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Archive for the ‘Life Style Design’ Category

Make room for multicolor fashions in your closet and your life!

As you already know I’m not that kind of girl. Well most of the time. I’m also not one of those people given to self-aggrandizement when I’m right about something. The phrase I told you so never escapes my lips. I hate hearing it, so I never say it?  Having just heard me say “never,” you know what is about to come next. And I ask you to indulge me just this once, and in return I promise I’ll never say it again.

On my flight from Paris to Istanbul to attend the Paints Istanbul trade show, I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune. After slogging through numerous articles about the European monetary crisis and the US election, you can imagine my joy and relief when I got to a Fashion New York Special Report from the New York Times. In it, reporter Suzy Menkes gave her overview on the continuing color revolution that will brighten our closets and make us look and feel good for summer 2013. At last, I thought, something to look forward to.

This color trend actually hit the runway and our wardrobes back in 2010 with the introduction of color blocking – the pairing of two bold colors side by side. Now, according to the Times article, the new trend is a “combination of bright palettes, livid shades and digital patterns.”

Menkes focused on 12 fashion designers, some of them better known than others, and described how they were blending color, fabric and cultures into colorful creations for the catwalk. The photos alone were enough to brighten anyone’s day.

Black will, of course, continue to be a staple of most wardrobes, but at best it will play a supporting role, as will other neutrals such as taupe, beige and of course all those shades of grey.

Which brings me back to the point of my post and how well it ties into not only the title of my book, Any Color but Beige but my own personal philosophy of living life in color. I told you so!

photo: © istockphoto.com/tillisphotography

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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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I often find myself in new places for business and because I’m in and out of a city quite quickly, I don’t always have much time to spare. However, when I do get some downtime, whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, I always do a bit of research before I set out to explore. I like to arrive in a place that I know a little something about, and I’m not talking about its tourist attractions. I’m talking about its soul, its character(s) and its culture.

There’s nothing more thrilling than the flash of recognition you get when you see or visit a place that has some significance  because you’ve read about it in a novel or seen it in a movie. There is a familiarity that arises from knowing a place’s “back story”. If you have that, you’re no longer visiting a stranger; you’re visiting a friend.

Let me give you a few examples of books and movies that can help you learn the back-story of specific places as well things you can do when you get there to enhance your experience.

Books

Barcelona – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlo Ruiz Zafón. The novel includes hand drawn maps that trace the characters’ steps through plot twists and turns so you can follow in their footsteps.

India – A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. This sweeping epic does a great job of breaking down the early formative politics of the country. Reading it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of today’s India.

Montreal – Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs sets many of her thrillers in Montreal. I sometimes half expect to bump into her character, Temperance Brennan in one of the many settings she describes.

Movies

Rome – Roman Holiday. Follow Audrey Hepburn as she hops on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck to see the sights in Rome. Fall in love with both the city and the guy.

Paris / France – French Kiss. Follow Megan Ryan and Kevin Kline from Paris and Province to the Cote d’Azur in this delightful little comedy.

New York – When Harry Met Sally. For me this is the best way to live vicariously in New York.

Having read a book or seen a movie about a place gives significance to the sights in the places you visit. It makes the experience that much richer. But you can also enhance your experience once you are there.

Here are five fun things you can do.

1)    Take a class in a “native” subject. Take tango lessons in Buenos Aires, cooking classes in Bologna and an Ikebana class in Tokyo.

My attempt at Ikebana

2)    Attend a cultural event. Attend the local symphony, a dance performance or a concert given by local talent in a club or a restaurant.

3)    Take a tour. It’s a quick way to get an overview of a place, after which you can pick and choose your favorite spots to go back to and savor on your own.

4)    Treat yourself. Travel can be stressful process at the best of times: standing in long check-in lines, losing your luggage or just getting oriented. Book a massage, facial, or a wash and blow dry at a local hair salon. It lends an air of “normalcy” to a place, and it makes you feel better no matter what situation you’re facing.

5)    Sample the local cuisine. Always make it a point to try one local dish, whether it’s pizza in Naples, poutine in Montreal or antelope in Africa.

Finally as a way to relive the experience once you return home, bring back a music CD of an artist or group that you heard while visiting a place. If the music isn’t live, but piped in through a sound system in restaurant or played on the radio in a taxi, go ahead and ask the waiter or taxi driver about the singer or group. They are happy to tell you about the music to promote their country’s talent.

Once home, you can become an armchair traveler and let the music transport you back in time and place to experience those magical moments again and again.

What the teacher did

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Okay, so how did you do? Several of you have e-mailed me worried about your low color scores. First let me say that this is not a standardized psychological test – I made it up for fun. The operative word here being fun.

The good news is that by taking this little quiz you may have discovered that your life could use a little dash of color now and then. And just to let you know my score fluctuates too depending on what’s going on in my life at the moment.  In our hectic day-to-day lives we sometimes forget this. It’s only natural. So the only question now is what are we going to do about it?

It could be something as simple as buying a colorful coffee mug. Here’s a picture of mine. It was a gift, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It has been a blue November for your Café Girl friend as I try to figure out what to do next. Things that were once new and novel have become ritual and habitual, i.e. writing this blog and working on my second book. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just these “colors” (aka exciting activities) already exist on my canvas and it’s time for me to choose some new colors. Adding color is not a one-time occurrence, something to be checked off a list, and forgotten. It’s a life-long commitment to change, to re-invent yourself and have fun doing it.

As we all prepare for the New Year ahead, here’s a little checklist to help us add some color back into our lives.

  • Take time for pit stops of happiness. Pull off the road every now and then and be good to yourself. Even if it is just a quiet moment and a cup of coffee.
  • Add discipline – it provides proportional returns. What you get out of anything is equal to what you put into it.
  • Realize that advice is just a validation of the decision you are about to make.  And do it.
  • Ask, ‘Would I rather be right or happy?’ If you want to be happy, then be willing to change your mind. (By the way, Frank Sinatra thought that orange was the happiest color.)
  • Accept the consequences of your decisions and move on.
  • Live (temporarily) with your fear, guilt or embarrassment until you get over them – and you will get over them.
  • Overcome analysis/paralysis. Ask the right question – not ‘why’ (blame) but ‘how’ (action).
  • You do not have to be an expert. Just be honest with yourself.
  • Take advantage of new opportunities. If not now, when?

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Mel, my editor, confessor, and chief blog advisor, emailed me the other day from Vancouver telling me that she was expecting a visit from her sister. She said that they had plans to spend a few days cafégirling.  That newly minted gerund got me wondering … just who is a Café Girl and how does she spend her time?

If the blog stats are to be believed, the steadily increasing popularity of The Café Girl Chronicles tells me that there are a lot of Café Girls (and guys) out there.

Can the essence of a Café Girl be captured in a few words or phrases? Is it a state of mind?  Are some of us born Café Girls or is it a desired status that we strive to attain? (I know the latter is true in my case.)

That’s what I aim to find out over the next couple of weeks with the help of a very talented illustrator and another Café Girl, my friend Helen. And of course, you, dear reader.

To get things started I polled some local Café Girls one night over dinner here in Montreal, and after much discussion we came up with a list of Café Girl personality traits that we all agreed on.  However there was no clear cut, hands down winner.

And so we’d like to hear from you.  Take the Cafe Girl poll – coming soon to a blog near you!

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