Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy birthday, Classy Local!

Classy Local turns one!

Before beginning the celebrations of a new year, I would like to recognize the past year as the Classy Local blog celebrates its first year of existence!

For anyone who has ever kept or followed a blog, we know that many tend to peter out after several weeks or months, so one year is quite a milestone for a blog-- especially for this busy blogger!

I started Classy Local after spending quite a bit of time reading my two favorite blogs: How to Be Chic and The Daily Connoisseur. I enjoy these blogs so much because they are inspiring and remind me of my time spent overseas. Whether it is simply because I had been enjoying a leisurely vacation, or because those Europeans really do have things figured out, my time abroad has been a wonderful and powerful experience for me-- not just from the magnificent sights and sounds of Europe, but because of its everyday culture and lifestyle. Reading and writing about these little aspects of everyday living serves as my reminder to live well every day (or as much as I possibly can)!

Most importantly, both of my favorite blogs are very well-written! As someone who teaches writing, I strongly believe that teachers must practice what they preach-- namely, for me, I must be a writer myself if I wish to teach writing successfully. I am glad that for the past year, I have been able to do this in a small but consistent way through my blogging.

Hopefully, I can continue writing and simultaneously cultivating my inner bon vivant for another year or more. Here's to another year of style, celebration, and creativity.

The above photo was taken by me of a room in Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland in 2009. It was originally posted on the first Classy Local blog post (ever!), here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What’s Christmas without a steam whistle?

Local traditions are a great way to enjoy the holiday spirit, no matter how strange they may seem.

This afternoon, I listened to a 15-minute-long rendition of “God Bless America” as played by a steam whistle.

It was… strange.

An eerie, haunting, and kind of mournful sound. The steam whistle brings to mind days of early risers and efficiency, of men in overalls walking to the factory with lunch pails in hand.

Yet the only time citizens of York, PA (within a 5-10 mile radius) hear this call from days past is on Christmas Eve, when the steam whistle at the New York Wire Co. plays carols conducted by Whistlemaster (yes, that seems to be an official job description) Donald Ryan.

Today, I listened to the practice session for tomorrow night’s concert. Having totally forgotten about this annual ritual since I heard it for the first time last year, I was really spooked when I heard the high-pitched wailing from afar, and wondered if either 1.) a neighbor kid was whining somewhere, 2.) a lost dog or a pack of wolves was howling, or 3.) someone’s saxophone practice wasn’t going so well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Suiting up: the interview

The style struggle between personality and professionalism becomes especially clear when one is dressing for an interview, a time when first impressions are crucial.

Interviews are often difficult, uncomfortable situations. Aside from the obvious tension and nervousness resulting from the job-hunting process, deciding what to wear for this important occasion can be especially daunting. An interviewee wants to look the part, but also wants to stand out. This is not a time to be boring in one’s attire! Let your true self stand out, while still fitting in to the corporate culture.

I always recommend wearing a suit to a professional interview, because not only are they office appropriate, but suits are also expected in 90% of professional job interviews. I believe that everyone should own at least two great suits—you want to be ready for that second-interview call! The key to wearing a suit is to have confidence: project an air of surety, professionalism, and control. (Remember, there is truth to the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it!) Knowing that you look great can be the first step toward projecting this self-assured image.

Some notes on suits:

Women at work: what to wear?

Building a beautiful work wardrobe takes time to master. Following three basic style rules (color, texture, and balance) can help you to feel more comfortable at work and with yourself.

Sky-high heels, low-cut blouses, and miniskirts might be key components in many women's closets (though hopefully not worn all together), but these pieces would never see the light of day in an office setting. Unlike men, who have more clearly defined rules on what is or is not acceptable to wear for professional attire, women often have a balancing act to play when it comes to work wear.

What a woman might wear for a night out is often radically different than what she might wear to the office the next day. Femininity and fashion are sometimes sacrificed at the expense of professionalism. Furthermore, when you factor in issues like corporate culture and industry expectations, the style guidelines become even more blurred. A lawyer or teacher might not be able to get away with wearing the same styles that a graphic artist might wear, for instance.

