tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede

how to get oil stains out of suede

|  via Instagram  |

Who doesn’t love a good life hack? An honest-to-goodness, palm-to-forehead-thwacking solution to an everyday problem – I mean, that’s what bought Martha Stewart her first chicken coop, right? When it comes to a really successful life hack, I can’t get enough. And I know you’re with me, because the most popular story on this entire site (by a long shot, in fact) isn’t my trip to Paris or my foolproof packing lists, but “how to stretch the waistband of your jeans”.

So, here’s a genius little gem you should file away: how to get oil out of suede. Remember those jolie laide Birkenstock shearling clogs I picked up a while back? I know, I know…they’re UGGs with arch support. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Anyway. I’ve been wearing them more than is at all reasonable, including – regrettably – while cooking. The other night, I was putting the finishing touches on a lovely piece of olive oil-rubbed salmon when a piece leapt off the grill and onto my shoes. Which, as it turns out, was much more catastrophic than I could have anticipated. The oil seeped into the suede in a matter of nanoseconds, and left a dime-sized calling card right there on my Birkenstock-clad toe. Since it’s one thing to wear sensible shoes, but entirely another to wear oil-stained shoes smelling vaguely of fish, I knew drastic action was needed.

After trying every trick I knew without success (as a rule, Dawn dish soap is the mother’s milk of removing oil stains), I was nearing full-blown panic when I saw someone online recommending cornstarch. And as I considered it, it kind of made sense – cornstarch certainly inhales moisture in a hurry, but doesn’t get gloppy or pasty as other starches can. So, I tried it. And praise the shoe gods, it worked like a charm.

Since I’m desperately hoping I’m not the only person who does things like this (see e.g., “deep frying while wearing silk”…), I thought the least I could do was share this brilliant little hack with you.

The procedure is thus:

  • Heap a tablespoon or so of cornstarch on the soiled area* – be generous about it.
  • Use the back of the spoon to gently press the cornstarch into the stain, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Dump off the cornstarch and lightly brush off the residue (I used the spoon again) to see how things are looking.
  • Repeat if necessary. (My first try loosened about 80% of the stain – the second try got me to 100%.)
  • Use a suede brush, or really any soft-bristled brush (I used the dry brush I’m supposed to be using to exfoliate my skin) to brush off the excess cornstarch and restore the nap of the suede.

* Note: you want to do this as soon as possible after tragedy strikes. If you do end up letting the oil stain dry, re-moisten the area before starting this procedure.

My hand to Chanel, that oil stain just vanished. I am one picky pants when it comes to stain removal, and I can’t even tell where it happened. (Also, this one is pretty reliable about tracking down food smells, and she’s not at all interested in these shoes. Very good sign.)

While I can’t say for sure, I’m pretty confident that the same process would work to remove a water stain from suede…but again, you want to get to it while it’s still wet.

Here’s hoping you’ll never have to use this little tidbit, but if you do, will you promise to report back?


Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Facebook Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Twitter Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Pinterest Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Google+ Share 'tricks of the trade: how to get oil out of suede' on Email

spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!


Well friends, I had a little #lifehack story planned for you today, but then this hit my inbox…and really, could I let a Shopbop friends & family go by? Of course not. So, life hack later…spring wardrobe now!

I’ve been on a shopping binge the likes of which my closet hasn’t seen in ages – I’m in one of those life phases when my closet just seems entirely, completely wrong all of a sudden. I’m ready for a serious wardrobe reboot, and I’m starting with more than a few of these:

Now, tell me what you’re buying, won’t you? My shopping itch still isn’t quite done being scratched.

Share 'spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!' on Facebook Share 'spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!' on Twitter Share 'spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!' on Pinterest Share 'spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!' on Google+ Share 'spring splurge: shopbop friends & family!' on Email



|  Easter dresses on parade (and my darling Nana)  |

Growing up, holidays were a big deal in my house. We celebrated everything. Easter meant a frilly new dress, a fancy hotel brunch, and one of those too-beautiful-to-eat sugar eggs with a miniature Easter scene inside created entirely of frosting. Mother’s Day meant the same brunch, but no new dress (and no candy, alas…). July 4th was entirely overshadowed by July 24th (better known as “Pioneer Day”, for all of my non-Utah-bred friends), when every family member for miles around piled into my grandparents’ ample backyard to partake in a bottomless bounty of summer barbecue staples. Burgers, dogs, watermelon, corn on the cob…I remember shucking corn for hours with my grandfather, him laughing at me whenever I found a worm in the husks and screamed bloody murder. On my birthday, my mom took the entire day off of work to entertain me.

And those were just the minor holidays. So, you can see where my expectations might be a bit skewed.

Every one of those days revolved around family, but most especially around my grandmother. She was the epicenter of all of it – the family, food, the location, the comically overgrown collection of seasonal decorations. And I took it to heart in a big way. Now that she’s gone, I find myself fiercely protective of the rituals and celebrations she created. I staunchly refuse to make any stuffing at Thanksgiving that isn’t her recipe, and still feel a pang of emptiness on Halloween because I’m not curled up on her couch, watching The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and helping her hand out candy (the little kids get the full-size bars, and the teenagers get the snack-size). The spot in my chest where I keep my memories of her gets heavier as a holiday nears – the weight sometimes becoming unbearable, even now. I become intractable and unreasonable, entrenched in nostalgia and how it “should” be.

