Monday, June 25, 2012

What I'm Loving (Under $40)

You don't have to spend a lot of money to up your style quotient this summer. In the last couple of weeks, I've picked up a few things here and there that have me actually looking forward to the next couple of heat-intensive months. (Usually, I crawl under a rock with a book and stay there until September.)

It's summer and you're more stressed out than ever. 

The $6 Solution: 
Nag Champa Beauty Soap will keep you clean and serene while you calmly contemplate ways to simplify your life. It smells subtly of incense, lathers up like a dream and has the kind of chic lo-fi packaging I like to think an aesthetic deity like Wes Anderson would appreciate. I bought two (one to use, one to look at) because yes, I'm that person. 

(Available HERE.)

Your closet is overflowing with shirts that looked great in the dressing room and shapeless at home. 

The $38 Solution:
I swear to you these elasticized beaded belts from Anthropologie will reinvigorate your entire summer wardrobe. Slip one on over that loose boxy top you never wear and you won't believe how flattering it suddenly is. Wear it at your waist like a cummerbund or slung low on your hips for that South of France rich hippie look. 
(Available HERE.)



You saw "The Exotic Marigold Hotel" and now you can't stop thinking about India.

The $5.49 Solution:
I found this tea in an Indian specialty store near my house and I love that it's made by Tetley, the brand revered by British "builders" (construction workers) for its strength and no-nonsense appeal. Yes, you can fork over more money for fancier brands, but sometimes nothing beats the honesty of a cuppa that doesn't have pretensions to being more than it is. This particular blend is amazingly fragrant with notes of cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Add a little almond milk and presto, you're dangling from a high-rise in Bangalore. 

You're trying to protect your skin from the sun but you hate feeling so pale and blah.

The $32 Solution:
I am in serious love with the Mineral Illuminating Powder from Laura Mercier. Sweep it on over your face (or decolletage) and it creates a radiant soft focus-like effect on your skin. And get this -- the powder is made up of a special gemstone complex that includes diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones. It comes in two shades (I use Candlelight) and will let you hold your own next to anyone with a spray tan. 


Your husband just told you he invited some friends to pop by. You need a chic libation for adults, a fun drink for kids...and you need it five minutes ago.

The $6.95 Solution:
Okay, I'm calling it: 2012 is the Summer of the Cordial. These flavorful concentrated syrups are crazy versatile and make the perfect mixer for anyone from 8 to 80. For over-21's, add a spoonful of elderflower cordial to a champagne glass and top it with sparkling Prosecco. Mix it with something stronger and you've got yourself an elderflower martini. For children, pour an ounce or two into a glass of seltzer to make instant fizzy soda. Even Martha would be impressed.

Editor's Note: If you live in Los Angeles, I buy my Belvoir at the Irish Import Shop in Hollywood.

Stay cool.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Anxiety-Free Dinner Party

Sometimes I wish I could have a conversation with the person I was before I started this blog. Oh, the advice I would give myself.

( 6pm, June 3, 2012.)

Old Me: I get so nervous throwing dinner parties.
New Me: Stop right there. That kind of an attitude doesn't help anyone -- especially your guests.

Old Me: But there's so much to d0. It feels overwhelming.
New Me: Entertaining friends is like learning to ride a bike. It gets easier every time until suddenly you don't even think twice about it. In the beginning, K-I-S-S: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Old Me: So what should I serve?
New Me: Something easy. Something that doesn't require lots of fussy timing. And definitely something you've made before. When you're more seasoned, all these rules can be broken.

Old Me: Who should I invite?
New Me: People you love. People who make you laugh. People you're excited to get to know better. 

Old Me: What if they don't get along?
New Me: Of course they'll get along. People can have different opinions and still get along. That's what makes for a fun, high-spirited evening.

Old Me: But there's so much pressure to have it go perfectly.
New Me: That's all in in your head.  Anyway, perfect dinner parties are incredibly boring. Four years from now, shortly after greeting guests, your husband is going to drop a full bottle of red wine on the kitchen floor in front of everyone.