I believe that professional wardrobes should be a compromise between personal style and   professional expectations. One should not be a substitute for the other. Many times, women (especially younger women) feel pressured to play it safe and wear clothes that are boring and do not truly express their own style or personality. This may happen for several reasons: in order to be taken seriously, to compensate for their youth or inexperience, to avoid harassment (worst of all), or simply because they haven't figured out that balance yet between their individuality and their professional look.

As a default, many women turn to work-wear staples that mirror the men's: suits, slacks, and button-up, collared shirts: essentially, the same clothes that a man would wear to work on a daily basis, minus the tie, and made in women's sizes. Although these clothes are certainly office appropriate, inwardly, they make my inner fashionista shudder. They just don't seem very feminine—especially the collared shirts. Furthermore, they are a pain to constantly iron, and they feel stiff and restricting.

Even when tailored for women, menswear (or menswear-inspired clothing) can simply make one feel very unfeminine. Androgynous, even. While it is necessary to have a collection of professional pieces to wear to work, it is important to never violate the all-important principal of being both practical and chic: if you don't love it, don't wear it! Don't even buy it! Save your money for clothes that you love and that make you look and feel gorgeous.

Fortunately, there are plenty of clothing items that are both beautiful and office-appropriate. And, even for office-attire staples, like a button up shirt in classic white, or a pair of go-to khaki pants, there are ways to incorporate these items into a work wardrobe in a way that can make you look and feel feminine and professional. (Yes, these can co-exist!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Footwear Style Watch

My opinion on Ugg boots, and what (not) to look for in cold-weather shoes.

My favorite part about fall is the boots. A good pair of knee-high, leather riding boots are definitely a must in any (aspiring) fashionista's wardrobe! Though often more expensive than other shoes, boots are what I consider to be an investment piece-- a nice pair will certainly last through several seasons, and they are an instant way of bringing both class and perhaps a little edge to any outfit. Additionally, boots are warm, which makes them ideal footwear for fall and winter; plus, they look oh-so-lovely with tights! I'm glad that riding boots, and more recently moto (or motorcycle) boots, are currently in vogue. Either the flat or chunky heels on these styles make them comfortable and practical for walking on slippery, leaf-strewn sidewalks. Both riding boots and moto boots fall into my favorites list for being both practical and stylish.

Another popular boot style for the past several seasons are Uggs, or Ugg-style boots. They are (generally) flat, calf-high or ankle-high, suede boots with fleece-lined interiors. Although I've never owned a pair, I do hear that they are extremely warm and comfortable, which partially explains their overwhelming popularity in recent years. Indeed, Ugg boots can be seen everywhere, especially on college campuses, even though they can cost upwards of $200 a pair! Unlike riding or moto boots, which are typically leather (or made from a durable kind of faux leather), Uggs usually have a suede exterior and traditionally come in a neutral tan or off-white color.

A reader recently asked me what my opinion was regarding Ugg boots, and frankly, I consider them a fashion don’t. Mainly, it is because they seem radically over-priced. I have no qualms with paying for high-quality, useful items that will last and last, but I don’t think that Uggs fit into that category.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Fashion Update

Keep your wardrobe fashionable and fresh with some style tips for autumn.

Pumpkin spice lattes are back in season, Halloween candy is now on sale, and a chill is in the air (at least at night)! Along with cooler weather, fall fashion is back. This week, I was so excited to have a reader request my advice on what fashion finds can freshen up a fall wardrobe. In addition to the lovely weather and colors, the beauty of fall is that it’s a transitory season between summer and winter, so a lot of summer clothes can be carried over into a fall outfits... and many fall outfits can work just as well in the winter! A few accessories, and perhaps a well-chosen clothing piece or two, can ensure a stylish seasonal wardrobe that matches both the weather and the style of the time.

This summer, I blogged about a few new pieces that I bought for warmer weather, including a denim shirt and a new pair of skinny jeans in a dark wash. Here are my tips on how to incorporate these stylish basics into your autumn wardrobe.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Staying Chic When You're between Sizes: Part 2

Becoming acquainted with a good tailor or seamstress can ensure that you always look fabulous with the perfect fit.

