Category Archives: Fashion

The four warning signs of faux-fancy cuisine

Traveled to a big tourist city last week. After three days of ghastly airline, airport, and convention center food, I splurged on a fancy hotel restaurant that billed its cuisine as “local” (or at least, “regional”).

What a hideous and expensive mistake.

There are more and more of these tourist-targetting restaurants that serve faux-fancy cuisine. Some executive chef comes in and designs a menu, then leaves. A team of low-end cooks slavishly follow the assembly directions, with no modifications based on the quality of the actual ingredients.

I don’t know what was worse that night — the horribly, flabby, thawed shrimp passed off as local or the beautiful fresh scallops tainted with painted-on high-sodium artificial smoke before being seared in a pan of questionable grease.

Avoid these places like the plague.

The watermelon dish

The watermelon dish

Your first clue is the menu: Each dish has three ingredients that, in juxtaposition, raise the eyebrows rather than whet the palate. Watermelon chunks topped with large balls of goat cheese with a side of onions and orchids, anyone?

The second clue is the dinnerware: Gigantic white plates in weird shapes — rectangular, triangular, trapezoidal. Give me a break.

Sauce overkill

Sauce overkill

The third clue is the sauces: Salty, fatty and so highly flavored with hot pepper, mustard, or spices that they obliterate any flavor that the main dish might ever have had.

Finally, the damning fourth clue: A gluey version of balsamic vinegar zig-zagged artistically over your food and the trapezoidal plate. For dessert, it’s raspberry-balsamic glue for the zig-zag.

The scallop travesty (note balsamic zigzag)

The scallop travesty (note balsamic zigzag)

I wanted to cry — particularly for what must have been delightful scallops before they were poisoned with artificial smoke flavoring.

The next day I set out on the road and found myself in a small rural community. At 12:30 p.m. the downtown burger pub was filled with people drinking like fish (cocktails AND mugs of beer?). I got the basic lunch — a hamburger that could have fed three people, a mountain of fries, and a 24-oz. plastic glass of ice-cold Coca-Cola.

I ate the beef patty (quite good) and the tomato slice (fresh, and local) and had a few sips of Coke. You know what? It was about 10 times better than the previous night’s dinner. And so was the service.

When it comes to Naot, think Vinyard

Naot sandal

Naot Reserve

Naot shoes are unique in their ability to combine comfort and European-style fashion. This year their Vinyard collection sandals, with a mid-to-low heel, are hot. The Cabernet has the gladiator look; the Chianti a very classic style that would work beautifully for dressy  occasions. The Muscat has a rather aggressive fashion look, and the Reserve is perfect for an office sandal. I just got the Reserve from Online Shoes, and am wild over it — the front band (as well as the strap) adjusts (via hidden velcro) making it perfect for my wide-in-front feet.

Look to Naot’s Impulse collection for dressier black wedge sandals. The Deluxe,  with lacy cut-out leather, comes in metallic black (as well as in some astonishing colors). It has a deluxe price of $190. The less-expensive Gallus is sturdier and has a tiny elastic inset in the back strap.

Be aware that to get traditional Naot support and comfort, you need to stick with collections that have sturdy soles. I tried the Cheer from the Avante-Garde collection (with a thin footbed) and it was just as painful and miserable to wear as most high-heel sandals from other brands.

Dyed-to-match cashmere sweaters…get ready for Advanced Style

The blog has always cheered me up and inspired me. Now these women come alive in a new documentary:

Fall fashion highlights: Boots, tops, and boyfriend jeans

I’m so excited about fall clothing this year. I have a basket full of beautiful merino, cashmere and silk scarves, some cute black hats, and I haven’t lost all of my gloves…yet.

It helps that (with the exception of those hideous plaid double-breasted babydoll winter coats) this year’s fall fashions are attractive, practical, and even comfortable! Here are the highlights:

Boots: THEY REally are made for walking

born lottie bootThe passion for Frye engineer boots has given way to low-heel equestrian-style boots, which are now ubiquitous on the streets of Seattle. Brown is the favored color. Not only do they look great, they’re easy on your feet.

Tip: If you love the boot look but have trouble getting boots that fit over muscular calves check out the Born boots at I tried on a few pair of Born boots at a store in Seattle, purchased a pair of the Lottie equestrian boots, and then went online to look at a much wider selection. I’m now rather wishing I’d gotten the Lizzie (very subtle studded, and in a choice of black, red, or tan). I did, however, go completely over the top and order the Montana in grey with red insets. Not a subtle look!

