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Archive for the ‘Lifestyles’ Category

Solo travel is wonderful in so many ways. It forces me out of my comfort zone. And it gives me an opportunity to see, do or try new things. It’s as freeing as it is terrifying.

The downside to solo travel is the occasional bout of loneliness tinged with a hint of melancholy, especially when returning to some of those places that are haunted ghosts of lovers past. This is sometimes unavoidable when many of these places coincide with business – and the catch-as-catch-can of trysts in transit.

Room service on the 18th floor of the Hyatt in Chicago with the sun breaking over Navy Pier – coffee, croissants and intense conversation – now gives way to a mocha latte grande gulped down in the back of a taxi careering down Michigan Avenue. Champagne toasts to a bejeweled Paris at midnight are, these days, all too easily satisfied with a handful of almonds and a diet soda. And the magic of Athenian nights are transformed into mundane evenings of emails as usual.

No matter how many years pass, nostalgia creeps up on me just when I think I’ve made peace with my past. I was the kind of kid who liked to pick at scabs, so it doesn’t surprise me when I overindulge myself in a little bit of romantic reverie. Try as I might, it seems I can run but I can’t hide. Sometimes I don’t want to run or hide – such is the perverse nature of bittersweet memories.

This time, it all started innocently enough with a recent stop in the duty free. I love the smell of duty free. Have you ever noticed how they all smell the same the world over? They should bottle that scent. To me it represents freedom and a world of adventure just beyond the next boarding gate. You never know what to expect.

And so it was at the duty free that I came face to face with Ewen McGregor on a poster promoting the Davidoff fragrance – Adventure. It brought back the scent of a certain Swede – the Swede of the Chicago breakfast. And you know what they say about scent and memory…

Blue Paris

The second close encounter with sentimentality came in Paris when I decided to trade in my soda for a little bottle of white wine from the mini-bar. It was ’round midnight, when I turned on some Paris easy listening and was greeted by the sexy and sultry voice of Luther singing “If Only for One Night” just for me. I had pulled open the curtains to look at the impressive array of buildings dotting the skyline of La Defense. As I stared at my reflection in the giant window I knew I wanted just one more night with a certain jazz musician across town who was probably seducing someone else with the dulcet tones from his trumpet…playing just for her as he once did for me.

With spring showers and lightning strikes on the horizon, I’m reminded of a certain summer night in Athens. It was here that I learned lightning can indeed strike twice – especially if you test the gods. As lightning danced on the hills surrounding the Acropolis, I had challenged Aphrodite and paid for my insouciance. Okay I said, “This is your town, show me what you got.”

Ha! The words were barely out of my mouth when she did just that. I can imagine the laugh she shared with Ares as they looked down on me struggling with my feelings for not one but two men who appeared almost magically out of nowhere in the garden of a local restaurant called Balthazar.

Girlfriends would later ask half seriously: why not both? While the thought briefly crossed my mind I knew it was impossible, each one beautifully rendered like temple statues – today everywhere I look in Greece I see them – Castor and Pollux, each one so different than the other. One would feed my body and the other would feed my mind. To choose one over the other would be to drive a wedge between friendships old and new.

And so, like the proverbial starving donkey that had to choose between two bales of hay, each one appearing more appetizing than the other, I went hungry. Once flesh and blood, they have now turned to stone.

Stray memories and Greek gods aside, when it comes to love, I think Shakespeare’s Puck said it best in A Midsummer’s Night Dream: “Lord what fools these mortals be.” I guess when it comes to love I am and will forever be a fool for love.

photo: © istockphoto.com/matthewleesdixon

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It’s a good day when you can combine business travel with some personal activities. My travels in early May allowed me to catch up London Callingwith a friend in Dusseldorf over drinks, to take in the Artemisia exhibit at the Musée Maillol in Paris and to visit friends in Joberg and Durban. Go ahead and say it …I do all the time… I am a lucky girl.

And I’m also a café girl. This Sunday I will be joining friends for lunch in Covent Garden for a quick catch up. Since I’m migrating from being a prose writer to a screenwriter, I will take the opportunity to visit the London Film Museum.

I hope it will inspire me because I have come to learn that writing a screenplay is much harder than writing a book. Forget having to cram Any Color but Beige into 120 pages. I’m having trouble coming up with a “saleable” box office logline. It’s tough, let me tell you. Give it a try and you’ll see.

