Monday, April 23, 2007

Au Revoir! (Back in about a week or so)

Just a short note to say that CP will be on break until around May 4th or so. Be sure to check back then for notes from my Paris trip!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Prepping for Paris: The Maps

Since I’m the designated navigator for this upcoming Paris trip, I decided that I needed to arm myself with maps. To avoid looking like a tourist with one of those large maps or local free ones, I decided to try and find some that were pretty compact and discreet, were waterproof, fit nicely in a purse, yet would make it very easy for me to get around. Here are some of the better options I found:

The Red Map:

Pro: The easiest on the eyes, with pastel colors and clear font, this map lists quite a few of my favored shop locations (by map quadrant), museums, churches, parks, hotels, and neighborhoods.

Con: Metro stops aren’t listed by name but are shown on the map by colored dots.

Pocket Pilot: truly a pocket map; tiny and folds up into a small square.

Pro: Metro Stops are very easy to read and find as they are punctuated by a blue box. Handy bits of information are on the map, top sights, city statistics, climate, useful phrases, tips on public transport, etc. The major department stores like Printemps and Galeries Lafayette and hotels are clearly marked as well.

Con: Other than the tiny font, I see myself using this frequently because of its small size and Metro stop information.

Streetwise:Paris: The most highly reviewed of the maps on; I don’t think the reviews are padded as I’ve always heard positive things about Streetwise.

Pro: Folds up nicely, is probably the most detailed map available. Great if you find yourself lost on a small street as it will most likely be on this map. Has a detailed Paris Street Index so you can quickly find out where you are on the map. Also marks taxi stands with a large T; taxi stands are the preferred mode to catching a taxi. The New York method of flagging a cab down is apparently not appreciated here. Lists some hotels, the major museums, sites, by quadrant.

Con: Because of the level of detail, looking at it can be a bit of headache. Metro stops are there, but you have to look very hard as they are not highlighted; however, there is a great overview map of the Metro system.

MapEasy (pictured):
Pro: I was drawn to this map because it lists out landmarks, eateries, and shops by their name directly on the map. So if I start to get hunger pangs in the midst of walking along the Champs Elysees, I need only to take this map out and take a glance to find out where the nearest café or McDonalds (in the event I’m craving a little taste from home) is.

Con: Because it is a full-map fold, this map will make you look like a tourist unless you figure out a way to fold it compactly beforehand to show the area you will be in.

Which one is the best? The verdict will be in upon my return (if I can find my way back that is).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Perfect Murder: The Perfect Wardrobe -Part III, The Handbag

And so we conclude this three-part high-level look at the wardrobe of The Perfect Murder, by extolling the virtues of the handbag Gwyneth Paltrow's elegantly attired character totes throughout the movie, the Hermes Kelly.

The Kelly was actually born in the 1930s, then known as the Petite Sac Haut a Courroies (the original and larger Haut a Courroies was originally created to transport saddles in 1892), before it was re-christened the Kelly bag in the mid 1950s in honor of actress Grace Kelly who was a big fan of the bag and at one point, carried one to shield her pregnancy from photographers.

The bag takes approximately 13 hours to construct with over 2,500 stitches. While Kelly bags can be ordered in various sizes and colors and with different hardware, Black box calfskin is revered amongst collectors as being the quintessential and classic leather for the Kelly, particularly with gold hardware. Box calf ages beautifully; some of the oldest bags I've seen have been in box calf and they look wonderful. And it is this exact combination that Paltrow carries throughout the film and not surprisingly, it goes with everything she wears. Indeed, it is the perfect handbag.

Photo: courtesy of TPF member Dressage Queen; used with permisson.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Perfect Murder: The Perfect Wardrobe -Part II, The Clothing

As I’ve gotten older and experimented with trends, it has finally dawned on me that the pieces that have longevity in my closet are classic and basic pieces; a tailored shirt, the perfect black dress slacks, the versatile long black skirt, etc. Not the trendy tops or low-waisted jeans that always make me feel uncomfortable or make Spanx necessary to suck in the sagging skin from pregnancy and prevent the dreaded "muffin-top" look.

Comfortable and classic is what best describes the wardrobe for Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in The Perfect Murder. Nowhere in the film do you see her tugging at low-waisted pants nor wearing the latest trend. Even though her closet is quite large by New York standards, it is neat and has everything hanging in its place. Her closet isn’t overloaded with a thousand tees that she couldn’t resist because they were 5 for $10. Sorry…projecting a bit here.

