Show some skin

 Darlings, summer is the time to show some skin. I don’t mean to go to the office dressed for the beach, but this is time to feel the sun on your skin and strut your stuff. So spray on your sunblock, slide into a fab summer frock or pretty top, and let that summer weather work its magic. 
Everyone is talking about the book 50 Shades of Grey these days. Some call it ‘mommy porn.’ But all the women I talk to who have read it – ages 20 and up – agree that the romance in the story is the real turn-on. No one wants the whips and chains in 50 Shades of Grey.
So darlings, get out flounce about and generate some desire.  It helps to make life sweet.
Until next week, please sign-up if you haven’t already; email your info to domore@dolcedolce.comDolceDolceis free. And please forward us to all your friends. And please give us your comments by emailing us at the same address. We want to know what you think. Please LIKE us on FACEBOOK Look for our logo! Let’s start the conversation!
Gracey Hitchcock
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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.

Reinvent yourself!

Darlings, it has never been more important to be able to reinvent yourself. People who want to label you really want to control and restrict you, so avoid them. Life is sweet when you are free to become the woman you always wanted to be. 

Until next week, please sign-up if you haven’t already. Email your info to DolceDolce is free. And please forward us to all your friends. And please give us your comments by emailing us at the same address. We want to know what you think. Please LIKE us on FACEBOOK Look for our logo! Let’s start the conversation!
Gracey Hitchcock
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© DolceDolce® 2011
All DolceDolce content is copyright

Never get too comfortable

Darlings, never get too comfortable. Being too relaxed can kill your mystique and your relationships. Keep the bathroom door closed, make an effort to look nice even when relaxing at home, and treat your friends and family as nicely as you do strangers. Boundaries are good things. Even if no one says so, too many “confessions” can make many people uncomfortable. Feel free to bare your soul, but only with your very best friends or family members – and only if they are discreet. Otherwise, save something!

Until next week, please sign-up if you haven’t already, email your info to  DolceDolceis free. And please forward us to all your friends. And please give us your comments by emailing us at the same address. We want to know what you think. Please LIKE us on FACEBOOK Look for our logo ! Let’s start the conversation!
Gracey Hitchcock
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© DolceDolce® 2011
All DolceDolce content is copyright

When to fly solo

Author's lounge in the historic Mandarian Oriental Bangkok - once home to Somerset Maugham and Liz TaylorI want comfort and location when I travel. I have a fetish for posh hotels. I get a deep discount on their steep rates by shopping well. I don’t stay at beds-and-breakfasts. I have tried a few and they are not my style. My husband doesn’t like them either. In some cities, I might choose a slightly grand hotel, if it has a location to die for, but you can bet it won’t be a dump.

