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Monday, March 20, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere

Sometimes its the really little things that make all the difference. I re-discovered this again today, thanks to a comment from a friend.
Like so many of us, I attend Weight Watchers to manage my tendency to "spread". I find that I am better about what I eat and drink when I have an external "check" on myself. Weight Watchers does that for me. Like so many Weight Watchers, I am a constant water drinker. I try very hard to get my 8 glasses of water in before I leave work each day.
In order to do that, I keep a tall glass on my desk. I fill it throughout the day with ice cold water from the fridge. This glass is a lovely shaped tumbler that sparkles in the light. When its sitting next to a vase of cut flowers, it looks especially lovely. I enjoy looking at it. I enjoy the feel of it in my hand, the balance and the weight of it. Because I enjoy it, I use it. That means I drink my water.
I also have a recycled Voss water bottle that I use when I'm attending meetings in other parts of the building. I like the bottle too. I like the tall narrow shape. I like the heavy feel of it in my hand.
Today, someone commented on my bottle and my glass. They noticed that it wasn't the plain, colored plastic bottle that everyone else sports. Its just a little bit off. It keeps things interesting. It keeps things "pretty". Sometimes that's all it takes to make the day more pleasant. Most days that's all it takes to keep me drinking my water.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

I have to honest, I have never thought of St. Patrick's Day as a particularly chic or fashionable holiday. To the contrary, it has always seemed a bit tacky and silly to me. But I have to admit, I have seen such amazingly fashionable St. Patrick's Day wearing of the green today that I am beginning to change my mind. Likewise, some of the local honoring of the day have been almost elegant (I'm still not ready to call St. Patrick's Day elegant.... sorry).
Some of the more lovely St. Patrick's Day ideas that I've seen today include:
** bagels (regular bagels, not the horrid green bagels) with a lovely parsley and kale garnish beneath them on the tray. These were served with regular cream cheese and butter (again, not the horrid green dyed stuff) and a green veggie cream cheese. This seemed to have cucumbers, peppers and other greenery chopped into it, giving it a slightly green flair while still tasting excellent and not turning the stomach before the first bite with a florescent green dye.
** shamrock shaped cookies sprinkled with a light dusting of green glitter. These looked fabulous at the local coffee shop where they were on special with Irish Coffee (of course!)
** a strolling bagpiper in full kilt and regalia. This was a magnificent display. This extremely talented gentleman played for about 20 minutes. He looked amazing in the full regalia and the bagpipe sounded spectatular. I have to admit, I am not usually a big fan of bagpipes. The little droning noise underneath the actual music is very distracting for me. But, this was fantastic.
** green top hats on the waiters in the local restaurant. They wore their usual uniforms of white shirts and black trousers, but added this little touch of the Irish. It looked smart and befitted the restaurant's image and a spiffy place to lunch.

I also noted quite a number of very fashionably dressed ladies today who managed to wear the green without looking ticky-tacky. some of them looked absolutely amazing!
** One woman I work with wore a green/blue plaid skirt with a green turtleneck and a lucious bulky aran knit sweater in a rich cream color. Wow. I even own all of those pieces. I just didn't think of this.
** one of our clients arrived wearing jeans, a white buttoned shirt (menswear style) and a smashing looking bright green scarf with gold celtic knots on it. She had added green leather loafers. On my budget, that probably isn't going to happen any time soon, but the rest of the outfit was inspiring.
***another client arrived wearing a subdued green suit with a white blouse. This was a suit that you would wear any day of the year and not feel self-conscious about the green. It was that half olive, half khaki kind of a green that sprouted up in the last season or two. She had added some large gold jewelry -- heavy cuff, large chain necklace and celtic knot style earrings.
** another colleague arrived in cream colored pants, a light green ribbed turtleneck, and a cream quilted vest. She looked very "spring".
** similarly I was a woman on the street with cream pants, a green turtleneck and a black vest. She had added black loafers to finish off the look.
** one of the most smashing outfits I observed today was a woman in light colored khakis (the beige kind) with a white buttoned down shirt with green pinstripes and a large silk scarf that was a white background with hundreds of little green shamrocks all over it. This probably isn't the kind of a scarf I'd wear more than once or twice a year so I wouldn't think of it as an investment piece. But it did look amazing as she walked down the street. I was impressed.
So --- maybe St. Patrick's Day can be a classy, elegant holiday after all --- or at least a chic one!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

