What to wear when touring New Zealand, Part 2

2 Rockburn Chasm

As I wrote last week, I have been on a family reunion in New Zealand. I absolutely loved the country and all the fun outdoor activities we enjoyed. It was a trip to remember. We learned a lot about the country’s history and culture – and we also learned to wear the right clothes for whatever came our way.

As I also mentioned in my last column, our adventure trip involved a whole new approach to fashion. Almost every day we were pulling on some kind of gear:

2 Windy seal coat

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• Wind shirt. A wind-resistant shirt or windbreaker was just the thing for our excursion in the Wellington area to Terawhiti Station, home to both New Zealand’s most modern wind farm and the dramatic Seal Coast. And I thought El Paso had strong winds in the spring! We had to work hard to stay upright as we viewed the coast and a colony of New Zealand fur seals.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

We’re wearing six layers of clothes to jet boat the Dart River in New Zealand.

• Swimsuit, wetsuit, wetsuit booties, warm fleece pullover, heavy parka and life vest. Whoa! On the morning we had to layer all this gear, I was nervous before we even started the day! This was what we needed for our exhilarating jet boat ride up the braided channels of the Dart River. We then transferred to inflatable canoes for exploring Rockburn Chasm and other remote areas.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

T-shirts and shorts for sailing on a catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park.

• T-shirt and shorts. Our day of sailing with just our family on a big catamaran at Abel Tasman National Park was wonderful. Talk about gorgeous! Our relaxation turned into work, however, when we were launched from the sailboat onto paddleboards. I had to work to paddle and try to keep my balance to avoid falling into the bay.

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board

2 Struggling on the Paddle Board 2

Unfortunately, I didn’t paddle fast enough to get back to the boat when the tide was going out. So somehow the boat – my ride home – and I got separated. As the water receded, it left a very shallow separation between the sailboat and me. My family thought it was hilarious. A rescue boat had to be launched to come get me. My husband told the catamaran captain that a rescue attempt might be useless as I am stubborn and wouldn’t want help. Darn, I hate it that he knows me so well.

• Jeans, jackets and tennis shoes. We wanted to be comfortable when we visited a sheep farm. New Zealand is truly a land of sheep. Did you now that there are six sheep to every one person in New Zealand? Being in the apparel business, I’ve always known of prized merino wool, so I was happy we got to see merino sheep up close. My husband, Sam, ever the outdoor wear enthusiast, purchased a base layer merino tee for skiing made by Icebreaker, a New Zealand performance outdoor apparel company that has quite a presence in the U.S. and globally.

I’ve been told merino wool is breathable in the summer, yet insulating in winter, but I didn’t know how that could be possible. Well, it turns out that merino sheep live in the extremes of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, where it is freezing in the winter and beastly hot in the summer. No wonder the sheep evolved to have very different summer coats and winter coats. I also learned to pay attention to the micron or thickness measurement of merino fibers. Lower numbers are silkiest and finest.

2 Sam and Nan relaxing

• Lounging PJs. Finally in the evenings we would do something for which my fashion career more properly prepared me. I got to relax in my pajamas! Because we had a family group of eight – daughter and son-in-law from Thailand and their two kids; son and daughter-in-law from France, with Sam and me – we chose to go the Airbnb route and rent homes in each locale, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves in separate hotel rooms. Oh, my gosh! It was a very good way to travel. Every home had spectacular views. Hanging out with a glass of wine on the deck or in the living room in the evenings was a great balance to our adventure-filled days.

If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand, be prepared. Who knows what kind of clothes you might need for your own adventures on this beautiful island!

Does it give you joy? Life-changing tips, tidying up

Tidying for Joy-01

This is a perfect time to talk about a book that’s been out a while. As you organize your closet to transition from summer to fall, let’s look at “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Organizing and Decluttering” by Marie Kondo.

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Personally, I think I am already a tidy person. So only after this little book was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks did I finally decide to investigate this phenomenon.

Here’s the line that hooked me to read it: “You only do this tidying up process once.” Could this be true? The author, a famous Japanese cleaning consultant, has conducted hundreds of sold-out seminars and high-priced private consultations. She claims that no clients or students who complete the tidying up process and follow her instructions have suffered from “rebound” – reverting to their pre-training clutter and disorder. Intriguing!

