Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fast Track Fashion

The "Pagoda" is one of the iconic features of Indy's beloved Motor Speedway; I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my time behind the wheel of a performance tuned, 2014 MINI Cooper. They are faster and more nimble than you'd ever dream; My ride was number 98, a tribute to beloved  two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, whose life was cut short far too soon.
If you've read my "Fashion in the Fast Lane" guest post for the Karina Chronicles, you already know how I feel about driving fast, and how much I love the Indianapolis 500. So when I got up close and personal with the Borg Warner Trophy last May and kissed the iconic yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (in an evening gown, no less), I felt like a first grader on her first field trip to the zoo. But two weeks ago, I took my second performance driving course (this time it was the MINI Performance Motoring School), and got to test my skill on the most famous racetrack in the world! As if that weren't enough, the course instructors are all talented racecar drivers, two of whom are veterans of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing", and two more of whom are also likely to grace the field of 33 in the next several years.

No eveing gown for this turn at the track. For those of you who've asked if I ever "dress down," the answer is a resounding Yes! I practically live in cargo pants on the weekend (though, admittedly, I still have to match - a friend has diagnosed me with CCOCD, or Color Coordination Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!) For a brisk November morning at the Motor Speedway, that means a fleece-lined sock cap and wool scarf in shades of pink and orange (with my cargo pants, of course).
Dress for the occasion. That means no heels for a day of hard driving!
Lest you think I'm more concerned about matching my shoes to my scarf (and my hot pink leather driving gloves) than I am about hitting my lines and controlling oversteer on the track, let me just (not so) humble brag for a second that six time Indy 500 veteran and program founder Stephan Gregoire told KDef after riding with me during one exercise and observing me during the timed auto-cross competition that I had natural talent (for driving - not matching my outfits). Maybe he says that to all the girls...but I prefer to give it more weight since it wasn't even me he was talking to...! And man did I love auto-cross!

But let's be real. I have no grand delusions about racing in real life. Not gonna happen. Still, spending a day learning from the best and giving it everything you've got in the Mini Performance Motoring School is a fantastic experience and one that I'd highly recommend to anybody!
Pippa Mann rocks the racetrack AND the runway. She's even got her own Lego figure, Little Pippa.
And, believe it or not, I actually have fashion to thank for the opportunity. A mutual friend introduced me to veteran racer and performance motoring school instructor Pippa Mann at a fashion show for the Central Indiana chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. As it turns out, Pippa may be as big of a shoe lover as I am, and she knows her way around fashion far better than I'll ever know my way around a racetrack. In any event, I owe her a big thank you for telling me about the Mini Performance Motoring School, and it was with a nod to her Komen IRL ride that I chose to wear the pink scarf and hat for a day of chasing her and her colleagues around the track. Thanks, Pippa! I'll be cheering for you in May.

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it! 

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  Graham Rahall Tire

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sandcastles to Snowmen

These pants. To say that I love them is an understatement. The first time I wore them was last summer in the French Riviera. Despite being tightly rolled at the bottom of my luggage for an 8 hour flight and subsequent drive through 5 European countries, they didn't have a single wrinkle. They also garnered more than a few "tres chic" comments from the locals, who spoke to me in French as though I were a native. Of course, "tres chic" was the only phrase I understood, so for all I know they weren't actually paying me a compliment at all... Still, I prefer to think the pants helped me look like a local even on an island where KDef and I were the only Americans. Oh yes, these pants...
A few weeks later, I was wearing the pants when I dropped a two liter bottle of Diet Coke on the concrete floor of my local Kroger and sent a geyser of the delicious but sticky caramel liquid spewing all over me and every patron in a 20 foot radius. Remember last summer's ad campaign, "Share a Diet Coke with...?" Let's just say I don't think my fellow shoppers appreciated my literal but messy interpretation of the concept. These pants, though. They absorbed most of the explosion, and I was certain that my "tres chic" palazzos were destined to become my next pair of permanently stained and dingy painting pants. Not so. I popped them in the wash and they came out good as new, still with nary a wrinkle. Oh yes, these pants...

