Monday, December 17, 2012

Nordstrom’s Most Wanted Christmas Gifts

Nordstrom is a great department store with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Their return policy is excellent–more than fair, in fact, and they really bend over backwards to keep the customer happy. I’ve never had a bad experience at Nordstrom in all my years of shopping there. It’s a valuable resource for reliably beautiful gifts.

Here I’ve included some of my favorite Nordstrom gifts, and those of Nordstrom’s fashion creative director, Gregg Andrews.

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Gregg’s favorite classic gift is a Halogen super-luxe cashmere sweater at a sweet price. “Cashmere is the epitome of wearable luxury and timeless style,” he said. “This season, the classic cashmere v-neck sweater gets updated in rich, vibrant colors that can take any woman from work to weekend…and everyone appreciates a gift that’s as luxurious as it is versatile.” They’re a steal at $79.99; I’ll take one of each please. Thanks Gregg!

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The makeup maven will adore a compact customized especially for her, and Esteé Lauder’s Zodiac Compact, $70, is an ideal choice. “These golden compacts are decorated with her zodiac sign and make an elegant personalized gift,” Gregg stated. “What woman wouldn’t feel special when she takes this beautiful compact out of her handbag?” Hmmm, my horoscope predicts a purchase in my near future.

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For a perfect hostess gift, Gregg recommends stocking up on the sure-to-please Diptyque candles, $32-$68. “From the rich pine fragrance of Sapin Dore to Oliban’s aromatic frankincense, Diptyque’s holiday scents add a touch of luxury to any occasion,” Gregg said. Buy a few to stash at home for last-minute gifts as you head to parties all season long. One of my favorites, Tubereuse, is in a vibrant ruby votive, perfect for the holidays. A welcome departure from wine and flowers.

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For the music lovers, “headphones have become a crucial accessory for those on the go,” Gregg said. Beats by Dr. Dre Solo High Definition On-Ear Headphones, $199.95, are both stylish and convenient. “They fold up neatly for packing,” Gregg said.

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And now, here’s my take on Nordstrom’s top gifts. The Clarisonic skin-cleansing brush, $199, elevates washing your face to a whole new level. Developed by scientists and beloved by beauty editors and celebrities alike, the Clarisonic brush uses a patented sonic frequency to gently yet thoroughly remove six times more makeup and two times more dirt and oil than a regular cleansing. I love mine. Therapeutic products like serums and retinoids are absorbed more effectively so you get the most out of their active ingredients. In addition, pores appear smaller and skin feels super smooth and clean. In candy apple red, this little device is perfect under the tree. Read my in-depth review here…

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Esteé Lauder’s new Private Blend collection really satisfies my desire to smell awesome 24/7. Created by Esteé Lauder’s granddaughter Aerin, these expertly-crafted blends are completely addictive. Read more…

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I just snagged the most beautiful pair of crimson satin pajama pants from In Bloom by Jonquil. At only $38, they’re actually made of a high-quality polyester that feels like real silk. They’ll fool anyone, even a textiles expert. And because they’re a synthetic fabric, they’ll wash like a dream. That’s my idea of luxury.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Year’s Hairstyles: New Hair for a New Era

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A gorgeous braided updo or an elegant chignon are perfect for New Year’s eve, and having your hair pulled away from your face can really show off great bone structure and a graceful neck. We’ve certainly been seeing creative styles on the runways and red carpet for the past few years, with women like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, and model Heidi Klum, above, all donning fabulous ’dos. But how does one achieve such styles? And without a personal hairdresser?

“Even professional hairdressers working on the most beautiful, financially-privileged women in the world use faux braids, ponytails, chignons and extensions to create those striking looks,” said San Francisco Bay Area hair and makeup artist Sarah E. Hyde. Having been in the biz for more than 20 years, Sarah has worked with many types of hairpieces and wigs—on my own head, and on the heads of brides, models and actresses.

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I really trust Sarah; in fact, she’s responsible for the hair (and makeup) on model Anna Marie Braun, above, from this photo, shot by Danielle Fletcher exclusively for Beauty Shall Save the World back in 2010 at the amazing Blue Sky Studios. You can see how timeless the hairstyle is. It’s actually a faux ponytail, and made our towering model about 6’3″ tall!

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Above is a behind-the-scenes look at the anatomy of Sarah adding the hairpiece to Anna, and below is the final look. As you can see, the hair color does not match perfectly in the photos above but blends seamlessly and believably in the shot below. Keep in mind that natural hair varies in texture and color so you want to go with something glamorous yet still natural looking.

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There are ready-made hairpieces for every occasion and in innumerable styles. If you can afford to go to a hairdresser, take your piece with you and they will often weave your own hair into the mix for an ultra-believable look. Otherwise, try doing it yourself. I have a lot of personal experience with fake hair, so I like to use more than one hairpiece at a time. Experiment and practice your look now so that when New Year’s and Valentine’s Day come, you’re good to go. It’s not as impossible as it seems to have impossibly gorgeous hair. Here are some looks that are almost too good to be true.