The author is truly an expert in the area. Throughout the book are anecdotes about a childhood spent organizing items – hers and other people’s – at home, at school, everywhere. I’ve never heard of anyone who’s spent more time thinking about sorting, discarding and storing. This woman has studied books, analyzed theories, experimented with all kinds of techniques and models, and practiced her ideas on thousands of clients.

The result is this unusual and highly specific how-to guide. First she encourages you to find your motivation for changing old habits. That’s where the magic comes in. She gives lots of examples of how a less cluttered house can lead to a less cluttered life and a realignment of priorities.

It is a cleverly written book – rather charming, even. She suggests having a relationship with your stuff: appreciating your T-shirts as you fold them, thanking your shoes for their service as you place them by the door, finding the right place for an item to feel most comfortable.

While I could give you a summary of the tips, I think you really have to read the book to have her ideas to sink in and be infused with the “KonMari” process. It boils down to holding an item and asking yourself: “Does this item give me joy?”

I’m pretty sure the thought process that is going to help me the most is the author’s perspective on thanking an item for the joy it gave you at one point and then letting it go, regardless of why you’ve held on to it for years.

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Someone special may have given it to you, you might have worn it on a special occasion or you feel guilty that you’ve never worn it – whatever. The author says it served its purpose, even if that purpose was learning what not to buy in the future. It’s OK to get rid of it now.

While reading, I couldn’t help wonder how this process might work on other members of your household. My husband Sammy is a keeper of things. I am a “throw it away pretty quickly” person – and, then, dog gone it, often I need that item right after I throw it away. Sammy doesn’t seem to have that problem.

Last weekend I started asking Sammy, “Does that item give you joy or can I ditch it?” Sammy replied that he needs and finds joy in everything (!) he has.

I haven’t started any tidying up, but I have a friend who just finished the book and spent a whole weekend getting started. The KonMari method, which the author says can take up to six months, is all about following a sequence of discarding. You start with your off-season clothes. After years of trouble parting with clothes and accessories, my friend surprised herself, filling six garbage bags of items to give away.

As you will discover, the author is a fanatic about folding. The key is not stacking things horizontally in a drawer, but folding them to stand up vertically, so you can see everything. My friend followed the folding guidelines and was amazed at the space that opened up in her dresser!

Encouraged by her success, she went through her purses, shoes and socks: no problem. But when she gathered all 84 of her scarves and shawls, she ran into a bump.

Following instructions, she spread them all out, sorted them by material and color and then held each one and asked herself if it “sparked joy.”

When all was said and done, she could part with only two. There’s no guarantee that this method will work for all your belongings!

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your feedback. Who has followed the instructions, and are you happy with the results? Is it true you never need to “tidy up” again?

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Making music and fashion: Laura Tate Goldman

BlogLaura Tate Goldman is a remarkable woman full of positive energy and charisma, both musical and acting talent, and commitment to humanitarian and educational causes in El Paso.

Oh, and this former Junior League president and co-chair of the 2014 UTEP Centennial Commission also has a great sense of style and always looks amazing!

Laura Tate just released her newest album, “I Must Be Dreaming,” a collection of jazz, blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll. When I saw her recently, she mentioned that she is overwhelmed by the attention and airplay her album is getting worldwide.

Born in Dallas, Laura started singing and acting at the age of 9. After studying music and theater at the University of North Texas, she traveled the country with a number of theatrical companies before settling in Los Angeles to sing and act in stage productions as well as on television. She also began a career in film production, eventually producing an award-winning documentary.

Life takes interesting twists and turns. She is now very happily married to attorney Merton Goldman, but she had moved to El Paso from Nashville with a previous husband. She shared with me that in that marriage, she became a victim of domestic violence.

“I never believed it could possibly happen to me,” she said. “But I learned that domestic violence knows no social or economic boundaries.”

As anyone familiar with this problem knows, getting free takes an enormous amount of courage and work. This is one courageous woman. Laura is open about her experience so she can help other women. It makes you think: Here’s a smart, beautiful, accomplished woman with a great sense of humor, and yet this happened to her.

