Never underestimate the power of a fabulous dress

A book for women who love dresses and love to dress
Do you have a fabulous dress that makes you feel invincible?  Well darlings, you are not alone; the right dress or pair of shoes can be magical.
 
And, if you think caring deeply about fashion makes you a lightweight, think again. Some of the most accomplished women I know are mad for fashion. One of the chicest women I know is a senior partner at a national law firm. She lives for fashion. Her business wardrobe is mostly simple Chanel and Prada. Another fashionable friend is an art director. She is in charge of brand development for an international magazine chain. Her taste is impeccable. Her look is very luxe haute hippie.  Another friend lives outside of Boston.  She has a more casual lifestyle than the other two women, but, walking her dog or going to work, she looks elegant. Even with two grown children she is a head-turner.
 
And it is not just my personal friends who can combine a love of fashion with high-powered accomplishments. Huma Mahmood Abedin, who works closely with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was featured in Vogue. She served as traveling chief of staff and "body woman" for Clinton during her campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a known fashionista with a penchant for stilettos, in spite of her height. And these were just the first two well-wardrobed women who came to mind.
 
A love affair with fashion can start young.  My grandmother worked in a couture house. I am sure that I inherited my fashion gene from her. In junior high, I could bring her a magazine photo of a dress I wanted and she would just cut the pattern. After buying the fabric it would us only a day to complete the dress. She would make me a new dress every two weeks. My friend, the lawyer’s, face glowed when she talked about her mother making prom gowns for her and her sister.
 
The habit of whipping up the latest style stuck. I remember making a slinky black Diane von Furstenberg wrap from a pattern she had licensed to Vogue. It took a day to make it. I wore it out that night and for many years thereafter. Even while studying at McGill University in Montreal, I would occasionally take a break to make the latest “it” dresses. A few years later, as a young married woman in Montreal, I met a friend who had the same habit. She fed her fashion habit by sewing while studying to be an engineer.
 
I can remember every dress I ever wore for any major occasion in my life, both the happy and sad ones. I learned early on not to underestimate the power of a great dress. The right outfit can enhance good times and act as armor against the bad. I bought a slim white suit from a chic French boutique in Montreal, to wear to graduation. 1930s fashions were all the rage that summer. The white silk shantung suit was perfect. It had a trim belted peplum jacket and sleek pencil skirt. It was chic and a little demure.
 
I wore it to graduation with a pair of strappy white sandals on a hot summer’s day. Later that same summer, my father died unexpectedly. I wore the same outfit to his funeral. It was exactly what he would have wanted me wear to say goodbye on hot summer’s day. I could never find that outfit again. But I doubt I would have worn it anyway. It had served its purpose. There is a lovely photo of me and my father at my graduation – one of the few of us taken together.
 
The Hundred Dress: The Most Iconic Styles of Our Time by Erin McKean, Illustrated by Donna MeHalko, catalogs the most beloved dresses of our era. It is a book for women who love dresses and love to dress. The book contains almost every style of dress imaginable, from the cute mini Baby-Doll to long and elegant Siren gowns.
 
The authors reach a bit in naming some of dresses. I have never heard of dress styles called the Vreeland, the Chanel, and the Biohazard – and I doubt I will again, but the book is cleverly done. Classic dress styles, such as the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the T-shirt, and the “Mondrian,” may provoke a smile and even a fond memory or two. A few others may provoke laughter or even a grimace as you get a flash of fashion’s wackier past. There is a wonderful illustration of each dress with a capsule history as well as who wore it and when.
 
As you read The Hundred Dresses, you may be surprised, as I was, by how many dresses you recognize and how many of them you have worn. You will be reminded to never underestimate the power of a great dress.
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Don’t be the houseguest from hell

 Don't  make a mess like this if you want to be asked back!Everyone has heard of, and a few us have hosted, the houseguest from hell.  The HGFH can be demanding, late, rude, dirty, and whiney – or a combination of all of these annoying traits.
 
 Some hosts fail to plan meals or even to clean the house. After years of hosting guests in summer houses and apartments around the world, here is my list of simple tips to keep everyone happy during summer houseguest season:
 
DolceDolce’s tips for being a good summer guest
 
If you require exotic food or drink, buy it and bring it with you, with enough to share. A young couple I know was given an expensive shopping list by relatives coming for a weekend visit. Their “requests” added $80 to my friend’s grocery bill on top of what she had already bought for a fancy dinner and brunch.
 