Last weekend, I packed the pants for a quick warm weather getaway to Miami. I knew the weather forecast for Sunday called for brutal cold, but I didn't want to take more than a carry-on bag, and I definitely didn't want to lug a winter coat on the airplane. But, with a quick change from short sleeves to turtleneck and sandals to ankle boots, the pants were Winter ready and still wrinkle-free for the return trip home. I may not have been thrilled about going from sandcastles on Saturday to snowmen on Sunday, but these pants...
Monogrammed switchflops and a woven beach bag from 9 West were perfect for warm weather; ankle boots from Schutz and a coordinating bag from Charming Charlie transition the look for colder climes.
These pants. They must have cost a fortune. They must be made of some magical mystery material. They must have come from Meijer. Wait...what? True story. These pants came from Meijer, a grocery store that sells other stuff on the side (not to be confused with Target, which is a store full of other stuff that sells groceries on the side). I spotted them on my way to the check-out line (this has happened to me more than once at Meijer - their merchandisers must be wizards). It was May in Indiana (when black and white are prolific in the wardrobes of local Indy 500 fans); the pants reminded me of a pair of $98 Norma Kamali yoga pants from Zappos I'd been coveting; they were all of $16.99. If I could find another pair, I would buy them, too. These pants...  
I really wanted these Norma Kamali pants, but wasn't willing to spend the $98 for them. I'm glad I waited!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Monday, November 17, 2014

No More Mauve!

Skirt and Cardigan (H&M); Turtleneck (Target); Belt (; Boots (Butterfly Consignment); Floral Necklace (The Limited); Pocket Watch Necklace (For Love 21)

A grocery store clerk recently complimented my skirt/sweater combo and told me that mauve was her favorite color. I wasn't sure what one had to do with the other, but I thanked her politely, took my 40 foot long receipt (seriously, the length of grocery receipts is ridiculous), and went on my way. I'm not exactly sure what to call the prominent pinkish hue in this ensemble. "Salmon pink" is my best description, though Pantone probably calls it something else. But of this I am sure - it is NOT mauve. 
Bracelet (Lenny & Eva)
And believe me, I know mauve. We are not friends. In fact, mauve makes me sick (or at least it makes me look sick, much like that ubiquitous 2014 Pantone Color of the Year, "Radiant Orchid." I am no radiant orchid, and I don't do mauve.

When we moved into our current home, it was a mecca of mauve. Mauve tiles on the great room fireplace; metallic mauve flowers on the wall; mauve stained glass in the ceiling fan; mauve stripes in the puffy 1980s balloon valances; mauve blinds on every window; even the felt on the pool table was mauve (seriously, a mauve pool table). Bet you can guess the first thing I changed about the house...No.More.Mauve! 
Watch (Fossil); Bag (Brahmin)
I don't mean to disparage mauve (or the grocery store clerk who loves it). My mother looks great in mauve. My grandmother looks great in mauve. Maybe you look great in mauve, too. How mauvelous for you! Mauve power to you (I know, I know, that's a really bad one. I should just mauve on...)
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Viva Vintage!

