs, you can spray and smooth them off to a side and secure with a pin. Otherwise, you can create a side sweep with your longer hair and pin.
Then release your ponytail, tease it with your comb, smooth with your brush and arrange it in any shape you like, either tousled or controlled. Bobby-pin it into place, and set it with a good holding spray.
For a modern take on the style, I would eliminate the teasing and just finger through the hair, not brush it out and pin up section by section in a more tousled and loose way, instead of hairspray try a grooming crème on your fingertips for added texture, finish with hairspray and keep the side peek-a-boo bang.
DolceDolce Note:
White Sands Liquid Texture Thermal Styling Spray is one of our favourite products ever since our friend, Jessica McCafferty, introduced it to us a few years ago. It holds and shines like nothing else.

Strengthen your skin

Our Alice Farnsworth tried out the newest products from Aveeno’s line of Active naturals called Positively Ageless. The line is designed to "help skin age gracefully". She really liked them. Here is Alice’s review:
It's not just the elderly who have thin skin. Many, due to genetics, are born with a propensity to thin skin, which bruises more easily and ages faster.
Others have thinner skin due to the cumulative effects of external assaults, such as sun, gravity, and smoking. Also, dry skin is more susceptible to thinning.
To combat fragile skin, Aveeno has introduced a new line called Positively Ageless. I tried four of these products, with good results.
An application of either the Skin Strengthening body cream or the hand cream is good for 24 hours. Both hand and body cream erase many of the results of sagging skin and leave the skin stronger, with fewer lines and wrinkles.
The Positively Ageless resurfacing facial scrub lightly exfoliates without irritating fragile skin for a smoother, more even tone.
I really liked the Positively Ageless correcting tinted moisturizer with SPF 30. It takes very little to cover facial skin completely and evenly and still offers necessary protection while smoothing lines and wrinkles.
All these products are well worth the price.
Aveeno’s new Positively Ageless products cost from $5.99 to $19.99.

Puppy love

Dog fancier and book reviewer, DolceDolce’s Alice Farnsworth gives us the lowdown on The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick.
Lara Madigan is a fabulous dog trainer who rescues strays of every denomination and temperament. She has an amazing ability to find anyone and everyone's doggy soul mate, but she has trouble committing to a human soul mate for herself, especially after her long-term, live-in boyfriend announces that he is not a dog person.
Along with her furry pack, she is forced to temporarily move into the mansion of her emotionally distant, fashionista mother, in a gated, exclusive section of town.
Word quickly gets around; the resident dog trainer can cure all your doggy problems. Suddenly business is booming, relationships are changing and both Lara, her mother, and the ex-boyfriend begin to bend, which is often the case when humans and animals interact.
A really funny and fun book. Perfect for your summer reading.

Now in paperback!

22 Britannia Road is now in paperback! Amanda’s Hodgkin’s debut novel is a searingly poignant love story about a small family trying to find a way back to love and normalcy after the hardships of war. Set in post-war Britain, the novel’s themes are compellingly contemporary in today’s war-torn world. The story is also one of maternal devotion. For full review of this riveting debut novel: