4.28.2010

How to Live Well- The Smile Experiment


One great perk I’ve noticed about being pregnant is that everyone is nice to you. I mean everyone. Friends, family, strangers. Walking down the street I have gotten more smiles and pleasant glances than I have in my entire lifetime. More offers of assistance, more polite conversations… and, I must say, it is very pleasant to be on the receiving end of all of this.

So I decided to conduct an experiment. For one whole week I was going to be really nice to everyone I encountered. I’m generally nice anyway but I mean really nice- you know smiling at strangers (provided I’m on the right side of town), giving out compliments (heartfelt ones only, of course), and just generally emitting happiness.

I decided to start small with smiling at the people I pass by on the street. I walk a lot in Santa Monica. I walk Gatsby in my neighborhood, to the beach and amongst the shops on Montana Avenue. I decided to give everyone I passed on these walks a very bright smile and possibly even the occasional “hello” or “good morning”.

At first I was shy with it. People are generally reserved in Santa Monica. The majority of people keep to themselves and the most you’ll get is a tight lipped smile and a furtive once-over behind large designer sunglasses. So my smiles and ‘good mornings’ were tentative at first. But I started to see that even these feeble attempts at niceness really affected the other party. At first the strangers looked at me in a slightly suspicious manner. Some people even looked behind them to make sure I wasn’t smiling at some one else. But as my greetings became more confident, smiles were returned and for one unguarded moment, I began to share the refreshing feeling of goodwill amongst strangers.

Now I am a pro at smiling. I even smiled at Meg Ryan when I spotted her lunching at R+D Kitchen on Montana Avenue (she probably thought I was just a crazy fan, but that is beside the point). And I must say, it feels good. We are so used to rushing about our day, stuck in our heads, thinking about the future, that we forget the beauty of the present moment. And something as small as sharing a smile with a passerby can correct all of that, jolt you back into the moment and really feel quite exhilarating…

When was the last time you smiled at a stranger?


Pictured above are a casual bouquet of tulips on my dining room table... enough to make any tulip lover smile.

4.22.2010

The Ladies Luncheon at Madame Sportif’s


This past Monday I attended a ladies luncheon at Madame Sportif’s home. I was quite thrilled to accept the invitation because there is nothing I love more than a ladies lunch and I love to meet new people. Also, having viewed the guest list prior to coming I discerned that several of these women were of French and/or international descent- thus adding to my repertoire of fabulous ladies from which to draw inspiration from.

I wore my silk, flowy Rebecca Taylor blouse in graphite (about the only nice article of clothing I have left that still fits me at 6 months pregnant), leggings and my favorite black satin ballet flats with gold trim.

There were six of us in total. Two French ladies, one Dutch lady who had lived in France for 13 years, a Chinese lady, an Iranian lady and me. All of the women were gorgeous- we were like the United Nations of Santa Monica!

Madame Sportif immediately provided us with a refreshment upon arrival- an almond drink comprised of almond syrup, ice and mineral water. It was light and refreshing. Then we all gathered around the table and ate our starter course: baked prunes wrapped in bacon. The main course consisted of lamb chops with ratatouille, followed by a salad with a selection of three cheeses: camembert, brie and Roquefort. And for dessert- a chocolate mousse with strawberries.

I must admit I was slightly nervous to attend the luncheon… after all Madame Sportif was the only lady I actually knew- but they were all very warm and welcoming towards me. We spent nearly three hours at that table, eating the delicious courses provided for us and chatting and talking about the differences between our cultures.

Various topics of conversation included the sacredness of language- where in France it is guarded with lock and key and where in America it is blatantly misused with frequent rapidity; the friendliness of our cultures (they all said how friendly Americans are- how laid back, how familiar), the remarkable fact that the lady from Holland was 6’1’’, with blond hair and the body of a supermodel and ate loads of bread everyday! The French ladies chimed in that they too eat bread on a regular basis (I have always known that bread is not evil- they happily proved me right), and various amusing observations about our husbands (for example, the Iranian lady suspects that her husband pretends to be clueless at cooking so that he never has to do it and can enjoy her culinary endeavors instead).

I had a lovely time. We laughed a lot and I have to say it was marvelous to meet such a diverse group of beautiful, intelligent women.

Madame Sportif and I have already made arrangements for our next social outing. Next time she will come over to my house for another cooking session… which, of course, I will share with you in minute detail…


Pictured above are my beloved ballet flats by London Sole in black satin with gold trim... perfect footwear for a casual ladies lunch!