This may be one of the most important, yet under-appreciated, pieces of style advice ever. Once I started writing about this concept for my mini-series on staying chic when you're between sizes, I couldn't stop! The idea of having custom-fitted clothing is so important that it deserves its own post.

The idea of a seamstress or tailor may seem a little old-fashioned, especially now that clothing is so quickly and cheaply made. Many people may think it's easier to just buy a whole new wardrobe once your size changes! While that may sound fun, it's terribly impractical and rather wasteful spending. Even if you can buy a lot of clothes on the cheap, I'm certain the quality of those clothing items are questionable, at best. Also, everyone's body is unique-- while some  people may be fortunate enough to wear clothing immediately off the rack, for the majority of the population, the only way to ensure a truly perfect fit is with custom tailoring.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Staying Chic When You're between Sizes: Part 1

In the first of this three-part installment, I offer my tips on looking stylish during times of physical transition.

Thanks to reader request, I've decided to tackle a very tricky and (sometimes sensitive) issue in regard to how to dress when you're between sizes. If your weight often fluctuates, or if you've undergone a major life change (such as having a baby), your sense of style can be thrown out of whack, along with your body and hormones!

Lots of things can make one's weight and size fluctuate. Stress, having a baby, changes to medications, or new dietary or exercise habits can all cause one's size or shape to change, sometimes very drastically! Personally, I tend to be rather affected by the changes of the season, and I usually pack on a few pounds in the winter... though whether that's a result of enjoying heartier cold-weather foods, staying indoors (and on the couch) more, or my animal instinct to hibernate, who's to say? But one thing is certain-- a noticeable change to one's size and body shape can definitely effect one's confidence and sense of style. Here are some tips on how to look your best during these times of physical transition.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Be Busy, Be Happy


In times of stress, more than ever, it is important to put oneself first.

There’s a saying that the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans.

My summer schedule has now filled considerably, just days after my most recent post, in which I boasted about how “…for the first time in several years, my summer is relatively open. After wrapping up my first year as a college professor, I'm enjoying the lightened summer workload of the education field, teaching just one summer class and tutoring just one day a week.” Last week I was asked to pick up two more summer classes to teach, so my “lightened” summer schedule now consists of teaching four days a week, and tutoring one.

So, adieu, free time. My summer has become considerably busier. But, rather than lament all of the lost days that I was planning to spend on a patio with a good book and a glass of wine, I am welcoming the opportunity to earn more money and continue improving my teaching skills. However, I cannot completely do away with my plans for relaxation and personal enjoyment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Wardrobe Upgrade

Here is a look at four new pieces that I bought to mix and match in to my summer closet.

I love shopping, but believe it or not, I don’t really do much of it because I try to be frugal and live well within and even below my means. (Credit card debt is so not chic!) Although trying on, buying and creating different outfits is a lot of fun, I just feel too much guilt afterwards with what I spent, regardless of the actual cost. So the fact that I actually broke down and bought myself some summer clothes is a double rarity because I don’t really buy many new clothes, and when I do, they’re usually for work. However, after several of my summer clothing staples literally fell apart, I realized that it was time to upgrade.

Another motivating factor for my sudden shopping spree was that, for the first time in several years, my summer is relatively open. After wrapping up my first year as a college professor, I'm enjoying the lightened summer workload of the education field, teaching just one summer class and tutoring just one day a week. So now I have plenty of time during the week for my own interests and activities. What to wear during it all?

Here is what I bought:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hosting Made Simple

It's ok to keep things simple when hosting an event.

I have a habit of overextending myself sometimes. Which is why, in the middle of the busiest and final weeks of the college semester, I decided to repaint my basement, volunteer for a local event's publicity committee, and host a 30th birthday party for my husband.

What was I thinking!

Fortunately, I have become rather adept at managing times of crisis. One of the newer lessons that I've learned is that you absolutely do not have to do everything yourself.

Modern-day etiquette dilemma: who pays at a birthday dinner?

Sources offer contradicting points of view, so the most important thing is to communicate the issue with your guests.

