Tory Burch for summer style

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Tory Burch handbags.

Our spring is long gone, and it’s time to struggle through how to look cool and chic in 95 degree heat.  This is no small feat.  Most of you know that I have a serious handbag obsession.  Unfortunately my daughter sells them, so it’s like having a drug dealer in the house.  But a nice drug dealer, one who specializes in pretty things.

I put my most recent acquisitions next to each other so you could see the ridiculous size bag I MUST carry.  It is pretty empty, but the inside is set up in such an organized fashion that I can always find what I want.  Not only is it pretty lightweight, but the leather has a coating over it so it won’t get ruined if it gets wet.  Very handy in Florida in the summer.

The clutch/evening bag was a great addition to my collection, and I’ve used it a bunch of times already.  I decided to get the white band as one wears white a lot in the sunshine state.  It can fit a cell phone, ID, money, and only a very flat pair of sunglasses.  But, who wear sunglasses at night except Anna Wintour?  Both handbags are Tory Burch, and it appears very well made.  Check them out!

Sarah Palin discovers anti-aging miracle! by Lita Ojeda

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Our Sarah!I’m sure all of you have been following Sarah Palin’s exciting cross-country bus tour,”One Nation”.  I for one am a HUGE fan.  That is why I am here with breaking news.  While on her historic bus tour our Sarah has discovered a new and exciting anti-aging secret, one that she shared with only her most ardent supporters.

“I’m surprised myself by the results!  Who would have guessed that by eating loads of regional food and that pooping in every truck stop for miles would make my skin as soft and unlined as a babies behind! But it has happened, and I am recommending that everyone use as many toilet as they can to achieve the same effect.”

Can you believe this amazing beauty tip?  I for one am going to plan my toilet activities for tomorrow.  Garden State Plaza, here I come.

I am not a hoarder!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Tiny Tears

At a recent Culture and Cuisine dinner the subject turned to childhood toys. We laughed remembering our favorite childhood toys, the make-believe and invented games of a simpler time. This is of course why the movie “Toy Story” is so popular.  When was the last time you played all day and had no responsibilities?  Childhood is a magical time.

The conversation  moved on to how we handled the abandoned toys of our children.  Eventually we shared  the sad stories of required closet cleaning and GI Joes sent to cousins we didn’t even like. How many people do you know who came home from college to find that mom had given away their favorite train set or match box cars?  Did you lose a treasured set of Nancy Drew mysteries to the local church garage sale? I lost a Chris Chambliss autograph, orange Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Candies. But I kept the good stuff.

Chatty Cathy and Shirley Temple dolls

I admitted that evening to my friends that I still own many of my childhood toys.  My friends were shocked and amused. Somehow my mother never saw fit to remove all memories of me from the house. I must have been an ok daughter.  I think part of it was because she was very ill.  But it pretty amazing how many dolls and toys I still have.

Tiny Tears, sock monkey, and karate chop doll

Now don’t get me wrong.  These toys are not pristine, they are much loved. In fact, my daughter used to show Tiny Tears to my son because he was petrified of it.  I washed her hair a lot, and she is definitely scarier than the baby doll in Toy Story Three.  So, here for your amusement are some of the friends of my youth.  I’m missing some of my Barbie clothes, including the pouffy wedding dress.  I’ll have to go looking for that.  Enjoy!Original Barbie, Midge and Skipper with their remaining wardrobe.

Crystal Clear Reflections

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

My mother's Goebel champagne glass and Grandma Mattea's cordial glass

Crystal is one of those things that, I think, you either love or hate.  There is some work in its upkeep as it must be kept sparkling, and it needs to be cleaned in a specific way.  Polished to a haze free shine it is one of those things that can add an elegant finishing touch to your home.

