Monday, June 25, 2012

Traveling in Style

At this very moment, a good friend of mine is enjoying a Grecian holiday, which made me start thinking about the best ways to hit the road and keep one's gracious charm intact.  After seeing her cache of new accessories for the trip, it really got me thinking about how I travel and what I pack - and whether or not I really take advantage of the opportunities for travel glamor.

Looking back, I've always enjoyed dressing for the occasion, even on trips.  When I was fourteen, I asked my parents to take me to the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego as my birthday present.  I packed several hats and every piece of vintage clothing I owned into my 1960's Samsonite because to me, that hotel meant Old Hollywood.  I was very proud of my outfits and had my mom take several pictures of me in the same spot Marilyn stood while filming Some Like It Hot.  I insisted on taking bubble baths each night, and even as a youngster, enjoyed ordering tea service in the ocean view bar, with all of its dark wood and well-dressed waiters.

Now let's fast forward a few years to 2011 and my trip to the Florida theme parks.  Looking at the pictures from that vacation now, I see that I sacrificed any shred of fashion for comfort.  Long white shorts that make me look about four feet tall?  Check.  Turquoise running shoes with ankle socks?  Check.  I was so focused on the heat and humidity factor that I forgot about the many humiliating photos that would result.  I also knew I would only be seen by my parents. 

So as I move forward, I've decided to follow these five self-imposed guidelines for traveling.  No more horrid pictures for the scrapbooks!

  1. Accessorize!  I think this is the most important element, because packing multiple outfits per day may not be possible with luggage size restraints.  Scarves, jewelry, and shoes don't take up too much space and can really alter a basic outfit for day to night changes.  I once took six pairs of shoes to Vegas for a weekend trip.  Luckily, the two girls I stayed with also packed the same amount, so I felt very validated.
  2. Choose a "look" and build a palette from it.  I realized that subconsciously I usually pack with a sort of costume in mind that (romantically) suits the destination.  A hotel with a sparkling pool requires espadrilles and a large sun hat a la 1940's pin-ups.  Bustling city like New York?  I'd go part Holly Golightly, part Debbie Harry, and - let's not act like we don't love her - part Carrie Bradshaw.  A trip to Paris would require some well-cropped black pants, bateau necklines, ballet flats, and a great pair of oversized sunglasses.  And I usually like to stick to basic colors for the clothes.  Black for cities, colors for the sea (that sounds incredibly pretentious).
  3. Enjoy your hotel time too!  Often people look at the hotel as a place to sleep, and that's it.  I feel quite differently.  I love hotels and prefer to stay in places with some personality because of it.  Pack beauty products that make you feel good, bring a pretty nightgown, and buy a candle in the gift shop to light while getting ready.  I'm also a fan of packing a kimono.  No one outside will see it, but it really glamorizes the experience!
  4. Take a chill pill.  I've been on many trips with break-neck schedules (get on the tour bus, get off the tour bus) and although you see everything, you never get to really enjoy the culture and people watching.  I'm a big fan of relaxing on vacations, though apparently this is a very un-American attitude!  And by the way, I will never EVER ask a concierge if the hotel has a gym.  What a waste of time!  Which brings me to my final point . . .
  5. Eat as much as possible without feeling sick.  I know this sounds a bit overindulgent, but I'm on vacation and I'm not worrying about my waistline.  Because that is work, and I am  not at work.  Granted, I don't want to stuff myself to the point of gluttony, but I feel no need to skip any meal or snacking opportunity, especially in cities known for their cuisine.  You better believe that I'll stop at every single creperie I see in France! 
Hopefully you'll take a vacation soon and try out some of my ideas.  In fact, hopefully I'll take a vacation soon and try them out!  And check out my "Ladies Links" page for some traveling sites I recommend.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Avenge This!

I could write a very intelligent essay about the double standard for men and women, society's expectations of the genders in media, blahblahblah . . . but I've decided to make my point through a movie review instead.  Let's talk about The Avengers.  I'm pretty sure that all women who attended this film (most with boyfriends and husbands, I imagine) were sorely disappointed to find zero, I said ZERO, gratuitous shirtlessness.  Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man were completely covered up for over 2 hours (please don't bring up naked Bruce Banner - it's not the same, trust me).  In all three of the individual superhero films, the ladies were offered some spectacular views.  However, their most recent outing gave us nothing.  Not even a quick "I've gotta change my shirt" shot or an "Oh no my breastplate has been ripped off in battle!" situation.  I find this choice to be appalling (thanks a lot Joss Whedon).  If this were a film about an all female superpower team, the ta-ta's would've been up and out.  In this so-called "film," all of these guys, with their bulging biceps, amazingly good hair, charismatic smiles, super ripped abs, twinkly eyes . . . wait, what the hell was I talking about?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Keys to Thank You's

