Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lemonade & Letiquette

Funny story on how the name "Letiquette" came to be...I was at lunch with my girlfriend (who shall remain nameless) and she decided that she was going to make lemonade at the table out of the water with lemons she had asked for, using the sweetner on the table!  As you can imagine, I was aghast!  It was sooo something my mother would have done (Dolores has a reputation of making lemonade at the table and taking sweetner home).  I told her I would never eat lunch with her if she ever did that again.  Her response was "Well excuse me...what's that "Letiquette"?  Thus, the term Letiquette was born.  We still laugh about that today.  She doesn't make lemonade at the table anymore when we are eating lunch together...but I do sometimes take sweetner back to the office. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Closet Envy

I have a severe case of closet envy.  Watching "House Hunters" on HGTV is the reason.  My closet is just too small for all my stuff and when my dog Lola decides that it is her "doggy den", I am really crowded out!  I wish I had a big, huge closet where each pair of my shoes had their own space on a large wall and I could organize them by style, color and season....sigh.  A girlfriend of mine even has a washer & dryer in her closet!  That's serious closet design.  Since I am not going to get a new closet (no House Hunting for us) nor is there any opporunity to make my closet bigger (it's backs up to the kitchen), I try hard to keep it clean and organized to make it feel and look bigger than it really is.  First, I switch my clothing from one closet to another for each season.  Since we only really have two seasons in Texas -Hot, Hot Summer and Kinda Cold Winter- I only have to do this twice a year.  I keep my out-of-rotation items in the guest room closet.  I'm not a packrat and I don't save a lot of "sentimental" things so that I have this extra closet space and it comes in handy.  Second, I get rid of items I haven't worn in more than 1 year.  If it hasn't made my rotation in 365 days, then it's just not necessary and I probably can't fit it anymore...another sigh.  Third, I color coordinate all my clothes (light to dark for spring and dark to light for winter).  Makes me feel like I have more room since everything is nice and neat.  Fourth, I put all my shoes (except flip-flops) in plastic shoe boxes.  They stack nicely.  Fifth, I use the space beneath the lower hanging items for my boots, sweaters and scarves neatly tucked away in clear plastic containers that lay flat.

One day I will have the closet of my dreams...unfortunately, it will probably have to be extra wide for me and my walker to move around in it but I'll get there one day. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

Dinner Party Trifecta

There are three basic components of a successful dinner party - drink, company and food (in that order) perfectly combined.  This perfect combination is sometimes hard to come by but one thing that makes it more likely is to ask your guests to B.Y.O.B.  Yes, I said B.Y.O.B.  I was recently invited to a dinner party/barbeque that was B.Y.O.B.  Although some etiquette snobs might say this is a social faux pas and I once agreed, I have changed my mind and am now a HUGE fan of B.Y.O.B. at a dinner party, mostly because my husband is simply the best bartender I know and since we've been together over 18 years, he knows exactly what I like to drink.  B.Y.O.B. will ensure that your guests are drinking what they like.  No point in drinking something at the party you don't like if you are there to have a good time.  And, if everyone is drinking what they like, they will continue to drink and become more interesting as the night progress.  Thus, meeting the second component of the DPT.  You might even have some new BFFs before the night is done.  This frees up the hosts to focus on the menu to meet the third component as they don't have to worry about what they will serve to drink (other than the typical white/red wines).  This was certainly the case at this particular DP.  The food was AMAZING!  I brought my blood-orange soda and vodka mix (my husband was out of town and couldn't make my drinks so this was the best I could do) and that was good enough for me.

So, if you're throwing a dinner party, don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring their favorite cocktail/wine - it will keeps your costs down and let you focus on your menu.  But be sure you wow them with your food.  You can't get away with asking them to bring their own booze and then serve a mediocre meal!  If you are not known for your cooking, then you should plan on having a well-stocked bar for your guests so they won't notice. By the time dinner is served, it will be the best food they ever ate.  Of course, dinner parties are supposed to be about the good company, conversation, etc., but Letiquette requires that you have the trifecta:  good drinks and good company and good food.  If you ask your guests to bring their own drinks, this is perfectly acceptable for the reasons stated above, so the only thing left is good food....and if I'm invited somewhere for dinner and asked to bring my own drinks, then the hosts better not be serving me crap on a cracker.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Qualetty vs. Quantity