My first recollection of seeing crystal was at my Great-Aunt Elizabeth’s house when I was very young.  Elizabeth was my father’s godmother.  She was very kind to everyone, and I have fleeting yet clear impressions of her.  She had a bow front mahogany china cabinet that was filled with her fancy things.  When we went to visit I could stand quite a long time and look at each item through the glass.  Even as a young child, less than 5 years old, and I hoped one day to have pretty things like Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth died of emphysema, she was a heavy smoker, the “discussions” over her possessions were not pleasant.  She had no children, and the more extensive will that my father knew she had written was missing.  My mother received a phone call from my dad’s sister Betty asking if she would like something from Elizabeth’s china closet.  My mother asked her to pick something out, and the vase she chose, pictured below, was one I had always loved.  Thank you Aunt Betty!

When my mother passed away I inherited the vase.  I also inherited her champagne glasses.  I left a tag on one of them.  They are very delicate, and the cuts are beautiful. They were shipped here from Germany when my father was stationed there after WWII. The cordial glass belonged to my Grandmother. She didn’t have a lot, and I recall seeing this glass in her glass fronted kitchen cabinets.

After several years of marriage my mother-in-law started me on a wine  glass collection.  Piece by piece, Christmas and birthdays she and my father-in-law added to the wine and other glasses. Instead of leaving this beautiful cut crystal in a closet for special occasions, we drink our wine from them nightly.

Here is a small lifestyle suggestion for 2011:  Use your beautiful things.  Savor how the color of a good bottle of wine is enhanced by a fine glass.  Enjoy your possessions!  Don’t leave them in a dark and dusty closet.  Let them enhance your daily experience. You’re worth it!

Great Aunt Elizabeth Martiensen.

Great Aunt Elizabeth's vase.

P.S. Always wash crystal in cool water without harsh chemicals.  No scrubbing. Wash large pieces in a deep sink and wear rubber gloves so they don’t slip when you’re hands are wet.  Dry with a lint free cloth, every single individual cut must be dried, and polish to a high shine. Display and enjoy your treasure!

Orchids Can Enhance Your Lifestyle!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Dendrobium orchid

How did orchids come into my life?  I’ve always loved flowers, but living in New Jersey limited access to many types of plants. When we moved to Florida 19 years ago I left behind friends, family and unbeknownst to me at the time a void in my quality of lifestyle. Working a corporate job, trying to be an attentive wife and mother, and taking care of a big house with over 2 acres of land was draining. I wasn’t organized. The weekends were a blur of laundry, chores and frequent family command performances. We were caught up in the rat race and seriously stressed out. When the opportunity presented itself to move and for me to be a stay-at-home mom I jumped at the chance.

After we were settled in our home and my daughter was in her new school I wondered, “what am I going to do with my time?” I realize now what a silly question that was.  The days quickly filled with play dates, school activities and dance lessons. As time went on it became apparent that for the first time in my life I could indulge myself by trying hobbies I had always been interested in.

For my first birthday in the new house I asked for a rose garden. The sod along one side of the house was ripped out and a raised bed was installed complete with an underground sprinkler system. We planted 14 varieties:  a couple of climbers, tea roses and other hybrids. It was really beautiful and, unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures. I quickly realized what I was in for. No matter how much I sprayed and fussed, rotating chemicals and doing research, they got a black spot fungus. Finally, after about 5 years I began to not replace the roses that died off.  This summer I am going to try one rose that is called a “knock out rose”  that I am told does not require chemicals.  One shrub remains from the original garden planted 16 years ago, a peach David Austin climber that is about 10 feet high and tough as nails.

David Austin rose

I love flowers, and contrary to my experience with the rose garden, I do have a green thumb. The roses were just too much work. One day while mirandering along the rows of plants at Home Depot I saw a beautiful white orchid, a phaleonopsis or moth orchid.  I was instantly entranced.  I brought it home and my addiction to orchids began.

Repotted phal is very happy!

