Always Be Overdressed

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed.

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed. After 20+ years in the US, where yoga wear is considered stylish outside of the yoga studio, and sneakers are worn off the running path, I have had to create a daily motto for myself to maintain these Swiss standards in my appearance. 

Dressing (up) is not about pretention or vanity, but about how I present myself to the world, and hence, how I behave. Every occasion is made more special by a nice dress or powerful pant suit and the perfect pair of shoes. I reminded myself of this yesterday when I had a 3:30 am wakeup time to fly across the country for meetings. All I wanted to do was to wear comfortable (of course presentable) clothes, but I reminded myself that in particular because of my wake-up time, it behooved me to pay extra attention to my outfit.

Why? 

1. When I dress up, I want to live up to my outfit. If I look good, if I feel beautiful, I want to behave that way. I am less likely to be rude when I am wearing fancy shoes. I am more likely to smile and be polite when I am wearing a fancy dress. After all, when I dress up, I am putting my best self forward – and my behavior needs to be coherent with my appearance. 

2. When I dress up, when I look good, people compliment me on my outfit. That means two things. First, I am happy and I feel good about myself, so I am nicer. Second, I smile and say thank you after each compliment, and the more I smile the easier it is to keep smiling (no matter my wakeup time). 

3. When my husband and I both dress up for date night, I feel that we are doing something special for each other – we are putting effort into how we look, for each other. That makes me feel good, like he did something for me, which in turn makes me act nicer, and less likely to pick a fight. It also makes it harder to pick a fight because he looks so good!  

Somehow, how I dress really does make a difference in how I feel, and thus how I act. It is not about expensive clothes. It is not about vanity. I have come to think of it more as a uniform. When I put on something dressy, I am putting on my “best behavior uniform.” And it works every time… 

Tom Landry’s tips on Home Decor

My home is my sanctuary, my little slice of peace and quiet. In true European spirit, I am a fan of smaller spaces (my apartment is about 1,300 square feet), I love anything old, including old buildings (the row house I live in was built in 1901) and antique furniture, and I am a minimalist, a true believer in the less is more philosophy.

My home is my sanctuary, my little slice of peace and quiet. In true European spirit, I am a fan of smaller spaces (my apartment is about 1,300 square feet), I love anything old, including old buildings (the row house I live in was built in 1901) and antique furniture, and I am a minimalist, a true believer in the less is more philosophy. My friend and interior decorator, Tom Landry, has helped me over the years to make my house my home, make my office feel like my brand; his taste is completely in line with mine and he could be an adopted European, even though he is a New Orleanian.

AP: I hope you don’t mind that I am quintessentially European in my taste…

TL:  On the contrary! Europeans embrace design in a less trendy way. In the most unsuspecting of environments, design is at the forefront yet always in an understated, but highly sophisticated manner. I believe this is due to Europeans’ significant history, homogenous population, minimal physical space. Europeans also seem more apt to embrace foreign influences in design (because travel is perhaps more accessible or part of your way of life).  There are many simple things one can do to evoke a more European aesthetic in your surroundings, as the basis for most of today’s European homes is simplicity in color and formality.

AP: What are 5 things everyone should have in their home?

TL:

  1. One piece of art, you love no matter its origin, market value
  2. At least one beautiful mirror or many to reflect the energy of your home
  3. A family heirloom or antique
  4. Books (even if you don’t read)
  5. Someone you love

AP: What are 5 things everyone should throw away right now?

TL:

  1. Any object that is a replica of something living such as a plant or animal (yes, even if its 100% silk of a hide of another animal- like a Zebra printed cowhide)
  2. Ceiling Fans (have we not air conditioning systems in this day and age?!?!)
  3. Anything without a purpose (purpose however is not necessarily functional but can also be visual stimulation)
  4. Common trendy or reproduced objects are the epitome of poor taste!
  5. Potpourri (and yes, it does still exist)

AP: What are 5 affordable fixes to implement today?

TL:

  1. Painting (whether the walls, mill work or a large canvas painted a color that evokes your senses)
  2. Re-arranging of existing objects, furniture, art (can truly transform a space several times over with the same items); I have always said that our physical surroundings should never be sterile or immobile but should be much like that of our lives, in perpetual motion
  3. Lighting (the simple changing of a bulb type can transform a space, I love Reveal light bulbs for incandescent applications)
  4. Pillows (change colors at any time by bringing in fresh new color with a few solid accessory pillows)
  5. Changing cabinetry door fronts and/or hardware

AP: What are 5 splurges to save and enjoy for the rest of your life?

