Brand New

I really love the idea of a new year. It’s a chance to reset myself and think about what I want to accomplish. As we all know, resolutions are usually good for about two weeks into the new year, which is why I don’t make any, but I do try to look back at the previous year and think about how I can improve things over the next 365 days.

1. This year, Steve and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage (19 years together). A milestone, but not as many years as many of our friends’ marriages. Still, it’s a mark of one of the best decisions I ever made. Many people thought I’d lost my mind marrying a guy I’d known only 8 months, but my gut told me to do it and my gut was right.

2. I’m revamping my jewelry designs and making a commitment to expand the steel designs and retire some of the older sterling pieces. I’m currently working with a local laser-cutting company to cut blanks for me so I can more quickly create new pieces. This leads to my next commitment which is to find new galleries to carry my work.

3. Organizing! January is always a time to organize and this month (so far) has been no different. Yesterday, the extreme weather closed the store where I work, so I had an unplanned day to myself. Since I’d spent the weekend doing all my chores, I decided that I would tackle my big project: organizing and alphabetizing my entire album collection.  I started at around 10:30 a.m. and finished around 5 p.m. It was actually a fun project and I was amazed to find many hidden gems. I also took a hard look at what I had and started a garage sale pile. I still have a huge amount left to organize (the collection mentioned in the previous post), but I now have the space to store it and the desire to go through it.

I’ll be adding to my list and reassessing as the year goes by. Nobody’s perfect so I know I’ll fail a time or two, but I’m committing to picking myself back up and starting again. Here’s to a great 2014!

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For The Record

The summer of 1987 was pivotal for me, but not because I turned 21 and could legally drink. No, the summer of 1987 was the year I met Brent Vaughan.

Some friends and I decided to try and get served at a local bar despite the fact that two of the three of us were underage. Luckily, nobody carded us and we got to stay. The band that night was a local group called The Bluesberries. I had never heard them (since I was underage), but loved the fact they had a sax player. I was taking tenor sax lessons and told my friends I was going to ask the guy to dance. They laughed at me for being so bold. Maybe it was the beer that gave me courage, but I asked the guy to dance and we spent the rest of the evening together.

When the time came for us to part, he asked for my number. Within hours he’d called to ask me on a date for the next night. I said yes and we were inseparable for about 2-3 months. During that time, he opened my eyes to all kinds of new music. I was a classical/opera girl who listened to Buddy Holly on the side. He was a jazz musician who listened to Stan Getz and Michael Brecker. I introduced him to Eddie Cochran and he introduced me to, well, everything.

Throughout the years we stayed in touch. It’s funny, because technically he’s an ex-boyfriend, but I don’t think either of us thinks of the other that way. He’s just my friend Brent. Whenever we’d meet, he’d recommend something new and I’d buy it – just like that. My dad and Brent are just two of the very few people whose musical recommendations will do that to me. They know their stuff. Unbeknownst to Brent, his influence may have played a part in my relationship with Steve. The night of my first date with Steve, we started listening to music. I had a stack of CDs in the car, and brought in Getz/Gilberto. Steve loved it so much, I actually loaned it to him (something I NEVER do). I had that CD because Brent told me to buy it. The rest, they say, is history. 

The invention of Facebook has made the world a much smaller place and has allowed me to reconnect with many people, Brent being one of them. We’ve stayed in touch and managed to get together from time to time and talk music. Steve and I have heard him play with several bands and we all enjoy each other’s company. A few weeks ago, Brent messaged me to tell me he was downsizing and wanted to give, yes give, me most of his incredible LP collection. I was stunned. I mean, I know what this music means to him since I’m the same kind of person. No money, no favors, just a gift. He cautioned me that not everything in the collection is great and I could expect some duds, both musically and conditionally . Saturday, he and his girlfriend Laura packed up the ENTIRE flatbed of her truck and hauled the collection to our house. Wow. He had warned me that it would be extensive, but I wasn’t prepared for this!

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Jazz, soundtracks, big band, easy listening, country, rock and groups I’ve never heard of make this a treasure trove of greatness. Someone asked me if anything was worth a lot of money. Who the hell cares? It’s worth a mint to me because it’s a wonderful gift from one music lover to another. Steve and I spent a couple of hours just classifying the collection, but will need days, maybe weeks, to get everything in order. I have already run across a couple that are just unplayable, but have found a few gems like this one:

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I haven’t listened to it, but this has to be the best album cover I’ve seen. Crack me up. In the meantime, Steve and I grab a few at a time, bring them into the dining room, where the best turntable resides, and jam. This morning, I visited my old friend Eddie Cochran and got my day going. Tonight, I’ll decide what to play based on my mood. I’ll keep posting the gems I find. Thank you, Brent, for such a great, generous gift. You can bet Steve and I will give them a good home for decades.

