Category Archives: Style

Hump Day Hacks

Happy Wednesday! Two clever tips caught my eye this week.

How to remove oil stains


Ever dripped olive oil on your clothes, or is it just me? I recently read that one surprising item will remove the stains if you act quickly.

The usual go-to’s are dish soap and laundry detergent, which break down oil. The surprise: aloe vera. You simply soak the stained area in water and rub the gel into the stain. Next, hand-wash the piece and allow it to air-dry.

My question: if you’re hand washing with soap anyway, who’s to say the aloe vera made the difference? But, worth a try if you already have it in the house!

How to keep white sneakers white


Unlike when I was a kid, pristine sneakers are the desired look these days. And the best way to keep them white is to wash them in the washing machine.

Step 1: The night before, sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of baking soda on the outside and inside of your shoes. Be sure to dust it off before you wash them.

Step 2: Remove shoelaces, place in a pillowcase or wash bag and put them in the washer. Taking the laces out of your sneakers makes sure they get totally clean and no remaining dirt stays caked on under the holes.

Step 3: Use a shoe brush or old toothbrush to remove any loose dirt before you put your (lace-less) shoes in the washer.

Step 4: Next, add several towels. The towels act as a buffer between the shoes and the washer, preventing them from getting too knocked around or damaged during the wash cycle. Putting your sneakers in a separate wash bag adds extra protection.

Step 5: Set your washer on the cold delicate cycle and use liquid detergent. No chlorine bleach!

Step 6: Let your sneakers air dry after washing. Never put any type of shoes in the dryer, as the extreme heat will warp rubber or metal details.



The Apocalypse on $10,000 a Day

A couple of nights ago, we watched the 2012 movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The premise: an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and will wipe out everyone in 3 weeks.


What would you do? Here’s my exit strategy.

Liquidate savings, leaving just a little in case the forecast is, you know, wrong.

Fly (first class of course) to a remote tropical island with a 5-star resort. Pack tons of books, many bottles of limited edition Islay whiskey, and sunscreen. (My end-of-life scenario doesn’t include suffering from painful sunburn.)

Check into our suite, having reserved all the rooms on the floor so as not to endure  fighting couples or screaming children.

Every day:

  • Walk on the beach. No sense meeting my Maker with flabby thighs.
  • Have a 3-hour massage, with one hour spent on neck and shoulders.
  • Drink steadily but only to maintain pleasant buzz, not hangover.
  • Have dessert at lunch and dinner. Who’s judging?
  • Have sex. OK, maybe not EVERY day.

Binge-watch all 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders. Mysteries are soothing because  bad guys always get caught. Unlike life.

Be friendly but don’t waste a minute with anyone who is boring or mean.

Consume plenty of fresh papaya, mango and strawberries. End-of-days plan should  not include constipation.

See glorious sunsets.

Gorge on cheese and chocolate. Cholesterol be damned.

Snuggle up with my sweetie every night. Drift off remembering every nice thing that’s ever happened to me.

There are worse ways to go.

Photo source: Pixabay

Lipstick On Your Collar?

Calling all ladies, drag queens, and overly-enthusiastic lovers: If you’ve ever gotten lipstick on your clothes (e.g., on the collar as you pulled a blouse or sweater over your head, or on your sleeve as you brushed your hair) you’ll appreciate the following advice I found online.

After you stop swearing, act quickly and there’s a good chance you can salvage the situation and avoid a permanent stain on your shirt or reputation.

(Adapted from WhoWhatWear)

  1. Remove excess lipstick. Using the smooth edge of a butter knife or credit card, gently scrape off any pieces you can without rubbing more into the fabric. This keeps the stain from spreading.
  2. Blot with alcohol. Dampen a clean cloth or cotton square with isopropyl (“rubbing”) alcohol. Dab gently (don’t rub!); then, rinse the fabric thoroughly with cold water. For delicate or vividly-dyed fabrics, test an inconspicuous area first to make sure the color won’t run.
  3. Apply stain remover if the stain persists. Although eco-friendly stain removers tend to be gentler on fabric, stubborn stains may require a chemical-based product. Either way, check the care label before using a stain remover.
  4. Wash with liquid detergent. Submerge the stained area in warm water and rub gently, using a small amount of liquid detergent. (Note: very hot water can cause the stain to “bleed”.) Once the stain is hard to see, machine washing should be safe.
  5. Another option: hairspray. Spray hairspray directly onto the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Dip a clean cloth in warm water and gently blot the stain. This should remove both the hairspray and the lipstick.