4.18.2010

How to Live Well- The Home Office



Some time ago I watched a documentary on Princess Diana where they showed her living quarters at Kensington Palace. Of course she lived in beautifully appointed rooms, but I will never forget the sight of her desk- which was kept (and still is, I believe) in the same condition- the majority of its contents untouched- after her untimely death.

The primary thing I observed about her desk was that it was completely in order. It was tidy and organized displaying only a few nice writing pens, a pad of paper, a picture of her boys and a various writing boxes.

Now if I were ever to leave the world in an untimely manner I would shudder to think what people would think of my desk. Yes, my desk (and entire home office for that matter) is my Achilles heel. While the rest of my home is relatively in order, my home office is a nightmare. So I am not really one to give advice on this subject. I can, however, tell you what I’d like to see happen:

An easy, fail proof system, whereby mail and bills are sorted, paid and filed in a timely matter (this has more to do with me and less to do with my office).

A display of only the books that interest me in that moment- books I’m currently reading or referencing (I have a tremendous amount of book clutter- so much so I’m thinking of getting a kindle).

All electronic clutter banished!
I detest electronic clutter. My husband says, “Where do you want it to go? This is the office- this is where it belongs!” I don’t really have a response to that.

An inbox on my desk with only active, relevant paperwork.

A filing system (which I have) that gets used on a weekly basis to file away all stray and important papers (which is where I go astray… it’s more on a monthly basis for me… this is one of the Sisyphean tasks I abhor).

A rule that says the home office cannot be a dumping ground for ‘stuff’. Everyone has one room in their home where they sneak miscellaneous things in. You know- bags of clothes to be donated, boxes of books to be stored, old TVs etc… trouble is I never get around to taking care of these things. These things should be placed by the front door and dealt with ASAP.

There you go. Even though my desk is actually a folding table from Costco (we have yet to properly furnish our home office) there is no excuse why it can’t look as beautiful and efficient as Princess Diana’s…

Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles with this…

One of the great merits of my home office is that it has this magnificent window (pictured above).

4.13.2010

Recent Beauty Finds

I am happy to report that I am in my third trimester and am growing, growing, growing! And since fashion really isn’t in the cards for me right now (I basically wear a tunic with leggings every single day) all I have is beauty. And thankfully my recent trip to Sephora was not only fruitful but very successful. Here are my recent beauty finds:

The Clarisonic

I seriously do not know how I lived without this invention. This is hands down the single best beauty item I’ve ever purchased in my entire life (and I promise to stop using hyperbole after this sentence). The Clarisonic is a gentle cleansing system that uses sonic technology in the form of a rotating brush to cleanse and exfoliate your skin. I’ve been using mine (I purchased the travel friendly Clarisonic Mia in pink) for the past two and a half weeks and my skin has never looked better! People keep complimenting me on my pregnancy ‘glow’ and I don’t have the heart to tell them it is all due to my beloved Clarisonic Mia. Thank you to all of my readers that recommended it to me…


Bare Escentuals Buxom Big and Healthy Lip Balm in Portofino

I have been searching high and low for a beautiful, sheer lip balm that adds a bit of color and moisturizes and I am happy to report that my search is over. Bare Escentuals (one of my favorite beauty brands- I use several of their products) has just put out a series of lip balms in pretty sheer colors that meet all of my criteria. This handy little lip balm (there is a mirror in the lid allowing you to discreetly check your application!) has beautiful color that lasts, keeps my lips hydrated and isn’t sticky in the slightest. I love it…



Clinique Quick Eyes Cream Shadow in Rock Violet


I have always regarded cream eyeshadows with suspicion. I like the idea of them but have had too many bad experiences with creasing and fading throughout the day. I can happily report that Clinique’s Quick Eyes Cream Shadow is the first cream eyeshadow that actually lasts all day long (I did use an eyeshadow primer underneath- Urban Decay’s Primer Potion). I am honestly so impressed I am already planning on purchasing other colors! This eyeshadow is easy to apply and provides beautiful, sheer color- perfect for summer.



L’Occitane Ultra Rich Face Cream


This is an old school face cream in the sense that it doesn’t do 15 things at once (i.e. sun protection, anti-aging, etc.) but that is what I like about it. I have been looking for a rich moisture cream that I can wear at night that will simply hydrate and soften my skin and so far I am loving this one. Primarily composed of Shea butter, the Ultra Rich Face Cream leaves my skin luxuriously moisturized and supple…

I would love to know your recent beauty finds…

The Clarisonic Mia is $149. Bare Escentuals Buxom Lip Balm is $15, Clinique Quick Eyes Cream Shadow is $15 and L’Occitane Ultra Rich Face Cream is $38. All products can be purchased at www.sephora.com.

