Inspiration: Norma Kamali

September 19th, 2016
Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

Sculpture outside the Tampa Museum of Art.

I have an unexpected day-off. In fact, I’m also off tomorrow and this is a rare occurrence. So instead of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, cherishing the fact that I didn’t have to move if I didn’t want to, I dragged my not-completely-convinced body out of bed.  After coffee and a quick breakfast I got my act together, and headed downtown to catch the Norma Kamali exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art.

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Elegant armor.

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I would wear this if it included a Spanx. Love!

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#notinmourning

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Kamali makes red-hot cool.

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Made me think of Miss Haversham.

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Pippi Longstocking as an ornithologist.

If you are a fabulous-fifty like me you might remember Kamali for her use of parachute material. (I had a pedestrian LeSac, and I loved it.) The black evening gown, made out of this unlikely material, was a blissful confection of modern gothic glam topped with feathers. Her palette of grey, red, and black had me thinking about my own closet — a mix of too many colors and even less synergy. There is an energy to her clothes, elegance without snobbishness, an irreverent reverence for fashion that I never fully appreciated before. If you can get to the exhibit before it closes on September 25, do so. Enjoy the photos.

Planning a Wedding on Pinterest

September 9th, 2016
The bride and me — she's bursting with joy!

The bride and me — she’s bursting with joy!

How do you plan a wedding when you live a thousand miles away from the bride? This was the conundrum my daughter and I faced — she in New Jersey and I in Florida. When she became engaged we had a year and a half to plan what I knew would be an event worthy of Colin Cowie. But we’re both extremely busy — how could I help her to achieve the vision of her dream wedding? We came upon a solution that worked beautifully for us: We decided to use Pinterest to share ideas. A picture is worth a million words, especially to a bride, and I’ve never been more thankful for this brilliant website.

I’ve been on Pinterest since its inception. The idea of sharing my favorite things — orchids, gardening, chocolate, recipes, books, Art Deco, fashion, perfume bottles… you get the picture. It is easy to get lost on Pinterest. It’s pretty, fun, and social.

I became a little disenchanted when many users saw fit to try and force my pretty Pinterest into a commerce site. I must admit, however, that the advertising by certain wedding vendors was a great convenience in honing our board. My daughter’s vision became clearer and clearer, enabling me to help her find shiny tablecloths when the first florist was fired a month before the wedding. (One of her first photos on the board was the sweetheart table covered in blush colored sequin tablecloths.) Yes, that really happened. And the situation was solved quickly without a bride meltdown. The second florist, Diane’s Flowers of Hoboken N.J., knocked the ball out of the park.

Our wedding board was secret during the planning process. My daughter wanted unique aspects to her special day, and since many of her friends were planning their nuptials she didn’t share too many details. The board is now public. Yes, another cool feature of Pinterest is that you can create a board that is secret, viewable only by those who are invited to participate.

My daughter has amazing style, and the event was stunning. We were able to bring many aspects of this board to life for her special day. She was a breathtaking bride, and the glorious day will remain with all those who attended. We hope our board gives you some ideas to hone your dream wedding. Link to board: https://www.pinterest.com/champselyzzie/albert-wedding-april-16/ Enjoy!

If you are going to get a wedding book to feast your eyes on, I recommend this one.51avne2st2l

Enduring the Dog Days of Summer, Rusty Style

August 26th, 2016
I love the cheese lady!

I love the cheese lady!

Ah, the dog days of summer.

As a child in New Jersey I welcomed the summer heat. It meant days spent in the above ground pool my father would install. The humidity would hit you in the face like a wet washcloth, not unlike the current weather we are experiencing in Tampa. When I wasn’t in the pool I played games with my sisters, or lost myself in the library books I’d borrow. I particularly loved stories of other countries and cultures that took me away from small town life.

I always thought the expression “the dog days of summer” had to do with how our pets behaved during the heat. I was raised in a household where the dogs were considered part of the family. Caesar and Nicole, our mixed breed siblings, would lie down on the cool tile floor. They were not interested in being outside except to do their business. It was only much later that I learned the expression has to do with astronomy. The ancient Greeks believed that “when the Dog Star, Sirius, appeared to rise just before the sun there follows a period of indolence, lethargy, and inactivity.” They believed this was a dangerous time. I am not an astronomer, and I only remember how the dogs would pant and lie around “like lazy lumps” as my mother would fondly say.