If all else fails, visit your dry cleaner.

A quick Google search reveals that the first use of “dry” cleaning (which is, in fact, a wet process using solvents instead of water) was to get stains out of togas. You’ll be happy to know that modern methods no longer use ammonia derived from urine, which was the ancient Roman method. Ewww.

Today, clothes are loaded into a machine that looks similar to a regular washing machine, and dry-cleaning chemicals are added. One of the most common solvents is tetrachloroethylene, aka perchlorethylene (“perc”), which has fallen out of favor due to health and environmental concerns. As a result, there’s been more widespread demand for biodegradable alternatives such as siloxane.

Finally, here’s a totally random hack I love: To shorten sleeves on a blazer or coat without tailoring, gather the inside sleeve fabric at the elbow and secure with a safety pin. Genius!






Hair Today, and Other Resolutions

My new hair stylist says:

“As we get older, our hair should get softer and our clothes more structured.”

Words to live by! Layers of flow-y fabrics can make us look shapeless, while sharply angled, severe or stiff hair styles can be a harsh contrast to a softening jawline.

January brings with it not only the predictable resolutions (eat less, floss more) but also the sobering bills resulting from December splurges on gifts and entertaining.

If you love fashion, January can be a minefield of temptation. Below are 10 ways to trim your fashion budget this (or any) month, no matter your age:

  1. Break the browsing habit. Whether you’re scrolling or strolling, something’s sure to catch your eye. Unless you need a specific item to fill a gap in your wardrobe or replace an old/worn-out/ill-fitting favorite, resist!
  2. Likewise, note inspirational looks on Pinterest, Instagram or in magazines; then bookmark and set aside to see if you’re still obsessed next month.
  3. Don’t buy multiples or duplicates of stuff you already have. Chances are, one of your many black blazers is still your go-to.
  4. Save on tailoring. Yes, it makes everything look better but try to limit yourself to clothes that fit you right now.
  5. Skip the sales. You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t buy it at full price don’t buy it on sale.” You’ll avoid temptation and shopping regrets.
  6. Put your monthly fashion fix subscription box on hold. If it doesn’t arrive on your doorstep, you won’t crave that new belt, scarf, blouse etc.
  7. Avoid dry-clean-only purchases. They add significantly to the price of an item.
  8. Be careful when ordering from overseas e-tailers. Shipping costs can be significant, especially if you need to return your purchase.
  9. Similarly, don’t order from places without generous return policies and free shipping. That Chanel jacket on RealReal may seem like a bargain, but if it doesn’t fit you’ve just blown real money sending it back.
  10. Space out your beauty appointments. Extending the time between haircuts by 2 weeks (say, every 10 weeks instead of every 8) can save you the cost of two appointments per year.

Happy New Year, dear readers and fellow bloggers! And here’s hoping that 2018 is better than 2017 – a pretty sucky year worldwide.

Cheers, Alisa


#Me Too?

The world is abuzz with new revelations about sexual harassment, workplace predators and all-around bad behavior.

This leads me to think about a couple of incidents from my past.  Viewed through today’s lens, they’d probably warrant a call to HR.  But — and this is not to excuse these men — the world WAS different when I was young.


Incident #1

A suburban-dwelling supervisor stopped by my desk one evening to let me know he was going to “apartment sit” a friend’s place in the city for a few days and encouraged me to meet him there for drinks “and”. Said supervisor was married, decades older, and my direct boss.  Accepting might fast-track a promotion and certainly lead to plum assignments; refusal could turn a cordial relationship into enmity.

Unlike, say, Harvey Weinstein, there was no physical intimidation.  But the message was clear: if you want to advance, here’s one way to do it.

Incident #2

I had a tiny office and a very large, very tall boss.  One day, he came in, closed the door, and proceeded to back me up against the wall while attempting to kiss me. Physical and scary, as this man had total power over me — not just in that moment but going forward if I handled things badly.