Recently, I planned a small celebration with friends and family for my husband's 30th birthday. After realizing that it would be impractical for me to cook for and serve twenty guests in my own home, I decided to have the dinner at a local restaurant.

At first, I was a bit nervous about this aspect of party planning. If I was not cooking for this group, would I then be expected to pick up the check for everyone?

Even Emily Post could not give me a clear answer.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Maintaining a well-kept home does not have to be an all-or-nothing chore.

I’ve become enamored with a new word I read on (one of) my inspiration blog(s), How to Be Chic. The author, Fiona, often refers to a part of her daily activities as “pottering” about the house. Apparently, this is an antiquated term meaning to busy oneself with casual housework, or just tidying up the home. This term is very similar to one I heard often growing up, from my mother and grandmother. The German putzen means to clean. I would sometimes hear Mom or Grandma mention how they were just “putzing” around—spending time at home, cleaning up here and there.

I like these words because they indicate a kind of casual attitude toward routine home maintenance. In fact, one online dictionary defines potter (verb) as, “to busy oneself in a desultory though agreeable manner.” Pottering and putzing seem to eliminate the frantic connotations associated with home cleaning. For working professionals who don’t have the luxury of a maid or the time of a full-time hausfrau, home cleaning and maintenance has turned into an all-or-nothing chore. Typically, there is one or several days every month devoted to extensive home cleaning, usually over the course of a precious weekend. During this time, homes are torn apart and sorted through top to bottom. After a day spent making the house sparkle, daily messes then begin to re-accumulate and another marathon cleaning session is scheduled.

European homes generally tend to be a bit smaller than the McMansions of America, which makes it possible to maintain a clean and comfortable home without the same amount of drudgery. I believe that the chic home is one that is comfortable, welcoming, and—like one's personal style—should not require a tremendous amount of effort. I would much rather take care of and enjoy what little I have, than spend time and money agonizing over anything more than what I need. Rather than putting ourselves through the routine torture of a marathon weekend clean, why not steadily work on home tasks, little by little, a la the pottering way?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Packing Tips for a Spring Getaway

Simply put, the most important piece of travel advice is to pack lightly.

I am proudly notorious for travelling light. The challenge of this is to be prepared and have what you need, but nothing more! This is the same mentality that I strive to live in my everyday life—to enjoy my favorite things without the clutter or distraction of anything that I don’t love, use, or need.

Before you start packing for a vacation or a short getaway, determine what kind of suitcase or luggage you want to use. I generally tend to avoid the hassle and delay of checking luggage, so I try to pack everything into a carry-on bag. However, as I learned from my last flight, it’s important to find out what luggage restrictions or requirements your airline has; however, if you’re travelling in your own vehicle, then what kind of luggage you pack is not such an issue. Once you figure out what kind of suitcase(s) you're going to bring, you're ready to get started.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tips for Air Travel

The second installment in my three-part spring getaway series, where I offer a few general tips for planning a flight.

Air travel has become a bit of a mess lately. Between the general anxieties that many travellers have, and the strict (and often bewildering) regulations enforced by the TSA, the process of flying has become almost more trouble than it's worth. In spite of these many drawbacks, flying is often the most time efficient and practical form of long-distance travel. Careful research and planning is one way to make this stressful situation more manageable. Here are a few things that I've learned during my two decades (!) of foreign and domestic air travel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Spring Getaway

A mini-vacation is a great way to refresh your mind and outlook.

After months of cold, dreary, and wet weather here in the mid-Atlantic, many of us are in need of a change of scenery. A short vacation, even a weekend trip, can provide a much-needed break from routine and can refresh one's perspective or outlook.

My husband and I were fortunate to spend last week in sunny Florida. After a brief visit in Boca Raton with our family, we hopped on I-95 and drove north to lovely Vero Beach for a few days. Although the weather was a little too cold for a dip in the ocean, we enjoyed many long walks through the surf and some time by the (heated) pool at our resort.

Being able to physically leave our routines and responsibilities was a great way for us to de-stress and just spend some time relaxing—a perfect tonic for both our physical and mental health. If a week-long vacation is out of the question, even a day away from the worries of everyday life can be beneficial. A day in a park or local café with a good book can offer a welcome change of scenery—if only for a few hours.

