Why You Really Do Need a Wine Fridge if You Drink Wine

March 30th, 2014

Drink WineMy husband and I have gotten into wines. He’s been pushing for a wine fridge for some time but I’ve resisted. It seemed kind of needless when we had more than enough space in our kitchen fridge.

But did you know the temperature of your kitchen fridge is probably too cold for wine? Plus, the temperature fluctuates wildly every time the fridge door is opened! I did some research and I discovered that most wines are ideally stored in cooler temperatures that do not fluctuate and that the too cold temperature and the fluctuating temperature of your kitchen fridge can cause a chemical reaction in wines that can ruin the taste. By no means do my husband and I buy expensive wines but I started to wonder how often I had disliked a particular bottle because it was ruined in our fridge.

After learning this, I agreed with my husband that we should purchase a small wine fridge and see if we noticed a real difference in the flavor of our wines. The one we found fits nicely inside a kitchen cabinet but it is small enough to put on a counter as well.

Different wines call for different serving temperatures which caused a bit of a problem for us, at first. Reds are best served at 55-66 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on if it is a rich red wine or a light one. And wines like blushes and whites taste best when they are chilled to 46-57 degrees Fahrenheit. Champagne, which we don’t keep on hand, should be served at 43-47 degrees Fahrenheit. We drink red and white wine so after doing some research, I discovered that both can be stored at 55-degrees Fahrenheit.

I must say, in this instance, my husband was right. I immediately noticed a difference in the taste of our wines. Even bottles that I had previously scrunched my nose up at now taste delicious! I would recommend to anyone who likes to keep a few bottles of wine at home to invest in a small wine fridge because it will make the taste of the wine so much more enjoyable.

Do You Have the Right Outdoor Furniture for Your Family?

March 30th, 2014

My family was at the large wholesale club in my area and I was surprised to see my kids had gravitated to a display of outdoor furniture. I was surprised because we have a nice outdoor table and chair set on our back patio and they haven’t used it in two years. But lounging on the wicker settee and propping their feet on the ottoman, they looked really comfortable. Like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. It made me wish they could enjoy our back patio like that.

So why weren’t they? We have nice outdoor furniture.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that while we had a nice patio set, it was clearly the wrong set of furniture for our family. My kids weren’t looking for a table and chairs, essentially an outdoor version of our kitchen table. They wanted something along the lines of our family room. Someplace where they could spread out and get cozy.

The furniture set they were lounging on at the warehouse was too large for our outdoor space but I was suddenly inspired to find something that would work for my family. I posted our patio set for sale on line and once it was sold, I started looking for outdoor furniture that would better meet the needs of my family.

I started online, because I thought it would be easiest if I found something that could be delivered, rather than trying to get a whole furniture set home myself. Our back patio is small, but I thought it could accommodate a 4-piece set, a sofa, two small chairs and a coffee table.

It took a lot of looking but I finally found the perfect set: A wicker set with canvas pillows. It is a small sofa, two club chairs and a rectangular ottoman that does double duty as a table and extra seating. My family couldn’t be happier. My kids are out there all the time and we’ve even invited the neighbors over a few times!

Not Your Father’s Wedding Ring

March 30th, 2014

Not Your Father’s Wedding RingWhen it came time to shop for a mens wedding ring my husband (then fiancé) put it off for so long that I started to wonder if he was having second thoughts about marrying me. It turned out, he was reluctant to wear a wedding ring. He had seen his father spend decades twisting his own wedding ring and taking it on and off because it was uncomfortable so he assumed all rings were like that. He also didn’t like the idea of a plain silver or gold band but didn’t want something flashy, either.

It took some cajoling, but I was finally able to convince him to try on a few wedding bands. He was pleasantly surprised at the large selection available. He even tried on a stainless steel band that had a wood inlay (we didn’t pick that one)! All of the bands he tried on were comfort fit bands. Comfort fit bands have a slight curve or dome on the inside of the band that makes it, well more comfortable than other bands. Comfort fit bands are generally recommended for men and especially for men who do not typically wear jewelry. My husband agreed that the comfort fit band was much more comfortable than the standard fit bands so we focused on those.

There are really a lot of new designs in men’s wedding rings and since I didn’t feel like our bands needed to match—really I just wanted him to wear one!—my husband felt comfortable trying on a variety of styles. I thought he would pick a plain stainless steel or titanium one but he surprised my when he selected a grooved platinum band. It isn’t too flashy or too drab and fits him perfectly, plus, it’s comfortable!