TL:

  1. A single piece of art, large or small that you obsess over after first encounter and begin to have an affair with in your mind
  2. A grand piano, even if you don’t play, lacquered ebony pianos are so incredibly beautiful
  3. A well designed sofa, of the Italian sort, one that can grow old with you and your surroundings, whether traditional or contemporary
  4. A mirror; mirrors reflect beauty not only of the human reflection but of the space that which surrounds the human reflection; how better can you enjoy your surroundings than to see yourself actually “in” them?
  5. A bookcase or shelving  (to house all that you cherish, collect and wish to display over your lifetime); I can always tell so much about someone when I visit their shelving, it’s like a visual biography of the person’s life

AP: 5 tips to make any room look good?

TL: In order for a home to look good, it must feel good and smell good. It is essential for the dweller(s) to walk into a room and feel completely comfortable sitting on any surface, placing a drink or book on any surface and being able to stay in that room without feeling anxiousness. Once this this functional quality is achieved, the aesthetic qualities must be considered and should be relative to the specific dwellers. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind… If you feel relaxed, content and safe, the design of your home has reached its ultimate objective.

My favorite quote is by Jean Luc Godard …. “It’s not about where you take things from, but where you take them to.” Objects, furnishings and art can come from any source, whether it be a market in Paris, a corner store in San Antonio or in a pile of rubbish on the side of the road in Haiti, what is most relevant is the emotional connection you make with such things.  This is highly personal and often times inexplicable.  Where you take whatever it may be that you have purchased into your personal realm for aesthetic and at times, functional pleasure is essentially how you reincarnate it.  A $2 bowl at a flea market may appear like a $500 bowl if placed atop the right table which matters to no one but seems to have relevance in today’s society; that same $2 bowl may give you a sense of joy each time you see it for no other reason but the feeling it invoked the first time your eye came upon it.

In general, here are some tips that work all around the house:

– Fresh flowers (or even just greenery cut from your own garden) in a clear vase or bottle brings life to any environment

– Low voltage lighting on dimmer (track or recessed) gives a clean clear light that brings life to the space even in the darkest of hours

– A scented candle (Tocca’s Grace or Stella are my favorites)

If you are looking for tips for specific rooms, here is my list.

Kitchen 

  • Keep the area clean and crisp, clutter-free, let the fruit, vegetables or food you are preparing take center stage
  • Fresh fruit or herbs keeps the kitchen feeling warm and inviting
  • Natural light brings the outdoors in; we consume fruits of the land and sea, we should prepare these in an light filled environment that is respectful of their origin
  • If your sink faces a wall, place a mirror behind it to reflect the happenings behind you

Living room 

  • Always anchor the space with a single main focal point (view, fireplace, art or even media) and build outward from that focal
  • Ambient lighting provides for a mood change and can either be used during the evening or when raining out
  • A fireplace of some sort whether it be conventional wood burning, gas or an eco-fireplace, is essential: a flame brings a comforting intimacy to a space like no other element

Dining room

  • A dining room should be a place to share with family and guests; make it inviting by lessening the formality of the space and focusing on the how those who use the space are able to comfortably enjoy the space with one another (design the table without head chairs, lessen the width of the table allowing for more intimate conversing, provide sufficient and direct lighting over the table with ambient lighting at the surround)

Bedroom

  • Ample ambient lighting (lamps), for soothing light
  • Sumptuous bed linens that are to be used, rather than seen and removed before sleep 

     

Bathroom

  • Roll your bath towels for a spa like look
  • If the ceilings are low, use a long slender mirror above your sink to give the illusion of height
  • Keep counter surfaces clean and clutter free by storing your personal items away
  • Don’t dismiss art’s relevance to this space, no matter how small

 

AP: What are your 5 favorite home organizational resources?