As you might imagine, this creates a bit of a sticky wicket when it comes to building new traditions with my husband. One of the great challenges of our union has been finding ways to incorporate my Big Book of Holiday Expectations into our life together. His latently Jewish family never cared much for holidays, and the ones they did celebrate are utterly foreign to me. (Given my pro-holiday proclivities, I have been trying to convince him to let me host a Seder every year since we wed, without success.) After stumbling through our first few holiday seasons together with a distinct lack of grace and an abundance of emotional bruises, we’ve learned, finally, that traditions don’t have to be rooted in childhood. He’s come around to some of the traditions I love, and we’ve built a few new traditions together, which have become as precious to me as any I grew up with. It turns out, there are options that lie somewhere between my way and the highway, and if I manage to park my high horse for a moment and look around, they can be their own kind of wonderful.

A few years before she died, my grandmother sent me a VHS tape of Easter Parade. Truly, if you haven’t seen it, email me and I’ll send you a copy – I’m that convinced you’ll love it. When she first gave it to me, I dismissed it. “Oh sure,” I thought, “I’ll get to that someday.” But she asked and asked, and finally I broke down and watched the darn thing. And fell in love, just as she knew I would. Every year after that, she’d ask me on Easter if I’d watched it. And, because I am just the teensiest bit tradition-prone, within a couple of years it was as ingrained as if I’d been watching it my entire life.

Truth be told, I’m not particularly religious. My interest in Easter has always been purely pagan: give me hot cross buns and Cadbury Creme Eggs over ashes and Lent any day. While the more canonical aspects of Easter aren’t my cup of tea, the rest of it is right up my alley. Easter means family and brunch, a basket of candy and a new dress. What’s a better holiday than that? Sadly, most of those Easter traditions have drifted away as I’ve grown up. Family has scattered, Easter brunch is overpriced and overcrowded, and…well, I married a Jew, so Easter baskets are only slightly less confusing to him than Christmas stockings. Also, Easter is really a kids’ holiday at heart, and I’m what you might call “selectively allergic” to the little sugar-eating munchkins.

But there’s comfort in tradition. It’s a way to relive the parts of the past we remember fondly, viewed through that reassuringly rosy lens of nostalgia that filters out the family squabbles, the mistakes and the regrets that haunt us late at night. It’s a way to hold on to the people we love, a way to remember them and keep them close, even when they’re heartbreakingly far away.

So, although I won’t be donning a pale blue dress with a white pinafore (more’s the pity), and I have a feeling brunch isn’t in the cards, I can guarantee that I’ll spend this Sunday watching Easter Parade (and probably eating a fair amount of Easter candy). I’d give anything to sit on my grandmother’s sofa and watch it with her. But when I press “play” this Sunday morning, she’ll be just a little bit closer to me, and that spot on my chest will ache just a little bit less.

Share 'traditions' on Facebook Share 'traditions' on Twitter Share 'traditions' on Pinterest Share 'traditions' on Google+ Share 'traditions' on Email

secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes

caro issa lk bennett

|  Caro Issa for LK Bennett…aka, the ones that got away (image via Natacha Steven)  |

We all have one, don’t we? That style we secretly admire over and over again out in the world and wish we could wear, but for whatever reason, we’ve absolutely-positively-100% ruled out. Maybe it’s skinny jeans, or mini skirts, or floppy hats or spaghetti straps. For me, it’s a great pair of heels.

Now, a lot of women get heels wrong. Horribly wrong. They clop through a parking lot in pumps that are clearly too big, too tight or too high, wincing and flailing their bodies about in a way that is, well, decidedly un-stylish. And yet. When they’re done right? The air of confidence, authority and – yep – sex appeal they immediately convey…it’s undeniable. Also, they’re so preeeettttyyy. The shoe department at Neiman Marcus is like visiting my favorite museum. Those gorgeous colors, the luxuriously soft leather, a contrast heel here, a light smattering of beads or intricate embroidery there…everything is so sculptural, so ornate, so available for purchase. Truly, I think 75% of the reason I watched Sex and the City was to see Carrie strut so effortlessly through the streets of Manhattan in pair after pair of jaw-dropping $500 heels.

Yes, whenever I clap eyes on a gorgeous pair of 4″ Manolos (don’t click…I’m warning you…), I get positively weak in the knees….and the hips and the ankles too. For no matter how much I adore them, no matter how much I want to strut through Union Square in a sky-high stacked heel sandal or a bejeweled stiletto, my newly arthritic body rebels (ah, this autoimmune nonsense just keeps giving and giving). My joints these days are an aberration, much better suited to high tops than high heels. Even wearing ballet flats is a treat for me now, and I’ve lately found myself veering toward that dark, spooky corner of the shoe department typically reserved for grandmothers and the stylistically oblivious.