As she got through this tumultuous period, she asked herself: “What can I do to feel better about me?” She decided to finish her college education and enrolled at UTEP, completing both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She planned to go back to Los Angeles – but then she got sidetracked, in a good way: she met Merton, a native El Pasoan.

She recalls that she had “gone mute” during this difficult time. “Then I started singing again,” she says. “Merton gave me back my voice and self-esteem.”

As I write this column I am listening to the new album, her third in about three years. Honestly, I am not concentrating very well on writing at the moment, because I am enjoying the music so much. The album, featuring the original songs of her friend Mel Harker, is a fantastic collection. I think my personal favorite is “No Place to Hide.”

As music reviewer Bill Wilson says, “This is the perfect album to put in the player, open a bottle of your favorite wine and snuggle with that favorite loved one.” A review on The Jazz Chill Blogspot says, “There is a spark in Laura’s violet blue eyes that seems to say, ‘I’m living my life on my own terms….with love and laughter and passion.”

This new album has generated so much interest that Laura is booked to perform at The Mint in Hollywood, Bogies in West Lake Village and Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz Club, also in LA.

Where do fashion and style fit into the makeup of this amazing woman? The answer is family heritage. Laura’s grandmother was the very first buyer at Neiman Marcus. Laura says her mother, who is 93 and lives in Dallas, still dresses to the nines every single day. Laura remembers that her mother made sure that her daughters never left the house without their lipstick and high heels. Because of that, she says she has always been conscious of wanting to look nice and keep up with trends.

Laura Tate

A few of Laura Tate’s fashion passions:

• Black. “Black works no matter where you are or what you are doing. You can dress it up or down.”

• Funky shoes

• Wearing multiple interesting bracelets

• Leggings and fun tops

• Pearls

To watch Laura’s music videos or download tracks from her three albums, visit www.lauratategoldman.com. You can also order “I Must Be Dreaming” and “Songs from My Suitcase” CDs online at www.cdbaby.com.

Fashion Icon, Diane Keaton, and Me

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Two weeks ago, my husband Sammy and I were on our annual beach outing to San Diego, where many El Pasoans get their beach fix.We stayed at the landmark Crystal Pier Hotel in Pacific Beach because it allows neither my husband nor I to have to compromise on our beach criteria. Who woulda figured that a husband and wife might have different ideas about vacations?

I want to go to a deserted island and read a book a few feet from the water’s edge. I don’t want to just be near the beach. I want to be so close to the water that I can leave the windows open at night and fall asleep listening to the waves.

Sammy, on the other hand, wants to go to a hip, happening beach town with nightlife and great restaurants where he can join the crazies roller-blading on a boardwalk.

Fortunately, Crystal Pier has helped save this marriage. The hotel is a collection of renovated 1930s cottages built on a pier over the ocean. The views are amazing! When I’m in the cottage or on the deck I hear nothing but crashing ocean waves and see only the vast sea and skyline. But at the other end of the pier is all the energy of Pacific Beach. Paradise for both of us.

This year we encountered a delightful surprise as we checked in. The hotel office is at the base of the pier with an automatic gate to allow guests to drive onto the pier. If someone stops at the gate while they are checking in, other guests are blocked from driving onto the pier. I went to check in while Sammy waited in the car.

When I came out, someone’s big black Mercedes-Benz GL was blocking the way. I asked the young lady standing beside it if she knew whose vehicle it was so I could ask them to move. The young lady pointed to the office and said, “She’s in there, checking in. She’s an actress.”

So off I went to ask the person to move their vehicle. I stopped in my tracks. “Whoa! She really is an actress. Wait, what is her name?” I asked myself.

Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton

 

I went back to my husband waiting in the car and said, “What’s the ‘Annie Hall’ actress’s name?” “Diane Keaton,” he replied, and then said, “Well, did you ask her to move her car?” Of course not! I couldn’t bring myself to ask Diane Keaton to move her vehicle.

Not to worry – Sammy said he would go ask her. He later confessed he just figured I was confused and it wasn’t really Diane Keaton. But it was!

He did ask her to move her vehicle. And she was totally lovely. Keaton stayed in a neighboring cottage on the pier, and, of course, I had to get a photo.