TL:

  1. apartmenttherapy.com (someone always, always has an idea that makes me wonder, how in the world did they think of that?)
  2. Never underestimate the power of Ikea when it comes to home organizational items and ideas on how to organize
    1. European design magazines, European design magazines and more European design magazines! My first design professor told me that there is no better text book than to learn or be inspired from what others have done and magazines are the best source of relevant information; if I had to live on $800 a month, I would budget $200 just for magazines.  Find the Elle Decor from the country that which matches your own personal style (EDItaly is more clean and mod, EDGreat Britain tends to be more eclectic with spaces appearing more lived in, EDGermany is more serious, EDSpain has a tendency to focus on the outdoors). Ok, so maybe not just Europe…. The Australian Vogue Living is my single favorite. It is the perfect marriage between the European and American aesthetic.  Living (the GB version) is a great magazine as well.  I also have an obsession with Monocole, a British publication that combines fashion, interiors, architecture, politics, and design under one cover.  As you can see, I am a magazine whore and do not hide it., you can find magazines in every room of my home. The Home Series, a paperback book collection that has been published annually by Le Figaro for Ma Déco (Or Beta Plus) and can be purchased online is an incredible source of inspiration for European home design.  The series is broken into various titles such as Kitchens, Bathrooms, Living, Designer Spaces. While they are published annually, the imagery is timeless. These books are invaluable no matter how old the publication.
  3. Due to the many ideas that can come from a single magazine, dog tailing page edges proves frustrating and when searching for that one bedroom image, for instance, you love, so I take the pages from those magazines and place them into black sketch books, titled, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, libraries, stairwells, etc.  This is a great way to reference inspiration without having to go through 100 magazines in search of that one specific image.  OK, perhaps it’s a bit like Pinterest, but I prefer to have the image in my hand… there is nothing like holding a book or a photo in hand for me.
  4. Another person: when faced with home organization dilemmas clients face, I believe having another set of completely objective eyes come in is the best way to come up with a solution. We bury ourselves in too many issues when dealing with organizing our personal items because of emotions attached to the organization of such items whereas someone who has no emotional bond to those can come up with a method and system that allows not only you but anyone to find an item in a simple logical way.

AP: What are your decorating pet peeves?

TL: Love this question, I am not going to hold back…  

  1. The placing of objects of any sort on a surface diagonally
  2. A sofa designed so deep that you cannot comfortably sit without laying down (beds are for sleeping)
  3. A display of family photos all about a home (find one place or two, and if you can’t remember what the person looks like, then they aren’t that important to display); also the giant seemingly life-sized photographs of family- again, really?
  4. Head chairs; I like my guests to feel as if they are “at home” when dining with us, head chairs invoke an air of superiority
  5. Lamp shades that are not bright white (other than of course, Mooi’s use of black shades with gold liners)
  6. Use of fluorescent lighting (anywhere!)
  7. Inadequate (dim, yellow hue) lighting (reminds me of a funeral parlor)
  8. Double welting on upholstered pieces (if the fabric is too stiff for a single, then it doesn’t belong on furniture)
  9. Crown molding (I detest when a real estate agent mentions this, please)
  10. Rugs that are too small for a setting
  11. Wire hangers in a closet
  12. Bathroom: anything other than the color bright white for the water closet, sink
  13. Bathroom: printed shower curtains; use glass or use a simple white curtain
  14. Anything other than solid white dish ware
  15. Anything other than white towels, solid bright white (white invokes sense of cleanliness)
  16. Anything other than white sheets
  17. TVs hung over a fireplace (find another place or room, the fire should be the focal point, not a flat screen television!)
  18. Lack of seating in a bedroom (always a chair, at least to sit and put shoes on)
  19. Lack of mirror in each room (a reflected surface is perhaps the most important element to a room)
  20. Art that is hung too high (art should be hung so that the viewer is looking at the middle of the piece)
  21. Tchotskies on top of a grand piano (the piano itself is beautiful, why cover it?)
  22. Candles that which have not been burned once in candlesticks; at least give the appearance that the candlesticks are actually used!
  23. A theme to a room
  24. Thick drinking glasses (I don’t want to feel like I am at a gym when having a drink)
  25. Clutter on bathroom or kitchen counter (don’t display your “intimates” to your guests, they don’t need to know your regimen or lack thereof)
  26. OK, I am not sure if I even should mention, tab top curtains, sheers, furniture arm covers, colored matting on framed art, granite counter surfaces, 4″ splash in kitchen (surface to surface, don’t trip the eye!), anything other than chrome on plumbing fixtures (and no, do not match the plumbing fixtures to lighting fixtures), faux arches, vaulted ceilings (unless original to an old home), Berber carpet (so 90’s), carpet in bathrooms (gross)… and the list goes on but I must stop!

