What is Your Scent?

A couple of years ago, I attended a weekend women's conference. I was there to enjoy the company of friends, not really expecting much more than a restful mini vacation.

While there, a speaker -whose name I wish I could remember- asked a question that has stayed with me for a while.

What is your scent?

When you enter or leave a room, is the place better for your contribution or worse? Are you a rose or a skunk?

This comparison drew a few chuckles. However, in this simple question is something profound - the idea that your presence can change the atmosphere of the room.

Of course, we cannot control the minds of people who would like to find fault with us. However, we can be aware of what we are doing, and try to create a sweet-smelling savor in a place, like a rose, or perhaps like a honeysuckle, which is far more pleasant to the senses.

That interaction you and I have with a random stranger at the supermarket, for instance, is not as insignificant as we think. It's part of a larger fabric of human encounters that creates a culture.

It can be a culture of kindness, a culture of indifference, a culture of unpleasantness and resentment; the choices are endless. It all starts with individual moments that you and I have with each other.

You are important. What you do is important, partly because it creates a precedent for the next person and the next generation.

What is your scent?  How will you create a honeysuckle moment today?

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Your Earliest Fashion Memory

A host asked a panel of style experts and artists to recall their earliest memory of fashion.

One person remembered the skirt of his pre-school teacher. As all the children sat listening to her read a book, he paid attention to what changes the teacher had made in her garments since the previous day. This would be the beginning of his career.

I'm fascinated by the subject of fashion, as one might be about any art. But I rarely practice any trendy fashion sense (as you may have noticed in"Your Story in Fabric"). However, I will take a crack at the question.

I was perhaps 6 years old. There was my father polishing his Allen Edmonds. He noticed that I was in the room and then he began to explain what he was doing to his shoe and why. Each step of the ritual was exacting.

Then he spoke of having a reputation in the Marines for polishing his shoes so well and keeping his bunk so neat that the higher ups did not bother to inspect his bunk and trunk sometimes.

My father is firmly associated in my mind with his clothing. There is a dignity to his bearing that shows in the way that he maintains his garments. Although he asks for a crease in his jeans at the dry cleaners and I'm the heavy-denim-and-the-force-of-gravity-will-handle-the-wrinkles type, I respect my father's style.

What is your earliest fashion memory? Has that experience defined your later life?

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Love the Movie, Read the Play

Source material is always great for a deeper look at some of your favorite films. Plays are a particularly fun source material to read because -like screenplays- they have some explicit author intent built right in.  Plus, it's fun to figure out why filmmakers leave out this or add that.

For instance, Lillian Hellman penned both the play The Little Foxes and the screenplay for the film of the same name starring Bette Davis as Regina - a wealthy industrialist. The author has added a character called David (Richard Carlson), who is not in the play. In the film, David informs Regina's daughter Alexandra (Teresa Wright) that her fortune is built on corruption and that her family is a nest of vipers.

In the play, however, the character discovers this on her own.

David is also there, it seems, to add that 1940s Hollywood romance. There is no romance in the play; it's all about a family's infighting for power and position and wealth. For a broader, film-going audience, love of some kind, is usually included.

Romance, then as now, really sells a film. Plays, for some reason, can be totally devoid of affection, and that can be the central premise and the audience is fine with it. Audience expectations are so different depending on the medium.

From there you can explore whether this change is better or worse, and ask yourself why you believe this to be the case. Are they equally great ways to tell the story, considering different formats of storytelling garner different expectations from the audience?

What effect does this change have on the storyline? Is that change significant? So many questions with which to grapple and have fun and challenge your own assumptions about life and how things should be. 

This is how I have fun. How about you?

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Your Story in Fabric

Sometimes while sitting with my camera, figuring out the next picture, I've taken closeups of the clothing that I'm wearing.

Fabric can be arresting, beautiful and informative.  I'm reminded of the tale of a lady who, during family gatherings, would take out a quilt, point to a square of fabric and tell a story of the relative who once wore the garment. There was a square of a baby's gown, a soldier's uniform from the Civil War, a wedding dress that her mother wore, etc.

Although I have not captured the threads wonderfully, the images below still seem to tell a story. Mainly that the person wearing them likes cotton. Tons of it. Anything easy-to-clean in neutral colors. This is part of me...currently...in fabric.

Plaid in the fall is perhaps my favorite thing to wear. Period. Reminds me of school days.

Seersucker for warmer months. I love that this comes in slimming vertical lines.

This is as flashy as I get. I wear solid colors on my torso so that the skirt can have a party below.

My go-to dark wash denim, gored skirt. It pairs well with almost any blouse in my closet.
There you are. A very boring functional closet of neutral wash-and-go fabrics. That's your host.

What is your story in fabric?

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What Are Your Passion Projects?

A third question from the "How to Stop Being Boring" article by Vanessa Van Edwards is about your goals. Do you have any passion projects in the works?

Yes. Making Summer Haven a fun, inspiring, and mutually lucrative space for both the reader and myself is the current general goal.