The time off (from work, blogging, and everything else!) has given me fresh motivation for tackling my everyday activities, as well as some new inspiration for blogging material. I'm looking forward to kick-starting my regular routine with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Won’t you stay tuned for more in this three-part travel series from Classy Local? Coming up:

The above photo was taken by me on my cell phone in March, 2013 of the Atlantic Ocean as seen through the dunes at Vero Beach, Fla.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Word on Size

Confidence is one's greatest asset in finding and maintaining a chic style, regardless of size or weight.

Size is, as is style, an immensely personal matter—everyone has his or her own standards of what looks best and at what size one feels most comfortable. Sometimes we give ourselves unrealistic expectations in regard to our dream weight or size, which may not always align with what doctors would consider a healthy weight. As somebody who has been naturally thin for most of my life, it sometimes feels a little awkward for me to dispense advice on weight or size. I offer this advice not to criticize or condone people who are over- (or under-) weight or struggling with their size, but rather as someone trying to give advice on how to look your best, regardless of weight, size, or shape.

As every chic woman knows, confidence is one's greatest asset. When it comes to clothing size, your best weight will reflect a balance between your feelings toward and ability to maintain your current size. Sure, it may be easier to stay at a larger size, but how do you feel about it? Or perhaps you love your smaller size, but how difficult is it to maintain that weight? Your happy size is often a compromise between one where you feel you look your best and one that you can realistically and comfortably maintain.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cultivate the Mind

A woman has to be intelligent, have charm, a sense of humor, and be kind. It's the same qualities I require from a man.
--French actress Catherine Deneuve

Style is not solely a material concern.

Although clothing, accessories, and products can all be used to enhance one's beauty-- the most permanent element of a beautiful woman is her mind.

Just as we update our personal style and the items in our closets, it is equally important to provide new material for our minds. Learning should not end with one's formal education! It is easy to slump into a routine where the only new material that we consume is what we have seen on reality TV and Facebook. (I too, have been guilty of this!)

What I love about travelling is that it is the surest way to immerse oneself in learning, culture, and history. Most tourists would not want to while away their vacation hours in a hotel room watching reruns of The Jersey Shore. Aside from the occasional photo update (intended to make Facebook friends envious), travelers find themselves exploring a new landscape, trying new foods, visiting a famous museum, or braving a foreign language. Whether we realize it or not, the thrill of learning something new is a great part of why we enjoy our vacations so much.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Community Celebrations

Local festivals are a fun way to see new things and experience an area's history and culture.

Although Oktoberfest might be the best-known German (or even European) festival, it is far from the only one. Nearly every German town, from a major city like Munich to the smallest little village, holds annual (or bi-annual) celebrations for locals and visitors alike. These public parties provide a little boost to the local economy, a welcome distraction for working citizens, and fun and entertainment for people of all ages. These town-wide celebrations are something for people to look forward to and generally enhance the quality of life in these areas.

How I envy those Europeans!

Although America is not entirely devoid of public celebrations, these kinds of events tend to get crammed into weekend schedules, or, if we're lucky, they're stretched out over a three-day weekend. What a shame! European celebrations often last a week or longer. What makes this possible is the generous amount of time off allowed by the European workplace. Most businesses automatically give employees about 30 days, or six week's worth, of vacation time-- more for higher-up or longer-tenured employees. How pitiful that Americans are only given one or two weeks on average.

Nevertheless, here in America, I strive to be a connoisseur of as may regional events as possible. Just because I can't jaunt off to Europe every week doesn't mean I have to stay home and see nothing! So, in keeping with my New Year's resolution of attending more cultural events, I decided to go on an adventure this month. As a Pennsylvania resident, I thought it was finally time for me to attend one of Pennsylvania's best-known annual celebrations: Groundhog Day.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Never Underestimate a Great Dress

A truly perfect wardrobe staple is both versatile and elegant.