How to Buy Your Guy a Not-Wedding-Ring Ring

March 30th, 2014

So I wanted to get my husband something romantic for our anniversary and for some reason, rings popped into my head. My husband isn’t a jewelry guy, (his wedding band is plain and looking pretty scuffed) but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be nice if he had a ring for special occasions. Just a little bit of bling for a night out. But I didn’t want something that had a definite wedding band look and even though it’s a current trend in men’s rings, I knew he wouldn’t want a ring with a stone in it.

I did some online research and was very pleased to find several men’s rings that did not look like wedding bands but were dressy enough for a night out. There are some really cool colored stainless steel rings and I also saw some modern looking titanium rings that would look fabulous on a right hand. After selecting a ring (I went with a cool blue stainless steel ring), I realized I wasn’t sure which finger my husband would want to wear it on. I cajoled my brother into taking a trip to the jewelry store and after trying rings on all of his fingers and his thumb, I thought the ring would look best on my husband’s right ring finger. It might also look good on his pinkie but I knew he wouldn’t wear it there.

Well the big day came and my husband loved the ring! He thought it was cool and masculine looking. He’s worn it several times already and not only on special nights out!

Makeup and Masquerade Masks can Mix

March 30th, 2014

Makeup-and-Masquerade-Masks-can-MixI finally had an opportunity to wear a venetian mask and I immediately ran into a problem: How do you wear makeup with a masquerade mask? They are a little bit expensive, and pretty delicate so the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it with makeup stains. After a quick look online, I found a couple of tips that really helped.

Masquerade Makeup is Not Your Everyday Makeup

Invest in a really good, waterproof foundation. A trip to the cosmetics counter could be necessary to find a good one. And apply it with a damp sponge so it isn’t too thick. Use a finishing spray to set the foundation and keep it from smearing on your mask. Whatever you do, don’t use powder because it will definitely transfer to the mask.

Even though I had a mask, I still wanted eye makeup. The eye slits on my mask were pretty wide. You could see my entire eye area except my eyebrows. Before applying shadow, I used concealer so it wouldn’t smear. A primer might have worked but I worried it would fail if I got too warm behind the mask. After applying all my eye makeup, I sprayed it lightly with the finishing spray. I opted for using false eyelashes—something I’ve never worn before. They are so much fun!—instead of using waterproof mascara. And the little ‘jewels’ on my false eyelashes worked well with the beads and scrollwork on my mask.

The mask seemed to really emphasize my lips so I used a lip liner and lip brush to make sure they looked the best they could.

It’s funny, I thought wearing a mask would cut down on the amount of time it took to apply makeup but just the opposite happened. But it was so worth it!

Hammocks: Quality R & R!

March 30th, 2014

We finally got the backyard of our dreams and my husband I wanted to put up a hammock. I would stare out at our serene backyard and imagine wiling away Sunday afternoons in a hammock with a good book. But I was surprised to see the big price difference there is in hammocks so I thought I’d better find out more about them before making a purchase. It turns out different hammocks have different functions. Some work well as beds but others—not so much. And some are good for hot weather and some are not.

The string hammocks are designed to be comfortable for long lounging periods and are good for hot weather areas. But they’re not as durable as a canvas or rope hammock so you might have to replace it after a year or two.

A canvas hammock is the most bed-like and ideal if you want a hammock you can spend a long time in. Hint: naps. They are easy to get in and out of and feel stable while you’re in it. But they have almost no ventilation, so it can get uncomfortable on hot days.

I found out that rope hammocks, which is what you think of when you hear the word hammock, will essentially last forever but they are the least comfortable and I felt the least stable in it of the three hammocks I tried.

In the end, I went with a cotton-yarn canvas hammock and I love it! Summers are pretty comfortable where I live so it was the best choice. The only drawback is that I can’t leave it out during inclement weather. But since we used an S-hook system, taking it down and putting it up really isn’t a big deal.

Utterly Fascinating

March 30th, 2014

Utterly FascinatingDid you watch the royal wedding a few years ago? I did and ever since then I have been obsessed with the tiny-hat like bands that many of the women wore. This little hat-like object is called a fascinator and it is a woman’s version of the man’s formal top-hat. Traditionally, a fascinator is worn to formal events although this is starting to change. Fascinators are usually attached to a headband or clip and they were once made of lace or feathers although nowadays, they are constructed of a variety of fabrics and embellished with things like beads and crystals.

The formal fascinator is one of those new-old traditions. Meaning at first it was a wool or lace shawl that was embellished with feathers that a woman draped over her head, then it became what we know today–the women’s version of a hat. Fascinators dropped out of fashion in the 1970s except at really formal UK and European events but by the end of the twentieth century, the little hats had started to make a comeback.

Overall, fascinators are most common at UK and European weddings and whenever formal attire is required. Like hats, fascinators are designed by milliners and there are many famous designers who create fascinators.