From London, it’s a quick hello / bonjour to Paris and before you know it three days later, I’m back home. The good news is it’s not enough time to feel jet lagged. The better news is I’ll be home in time for things like the Montreal F1 Race (where I am sure I will catch up with a breathtakingly handsome Brazilian pilot), the Jazz Festival, the Fireworks Festival and the Comedy Festival. The best news of all is that I will be able to enjoy Montreal all summer long.

photo: © istockphoto.com/ChrisSteer

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photo: © istockphoto.com/sangfoto©iStockphoto.com/sangfoto

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Color is often used to describe changes in our physical and emotional well-being. A ruddy complexion means you might be burning up

Lady in Red

with fever but it could also mean you are flushed with excitement or anger. If your face goes white you could be about to pass out or experiencing an emotional shock or intense fear. You can be green with envy or just a bit queasy; yellow can mean jaundice or cowardliness. Feeling “in the pink” is good while Holly Golightly’s “the mean reds” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is bad!

Color can also change our physiological and emotional states and that’s the very reason that changing color in our wardrobe or our personal space can give us a much-needed lift, emotionally and physically.  Blue induces a sense of calm and tranquility while orange encourages us to be more social. Need a dash of courage, try wearing red. Teal is a universal color that looks good on everyone. And when we look good we feel good.

So what does color say about you? First, look in your closet. If you notice a preponderance of one color, what does that – let’s call it your color intuition – tell you about yourself? Which colors feel right when you put them on? Is there one color that has been languishing in your closet for months? That’s your color orphan. Give it away!

Next expand your vision to your personal space. How many of your favorite colors, or versions of, have migrated over to and found their way into the most comfortable rooms of your home? This is another sign of color intuition at work.

Not sure you have a color preference or what you might be attracted to? Try this exercise. Visit the home furnishings department of your favorite retail store. Look at the kitchen and bath linens and accessories. These are usually grouped by color. Which color group are you drawn to? Which do you avoid?

Whether you’re a color maven or a newbie let’s take a quick look at what color says about you.

Red – is passionate, dangerous and sexy. It gives off one of two messages: Watch me! or Watch out!

Pink – is all sugar and spice and everything nice. It’s feminine and romantic.

Yellow – is the color of sunshine. Just as sunny days always lift our spirits, a dash of yellow induces cheerfulness and generates warmth and spontaneity.

Orange – is a color that combines the energy of red with the joy and sunny attitude of yellow. Frank Sinatra once called it the happiest color. When you wear orange you can say, “I did it my way.”

Green – is the most restful color for the human eye and is said to have a healing power. It symbolizes growth and freshness and creativity – it’s no wonder most traditional cures come from nature.

Blue – is associated with calm, tranquility and stability. Ever spent time contemplating the ocean or the sky and felt totally at peace? It also symbolizes trust, loyalty, faith and stability. And while it’s typically the favorite color of most men, women like it too. Light blue indicates softness while dark blue represents knowledge and dependability.

Purple – is a magical color. Leonard di Vinci posited that sitting in a purple light enhanced his meditative abilities ten-fold. I suppose that’s why we find a lot of purple in stained glass windows. It’s also a royal color full of wisdom and dignity. If you want to feel like “Queen for a Day” – array yourself  in purple.

Brown –is a masculine color. It’s also a classic neutral, as dependable as your morning cuppa joe. Various shades of brown, from espresso to latte, will give you a sense of stability.

White –symbolizes purity, cleanliness and simplicity. If you’re into classics and perfection – or “nights in white satin” – white is your color.

Black – says style, grace and elegance (and also lops off a few pounds without any effort). It is the color of the quintessential must-have dress for every woman. Want to make an entrance? Wear black with a dash of red, and watch heads turn.

photo: © istockphoto.com/anneleven

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Take a bubbly bath

Whether you’re happily coupled up, looking to be, or in love with yourself Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, so why limit it to one day? /Why not take the week and fall head over heels in love with someone or something. Better yet, share the love. Here are some suggestions:

• Take advantage of after-Valentine’s Day specials – pick up some red roses on the 15th and drop the petals in a bubble bath while sipping pink champagne.

• Express yourself and paint your nails red. Buy little heart decals at the drugstore for the perfect finishing touch.

• Wear your heart on your sleeve and purchase a heart charm for your favorite bracelet or necklace.

• Buy a box of Valentine’s Day cards – the kind you used to buy in school – and give them to strangers like the school crossing guard, the dry cleaner, the cashier at the grocery store, the person next to you on a plane, the receptionist at your doctor’s office. Go ahead – make someone’s day.

• Make a contribution to your local heart and stroke foundation. Heart disease is the leading killer of women.