Penelope Cruz

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No one–not even Penelope Cruz–has this much hair. This style works really well on straight hair or after a blow-out. Here, you can achieve the same look with this chignon from Wigs.com.

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Wear it like Penelope for the New Year, below…

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…and half-up, half-down with a flower for Valentine’s Day. Not bad for under 40 bucks. Cheaper than a single visit to the hairdresser, and yet you can reuse the piece for years. Remember to incorporate accessories into the style, like a velvet bow or a hair gem or a beautiful headband, to keep it looking fresh. Accessories are also an easy way to hide loose ends or any imperfections.

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Jennifer Lawrence

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This style works well with bangs and an effortless tousled kind of ease. But just because it looks effortless doesn’t mean it is. This little hairpiece was expertly added by Jennifer’s hair stylist and woven with some metallic ribbon. The fringy bangs and side tendrils make it look kind of messy in a bedroom hair kind of way. Sexy. I like this bun by Look of Love, below, to get the look, but you have to use your imagination…and a bit of hairspray, for the effect. Wear it low and messy on the nape of the neck like Jennifer, above, or higher on the head with slick hair for a completely different effect. Chopsticks optional.

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Scarlett Johansson

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Anyone can get this look with a braided headband. I’ve worn them for years, and they are super easy to pull off with your hair up or down. You should be able to find braided headbands in your beauty supply store for next to nothing. Wear two or three stacked together for the ultimate drama.

Miley Cyrus

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Miley Cyrus is blessed with many things, but waist-length silky smooth hair was never one of them. The ombré ponytail above is wrapped with her own hair for a sleek, dressy elegance. You can find fake ponytails everywhere online or in any beauty store or wig shop for 20 bucks or less. Don’t be afraid to backcomb the pieces or cut them to make them integrate better into your own hair. But remember, practice makes perfect so get started early to enjoy your new hair for a new era!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Presents of Greatness for the Foodie

There are tons of gifts that you can find for your home chef in a Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma catalog, and at a wide range of price points. Here are some creative gifts that you might not have thought of.

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For my sister’s rustic country kitchen, I bought this charming paper towel holder, $21.95. In bright red glossy enamel over cast iron, it allows you to quickly and neatly grab a paper towel with one hand when you’re cooking. Every kitchen should have one of these, and the weight of this piece makes it convenient and highly functional. The rooster in the kitchen is said to bring good luck, and I believe that it really must, because dinner at her house is always delicious.

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The adorable Michael Aram marble cheeseboard and playful cheese knife above is another gift that I bought for my sis, who enjoys entertaining guests. I loved it so much that I got one for myself. It’s even cuter in person!

I love my handmade 12-inch salt and pepper mills carved by the very talented Bruce Morgan. You may have seen these mills on TV cooking shows and in magazines like Sunset and Gourmet.

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Using rare materials such as Honduran rosewood burl, above, Bruce fashions salt and pepper mills like no other and his mills come with a lifetime guarantee. Every mill is signed, and since he uses the best stainless steel grinding mechanisms, these glossy objets d’art are as functional as they are beautiful. They’re what I like to call a lifetime present, and something that will not be forgotten.

The prices range from $100 for the more common woods, up to $1,300 for a pair of stunning snakewood mills, below.

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Alternately, you can always buy a matching set of Peugeot lacquered mills from Sur la Table for $49.95, which would still be a lovely gift, especially if you pair them with some exotic peppercorns and sea salts.

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Bruce is a connoisseur of condiments, and he knows all the varieties of peppers and salts in the world. He told me an interesting fact: sea salts all look very different but usually taste quite similar. Conversely, peppercorns can look the same but there is a big difference in the taste. Why not buy a sampler pack for your foodie?

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You can call Bruce at 425.391.2430 for more information or find him at pepper-passion.com.

When shopping for your foodie, there is a veritable feast of appropriate options at all price points. Spatulas, oven mitts, aprons–they’re all great choices, and who wouldn’t welcome a Vitamix 1710 under the Christmas tree? Let your imagination run wild, and have fun shopping!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Presents of Greatness for Christmas 2012

I love the holidays because it’s such a great time of year to spoil the ones you love with creative gifts that they wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. The intent of your gift is just as important as what lies within the wrapping paper and ribbons. That’s when the sentiment really shines.

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I remember the gift I gave to my mother-in-law one Christmas. A certifiable shoe addict, she was fascinated by the uniqueness of stylish shoes through the history of fashion. It all started with a miniature carnival glass slipper that I found on ebay, like the one above, that I just had to get her.

