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Monday, December 12, 2011

Balancing Act Part II

Have you ever walked down the street and seen woman after woman in either black or some version of oatmeal? Have you ever heard (or said yourself), "I always wear black because it's slimming." Have you ever been confused about what colors go well together? If you answered, "Yes" to any of these, honey, this post is for you.

Color is a funny thing. It evokes emotion. It flatters or, well, unflatters. It can highlight or contour just like in a painting. Some people have a gift to understand what looks best not only on them but also how to combine colors to create a polished outfit. It's not rocket science, it's color theory. And, while some folks have an innate understanding, color theory is something that can be learned easily.

The best place to start - the color wheel:

Basic lesson that you probably remember from lower school art class. Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors. Orange, violet (purple, people), and green are secondary. The rest are blends of their neighboring colors, thus becoming tertiary, etc colors.

Now, look at the color wheel. Now, back at me. Now, at the color wheel. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) The colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors. For example, blue and orange are complementary. Violet and yellow. Red-violet (magenta) and yellow-green (lime green). You get the idea. Remember, this because I'm coming back to it in a bit.

Looking at the color wheel again, look at a specific color. Let's say blue. Now look at it's neighboring colors. Blue-violet (indigo) and blue-green (turquoise). These three colors are called analogous. Anytime you combine colors that are neighbors on the color wheel you are using analogous colors and creating a monochromatic color scheme.

And, what about those neutrals?

That's right, you don't see neutrals like black, white, and grey on the color wheel because they are achromatic. Simply put, they are colors without color, but rather variations on lightness and dark.

Okay, enough already with the art lesson. Let's talk clothes!

Just like the shape of your outfit needs balance, so does your color palette. So, we will discuss three things: neutrals and pseudo-neutrals, monochromatic outfits, what is actually slimming, and using complimentary colors to make an outfit pop.

Everybody's Favorite: Neutrals (and don't forget the pseudo-neutrals too!)

Neutrals are great. They go with anything. Any color. Any pattern. They are the workhorses in our closet. When building a wardrobe, they are the starting point.

Standard neutrals: khaki (we've discussed), navy, black, and white.

These are all fine colors especially in classic pieces. Think trousers, pencil skirts, a cashmere sweater. These can all become the backbone to an outfit.

Neutral and color: Black pencil skirt + yellow sweater

Neutral on neutral: Black cigarette pants + camel (another version of khaki) sweater:

Both the sweater and the pants are neutrals. She could just have easily paired them with a brighter color, and this is why neutrals are great. You get a lot of wear out of them. Of course, good fit is a must.

I'm going to confess something to you. I don't own anything khaki. Not a single thing. But, khaki, you say, is a neutral! It goes with everything! This is true, but it is a terrible color for my complexion. It makes me look washed out. Why am I telling you this? Because neutrals are no different than any other color. There are those that look lovely against your skin, and those that don't. If you don't look good in a color-for the love of God-don't wear it! 

What are my other choices?

Pseudo-neutrals: brown, olive green, grey, and denim blue. That's right, jeans are neutrals. Currently also includes mustard, teal, aubergine.

These colors are softer on the skin tone and can include trendy colors such as mustard, teal and aubergine. Personally, I love these colors. I find them more wearable and flattering than the standard neutrals.

Pseudo neutral and a bright color:

A lovely mustard (it's the new khaki!) skirt and a mint green tank with an oatmeal cardi. Neutral, but polished. Nothing boring here. Notice that her accessories (belt and necklace) really stand out with this.

Pseudo neutral on pseudo neutral (sounds kinda kinky, doesn't it?)

This casual outfit is using two pseudo-neutrals to create an eye pleasing palette. Olive green and raisin (a warmer version of aubergine). She could have easily paired teal in place of the raisin, or grey for the olive green.

Lesson summary for neutrals and pseudos? They go with anything. Each other. A bright color. It's all good.  Just keep the outfit balanced with regard to shape and you can't go wrong.

Monochromatic Chic:

Choosing to dress in one color from head to toe is tricky. Get it wrong and you are a fashion don't. Get it right and you will turn heads in the best way possible. Put together and elegant. You can do this look with any color. ANY. COLOR. I'm showing black and white outfits, but you can do red, purple, blue, green, grey, literally the list is endless. 