The first question to address is "When do I send a thank you card?"  Frankly, don't worry about the exact etiquette.  Anytime you think "Gee, I wonder if I should send her a thank you card..." you should do it!  With minimal cost and a little bit of effort, you'll build your reputation as a thoughtful person and make others feel good (which is really the most important part).
Tips for Personal Thank You Notes
  1. First and foremost, buy thank you cards that are attractive and appropriate for the occasion.  Cheap cards can be just as cute as very expensive ones, so don't worry about a price point (most people throw thank you's in the trash - or hopefully recycling bin - anyway).  I like to stock up from the dollar bins at Target, Michael's, and JoAnn's Fabric.  I have an assortment of whimsical and classy designs.  It's easiest to get them out in a timely manner when you already have them on hand. 
  2. Put your name and address on the top left of the envelope.  This way, the recipient now has your address and can add you to her (iPhone) address book.  Also, when you receive cards, you can tear off this return address, tape into a notebook, and refer to it for your own correspondence.  Also, address the envelope in your own handwriting, not printed labels.  Personalization is the key to making people feel special, as opposed to just another name on a list.
  3. Address the recipient with "Dear" if you feel comfortable doing so, but always include the name(s) at the start.  You can also use a "Hello!" to make it sound friendly, but not too personal. Whatever you do, don't make the introduction and first sentence too generic.  It doesn't make a good first impression.  I try to make every thank you card a little bit different.
  4. Continue on with a specific thank you for the gift, their attendance, etc. and perhaps share how you have been enjoying the gift.  This will not only make the gift giver feel that she got her money's worth, but let's face it, she'll probably keep getting you good gifts!
  5. Personally, I think the thank you card should be quick.  If you haven't seen the recipient in a while, write a letter later sharing news.  Right now, focus on their generosity (not your new job or baby).  Also, it's a nice touch to add how well-dressed or lovely someone looked at a party (but only write it if you mean it!).
  6. Leave a good last impression as well!  Thank the recipient again and offer your excitement about the next chance you'll have to get together.  Everyone loves to feel their presence is missed.
  7. Now for the sign off.  I like to write "Much Love" to my close friends, "Love" for family, and occasionally I'll throw in a "Godspeed" to be cheeky.  As for acquaintances, I think a "Very sincerely" or "With gratitude" is a nice way to end a note.  A plain "Sincerely" is boring.  I suggest finding your special sign off and sticking to it!
Keep in mind that following a few guidelines does not make your thank you less sincere.  Always write from the heart.  If you've got a friend who gives you presents that are not your taste, I'm sure there's a little silver lining in that cloud somewhere!   You can always reference her generosity but not the gift.  Most importantly, don't lie about loving something that you don't (you'll either end up with more of the same or offend that person when she notices her present no longer resides in your house).  This is nearly always applicable to old people or folks at work who have no idea what you do on the weekends. But remember, they still showed up with something wrapped, and that deserves some gratitude.

Much love and Godspeed,

Thank You, Thank You Very Much

Thank you cards are a very important piece of ladylike ephemera.  With the continuously decreasing pieces of exciting mail in the box, I am ecstatic when I get any sort of card (birthday, Christmas, thank you), but there is something extra special about a thank you card.  They are considered so unessential these days that I feel the sender must really mean it if she took the time to write and send one.  They definitely harken back to a more etiquette-conscious time.  It's also necessary to work on sloppy handwriting - everyone loves a nice note in cursive!  And I highly recommend handwriting the outer addresses to add a more personal touch.  I am determined to send out thank you cards on all necessary occasions from here on out.  Some of you will be getting one soon!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Remember, You're a Lady

When I was a kid my mom always gave me little tips before leaving the house.  For example, when I'd go to the neighbor's to play I would be told, "Remember, don't overstay your welcome."  When I was going to school she reminded me, "Remember, you're not always the boss."  Once I hit 21, she began the "Remember, you're a lady" routine.  Whether in person, on the phone, or via text message, every time I'm going to a show, having a party, etc. I am offered her sage advice, "Remember, you're a lady."  I'm pretty sure all she means is "Don't embarrass yourself too badly."  So far, I think I've done okay.  Yes, I've tipped over for no reason and ended up wondering where that bruise came from the next morning, and maybe I've been shushed a few times because I am unable to control the volume of my voice after a couple of gin and sodas.  However, I never pull out weird stripper moves while dancing, I have never ridden a mechanical bull, and I always know better than to get in cars with strangers.  So I think I'm in the black on this one.  Essentially, I've decided that in order to remain ladylike while imbibing one must simply avoid the following drunk girl stereotypes: Woooo! girl, giving strangers your life story girl, aggro girl, or crying girl.  So there you go - throw on some heels, order a highball, and remember, YOU are a lady!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Well I'm off to a less than auspicious start, seeing as how I planned on launching this blog two days ago! So friends, I do plan on posting once a week on various topics regarding the cultivation of ladydom. My first point, obviously, is punctuality. Admittedly, I'm late quite often. Not by more than ten minutes in most cases, but I'm no fool, and I know that still counts as late. Since this post is late, it seems rather fitting to promise that I will be making a much more concerted effort to be on time. A lady who's tardy is no life of the party (I made that up). So please help me, friends. If I'm late to brunch, shame me mercilessly and withhold my Bloody Mary (actually this is not a good idea). However, please give me a break if I'm driving more than four miles in Los Angeles, because let's face it - that shit is bananas (B.A.N.A.N.A.S.). Depending on how this goes, I may decide to focus my efforts on promoting "fashionably late" instead of bettering myself. Which leads to next week's topic - bein' lazy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

BirthDAY . . . not birthweek or birthmonth

A person's birthday is special because it is her ONE day a year to be totally and utterly selfish, and it is socially acceptable.  She picks the restaurant, she opens gifts, she decides what to listen to in the car.  However, there seems to be an interesting trend in the "birthday week" or, God help us, "birthday month."  I cannot say that I haven't fallen victim to this before.  Who doesn't want a whole month of extra attentive well-wishers?  However, it seems to me that a real lady would accept her one day, allow herself to be a tad self-centered, and not overindulge in celebration.  In fact, I think a lack of overindulgence may be one of the key signs of a lady.  Moderation, my dear, moderation!

Next week, I will enjoy my birthday proper with a nice dinner (just the two of us) and a raucous party shortly after (where much overindulging is bound to happen).  But what the hell?  It's a last hurrah to girldom!  So I'll enjoy it while it lasts and start my quest on Sunday (well, maybe Monday . . . no one has ever bettered themselves during a hangover).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Testing. Testing.

Here it is . . . my first post.  It's just a test, so don't get too excited.  More will come soon, I promise.