Diane Keaton and Nan

Diane Keaton and Nan

I was so amazed that she was still true to her signature style. She was dressed in a fantastic navy pin dot menswear-inspired pantsuit with a crisp white cotton blouse, a handkerchief in the pocket, bolo-inspired necklace and oxford shoes.

The next day she wore all black including a haute couture winged skirt and a hat, which is part of her signature style. In person she is friendly, open, warm and energetic, just like you would think she’d be.

As you know, Diane Keaton’s first famous film role was playing Kay Adams-Corleone in “The Godfather” more than 40 years ago. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” (1977), the role in which she established her iconic style. Her film credits go on and on, including co-starring with Woody Allen in other comedies and with Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003). In addition to acting, she is also a photographer, real estate developer, author and occasional singer.

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keeton, in the film 5 Flights Up

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keeton, in the film 5 Flights Up

What can we learn from Diane Keaton about style? Her trademark is sporting menswear as womenswear. She is famous for tailored pantsuits, vests, hats, polka-dot ties, matching handkerchiefs, turtlenecks and quirky hats.

What made it work all these years is that Diane Keaton is always being true to herself. Like other style icons – think Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn – she embraces who she is with confidence and isn’t deterred. She changes what she wears, but not the personality and panache of the look. She isn’t afraid to take risks.

In a September 2013 People magazine article about her, Diane shared some of her Fashion Must-Haves. I like her list:

• Pockets: Pockets are my life! I do not carry a bag ever, because I hate it.

• Expert tailoring: I’m interested in tailoring because when you have a body like mine, without shoulders, you don’t really have much of a silhouette.

• Hints of color: Colors as accessories punch more. If it’s the whole show, count me out.

• A smile: As you get older, there are certain things you can show off – your attitude and how you feel – the smile. Because it reflects warmth. Warmth is really a plus when you’re older.

It was such a thrill to meet such a talented actress and important fashion influence – and to see what she was wearing each day! You never know who you might run into in California, right?

European travels, Part III: Fashion and D-Day

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Believe it or not, toddlers wear scarves in France.

Any trip to Europe has interesting fashion insights. My recent trip to France and Spain was no exception.

This travelogue column is the third about my trip with my husband, Sam Paredes, to visit my son Creed and his wife Naomi in southern France, where Creed is the only American serving at a French Air Force base near Bordeaux. As a U.S. Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, he is stationed there as part of an international military exchange.

I’ve written about the gorgeous scenery, French wineries, a luxurious French spa and the French food – oh, the food! – but this column is about fashion. It ends with a look back to one of the most important places to visit in all of Europe: the beaches of Normandy.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

Even my son Creed has joined the French fashion of wearing scarves.

The French and their scarves

The French people are famous for their beautiful scarves, a key ingredient in their recipe for style. In the U.S. we are sustaining a long period of scarf popularity that has had its up and down cycles. In France there is never a down cycle.

When we toured Chateau Bailly in Bordeaux, the oh-so French and adorable vineyard guide had that splash of panache, easy style and, of course “une jolie escharpe.”

When we walked the chilly, breezy boardwalk on Arcachon Bay, I realized even toddlers wear scarves in France. What an adorable delight, and something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

My last surprise was learning that my own son had joined the male French tradition of fending off the chill with a scarf. In the U.S. men wear scarves only if it’s truly freezing outdoors. But, when in France….

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Espadrilles at Tres Mariposas

Spain’s shoe of the season

Our side trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain provided another fashion insight for me. Espadrilles are a classic shoe that are having a new fashion moment this spring and summer. You know these warm-weather shoes made of canvas or cotton or some other kind of fabric: they traditionally have natural colored braided jute soles, sometime wedges.

What I didn’t know is that these casual shoes originated in Basque country. Espadrilles have been made in the Pyrenees since at least the 14th century. Shops have entire sections of inexpensive espadrilles, which were once peasant footwear.

While you can buy basic espadrilles in solid colors, stripes and all kinds of patterns at bargain prices, modern, finely constructed espadrilles have gone high style.

Popular current designers like Tory Burch, Vince and Soludos have taken this classic shoe to a whole new level.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

‘Nanas’ by Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Model turned artist

Have you heard of Niki de Saint Phalle? She is a French-American fashion model who left the runway to become one of Europe’s most influential artists. Raised in upper class New York society, she rebelled against expectations and has created works of art and sculptures like “Nanas,” which revolutionized the representation of women in art.