I tackled the quality vs. quantity debate very early in my pre-teen years.  It started with back to school shopping when I was a girl growing up in San Antonio.  My mother would take us kids downtown shopping, back when you could still shop downtown, and we each got to pick out just a few things but we could pick out the good stuff - Levi's, Jordache, Lacoste.  No generic clothing for back to school.  It was the one time we didn't have to worry about prices.  Truly a great sacrifice for my mother.  I could pick out 2 pairs of jeans, 3 shirts/tops, 1 pair of shoes, 1 package of socks; 2 sets of underclothes and a jacket (my brothers got 3 pairs of jeans but who's counting).  I quickly turned my attention to the designer know, the Jordache, the Gloria's, the Calvin's.  I could have purchased 3-4 pairs of less expensive jeans for the same price as 2 pairs of the designer jeans but this was my only opportunity to get the jeans all the girls were wearing.  So, 2 pairs it was, one Jordache and one Gloria Vanderbilt.  I loved, loved, loved those jeans and the fact that they were designer made up for the fact that I only had two pairs.  They also lasted a long time (much to my mother's relief) and they were dark blue denim so I felt no one knew that I wore the same two pair over and over (I think).   

It may seem petty now, as I am admittedly a little designer obessed still today, but I tend to justify it to myself by arguing that you get what you pay for.  If you've ever worn a pair of designer shoes, you know what I'm talking about.  They just feel different.  It's truly a very special relationship between your feet and those shoes.  I would rather have one or two pair of beautiful designer shoes than 10 pairs of inexpensive ones.  That's not to say inexpensive items don't have their place (and I do have plenty of nice, inexpensive shoes that serve their purpose) ...I'm just saying that everyone should have at least one pair of those special shoes (or that one dress/jacket/suit) that is worth every penny.  Come on, splurge a little!  And you don't have to pay full price, get it on sale.  Now, that's a real compromise in the quality vs. quantity debate as you won't have to choose when you hit a great sale. A real rush, my friends.

My two pair of designer jeans helped me fit in so long ago so I could stand out later in life.  It was a life lesson that taught me the value of sacrifice to get what you want.  My mother sacrificed so we kids could get the good stuff, even if it was limited and only once a year, to fit in when it mattered most to us.  Not exactly a Mother Theresa kinda of life lesson but one that shaped my view on when it's ok to go for quality over quantity.  We were poor but my mother wasn't cheap was what she would say...more of a Loretta Lynn kinda of life lesson. 

So, buy quality when you can, buy quantity when you must, but always buy what makes you feel like you're worth it. 


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mission Statement

I probably should have started out with this post when I started this blog but que sera, sera.  My purpose in starting this blog and putting my ideas, comments, suggestions, etc., out there was to share these with others who are looking to achieve that "put-togetherness" that many of us want in our lives.  It seems that we are bombarded daily with what we should be doing, how we should be doing, when we should be doing it and how we should look when we are doing it.  But most of the "how-to" information out there is too complicated and overwhelming.  My mission is to take this information and filter it down to the essentials and make it easy.  Simple style, if you will.  I read many magazines and books on entertaining, fashion, and lifestyles (it's my hobby and stress reliever from my job-job) and I always have an idea or twist on how to take those suggestions and make them easier and less expensive.  It's a challenge for me to make it my own because I generally don't like to be told what to do and love to do it my way.  I don't have to reinvent the wheel, there are some basic rules to follow that are universal but I definitely want to put my spin on these rules.  This is what I will share with my followers on this blog.  I hope you will find it entertaining, helpful and a great read and I will try my very best to keep it that way.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Health & Beauty Products 101

I love H&B products! My love affair with "products" started when I was a very young girl and my favorite aunt was an Avon lady.  She would give me the left over items she couldn't sell.  I didn't have very much growing up (certainly didn't have my own shampoo, soap, etc.) so these products were the most treasured things I had.  My favorite was the "Roses, Roses" soap.  I loved to arrange them and then re-arrange them in the box I kept them in.  Something I still love to do today when I am stressed out (I have several bathroom drawers filled with products).  I firmly believe that any woman can have good skin and look attractive if she is using the right products.  They are magical.  There is nothing like that new bag of make-up or opening a new jar of whatever.  And, you don't have to spend a lot.  Here are some of my favorite products that are really quite affordable: 

1)  Aquaphor - the best stuff on earth.  I use it as a deep moisturizer on my hands & feet, lip treatment, put it on mosquito bites, first aid, etc.  It's like the Windex in MBFGW. 

