Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Little Secret of Old Jaffa

Old City of Jaffa was our last stop in Tel Aviv before catching a cab to Bengurion Airport.   The oldest sea port in Israel, it has been a center of the trade and merchant activity for thousands of years.  The bright blue sea with colorful old boats and white sand beaches reminds of Cesaria, while narrow, paved streets have Jerusalem lime stone feel.  Jaffa is an island of ancient history in the modern, filled with skyscrapers, supermarkets and high-speed freeways city.  The atmosphere here inspires to create, design, paint… No wonder that a lot of design studios, art galleries, and small boutiques have found a home in the small cobbled streets of the Old City.

After alfresco breakfast of coffee, fresh squeezed juices, freshly baked croissants and  fruits in one of the many outdoor cafes, we’ve embarked on our artistic tour.  You could write a book about every little store or gallery we’ve visited, however, for me the highlight of the trip was visiting the tiny studio of fashion designer Liat Azar.   Finding it was a miracle in itself since these narrow streets with paved stairs running up and down were like a maze.  You have no clue where you going, what you will find or how to get back; you just have an urge to continue to explore.  There was a sign on the stairs going down and we followed it.

The interior of the studio consisted of a sewing machine, an assortment of various seamstress supplies, and shelves with different colored threads and embroidery.  There were a mannequin and a few racks with clothes.  I haven’t seen garments like this anywhere else.  Feminine, gentle, with open-edge seams and impeccable, unexpected details, they were sewed of the softest fabric.  Made in warm earthy colors, it seemed that these dresses have no weight; that they would float with the wind.   I liked all of them, but wanted to pick only one.  That was not an easy task.  My husband and kids were constantly bringing me new pieces to try, one better than the other.

The friendly young woman with short dark hair offered help.  She was the person behind all of these creations, designer herself – Liat.   She spoke pretty good English with pleasant accent, and had a measuring tape over her neck. I’ve eventually decided on one dress; grey, long, made of the soft fabric that wrapped my body, like I was born in it.  It had an open versatile neck line and short sleeves.  Once I came out of the fitting room, Liat gave me a quick tutorial about different ways to wear the dress.   The belt and neckline could be manipulated to make it either a casual or an evening dress; different accessories could add to the look I choose; I could wear it with flats, heels, or knee high boots.  She also attached a small white stone with a hole to the belt to make it fall down nicely - a small element that made a dress even more unique. I told her: “I would buy her whole store if I could.”  We talked a bit and joked around; my husband took a picture of two of us before we left.

I got a surprise gift for my birthday from my husband this year.  It was a dress – black with white open-edge seams and a black belt.  It could be worn as a dress or a tunic over leggings or skinny jeans. I recognized the familiar logo on the label.  He called Liat few weeks before.   She asked for my size, which he was not sure about, and did not plan on measuring me either, since it would ruin the surprise.    That was when the picture from Jaffa came in handy.  Being a control freak and creative professional himself, he wanted to discuss the sketch before the dress was made.  Well, I loved it and it fitted me perfectly.  Did I mention I got a silk scarf as a bonus too?

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Look younger. Why?

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode; but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” Audrey Hepburn

“Get dressed, look younger” is one of the tons of articles I came across about how to shave years off your look.  People make careers out of teaching others how to look younger; give advice, write books, discuss it on talk shows, and do TV specials. Every woman’s magazine has a spread with firming creams and moisturizers, and another one with food and recipes to slow aging process. Celebrities that just turned 30, 40, or 50 gladly share the secrets of their glowing faces, and shapely figures as well as introduce you to their fitness instructors, beauticians and personal chefs. My question is why? Why should I look younger?

I want to look beautiful and stylish always; when I am young or old, when I get up in the morning, or go for a stroll with my dog and when I go to a theater or do laundry.  Nevertheless, I also don’t want to make a full time job out of getting rid of every wrinkle on my face, spending hours in the gym and eating the food I hate, so that nobody will ever figure out the dirty secret of how old I am. I want to look good, but I refuse to wake up 2 hours earlier in the morning, so that I can blow dry my hair and put on layers of makeup. I don’t want to be highlighted, hair extended, bronzed, acrylic tipped, botox injected or altered in any other way. Yes, I am lazy, and I like to sleep. Maybe I should fight my wrinkles with a magic blender breakfast recommended by 7yearsyounger.com  “to give you an anti-aging boost while powering you through a morning of holiday shopping.”