In white:

An all white ensemble. White blouse, white pants. Very simple with respect to color. Let's talk about what makes this outfit stunning rather than boring. Firstly, and most importantly, fit. The impeccable fit of the blouse and pants make this a win. Secondly, when you are going to wear a monochromatic outfit, you need to remember that your accessories are going to be what people see first. Her hat. Her thin brown belt. Her gold bracelets. Simple little details that pull a neutral outfit together.

Now in black:

An all black ensemble.  Again, black pants, black shoes, black jacket, black purse. And, yes, again, fit is the centerpiece to the outfit. Everything is balanced and proportioned. She has on no accessories to speak of, but there is one item that adds visual interest. It's the one exception to the monochromatic black-the shirt, and that's what makes the outfit. She has used a shirt that is achromatic-black and white. But, just like the belt/hat/bracelets in the white outfit above, the pattern breaks up the monochromatic look and draws the eye to a specific point.

So, my point? Monochromatic looks are fine (and can be unbelievably chic!) as long as you make sure the fit is impeccable and you have a focal point-whether it is a patterned shirt or accessories-to add visual interest. If you skip the fit part of this rule, you look like a lumpy, blobular mess. If you skip the focal point, do you know what this color palette says? "Don't look at me. I'm invisible." Either way, it's not good.

Is black the only slimming color?

Oh, heck no! Here's the deal, my lovelies. Dark colors recede, light colors advance. In other words, ALL dark colors are slimming, and ALL lighter colors add volume. How do you use this to your advantage? 

Want to minimize your hips? Wear dark colors on your bottom half!

Notice that her hips and thighs appear smaller than her top, and yet she is wearing dark red pants, NOT black!

Want to play down a larger bust? You guessed it, wear a dark color on your top half!

Photo courtesy of surely sonsy

What a great outfit! She has used a gorgeous indigo top that minimizes her bust, defined her tiny waist with a belt, and balanced the outfit with light colored walking shorts. Kudos! 

So, please, ladies, do us all a favor and wear color, not just black when you want to create a slimming silhouette. You'll look less like a funeral director and feel less like one too!

Making it pop:

We all have our favorite colors. You know the great thing about your favorite colors? Nine times out of ten they're the colors that look great on you. For instance, I'm a red head with one green eye and one brown and very fair skin with a neutral undertone (means it has cool tones and warm tones). My favorite colors are (and have been since I was a teenager) are greens, turquoise/teals, and purples. I am drawn to them. They make me feel happy. I decorate my house with them. Guess what? They contrast beautifully with my hair and skin and make my eyes really sparkle. They are my go to colors.

I bet you have colors that you feel the same about. Not neutrals, but colors that just make you happy. I am also willing to bet these are the colors that look great on you.

This does not mean I dress in head to toe turquoise. But, I do use it to make an outfit stand out. It is my accent color. Wearing olive green trousers and a cream top? My accessories are turquoise. Wearing a turquoise dress? How about a pair of purple shoes?

If you look at the color wheel, you will notice that while these colors are not precisely across from each other on the wheel, they are approximately across from each other. Hence, they behave like complementary colors. Adding contrast and depth to an outfit.

Orange, mint, and blue:

Orange is a strong color, so to temper it she is wearing mint green and a blue shirt. Yes, it's three colors, but because of the complementary nature of the colors, it looks great.

Green and turquoise:

Again, it's the contrast of colors that make this special. It's not overwhelming, but fun and probably speaks to the individual who chose it.

The great thing about contrasting colors is that even when you are wearing a neutral color, it enables you to put a splash of flattering shade near your face.  That color then reflects into eyes, shows off your skin, and the highlights in your hair. My advise? Unless you are doing the monochromatic thing, always, always, always have color near your face. You'll feel happier and look great.

Let's sum up:

Neutrals and pseudo neutrals are great for classic wardrobe pieces and pairing with another neutral or a bright color.

Monochromatic looks are elegant and chic, but pay extra attention to fit and your accessories.

A pop of your favorite color can take an outfit from ho-hum to fabulous by contrasting both with the rest of your outfit as well as complimenting your skin, hair and eyes. 