 

Summer

Today is the first official day of Summer, the longest and one of the most magical days of the year. Summer vacation is on my mind, as I leave tomorrow for two weeks of rest and relaxation…

Today is the first official day of Summer, the longest and one of the most magical days of the year. Summer vacation is on my mind, as I leave tomorrow for two weeks of rest and relaxation…

Here are our four favorite summer destinations.

Roxane:

The island of Reunion, where I spent my honeymoon. I love islands because they usually combine hiking and the ocean in one single venue. Born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, I have always had water (Lac Leman) and mountains close to me, making both an essential component of my well-being. On vacation, I look for the same combination with the addition of sun, heat, sand, beaches, and waves. I love to be active and hike in the middle of nature and could never spend all day lying on the beach tanning (you know, my dad’s a dermatologist…). But when it gets too hot, there is nothing like ending the day by having fun in the ocean. The true luxury for me is not having to drive hours between the hikes and the ocean but having everything close by.

Rachel:

Sailing (pretty much anywhere). I wake up every morning grateful for my life and all the beautiful places I have had the privilege to visit. Yet the one place I dream of when I think of summer vacation is a sailing boat. Whether I’m alone with my fiancé, or with my daughter, or with friends… I am never as free as on a boat. Right there, admiring the sunset or the sunrise, I feel surrounded by my version of ultimate luxury: time, beauty, and space. 

  • Time takes on a different dimension, a different meaning, on a sailing boat: it flies at a very different pace – very slowly most of the time until suddenly something happens… 
  • I feel goosebumps whenever I recall the beauty of nature. Whether you snorkel or enjoy a solitary sunrise… the beauty of what surrounds you never leaves you indifferent. 
  • Space is the third magical ingredient, just as paradoxical as that of time: the boat is small but the sea immense and its grandeur never fails to surprise you. 

The moments I have spent on a boat are amongst the fondest and most serene I have. I cannot wait to go sailing again. 

Cyrille:

Italy. When I set foot on this land so dear to my heart, I instantly feel at home as much as on vacation. I could write a whole book about the reasons why… here are just a few:

  • Fruits and vegetables actually taste like they should.
  • There is at least one beautiful Piazza adorned with flowers and a fountain in the center each village
  • By just walking around, eyes wide open, you see the equivalent of ten art and history museum collections.
  • The language is heartwarming and melodious.
  • The concept of Aperitivo is so much more than having an after work drink…

I must say I have never had an unpleasant experience in Italy. And to be totally honest, there are 3 factors that definitely work in my favor: I am half Italian and I have learned the language; I have blond hair and blue eyes (through the eyes of Italian men, it makes you feel like an angel, a queen, a jewel…); I am a “Mamma” of an adorable boy (all Italians love kids, and all mammas are greatly respected).

Me:

The Cyclades. We started going to the Cyclades when I was little, thanks to my maternal grandparents who decided to live there for a couple of years (because my grandfather was a professor of Greek language and philosophy), and to me, this remains the most magical place on Earth. The sea is salty, cold, and clear (like Roxane, I need to be near water). The island is quiet and calm, and time takes on a different meaning (like Rachel, I need a change of pace). The food is authentic and mostly from the island, grown in the gardens behind tavernas (like Cyrille, I crave the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables).  

What is your favorite summer vacation destination?

Jewelry Styles for Music Festivals

It’s that time of year. Jazz Fest time. Just like people in New Orleans have a costume closet (for the many occasions this city offers to dress up), people in New Orleans have a festival closet (for the many music festivals this city hosts). And an outfit is never complete without the right piece(s) of jewelry, which inspired me to reach out New Orleans BFF and jewelry designer Ashley Porter, the creative force behind Porter Lyons. Here are her recommendations for festivaling in (jewelry) style.

It’s that time of year. Jazz Fest time. Just like people in New Orleans have a costume closet (for the many occasions this city offers to dress up), people in New Orleans have a festival closet (for the many music festivals this city hosts). And an outfit is never complete without the right piece(s) of jewelry, which inspired me to reach out New Orleans BFF and jewelry designer Ashley Porter, the creative force behind Porter Lyons. Here are her recommendations for festivaling in (jewelry) style.