While we can’t see everything in the closet, we can only extrapolate based on what we’re shown in the film.

For Evening Formal:
Solid colored floor-length evening gown; yes, her evil husband chose it…wonder what she would have picked had he not intervened, but it was beautiful nonetheless and perfectly tailored to her figure. Nothing hanging out, everything tucked in and just perfectly adorned with a necklace, bracelet and a neat chignon.

For Work:
French Blue Button Down Shirt (loved the cufflinks)
Cashmere pullovers and cardigans
Black long skirt
Knee-high boots
Brown long shearling coat
Hermes scarf

Post Murder Attempt/Quick errand:
Fisherman’s sweater—even when she’s at the police station right after being attacked, Paltrow’s character manages to look chic sans makeup with a heavy cable-knit classic oatmeal fisherman’s turtleneck sweater.

Overall, each piece is a timeless basic, and with the exception of the evening gown, work interchangeably with each other in any closet.

Tomorrow: Part III-The Handbag

Photos: Warner Brothers

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Perfect Murder: The Perfect Wardrobe -Part I, The Jewelry

One of my favorite movies is the 1998 remake of 1954’s Dial M for Murder , The Perfect Murder, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Not so much for the movie itself as it is to drool at the perfection and élan with which costume designer Ellen Mirojnick managed the wardrobe for Gwyneth Paltrow’s upper East Side character, Emily Taylor. Despite the character’s evident wealth, which is a major plot point in the story, she wears the same overcoat, jewelry, watch and handbag throughout the film. Elegant simplicity in quality not quantity you know? The pieces chosen are timeless and absolutely classic and worth taking a closer look at.

For starters, let’s take a look at the jewelry used in the film; per the credits, “select” jewelry was provided by Cartier, but many of the designs are quite basic and not exclusive to the jewelry house.

For Work: A long strand of pearls doubled
For Evening: A diamond Riviera necklace and bracelet
Daily: Diamond studs, Tiffany Elsa Peretti floating diamond necklace,
Cartier Panthere watch (now replaced by the Demoiselle model) and Cathy Waterman wedding band

Let’s stop for a moment and focus on this last piece. I love the fact that her character had this delicate, yet striking wedding band instead of a huge engagement ring that one would expect from a Park Avenue princess. It was very consistent with her character’s understated elegance. While it’s possible that a band was chosen because it served as a plot point in the film, it was nonetheless a beautiful choice. Paltrow had a hand in recruiting designer Cathy Waterman to create the wedding band which is actually three of Waterman’s signature delicate floral bands that were fused together for the film. Apparently two bands were made with slightly differing designs and even Waterman herself is a bit unclear as to which one was used. Being the die-hard that I am, I slow-mo’d the film and indeed, the ring used in the film is the same design that is now a part of Waterman’s line; known aptly as “The Perfect Murder” ring. Available at

Movie Photos: Warner Bros.
Ring Photo: Twist

Friday, April 13, 2007

Travel: Prepping for Paris-The Restaurants

I'm leaving for Paris in a few weeks time and have been scrambling trying to get the itinerary together. When I travel, the sights are secondary to the food and shopping. In fact, I have been known to shallowly reject prospective vacation sites because they were deficient in the latter two categories. Given that Paris has an abundant selection of options for both food and shopping, I find myself a little overwhelmed as to where to go for both; however, after some research and consultation with knowledgeable friends decided to make reservations via E-mail at three well-known restaurants, and here's what I found:

1. Pierre Gagnaire: (French-only website that I could tell); luckily, I recognized the word "Contact" in the titles and clicked on that. I E-mailed them a few months ago only to receive a reply that they do not take reservations more than one month in advance; please E-mail again at that point. I followed instructions, exactly E-mailing them a month from the date I wanted; after no response over four days, I try again. Finally, I get a response. The day I selected was booked. So I try again with another date. Success! Now, please fill out the attached form with your hotel information AND your credit card information to confirm the reservation. I duly fill it out and return it. No response to my request for confirmation of receipt. I try again. Auto-reply stating that the restaurant is closed for a week. Still waiting....

2. Taillevent: (English option on the website). I wrongly assumed that they followed Gagnaire's practice of only one month in advance; so I try one month to the day only to be informed (albeit, in an extremely friendly E-mail) that they are booked solid for dinner reservations for one month past the time we'll be there, BUT they would gladly welcome us for lunch. Great! Same request for information although no CC information, BUT I must call the morning of my reservation before 10 a.m. otherwise my reservation will be canceled. Since our reservation is on a Monday, and they are closed on Sundays, I must remind myself to call the morning of. Now let's just hope they'll pick up the phone at that time.