Dress (INC, Macys); faux fur topper (Yaprak Designs, Indianapolis); Boots (
Last month, I had the good fortune to travel to Chicago with the Indianapolis Museum of Art's Fashion Arts Society for a two day excursion that included an art studio tour; a private reception and presentation at Burberry's flagship store on the Magnificent Mile; and a visit to a vintage clothing showroom; along with plenty of supping, sipping, and sharing stories with an incredibly diverse group of women who share a kindred fondness for fashion. 
I had never seen a hat like this before my visit to the Viva Vintage showroom, and it caught my eye as soon as I stepped inside.
I'm a solo shopper - I like to browse at my own pace, and rarely feel the need for input from others when making decisions. If I don't love a garment the minute I try it on, I'm probably not going to buy it, regardless of the opinions of any shopping companion or salesclerk (this philosophy dramatically decreases the chance that the item will still have the tags on it two years later!) And yet, exploring vintage styles and trying on one of a kind items with my FAS companions was was a highly enjoyable exception to my typical one-woman shopping show. I think it was a combination of the women themselves and the festive party atmosphere created by the owner and hostess of Viva Vintage Clothing, who opened her showroom especially for us on a Monday afternoon. 
I paired the hat with onyx earrings and a simple black beaded necklace that belonged to my grandmother. Classic pearls would also coordinate well, but I wanted to a splash of black to add balance to knee high black boots and black tights.
And WOW, what a showroom it was! Viva Vintage Clothing has a large yet well curated collection, and its owner (a fellow "ginger") is extremely knowledgeable about the garments, hats, handbags, and assorted accessories she sells. Like me, she knows there is a place for vintage clothing in the modern world. With a little thought, vintage pieces can add panache to your personal style without making you look like you're wearing a period costume.
I'd never worn a tilt hat before, and wasn't sure how to keep it on, but the boutique owner provided a hat pin, and showed me how to use one to secure it!
I discovered both of these hats at Viva Vintage. In fact, in a wall of elegantly displayed chapeaus, these two were the first to catch my eye and the first that I tried on. The black hat is a wool felt "tilt hat" from the 1940s. When I wore it last weekend for an elegant formal dinner party, I added a crystal brooch to the back for a little sparkle (see botton photo), and paired it with a modern lace dress by Byron Lars (my favorite contemporary designer). 

The ivory hat is straight out of the 50s. It bears the label "Alfreda, New York and Paris." Its condition is remarkable given the light color and hundreds of seed pearls and crystals that make up the intricate design. It's actually a "pillbox" style, originally intended to be worn more on the back of the head (think Jackie O). But, as I played with it, I discovered I liked it even more tilted forward - it's more flattering for my face shape and also allows me to better appreciate the fine bead and crystal work. It was the perfect statement piece for a cocktail reception in the Stutz Building, a historic downtown landmark filled with collector cars and art galleries, and accentuated the beaded embroidery work on a modern LBD.
These two beautiful women are friends, colleagues, and fellow FAS members; This lace Byron Lars dress is one of my favorites and I've worn it several times, but it felt like a completely new outfit when I added the hat.
 Viva Vintage Clothing's Chicago Showroom is open by appointment only, but you can shop there without leaving the comfort of your own home. The boutique's website if user friendly and fun to browse. You can also keep abreast of new acquisitions on Facebook. And for more fabulous hat ideas, check out the Style Crone's monthly Hat Attack! Viva vintage!
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cat-like Reflexes

Dress (Boston Proper); Velvet Jacket (Alex Evenings, Nordstrom); Boots (
One of my dearest friends recently married the love of his life, and the wedding celebration was the perfect opportunity to wear this leopard and lace dress from Boston Proper. I like animal prints, but I typically limit them to accessories (like a belt, scarf, pair of shoes, or a bag). I've admired bolder splashes of leopard on others (and last year I couldn't resist this dramatic spotted cape from a "style swap"), but every time I've tried on a top or dress with an all-over animal print, it's felt too "busy" for my own comfort level.
The copper keshi pearl and smoky topaz torsade is from a market in Shanghai, China, picked up on a business trip.
I felt completely different about this particular dress. The scale of the spots is quite large, which makes the print seem more subdued and abstract, while the full skirt and ombre effect that fades into a lace design add unique interest and cocktail party flair. 
Smoky Quartz and Diamond Ring (David Yurman, G. Thrapp Jewelers); Ametrine and Diamond Ring (Master Jewelers, St. Maarten; Watch (Charriol); Filigree Cuff (Stella and Dot); Belt (eBay)
I actually hadn't planned to wear knee-high suede boots with the dress, though, and I'm still not sure how I feel about the combination. But a swollen, angry toe wanted nothing to do with the strappy little heels I really wanted to wear. Just three days before the wedding, a mishap involving a kicked kitchen cabinet, a dropped iPad, and a marble floor resulted in a broken toe on my left foot (the incident was of the accidental variety and NOT due to bad temper). The boots were my only option outside of flip flops or tennis shoes.
The way the leopard print melts into the lace design at the bottom of the dress is my favorite part of the design.
As luck would have it (or my luck, anyway), the very next day I also crushed the tip of my finger in a friend's manual garage door. Luckily, I didn't break anything else, but I'm fairly certain I'm going to lose the fingernail (and it wouldn't be the first time I've lost a nail due to a smashed finger). Too bad wearing leopard doesn't also give me cat-like reflexes!
Celebrating with my dear friend (I swapped out the keshi pearl necklace for a lacy filigree collar my Mom surpirsed me with when we stopped at her house on our way to the celebration)
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vampire Killer Chili (and the reason vampires hiss...)