This spring, the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, is showcasing some of the self-taught artist’s work, which has included experimental films, set designs and costumes for ballet productions.

I was enthralled with the enormous and delightful range of her works in the exhibit.

Honoring our military

Last Monday, on Memorial Day, we remembered the members of our armed forces who gave their lives for our country. Sam and I ended our trip where every day is Memorial Day: the beaches of Normandy, where nearly 160,000 Allied soldiers crossed the English Channel in a single day to storm the Nazi-held beaches.

D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the largest seaborne invasion in history and casualties were extraordinarily high. Thousands of Americans died on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach as they disembarked and walked into the heavily fortified German defenses.

Like everyone who visits these famous World War II sites, I was awed and overwhelmed at seeing the beaches where so many died, the German bunkers, and hearing the stories of paratroopers, French resistance fighters and brave troops.

Reading books like “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, which is on a number of bestseller lists right now, “The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust” by Edith H. Beer, and “The Nightingale” by Kirsten Hannah, has helped me learn more about this tragic chapter in history.

At the huge American cemetery, where the graves and markers stretch far and wide, I was inspired and deeply moved. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said, “The soldiers’ graves are the greatest preachers of peace.”

As we mark the 71stt anniversary of D-Day this Saturday, June 6, let us especially stop to think of those who served our country so bravely that day.

More Food, Wine, No Doggie Bags: My Trip to France Part II

Lunch at Chateau Bailly, where I met helicopter pilot Gilbert Aubrée.

Lunch at Chateau Bailly, where I met helicopter pilot Gilbert Aubrée.

As those of you who follow my column might know, I’ve been visiting my son all over the globe during his career in the U.S. Air Force. Creed, an Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot who’s served in dangerous war zones, is now part of an international military exchange program in the south of France.He is the only American at a French Air Force base in the village of Cazaux, near Bordeaux. My husband Sam Paredes and I jumped at the chance to visit him and Naomi.

And while this is supposed to be a fashion column, I can’t help but share the delights of the French love affair with great food.

In fact, one of my few disappointments was that the French have not adopted the U.S. custom of doggie bags to take home leftovers. We had dishes that were so amazing, I said, “Ooh, we have to have the rest of this for lunch tomorrow.”

But that is a cultural no-no in France because of the emphasis on freshness. My goodness, by the next day, the food would no longer be garden-fresh! In France respectable cooks start anew daily at the amazing food markets.

 Palmieres, Nan's favorite French pastry.

One of my favorite treats is a palmiere, the elephant-ear shaped crispy French pastry. I do love croissants, but the palmiere is crispier and sweeter. It became a sport to find a French bakery with palmieres each morning, and then I played the game of palmiere comparisons, each day assessing if it was the best, most buttery and mouthwatering.

My husband Sam Parades cleaned his plate of frog legs.

Sam, on the other hand, is a big fan of frog legs, a delicacy of French cuisine. They taste a bit like chicken. My son and daughter-in-law indulged him by participating in the sport of locating restaurants that served frog legs. You can see that he cleaned his plate.

My new savory favorite is pan-seared foie gras, made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. I had a negative attitude about foie gras, but the rich, buttery and delicate yet intense taste won me over. My favorite is an entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

An entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

An entrée of tender beef topped with pan-seared foie gras.

Ah, the difference in just “cheese” and fabulous French cheeses is enormous. We enjoyed a cheese tasting in a gorgeous outdoor setting at the Arcachon home of friends of my son and daughter-in-law. Christina served eight varieties of cheese with fresh baguettes.

 At Christina and Mark’s cheese tasting in Arcachon.


At Christina and Mark’s cheese tasting in Arcachon.

Comté is a favorite hard cheese in France, with its strong and slightly sweet taste that comes from maturing in cellars in the Franche-Comté region. And I learned to love even more Camembert from Normandy, a soft cheese served warm with a local honey.

Creed helps pick out spices.

Creed helps pick out spices.