Stand aside, drag queens. Even public restroom signs acknowledge the role a dress plays in establishing femininity and womanhood. From Audrey Hepburn’s classic black sheath dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to nearly any of Marilyn Monroe’s famous looks, dresses are a wardrobe staple that are unique to women’s closets. Sadly, many women shy away from this oh-so-feminine (and chic!) clothing essential. (Perhaps here is where we can learn a thing or two from the drag queens!) Being able to throw on a beautiful dress and walk effortlessly out of the house to face the day, to me, is truly a symbol of that elegant, naturally European je ne sais quoi.

You don’t have to be a girly-girl (although what’s wrong with that?) to get good mileage out of a nice dress. Some women seem to be intimidated by the thought of wearing dresses—they may feel that one is too fancy to wear for regular occasions, or that dresses are simply not their style. As a dedicated tomboy growing up, I certainly understand how these feelings persist! However, as I grew older and developed my personal style, I’ve found that dresses have become a wonderful and easy wardrobe mainstay.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

And indeed there will be time   
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
--"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Elliot

Relying on good manners can make a difficult situation less awkward.

Difficult experiences never go away. At every point in life, there are situations and encounters that make us want to cringe, cry, or do some sad combination of the two. Although it is natural to want to hide from these moments of awkwardness, sometimes it is not always prudent or possible to do so. After all, with great risk comes great reward. What if you had never asked your significant other out on that first date? What if you avoided going to that interview? What if you had never tried your new favorite food? Your life would resemble that of the great J. Alfred Prufrock-- a tragic assembly of what-ifs.

My high school music teacher was fond of saying, "You're only nervous if you're unprepared." Being prepared for a situation can make it easier because you will know what to do and how to conduct yourself. Practicing good manners is one way in which you can reassure yourself that you know just how to act in any situation.

Good manners are a skill set. Rely on your good habits to help you through a difficult encounter. Most of the time, we are nervous because we are unsure of what the other person's (or people's) reaction will be. Although we can't control what someone else will do, we can remain in control of our own actions. Good manners are essentially about executing self-control.

And so-- here's how I used good manners to help me overcome a difficult encounter.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Keep Chic and Carry On

Wardrobe planning can help to ensure that, if nothing else, you will look good amidst the chaos.

Have you ever noticed how some people seem able to keep it all together, regardless of what is going on in their life? No matter what kind of action-filled, chaotic events are happening during their week, certain people have that je ne sais quoi. They invariably seem in control and together. Conversely, there are some people that, if the wind blows the wrong way, they fall apart. They are often frazzled and flustered-- and usually this is reflected in their attire. Perhaps their clothing is wrinkled, their hair is undone, and they usually seem very tired. Clearly, being frazzled is so not chic.

What is different about these two kinds of people? The chic and the... not-so-chic? It is not necessarily a matter of time-- everyone has the same 24 hours in the day, and everyone has responsibilities and obligations. Yet some people let their daily tasks get the best of them. They become overwhelmed and their appearance is often the first thing that is sacrificed in the line of duty. Often these people are apologetic or embarrassed about how they look. When a day's tasks are building up, why add to the stress with feelings of guilt and embarrassment? Your appearance can become a place of confidence and refuge. When things start getting hectic, wouldn't it be nice to reassure yourself with the notion that, if nothing else, at least your knickers match?

This kind of confidence does not happen by accident. What distinguishes the chic from the chaotic is a matter of planning ahead and being prepared. Although most people accept this mantra in regard to everyday tasks and responsibilities, many are not aware that it is also especially true when it comes to one's attire.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The All-Important Dressing Gown

A good-quality robe (or several) is often the first and last step in one's daily ensemble.

It can be the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you change into at night. However, the significance of a nice dressing gown is often overlooked in modern wardrobes. Although they're not as popular as other wardrobe items (why must shoes get all the credit?), nothing says comfort and luxury like a nice robe. Any respectable hotel or spa knows that this accessory is just the way to make guests feel pampered and cozy. Why not make this simple wardrobe accent part of your own apparel?