Did I tell anyone? No. Because what good would it have done? Men had no hesitation coming on to women at work; it was almost expected and it happened a LOT. So with both bosses I tried to offer a reply that would protect their egos while I rejected them –thereby preserving our working relationship.

With boss #1, I flattered him by reminding him that I was a lot younger and said that if we became involved I’d risk falling for him, which would be a very bad idea.

He bought it.

With boss #2, I flattered him by telling him how much I liked working for him (he was brilliant) and I may have lied and said I had a boyfriend.

Was this brave? Of course not.  Just simple gut instinct that if I didn’t make a big fuss, they’d stop.  It didn’t occur to me that they might victimize someone else or that this could be a pattern; I only wanted them to leave me alone.

My questions are these:  Does every proposition by a person in authority qualify as sexual harassment? And has it become too easy to assign blame without also considering ways in which the other party might respond?

I get that a powerful person like Weinstein can intimidate the hell out of a young woman whose career might never get off the ground if she doesn’t “go along”.  But showing up at the guy’s hotel room might send the wrong signal.  And if he answers that door in his bathrobe, why in hell does she go in? Is she that naive? Or is she a participant in a quid pro quo?

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of sexual harassment. Men who think “grabbing pussy” is a compliment, or feel entitled to treat women as objects, are disgusting. On the other hand, I wonder whether we’ve gone too far in the other direction, labeling every advance or teasing remark as harassment, which minimizes those that are.

Perhaps we should learn how to diffuse a tense situation before it gets out of control. Plus karate, in case that doesn’t work.

What are your thoughts?

UPDATE, 1/11/18: Interesting perspective from Catherine Deneuve, et. al., saying that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction (if you’ll forgive the anatomy reference):

In an open letter published in Le Monde, the actress and dozens of other Frenchwomen criticized the movement for punishing undeserving men.


Chance Encounters of the Meaningful Kind

What’s the best part of travel for you? The food? The culture? Hearing another language? To all these, I’d add, “Having unexpected conversations with strangers.”

I’ve got nothing against museums, monuments, scenery, restaurants, etc. – they all enrich the experience. But to get to another level, you’ve gotta get personal.

Some of my most vivid memories of last winter’s trip to Paris were random and often awkward chats that, despite my halting French and their equally limited English, somehow managed to connect us on a more profound level. In one shop, the attempts to find my correct size led to observations about women in general – how we often think we’re larger than we are, or want an outside observer to reassure us that we look attractive. (Yes, even Parisians can be insecure!)

And at a little place near the hotel specializing in tableware and jewelry, the owner engaged us in a discussion of art, politics (both US and French) and the current state of global anxiety so many of us share, as well as recommendations for which current exhibitions to skip and which to put at the top of our list. What could have been an ordinary, five-minute transaction became an enjoyable half hour conversation.

Our trip to Sicily raised the need to communicate to a whole new level, since almost no one we encountered spoke English and my Italian is basic at best. Yet, we blundered through and in doing so had some delightful moments.

There was the cashier at the grocery store who began to recognize us and teased us about buying yet another bottle of a favorite wine. And the woman selling fish at the local market who insisted that my husband eat a raw shrimp right on the spot so he’d believe her when she told us how fresh they were.

Back in Milan on Wednesday, our last night in Italy, we met two very chic women – a mother “of a certain age” (i.e., close to my own) and her adult daughter – who were also staying at our hotel. We’d shared a car with them earlier in the day when the hotel had taken us to a destination in town and then met by chance in the bar. After the mother greeted us, we invited them to join us and we started talking.

In this case, language wasn’t the challenge; the daughter alone speaks seven languages. (We Americans have much to learn from other countries: for most of us, studying another language in high school is the extent of our globalization and we expect the world to speak English when/if we leave our borders.)

But what I found fascinating was the ease with which our conversation skipped among a number of topics, some light and others quite serious, in a way that rarely happens on a first encounter.

In the space of an hour, we learned about their heritage, their life in Jordan, their fashion business (buying for their boutique brings them to Milan four times a year; how lucky is that?), and some of their family history, including seeing photos of the lovely younger daughter and father, both deceased.