Before I went to France, I saw several recipes calling for herbs de Provence. The Roasted Chicken de Provencal recipe that appeared in a New York Times Food Magazine in April intrigued me. I was delighted to discover a spice vendor at the outdoor market in Arcachon who was incredibly knowledgeable, energetic and animated about dozens of herbs. He prepared fresh packets of herbes de Provence and unusual salts for me to bring home as souvenirs for my employees. I have a few left – if you hurry in, I’m happy to give you one.

We made two trips away from the Bordeaux area – to Normandy and to Bilbao in Spain – and we stayed overnight in San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque region. The coastal town touts having one of the highest number of Michelin stars – the international hallmark of fine dining – per square metre, beaten only by Kyoto, Japan, and well ahead of Paris and Lyon.

Tapas in San Sabastian

Tapas in San Sabastian

I knew Spain was famous for its tapas bars, but I wasn’t prepared for the massive arrays of dozens of different kinds of tantalizing tapas.

And all of the above doesn’t even touch the topic of French wines. We had an amazing lunch with wine at Chateau Bailly. Our tour filled my head with fascinating information about wine. We dined with Gilbert Aubrée, a fellow helicopter pilot and friend of my son’s French Air Force base squadron, and one of the most interesting people I have ever met.

Next week, a little about French fashion – I promise!

Greetings from France: Wine, Family, and Relaxation

In front of rows of grapevines at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

In front of rows of grapevines at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

Oh, my gosh, I knew being with my son and his wife in France would be fabulous, but so far it’s been way over the top. As those of you who follow my column might know, I’ve been visiting my son seemingly all over the globe during his career in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve seen some beautiful locations, but his current posting in the south of France is absolutely amazing.As an Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, Creed has certainly spent his time on the front in dangerous war zones, but now his assignment is with an international military exchange program. He is the only American at a French Air Force base in the village of Cazaux, near Bordeaux, and my husband Sam Paredes and I jumped at the chance to visit him and his wife Naomi this month.

Nan with her son, Creed, at the vineyard outside the Bordeaux airport

When we landed at the Bordeaux airport, we got our first clue that we were in a special place. Instead of seeing the usual bland shrubbery surrounding public buildings and airports, as we exited luggage claim, we saw a beautifully tended vineyard tucked away in a small patch of ground! I knew the Bordeaux region was famous for wine, but I hadn’t quite expected this.

A panoramic view of my son and daughter-in-law’s home along a canal in France.

A panoramic view of my son and daughter-in-law’s home along a canal in France.

From the airport we drove to their home in the village of Cazaux, where Creed’s French Air Force base is located. The village is part of the town of La Teste-de-Buch, about 35 miles southwest of the city of Bordeaux, one of the world’s major wine capitals and home to the international wine fair, Vinexpo.

Creed and Naomi’s home is beautiful and has an indoor-outdoor feeling. It’s nestled in lush green on a canal with a canoe at the ready for recreation. When we arrived, we had an alfresco lunch including a variety of delicious French cheeses and red wine.

Creed’s French squadron has its own wine: Escadron Helicopteres, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux.

What kind of wine exactly? As I mentioned, Creed is attached to a French air base. His helicopter squadron has its own wine! Wine is truly imbedded in the fabric of all parts of French society. I’m hoping to bring home a bottle or two of Escadron Helicopteres 1/67 Pyrenees Gran Vin de Bordeaux.I couldn’t visit the south of France without going to the glorious Caudalie spa. Thanks to an El Paso connection – El Pasoan Jane Hall is the aunt of Caudalie founder Bertrand Thomas – Tres Mariposas has carried the Caudalie skin care line for many years. We were “early adopters” years ago.

Outside the Caudalie Vinetherapie Spa.

Outside the Caudalie Vinetherapie Spa.

What was once a tiny company based on extracts from grape seeds, leaves and vines, Caudalie has become a leader in natural skincare. My current favorite Caudalie skin care items are the Vinoperfect Radiance products, which even skin tone and lighten brown spots.

These lotions and creams were born from a grape harvesters’ tradition. The female vineyard workers always slathered the grape vine sap on their face and hands because of its amazing lightening properties.

Bertrand is married to Mathilde, whose family owned one of the most famous chateaus/vineyards in the area, Smith Haute Lafitte. In 1999, they created their first Vinothérapie Spa in the grounds of Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

You can buy some of the vineyard’s amazing wines, ranked among the best Grands Crus Classé for red wine, at Billy Crew’s restaurant in Santa Teresa – but you have to go to France to experience the luxury of the original Caudalie spa.