I want my own room and my own bath — so I am seldom a house guest.
Spoiled? Maybe, but I know what makes me happy.
Are you planning a summer getaway with friends? It may seem like a good idea when some one floats it over drink, after a good dinner. Think again. Travelling with friends can ruin a costly vacation, and worse, it can end a good friendship.
Vacationing successfully with others demands compromise and discipline. Ask yourself if that is really how you want to spend your vacation. I know it is not how I like to spend mine. Don’t get me wrong, darlings, I enjoy time with friends for a weekend or a few days. I love to have houseguests and enjoy pampering them. But when I travel, I want to do it my way.
I love elegant old hotels with history. I find them romantic, but not everyone shares my fascination. If friends don’t exhale with pleasure when entering the impeccable and historic Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, why pressure them to stay there? If they are not soothed by the flawless understated service and entranced by the hotel’s fascinating history they will just resent the bill.
My hotel and the ambience of the neighbourhood I stay in are intrinsic parts of my trip. I like to steep myself in the history and culture of the area before I leave. I will have read dozens of histories and biographies before my departure. When I arrive I want to “sink” in to the place and soak it up. Some people find this approach delicious; others think it is torture. As the French say — chacun à son goût — each to his own taste.
A couple of dear friends visited us in Moscow. The husband is a brilliant, very busy doctor. He has many hobbies, but still managed to brush up on Russian art and culture. He even learned to speak some serviceable Russian so he could get out on his own. His wife was also was also well-versed on the culture. Our intellectual staff went mad for them.
Other friends visited us in Moscow, also doctors. A busy couple with children, they barely had time pack their suitcases — never mind reading up on anything. We scheduled more tours for them and hit a famous Moscow night club. They had a fabulous time and we had fun hosting them. The key was letting the all do want they wanted.
When we travel, my husband likes a full English breakfast. He goes off and eats it in some small local places. He often brings me back something small, or I eat a little cheese and fruit in my room while I dress. Even when an early morning departure is on the schedule, as it often is in Asia or Africa, I prefer a quiet, leisurely morning. This eccentricity is easier when you are a just a couple. It also makes it easier to schedule afternoon naps and decide if you want a light dinner in local joint instead of an elaborate meal because you need a night off. I find it is the small daily decisions about dining and scheduling that chaff on travellers. After all, friends can usually agree that everyone wants to visit the major attractions or hang out at the beach.
The fabulous Taj Rambaugh Palace in Jaipur --I love the luxury and historyA friend has told me I am spoiled and need to relax my rules. I still like her, but I am not about to try it her way. Her attitude amuses me; she and her husband often vacation with friends. After each vacation they have a litany of complaints against their traveling companions. I have learned to say little, as after a few months the acrimony blows over. Sometimes they even decide to do it again.
As we have mutual friends, I have often heard the story of their bittersweet getaways from both sides. It seems everyone tries to get his or her own way about everything all the time. When they don’t, they view the others as “selfish.”
Another dear friend vacationed for years with another couple. Both couples are foodies and spend freely for a good time. But my friends often felt pressured when the other couple demanded a five-star dinner every night. It burdened their waistlines and budget, but the other couple sulked at the suggestion of taking a night off from their “Michelin Guide regime.” No one was being deliberately demanding or insensitive, but no one really wanted to compromise. Even a week can be too long to go along with things you don’t want to do, especially when you are paying for them.
It is easy to be accommodating for a weekend or few days, especially is if everyone is easy-going. Be careful about vacationing with friends with forceful personalities no matter how much you like them at home. They will try to boss you — and it may be hard to resist their managing gracefully.
Traveling together can work out beautifully for some young families and couples. Sharing resources can help stretch tight budgets. To make it work, be sure expectations are clearly understood. These arrangements are best for those who have similar discipline, dining, and housekeeping styles. We vacationed with friends on Cape Cod for years. There was never a problem. Sometimes we took a house nearby, and once or twice we stayed together. Everyone had impeccable manners and similar expectations. Bliss!
Whether you decide to keep group travel to short weekend getaways as I do, or decide to brave a longer trip, here are some rules to make it go smoothly and keep friendships intact:
Assume nothing
Your friends may not want to stay at the same type of hotel as you. They may take taxis or buses to save money. Find out before you go. There is no reason to stay the same hotel. People also want to use their points, so why force too much togetherness? Discuss everything — dining, touring, etc. — before you decide to go. Do not assume. If there are too many differences, you many want to travel alone and stay friends.
Carry your own bag
Problems and resentment brew when friends impose on each other when travelling. Don’t stand back and let friends carry bags or do other small tasks for you. They may oblige because they were brought up well, but after a time they will resent it. Be a grownup. Be prepared to take care of yourself. Be respectful, your friend is not your servant.
Pay your own bill
Unless you are specifically invited in advance and explicitly to be a guest, pay your own bill. Learn to divvy up and tip correctly quickly and quietly. That’s how real ladies do it.
Speak up
Learn to state your preferences clearly. Don’t sulk or complain later.
Be independent
Travelling together for adults doesn’t mean that you are joined at the hip. Take a few hours off to rest if you are tried. Go see an exhibit or cooking demo alone if no one else wants to go. This does not mean you should dump you friends – that’s bad form.
Don’t dump your friends
This applies to women travelling together especially.No one likes to get dumped. Unless you and your friend have an arrangement about meeting men before leaving home, don’t ask your friend if she minds if you leave her alone to go out with the new guy you just met. She did not plan a trip with you so she could sit alone. And a gentleman, understanding the situation, would include your friend in any invitation rather than leave her stranded for the evening. And she would insist on paying her check and then tactfully leave you two alone after dinner.
A vacation is for rest and relaxation. Travelling can be one of the most enjoyable pastimes in life, so learn to do it well. Friends are precious, but not all friendships travel well. So darlings, learn to distinguish good travelling companions from a bad –and learn when it is best to fly solo.

