Friday, October 19, 2012

Today's news: Big Tex burns at State Fair of Texas

Big news today in DFW: Big Tex, the 60 year old mascot of the Texas State Fair caught fire today.

Here it is, burning:

Here it is, done burning:

Here is a video form of it, from YouTube:

The story is that his jaw mechanism mis-fired somehow. Big Tex "talks" and "waves" to the crowds. "Sigh." I'm going this Sunday, the final day of the Fair--it won't be the same wihtout Big Tex looming, in a kind of scary, crazy way, over the crowds.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Time-Saving and Frugal Ideas for High Style

I've been thinking about and searching the blog sphere for advice about how to achieve high style while saving time and money.

By "saving money" I mean spending intentionally for best value, by the way, not completely not spending.

In my opinion, to achieve great style, I have to choose where I spend money (invest) and where I save (skimp) over time for the best long-term outcome. I am interested in style, not fashion, in the end.

What's worth investing in?

  • A good haircut. Ergo, a hairstylist you trust and whose work makes you feel goooooooood is worth the money. Make sure it looks good for seven weeks, and you'll need 7-8 cuts annually.
  • Effective, brightening haircolor. Ergo, a good colorist who won't ruin the texture of your hair while adding bright, appropriate shading. And can you keep the ratio of color: cut to a 1:2 visit sequence? If not, go for it, but talk to your colorist.
  • Skin care. Good quality, reputable skin care including serum, moisturizers, eye creams and foundations. Not cosmetics, but daily/nightly targeted skin care. Worth every penny for long-term products that will protect and replenish your skin's condition.
  • Sunscreen! Given the numbers about skin cancer, sunscreen needs to be worn every day, no matter what, and you need a complete spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of SPF 30. This also improves the condition of your skin overall and certainly of your face.
  • Vitamins and high-quality/organic fruits and vegetables. What you put in shows, now and long-term, in your muscles, skin, nails, hair, and eyes. Seriously: buy the good stuff. Organic fruits and vegetables have higher nutrient value, free-range/grain-fed meat can be eaten in smaller quantities for tastier dishes, while good vitamins, minerals and greens enhance it all.
  • Shoe inserts for high heels: every pair! Get good ones: the benefits, short and long-term to your feet, ankles, knees and hips are mah-ve-lous. Replace as necessary.
  • Similarly, take your new shoes to the cobbler and get rubber heel caps and half-soles put on. This will preserve your new shoes and make them safer to walk on.
  • Bras. Invest in well-made bras fitted by an experienced saleswoman (not the teenagers at Victoria's Secret). No one product makes such a difference in your shape, confidence and comfort. Buy 2 new every six months.
  • Shaper lingerie: hey, if the size 2 women on the red carpet wear 'em, so can you. Spanx or other brands, get hold of quality shaper lingerie to wear under your clothes where you need it: under trousers, under skirts, under dresses, under blouses and t-shirts. If you tend to go up and down a size or two monthly, shapers will help you eliminate jiggle and bulge (my two least favorite words!).
  • Scarves. The accessory that does it all. Color, texture, spot/highlights. Around the handles of your purse, around your neck, around your head, around your waist: crazy-easy style.
On the other hand...