Needless to say, I insisted on taking Sammy, Creed and Naomi for an afternoon at the spa at the Smith Haute Lafitte chateau and vineyard.

Oh, my! We were all limp as noodles after massages, facials, body wraps and wine baths, all using the wonderful Caudalie products.

Between treatments we gathered at the spa pool or steam room.

It’s been a memorable trip – and it’s not over yet. Stay tuned for Part 2!

A very relaxed group of Americans enjoying French hospitality: Creed, Naomi, Nan and Sam.

A very relaxed group of Americans enjoying French hospitality: Creed, Naomi, Nan and Sam.

New City, Fresh Outlook for Spring, Fall Fashions

Gesuina Legaspy, Tres Mariposas Buy  and guest blogger

Gesuina Legaspy, Tres Mariposas Buy and guest blogger

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Los Angeles market for the first time to preview fall fashion and accessory lines, and place orders for the upcoming season at Tres Mariposas.

The Ace Hotel in the heart of Downtown L.A.

The Ace Hotel in the heart of Downtown L.A.

My assistant, Taylor, and I stayed in Ace Hotel, a boutique hotel in the heart of Downtown LA.

Although the trip was filled with delicious meals and some unexpected encounters – like the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast, and my all-time favorite fashion blogger, Sincerely Jules – the true highlight of the visit was being introduced to new designers, and a factory tour of an old favorite, Nicole Batki.

Nicole Batki has long been a popular brand among Tres Mariposas customers and I was honored to be invited to tour the Batki headquarters by label owner Aida, and driven to her Pasadena warehouse by her son, to select gowns out of her vast collection.

Next, we traveled to the label headquarters, where I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Aida, seeing the craftsmanship first hand, and of course, choosing the right gowns to order for El Paso. What an unforgettable treat!

Good news, ladies, Tres now has the distinction of being the exclusive local store to carry the brand. This means an exquisite selection for spring weddings, the upcoming prom season and any special occasion.

At Nicole Bakti's factory.

At Nicole Bakti’s factory.

More exciting news? This new market was the perfect chance to scoop up fresh, more youthful looks for the store.

I’m fortunate that Nan Napier, Tres Mariposas owner, encourages me to be playful and indulge my sartorial curiosity on these trips, and this visit to LA was an opportunity for me to grow as a buyer, and dig around for the next “in” pieces that are edgier and more current.

The City of Angels is home to many showrooms, bustling with fresh, contemporary lines and up-and-coming designers. A few of my favorite finds included lines like Thomas Wylde, whose pieces I fell deeply in love with during my hunt through Hatch Showroom. High-end Parisian couture at an affordable price, skulls and cashmere – so fun and forward.

The latest fashions at Hale Bob in Los Angeles.

I also snapped up brands like Camilla, which is new to Tres. Camilla offers stunning beaded kaftans and exaggerated blazers and prints. This Australian line is available now and on fire.

Each piece is unique and different from anything we have carried. It’s no wonder our original order sold out in less than three days.

Another must-have was Joie. Their fall collection looked fantastic, with many great, luxe sweaters and knits at accessible price points for the chillier weather.

Behind the scenes at Thomas Wylde with Matthew Keegan, creative director/buyer for Kyle by Alene Too, in Los Angeles.

Behind the scenes at Thomas Wylde with Matthew Keegan, creative director/buyer for Kyle by Alene Too, in Los Angeles.

I loved exploring a new, fashionable city, taking in the sights and trends and cherry picking the best offerings for El Paso.

Vibrant LA infused my buying experience with energy and excitement, and I can’t wait to share the fresh direction with our city.

This was my first visit to the LA market, but it won’t be my last.

Soaking up the street art in Los Angeles.

Soaking up the street art in Los Angeles.

Holiday Chic

Tres Mariposas hosted a Pro Musica holiday event Wednesday evening.  Gorgeous models gave the event plenty of glamour.  Holiday parties range from casual open houses to black tie events.  Don’t let your guard down!  Be good to yourself.  Go the extra mile in hair, makeup, and special attire to honor the season, your hosts and the event.  Make your “casual” luxurious, fashionable and 2014.