“ Blend: 1 banana, cut into pieces; 1 cup ice; low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt; ¼ cup cold strong coffee; 1 Tbsp nut butter; 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder; ½ tsp. vanilla extract; and zero-calorie sweetener to taste.  Top: with 2 Tbsp. fat free Reddi-wip.”

The initial reaction to the recipe was to scream: “Help!”  First of all, I don’t have all of the ingredients (I don’t usually buy nut butter). Secondly, I don’t eat sweeteners or fat free; I use regular sugar and whip cream (better fat than chemicals). Lastly, I have to make strong coffee and cool it before making a shake (how long will this take?).  It seems to me like a lot of work for making a breakfast. Can’t I just have a cup of coffee with toast, or cereal and call it a day? I looked in the mirror envisioning my old, prematurely aged, wrinkled face, trying to weight all pros and cons of making a shake…

This obsession in our culture with looking young is stressful and consuming a lot of time and money.  The critical mistake with this approach is that looking young does not equal looking good, and vice versa. What needs to be promoted, in my opinion, is taking care of yourself, inside and out, staying healthy and celebrating who you truly are.

The $2.3 billion anti aging skin care industry experienced drastic growth in the past few years.US women use way more anti aging creams than in other countries.  According to a global survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPA), The United States is ranked first also. Does it make American women look younger than their European or Asian counterparts? I doubt it, but they certainly are more depressed and spend a lot more money on it. Is it really worth the effort?  What are we trying to accomplish?

“Looking younger” sells; it makes tons of money for a lot of people. There is a stigma in the US that as soon as you reach a certain age, you would somehow turn into some ugly old woman, unless you do what “look younger” books and articles tell you to do. I saw a book in the library the other day with the title “40, and still fabulous”.  In fact, every article or book about more mature women has the word “still” in it; still sexy, still sophisticated, still stylish. But the author and Style Expert Kim Johnson Gross assures women that there is a glimpse of hope: “If you are women over 40, you need to know that you can be just as sexy and vital looking as your younger counterparts.” Really? How about Catherine Deneuve, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Vanessa Williams, Elizabeth Hurley, Cindy Crawford, and many others, famous or not?  These women can easily kick the butt of majority of the younger ones.  The mature beauty has many more dimensions to it; there is depth, grace, sophistication, self-confidence, and attitude.

Nobody argues that when you reach a certain age, you need to pay more attention to your health, skin, and muscle tone to account for physiological changes, but media in other developed countries calls it “aging gracefully”.  “Ageless beauty:  The secrets to looking good at any age”, shares with us Canadian “Elle”.  “French Secrets to aging gracefully” reveals “Sydney Morning Herald.”  Becoming older is not a dirty word; in fact it has a lot of advantages.  In my early 40th I feel much better then in my 20th or 30th.  My skin is a bit older, and I have to color my hair once in a while; but I enjoy my life so much more. I know who I am, and what I want.  I’ve progressed from constant running, worrying, getting upset over some small stupid things to feeling calmer, starting to appreciate small things, living in the moment.  I care about how I look, but it is not a defining factor.  Now I care more about how I feel than how I look.

European women don’t feel the need to torture themselves to age well. Going to the gym is not something they would consider. Walking, going up the stairs whenever they get a chance, swimming are more preferable than running for hours on treadmill or pedaling exercise bike  in skin-tight spandex clothing in a room full of sweaty people.  ”I always wake up early and jump out of bed – sometimes not wanting to, because one can always find an alibi not to exercise – and then I take a walk for an hour. And as I walk round the park I always think, ‘Maybe round the corner I am going to find something beautiful.’ I always think positively. It is very rare that you find me in a mood that is sad or melancholic,” says Sofia Loren.