I try not to spend money on cosmetics or elements that won't last very long on my skin or things I can do myself. For example:
  • Lipstick or lip gloss. While there are a ton of department store/high-end brands that are very seductive to me in terms of packaging or claims (hello, Chanel!), I find that good old drugstore brands are actually excellent, considring that lipstick/gloss needs to be reapplied every couple hours. No matter what. Revlon, for example, has several varieties tht provide more than enough colors. (And after all, how many different pinks do you need, meaning that you will wear at least once/weekly?) Ditto Maybelline, who is really making an effort in this area. I buy and use the lip gloss from Sally Hansen: great texture and comes in four shades of neutral (clear, blush, mocha, and rosy, I think) none of which have more than a hint of color.
  • Nail polish: I will buy Essie and consider it a great savings over, again, the seductions of Chanel. The variety of colors and the 5 to 7-day last makes this a bargain. Even better bargain? Sally Hansen and Revlon, which has not quite so many shades as Essie, are my go-to drugstore brands.
  • Make-up brushes, manicure tools, sponges, and so forth: I buy Sally Hansen, Revlon or Sonia Kashuk (Target). Great quality without the high-end price. Tweezers from Tweezerman (Ulta).
  • Blush: I buy cheap. Yes, Nars gets lots and lots of applause, but seriously? I'm reapplying blush as often as lipstick. Cream or powder, drugstore brands are fine. And again, how many shades do you need?
  • Eyeshadow: L'Oreal, Ulta, and Maybelline offer fine-milled eyeshadows in a variety of shades. (And how many shades do you really wear, per week? C'mon)
  • Eyeliner pencils: Buy NYX. Cheap cheap cheap but non-irritating and great variety of smooth-drawing colors. Everything from kohl black to glittery pale blue. And about $5 each.
  • Mascara. Unless you have sensitive eyes, buy Maybelline's Great Lash and be done. NO ONE can tell which brand of mascara you wear -- NO ONE. Great Lash is the go-to for every makeup artist in the world.
  • Mani-pedis: do it at home. You can clean, condition, trim your own nails and give yourself both a manicure and a pedicure on a lazy Saturday afternoon or a quiet Sunday night. A Zen task for serenity. Turn salon mani-pedis into a reward for something great, because after all it is the treatment, not the nail-painting skill you crave, right?
  • Pantyhose and Tights: Buy cheap, especially if you snag regularly. These are not meant to last or bear the weight of a designer pricetag, and we all know it. My only caveat: buy the right size and don't compromise smaller or larger. That only results in saggy knees and ankles, or feeling like a particularly well-packed sausage all day. Do buy good quality lingerie bags if you wash them in the washer on gentle, or good quality handwash soap: that will make them last longer.
  • Body or Hand lotion, butter, or moisturizers: I favor old standards in this area, and I get great results. Why spend on really expensive lotion? I can also experiment through a variety of textures and scents and not feel guilty about giving away a bottle I don't particularly like. (I used to love The Body Shop's Papaya Body Butter--huge recommendation!--but they discontinued that scent and I don't like any of the others, so...)
And finally:

Your choice. Choose one area where you'll buy designer and spend big as an investment in an overall great look, and let the others go by. Literally, bye-bye. Invest in classics and ne wary of spending big for this season's color/shape/junk, because "this season" will be gone and you'll be paying the credit card bills. This includes:
  • bags
  • jewelry
  • accessories like scarves, belts, and bling (see above re: scarves, however)
  • shoes
  • eyeglasses or contacts, and sunglasses (including inexpensive readers)
Have a budget and figure out where the weight goes and where the lite goes.

Here's a little thing for you, in the subject. Become a curator, an observant buyer and an investor.

Friday, October 5, 2012

If I were in Paris... Friday, October 5, 2012

If I were in Paris today...

I'd go to the exhibit on Bohemes at the Grand Palais. This exhibit is dedicated to the myth of Bohemia as the "home" of artists, starting in the mid-19th century. The exhibition includes the work of such artists as de la Tour, Degas, Corot, Turner, Matisse, Van Gogh and Picasso and traces the intersections of artistic life not only in the visual arts but in literature, criticism and music.

This is one of the new brand of exhibitions curated to connect grand themes across and through and between artists and media and styles.

There's a music festival and exhibition dedicated to Django Reinhardt starting tomorrow, as well. At the Cite de la Musique, it includes concerts through next week. Reinhardt was the jazz guitarist who introduced and made world-famous that distinctive French sound evoking French gypsy music. Reinhardt was born into a family of gypsies living in Paris, and started recording as early as age 18.

By the way if you are a fan of the film Chocolat, you'll recognize the style.

And yes, in both cases, I'd wind up the day in the bookstores.

But this is the perfect day to be walking along the Seine or through the Jardins du Luxembourg, to enjoy autumn. To take a lunch of French baguette, cheese, grapes or figs and an Orangina or split of wine, along with your best book and a camera. Yum!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Business Casual for Women

Thinking back to the Sunday event I attended a few weeks ago, I swing back around to something that confuses me consistently: what is business casual for women? how do I decide what appropriate business casual is, for me and for any event?