Orchids are basically very low maintenance. They are watered once a week, (misted if in a drier indoor home in winter), and like a south-west exposure,(or lots of indirect light). Their blooms can last for several months. Once they have bloomed you do need to do a bit of maintenance if you want the plant to bloom again. Cut the stem as close to the leaves as you can.  If you are feeling adventurous you can repot it very easily.  Recently I repotted about 10 of my orchids by removing them gently from the pot by turning it upside down.  I cut away any of the roots that looked dried out, and repotted using two kinds of soil.  The more dense soil I put around the newly trimmed roots, and I mixed the mulch-like soil with the other potting soil for the rest of the pot. I put the mulch soil on the top, and watered thoroughly.  Below is an example of one I repotted.

Phaleonopsis orchid with 13 flowers!

Many of other orchids have set their buds so I will add pictures to this post frequently.  Surround yourself with the beauty of flowers and have a wonderful day!

April 2013 orchids

Gorgeous Phal is very happy!

Investing in You in 2011!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

January is usually the time of year when people make their New year’s resolutions.  Lists of things we want to change, often without the guidance of individuals who are expert in their fields leave us feeling stressed and clueless as to how to reach our goals. The intentions we have are good, but where do we start?  How do we decide on a plan of action that will make us healthy, centered and closer to personal success?

For most of us it is very difficult to revamp our lives and break the patterns, be they dietary, attitudinal or spiritual, that keep us from achieving our full potential. We need mentors to guide us. Opening ourselves up to change can be scary, but we need to accept the risk. So, if you are ready to really attack that list of goals that now sits with a layer of dust on it, I have a suggestion for you.

How about visiting Italy with a top notch staff of inspired individuals and successful business women?  Sight-seeing and shopping expeditions led by an Italian insider are combined with spa treatments and spiritual guidance . The bold, fresh flavors of Italian cuisine and world famous wine are enjoyed. Luxurious accommodations in Florence and the gorgeous Tuscan countryside relax and help you to absorb the positive vibe of the group leaders.  Programs are tailored to you and your goals and like minded travelers surround you and support you on your journey.  Combine this with incredible art and designer shopping and you won’t even realize how much you’ve walked!

Led by host Micaela Passeri, an Italian Inspirational Designer, you are in for the trip of a lifetime designed to help you renew yourself.  As a European handbag designer Micaela brought her creative spirit to her pieces.  Now she is sharing her knowledge of Italian culture and shopping with a small group of individuals who seek inspiration.  Joined by such experts as Ungenita Katrina Prevost, a certified life and business coach who can take your life from “Frazzled to Fabulous”, Micaela has a program planned that will hit every expectation.

If this sounds good to you, then check out Amore! The Ultimate Retreat.  The trip runs from June 6 to June 16, 2011.  Use the trip as the reward for the work you are doing now.  You deserve it!

The Girl from Ipanema wears Beleza!

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Lounging gown, Beleza lingerie.

As Valentine’s Day fast approaches even the most confidant woman if temporarily single can feel a bit of self-doubt. We live in a society fascinated with the celebrity relationships that grace the cover of every tabloid. The modern day emphasis placed on this holiday has grown as fast as the deficit. What’s a girl to do?
Take a hint from the woman of Brazil and buy yourself some beautiful Beleza lingerie! I am being serious. What better way to start your morning regardless of your current boyfriend status than in a matching bra and panty that is gorgeous and fits like a dream? As you go about your day you will know how great you look even if you’ve covered black lace with a grey pin-striped suit. The confidence you’ll feel will no doubt be picked up by those people around you and they’ll wonder what you’ve been up to.
Brazilian women know it is good for a woman to have a bit of mystery and to love how we look ………. for ourselves. We shouldn’t be buying beautiful lingerie only if we have a man in our lives. We must love ourselves first. So right here and now, at the Culture and Cuisine Club, lets begin another tradition for all major holidays, and especially Valentine’s Day. Pick yourself out a luxurious present, wrap it and enjoy opening it while you drink a glass of champagne or maybe a caipirinha. This Valentine’s Day give yourself some Beleza lingerie, you’ll be happy you did.
This month I hosted the Culture and Cuisine Club at my home and we featured the cuisine of Brazil. While doing my research I have become fascinated and yes, a little bit obsessed with Brazil! And why not? Brazil is a multi-cultural melting pot that pulses with bossa nova rhythms, fabulous food and welcoming people.
Those of you who have been following my posts know I love to write about fashion and how to incorporate a small change for a huge lifestyle impact. I recently became acquainted with Beleza Lingerie and Mariya Kovalyuk who is not only the owner but a successful entrepreneur and management consultant. Mariya’s mission is to introduce the world to Beleza Lingerie, which means beautiful in Portugese.
The entire line is made in Brazil and distributed through Canada. To fully appreciate what is available you must check out the website, The company is very customer service oriented and is available to answer any questions you might have. Coming soon is a line of activewear and as I spend a lot of time in the gym and Pilates classes I can’t wait.
So, my friends, treat yourself today.  You don’t need to thank me, just let me know what you think of this lingerie.  Happy Valentines Day, beleza.