If you don't have a nice robe or dressing gown, I strongly suggest investing in at least one nice piece. Aside from being comfortable, a dressing gown serves an important function-- to protect and conceal you when you're not yet presentable. Whether you're getting the mail, letting the dog out, walking down a hotel or dormitory hallway from the restroom (yes, there are still many lovely hotels with communal bathrooms), or simply brewing a pot of coffee in the morning, why should your pajamas or undergarments (or less!) become a matter of public knowledge? Some things are better kept to oneself (and one's lover)! Take a word of advice from my favorite blogger, Mrs. Jennifer Scott, and cultivate an air of mystery. Being mysterious is very chic.

Another important function of a dressing gown is to protect whatever you're wearing underneath-- not just what you're not wearing! Aside from issues of modesty, a dressing gown protects nightgowns and pajamas that are made of delicate fabric-- silk, satin, lace... A whole blog post (or several) shall be dedicated just to this topic! Along with wearing better quality items comes the responsibility of caring for those items. A dressing gown keeps delicate, intimate clothing free from coffee stains and daily grime, should you choose to venture out of your bedroom while still in your skivvies. A nice robe will help you to not only extend the life of your clothes, but also add to your esotericism.

Though at least one nice robe is a necessity in my opinion, as with any wardrobe accessory, growing and customizing your assortment of dressing gowns can be a fun way to pamper yourself. Here are my suggestions for starting your own collection.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Learn to Cook

Being able to prepare delicious meals, regardless of their complexity level, is an essential element of living well. When you understand what goes into preparing a meal, it makes you more appreciative of what's on your plate. Being able to prepare and serve meals is a wonderful talent that is meant to be shared.

In addition to being a great hostess, my grandmother was (and all of my German relatives are) wonderful in the kitchen. Thankfully I have inherited this skill! But if you don't know how to cook, or perhaps you're not skilled at it, I urge you to learn! Practice, practice, practice. My aunt (on my father's side) does catering for small events. (She's in her 70s!) When people ask her what her secret is, she simply states, "If you can read, honey, you can cook." It's simple, but true. Cooking is mainly about following directions. Buy a simple cookbook and practice the recipes. When you feel confident with simple recipes, try experimenting! Add a new spice or seasoning. Try substituting shrimp for crab meat. That sort of thing. As with most new skills, practice makes perfect.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hosting Lessons from Germany


The French aren't the only ones who understand comme il faut. 

French women get all the credit when it comes to throwing chic parties and entertaining.

Perhaps one of the most familiar gurus of French living is Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” This book was released in 2004 and quickly landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Clearly, we fat Americans are hungry for some cultural nourishment.

Yet most of my experience in living well comes from my German relatives. My mother's mother, Gertrude, immigrated from Germany in the summer of 1948. Fortunately, I still have relatives in Germany that I visit every few years. These visits are what kindled my interest in travel, culture, language, beer, food, and so much more.

One of the things that I remember about my grandmother, who passed away when I was 10 years old, is her understanding of there being a "right" way to do things. I was too young to identify whether or not she was a perfectionist (my mother would probably say yes, yes she was), but I remember things were done very deliberately in her home. There were certain expectations and unwritten rules to follow. A lot of these rules revolved around how you treat other people when they are in your home. Although I have many memories of how Grandma (we did not call her Oma) liked to do certain things, there are two very important concepts that I especially remember and that I try to practice today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!


2013 brings new motivation and insight from 2012.

Last year, I made five resolutions for myself. I kept one.

In case you misread: I actually kept one!

I managed to stay out of debt. In 2011 I had finally managed to pay off the modest amount of credit card debt that I had acquired while I was finishing graduate school and looking for employment. In 2012, I had resolved to remain debt-free. It was not easy, especially because I worked part time through most of the year, so I am doubly proud to have made that one resolution stick.

So although I did not exercise three times per week throughout the year (that kind of thing comprised my other resolutions), I did resist many, many financial temptations. Fortunately, that self-control made it all the more rewarding when I did save up for a purchase. Rather than frittering away money on several small items of lesser quality, I limited myself to one or two nice things. I ended up feeling more appreciation for what I did buy, and I made less impulsive shopping decisions. A win-win, in my book! Because I put more thought and time into choosing what I bought, I was more selective about quality and style, and I enjoyed what I did buy infinitely more.

The lesson I learned from 2012? Financial consciousness plus quality equals appreciation.