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Fall Fashions 2013

I had a request recently to post the top trends for fall, so I thought I’d comply. I must say fall is my favorite season for fashion so it’s no surprise that my closets are full of clothing better suited for cooler weather. Every year I have to remind myself that I don’t need another black jacket or pair of dark denim jeans. This year I’m really trying to stick to my guns and add things that are special. So here’s what you can expect to see in the fashion world this season:

1. Menswear. Tailored, crisp fashions are leading the way this fall. Everything is “borrowed from the boys” or “menswear-inspired.” Expect to see plaid pants (which I will be purchasing), wingtip shoes, tasseled shoes, loafers, oxfords (both in shirts and shoes), pinstripes, blazers with crests – you get the picture. Not a fan? Try the trend by switching out your ballet flats for loafers or add a ruffled blouse to a tailored jacket. The idea is to keep it feminine. Personally, this is my favorite look. I’m all for a bit of preppy style.

2. Leather. Choose real or faux, but make sure you have something with leather this season. This is the perfect time to invest in a moto jacket or a blazer with leather trim. Skirts, leggings, pants, tops, tees, sweaters, everything will have touches of leather this year. I have ordered a long black wool jacket with leather trim for the season and expect to wear the heck out of it. I also have a perforated leather coat that will get lots of wear. When it comes to leather, buy the best you can afford and keep the look classic, that way you will get the most wear out of it. From what I’ve seen from NYFW (that’s NY Fashion Week), leather is going into spring as well.

3. Mixed materials. Forget simple sweaters and coats, this year it’s all about mixing materials. The most popular way to do that is with sleeves of contrasting materials. Think a denim jacket with leather sleeves or a knit sweater with plaid sleeves. Too trendy for you? Look for pieces with smaller contrasts like pockets or cuffs.

4. Plaid. Plaid is big this fall and I’m loving it. I guess the 80s prepster in me never died because I feel like I’m back in high school again with all the plaid I’m seeing. I think the most current way to wear plaid is in skinny ankle pants, which is what I’m looking for now. Toughen up the look by adding zippers or leather to your plaid.

5. Emerald and Wine. Remember the 80s when forest green and wine were huge? Well, they’re back, but more saturated. Think a deep green that’s almost black or a wine with a metallic sheen. These colors look most current when worn in a monochromatic way. Don’t mix them together unless it’s a plaid!

6. Black and gold. Silver jewelry is taking a backseat to gold this season and I’m actually glad. The combination of black and gold looks very warm as the weather cools. Gold isn’t just for jewelry either. Many black pieces have gold accents or embellishments on them. Faux gold jewelry in chunky or delicate styles are perfect to pair with simple black.

7. Brocade. Not a fan of plaid? Think about adding a brocade piece to your closet. Black and gold brocade looks rich and expensive, even in bargain pieces. Keep the look modern by pairing your brocade with solid pieces and letting it be the focus of your look. Black and white brocade is everywhere as well. Speaking of black and white…

8. Graphic prints. Another great print of the season is the black and white graphic print. Expect to see modern, geometric prints in high-contrast combinations. Black and white is the most common, but don’t discount black and red, black and cobalt, or black and tan.

9. Cobalt. Cobalt blue is a great way to add color to a neutral, boring closet. I love it with black, charcoal, navy, and even white. It’s one of those colors that looks good on almost everyone. If you’re feeling adventurous, invest in cobalt blue pants. I bet you wear them more than you’ll realize.

10. Updated sportswear. Sweaters with sweatshirt styling (think dolman sleeves) are huge this season, but keep the look a little fitted so you don’t look sloppy. Love your sweat pants? Try a pair of slightly flowy pants with elastic hems. If that doesn’t suit your body type, think about an updated “sweatshirt” in silk or rayon. A bomber jacket with contrasting colored sleeves is also a great choice in place of a blazer or jean jacket.

When it comes to shoes and boots, almost anything goes. A short moto-inspired boot is probably one of the most current trends right now, but riding boots and booties are big too. Bottom line: pick what’s best for your personality and body type and have fun! Now all we need to do is get Mother Nature to cooperate and give us some cooler weather!