3. La Tour d', (English option available) -the fastest and friendliest response out of the three. No CC information needed nor form for reply. I had made a mistake about our arrival date and had to modify the reservation, and they got back to me almost immediately accommodating my request for the change. I requested a table overlooking the Seine and the Notre Dame as had been advised and was told they would do their best to accommodate my request. They also attached a PDF of their menu to boot. I am merely requested to confirm my reservation sometime after my arrival; no timeframe specified.

The plus to reserving with the above three is that I was able to communicate in English via E-mail, saving myself the agony of trying to speak very poor French on the telephone with phrase book in hand. Let's just hope that I remember to avoid "ris de veau" (sweetbreads) on my visit.


Pho & Cream Puffs?

When we saw that Pho Than Brothers was opening up a location on the Eastside, we no longer had an excuse to not try out the establishment known for cheap and great Pho served with cream puffs. I was expecting other dishes on the menu encased underneath the glass on our table, but nope, aside from beverages, Pho in every combination and size (from small to XL) was pretty much it. I ordered a medium-sized bowl of the Pho Bo with eye round steak and a glass of Nuoc Mat (Cane Tea). I was pleasantly surprised to see that our cream puffs arrived shortly after we sat down. Any place that serves you dessert first already has a leg up on their competition in my book. Cream puffs were fairly decent and can be bought—15 for $7.50. As for the Pho, when I first saw the clump of rice noodles in the bowl, I was prepared for the noodles to be a bit undercooked and not heated through as I’ve found at some places, but the noodles quickly unfurled and I discovered perfectly cooked rice noodles in a delicious MSG-free broth. The medium-sized bowl of Pho was just right for me, and I even had some left over. Both the Pho and the tea worked perfectly on a cold and rainy day. In short, a great and inexpensive meal.

For locations and menu, visit: Pho Than Brothers

Cash only
Open 7 days a week

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hermes: The Limited Edition Turandot Scarf

In honor of their Charlotte store opening, Hermes has re-issued a limited number of scarves in my absolute favorite Hermes design ever: 2002’s Turandot designed by Natsuno Hidaka. Generally when Hermes re-issues a design, they never do it in colorways that have been previously issued. It is my good fortune that someone over in headquarters didn’t want to have to think too hard because they opted to re-issue the scarf in two previously issued colorways: Prune and Coral. The Prune, which we shall now re-name as Aubergine because, well, it just sounds better, was a colorway that I was missing, and in my humble opinion, is one of the most beautiful colorways. Some fabulous articles on the Hermes scarf and the limited Turandot edition can be found at the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte Observer Style section

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stationery Style:

I’ve had a paper fixation since I was a child. I’m not just talking pretty paper, I’m talking any paper. I collected the labels and wrappers from cans and soaps as a 3-year old and carefully toted my prized collection in what would become another object of fixation as an adult: an old handbag my mom had passed down to me. As I grew older, I discovered the joys of Sanrio, which I’m not embarrassed to say, still captivates me today. However, I’ve also come to enjoy the art of finer stationery, but was quite surprised at how much a small batch of personalized stationery can cost at Smythson, Mrs. John L. Strong, or even Crane. So I had a small batch made up through William Arthur using letterpress and even then, that small batch cost as much as an Hermes scarf. It’s too bad I didn’t come across the website sooner. The site customizes stationery, calling cards (great for play dates), address labels, and even lovely little paperweights. The designs are absolutely charming, taking cues from such popular designs as Goyard’s stripes or Tory Burch’s emblem, but also making available other adorable, yet more traditional motifs such as flowers, monograms, and my personal favorite, a woman toting a Birkin.


Monday, April 9, 2007

Beauty: Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion

I never would have found out about this little treasure of a beauty product had I not gotten a trial-sized version of it from Sephora on one shopping trip. You apply a little on your lids before applying eyeshadow, let it dry for a few seconds, and then apply your shadow over it. Colors appear richer and shadow stays put longer as the powder has something to cling to rather than just dry skin. A little goes a long way; definitely one of my must-haves!

Available at $15


Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter and the Pomegranate?

Happy Easter everyone. As I am due to leave for services here shortly, I will make this brief.

I recently learned something new from an Hermes scarf collector's group I belong to. Apparently, the fruit du jour, the Pomegranate, which seems to be quite popular in recent years, is a symbol of the Passion. Of course I had to look this up and found all kinds of interesting tidbits of information regarding this complex fruit that is now in everything from POM juices to beauty products.