2)  Dry Brush - use it to dry brush your skin.  Buy a good one (Bath & Body Shop) and use it only as a dry brush to exfoliate your entire body but don't be gentle.  It has to sting some.  A little sadistic but, like John Mellencamp sang, it hurts so good.  It will make your skin glow.  You might also lose a few ounces with all those dead skin cells gone.  P.S. Like most beauty routines, this is a private activity not meant for your partner's eyes.  Lock the bathroom door.  If you've never done it before, you might want to use goggles and a painter's mask. 

3)  Neutrogena Body Oil - to relieve the pain of the dry brush.  Just kidding - it doesn't hurt that much. Use it after your shower.  Again, glowing skin.

4)  Mary Kay Satin Hands - almost as good a manicure.  It's a bit pricey and it involves 3 steps but worth it.

5)  Alpha Hydrox Foaming Face Wash - I've been using this stuff for 13 years and it is the best face wash for about $7.00.  Use it.

6)  Alpha Hydrox Soufflé - it's a moisturizer I use on my neck/décolletage.   Many women forget about this area.  You can only wear so many turtlenecks so take care of it!

7)  L.A. Colors Blush (Plushed/Soft Rose) - found this at the dollar store!  Best blush ever that I think is pretty universal (my skin is olive toned).  It's so good that when it broke in my makeup bag recently, I continued to use it from my bag until I could replace it.

8)  Clear Mascara - works great in hot weather to keep your mascara from running down your face.

9)  Kiehls Creamy Eye Treatment with Avacado - this was recommended to me a few years ago by a true diva (our friend John whose alter ego is Carmen Miranda).  If the gays are using it, you know it's good.  It feels like buttah...

10)  Blistex SPF 15 Lip Protectant - Rasberry Lemonade Blast!

So, there are you are.  The best "hygienes" (prison slang for products - I was a criminal defense attorney for a while) according to me.  I hope they bring you as much joy as they've brought me.  Yes, I love these products that much.  They make me happy. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The 80/20 Rule

My trainer tells me to remember the 80/20 rule when I workout - that is, a lean body is 80% diet and 20% exercise.  I also apply this 80/20 rule to my diet as in I eat "clean" 80% of the time and whatever I want the other 20% of the time, though true be told, it's the other way around some weeks.  I think this 80/20 rule might work well in other areas of our lives and have opted to incorporate it where I can in my personal life.  I plan on giving most activities an 80% effort and relax for the other 20%.  100% effort is sometimes overrated.  The truth is we can't give it our all, all the time, in every endeavor.  That gets old real fast.  I suggest you save your 100% effort for when it really matters, like a presentation for a job promotion or getting ready your annual family portrait.  So, when you can't serve a homemade meal for a dinner party, make it semi-homemade (there's a HGTV show on this entire subject so you know it's legit).  Buy your sides at the gourment shop and cook the protein at home; decorate with candles instead of fresh flowers; buy a ready made cocktail mix instead of mixing each drink, etc.   When you can't come out in full hair & makeup, slap some lip gloss on and pull your hair in a bun (see previous blog).  If you can't volunteer to be on several committees in whatever capacity (school, work, church) choose just one that makes you happy (Social Chair for me) and let others know they can have 80% of your efforts, take it or leave it.  It will keep you from getting burned out, believe me.  No one is going to know if you are giving it 80% or 100% effort and in most cases, your 80% effort is going to outshine another person's 100% effort!  So, relax, put forth your best 80% effort and be pleasantly surprised at the results. 

Yes, I am loving this 80/20 rule!  Although, I might have misunderstood what my trainer actually said as he might have said I give my workouts 20% of my effort, 80% of the time....