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, it’s time to stop the insanity!

In my last post I talked about the changes Steve and I have made in our eating. We like the results so much we’re sticking with it – with a few modifications. The success of the past month has me thinking of other areas in my life that need changing. I’m not going to do anything drastic, and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone, but changes must be made for my own sanity!

Steve will be the first person to tell you that I hate change. Hate it, but I’m going to make a real effort to do it! I’m starting off with my own happiness. It’s true we make our own happiness and people can be happy in times of great sorrow. Rather than let the outside dictate my mood, I’m going to work on the inside. No, I will not be successful all of the time (matter of fact, I expect to fail more than I succeed in the beginning), but I’m going to try. Yesterday I ended my day by reflecting on the things in my life I’m grateful for.

Step two: if it’s broke, then fix it! Clothing that’s been clogging my closet for years is getting tossed. Relationships that drown me are being put aside. People who drag me down no longer get my energy. In other words, I’m going to fret less. I’m a worrier by nature, but I’m going to make a very large effort to scale back on my worrying. Honestly, it gets me nowhere.

Step three: expect failure. My triple-A personality wants me to be perfect all of the time, but the fact is that no one is perfect. Ever. I will strive for being and doing the best I can.

Final step: realize that everything I said in this post will probably change. My best efforts may fall flat, but at least I’m going to try. So…who’s with me? Let’s make today a better day than yesterday!

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Whole 30

I love food and I enjoy eating – who doesn’t – but I’d been feeling like I was out of control with my choices and wanted to do something to get myself back on track. One of my gym buddies, Darwin, had gone on the Whole30 plan and had experienced a lot of success. So much, in fact, that he’s stayed on the program (modified) for the past year. He’s healthy, fit, and energetic and I wanted in on the action.

I met with him to get some pointers on starting,and took all of the information home to Steve. We discussed it and decided we’d both do it. Make no mistake, it’s hard, but the benefits are well worth it.

A simple summary of the plan is this: eliminate all forms of sugar (except fresh fruit which is limited), no alcohol, no grains, no carbohydrates (refined), no dairy. It’s tough, but with restrictions come inventiveness. First thing Steve and I discovered was coconut oil. If you’re not a fan of coconut, I doubt you’ll like this, but coconut oil is delicious. Yes, it’s high in saturated fat, but it’s still good for you. All things in moderation, I say. Second thing we discovered is how much crap we had been eating without really knowing it. Adding additional vegetables meant trying new things and it was fun. I gave up my morning protein shake in exchange for a breakfast casserole that Steve makes on Sunday for the week. I actually sit down and eat breakfast rather than slurping it through a straw on the way home from the gym. I also discovered that coconut milk in my coffee tastes rich and decadent. Who needs milk or cream?!

At the end of one month I’ve lost 6 pounds and 1.25% body fat. I still have room for improvement in the body fat department, but I feel so much better! I sleep well, I’m not sluggish during the day, and I’m satisfied between meals for longer periods of time. Best of all, Steve and I worked together to make this a success for us and we’re going to keep doing it!

Friends have asked a lot of questions and made comments during the last month and I’d like to address them below.

Give up dairy?! Why would you do that? Don’t you worry about not getting enough calcium? I don’t really worry about the calcium and actually there are many foods rich in it. Almonds, broccoli, kale, spinach, etc. are all examples of foods rich in calcium. These are foods I eat daily. Yes, giving up cheese is really tough, but I actually feel better! People with any type of sinus problems should seriously look into giving up dairy.

Give up alcohol?! No way, I’d never do that! Yes, I gave up all alcohol and it was tough. I really like wine and I enjoy a glass or two, but the enjoyment was wearing thin. Steve and I both felt like imbibing was too much of a habit. No, we didn’t drink a lot, but it was jut too easy to have a drink after a long day. Now we brew different types of tea and have fruit infused waters in the fridge at all times. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a glass of wine and will most likely celebrate with one this weekend, but I haven’t missed it as much as I’ve missed cheese!

You’re no fun anymore. I think this comments bothers me the most. I’m incredibly fun, dammit! Just because I choose not to eat certain foods or have an alcoholic drink doesn’t mean that I’m judging what you do. Actually, I don’t. And I don’t expect any of my friends of cater to my nutritional needs. It’s my choice and responsibility to choose what I eat and drink. Plus, I’m a lot quicker with my wit when I’m sober!