We have a new member of the family. His name is Rusty, but I feel Rustin Sinclair is the appropriately classy name for his new life. My son always wanted a dog, and, being a cruel mother, we had cats instead. One day he called me from college and told me he had been looking online and a photo came up of a dog named Rusty. There was something about this dog. He decided to visit the shelter, and as he stood outside the cage where Rusty lay curled back in a far corner their eyes met. My son bent down as Rusty watched him. My son called his name softly, and he picked his head up. Slowly, he got up and walked to the front of the cage. He lay down and slid his paws under the cage door. He chose my son. This abused and neglected animal decided to take a chance on another human.

We don’t know anything about his previous life, and maybe that’s for the best. It breaks my heart to think anyone could have been mean to him. My son is a dedicated owner, and I must admit I have fallen for this energetic pit bull mix. He knows it, of course, and works me like a pro, all in the interest of a cheese slice.

If you are in Tampa for the summer there are lots of indoor delights. Both the Tampa Museum and The Dali museum have wonderful exhibits. The Tampa Theatre is a jewel of a movie palace that shows a wonderfully eclectic range of movies. Or, go to Clearwater Beach and have a fried grouper sandwich at Frenchy’s. Enjoy your summer.

 

 

The Mystery: Putting a Name to a Face

August 15th, 2016
Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Who is this woman?

She is, most likely, my husband’s grandmother’s sister who died young. We found the photo in a pile of photos and other papers we had packed after cleaning out my mother-in-law’s home in Lakeland, Florida. Many people throw out these precious family photos, and this breaks my heart.

Look at this young woman. She is gorgeous. A make-up artist did not spend hours applying the products we use daily. I am sure that she washed and curled her own hair. She wears her best dress proudly. The photo is not airbrushed to remove perceived flaws. She is the perfect depiction of simpler times.

As I washed dishes in the kitchen I looked across at her and was struck by a family resemblance between my husband’s niece and this woman. It is uncanny. Two generations… and this unnamed woman has another woman walking around who looks like her. That is pretty cool.

I am currently in contact with the Lake Gazette of Monroe City, Missouri to name this woman. My husband’s grandparents are from this town. I have promised to share with them Agnes Montgomery Thompson’s recollection of her first day of school, which she wrote in a journal I gave her. And I will let you know as soon as I have confirmation of the name of the mystery woman.

Follow me on Instagram: @randomactsofstyle

Mixing It Up: Democratizing My Jewelry

August 11th, 2016
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I love these earrings!

I have always loved jewelry.

I remember as a young teenager sitting with fashion magazines and looking at the gorgeous offerings of famed jewelers like Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Graff, Van Cleef and Arpels, De Beers, etc. I drooled over Bulgari watches, fantasized about Patek Philippe. When I wrote my first novel I included as many of these purveyors of fine jewelry as possible — along with detailed descriptions of the haute couture clothing my characters wore. The fantasy world of my characters fulfilled my love of luxury the best it could. I do not have Miranda’s closet (my character based on Iris Apfel) nor do I live in a waterfront Montauk mansion. My current job as a jewelry stylist enables me to experiment with both fine and fashion jewelry. Fashion jewelry is the fun, fabulous pieces that are on-trend. They don’t break the bank. They can, with a little planning, be seamlessly added into your own collection.

The earrings pictured here are part of the Kendra Scott ‘Mystic Bazaar’ collection. ‘Addie’ comes in many different color combinations. I chose the yellow gold to mix with my fine jewelry, but the rose gold is wonderful. The workmanship is high quality and they are not too heavy. I encourage you to check out the entire line of these gems — no pun intended. Click on the photo above to see many examples from the iconic Kendra Scott line. Have fun!

Dining Review: Rooster and the Till

August 3rd, 2016
Decadence in a glass.

Decadence in a glass.

July is a busy month at my place of business, Nordstrom International Plaza. I work a crazy amount of hours and downtime is at a minimum. It was a great idea of my children to send their dad a Father’s Day gift card to one of our favorite restaurants.

The manager of the restaurant (who is also a friend) suggested that we sit at the bar so that we could watch the talented chefs work their magic. I felt like a judge on Top Chef, and we wanted to sample each dish after it was prepared. Ferrell Alvarez, a chef/owner (the other owner, Ty Rodriguez, cooked in front of us) stood between the cooking stations, observing, and checked each plate before it was carried by the servers to the patrons. Such attention to detail is evident in the creativity of the plating, and every garnish and fillip adds to the sublime balance. Many of the flavors are unexpected and this adds to the fun. The quality of the ingredients is beyond fresh, and this is largely what allows the imagination of the chefs to run wild. Rooster and the Till is for those who have a deep appreciation for a brilliant group of foodies who want to take you with them on a journey of taste, texture, and consumable art.