Whew! That was a lot! Let's keep it simple for our tasty lusciousness.

When I am tired, I fall back to Asian food. It's tasty, fast, and I always have the ingredients on hand. So, I made tonkatsu, Japanese style pork cutlets served with shredded napa cabbage steamed rice and sesame dressing. Oiishimas-desu!


1 pork tenderloin, 1 inch slices pounded thin

3 eggs, beaten

Panko bread crumbs

Vegetable oil

Heat oil in large pan over medium high heat. Dredge tenderloin slices in egg, then in panko crumbs. Repeat. Cook in oil until golden brown on both sides.

Cabbage and Dressing:

1 head napa cabbage, sliced very thin

Now for the dressing, we buy ours from a local Asian market, and it looks like this.

I wish I could tell you what kind it is, but I cannot read Japanese (on my bucket list!). It is the same kind we had when we visited Japan. If you cannot find this, most commercial sesame dressings are fine. 

Last but not least, the steamed rice. Do NOT use American style boiled rice. It's a blasphemy. Jasmine rice or short grain Japanese rice is great, and can be found in most supermarkets. And, steam the rice! We use a rice cooker and add a teaspoon of sesame oil to give it that perfect moistness.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post-high five! 'Cause, I mean, damn! That was a lot of info. I'm pouring a glass of wine, my lovely, you do the same.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Balancing Act

You know sometimes when I'm out and about, I like to people watch.  Most of the time it is simply a way to keep my mind busy while I'm waiting.  But, on other occasions, well, it's more akin to visual torture, and it's all due to a lack of balance.  Let me explain.

When I say balance, it's not about on a beam or a tight rope, it's about proportion and cut of clothing (make up too, but that's another post). All too often, I see gorgeous women dressed in sacks of cloth they call clothes with no hint of the beauty underneath (it just makes you look larger). Or, I see attractive women with what amounts to a spandex suit instead of well cut pieces. Or further still, I see a lovely thing showing both all leg and everything but the nipple up top.  Don't get me wrong, volume, form fitting, and a bit of skin all have their place, just not necessarily from head to toe. Which brings us to the idea of a well balanced outfit.

Let me give you some examples:

Problem 1: The dreaded mom jean frump


Surprisingly, a lot of women wear mom jeans and don't know it. They wore high waisted, tapered jeans back in high school and never thought to see what those new fangled mid or low rise jeans felt like. Do you see what that bulk of material is doing to her crotch? Well, it's doing the same thing to her rear. The high waist is binding at the natural waistline emphasizing the dreaded lower belly bulge. No, it doesn't have anything to do with her size. She could be a size 2 and it would still create an illusion of a bump. I'll discuss color balance at another time.

The solution? Mid rise or (depending on your age and/or body type) low rise jeans! I don't mean you need a thong showing booty jean. I mean a dark wash, mid rise or low rise. Don't know what the heck I mean? Stand up and find your belly button. Now, place 2 fingers beneath it, that's mid rise. Three or more fingers? That's low rise. It allows the jeans to give structure to your frame without emphasizing anything you don't want emphasized.

Here's what the alternative would look like. And yes, I chose a woman with curves to give a proper comparison.

Look at the difference! Her leg line in lengthened by the boot cut, the mid rise is just skimming over her belly, and her form fitting top shows off the proportions of her waist and hips. No crotch bulges here! In other words, her outfit is balanced. Form fitting on top, less so on the bottom half. Now, that's how you do it.

What about trousers, you say? The same principle applies. More volume on bottom with, say, a wide leg trouser? Then a more body conscious top.

Professional, proportional, and balanced.

Problem number 2: Too tight all over! LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS-EVER!!!!

This attractive woman has reduced her lovely figure to lumps and bumps, not to mention that she now looks like a ho. Tight top, leggings for pants, and for that extra ho-like quality, heels. I mean, dressed like that she looks like she may start working that pole.

An alternative would be to balance form fitting pants with a more voluminous shirt.

Yes, her pants are quite tight, but the material is heavier keeping all the imperfections hidden. She has on a loose fitting sweater that-here's the key-balances the tightness on the bottom half of her body. Nothing ho-like here. Notice that she also has flats on in this outfit. Heels would not be inappropriate here, especially if she were going out for drinks or on a date, but for an easy day look, this is how it's done.