• Buy something red or pink – a scarf, a hat, or a pin – and make it your signature color for the week.

• Be sweet on yourself and indulge in chocolate truffles or a cupcake from a specialty shop.

• Send a Valentine’s Day card – unsigned – to your secret crush.

• Do a girls’ night in and screen your favorite Rom/Com or try your hand at an old board game like Mystery Date.

• Join an online dating site. You never know.

• Surprise your significant other in the weeks following Valentine’s by doing something different, treat him/her to a massage, a cooking lesson, a golf lesson, or a wine tasting.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pierredesvarre

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I don’t know how she did it, but the amazing Tilda managed to remove the rhinestone! As the descendant of superstitious Italian and Irish grandparents, I wonder if removing the rhinestone will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means I might have just lost my good luck. Sometimes just saying something makes it so. However, like most things in life, it all depends on your perspective. So I consider myself lucky she was able to remove it without damaging the dresser.  Now let’s see if some of that luck rubs off in Vegas!

photo: © istockphoto.com/Twoellis

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Like most women I know, I am self-reliant, independent and opinionated. These are three characteristics that scare the heck out of most men my age.

I’m not a rabid feminist. If you must label me at all, call me a pragmatist. When I’m alone I open my own doors, slay my own dragons and gladly make my way in this world on my own terms. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy having a man hold the door open for me, stand when I enter a room, schlep my luggage, make me dinner or tuck me in at night. I do!  And lest the guys out there think it’s all one sided, I reciprocate!

It’s just that if there aren’t any readily available men in the vicinity – well a girl’s gotta do what girl’s gotta do.

Take this most recent trip for example. The last things to go into my suitcase are my accessories, like the colorful costume jewelry I wear to dress up an outfit. As I was packing this week, I noticed that my red rhinestone bracelet was missing a few stones. Luckily, I found the missing stones in the bottom of my jewelry box and got out the Krazy Glue.

As I was in a hurry, I performed the delicate operation on the top of my highboy dresser, standing on tippy toes and using my fingers – which narrowly escaped the fate of Siamese twins by a fraction of a second. I recalled hearing about people who glue their body parts to objects − or other body parts − then have to go to the hospital to get unstuck.

“What kind of crazy idiot does that?” I asked aloud.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror, said, “This crazy idiot.”

One rhinestone fell out of its setting, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. A little red rhinestone was solidly glued to the top of my dresser and nothing I could do would remove it, short of ruining the veneer. I tried nail polish remover and olive oil. Oh, I don’t know!  It was all I could think of at that moment. And with a taxi on its way, time was running out.

Now, I’m certain that a man would have thought of some way of removing the rhinestone without damaging the furniture. He’d figure it out just like the way he assembles barbeques, changes leaky washers in the faucet, sets up new stereo systems fully integrated with the TV, the computer and microwave so that we can watch movies and eat popcorn all at the same time.

I didn’t brood for long because I had a bigger problem: Tilda. What would my Portuguese cleaning lady do when she came later that week? She’d be dusting the dresser, see the rhinestone and try to pick it up. It wouldn’t budge. She’d pull, and push, and prod it as I did without effect. She’d apply cleaners and other concoctions as I did and still nothing.

With more time than I had and dogged determination, she might try more radical means until she perhaps would go too far and ruin the finish. Then, she’d be so overwrought with guilt and remorse for having ruined a cheap veneer finish that she’d probably have a heart attack right on the spot. And not only would I have a rhinestone stuck to my dresser, I would have killed my cleaning lady.

The clock was still ticking. I was sure the taxi had already pulled up to my apartment building.

What to do?

Oh, the pressure. Why hadn’t I performed the delicate jewelry repair with tweezers and at the table where I could see what I was doing?

So I did what any self-reliant, independent and opinionated woman in my position would do: I put a Post-it note next to the rhinestone:

Tilda,

Please do not remove the rhinestone. I put it there for good luck.   Obrigada (Thank you)

Well what else could I write? A Post-it note wasn’t big enough to explain the ridiculousness of the situation in which I now found myself. Besides I knew Tilda to be superstitious like most southern Europeans and all Irishmen.

Next, I phoned a girlfriend because I really wanted to share a laugh even if it was at my expense. Only she didn’t laugh. She took the situation very seriously and came up with the following suggestion, “Cat what a great opportunity. When you come back you go right out and buy some more rhinestones and turn that red rhinestone into a starting point for something beautiful and unique.”

Her unique approach and imaginative answer made me realize that while there are some days I miss having a man around – this wasn’t one of them.

photo: © istockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

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