Have you ever noticed that vampires in old movies make an evil hissing sound every time they talk? I'm not talking about the Cullens in all their sparkly skinned glory, but old-school Count Dracula types who can be repelled by garlic, killed with a stake through the heart, and just "vant to suck your blood." 
The theatrical contact lenses are from Vision Direct; Other than the fangs, contacts, spiderweb eyelashes and nail tattoos, everything else is part of my normal wardrobe mixed together and repurposed for Halloween: Necklace and earrings (Givenchy, Nordstrom); Crystal ring (Macy's); The hat is my favorite, and while it looks spooky here, it's actually a modern take on Dior's new look of the 1950s and looks elegant worn in other, non-costume settings (Loreta Corsetti Millinery). 
Well, last weekend I found out why that is...It has nothing to do with sounding spookier, and everything to do with the fangs. As it turns out, when you have fangs, you can't close your mouth all the way and saliva tends to pool up (kind of like sitting in the dentist's chair with your mouth open). So when you start to speak, you have to sort of suck up the saliva to avoid drooling. It makes an evil hissing sound. Kind of gross, I know, but there you have it. 
Spiderweb eyelashes and Halloween themed nail tattoos picked up at Walgreens for a few dollars add small but bold details.
Even so, wearing the prosthetic canines did make me feel spooky, and I felt compelled to make scary faces all night (or at least what I hope were scary faces). I was also really impressed with how realistic those suckers looked and how well they stayed in. After a bit of online research, I ended up using these fangs because they were smaller and had a more realistic shape, but I used the molding kit from this set to customize the fit because it seemed easier to use and had better reviews. Molding them to my own teeth took less than 15 minutes and was far less disgusting than I anticipated. I was able to slip them in and out with ease throughout the evening to eat and drink (because accidentally swallowing, and then passing, a nylon fang would not be a pleasant experience), but they never fell off when I didn't want them to.
Beyond the obvious desire to avoid swallowing and pooping out a fang, I also removed them to eat because the online reviews warned that dark colored foods and beverages would stain them (I guess movie vamps must need a new set every time they bite a victim). The alternative would have been to not eat, and since the evening's main event was a chili cook-off, that certainly was NOT an option!

I wanted my own chili entry to coordinate with my costume, so I decided it needed to include a healthy dose of fresh garlic and that I'd call it "Vampire Killer Chili." In a stroke of genius, KDef suggested that I also use steak tips in it, as in killing vampires with a "stake." You know I'm a (blood)sucker for a good pun, and 15 minutes later I'd created the description below.
I used a photograph of halloween decorations from a few years ago as the background for my chili description/poem. It's printed on a normal sheet of paper and "modpodged" onto a small resin tombstone-shaped sign from Michael's.
The recipe itself, which I share below, was actually the last detail I nailed down, and I tweaked it as I cooked right up until it was time to leave for the party. The presentation, however, was a no-brainer. I found this coffin guitar case on eBay a number of years ago, and it's been the perfect serving platform for a multitude of delicious but deadly-looking dishes over the years. It's also remarkably travel friendly - everything other than the blood red crockpot full of chili itself fit easily inside the closed case.