Why 2011 is the year you should buy a dress from Amore Grace!

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Keith Selle Photography

Picture this scenario: You are invited to a club opening that is sure to be full of the local A-list business, art, sports, media, etc., celebrities. As an entrepreneur in a lifestyle industry where you are your brand, you need to look the part of an insider who is completely confidant at stellar soirees. How do you radiate confidence and stand out as an “It” girl? My answer is simple: Wear a gorgeous, one-of-kind party dress by an American designer that is sure to spark conversation. Everything should be so simple! Amore Grace is the brainchild of Grace Sims, owner and head apparel designer. Grace was born and raised in the city of Los Angeles and lived by its heartbeat, the pulse of art, fashion, culture, and music. Grace’s personal passion for music drove her at young age to comprehend the quick pace of city life in her own way, and through her keen observations, to develop a strong fashion sense. Her indie designs have from their inception been fearless and edgy not unlike a young Betsy Johnson.

What a party dress!

A family relocation to Sacramento, California removed Grace from a thriving west-coast fashion nexus. This respite, however, allowed her to explore her strength in science, physics and chemistry to be exact. She realized that even though this career path appeared to be more secure she was creatively deprived. She found her thoughts drifting to fashion, analyzing the street style around her, forecasting trends and doodling fashion sketches. Grace took a leap of faith, quit her secure job of 5 years and began her journey with the creation of Amore Grace. As a young woman of only 30 years Grace began to apply her unrelenting drive to her business. Her dreams have become reality this year in the flurry of events that will allow her to showcase her talent. Grace sums up her vision as “punk rock glam”, and through fashion shows, promotions and photo shoots she is poised to achieve the recognition she deserves for her fresh take on the party dress, as well as other accessories in her line. This fashion line is something Chloe Sevigney might wear, and she certainly knows her stuff.


Grace’s final word on the fashion scene is, “don’t underestimate the influence of Seattle’s music scene on fashion. Not everything is happening in New York, or even Los Angeles or San Francisco. 70’s Rock and Roll music will continue to stir my creative juices, and I would love to introduce you to my vision.” So, my C & C friends, consider yourself introduced! Grace can be reached at Take a moment to look at these fabulous dresses. Enjoy!

Tampa Tory Burch is Missing the Magic

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Today I braved the madding crowds to exchange the Tory Burch flats I received for Christmas. I am a huge admirer of the Tory Burch line:  classic chic flats, elegant handbags and apparel. The line is only part of the story as the TB seduction lies in the marketing of the ‘Tory lifestyle’ and her ability to reproduce this with regional modifications at each store she opens. This marketing strategy was so beautifully described in  recent N.Y. Times article that I had to visit my local Tory Burch stand alone store as soon as possible.

The store was very crowded, and the attentive staff were all busy helping customers.  I took my time looking at the merchandising, the tropical decor and absorbing the feel of the store. There was probably product missing because the handbags seemed to be repetitive, but I did see a light tan one with a brown chain link shoulder strap that I would be happy to own.