Old Me: Oh my God. What a disaster!
New Me: Not at all. You and he are going to crack a couple of jokes, nonchalantly clean up the mess and open another one. And do you realize how relaxed the vibe is going to be afterwards? Newsflash: An accident is a unscheduled opportunity to make people feel more comfortable. It's not what happens, it's how you handle it that matters.

Old Me: Really?
New Me: Yes. And listen, you're going to have a couple of dessert fiascos yourself --  and from them, you will learn to always keep some fancy chocolate in the pantry. 

Old Me: But what about timing stuff? How can we make it so Piero and I aren't jumping up and down all night?
New Me: A certain amount of jumping up and down is inevitable. But you can make it easier on yourself by serving the food buffet-style in the kitchen so everyone can help themselves. Guests really like this -- it makes them feel at home.

Old Me: What about setting the table?
New Me: What about it? Keep it informal and fun. String a few garlands of ivy from the chandelier. Gather some bougainvillea petals from your garden and arrange them into a rectangle around a bunch of votive candles. Buy some 99 cent trinkets and put them on everyone's plate. Tie the napkins in garden twine. Be creative. There are no rules anymore.

Old Me: What about when dinner's over? When should I clear up?
New Me: Lisa, please. Let people linger. There is nothing sexier than the sweet disorder of a dining table. The light is low and intimate, there are crumbs on the table, glasses are huddled together. Everything is in bewitching disarray. The conversation that floats up from an atmosphere like this is often the most magical of the evening.
(Midnight, June 3, 2012.)

Old Me: (nervously) Do you really think...?
New Me: Yes. I do. Now get on that bike and start riding.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Bloomsbury Life Hits Martha Stewart

Remember back in February when I went to New York?
(All photos by LBG.)

And I had a meeting with Jenny Comita, the deputy editor at Martha Stewart about writing an article for them?

Well, it's here! (July issue.)

I wrote it for all of us. 
Let me know what you think.


P.S. And Jenny -- thank you so much for your wise and warm stewardship. Working with you was a joy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gathering Moments

Life is a plot line.
We are born, time passes, stuff happens and then we die.
End of story.
(All photos by LBG.)

When we're growing up, many of us spend a lot of time focusing on the job, the salary, the house, and all the rest of it -- all the achievements that shore up the structure of our lives. The so-called "big stuff."
(London, 2010.)

But if we're lucky, there will come a day when we realize that the big stuff isn't what matters most. Sure, all the challenges and triumphs are important. But what lies in between them  -- in all those spaces and crevices brimming with small unheralded moments -- is where we are really given the chance to live meaningfully. 

Take your morning cup of coffee, for example. It's nothing special unless you invest it with significance. 

But how do you do that?

Maybe you suddenly appreciate the thick velvety silence that surrounds you while the rest of the world sleeps. Or maybe you listen to the birds outside and realize that no matter what happened yesterday, they always wake up optimistic for the future. Or maybe you are reminded of a photo you once saw of Elizabeth Taylor sipping coffee on a yacht in the Sardinian sea. Or maybe you just are grateful that the crick in your neck is gone. 

That's the crazy-simple secret of a satisfying life: appreciating as many of these teeny tiny little moments as you can.

Once you open your eyes and your heart to them, you will find them everywhere.

In a pair of unlikely friends.
(Ford and Paul. Photograph by Jeanne Tripplehorn.)

In the dwindling rays of sunlight falling across a vast plain of possibility.
(Sunset in the Moroccan desert, 2009.)

In the cheerful warmth of a favorite room.
(Home, 2012.)

In a sweaty handful of wildflowers.
(Normandy, France, 2007.)

In the promise of a blackberry cardamom almond cake fulfilled.
(Home, 2012. Recipe from Scandalicious, HERE.)

In the joy of being able to lose yourself in your work.
(detail, "On the Price of Beauty",  2010.)

In the late afternoon hike no one wanted to go on and everyone ended up glad they did.
(Hollywood Hills, 2011.)

In ten minutes of not moving a muscle.
(Home, 2012.)

In the private unveiling of one perfect flower.
(Home, 2012.)

All these things will melt into you and become part of you, if you let them.

Let them.



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