And I'd like to do it very quickly, like in 2 months. I'm not sure that's feasible, but we'll give it a try.

You've heard this, I'm sure, that the sweet spot of satisfaction lies where your interests overlap with the needs of others. Win-win. We'll see how this pans out.

What passion projects are you working on at the moment? Let me know.

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What Gets You Up In the Morning?

Last time, we discussed what is the best part of your week. Another question to ask yourself from the "How to Stop Being Boring" article by Vanessa Van Edwards is this:

Besides work, what gets you up in the morning?

What gets me up and ready to face the day is knowing that there is something worth doing. Even if I'm not headed out the door to do that something, I still know the projects that I value are waiting to be done. Many of the projects that mean the most to me are done after work or -as with this article that I'm writing to you right now, dear reader- are completed before work.

I once made it my routine to rush out the door despising the day ahead. However, by putting some of what I love in front of this mad dash, I now enjoy the morning. This helps me to coast to work in a better mood.

Often I rush out without breakfast, which isn't the best thing to do to your body. Now I want to incorporate into the morning routine savoring a cup of hot tea.  Haven't done that yet; I'm too busy reading and writing in the morning. I'll get to it.

What gets you up in the morning?  Comment below; let me know.

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The Best Part of Your Week?

In an attempt not to be boring, yours truly has read a blog post about the subject, as you do in the internet age. In "How To Stop Being Boring," behavior investigator  (Don't you just love that title?)Vanessa Van Edwards says to answer a few questions, including what has been the best part of your week?

The best part of my week always includes interaction with my nephews and trolling the internet. Not necessarily simultaneously.

 The Nephews

My young nephews and their playmates are a constant push against adult stagnation that can seep into your life after a certain age or set of accomplishments. They remind you to play and they give another layer of purpose to your life.

Whatever happens, your life has been enriched by the presence of these little ones. They inadvertently remind you constantly to ask what is the essence of my life? You hope that you've been the best aunt you can be and that you have enriched their lives as well.

The Internet

I've found a few people either whose perspective, whose website design or whose business model lights me up inside.

This week I've really paid attention to an author and artist I've known about for a while. She's Janice MacLeod-Lik and is the artist who will send you a copy of an original painting from Paris with a charming, relevant letter.

Just the idea that there are people out there making a living doing something so beautiful and who are not locked into an 8 to 5 grind made my week a little more hopeful. This is the kind of life I've longed for since childhood but never allowed myself to think of for long.

To the child version of myself, if a project was boring it must be an adult thing; if it was fun, it was a child's thing. As I grew into teen years, I put away childishness (or so I thought) and put myself through miserable, boring routines. That is the adult thing to do... or is it?

Ms. MacLeod-Lik is currently reading a book with weekly challenges by another artist and author of The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron. I've just read the sneak peak of her legendary best-seller and already the author has stirred my thoughts a bit. Ms. Cameron mentions that there is an artist child inside of people who is often dismissed. It's the author's job to help you engage that creative side of yourself. I believe she's describing me.

The book is in my online shopping cart waiting to be purchased.

Listened to a lecture by Ravi Zacharias in which the Christian Apologist mentions that when his son was two years old, telling the boy a story about a person getting up and walking to the door was intriguing enough.  To interest an older child, Zacharias says, one must add more to the story; he must tell a story about walking to the door, opening it and finding a dragon, for instance.

The point is, as we grow older, more is needed to sustain a sense of wonder about the world. He concludes that God is the only one big enough for that. A sense of wonder. That's what's missing from my days, sometimes.

All of these examples, I've just realized, harken back to childhood wonder and intrigue. These have been some of the best parts of my week.

What has been the best part of your week? Comment below; let me know.
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Steele Fashionable: Clinton Kelly's Top 10 Closet Staples for Every Season

It seems cruel to compare the wardrobe of a show from the 1980s -"Remington Steele"- with the standards of a fashion article written in this decade. The past lies there so limp and helpless against examination from people in the present.

However,  that's exactly what Laura Holt's Closet will do today - examine past fashion through the lens of the present. 

How does the wardrobe of our prime-time heroine, Laura Holt, stack up against the Top 10 Closet Staples for Every Season by fashion consultant Clinton Kelly?

1. Dark Wash Jeans
Mr. Kelly states that "denim is how we live." This seems true.  Dark denim today has taken over where plain slacks left off.

However, in the '80s, when "Remington Steele" aired, denim pants, even dark wash jeans, were often relegated to the most informal activities. Laura does not wear jeans very often. When she does, it is usually at home or when she's investigating a farm.

2. Simple Blouses
Blouses do not have to be silk ("that’s just an outdated fashion dictum"), according to Mr. Kelly.

Laura doesn't stick to one kind of top and has quite an array of blouses. She can be seen in a standard button down or in more fussy blouses with ruffles at the neck.

Of course, our favorite blouse is the white cotton shirt with vertical satin ribbons on the bodice and lace-trimmed high collar that our dainty detective wears in the episode "Steele Flying High."