-The pomegranate was first cultivated in Persia 5,000 years ago.
-It was the favourite fruit of the ancient Greek gods and in Ancient Greece, represented life, regeneration and marriage.
-In China, a picture of a ripe pomegranate is a popular wedding gift.
-In Buddhism, the pomegranate is one of the three blessed fruits and found in art as a symbol of abundance and prosperity.
-The pomegranate is a symbol of resurrection and eternal life in Christianity. It symbolised fertility, and this symbolism
was brought to life in 1487 by Allesandro Boticelli in his painting “Madonna of the Pomegranate” which depicts the
Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus with a pomegranate in his hand.
-It is customarily eaten during the Jewish New Year.
-The Prophet Mohammed cherished the fruit saying it brings physical and emotional harmony.
-The ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranate. The Babylonians believed chewing the seeds before battle made
them invincible.
-Pomegranate is used to make grenadine syrup, which is used in cocktails such as Mai Tai or tequila sunrise.

Anyhow, I will be wearing my Les Jardins d'Andalousie scarf (pictured) today, which is laden with pomegranates.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Restaurants: Le Pichet in Belltown

Part of me wishes we tried this restaurant after my Paris trip so I could say without hesitation that this little gem of a French cafe resembles those in Paris. As it is, I will just have to say that this cafe meshes with my idea of what a French cafe would be like in Paris. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, so no pictures of what we polished off today.

Le Pichet is located just a few steps away from Pikes Market in Seattle's Belltown. It is a tiny place, with about 14 tables inside and just another handful out in front. There is also a small bar area.

We went there for lunch and called ahead--no reservations taken they said; just come before 12:30 p.m. and you should be fine. We arrived just after 12 p.m. and seated ourselves at the last open table inside. I ordered the grilled quail watercress salad with avocado and creamy almond vinaigrette, some air-dried country sausage marinated with garlic and chiles, and a Lyon-style onion soup to share. My DH wanted to order the quiche, but was informed that it was sold out; the couple dining next to us had just ordered the last two remaining portions. As an alternative, my husband ordered the two eggs broiled with ham and gruyere (pictured), but I caught him enviously eyeing our neighboring diners' quiches more than once. The server did say that the broiled eggs were among the most popular items on the menu. The quail was perfectly grilled and seasoned; it's too bad the birds are so tiny that half a quail really equals the meat on one chicken wing. The watercress, avocado, and almond dressing served as a wonderful complement to the seasoned quail. The onion soup was well-flavored, not too salty, and quite hearty; really, a meal in and of itself. The sausage was not something I would order again given the amount of food we had ordered; it is really something meant to be enjoyed with a nice baguette and a selection of cheeses.

We capped off our meal with crepes with fromages blanc and caramelized creme tarte. The former was dusted off with powdered sugar and rhubarb compote. The latter was rich--a bit like pecan pie filling without the cloying sweetness, and after a bite of which, prompted DH to say, "they must use gallons of butter here." Indeed the food is rich and not for those dieting, but the portions are small enough for one to hope that Mireille Guiliano's statement that "French Women Don't Get Fat" rings true, and the calories would be justified after a long day of strolling around downtown Seattle on a rare sunny day.

Open Sunday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to midnight
Friday and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

First Photo: Le Pichet
Second Photo: Suzie

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

NY Mag: "The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids"

As the parent of a toddler, I find myself jumping up and down at the slightest response to any command I give or clapping like a buffoon when she does something correctly. I am on the encouragement bandwagon and focused on not making my child feel unworthy, especially having grown up in a conservative and stereotypical Asian environment where praise regarding one's intelligence wasn't exactly part of the daily conversation.

Then I read this eye-opening article by Po Bronson on Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise; I had heard something similar in the past, but the basic point was so well-articulated here that it really stuck with me and is worth including here for parents to read. In short, how you phrase your praise may affect your child's estimation of their own abilities.

His concluding quote really hit it home for me:
"Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.

In a similar way, we put our children in high-pressure environments, seeking out the best schools we can find, then we use the constant praise to soften the intensity of those environments. We expect so much of them, but we hide our expectations behind constant glowing praise. The duplicity became glaring to me."

You learn something new everyday.