Happily ever after?

According to Michelle Cove, the author of Seeking Happily Ever After, many women today are redefining the meaning of personal happiness. No longer does a rich, full life necessarily mean marriage and children. In her book and documentary film, she examines the lifestyle variations  of  modern woman. She also discusses how to find your own definition of ‘happily ever after’. The book has good tips for dealing with the other peoples’ expectations – well meaning or not – when a woman isn’t happily married by 30. Whether you are a single woman or the mother or friend of one, do not miss a word of this illuminating interview.

DD: Why did you decide to write your book?
MC: I’d gathered three years of research about single women and their needs, having created the feature-length documentary seeking Happily Ever After: One generation’s struggle to redefine the fairytale ( The film is meant to ask questions and provoke viewers. But I wanted to go a step further and try to answer some of the questions that came up during interviews, such as: “How do I know what I even want for myself when everyone says marriage is the answer?” And practical questions including “What will I do if I need medical care and am alone?” or “How can I protect myself financially as a single woman?” I hope women will see with this book that their concerns are completely normal and there are concrete things they can do about them.
DD: Do you think women have a hard time knowing what they want or like in a lifestyle or relationship because they have been programmed to think they need to be married or in a relationship
MC: Absolutely, we still live in a society where weddings are considered the finish line. Even though there are more single women than ever, most still feel the stigma that says there is something wrong with them because they aren’t on the path to marriage and babies. But it is slowly changing. I am meeting more and more women, for instance, who feel they can voice the fact that they don’t want to have children – and it doesn’t mean they don’t like children. It’s starting to become a valid option.
Michelle CoveDD: Why do women like bad boys so much, even when they have been hurt by them?
MC: Well, certainly there are women who unfortunately don’t feel they deserve better for themselves for whatever emotional reasons. I think, too, there are women who simply seek drama and excitement because their lives are feeling a little flat. Bad boys get the adrenaline going. But there are so many smarter ways to add excitement – travel, sign up for a class you’re passionate about, apply for a challenging job, learn how to rock climb. Bad boys are all effort, no payback.
DD: Do you think that single women today are stigmatized?
MC: Definitely. In fact, this year Live Science conducted a study about this topic. Researchers interviewed 32 middle-class, never-married women over age 30 and found that these women feel they still have to justify why they are single. I think a lot of married people still see single women as a project and want to “fix them,” which is just ridiculous! In the book, I tell readers that there is no need to play along with being someone’s project.
DD: Why do so many women seem to have a hard time finding “good” men to date, when they want to date?
MC: I think a lot of it has to do with figuring out what makes a good man for YOU. Much of my book is centered on helping women understand why they are attracted to certain types of men and how that is working out for them, and figuring out what kind of men might be better for them. It’s easy to “fall hard” for an attractive guy. It takes much more thought and effort to make wise choices about who to date and then make sure to keep your eyes open. It’s actually the opposite of “falling.”
DD: Are many women prepared to be single – financially or emotionally? Do we educate women for this option?
MC: Financially, yes – at least among the college-educated women I interviewed around the country. There are more women in college today than men, more women buying their own homes and establishing careers for themselves. Emotionally, I think we can better prepare women for being single. In both my documentary and book, I encourage women to really think about what “happily ever after” looks like to them today as adults, and teach them how to tune into their own needs. The more women learn to do this, the better their chances for being fulfilled -and this is true for both single and married women.