Ashley’s Do’s

  1. Layer like Woah! It is haute to wear a large choker necklace and layer with a long 32” pendant, stack your fingers high with rings and layer on the arm swag. (Insert Picture of the 3 girls)
  2. Mix Metals. Whether it’s silver, the range of gold K’s, hematite, or rose it’s a geaux. You want to make sure you keep the finishes so they all work effortlessly together. Think different sizes and shapes.
  3. Ear Cuffs: Go Faux. Forever fading is the commitment to an actual piercing with the increased illusion of being pierced.
  4. Finish the look with a fresh gel manicure & some nail art. Use your imagination to come up with a design, or to follow @madnails to get inspiration – love MOD nails, or the ‘fat French’
  5. As long as you feel comfortable and confident, you can never lose.

Ashley’s Don’ts

  1. Wear NO jewelry. It’s such a fun way to express your style and add an additional dimension to your look. Each piece can tell a story and set off your outfit with some metal texture.
  2. Wear the real stuff. We all know that shit happens. Whether you’re dancing, laying in the grass, and/or making out with some beaux, don’t worry your mind about losing your small fortunes.
  3. Midi Rings. Guaranteed to fly off, and with the risk of being Mean Girl-esque, “They were so last year”.
  4. Forget your SPF…You don’t want to be ‘that girl’ looking like a lobster because you negated the sunscreen.
  5. Stress about your hair. It’s most like going to be hot, dusty and humid. Whether your hair is naturally curly or straight, let that mane run wild and throw in a braid or two to give it some shape.
  6. Don’t wear necklaces if you are going to be jump-dancing; they bounce around too much…

How to blow dry your hair and other tips from Tatum Neill

I was born into a skin family, and married into a hair family. I was born into a family of all sisters, and married into a family of mostly brothers. I can’t think of better combinations. This is top of mind today as I am on my way to Chicago for America’s Beauty Show, and will see my brother Tatum on stage doing hair, and deejay (yes, another amazing combination) during his ElevateHair Show on Sunday evening (along with many other amazing artists, including Holly Pistas of Gordon Salons).

I am reminded of the below conversation I had with Tatum early on, picking his brain about the life of a hairstylist. Today, being behind the chair (at Paris Parker Salons) is only part of Tatum’s role. He launched ElevateHair shows and branded tools, teaches haircutting at Neill Corporation, and is the North America Artistic Director, Social Media, for Aveda. And yes, he’s my brother – and yes, he’s cut my hair and my sisters’ hair (Roxane said he might have given her the best short haircut of her life).

AP: What do you recommend clients do to ensure getting the best possible haircut when going to the salon?

TN: Do not use your previous stylist’s language; each hairdresser has their own way of talking about things, so don’t get tied up with the lingo. What I appreciate the most is when people bring a few pictures of what they are looking for. Pictures are worth a thousand words. The tricky part about images is that sometimes the hair has more to do with the styling than with the cut… so always be open to your hairdresser’s recommendations.

AP: As a hairdresser, what are your pet peeves?

TN: Turtle necks and lip gloss. When my clients come in wearing a turtle neck, it’s hard to cleanly get to the hairline, and impedes the cut. And if I need to trim your bangs and you are wearing sticky lip gloss, the hair ends up on your lips and it creates a mess. Of course, like any hairdresser, while I appreciate some direction from my clients, I don’t like it when clients want to direct me too much…

AP: Razor or no razor?

TN: The thing about a razor is that it needs to be new and sharp. Razors dull really quickly, and that is why razor cuts are sometimes bad. Also, it is essential to only use a razor when hair is wet or damp.

AP: Thoughts on at-home product use?

TN: Where do I start… typically, clients have three main concerns for at-home care: moisture, body, and shine. So you usually want a trifecta of products: for curly hair, you need to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to control the curl, and a product to hold the curl; for straight hair, you want to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to add body, and a product to add shine.

The challenge is that nourishing products (ranging from conditioners to masks to oils) will compromise body, so it’s all about balance. The hardest hair type to recommend product for is dry fine hair (think most colored blondes for example…). For that type of hair, a lighter moisturizing agent is essential as otherwise your hair will be nourished, but weighed down. Coarser hair can use thicker moisturizing products of course. It’s also key to show people how much product to actually use. I find that most of my clients will underuse product at home, only using about 1/3rd of the recommended amount.  Regardless of product, however, I always remind my clients that no matter what they put in their hair, hair is like skin; what you put in your body will affect your hair. I hate to say this, but when styling runway models, I can always tell from their hair which ones eat and which ones don’t…

AP: What is something few of your clients know?