Problem 3:  Too short, too much cleavage

We all want to be sexy. We want to turn heads when we walk into a room. But, we also don't want to be featured on or have a wardrobe malfunction with our nipple as the principle player.

Again, nothing wrong with skin, but this is more of a fantasy for her partner kind of outfit. Now, let's assume that she is going out to a club or at least just out.  That is what makes this outfit so very wrong. The skirt barely covers the crotch, the lace, the boobs, it all screams, "I'm cheap! And have low self-esteem!" 

Again, we go back to balance. If you're going to show a bit of skin up top, then you need to cover up a bit on the bottom. Wanna show off your legs? Then, put the boobs away.

A day look that exemplifies this:

Her skirt is form fitting, shows leg, but goes no higher than mid thigh. Her shirt is loose, but not frumpy and shows no cleavage.  She looks elegant, sexy, and appropriate.

Or if you prefer to show more up top:

So, notice that she is showing quite a bit of skin up top, but the length of her dress is to the knee. With metallic heels, she is ready to go out, but doesn't look like she's going to work the streets.

Problem 4: College girl (or, God forbid, older) Frump

This is a phenomenon that I cannot get my head around. At the University of Alabama the majority of sweet, young things in their youthful prime, walk about in herd-like groups wearing oversized t-shirts (cut like a guy's) and Nike tempo shorts.

Let me explain what this does to their lovely figures. The t shirt makes their torsos look like one huge box. No chest, no waist, no nothing.  Just a big box. The Nike shorts, however comfortable they may be for running or working out, makes their asses (yes, I'm so incensed that I am cussing) look like big, lumpy diapers that need changing, if you get my meaning.

Think I'm making this up?

That's not a costume they have on-that's their first (of oh so many) sorority t shirts.  Every where you go, there they are. Out to dinner? T shirt and tempos. Shopping? T shirt and tempos. On a date (for the love of God!) You guessed it, t shirt and tempos. 

Girls,throw the guys a bone! Look like a female! You're not working out 24/7-wear real clothes!

Here are but a few alternatives:

 How about sandals and cute skirt? You can actually see her waistline!

Wanna go more casual? Ok!

See? Cute skinnies, a top, a jacket, and a pair of boots. It is fall after all...

Like a Parisian vibe? That's cool, just put on a black, fitted t, straight leg or skinny jeans, and black flats. You could totally walk the whole campus in that!

Don't like skinnies? No problem! Look how awesome she looks in her boot cut (almost flared jeans) with a fitted sweater and a scarf for a bit of interest.

Got a date? Throw on a summer dress, a cardi, then belt the whole thing. Voila! You'll look chic and feminine. Much more fitting for a romantic night than the same thing you wear to the gym.

Moral of our story (well, my rant):

All of the outfits shown can be tweeked to suit your taste, body type, age, etc. But they all have the basic rules working for them.

Rule #1: If you wear volume on top, wear something more fitted on the bottom.

Rule #2: Vice versa of #1. If you wear volume on the bottom, wear something more body conscious on top.

Rule #3: You can show cleavage or you can show leg, but not both. More skin does not necessarily equal sexy, it appears desperate or insecure.

Rule #4: Make an effort! Just because it's comfortable for the gym or when you are home sick does not mean you should wear it everywhere. That means gym clothes, sweats, and pajama bottoms should be used for their purposes. We don't want to see you like that. Seriously. We don't.

Rule #5: Have fun! These are more guidelines than hard and fast rules. Within reason you can play with them to find what makes you happy and confident.

Isn't that what all this is about any way? Walking out of our house feeling confident to face whatever may come our way? Feeling like you are sexy, professional, elegant, cute, edgy, mod, sweet, or whatever adjective you want to be.

After all this fashion talk, what to eat? How about one of our favorites? Black bean and corn salad. It has been a staple in our house since my dear friend, Linda Clements, served it to me eons ago.

 The great thing about this salad is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand, I can change it to suit my mood. Add jalapenos, avocados, green onions, cilantro, any or all-it's all good!