We were given an appetizer by chef Alvarez that was not on the menu; sliced sunchoke, fresh ricotta, roasted pistachios, and a bit of heat from I believe came from a chipotle drizzle. A little palate play never hurt anyone, right? Oh, and I forgot the grapefruit. He had created this dish for a private dinner recently held for a group of local and visiting chefs. We knew we wanted the gnocchi and short ribs… and we don’t share this. A red wine was discussed as we reviewed the excellent selections. After tasting two wines Miles brought us, we chose a Côte du Rhône, Mon Coeur. Miles suggested the chorizo crusted octopus/pickled raisins/carrot emulsion/squid black ink beans, and that arrived before the gnocchi — it was wonderfully unexpected and something we never would have tried. After the sublime gnocchi I had to have the foie gras/sous vide pear/cashew pear butter nutella/huckleberry gastrique, melt in your mouth luxury. The wine paired perfectly with these flavors, preventing a taste bud overload, but I wasn’t done yet.

I have eaten desserts in a glass, and many times they are a mess of layers and flavors that smush together in a disappointing muddle. This dessert was magnificent — mocha custard/”candied brioche”/honey roast pistachio/pistachio gelato/cherry geleé. I finished it all, sharing a couple of bites with my husband who watched me devour it with amusement.

Treat yourself and dine here sooner rather than later. Call for reservations early. And sit at the bar if you can get a seat. Let me know what you eat because the menu changes frequently. And thank you to everyone at Rooster and the Till for a truly memorable meal.

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Foie gras

 

 

 

 

Brown Sugar and Cream Cheese Pound Cake

July 10th, 2016

IMG_1431We were having guests for the Fourth of July and I was so excited that I would get to bake a dessert! I found this recipe on Pinterest, a great place to go to peruse recipes that other pinners recommend. This recipe was easy and a wonderful finish to a rather heavy meal. The compote was the perfect addition — fresh, seasonal berries have to be taken advantage of when at their peak. And, the tradition of a red, white and blue dessert was met, even if the red and blue were mingled. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar & Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese – softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter – softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar – packed
5 large eggs – room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan, bundt pan or 2 loaf pans
Add cream cheese, butter and sugars to mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well about, 1 minute after each egg.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small measuring cup and stir.
Alternate adding flour and milk to butter/egg batter – starting and stopping with flour. This will incorporate all the ingredients evenly.
Pour batter into buttered, floured tube or bundt pan.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or up to 1:15 hours. Check if done with a toothpick.
Let cool for 15 minutes then gently remove from pan.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups mixed berries (3/4 lb) such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
PREPARATION:

Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add berries and cook, tossing gently (try to keep most of them from breaking up), until berries are warm and juices begin to be released, 3 – 5 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Attribution: A Southern Soul and Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.

 

Survey Says… John Hancock Is My Soul Mate

July 9th, 2016

George-Washington-Horseback-640x480Survey says… John Hancock is my soul mate.

The truth is that I never take Facebook quizzes. My Facebook interaction is basically fifteen minutes of scrolling, trying to catch up on grandbabies and puppies. So when I saw the quiz Which Founding Father Is Your Soul Mate? I thought I knew the answer. In my colonial fantasy world George Washington or possibly Alexander Hamilton always win my heart.

The result of this silly quiz has stumped me. I take the idea of a Founding Father as a soul mate seriously. I was a Political Science major in college, and we were required to read The Federalist Papers. Back then my federalist fantasies placed me with Alexander in his private library, an active listener to his brilliant thoughts on a centralized government. His ideas are still paparazzi worthy. After all, he has a Tony award-winning play and can really cut a rug.

But my thoughts of Alexander are a mere dalliance. The portrait Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze pops into my head. My family will tell you I’m obsessed with our first president. Why would a gentleman farmer and land surveyor leave his home to lead what would probably be a losing proposition? Because he’s the greatest American leader ever!

My obsession for George was realized when my daughter’s eighth grade class visited Mount Vernon. I could barely contain myself as we walked through the house, gazing upon his and Martha’s furniture, paintings, china. I wanted to lay a single finger on his desk, where books lay open as if he had just finished reading. I walked the property alone, and imagined him walking the same paths. I hugged trees. And after perusing the kitchen garden I found myself behind the mansion facing the Potomac, a glorious view. I sat on the grass and breathed. Eventually, my daughter joined me and asked if I was feeling calmer, “less mental.”