TN: While it is generally known that pregnant women have thicker hair, and that once the baby arrives, hair thins out, people don’t usually extrapolate from that to the general fact that hormones affect your hair. Not just during pregnancy… during your cycle, during menopause, etc. And this is true not just for women of course. Men’s hair will be affected by their hormones also.

AP: Any tips about blow drying?

TN: I find that most people blow dry their hair the same way they did as when they were 12, i.e. head upside down, blow air all around, with the end goal being drying the hair. There is not a lot of consciousness about the direction of the hair. When you are upside down, most of the air and heat is focused at the nape of the neck, so you end up bottom heavy in terms of volume. Instead, you want most of the volume on the crown, so you should focus the air and heat there. And remember to always blow dry in the direction of the cuticle, to help seal it (which will give you shine); again, that is harder to do when your head is upside down. Remember also that if your roots are wet yet your ends are dry and smooth, the water will end up moving down the hair shaft from the roots to the ends, which will eliminate that nice dry smoothness. That means you need to make sure your roots are dry first, before drying the ends.

Also, next time you go see your stylist, ask him or her to show you how to hold your blow dryer; most people have never been coached on this, and are trying to figure it out by themselves, and you would be amazed what a difference a slight tilt of the wrist will make! Another typical mistake is not to blow dry your hair completely. The recommendation is to blow dry your hair until it is 100% dry, even if you have curly hair. Until the hair is totally dry, the hydrogen bonds that shape it are not set. Same thing if you are letting your hair air dry: your hair needs to be left alone for as long as possible, until it is 100% dry. If you play with it too much you can cause frizz (because touching it breaks the hydrogen bonds and that is what causes frizz).

My favorite blow dryers are made by Parlux – specifically the Alyon. No one makes a dryer like the Italians… I want a blow dryer that gets really hot and has strong wind velocity, so that heat is evaporating the water, while the wind makes the process faster.

AP: What about flatirons and curling irons?

TN: The most important thing to realize about flatirons is that a professional flatiron needs to go up to 450 degrees to be used during permanent or semi-permanent straightening treatments. At that heat, the hair will be chemically altered. What this means is that for at-home use, you need to make sure that your flatiron has good temperature control. Don’t ever use it about 400 degrees when doing your hair at home. I actually recommend a low to mid 300 temperature range. Hotter in this case is not better. 400+ degrees is for the hair professional only. The concept is the same for curling irons, but it is harder to find a curling iron with temperature control capability. So do the following test, carefully of course: set your tool on a piece of paper; it if scorches it, it’s too hot for your hair.

Click here to hear more from Tatum.

Mardi Gras

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street.

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which starts on January 6th.
  2. The actual Mardi Gras day depends on when Easter falls (which depends on the Moon). This means that Carnival season can be as short as a month or as long as two.
  3. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold.
  4. The foods of Mardi Gras season are delicious, and fast – given that no one has time for a sit-down meal: King Cake, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, and one pot Louisiana dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo.
  5. King Cake is the Louisiana version of Galette des Rois. In New Orleans, the two best sources of said King Cake are Gambinos and Dong Phuong (at a recent taste test at my friend Angie’s house, Dong Phuong won hands down). It is not possible to eat King Cake after Fat Tuesday.
  6. Krewes are Carnival organizations that exist solely for the purpose of putting on parades and balls during Carnival season.
  7. Costumes are de rigueur during this weekend. Most New Orleans residents have entire costume closets, and costumes don’t necessarily represent specific characters (one year I dressed up as the color purple).
  8. Mardi Gras day is followed by Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
  9. The Mardi Gras rules of our household are the following:
    1. Me first.
    2. No plans.
    3. Always have something to drink in your hand.
    4. No breaking up.
    5. No fighting.
    6. Everyone is welcome.
    7. If one partakes in the revelry of Mardi Gras, one must give up something for Lent. (I am still trying to figure out what to give up on Wednesday).

Happy Mardi Gras weekend y’all!

Polar Vortex

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

Here is what I learned.