I've been tring to be more aware of the feedback that I receive from those around me. Since this is usually in the form of unsolicited comments from colleagues, clients, etc, I often don't "file it away" in my brain. Recently I've become aware of just how valuable this commentary is to me in my quest to be chic and elegant on a very frugal budget.
I came across a quote (if I knew to whom it should be attributed, I'd gladly give credit) that has stayed with me of late. If you look chic and elegant one day, but not the next (or not every day).... it means that the chic day was an accident. I don't want my chic days to be accidents. I want every day to be terrific looking and feeling. I want that to be my signature style... my image to the world.
The truth of the matter is that, for me, there are good days and bad days. I do not manage the elegant image every day. I'm getting better. I'm moving toward that image. But I'm not there yet.
That was when I realized that the unsolicited comments from those around me were valuable clues as to what was going right and what was going wrong. So, I'm trying to be more aware of those comments. And I'm trying to use the information to aid my quest for a chic, elegant image.
Yesterday was a day that held some of those clues. Truthfully, if you had asked me about how I felt yesterday, I would have responded, "Pretty blah." I need a haircut, but can't get to the stylist for another week and a half. My nails are done, but ready to be re-done. My everyday makeup just didn't look quite right yesterday. I was bone-tired and ready for a nap by 10:00 am. I had put on an outfit based on time pressure and convenience rather than what I really wanted to be wearing. And although I love black, it wasn't the right color for my mood and well-being yesterday.
Then came the comments from my personal peanut gallery... "You look very efficent today" (not sure what to make of that one!) "You look very relaxed today." (certainly not how I felt). "I don't know what it is, but you look great." (I love when I get this comment. It means that it isn't about one particular piece of clothing that is stealing the show. The overall effect of my clothing is exactly what I'm striving for when it generates this kind of a comment.)
Obviously, I was doing something right yesterday. My "plain" black wrap sweater, houndstooth trousers and black loafers were working together for me in a good way. That outfit is now a "keeper" for me. It makes me look good, even when I don't feel particularly good and even when I don't have the time or energy to work at looking good. That was excellent feedback from my peanut gallery!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Proper Attire

I'm going to go on what my children call an "old lady rant". This is one of those times when I definitely show my age.
I attended a funeral this past week. I was brought up to understand that there was such a thing as "proper attire" for such events. In other words, one does not attend a funeral wearing such things as athletic shoes, sweatsuits, or jeans. One also (in my world) does not wear loud colors to a funeral. Accordingly I put on a dark plaid skirt, a dark knit jacket, a turtleneck (it was cold) and a scarf. I wore stockings and a pair of low heeled pumps. My mother would have been proud.
To my astonishment, at least half of the people in attendance at the funeral service were wearing items from the abovementioned list of verboten attire.
Now, I know that as a nation, we went through this with the "flip-flops at the White House" episode last year. I know that in some ways we have beaten a dead horse on the subject of dressing appropriately. But this was a funeral!!
I have long since "given up" on my expecations for attire at the symphony, the opera and the ballet. Those bastions of culture were long ago made casual and informal. I go with no expectations that anyone will "dress up" (other than me, of course). I have also given up on dress expectations for fancy restaurants, church services and business conferences. But I really still thought that weddings and funerals were somehow sacred and still dressy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

How to Tell

I had a very interesting experience the other day. I was in an expensive little shop in this area -- very toni, very chic, very pricey. I noticed that I had received excellent customer service even when I was rather clear that I would not be purchasing anything. (This was research --- if I'm going to ride on the coattails of luxury, I need to know what it looks, feels, smells, sounds like.) A while later, some other women entered the store --- they did not received the same level of excellent service that I had experienced. In fact, the clerk remained attentive to me (the non-buying customer) rather than leave me to attend to them. I found this rather odd. So, being the natural researcher that I am, I asked about it (after the women had left, of course)
What the clerk told me was astounding to me. She said that she (and the others who work there) have learned to identify potential customers -- they invest their time with those people. Customers who do not pass their little identification test, don't warrant as much time investment. That part didn't surprise me -- but I would have assumed that I had "failed" once I made clear my complete lack of intent to purchase. She explained that she was confident that I would be returning and would purchase in the future, so I was a good sales investment. Her further explanation was that you could always tell the women with "real money" and class (ie. buying customers for her) by their hands. Women with class and money take care of their hands. They have manicures, not to create flashy effects, but to groom. These women have groomed nails and skin, pale or clear polish, clean nails, no hangnails etc. She indicated that the women who had recently left the store had long blood-red artificial nails that needed a fill. That clearly indicated to her that these women were "wannabes" and "posers" who were attempting to look glamourous because they really didn't have the money or the style.
I glanced down at my own hands --- I think I have working hands -- I do the dishes, garden, shovel snow and all the rest. These all leave evidence on your hands. The skin is not as soft. There are callouses. My nails are quite short so that I am able to work. I was wearing a coat of a very soft, pale pink polish. And, yes, I do moisturize my hands and keep them clean and groomed. Apparently even working hands pass as wealthy, elegant hands when they're well groomed and not flashy.