We discussed politics, karma, spa vacations, the importance of intuition, Turkish hostilities towards Armenians and Jews, Bruce/Caitlin Jenner and the Kardashians, favorite fashion designers, which cities are “simpatico”, where to get good pizza in Milan, US universities, modern marriage, and more.

In short, we began to know them in a substantive way, and if we hadn’t been leaving early the next morning we would have enjoyed talking further.

I don’t know if we’ll continue to be in contact, but that’s unimportant. What matters to me is the generosity with which these two women shared stories about their lives, and the depth it added to our trip. Rather than being passive observers in another country, I felt that we were among friends.

And that’s a huge part of why I love to travel.

xo, Alisa



Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag – And You Should, Too!

As many of you know, I love using my small platform to introduce you to people whose work I respect. This week, I’m delighted to share the gorgeous handcrafted designs of the very talented Bernice Angelique.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 2.40.10 PM

I’ve can’t remember how/where I first saw her bags — I think I was researching “genuine ostrich bags” online — but eventually we started corresponding. One thing led to another and now I have two of her beautiful (and amazingly well-priced) bags and always get compliments on their simple yet sophisticated lines. Their appeal to me is much more than skin deep because unlike a lot of designers (including most stratospheric-priced name brands) hers are lined with suede instead of fabric. Luxury through and through.

A quick note about ostrich: the quills (bumps) are where feathers are removed during the tanning process. Ostrich leather is extremely durable and softens over time, retaining both its beauty and value. Just like us!

After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Bernice launched her brand in 2011 with a focus on exotic but affordable leather in clean, architectural shapes and an absence of gimmicks.

Hand made in Cape Town, South Africa, Bernice Angelique leather goods use the highest quality ostrich leather, hardware and techniques. She’s recently changed her business model to focus solely on custom-made bags. (Below, bags in progress.)

This means not only consistent quality control but lower prices as well. Win-win!

As she notes on her website, sustainability, empowerment and a desire to support local trade are the foundations of the brand. The leather is all locally sourced, providing employment to South African artisans. And the tannery, Klein Karoo, also sells the meat – primarily exporting to France and complying with strict international standards in every aspect of their business.

I asked Bernice to share some of her experiences with us.


What has been your biggest challenge? Oh my! Just one?!? Well, I would have to say keeping the belief alive and never losing sight of my dream. It’s challenging to hold on tightly to your dreams through all the ups & downs, but my mom always told me growing up, “Slow and steady wins the race!” I remind myself of this through the challenging times and just keep persevering.

Can you share any funny stories from the “early days”? One memory I have goes way back to before I even started the business. It was during my time at London College of Fashion, and I was just being introduced to handbag crafting. The first handbag I ever made was a complete disaster…but nevertheless, I knew that this was what I wanted to do!

What are your hopes for the brand in the future? I am so fulfilled now with how I’ve been able to structure the business. I would love to continue to craft custom handbags for women around the world. My time designing and crafting in my studio is my magical escape and I find it absolutely amazing that I get to share this magic with such wonderful women from around the world.

What are the biggest rewards? My biggest reward would have to be that I feel that I live an authentic life, as I am able to fully express who I am through my work. I feel that if one loves what one does, it just filters into the rest of your life and relationships.

The newly revamped Bernice Angelique website shows most of the new styles with chain straps and embellishment. If you prefer a leather strap or a single color, as I do (I love my Temptress, below: 340 GBP/about $450) just send her a message.


Everything is bespoke, i.e. made to order and personal to you. For instance, you can have a longer strap made if you’re very tall or want the option to wear a shoulder style as a cross-body. In her own words, “I love getting to know each client and crafting a specific piece just for her. I treasure the unique.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 3.26.41 PM

And if an older style featured in the “News” section of the website catches your eye, ask about that as well; she may be able to revive something from the archives just for you.

Try getting that level of service from an ordinary store!

Bernice has generously created a special 10% discount for readers of this blog. Check out online with code BLOG10. You deserve it.

She’s now added Nile crocodile to the line, available in 60 colors with a matte or glazed (shiny) finish. Fabulous! A croc Provocatrix may be my next purchase.

xo, Alisa

(An unsponsored post, as always. Just a company I admire and believe in!)