4.08.2010

How to Live Well- The Living Room


The living room should be a place of vibrancy- where activities such as, playing games, reading a book, eating chocolates, sleeping by the fire and watching a movie can all be accomplished in relative comfort and luxury.

Ideal living rooms will have lots of light and comfortable seating- enough for the family and a few guests. There will probably be a television, a fireplace, hopefully a place for books (if there is no library) and art.

Our living room is a wonderful space... and while the furniture is not exactly what I would choose as my first choice (seating is limited chez nous)- I’m grateful to at least have something to sit on! I like to focus on the positives, which in our house includes high ceilings, tall, European-style windows and a functioning fireplace.

These are the extras that make the space that much more special:

Recessed lighting on a dimmer switch. I love being able to dim the lights. We have a dimmer in every single room in the house, it adds instant atmosphere come twilight.

Pretty curtains to dress the windows. We chose a neutral taupe color that I knew I wouldn’t tire of... maybe in our next house I’ll go for something a little bolder.

A neutral, warm color on the walls. In our case- it’s cottage white. Again, I will never tire of this and I can add color via accessories- which brings me to my next point...

Lots of sumptuous throw pillows and blankets. I found some great faux fur throw pillows in chocolate that are so comfortable on our tiny sofa- they were from Bed Bath and Beyond... very affordable.

A place for pets. Gatsby loves to sit on his red, fluffy dog bed right in front of the fire on cold winter nights.

A warm rug beneath your feet- the best you can afford. Right now ours is from Ikea, but I dream of a gorgeous Persian-style rug one day...

A coffee table with a few interesting books on it and a place to keep all of those remote controls. Controlling the electronic clutter and coffee table clutter is essential here. I know the TV is there but I don’t want to be drawn to it.

A means of playing music. I love listening to music throughout the day. We have installed surround sound speakers so the sound fills the room!

Art that makes you happy. Or at the very least inspires fond memories. I have a framed Art Deco poster from Roger La Grenouille in Paris that brings to mind magical memories every time I look at it...

Voilà
- my bare essential list for living well in the living room!

I would love to know… what is your living room like?


Gatsby is pictured above on the tiny, white sofa in our living room.

4.03.2010

How to Live Well- The Entryway


I would love to have a butler that takes care of everything for me the minute I walk through the door... but seeing as how I don't (have a butler, that is), it is important that I maintain our entryway in order to live well.

Our entryway is a bit funny. It is a small landing with a staircase leading up and a staircase leading down (we live in a three story town house). It is not an ideal entryway (especially compared to the standards of feng shui) and it will be quite cramped once the stroller arrives, but I look at it as a challenge that I am willing to work with!

The key points for having an entryway that allow you to live well are as follows:

It is ideal to have…

A place to keep your shoes, if you take them off when you enter your home (which I do). The key here is to only have one pair of shoes by the entryway, not 5- which I do admit, is a problem for me. I am working on it…

A place to put your handbag and/ or keys, wallet and cell phones- preferably out of sight. I just don’t like looking at these things as I walk through the house. We struggle with this as well. I am constantly frowning at the large cacophony of ‘things’ on our sideboard table. I have rectified this by placing a basket in the hall closet where these items can easily be placed.

A clutter-free closet that can be used as place to hang your coat (only the day’s coat, not an entire storage room for all coats) with a few empty hangers for when guests visit. This closet also can hold dog leashes, extra shoes and can be where you store your handbag du jour.

A place to store your mail. I used to be in the alarming habit of collecting the mail, placing it on the dining room table and allowing it to pile up until some unforeseen day where I decided to sort through it. Now I sort through it immediately upon entering the house, recycle the junk, get rid of envelopes and bring the important letters or bills to my office.

A table with a few pictures of family and friends. Make sure these are family and friends that you actually like- looking at them will hopefully brighten your mood and remind you warmly, that you are home…

A potted plant, orchid or bouquet of flowers- something to remind you that your home is a place to thrive…

C’est tout! I don’t ask much of my entryway. It must be efficient and uncluttered. Ours is a work in progress.

I would love to know… what is your entryway like?

The basket pictured above is very handy for placing such items as wallets, sunglasses and keys etc. We keep ours in a hall closet.
 
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