As I shopped year-round, I would see unusual shoe paraphernalia here and there. Wherever I went if I found something special in a shoe theme, I would buy it for her. By the time Christmas rolled around I had a nice little collection of really sweet presents, which I wrapped and layered inside a giant gift bag that was printed with a whimsical shoe design—a hint of the surprises to come.

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Inside there were shoe boxes by famous upscale shoe brands, filled with creative gifts: a shoe calendar, like the one pictured here; stationery embellished with a glittery little shoe and customized with her name; a silver charm bracelet with all kinds of shoes as the charms; delicate rose-scented decorative soaps cast as Victorian shoes; and so on. Every gift was custom-picked for her, completely unique, and in its own way, a tiny work of art.

It was a gift given with a lot of love, and I was happy to see her delight at unwrapping one shoe after another when it dawned on her that it was a Shoe Christmas.

It’s not too late to surprise your friends and family with clever gifts. Themed presents really show people how much you care. The thought and effort can eclipse the gift itself because your recipient is left with a feeling, not just an item.

When buying your presents, get creative and use online sources, such as ebay or etsy, for ferreting out the most unique. And now we launch our 2012 series titled Presents of Greatness. Join me as we count down to Christmas with gifts that will leave someone with more than a beautiful gift, but also, a beautiful memory. Cheers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Jay Strongwater Christmas

I love the intricate frames created by Jay Strongwater, where, as you can see below, the backside is actually as beautiful as the front.

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When I met Jay back in April, he told me that he has a fascination with decorative textiles. Now the talented artist turns his eye away from the jewel-encrusted enamel collectors items that made him famous, just long enough to create more things that I crave.

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The oversized, highly-embellished Christmas stockings above, $595 at Neiman Marcus, combine his love for jewels with his love for opulent fabrics. Just look at the detail below on this plum-colored stocking. Fabulous, isn’t it?

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I think they are quite outstanding, but what I’m really lusting after is this Christmas tree skirt, $1,650, below.

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Made in India of cranberry crushed velvet, this would look quite impressive as a tree skirt, but I’m holding out for it to go on sale so I can wear it as a cape!

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Paired with gold lamé leather leggings or an all-black ensemble, it’s perfect for holiday parties. Trés chic. True style is the ability to think outside the box.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beautiful Holiday Table Setting On A Budget: Napkins

Setting an elegant table for the holidays need not be expensive or complicated. Even simple white dishes and plain silverware can be embellished easily with a bit of time and creativity.

One of the best tricks for fancying up any tabletop is a decoratively-folded napkin. Check out my two favorite online tutorials that make the job easy.

The first, below, is created with a paper napkin, which would look fabulous in a bright color or in a decorative print.

Add a few candles and you are good to go.

The clever napkin design above is more complicated and suitable for cloth napkins. On chocolate brown pottery or shiny black dishes? Stunning!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Tabletop Decoration At Its Finest

A Visual Feast, Hosted by DIFFA

Thanksgiving is this Thursday and in perfect timing I was invited to the twelfth annual DIFFA’s Dining By Design Table Hop and Taste Preview Party last Wednesday. The food was fabulous, and I saw so many unique and gorgeous tabletops, I hardly know where to start.

So first, a little about DIFFA. DIFFA stands for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. As one of the country’s largest supporters of care and education for people living with HIV/AIDS and for those at risk, DIFFA support springs from the fields of fine design and the visual arts, such as architecture, fashion design, interior design, photography and consumer product design.

With Jonathan Adler, Ethan Allen and Living Green as just a few of the stylish contributors for this charitable event, there was a multitude of beautiful creative displays that were breathtaking, clever and inspiring. Check out some of my favorites.

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Aldea Home and Lab Experiment built a giant mast that was attached to the table, for an oceanic theme.

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Simple yet elegant clay pottery was embellished with sea-inspired treasures, such as starfish and sterling.

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Ethan Allen went for whimsy with a tropical theme in hot pink and other juicy brights with flamingoes and flowers.

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Hartmann Studios created visual interest with bundles of bright sunflowers and eye-popping black and white linens. I love the glowing orb lights!

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A table bathed in ruby red ambience with red lighting, napkins and flowers was the welcome addition by John Kelliher.

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Living Green was seeing orange in this outstanding display of tangerine tones, with Bird of Paradise erupting from a brilliant giant orange bauble and surrounded by citrine geodes and bright crystals.

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Giant philodendron leaves make the perfect placemat for this lush dining experience.

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Robollo Home shared a creepy yet playful vision derived from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie The Birds, which was, incidentally, filmed in San Francisco. Each plate is adorned with a nest and hatched egg. The grisly centerpiece compounds the drama.

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Speaking of drama, a live Tippi Hedren celebrity impersonator at the table added to the fun.

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A red and white Moroccan theme with gold accents by Faiella Design and Andre Rothblatt Architecture is stylish enough for any feast, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

It was an enchanted evening and for a great cause. That’s something we can all be thankful for.