An Emergency Purchase: the Olympus WS-300M Digital Voice Recorder

From the time my daughter was born I had always talked about recording her voice and saving it for posterity. Somewhere in storage is a tape of me as a 3-year old getting confused between “Flushing” and “French Fry” when being asked where I lived, and my parents love hearing that over and over again. My daughter is now two, and I haven’t taped a thing. And then today, the bomb dropped. I handed her a sippy cup for her water; this one had a bunch of Sesame Street characters on it, including her favorite, Mo-Mo, but today, when she saw the cup, she actually called him “EL-mo” instead of just “Mo-Mo.” I was stunned. And then it dawned on me, she was growing up, and baby talk was slowly making its way out, and I hadn't captured a moment of it.

When she first started talking, I had loved how she abbreviated words—as if she couldn’t be bothered to say the whole thing so she’d just say the last half of the word. Zebra was “bra” and Elmo was “Mo-Mo.” But no longer, now it’s just “zebra” and “Elmo,” and for some reason, I was really sad. On the positive side, I immediately ran to my laptop to Google “digital voice recorder for Macs” and quickly got to Amazon where I found the Olympus WS-300M had gotten good reviews and easily synced with the Mac so I could just convert the files into MP3s and burn them onto disc to torment her with them at a later date. You can even get a small microphone to go with it.

Hopefully it’ll be easy to use, and in between now and the time that it arrives, my daughter will still be saying “Mama” instead of “Mommy.”


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Otter Love and the Fashion Consultant

A short yet sweet entry today; a friend of mine sent this YouTube link to me--you must watch it until the end.
Sea Otters on YouTube

Also, worth looking at: one of my favorite sections of New York Magazine and the precursor to the now popular Sartorialist, "The Lookbook" which profiles real-life New Yorkers as seen on the streets. The Fashion Consultant profiled here is fabulous and her remarks spot on.
The Lookbook

Photo: Jake Chessum for New York Magazine

Monday, April 2, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma: The Silk Road Ensemble

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble perform. My DH humored my lifelong crush on this virtuoso (still as handsome and charming as ever by the way) by scoring some tickets from Craigslist since the performance had been sold out. Since we were out of town just prior to the performance, he enlisted the help of a loyal friend to do the drop-off and pick-up of the tickets from the seller--which took place in a parked car creepily enough.

I went to the concert completely oblivious as to the program content; while I've always been a fan of his interpretations of classical pieces, I had not been a faithful listener of Mr. Ma's performances with the Silk Road Ensemble, even though he had been performing with the ensemble for eight years. The only piece from the Ensemble I had heard up to that point was "The Desert Capriccio" from the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" soundtrack.

The Silk Road Ensemble performs pieces commissioned by the Silk Road Project, a not-for-profit arts and cultural organization Mr. Ma founded in 1998. The organization derives its name from the Silk Road, which per the organization's website, "refers to a series of routes that crisscrossed Eurasia from the first millennium B.C.E. through the middle of the second millennium C.E. The best known segment of the Silk Road began in the Chinese capital of Chang'an (Xian), diverged into northern and southern routes that skirted the Central Asian Taklamakan Desert, converged to cross the Iranian plateau, and ended on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean in cities like Antioch and Tyre." As such, the pieces commissioned have a strong Asian and Middle Eastern influence, using classical instruments from each that are hardly seen or heard in the Western world.

These influences came to a heady intersection with the program's opening piece, the lively and rousing "Gallop of a Thousand Horses," which showcased each performer's talent and ability right from the get-go. I have to admit that I expected the ensemble to be overshadowed by Yo-Yo Ma's performance and presence, but I was happily mistaken. Each artist more than held their own; each, clearly a master of their own instrument, yet more than able to work beautifully together to create some moving and intense performances.

I immediately hopped onto iTunes when I came home to check out the ensemble's existing recordings ("Distant Valley" is a favorite). Hopefully you'll be as intrigued as I was to find out more about this fantastic ensemble and will be quick to order tickets should they tour in a city near you.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

On Newsstands Now: InStyle's Annual Best Beauty Buys Issue

InStyle magazine has come a long way since its first issue debuted thirteen years ago with Barbara Streisand on the cover. The earlier issues were wafer-thin, no thicker than a weekly tabloid, and now advertising has quadrupled the popular publication’s size. The initial focus of covering celebrities at home has broadened to include style, clothing, entertaining, and an annual issue on the best beauty buys that I look forward to and is currently on the newsstands. I take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t change too drastically from year to year; its consistency lends a bit of credibility to the list for me. My personal favorites: Armani foundation and Cle de Peau’s concealer. It is always a fun read, and particularly helpful if one needs some assistance navigating through the endless choices at the drugstore and department store cosmetic counters.