What strikes me the most is how American women try to control their weight with new diets. They’ve tried a hundred of diets before, and still ended up with the weight they were not happy with; but why should it stop them. The new one will work for sure. In every library and book store there are shelves with diet books; doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers will oversee the process. To share the experience and keep track of the progress you can visit Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig meetings close to your house. For an affordable (or not) price you can have 3 meals per day delivered to your house. If you still feel hungry- no problem, just drink the special protein shake or eat a power bar.   Skinny women in beautiful clothes smile at you from TV screen sharing how a few months of depriving yourself of the food you like will make you lose unwanted weight.   Now, that your enormous willpower and determination make the evil pounds go away, the question is what happens next; after the diet is over?  If you don’t have healthy eating habits, dieting is useless; plus it may harm your skin.

Mireille Guiliano shares how French women approach the challenges of controlling weight in her book “French women don’t get fat”. She doesn’t write anything new or ground breaking. Drink water; eat natural, good quality food, three meals a day, reasonable portions.  Don’t deprive yourself of anything. If you indulge in cakes and chocolate one day, take it easy on sugar for the next few. In fact, I am sure more French women would get fat, should they not have known how to control their weight.  They love bread and chocolate, eat three course meals, drink champagne, and are not willing to give it up any time soon.  I am sure, that if you tell an Italian that she would have to stop drinking wine to look younger, she would laugh in your face. When asked about her famous curves, Sophie Loren responded, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti… If you stick to a healthy sauce, pasta is fine. I have lots of energy, and that is because I cook my own food, I go for walks in the woods, and I enjoy myself. ” The stunning Italian actress appeared in famed Pirelli calendar at age of 72.

The problem is that we, in America, don’t have a culture of eating.  Having lunch at your desk at work, or getting junk at a drive-thru window is an acceptable way to eat; we are in a rush, what else are we suppose to do?  Supermarkets are full of processed, pre-cooked and frozen foods.  Fresh produce – we have forgotten even how a good tomato or apple is supposed to smell. In fact, I am usually the only one in the produce section smelling the fruits; other shoppers look at me like I am insane. We are so used to bad food, that it has become a norm; we simply don’t know any better. Until we wake up to what this chemically-induced cuisine is doing to our health and body, we will torture ourselves with anti aging diets, and pretend that they work.

However, the most important component to aging well is how you feel about yourself.   If your life is filled with love, warm energy, new exciting things, it shines through. In her book “Women and Beauty” Sophia Loren writes: “The woman who spends all her time using makeup to camouflage her wrinkles, dye to disguise her hair and exercises to reshape her body will reach a point where she can be nothing but a failure because her goal is an impossible one…..I think a more satisfying and realistic approach to our quest for beautiful skin is to remember that face is an indication of character. When we are young we are unformed, and there is little to see in our faces except the smoothness that nature has given them. However, as time goes by, we take responsibility for our faces-not only in the care we give them but more important, in what they show of our natures. Boredom, complaints, bad temper, irritation are all visible in the face, and over a period of time become inedible. But serenity, humor, kindness and understanding also mark the face and will give it a timeless beauty.”

 

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Gina & May Umbrellas

The new umbrella collection by Gina and May, mother-daughter team from Australia, is full of vibrant colors and basic shapes.  These playful, eye-catching umbrellas are also high quality and durability, so no matter how strong the wind is, or severe the rain, you are not going to get soaked.

My favorite, though, is an elegant classy black and white striped umbrella.  It is simply stunning and would go well with any outfit.

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Cycling Rainwear

Bicycling has become a norm on the urban landscape.   New York recently has started emma jorn buddy rainCityBike program, and in many big cities where parking is limited and expensive, and to drive one block takes longer than to walk, bike is the most convenient way of transportation.  But what if it starts drizzling? Emma Jorn, Danish designer, came up with the perfect and quite glamorous solution to this problem.

Her rainwear collection consists of colorful jackets, ponchos and “dresses” with hoods, as well as covers for bicycle baskets.  Her designs are simple, yet elegant; functional, yet feminine.  Interesting silhouettes remind of abstract paintings, alien invasions and space suits with visor.

Emma Jorn Regntøj

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