I think fascinators are beautiful and unique but they really aren’t worn in the States except during big events like the Kentucky Derby. I think that is starting to change though, as many designers are creating fascinators for events like prom. Fascinators made out of ribbon are becoming popular with younger women to wear during the spring and more and more fascinators—especially the smaller ones—are being worn with casual clothes. I wore a feather and crystal fascinator at my outdoor wedding instead of a veil and loved the look of it. It really is a way to incorporate a bit of your own personality into your outfit.

Claddagh Rings

March 30th, 2014

I was browsing one of those street fairs with my girlfriends when I came across a vendor selling silver jewelry. He had the sweetest looking silver claddagh ring with a red stone for the heart. It got me wondering if there was a certain meaning to the ring. I knew the claddagh ring originated in Ireland, but that was all I knew about it. Did you know the claddagh (pronounced ‘kla de’) ring comes from a fishing village that was called Claddagh and was designed in the 1600s. The ring does have symbolic meaning: the hands represent friendship, the crown stands for loyalty, and the heart symbolizes love. It is any surprise that the claddagh ring was a popular choice as a wedding and engagement ring?

How the ring is worn is important. Single ladies wear the ring on their right hand, with the tip of the heart pointed out if they are open to a relationship. They wear it with the tip of the heart facing inward (to the wrist) if they are in a relationship. An engaged woman will wear the ring on her left hand with the heart tip facing out and a married woman will wear it on her left hand with the heart tip facing in (toward her heart).

In the late 1900s, the claddagh design became a popular symbol of Irishness for those living outside of Ireland. It could be found on gravestones, home décor, and even business signs. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to find the claddagh symbol used in conjunction with other Celtic symbols.

I was surprised to learn that a claddagh ring without the crown has  political symbolism. The Fenian claddagh ring became popular with those who supported Ireland seceding from the British empire.

Even though I’m not Irish, I love my little claddagh ring and what it symbolizes and I wear it every chance I get.

How to Pull Off a Bow Tie

March 30th, 2014

How to Pull Off a Bow TieI was in a department store the other day and I noticed a lot of the mannequins in the Men’s Suit department were wearing bow ties. Most had bow ties with suits, some had bow ties with collared shirts and I was surprised to see one mannequin with an undone pre-tied bow tie hanging around its neck. At first, I thought this last one was a mistake or the department stylist wasn’t finished dressing the mannequin, but it turns out this is a current trend in bow tie fashion.

I’ll be honest. I’ve always loved a bow tie. There is just something dapper and iconic and a little bit old-fashioned about it. It makes me smile. Although bow ties are gaining in popularity, they are still not as common as neckties so it can be hard for the bow tie wearer to know just when and how they should wear it.

In reality, a bow tie can be worn to any function and with any outfit that calls for a necktie. But wearing one is like wearing a hat; you have to own it. If you feel self-conscious about wearing the bow tie, then you’ll never be able to pull it off. I think in cases like this, it’s best to start wearing bow ties to certain events and work your way up to wearing one daily (or days that you wear suits). Maybe start with a solid colored bow tie in a neutral color that won’t stand out. Once you begin to feel more comfortable with the bow tie, try ones in different colors and patterns. In no time, you’ll be wearing a bow tie with the ease and confidence that you have with neckties.

A Ring With A Stone

March 30th, 2014

I wanted to get my mom a grandmother’s ring. It is a ring with a stone that stands for the birth-month of each grandchild. I started to wonder if the birth-month stones had any special meaning. It turns out there is a whole history behind the birthstones that is really fascinating. For instance, it was a Jewish historian named Josephus who in the first century found a connection between the stones, the months of the year and the stones inlaid in a breast plate which, according to the book of Exodus was worn by a high priest.

In the 1800s, Tiffany & Co. published a charming poem about the months and their corresponding stones that helped to cement the idea of birthstones. The poem suggest that a lot of good things will happen when people wear their birthstone. Traditionally, the stones have been used in girls and women’s jewelry but there is no reason a boy can’t wear his birthstone. I liked the Tiffany poem so well that I bought a little ring (not Tiffany’s) for both of my daughters that has their birthstone in it.

The stones have changed a little over the years and some countries such as the UK have their own list of birthstones, but here are the most common birthstones:

January—Garnet; February—Amethyst; March—Aquamarine; April—Diamond; May—Emerald; June—Pearl; July—Ruby; August—Peridot; September—Sapphire; October—Opal; November—Topaz; December—Turquoise

When I gave my mom her grandmother’s ring, I also gave her a copy of the Tiffany & Co. poem. I think she thought it made the ring a little more special.