So how did I get John Hancock as my soul mate? I have a big messy signature. I’m a creative. I love color, laughter, stories, varied cuisine, fireworks, and a hound-dog named Rusty. More about him next month. As to this quiz… my attempt at guessing which boxes would win me a lifetime with one of my heroes backfired. At least I didn’t get Benjamin Franklin. We are definitely not suited.

My creativity will be bursting this month as there are many events going on at the Nordstrom 2016 Anniversary Sale. This a real sale with wonderful merchandise discounted before the fall season begins. For your convenience, I have given you a list of the events below. Contact me for an appointment at lois.a.lewandowski@nordstrom.com if that is your preference, or be sure and ask for me if you attend any of these events. I look forward to showing you what a jewelry stylist worthy of fellow creative John Hancock has to offer.

7/13 — Nordstrom Rewards Level Four Access

Bony Levy Trunk Show Preview

My shift: 11:30 – 8:30

7/14 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

Bony Levy Trunk Show 10:00 – 5:00

My shift: 10:30 – 7:30

7/15 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

My shift: 11:30 – 8:30

7/16 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

My Shift: 1:00 – 10:00

7/17 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

My Shift: 10:30 – 6:00

7/18 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

My Shift: 1:00 – 9:30

7/19 — Nordstrom Rewards All Level Access

My Shift: 11:30 – 8:30

7/20 and 7/21 I am off

7/22 — Public Access to the 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Lagos Trunk Show 10:00 – 5:00

My Shift: 11:00 – 8:00

7/23 — Public Access to the 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

My Shift: 1:45 – 10:45

I do not have the rest of my schedule for the event, which ends on August 7. On August 8, all Anniversary merchandise will no longer be offered at a discount.

Hope to see you in July!

 

 

 

Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Asparagus

June 28th, 2016

unnamed-2My husband is used to eating well.

While raising our two wonderful children I cooked my way through a personal collection of seventy-five cookbooks, exploring the favorite recipes of diverse cultures. I became a firm believer that in order to truly understand what makes up a sublime plate one must be able to do more than boil water.

Flash-forward to the present—I am always looking for another challenge that involves personal growth. I am currently working as a jewelry stylist for Nordstrom while still writing, presenting to various groups at local libraries, and caring for my thirty orchids. Yes, I’m crazy busy and have less time to cook, which is why it is so nice when my husband discovers a gem of a recipe like this one. He has made it a number of times and has changed a few critical aspects. He has become a confident cook, unafraid to adjust a method that seems less than satisfactory. He has a couple of suggestions: The cooking time in the original recipe is way too short unless you want to eat raw salmon. Also, his method for preparing the potatoes is superior. He bakes the potatoes rather than boiling them. The potatoes are drier in texture, and form a crunchy platform on which to place the asparagus and the salmon. Try both methods and let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4 medium red-skin potatoes
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch jumbo asparagus, tough ends trimmed and sliced on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vermouth or white wine
¼ cup crème fraîche
Paul Prudhomme Veggie Magic
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and boil until just tender, 20 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and flake into bite-size pieces. Set aside to air-dry. (Bake potatoes until cooked, cool, and chop into bite size pieces.)

2. Season salmon with salt. Spray a baking dish lightly with oil. Arrange salmon, skin-side down, in dish and cover with aluminum foil. Roast until flesh flakes when lightly prodded, about 12 minutes. Remove skin.

3. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and sauté until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes more. Transfer asparagus to a bowl and let cool slightly, 3 minutes. Season with salt and crème fraîche.

4. Set another large sauté pan over medium-high heat and coat with two tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add chopped potatoes and cook until browned, 2 minutes. Season with Veggie Magic. Flip potatoes, add remaining butter and cook until crisped, 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Attribution: Eric Ziebold/WSJ

Do You Have #bloggerstyle?

June 28th, 2016

Bacon_Aporkalypse_6x9_CMYK-24.25"x2.75" Post Card TemplateI am looking forward to an evening of tasty treats and great conversation as I join fellow foodies at the Riverview public library. In honor or this event I have placed two of my short stories free on Amazon.

Cookbook Club: Digital Dining.

This month’s theme is Food Blogging. Join special guest, Lois Lewandowski, local author and food blogger, who will share how her passion for food and writing about it, jumpstarted her career as a fiction writer. Choose a recipe from your favorite food blog or from the display and prepare a dish; bring it to the meeting to share with the other participants. Please bring your own place setting (cup or bowl, plate and silverware) for each meeting. Funded by the Friends of the Riverview Branch Library. #readlocal #enovaaw