Friday, July 15, 2011

Ladies Who Lunch

Just returned from a lunch meeting with a group of my colleagues.  This particular group of ladies are very impressive on their worst day.  They range in age from new mothers to mature, sophisticated women (I fall somewhere towards the end of the mature, sophisticated spectrum).  I knew that today meant I would have to wear heels, a jacket and maybe put on some makeup in this 100+ degree weather.  But it felt good.  Today, we were "ladies who lunch."  You know, "well dressed women who meet for lunch socially..." (thanks Wikipedia).  It reminded me that, for the most part, women dress for other women.  I laugh at men who believe that we are "dressing" to please them.  Luckily, my husband is well aware of this and doesn't harbor any misguided belief that I take 2 hours to get ready to make him happy.  I do it to make myself feel good and to look good because I know that other women are making mental notes. There is nothing wrong or catty about this.  We need other women to be standard-bearers so to speak.  Otherwise, we might all fall into the t-shirt/sweatpants black hole.  I live by Billy Crystal's quote impersonating Fernando Lamas, "It is better to look good than to feel good."  But the truth is, that looking good will make you feel good.  I don't mean spending hours getting ready on a daily basis because most of us don't have that kind of time.  But there is something to be said for slapping on some lip gloss, mascara (I have a friend who never leaves the house without her "eyes") and a decent outfit.  Again, no sweatpants please!  It doesn't take much effort, really, it doesn't.  So, here are some tips that will you help get that "casual but pulled together" look that we all want:

1)  Cherry chapstick works great as a moisturizer and tint
2)  Clear mascara to put on in the car at a stoplight and if you miss, no black smudges around your eyes
3)  If you wear flip flops on a routine basis, which is fine, make sure your toes are pedicured
4)  Wear a clean (yes, sometimes it has to be said out loud), fitted T-shirt or button down shirt w/ capri's (very Mary Tyler Moore) instead of jeans and your husband's T-shirt
5)  If you can't do your hair, pull your hair back in a nice ponytail or if you can't make a ponytail, wear a cute headband.

Obviously, we can't pull off the "Ladies Who Lunch" look 24/7 (and really, do we want to?) but for me, I was very happy to have to dress up today and remind myself that indeed it is better to look good than to feel good but it's truly the best when you look good and it makes you feel good.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dining, Dishing and Dividing

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you one of my favorite things to do is dine out with friends and dish on everything!  I dislike talking on the phone so I really enjoy talking face-to-face over a good meal.  I particularly enjoy eating lunch out everyday with friends/colleagues and have been accused of going to work only so that I can go to lunch (probably true on most days).  But when you're in a group dining situation, things could get sticky if you don't decide ahead of time how the bill will be paid.  I'm talking about "splitting the check."  An end of meal audit of the bill is uncomfortable and can ruin what was otherwise probably a great meal.  Not to mention it makes them/you look cheap. 

So, if you are meeting others for a meal out, opt for one of the following to avoid any breach of etiquette when it's time to pay the bill:

1)  You pay the whole bill yourself.  Let your guests know in some appropriate manner like "Let's go to lunch - my treat"
2)  Gently ask the server to separate the checks before you order so each pays their own (key word in this phrase is "before"...otherwise, I am pretty sure the server will do something disgusting to your food/drink)
3)  If separate checks are not possible, then let your mates know that you will be ordering the filet mignon but paying your fair share "I'm ordering the surf & turf but you won't have to dig into the college fund"
4)  You share the cost of an appetizer (unless it's something only you want i.e. fried pickles, an acquired taste for some and my favorite).

There doesn't need to be any discomfort about the bill when you are dining out with friends if you plan ahead...unless you figure out you forgot your wallet after having ordered the lobster. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hostess with the Mostess

When I was a young girl, I remember my grandparents (Mathias & Nora) would have people over to their house almost every weekend for barbeque, beer and friendship.  They lived in a 5 room house and the kitchen was tiny but they always seemed to have room for all their guests.  My grandfather would barbeque sausage, chicken, and ribs (beef, not pork) and my grandmother would make rice, beans, & macaroni salad (which I didn't learn to appreciate until I was older - nothing more disgusting than macaroni salad when you're a kid) and usually a homemade pastry like empanadas.  The beer and drinks were abundant.  My grandparents weren't rich so providing a big meal like this for a lot of people was a real sacrifice.  The Martinez house was THE party house and everyone knew it.  My brother and I would love to watch everyone drinking, dancing and having fun.  You knew it was a party when the Mariachi music started (Vicente Fernandez, of course) and my grandmother would start to belt out "Volver, Volver" (look it up) after a few too many beers (these days, she denies that she ever drank beer, she's 89). 

I'm a pretty good hostess - I always have enough food, go to extra effort to have special cocktails for my guests, provide extra touches like flowers.  But hostessing is about more than just providing food & drink.  You have to open your home and your heart to your guests like my grandparents did.  You want your guests to feel like family and that the party was no trouble at all but we all know it's a lot of work and expense to have a party on any level.  My grandfather was the most gracious host I've ever known  No plate was empty, no thirst unquenched, no discomfort felt by anyone in his home.  Contrary to George Lopez's version of what happens at parties with a lot of Latinos, NO ONE ever got out of line at my grandfather's house.  Mathias wouldn't allow anyone to make a scene.  And every party was successful as a result i.e. Police were never called = successful party.  Those parties are some of my fondest childhood memories. 