Tops: Essential TEES

I lived in black Gap essential and market t-shirts over the summer, so got the Gap essential neck long-sleeved tee for winter. It runs large, so I got a petite medium rather than a petite large. It’s lightweight, extremely soft, and drapes but doesn’t cling. I expect that this shirt will have the same problem with durability that I’ve experienced with other Gap lightweight t-shirts (one even came with a hole in it and had to be returned) but I’ll tolerate that to get the great fit. The crew neck is neither dorkily high or stupidly low — it’s a modified scoop. Price? $23 or $17 on sale. The Gap fluid pleat-back (rayon) T looks intriguing, but I’m waiting for the reviews. The phrase “skinny sleeves” has me worried.

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Bad Bounce

I loathe scented dryer sheets, and I have to wonder about the people who use them.

1. The smell is wretched and overpowers pleasant, natural scents. I don’t use dryer sheets, but my next door neighbor does. Unfortunately, her dryer vents onto my property. I can’t tell you how many times this spring and summer I’ve gone out to enjoy my garden only to be driven back indoors by the acrid, cloying stench of Bounce dryer sheets. Writer Jane Periat describes it perfectly in this column for CoastViews Magazine.

2. The disgusting smell is impossible to get rid of. I love buying clothes on eBay, but I’m about to give up because items that arrive smelly and oily from contact with dryer sheets are impossible to clean. Just out of curiosity, I washed one Bounced t-shirt 10 times — after soaking it in vinegar, stain removers, Borax, and even the Oxy-Clean solution used to remove pet smells — and it still smelled strongly of artificial perfumes.

3. They cause allergic reactions in many people. Ask a dermatologist.

4. Not that anyone seems to care, but many of the chemicals in the dryer sheets — and their emissions from dryer vents — are carcinogens. I’m not quoting a bunch of New Age finger-waggling alarmists here. I’m citing a study by environmental engineering researchers from the University of Washington, quoted by CBS news.

Can anyone tell me what is so wonderful about dryer sheets that it’s worth annoying and poisoning yourself and your neighbors when you use them?

I love Vera Wang

I used to think “elegant wedding gowns” when I heard the name of designer Vera Wang. And with good reason, because that’s what her design group is known for.

But after seeing the designer and her staff featured in the Wall Street Journal’s  weekly “Work Wear” column, I now think “great professional clothing.” They don’t just design it; they wear it.

The photos accompanying the article show Wang and her staff in beautiful tones of olive and beige worn with black basics — many of the fabrics interestingly textured knits, wools, heavy cottons, and mesh. In short, they were wearing classic mix-and-match elements that would make a great wardrobe for urban professionals of all ages.

Dressy jackets and sumptuous tops


More than 10 years ago I bought a plain black top at a boutique in Langley, Washington. The top was by a Canadian company called Sympli, and when I went to find more of the tops a few years ago, they were impossible to get in the U.S. But Sympli is back, available in expensive boutiques and, of course, in thrift stores. The shirt I bought 10 years ago still looks brand new, and I recent found an even nicer Sympli top — scoop neck, navy blue — in a thrift shop. Now I’ve spent quite a bit more to get a Sympli tank top through Adare’s Boutique, which sells on eBay. It seems that they’ve made their sizes a bit larger in the past decade, or perhaps are suiting them more for the American customer. Anyway, still great silky material that drapes rather than clings. Sympli clothing comes in a dizzying choice of necklines, sleeve lengths, etc., but this chart from Sympli explains it.

Bella Sisters jacket

Bella Sisters jacket

Bella Sisters

Two or three years ago I bought a gorgeous remade vintage jacket by Bella Sisters at the Fremont Sunday Market. Sadly, I was so entranced by the clever appliqué and cashmere sweater trim (and hood) on the tweed jacket that I didn’t pay sufficient attention to the fit. Like most jackets, vintage or current, it was too longwaisted for me. And, I decided, I’m just too petite to carry off a bulky hood on a tailored jacket. I sold the jacket.

This weekend I ran into Bella Sisters at the Northwest Folklife Festival and gave it another try. I found a jacket that really fit, and I asked them to remove the hood (which they were most gracious about doing). This left me with a beautiful brown tweed jacket with gray appliqué, front and back, and tan fresh-water pearls. I think Bella Sisters is more of a Portland, Oregon, presence than Seattle these days, but you can also find them online.