Isn’t this just the Paleo diet? Essentially, yes, but some Paleo plans include cheeses and raw sugars such as honey. The Whole30 plan doesn’t include any of those. And yes, I know the plan sounds like it’s overly-restrictive and ridiculous, but I feel like we’ve become too dependent on refined foods and quick fixes.

Don’t you ever get cravings? Hell yes I do! Last Saturday night I could have taken a fork to an entire layer cake had it been placed in front of me! I’m human. It’s all about reminding myself that I want to feel better, look better, and live better. 

Will you stay with this forever? Knowing me, probably not, but I’ll modify it it some way to allow for celebrations and special occasions. My goal is to eat well 90% of the time and allow myself some food fun 10% of the time. If my step-mom makes a sugar glazed ham loaf, you can bet I’m going to dig into that baby, but the next meal, I’m back on track.

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Missing the Target

I used to love to shop at Target. Each visit was like an adventure where I never knew what exciting things I would unearth. Sure, I’d get my toiletries and such, but I’d often find interesting  items to add to my cart. Sadly, that is not the case any more.

I’ve noticed a decline in Target’s quality over the past couple of years, but this season has really been obvious. Do you remember the first designer collaboration Target did? I believe it was with Isaac Mizrahi in 2002. I remember the collections well. They were well made and designed, priced reasonably, and had a quality feel to them. Matter of fact, I still own the black satin tuxedo I bought from the collection and I love it. The collaboration was a huge success and Mr. Mizrahi and Target made millions. It was short-lived (only 6 years) but had such impact that designers were drooling to team up with Target to create something special.

Remember last December’s collaboration with Neiman-Marcus? A colossal failure and a clue to Target’s future. These designer collabs have gotten splashier but the quality and design has suffered immensely. Most of the items from the N-M collection ended up on deep discount where they gathered dust until being shipped off to the nearest Goodwill. Let’s face it, Oscar de la Renta designs fabulous evening gowns, not dog bowls. And people who shop N-M most likely don’t want to buy knock-offs at Target (if they go to Target at all).

The latest disasters I’ve seen involve the Vera scarves collection (cheap polyester at ridiculous prices), anything with the name Nate Berkus, and the Feed campaign. Sadly, none of the designs are interesting (where are you Michael Graves?!) and the quality is substandard. What’s really telling is that the basic tanks and tees I used to buy at Target, I now get at Old Navy. Not only are they cheaper, but they are better looking.

Unless I want to go to Walmart (which I don’t), I’ll have to return to Target for my household basics, but I’m looking for alternatives. If I can get laundry detergent, paper towels, kitchen cleaner and such anywhere cheaper besides Walmart, I’m going to. Target, clean up your act and I’ll reconsider. In the meantime, anyone know where the nearest Costco is?!

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Chaos

I don’t like making messes. It’s weird, because as an artist, you’d think I’d be comfortable with dirt and such, but I’m not. What I hate most of all is clutter. I can let dust pile on most of the house, but I can’t stand a pile of mail or crap all over the counter tops. So it will come as no surprise to those of you who know me, that I hate moving things around in the house.

Steve loves moving furniture and is always thinking of ways we can rearrange rooms. My philosophy is that when things are in order, they should be left there. I have lightened up quite a bit since we married, but I mostly want to leave well enough alone.

It’s funny that our latest project involves messing up the house, moving furniture and creating chaos. What’s even funnier is that I’m the one who initiated it. About a month ago, I met my second cousin, Marcia, for coffee. As we talked about all the family members we’d loved and lost, she mentioned a breakfront (or hutch as I call it) that had been in her parents’ house. I remembered the piece and commented on how cool I thought it was. Since it was in storage and nobody in the family had room for it, Marcia thought it should go to us and suggested I call her younger brother Carl to see what he thought. Long story short: Carl was willing to part with it and Steve and I will pick it up tomorrow.

That leads me to the mess. Getting a new piece of furniture means moving old pieces to make room. I emptied our buffet and suggested to Steve that we move it to the corner and put our stereo equipment on it (a suggested he’d had in the past but I wasn’t willing to do at the time). Monday night we tackled the dining room and started planning. Tomorrow we pick up the hutch and will get everything put back together this weekend. What makes this story so interesting (to me anyway) is that I’ve been forced to live in a mess all week. Yes, it’s making me nuts, but I’m excited about the final outcome. I’ll be sure to post photos of the finished room, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a rare glimpse of my messy house.

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