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|  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.

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what to where: poolside style

Friends, it is my most fervent hope that, whatever stresses and calendar obligations might befall you this summer, you have at least one day blocked off to do…absolutely nothing. And ideally, you’ll be doing all that nothing poolside, with a cocktail in hand (or at least a glass of wine). poolside style Read on

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weekend forecast

weekend-forecast, via shopping's my cardio

Where on earth did this week go, friends? Is November scaring the pants off you with its apparent insistence on hurtling toward December at a breakneck pace? Or is that just me? Mental note: must find a way to take a deep breath and have a cocktail before my brain scrambles entirely. Besides drinking myself into a semi-relaxed state, here’s what I’ll be up to this weekend: Read on

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tricks of the trade: how to stretch the waistband on your jeans

how-to-stretch-your-jeans, via shopping's my cardioHere’s a trick I’ve been keeping under my hat for too long, friends: how to stretch the waistband on your jeans. I mean, you know the cardinal rule about buying denim: jeans should fit in the store like they were painted on by a sadistic corset-maker – that is, so tight you can barely breathe. Because, of course, they stretch like crazy, and those perfectly-fitting jeans turn into a saggy mess after a few months if you don’t.

It’s a sound policy with one flaw: the waistband. It’s the only part of the jeans that never, ever stretches, and you’re left with something that’s uncomfortable at best, pain-inducing muffin top at worst.

I got this tip from a salesperson years ago, and to be honest, I thought she was a liar. “She’s just trying to sell me a pair of jeans that doesn’t fit,” I thought. “I’ll show her – I’ll buy them now and return them when it doesn’t work.” Well, the jeans are still in my closet, and I now use this handy little trick all the time.

Here’s the drill: get out your ironing board and iron. (If you, like me, have thrown away your ironing board in a fit of “de-cluttering” your life, you can MacGyver this by using the back of an upholstered dining chair with a towel over it, or a wood cutting board.) Fill up the steam chamber, and turn everything up to the hottest, steamiest setting. Now, do up the zipper and button on the jeans, and slide the waistband over the ironing board. Steam the bejeezus out of the waistband, then pull down hard (Really. Your arm should hurt a little as you do this.) on the bottom of the waistband to stretch them around the board. Now, iron the waistband with one hand while you’re pulling with the other. And be tough about it – the idea is to dry that damp denim while the waistband is stretched. Go around the entire waistband doing this, but don’t go south of the stitching on the bottom of the waistband, or you’ll get some interesting bunching.

Make sure you try them on after going around once – if they’re not stretched enough, do it again. But once around almost always does the trick.

Miraculously, this even seems to stick after washing (of course, you’re never, ever drying your denim all the way, right?). It really does work wonders.

Let me know if you give this one a try!


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four perfect spring dresses (and how to style them)

I’m not much of a dress person. I buy them, mind you. I buy them in bushels, in every color and fabric, convinced they’ll be a snap to throw on when I’m feeling uninspired, and keep me stylish all summer with zero effort.

But in truth, sometimes dresses feel like a lot more work. Better undergarments, more accessories, uncomfortable belts (because we can never wear the belt it came with, of course), more fussing over length and covering up to hide my pasty white arms. In the end, more often than not, I spend 20 minutes frowning into the mirror, then give up and go back to my jeans-and-silk-shirt routine.

This year, I’m going to master dresses, friends. If it’s the last thing I do. So today, I’ll show off a few of my favorites so far this season. And then, we’ll talk styling. Read on

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test case: kiragrace yoga pants

KiraGrace yoga pants, via shopping's my cardio

When KiraGrace asked if I’d like to test out their yoga pants for a story, I have to admit: I half expected to phone this one in. I mean, I have a few pairs, but I’m not what you’d call a collector. They’re all basically the same, right? Some more comfortable than others, sure, maybe a bit of a fabric difference, but at the end of the day…they’re yoga pants. And really, how excited can a person get about yoga pants?

All this to tell you that it shocks no one more than me to say I am excited about these yoga pants. I want to evangelize about them. I want to preach, to sing from the rafters, to tell everyone what they’ve been missing, and buy a pair for every woman I know. These yoga pants are, quite possibly, my new favorite thing.

Read on

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mario testino: in your face and on your coffee table

Mario Testino: In Your Face, Taschen, $60

You know I love a good coffee-table tome. And if it’s one that will spark a lively conversation, no matter who walks in your door? So much the better (and infinitely more interesting than leaving boxes of trivia cards scattered throughout your living room, or playing a rousing game of “Would you rather…?” after one too many white wine spritzers).

This isn’t your mama’s coffee-table book, thank goodness. Everyone from your spouse to Great Aunt Hilda will have an opinion – and a strong one at that – about the contents. But that’s a good thing, right?

Read on

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travel in style: the perfect summer packing list!

Friends, I am so in need of a summer vacation. I’m writing this while wearing a beach caftan and white jeans…in my living room. It’s time to get out of dodge!

I’m thinking if I pack myself an overnight bag now, perhaps I’ll be struck by a spur-of-the-moment inspiration and take myself out on a weekend getaway. Worth a shot, don’t you think? I have a feeling the rest of you may have actual weekend (or week-long) trips afoot, and could use a little guidance on packing the perfect weekend bag.

As usual, I have big dreams of 3 outfits a day, shoes to match, and a whole separate trunk of accessories. But really, summer trips call for minimal effort…and minimal luggage. So, rather than fantasy, this is pure practicality. Skip the fashion-conscious gear and go for versatility. Skip the giant jewels and go for simple. Skip the boring classic novel and go for the trashy celebrity magazines. This is a vacation!

Top: Striped tank, Edith A. Miller, $58 / Tissue v-neck tee, J.Crew, $30 / Callan tee, Velvet, $86 /
Denim shorts
, Joe’s Jeans, $138 / Tank dress, Three Dots, $66

Bottom: Graf + Lantz overnighter, $379 / Druzy studs, Dara Ettinger, $95 / Rope bracelet, Kiel James Patrick, $40 / Archer flat, Dolce Vita, $69 / Espadrilles, ASOS (similar here) / Cenoire electric toothbrush, $35 / Sun Protector, Kiehls, $23

 You’ll need:

* 2 tees: one basic, one fashion-forward
* 1 tank: basic is great
* 1 pair of denim cutoffs: the ultimate in versatility!
* 1 easy summer dress
* 1 pair of sandals/flip flops
* 1 pair of walking shoes
* 1 great bracelet
* 1 pair of simple earrings
* 1 swimsuit
* 1 semi-slinky nightgown (it is a vacation, after all)
* Oh, and…extra undies!

That’s it!

Add your trusty bag of toiletries and you’re set. You do keep that pre-packed, right? No? You don’t know what you’re missing…it’s a total travel game-changer! Head to Nordstrom with a list of your staple products, ask them to make up testers for you (buy something so you don’t feel guilty), and throw them in a Ziploc. I know you have extra makeup lying around, so make yourself a travel bag with the spares. Throw in a toothbrush, treat yourself to a travel flat iron, and leave the whole assembly in your bag, so you never have to go hunting when the open road calls.

Oh, and don’t forget the big bottle of SPF. My sun-phobic favorite this season is from Kiehls – it’s SPF 50, water-resistant and broad-spectrum. Done and done!

Where are you off to this summer? Maybe I can live vicariously…

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