  • Arctic temperatures make people kinder. My girlfriend Kirby who lives in Chicago once told me the same thing: “In the freezing temperatures, we all come together. It’s like a bonding experience.” I guess everyone is suffering so much from the cold, we all decide to be nicer because we realize everyone else is also suffering so much from the cold.
  • Floor to ceiling windows are lovely. Except during a polar vortex. My hotel room could not get warm no matter the setting on the thermostat.
  • Gloves were my most prized possession this week. Along with the travel size of our Dry skin balm. Freezing hands are red, shriveled, old-looking, not attractive.
  • On that note, I need to invest in a pair of touchscreen gloves. My fingers almost froze while trying to text outside.
  • My lips looked as shriveled as my hands. I use Aveda Lip Saver and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream on a regular basis, but had to do something more. I was recommended the VenEffect Anti-aging Lip Treatment and it helped. Or maybe I was just looking for a reason to buy an anti-aging lip product…
  • This cold is no joke on my skin. Redness from the freezing cold. Dryness from the heated indoors. Discomfort all around. Hydration, nourishment, oils, heavy creams. Thank you Kantic Brightening moisture mask (which I slept in twice this week), Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream, and Vintner’s Daughter facial oil.

Stay warm. Build a fire if you can. Have a hot toddy. Hug someone. And have a great weekend!

Gift Giving Guide

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.”

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.” (I have three of them on my list…)

For your significant other: Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummins. (With the promise of a live reading by candlelight)

For your dad: Smartphone Film Scanner. (So all of those pictures of you as a baby can make it to his phone instead of being relegated to a cardboard box at the bottom of a closet)

For your mom (in particular if, like mine, she loves art and espresso): Color Lab espresso cups.

For your brother (or brother-in-law): a top of the line double-edged razor. (And for an even smoother shave, add Alchimie Forever Antioxidant skin repair gel)

For your sister (or sister-in-law): a gorgeous sparkly clutch that will take her from day to night.

For your best friend (or for your mother-in-law who has everything), this hand-beaded silk chiffon bib necklace is the perfect accessory, and it won’t be one that all of her friends have.

For your co-worker, the most beautiful candle from the unique NYC boutique Aedes de Venustas, which smells as delicious as it looks.

For your secret Santa: a bottle of Bourbon and these will for sure help him/her stay warm throughout the winter.

For that special person on your list who has everything, these two options always enchant: an artsy iPhone case, and a beautiful notepad.

Tips For a Successful Boudoir Photo Shoot

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

I am always referred to as the most “conservative” of the Polla sisters. Not politically perhaps, but certainly when it comes to “those things.” (Indeed, Rachel might be at the opposite spectrum of the Polla sisters, I am sure you read her latest blog post…).

Sometimes, however, the “crazy Polla” side of me comes out. For example, a couple of years ago, I did something I never thought I would do – a boudoir photo shoot. I was inspired by seeing the boudoir photos of one of my best friends, who is beautiful and looked absolutely stunning. My excuse was that it was a gift for my husband, but in the end, it was a gift for myself. I am pretty sure I look at those pictures more than he does. Often to remind myself that I look fabulous and sometimes to help motivate myself to go to the gym.

Should you decide this is something you wish to try, here are some tips, from actress and Stript brand ambassador Rachel Sterling (I love these women named Rachel!). We met in LA not too long ago and caught up over a glass of wine. Boudoir photos came up (don’t ask why), so I couldn’t help but pick her brains about it.

Getting in character

For Rachel, the most important key to success to any boudoir photo shoot is to get in character. “Part of my process of getting ready is getting my hair and makeup done; this helps me remember that I am transforming myself into a different version of myself and need to get in character.”

Make a playlist: pick songs that make you happy, make you want to dance, make you want to sing in the shower, make you feel powerful and sexy. Rachel adds “Even if you are doing it as a gift for someone else, it is really about you; It should be fun. Play the soundtrack a few times before the day of the shoot, dance in front of your mirror when no one is around as practice – use this as an opportunity to get to know your body. You would be surprised, but we all should know our bodies, angles we look good in, curves, much better than we actually do.”