The modpodged chili sign hangs from one of the clasps on the guitar case (and is lit from below with a battery-operated LCD light); Metal Skeleton hands from Pottery Barn (purchased a few years ago) hold aloft small dishes of oyster crackers, sour cream, and chopped green onion; Fritos and shredded cheese are also on hand to amp up the chili, while whole garlic adds ambience to the theme.
Some may view display as as afterthought, less important than the actual food, but it's creating the aesthetic that really gets my juices flowing. Lest you think I'm overstating my focus on the visual, I'll sheepishly admit that in 2009, I was sorely disappointed when my sombrero and cactus-accented Mexican serape-draped table received second place for "presentation" in a neighborhood chili cook-off, even though my southwest chili recipe itself took home first prize! 
This year, I put a lot of effort into developing my Vampire Killer Chili recipe (and marinated the meat and vegetables for 12 hours prior to cooking), so I had high hopes for another victory. Well, it was a huge hit and there were no leftovers at the end of the night, but when the votes were tallied I didn't come up the winner (that's ok - I voted for the chili that actually won, too!) But, our dear host did give me a ribbon for the "killer" display, which warmed the cockles of my undead heart and put a huge grin on my drooling, be-fanged face!
If you want to feed a crowd and kill off some vamps at the same time with a pot of hearty chili, you'll need:
  • Two large jars or cans of crushed tomatoes (I used 2 jars of home-canned Indiana tomatoes plus one can of finely chopped tomatoes flavored with lime juice and cilantro);
  • One small can of tomato paste
  • One 15.5 oz can of Brooks Chili Beans
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 Orange Habanero Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 6 to 8 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3/4 lb of zesty hot sausage
  • 2 lb steak, cut into approx. 1/2 inch cubes (the butcher gave me a SWEET deal on filet, otherwise I'd have used sirloin tips)
  • 6 slices of bacon, fried crisp
  • 2 cups tri-color rotini pasta
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Liquid Smoke (I used both Hickory and Mesquite)
  • Chili Powder (I used Pampered Chef "Wahoo Chili")
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • Ground Coriander
  • Ground Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper 
The night before cooking the chili, combine the chopped peppers, onion, garlic, sausage (broken up into pieces), and steak in a large container. Add to this a few large pinches of salt and pepper, and approx. 4 to 5 TB of Worcestershire, and 2 to 3 TB of liquid smoke. Mix thoroughly (I put on sterile gloves and used my hands). You want to be sure everything is completely covered and that the mixture is very wet, but not soupy. You can adjust the liquids accordingly. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors really marinate and meld.
The "Round the Way Girl" on my right was a chili cook-off winner - hers was so good I needed seconds and thirds!; The lighted sombrero of my friend Mark's Dia de los Muertos get-up is genius; Mario's costume was inspired - he even set his cell phone with sounds from the game.
After the mixture has marinated for several hours, brown it in a large skillet (or two). I used two skillets and it took about 10 minutes on medium-high heat. To this mixture I also crumbled up and added a few strips of crispy bacon (that just happend to be left over from breakfast. Not essential, but a tasty addition). Don't drain the meat after you're done browning it. Add the entire mixture, liquid and all, to the crockpot.
Really, is there anything scarier than a clown?
Next, add the chili beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste to the crockpot. I only added about half of the tomatoes to start with, until I had the consistency I wanted. I added more after the chili had simmered for a few hours and cooked down. I like chili on the thick and chunky side, but you can adjust to whatever consistency you prefer. Once all of the these ingredients are in the crockpot, add the chili powder, coriander, cayenne pepper and cumin. I also threw a few garlic cloves in for good measure. This is the least precise part of the recipe, and is truly a matter of personal taste. I'd suggest using a light hand to start, and add more periodically as needed while the pot simmers. 
LL Cool J and his Round the Way Girl and Mary Poppins and Burt were two of my favorite "couples" costumes; KDef continued his "too soon dead" costume tradition with a Patch Adams tribute.
After about two hours, add two cups of cooked rotini pasta to the pot and mix thoroughly (you'll likely also need to add more tomatoes at this point, and more spices). You could also add uncooked pasta to the pot from the beginning, and it will cook as the soup simmers. That's what I do with my traditional chili recipe, but sometimes the pasta ends up pretty mushy, so this time I cooked it separately and added it later. In total, you'll want to allow the pot to simmer on low for 4 to 6 hours. Enjoy!

Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

You can also check out other fun hats at Style Crone's Hat Attack.
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