A separate room contains a wall of shoes and boots.  Around the walls were mostly sweaters, and in the center of this small room were two love seats facing each other.  I realize this is supposed to be laid out like a wealthy women’s closet, but the space is not large enough to accommodate the sofas in the middle of a shoe area. I have been in a few amazing closets of fashion forward women, and the heroine in my first novel is not only a Tory Burch fan but has a closet decorated with antique Lalique chandeliers and white satin Art Deco chairs . We all know that shoes drive women wild, so why are the sofas for relaxing in the middle of bedlam? While I was filling out a guest card and waiting for a sweater to be rung up, people kept walking between me and the coffee table to get to the full length mirror.  The area was very claustrophobic.

Classic Tory Burch flats

My TB flats with gold emblems.

The fitting rooms were ridiculously roomy, I could have had about six of my closest friends in the one I used.  And what’s with the purple curtains?  I entered the fitting room area and became completely confused.  The fitting rooms were not numbered, and although I was told my sweater was in room number 1, all the curtains were drawn and I didn’t want to disturb anyone.  It was also way too dark.

I would love to see the following adjustments which I think would greatly improve the shopping experience. 1: The hangers need to be redesigned to be like huggable hangers, they are too slippery and the clothes kept falling off.  2: The ‘living room’ is in a major traffic area, it needs to be moved.  Either the shoe wall needs to be moved back, or the fitting room area, which needs a chandelier, could be reconfigured.  3: The fitting rooms don’t need to be so large, there are very few items of clothing to try on.

Happy New Year to my readers.  Please continue to send your ideas for posts. Coming soon are articles on organization, closet envy, (who hasn’t experienced that?),  and Collette will go shopping again. Enjoy!

The shoe area

Christmas Decorating from the Heart!

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Hello friends, I have taken a respite from the dark side of the Christmas frenzy to share with you some pics of my house this year. Hope you enjoy them.

Those of you who have read this blog know that I did not have a lot of material things growing up.  What we did have was a lot of love and traditions that my mother established deep in our hearts.  Bringing out the Christmas decorations was a very special time for us kids.  Every glass ornament was admired, although often hung with drapery hooks because we already had them, and my mom was an amazing budgeter.  I still have some of these ornaments, with the drapery hooks, and I greet them like old friends each year when I remove their paper towel and hang them in their place of honor.

Christmas Tree 2010

My holiday decorating is, frankly, a bit over the top.  The fireplace mantel is covered with metal toys that my mother-in-law starting giving my husband when he was a teenager.  They all have their original boxes, and some are from countries that no longer exist, like Czechslovakia.  They are interspersed with Nutcrackers, and toys I had given my husband in the early years of our marriage. The stuffed animals were all gifts to my children, and are stored in the offseason in old pillowcases.

This is the Santa shelf.  The Santa nesting boxes I bought in Ketchican, Alaska when we were on a cruise, and they were made in Russia. (When you travel pick up an ornament or Christmas tchocka, it’s a nice way to remember a trip.)

The Santa shelf.

Here is my daughter’s doll house, made by her deceased grandfather, and outfitted with furniture by my in-laws year after year.  This is one of the more precious Christmas items, he was so proud of it, and I have protected it long after my daughter grew tired of playing with it.  Note the comfortable position of the man as the wife decorates the Christmas tree.

Christmas doll house.

And where, you ask, do I store all these items?  About 8 years ago we decided to build onto the house, and I asked for two walk-in storage closets, one for decorations, and a cedar closet for the sweaters, etc., that we don’t wear that much in Florida.  There is a specific way that the things are stored, and it takes a lot of time. The joy is in seeing others marvel at the toys, admire the tree, or see my husband after a long day sit down with a glass of wine and relax in the glow of the Christmas lights. I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as our friends enjoy visiting during the holidays.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!