Grooming tips

  • The number one tip is to be hair-free. Of course, legs and bikini line, but also think underarms, arms, legs, brows, mustache. On the brow front, make sure they are professionally shaped. Good brows make all of the difference…
  • Be careful about too much makeup – make sure you still look like yourself (from personal experience I can add that that is the one thing I would change from my boudoir photo shoot – the makeup is just too much, and I almost don’t look like me). Rachel’s personal favorite brand of makeup is Runway. She recommends that if you are getting your makeup professionally done (which is not a must) that you work with someone you have worked with before (again – this is where I went wrong; I had the photographer’s makeup artist do my makeup, and we didn’t do a practice run and she did not know my style).
  • If you can, get eyelash extensions; at the very least curl your lashes and layer on extra mascara.
  • Spray tanning is helpful to even bumps. Sterling’s recommendations are of course to apply after waxing (not before), apply with gloves to avoid orange hands, and again if you can get it professionally done. Stript offers professional spray tanning using South Seas Spray Tan, which is what she does. Her favorite at home alternatives are L’Oreal’s self-tanning wipes and the Norvell at home kit which is very user friendly.
  • Have your nails done. You don’t need polish, or to have them red or long, but do get a manicure and a pedicure so that you are perfectly groomed.

Outfits and accessories  

When I ask Rachel about outfits and accessories, she reminds me that “When looking at the photo, the eyes of the viewer should go to the face. Yes, it is a boudoir shot, but the highlight is always the woman’s face.” She adds:

  • “If you are shy, a great prop is a boa – you can use it to hide certain parts and it makes you feel better or put it in front of you.
  • I love the retro theme of an apron and plate of cookies – it is particularly fun and slightly ironic if you never cook.
  • I also love a boudoir shoot in a sports jersey; there is something appealing about the very feminine photo and a traditionally masculine item of clothing being juxtaposed together.
  • Another great juxtaposition is a work shirt and glasses – kind of playing on the theme of sexy librarian.
  • Whatever do you, high heels are a must – ideally some you have not worn out so that they look pristine in the photos.
  • But remember, the eye of the beholder should go to your face – you don’t want too much distraction.”

As we finish our second glass of wine, I ask her what not to do. “Don’t have unrealistic expectations or be disappointed in your photos,” she says gently. “They will not look like pictures in magazines, nor should they. The most important thing is to love yourself and to realize that there are infinite definitions of beautiful and sexy. Every woman is beautiful and sexy in her own special way. That’s what a boudoir photo shoot is all about.”

Amen sister!

Style and Grooming Lessons from My Godmother

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

Once in a while, I wake up and feel like putting on my “fat pants” and sweatshirt and call it a day. I imagine we all have these days… When I have those days, I end up dressing extra well and looking extra good, because I imagine running into my godmother Dominique in that “fat pants” outfit. And I imagine her disapproving look. After all, she is the one who taught me so much about style… Here are my favorite style and grooming lessons from her, the ones I cherish and refer to on a daily basis.

  1. Perfect manners are the most elegant accessory any woman can have.
  2. Great posture gives any woman class, elegance and a slimmer look.
  3. Leaving things to the imagination is more elegant than putting it all out there. Think backless dresses rather than low-cut dresses.
  4. There is no excuse for imperfect grooming.
  5. Nails (hands): The most elegant nail length is short; the most elegant shape is a slightly square oval; the most elegant polish color is clear; and there is nothing French about a “French manicure.”
  6. Feet: take care of them daily with a good moisturizer in the evening; but no socks in bed, please.
  7. Groomed eyebrows make any face look more elegant; overly-groomed eyebrows will age you.
  8. Don’t save your jewelry for special occasions. Wear your diamonds, pearls, chunky necklaces to celebrate the fact that it is Tuesday.
  9. You always look more elegant holding a champagne glass than a beer mug or a shot glass.
  10. You never look elegant smoking (no matter that Audrey Hepburn might disagree).
  11. You never sound elegant swearing.
  12. Drink water. Lots of it. Ideally, Contrex.
  13. It’s hard to look elegant in cheap fabrics. It is much easier to look (and feel) elegant in fabrics such as linen or cashmere. Buy less, but better quality.
  14. It’s hard to look elegant in an outfit that doesn’t fit; fit is everything; find (and be kind to) a seamstress you love.
  15. Elegance is not about trendy outfits; it’s about finding styles, shapes, fabrics and colors that work for you and sticking to those.
  16. If you find the perfect pair of pants, buy three.
  17. If you find the perfect pair of heels, buy two.
  18. On the shoe note, don’t walk around in heels that need TLC or shoes that need polishing.
  19. Pay attention to your weight and don’t let pounds creep up on you.
  20. It is always elegant to smile and be kind.