Who knew that a tall, Mexican sheet metal worker from San Antonio would be my ultimate hostessing role model? 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Dirty Dozen

Ok, so there's nothing "dirty" about this post but I thought it might grab your attention. I'm talking about the dozen essential fashion items every woman MUST have in her closet.  I've read about a million fashion articles and every book I can get my hands on so trust me, I'm right on this:

1)  Undergarments - Ladies, get a bra that fits and underwear that banishes VPLs.  Get fitted by a professional bra fitter (and no, not those twits that work at the large lingerie box store that wear their boobs up to their chins).  You'd be shocked by what size bra you should actually be wearing and believe me, it is never the size you think and you are wearing the wrong size!  Now, the large lingerie box store does carry an excellent line of undies that eliminate VPLs (or chones for my Latin sisters out there) "Very Sexy" - try the hiphuggers.  They are the best!

2)  T-Shirt - Basic white/black T-shirt.  Get both.  Speaks for itself, no?  Good quality (Target & Talbot's have good ones).

3)  Crisp White Shirt - By crisp, I mean ironed.  By shirt, I mean with a collar.  Again, Talbot's has an excellent line.  White shirts are universal and can make any outfit look like you cared when you got dressed in the morning. 

4)  Neutral Colored Jacket - Yes, a blue jean jacket counts and no, they are not passé or country looking.  Work it with a beautiful pin or scarf and you have a staple that will last forever!  I have 3 (CAbi is my favorite).  Your other choices are a navy blue jacket, white, black or tan.  Lime green or pale pink DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT count as neutral on this planet.

5)  Scarf - Tan or Black work best but a solid bright color (like teal) will also go a long way.  Don't spend too much money on this item.  Buy in bulk at Target. 

6)  Jeans - Every woman (and man for that matter) needs that one pair of jeans that fits perfectly but I REFUSE to pay more than $50.00 for a pair.  Takes a little extra time but you can find a pair in that price range.  And please, no bling on your ass.  Seriously, it should look good in those jeans without rhinestones all over it. 

7)  Solid Colored Dress - The possibilities are endless.  For your fashion dollars, a SCD is extremely flexible and can be dressed up/down with a different belt, pin, jacket, etc....makes it look like a different dress each time.  Keep patterned dresses to a minimum.  Contrary to what you may think you see in your mirror, not every woman can pull it off. 

8)  Tailored Pants - Here is where you should invest some real bucks (at least three $$$ = minimum of $100.00).  You only need one pair - black, brown or tan (but not too light colored).  Get them tailored (hem, waist, etc.) to fit you perfectly.  Worth the money!

9)  Calf-length skirt - Another classic.  A-Line or belled skirts are my favorite and are universal.  A pair of heels (a pair of "heels" = 3 inches at a minimum) works best with a calf-length skirt.  If you insist on wearing flats, then do yourself a favor and wear a skirt above the knee.  Neutral colors again are better than patterned.  A recurring theme for me.

10)  Neutral Colored High Heeled Shoes - There is just no getting over this.  Every woman looks better in HHS.  And, every woman can wear them if they just practiced!  Stop being a wuss and get over the pain.  It's temporary and you can dull the pain with martinis.  It's a win-win as far am I'm concerned. 

11)  Chunky Necklace/Earrings Combo - My favorite is oversized pearls.  Of course, they're fake but Jackie O wore fake pearls too.  No shame in that.

12)  Wide Leather Belt (to be worn around your waist) - Real leather please, preferably from Italy (Chinese leather doesn't have the same smell).  Again, black, brown or tan.  Patent leather is beautiful also.  It will last forever. 

Hope this helps! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cleavage & Church

I'm in Texas and right now, it's about 1000 degrees outside!  As I was getting ready for church yesterday (and, no, I am not a regular attendee but I was moved by the spririt yesterday or the heat that resembled hell), I was looking for an outfit that would keep me cool.  I decided on a white blouse that was admittedly lower in the front than would be respectable for Sunday services - quick fix - I used a shawl to cover up in church and simply removed it when we walked out.  Tip - Cleavage & Church is not a good combination, no matter how hot it is outside!