This very week, in fact, while I should be celebrating the advent of spring the way God intended – by binging on Easter candy – instead, I’ve been torturing myself with a little sandal shopping. Where in years past, I’ve been willing to throw on the cutest thin, flat sandal I can find, this year, things are different. The joints are worse. And though I’m loathe to admit it, I find myself combing through page after page of, cough, “comfort” shoes. Let me just say, friends – it’s a bleak business. In my next life, I’m coming back as a shoe designer, and so help me, I’m going to design shoes with soles and arch support that don’t make me look like your Great Aunt Ethel, freshly rejected from a Portlandia casting call.

At present, there are a hilarious number of shoes headed my way for audition purposes – oh, my poor UPS man. While I haven’t made my way through them all yet, I thought I’d share a few of the styles that…well, at least came as close as possible to chic, without resorting to Birkenstocks (well, okay…one pair…).

But in the meantime, friends: what’s your secret style envy? Come on…I know you have one.


Share 'secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes' on Facebook Share 'secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes' on Twitter Share 'secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes' on Pinterest Share 'secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes' on Google+ Share 'secret style envy & the search for cute, comfortable shoes' on Email

postcard: new glasses

|  via Instagram  |

Can’t decide which I love more: The Royal We (out next month, but nab the first seven chapters for free right here!) or the adorbs new glasses I had to buy to speedread it. (You guys…they’re pink!)

I have a major soft spot for Fetch Eyewear – they’re a super-sweet Portland co, and proceeds go to save homeless pets. So I get cute glasses and I save a dog. No better excuse to shop, if you ask me.

Want some? You lucky ducks can save 30% on any style you want w/code SHOPCARDIO all this month. So, what are you waiting for? Go Fetch!

Share 'postcard: new glasses' on Facebook Share 'postcard: new glasses' on Twitter Share 'postcard: new glasses' on Pinterest Share 'postcard: new glasses' on Google+ Share 'postcard: new glasses' on Email

elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition


| Image via Christian Chaize |

Phew! One of those weeks, my friends…remind me to tell you the one about trying acupuncture for the first time and finding myself immobilized for two days. I guess I’d better stop calling it “hocus pocus nonsense” at this point.

But. In case the weather’s getting you down, I have a couple of pieces of news that might help you do a little tropical vacation daydreaming. First, I’ve updated my Maui travel guide after my most recent visit there earlier this year. It was amazing, as always, and I found loads of wonderful new things to tell you about! So, head right over here for that.

And since you’ll need something cute to wear, I also updated my 100% foolproof “How to Pack for a Tropical Vacation” story. New product links where necessary, and a couple of minor modifications, but honestly, this bad boy is tried and tested by me (and by a lot of you!), and every time I stray from this list, I regret it. Bookmark it and save yourself a whole lot of grief when you’re ready to hit the beach.

And because I’m starting to officially get the itch for spring, I’ve put a few of the newest things I’m dying to add to my cart on my Shop SMC page (since I’m still mad at Pinterest). Is it possible the fashion universe has finally heard my plea for grown-up hemlines? Check out all my current coveting there…and a few extras right here:

Have an absolutely wonderful weekend, friends. Do something special for yourself, would you? Take someone you love out to brunch, sit on a park bench and read a book, or open the “good” wine. You’ve earned it!

Share 'elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition' on Facebook Share 'elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition' on Twitter Share 'elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition' on Pinterest Share 'elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition' on Google+ Share 'elsewhere: the tropical vacation edition' on Email

zen and the art of birdwatching

elena lyakir

| Image via Elena Lyakir |

Meditation isn’t for everyone – and, though I’ve tried more than I care to admit, I’m finally realizing it probably isn’t for me. I’ve tried, really I have. In yoga classes, with special CDs, in total silence, in an actual Buddhist temple…you name it. After reading Eat Pray Love (both times), I tried to “smile in my liver” as the author’s Balinese healer/guru tells her. It lasted about 15 seconds. My brain just isn’t built for silence. Read on

Share 'zen and the art of birdwatching' on Facebook Share 'zen and the art of birdwatching' on Twitter Share 'zen and the art of birdwatching' on Pinterest Share 'zen and the art of birdwatching' on Google+ Share 'zen and the art of birdwatching' on Email

postcard: stowaway cosmetics

|  via Instagram  |
Could not be more obsessed with these itty bitty pots of adorableness from the super-smart ladies behind Stowaway Cosmetics. Highlights: the best BB cream I’ve found, cheek & lip pot in peony, and a concealer so effective, you’ll have to fight me for their last pinky-sized tube. I look like I actually got a full night’s sleep for the first time in two years.
Share 'postcard: stowaway cosmetics' on Facebook Share 'postcard: stowaway cosmetics' on Twitter Share 'postcard: stowaway cosmetics' on Pinterest Share 'postcard: stowaway cosmetics' on Google+ Share 'postcard: stowaway cosmetics' on Email