"Laura...you look lovely in the morning."

3. Structured Jackets
Jackets finish an outfit. Laura's jackets are always carefully tailored. In another article, Mr. Kelly gives four reasons to wear a jacket.

4. Trench Coat
To "lend an air of sophistication," wear a trench coat, the fashion consultant says. So far we've seen our delicate detective in two trench coats -a classic khaki and a burnt orange.

5. Ballet Flats
Ballet flats are just a suggestion. The author of the article simply encourages ladies to wear a pair of flats rather than athletic shoes with your everyday ensemble.

We haven't seen Laura in ballet flats yet, but we have seen her in espadrilles in Acapulco. It seems she rarely wears flat shoes.

6. Killer Heels
Laura lives in high heels. It's great for the character, not so pleasant for the actress' feet since she must escape crooks or pursue them at a fast pace. And if you enjoy extra high heels, Clinton Kelly recommends thinking of these as "mostly sitting" shoes.


7. Pencil Skirt
Just as Laura lives in heels, she also lives in suits with pencil skirts, especially in the first season of  "Remington Steele."

These skirts tend to complement any body type.

8. A Little Black Dress
The little black dress is meant to take you straight from the office (with a jacket) to an evening out (with jewels). Laura never seems to need this. Though she's a busy investigator, somehow Laura finds the time to change clothing, hairstyle and full makeup at a moment's notice.

9. A Day Dress
A day dress is informal, quick to put on and is worn when the sun is shining, obviously. It is distinct from a suit, which is more formal. It also differs from garments worn later in the day, such as cocktail dresses or evening gowns, which tend to have more fussy details and more sparkle to reflect whatever light is around.

In the first season, Laura dresses in suits in the morning. Her cavalcade of day dresses begins in the second season of the show. They were loosening the character, it seems.

10. Bags
Mr. Kelly encourages us to invest in purses since a good bag never goes out of style. We would add that it's also the one piece of your wardrobe which you can still use regardless of your weight fluctuations.

Laura carries many kinds of bags from totes, to briefcases to evening clutches. To be frank, she looks freer when she's using just her pockets to keep clues, without a purse.

It seems our heroine has all the wardrobe staples she needs for any decade. That's why we love Laura Holt's closet.


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Is Your Home a Museum of Grief?

A Facebook user has a thought-provoking question which might help you and me de-clutter and grieve at the same time: Is your home a museum of grief?

Do you hang on to mementos and journals that make you cringe every time you see them? Are you crestfallen every time you step into your storage area and see all the unfinished projects you could have-would have-should have done?

It might be time to let go. The things that are not helping you reach your goals, the items which drain your energy are taking up space in your house and in your life. Space that can be used for the people and things that you love.

Last year, I began to give away, recycle or toss all the things I just haven't gotten around to doing, or the things that caused me unhealthy grief to keep.

The hardest part for me was ridding myself of a few rejection notices that I had received for internships in school many years ago. I had carefully organized, alphabetized and labeled the rejection notes in a binder with other old school papers.

I finally tossed them and I haven't missed them for a second. I don't know why I kept them. I suppose formal institutions were a part of my identity, even the unpleasant parts. I did keep the one acceptance notice which, combined with my hard work that summer, lead to another summer internship the next year. You only need the one acceptance to begin.

A problem area for me has been THE OUTFIT! The Outfit is what I wore on the evening that a person whose company I enjoyed first called me gorgeous. Circumstances are such that we've since parted ways, never really knowing each other, but the The Outfit remains. As if keeping it will bring back an opportunity. It won't. But somehow I'm attached to it and haven't tossed it yet.

Is your home a museum to grief? What ideas do you have to de-clutter these kind of items? Do you have any prevention ideas? Tell me in the comments below.

Still need help? Find great de-cluttering ideas from Taylor over at Home Storage Solutions.
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Wardrobe Supplier for Remington Steele: Carole Little

Carole Little supplied wardrobe for "Remington Steele" from its second season until its fifth and final season. Here are a few facts about the designer.

1. Ms. Little is a west coast designer whose clothes were "for women intent on scaling the corporate ladder," according to a 1982 People Magazine interview .

2. Ms. Little's Saint Tropez-West line of clothes were "sleek, sexy and all mix-and-matchable." They were also affordable.

3. Ms. Little's career began when she...
 "...landed her first big job at Jasper Bros., a junior sportswear house in California. But she wasn't happy designing miniskirts for teenagers. 'Everyone had forgotten about women like me who wanted quality clothes but couldn't afford $150 for a pair of wool gabardine pants.'"

4. Though Ms. Little's line of clothes still exists, it has been sold to another company and has changed its design vision.

5. Saint Tropez-West of the 1980s is exactly the line of clothing  that Remington Steele's chic private detective Laura Holt would wear if she were real. Laura is ambitious, lives on the west coast, runs her own business and must account for every penny.

  Vintage Carole Little

The Carole Little- Laura Holt partnership works well for us today with timeless ensembles for our sartorial inspiration.

Further Reading

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