If you are a drinker, bring alcohol, and enough of it. Most hosts will offer cocktails and wine, but if you sock away two to three bottles of wine, or a bottle of vodka or whiskey a day, bring your own supply and consider checking into rehab.
 
Keep your room neat and help out with chores. Keep any shared areas, such as bathrooms, spotless.
 
Be polite and friendly to everyone. This includes your hosts, their children, other friends, and their help. There are no exceptions. You can be nice to anyone for the duration of a visit.
 
If you are staying for more than a weekend, plan to make dinner or take everyone out.
 
Find out your hosts expectations about schedules, arrivals, departures, and expenses in advance.
 
How to be a fabulous hostess:
 
Spend the night in your own guest room, or at least take a nap in there. Are the linens fresh and inviting? Is the bed sleepable, or could it double as a medieval rack?
 
If you use your guest space as an office or for some other purpose, clear the decks for guests. Make space for your guest and be sure there is adequate privacy.   Stash your stuff in bins or under your bed, but give your guest clean surfaces, a drawer, and some closet space. A drawer may be optional for a weekend guest, but closet space and privacy are musts. A rack that hangs over a door can be very useful if you need extra racks for towels, etc. Life after college should never feel like time in a dorm.
 
Collect subway maps, city guides, and other information from visitor centers and large hotels (they keep a rack of it in the lobby, or ask the concierge). Keep an up-to-date supply of this info on hand. It will help guests to be independent.
 
Be clear about schedules, arrivals, departures, and shared expenses before guests arrive. State your needs and expectations clearly.
 
If you are welcoming guests, your home should be spotless and replete with snacks, fruit, and other delights that say: “Darlings, I am so glad you came!”
 
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Tibi’s Transit dress

Tibi's Transit Collection from the pre-fall collectionTibia’s “Transit” Collection is the most original take on color blocking we have seen since the trend came back into vogue a few seasons ago. There are several pieces in the Transit Collection, both in colour and black and white. My favourite is this deceptively simple little dress with its figure-flattering print.

 

Tibi’s Transit collection reminds me of Yves St. Laurent’s Classic Mondrian Collection from 1965. The dresses were inspired by the abstract paintings of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. It was featured on the cover of the September issue of French Vogue. The look became hugely popular and was copied widely.

 

 Yves St. Laurant Mondrian dress

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Lift your spirit as your rehydrate your skin

Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist is designed to restore, tone, and hydrate your skin. This refreshing mist contains rose oil, marshmallow extract, and aloe to soften your skin, as well as the natural essential oils of Rosa Cent folia and Rosa Damascena.
 
I like to keep a bottle of Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist handy to combat the drying effects of air conditioning. I spritz my face several times a day and in the evening to ward off dryness. The light scent is an instant spirit-lifter, too.
 
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Styling secrets from new show Devious Maids!

 Controversy is brewing around Lifetime’s new show Devious Maids!  
 
It is a sexy comedy-drama is about five Latina maids with dreams
and ambitions who work for wealthy families. It is loosely based on a Mexican telenovela
Ellas son la Alegría Del Hogar, or They are the Joy of Home
– a show about maids who help solve a murder. This is familiar territory for Marc Cherry, the show’s creator. Cherry shot to fame with Desperate Housewives, a show that used suburban suicide, secrets, and murder as plot devices. He and former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria are also executive producers.
 
According to reports, some members of the Latino community have condemned the show for perpetuating stereotypes. The bestselling author of the “The Dirty Girls Social Club series, Alisa Lynn Valdes, said in piece for NBCLatino.com, “It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be.”
 
Eva Longoria defended her show in an interview in the Chicago Sun Times by saying, “Latinos are over-represented among domestic workers in the United States. “That is a fact, that’s not an opinion.”
 
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Council of La Raza and the National Hispanic Media Coalition also support the show.
 
We will have to wait and see what viewers think. In the meantime, everyone agrees the cast of five well-known Latina actresses looks gorgeous!
 
The show’s head stylist, Richard Boggs, shares his secret for making the cast’s sexy tousled waves last for hours. Learn his tricks to keep your from collapsing through the steamy summer.
 
Here is what he had to say:
 
“We are so excited for the debut of Devious Maids! The show has a large cast, 15 actors. Sometimes, all working on the same day,” reveals the hair department head stylist. “So, we love working with White Sands Hair Care Products because it’s reliable and there are no surprises.
 
“When an actor steps into the trailer for a 4am call time, we shampoo and condition with White Sands Vegan Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner to thoroughly cleanse, while infusing a vital moisture balance back into each strand.
 