Our event was a networking/business opportunity, and yet I felt very few of the women (including me) addressed it as such. Instead, it felt like a Sunday afternoon party, where some business talk emerged--but it didn't feel as if we were women in the same profession gathered for a business-related event that included makeovers and advice about presenting a professional self.

Business casual: clothing worn to a less conservative workplace, or on casual days in a conservative workplace, or to a conference or out-of-environment meeting, retreat or other event that evokes a more relaxed atmosphere than the daily workplace. (This is my definition, by the way.)

Men vs. Woman Business Casual, as I see it.

In general, I've noticed men have a simple business casual uniform: khakis/Dockers (in khaki colors), knit polos or button-up oxfords or plaid cotton shirts, leather lace-ups or loafers + belt and a ubiquitous sports jacket (sometimes also khaki/stone/biscuit/beige).

This "uniform," which replicates the uniforms at Besy Buy and other big box stores, will work for men on Casual Friday, at conventions, at retreats or other HR events and in any workplace that doesn't require a short/suit/tie combo. A watch, a shave and a neat haircut: good to go.

Men just out of college might start with a t-shirt and jeans, but quickly switch to the easy care, easily maintained uniform. With fabrics that resist wrinkles, in a variety of price levels and with slightly different details (pockets, pleats, shades), any man can be appropriate anywhere.


The rules are different and more complicated for women than for men. So are the possibilities.

First: the atmosphere/expectations of your workplace. Which breaks down to:
  • Where on the spectrum of conservative/liberal does your workplace fall?
  • How does your boss dress?
  • How does your boss's boss dress?
  • How does the highest-ranking woman in your office dress?
  • How do people at your level dress?
Wisdom: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Second: the hierarchy structures of your office. For example:
  • Are you the only, one of the few, or one of the many women in your office?
  • Are you the youngest, middle-aged, in the middle of the age group, older than your office peers?
  • Are you an executive, executive staff, middle management, middle staff, etc.?
Third: you.
  • Are you on the conservative or liberal side of the dressing scale?
  • Do you need to wear pants rather than skirts for practical reasons?
  • Is there a uniform, literally? Or a uniform, metaphorically?
  • Are you moving up or passing time, for example as you launch a career as a writer outside the office block?
  • Do you want to be taken seriously, listened to, promoted: in general noticed
Let's circle back around to my meeting that didn't feel professional.

The meeting didn't feel professional. Why? I suspect because most women were there in jeans and t-shirts or casual smock tops. Almost no one appeared to be there in a completely planned head-to-toe outfit. And, okay, I know that feels beyond a Sunday afternoon when we're all there to have fun, but again I say, it was professional.

I suspect many of the women would cite the "artistic" nature of the group (we all work in artistic communication) or the Sunday afternoon timing or even the DFW overall location (a general excuse for super-casual style) as the "reason" for their non-business/non-business casual dress. Sadly, I think these have become what I call "go to" excuses in our overly .

Here are some webposts about business casual:
Wardrobe Oxygen: specifics about business casual
Houston Chronicle: compares the difference between "business" and "business casual"
The Learning Channel: explains business casual
Virginia Tech: simple, straightforward guidelines (!) to business casual whats, whens and hows for soon-to-be-grads.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frugality & Summer 2012, Revisited

Last week I wrote about my summer derailment re: frugality.

Okay, so I was rationalizing my over-expenditure from May through August. Well, September.

What really happened? I came home, I bought a car to replace the 20 yr. old vehicle I had been driving that was sucking down money and self-destructing simultaneously. That equaled car payment + insurance hike, starting this month. Not huge, but a significant chunk taken out of a fairly stable paycheck (meaning even annual raises have little to no effect).

I knew this was coming, but I wasn't planning for it.

A subtle but significant difference.

Here's where I am now, after a weekend of coming face-to-face with paycheck realities (where compensation for my extra class and annual raise finally kicked in).
  • I'm glad I'm already slated to teach a course next summer in London.
  • I'm feeling good about my book coming out this month, beyond the accomplishment.
  • I've got serious reason to be frugal: when I'm stressed, I spend money as an outlet.
  • Facing my spending patterns and bills helps me know what not to do.
  • I have a job that means I can meet all my bills and pay off credit: I feel blessed and lucky, even while I know I've worked hard for that reality.
  • I have wonderful memories and "artifacts" from my summer trip.