Fur vests are a fabulous way to create a luxe casual look.

Fur vests are a fabulous way to create a luxe casual look.

Update your cozy cashmere sweater wardrobe to include asymmetrical tunics that are nothing like those old classics you’ve got stashed away from years past.

Update your cozy cashmere sweater wardrobe to include asymmetrical tunics that are nothing like those old classics you’ve got stashed away from years past.

Red never fails to bring a festive feeling.  But go with something new and different such as this asymmetrical blazer of finely knitted in sonar wool.

Red never fails to bring a festive feeling. But go with something new and different such as this asymmetrical blazer of finely knitted in sonar wool.

Your wrap is a statement.  Make it a strong one.  Nothing is better than a fabulous cashmere cape with fox trim.

Your wrap is a statement. Make it a strong one. Nothing is better than a fabulous cashmere cape with fox trim.

Be the most stylish thing next to the Christmas tree with leather skinny pants, uber-cool boots and a silk bomber jacket.

Be the most stylish thing next to the Christmas tree with leather skinny pants, uber-cool boots and a silk bomber jacket.

 

 

The Science of Color

Untitled-2Last week I wrote about designer Tory Burch’s gorgeous new book, “Tory Burch in Color.” Her collections are known for including colorful fabrics and accessories and the book certainly shows her love of color. Even the book’s chapters are arranged by color!

The book ends with a very brief interview on the “science of color” with Dr. Samantha Boardman, one of Tory Burch’s friends. The interview really intrigued me – enough so that I wanted to learn more about this person.

With a little research I found that Dr. Boardman is much like Tory Burch. She also grew up privileged and well educated, with an intense interest in style and fashion. Both women share an enthusiasm for color and interior decorating. Both are strong career women and both are passionate about what is positive and good in life.

Dr. Boardman is a psychiatrist at Cornell Medical College, and just last year she added another degree to her M.D.: a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. On her website, www.PositivePrescription.com, she writes, “I am a psychiatrist with little interest in what is wrong with people and a lot of interest in what is right with them. I care about the tweaks and changes that make a difference.”

Here are a few things I found interesting from the interview with Dr. Boardman in “Tory Burch in Color:”

  • Dr. Boardman agrees wholeheartedly with psychologist Ulrich Beer who said, “No one can encounter color and stay neutral. We are immediately, instinctively and emotionally moved. We have sympathy or antipathy, pleasure or disapproval within us as soon as we perceive colors.” That is indeed apparent, but I hadn’t thought about it in just that way. For instance, as soon as I see red or yellow, or I even hear someone say a color, my brain has a reaction.c
  • Her research has shown that colors affect how others treat us and how we see ourselves. “One of the first things we notice about someone is the color of what they are wearing,” she writes. “Waitresses wearing red lipstick receive bigger tips and studies show men find women in red clothing to be more attractive, more sexually desirable, and they tend to sit closer to them.  Ladies wearing red tend to feel more attractive – they stand taller, smile more radiantly and are more outgoing.”red
  • It turns out that the color pink can have a significant effect on behavior – a pink environment can make us nicer, gentler. “In the book ‘Drunk Tank Pink,’ Adam Alter describes how a certain shade of pink decreases aggression among prisoners and improves behavior,” says Dr. Boardman. “The University of Iowa’s locker room for visiting football teams is famously painted pink for the exact same reason – to calm opponents and put them in a passive mood.” UTEP Coach Sean Kugler, are you listening?c46ccd8a4edf2cbc44f905f86d3ff1b7

It is true that color is amazingly significant in our culture and in fashion. When women find out I’m supposed to be an expert in fashion, their first question is, “What color is in this year?” Here’s a finding from my own research: the number one reason certain items of clothing do or do not sell at Tres Mariposas is often the color of the item.

I like Samantha Boardman’s emphasis on positivity. According to an interview with her at twenties/collective.com, she lists just three activities as the most significant lifestyle/outlook changes a person can make for a more fulfilling and positive life.

  1. Sleep more.
  2. Build more activity into your daily life.
  3. Spend more time with friends face to face and less time looking down at your mobile device.

P.S. Coming soon: a report on the top colors forecasted for 2015