“This is followed up with a generous amount of White Sands Curl Up in Silk Mousse from the scalp to the ends of the hair shaft. This is a must for a 15 hour shooting day!
 
“I always stress to my staff to start from the ground up and section off one-inch partings starting at the nape area, and spray the entire head with White Sands Liquid Texture Firm Hold Thermal Styling Spray. This thermal protectant is our secret to keep styles in place on set even after a long day of shooting. Plus, the hair has an amazing glass-like sheen!
 
“With these one-inch sections prepped for hold and shine, use a large barrel curling iron, utilizing the Marcel styling technique from roots to end.”
 
Click here to see the Marcel styling technique demo
 
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Summer beach book, a “sweet” read

As Sweet Nothings begins, practical Ruby McMillan is knocked for a loop. Her husband Walter announces that he is leaving her for “the love of his life. She can’t believe that her dependable husband,
Walter, is head-over-heels for another woman, and that he is just walking out on her and their two teenaged children. But he does.
 
What really hurts is that the love of her husband’s life is not a sexy young thing but a woman her own age. And, to add insult to injury, her husband has left her in danger of losing her home by not paying the mortgage and leaving town on his lover’s yacht.
 
Ruby has to break out of her of shell to teach a pastry class and revive her failing bakery or face losing her home.
 
After a startling makeover from her fashion savvy daughter, Ruby runs into her disturbingly attractive mortgage broker. Suddenly, the practical Ruby is feeling hot and bothered. As her thoughts wander from baking to lust, Ruby wonders if she has sealed off the loving, sexy side of herself that may have kept her marriage alive.
 
In Sweet Nothings Janice Thomas captures the dilemma of many middle-aged women who lose the sweetest side of themselves as struggle to raise children and work. This book is funny, poignant, and sweet.
 
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Elegant, casual California cuisine

The beautifully-illustrated The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from the California Coast by Brigit Binns is full of recipes that are perfect for summer entertaining. The book contains recipes from family wineries as well as food artisans. Bins also weaves the area’s history throughout the book, along with personal anecdotes from contributors.
 
No one does elegant, casual outdoor entertaining better than California’s chefs and food and wine artisans.
I can’t wait to make the Grilled Peaches stuffed with Lavender-Absinthe Mascarpone, or the Grilled Lobster with Syrah Butter and Orange Sea Salt. The book is full of recipes like these, just right for a warm summer night with friends.
 
The food is simple and mostly easy to prepare (there are a few recipes that call for basic pastry skills). The appeal is in the sophisticated combination of fresh ingredients.
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Zero-calorie Lavender Lemonade

 Lavender makes this lemonade special. Use culinary lavender.Lavender lemonade is one of our all-time most popular summer recipes. This version lemonade is pretty with the lavender garnish, refreshing, and different. It is delicious plain or spiked, making it perfect for summer parties. Now I can offer you a healthy and elegant zero-calorie version of the recipe using a new natural zero-calorie sweetener from makers of Splenda. Nectresse is an all new all-natural sweetener made from Monk fruit extract and other natural sweeteners.
 
Nectresse pours and dissolves easily and has no weird aftertaste or bitterness.
 
2 cups of fresh lemon juice. Squeeze six to seven lemons (more if you use small Meyer Lemons). Buy at least 14 for a party. If you like to float slices of lemon in your lemonade, then organic is safer – and be sure to scrub them well.
2 cups of sugar or just use 1½ cups if you like it tart – and I do!
Or, for our no-cal version, add Nectresse Natural No Calorie Sweetener. It is more concentrated in sweetness than sugar so you would only use 15-20 teaspoons of Nectresse. These are 48 teaspoons in one cup of sugar. And ¼ teaspoon of Nectresse Sweetener is equal to the sweetness of 1 teaspoon of sugar. If you are using packets you can half the amount as 1 packet of Nectresse Sweetener is equal to the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar
 
Heat the lemon juice and the sugar together with one quart or liter of water, until the sweetener dissolves. If you want lavender lemonade, steep a very small bunch of lavender in a teabag, ball, or cheese cloth in the warm syrup for 5 minutes. Be sure to use organic lavender.  Remove. Split your syrup into two pitchers, add about 1½ liters/quarts of water to each and chill.
 
This lemonade also makes a perfect mixer for vodka. It is nice to make two pitchers and offer both regular and zero-calorie versions, so guests have choice.
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