Black Bean and Corn Salad:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can corn, drained and rinsed (I prefer Mexicorn)

2 green onions, finely sliced

1 avocado, diced

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 or 1(to taste) jalapeno, finely diced

3 T. balsamic vinegar

1 t. ground cumin

1/4 t. salt

1/3 c. olive oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to mix. In a small bowl, mix vinegar, cumin and salt with a whisk. Gradually add oil while whisking to form an emulsion.  Pour over bean mixture. Toss gently to coat.

I serve these with pita chips or corn chips, both equally delicious.

Now that I've ranted ad nauseum about balance clothing, go out and make me proud to people watch you!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cooking In Stilettos: Squeezing that Last Bit of Juiciness from Summer

Cooking In Stilettos: Squeezing that Last Bit of Juiciness from Summer: Remember that fall that I greeted so cheerfully last post? Well, it was just a teaser. The highs have been back in the high 80's or even low...

Squeezing that Last Bit of Juiciness from Summer

Remember that fall that I greeted so cheerfully last post? Well, it was just a teaser. The highs have been back in the high 80's or even low 90's, so it hasn't been ideal to break out the hot chocolate just yet.  But, you know what they say, make the most of the situation! In my case that meant a late harvest peach dish. Specifically, Tipsy Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin. 

Earlier this week one of my lovely readers sent me this wonderful photo of her inspirational apron:

Photo courtesy of Effie Lally

I mean, "Will Cook for Shoes"? That is the motto of my life! (Well, that and "Go forth and be fabulous!") It also made me realize that while I have discussed what I wear while I'm cooking, I have never discussed the fact that I wear aprons (of the awesomely sexy variety) always. Let me repeat, ALWAYS. Nothing will ruin the mood of an amazing meal in the making than looking down and seeing tomato paste on cashmere, or olive oil on silk, or, well, you get the idea.

So, thanks to wonderful friends and family I have quite the collection of aprons to choose from each time I cook. And, yes, I do wear each one according to my outfit. I guess it just seems more fun that when someone sees me cooking (hey, hubby, wink wink) or if someone stops by in the middle of prep, that I am not this hot and splattered sight.  Instead, I am Donna Reed and Rita Hayworth all rolled into one. With a dash of a young Mia Farrow just for kicks.

Without further adieu, I give you my apron collection, my lovelies. 

The one that started it all. From Anthropologie.

A Christmas gift from my girls, they know me well! (Also the one I am wearing today.)

Another gift from my girls. I feel like Betty Boop when I wear it, don't ask me why.

A gift from a wonderful friend along with a fab coffee mug. That's the way to start the day!

Sexiest apron ever! I am always tempted to close the blinds and just wear this as a surprise for the hubby. Maybe I could find a seamstress and have a sundress like this made instead! It was also a gift from a dear friend along with the best cocktail book in the world. I mean, who doesn't want to have a Screaming Blue Orgasm?

As to resources, there are tons, especially with the whole retro resurgence. TJMaxx has been known to carry some cuties. Of course, there's Anthropologie.  But, there are even more online resources. Kitchen Threadz are original designs, they offer a huge variety, and are drop dead adorable! So, if you don't have an apron, go get one. Then, go in the kitchen and make Tipsy Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin, hot stuff!

(Sorry no pick on this one. Got the dish all plated up, and the camera battery was dead. So, insert a mouthwatering luscious piece of pork here.) 

Tipsy Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin

  • 3 cups chopped peeled peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 pork tenderloin, sliced into 1 inch thick slices
  • peaches, halved and pitted
  • Cooking spray

  • Combine first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Uncover and simmer 5 minutes. Place peach mixture in a food processor; process until smooth. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, vinegar, and next 4 ingredients (vinegar through red pepper); pulse to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Place half of peach mixture in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; reserve other half for basting. Add tenderloin slices to bag; seal bag and refrigerate 30 minutes to 4 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Remove pork from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Place pork and peach halves on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill 10 minutes or until the pork is done and the peaches are tender, turning once. Baste pork and peach halves with the reserved peach mixture every 2 minutes during the first 6 minutes of cooking.
Remember that wine you opened to make those peaches tipsy? Well, pour yourself a glass and take off that apron-cheers!