Living in legoland

When we renovated 3 years ago, we asked our architect to carve out a study space for our sons. Here's what it looks like now.

Upon closer inspection.

As you can see, not much work gets done here. It has become the home of a fraction of the Legos we own. The problem with assembling let's say the $150 Harry Potter castle is that the finished product needs a place to rest. We just don't have that kind of real estate to spare.

An aside: After agonizing over what counter surface to use, we chose dare I say: laminate. It comes in a variety of colors and is virtually indestructible -- an important consideration in this household. Not a great photo, but it looks like granite or soapstone. Faux I know.

I recently read about IKEA hackers. Do you all know about it? I found a multitude of ways to create Lego play surfaces, as well as storage, using IKEA products. Brilliant. Let's take a look at some.

This project used a wall frame and tubs with coordinating fabric curtains that blend in with the room's decor.

Look what's hiding inside:

This table is perfect for assembly, storage and display.

Don't have any floor space? Set up wall storage.

DIY blogger -- centsational girl -- made this good looking unit with the IKEA Lack table.

lego meets lack table

So as you can see, the possibilities are endless. No worries if you're not handy. You can pay someone to hack it for you. That's what I'll have to do if I can't persuade the creative geniuses across the street (you know who you are) to help me out.

Are you an IKEA hacker? Please share.

Oscars best dressed

I managed to stay awake last night for the entire ceremony. I don't know why they continue to torture us with mostly lame entertainment until the last hour. I did enjoy the musical performances. Did anyone else think John Travolta looked freaky? In the end, it was well worth the wait to see Ben Affleck take the best picture Oscar for Argo --  my favorite movie of the year.

Picking my best dressed was more complicated than expected. Many of the dresses were gorgeous, but some had more embellishment than needed. Remember, less is more in my book.

Let's start with Jennifer Lawrence. Her dress was fab, but it could have done with less skirt. Perhaps that's why she fell on the stairs en route to receive her well-deserved Oscar for Best Actress. Today's Hollywood ladies would never have survived at Tara. On the flip side, Scarlett would never have dreamed of giving the press the finger as Jennifer did back stage in the press room. It's no wonder Adele made it up to the podium in one piece. She reported her Burberry gown weighed 15 kilos (33.01 pounds).

jennifer lawrence starving oscars

Charlize Theron topped my list. Simple perfection in Dior. Extra points for having recently celebrated her collaboration with Toms shoes for their African Outreach Project. Love Toms!

charlize theron hair

Gold, silver and gun metal gowns populated the red carpet, as well as the White House. Loved Michelle's frock, but the bangs have got to go. 

I had a really hard time picking the best in this color scheme. After much deliberation George Clooney's latest arm candy Stacy Keibler won my heart.

george clooney stacy keibler oscars 2013

Back in the pink category. Anne Hathaway looked beautiful, but the prominent darts up top ruined the dress for me. Loved her hair, makeup and Tiffany bling.

anne hathaway oscar dress 2013

The fashion police were not pleased with Jennifer Anniston's look saying she needed a more sophisticated do and more bling. How much more do you need when you're sporting this rock? I loved her red Valentino gown.

jennifer aniston oscar dress 2013

Pretty in purple, Jennifer Garner's dress stood out in the crowd. The ruffle in the back was a bit too much for my taste. 

jennifer garner oscar dress 2013

So there you have it. What were your faves?

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And the winners are...

It's no exaggeration when I say that I look forward to the Oscars all year. I'm a movie buff and like to see all nominees before the awards ceremony. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pack them all in this year. Of course the best part of the ceremonies is the star-studded walk down the red carpet -- a spectacle of gorgeous and hideous gowns. In my opinion, less is more.

Here are some winners in my book.

Let's start with my girl crush Gwyneth and her impeccable sense of style:

Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1999 Oscars wearing Ralph Lauren
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Pretty in pink gown she wore in 1999 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Shakespeare in Love.

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Natalie Portman in a Grecian-inspired Rodarte gown (2009).

Wow me whites:

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Gwyneth stole the show last year in her stunning white Tom Ford gown and cape. Head to toe perfection. This is my all-time fave.

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Rooney Mara looked classy in white Givenchy last year. The Audrey Hepburn do and cherry red lips sealed the deal.

Speaking of Audrey, here she is in the simple yet elegant Givenchy gown she wore when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Roman Holiday -- one of my all-time fave movies -- in 1953. Love her!

Charlize Theron in her 
Gucci when she won the award for Best Actress for her role in Monster (2003).

Heavy metals:
Julianne Moore in a simple Versace gown accented by tiny crystals and pearls (2004).

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Gwenyth donning Calvin Klein (2011).

Jessica Alba in gold Versace (2006).

Anne Hathaway in Armani (2009).

Jennifer Anniston in gold Valentio (2009).

Halle Berry in gold Phillip Bloch (2003).

Racy reds:
Nicole Kidman in the a breathtaking red Balenciaga gown (2007).

Katherine Heigly in Escada column gown (2008).

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Natalie Portman in a polka-dot-red vintage (1954) Haute Couture Christian Dior gown from (2012).

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Jennifer Lawrence in Calvin Klein (2011).

I started with one of my all-time favorites and will end with this one.

Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino (1982) when she won the award for Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich (2001).

So what do you think -- love or loathe any of these frocks? Do you have a favorite red carpet gown?

I'll be back Monday with my best and worst dressed. Be prepared to weigh with yours.

Photo images: marie claire, unless otherwise noted.

How to prolong the life of cut flowers

Carolyne Roehm
To quote Slim Paley, I hope you had a carnation- and baby’s breath-free Valentines Day. I meant to post this before the big day, but got caught up in my travel prep. You should treat yourself to flowers every week of the year anyway. That said, buy some and follow these 5 easy steps. [Note: Some of this may sound like a chemistry class. It’s important, so don’t tune out.]

Step one: First and foremost, condition your flowers properly. Give each stem a fresh cut and soak in water mixed with a floral preservative -- all contain a biocide, an acidifier and sugar. Acified water moves more easily up a cut stem. You can use the commercial “fresh flower food” packets you get from the market or make your own. 

A couple of recipes: 
  • Fill a vase with equal parts lemon-lime soda and warm water and add a few drops of chlorine bleach to prevent bacteria.
  • Fill a gallon container with water and add two ounces of the original Listerine mouthwash. Listerine contains sucrose, bactericide and acid. Fill vases with mixture.

Step 2: Use sharp scissors or a knife and cut each stem at a 45-degree angle. If you cut straight across, there’s a chance the stem will rest flat on the bottom of the vase and water won’t be able to enter.

Step 3: Remove any thorns and cut off any leaves that will fall below the water line. This prevents bacteria from multiplying in the water and clogging stems.

Step 4: Change water and re cut stems frequently – ideally every two to three days. Adding flower conditioner is a plus.

Step 5: If your arrangement sits in a room with lots of sunlight, turn it every day so a different side faces the sun. Otherwise some flowers, such as tulips, will twist toward the sunlight. Flowers will last much longer in a cool room away from sunlight, heating and cooling vents. 

Fun fact: Tulips open immediately and continue to grow up to one inch in water. Buy them while their heads are still inside the leaves and don’t unwrap until ready to use in your arrangement.

Carolyne Roehm is my all-time favorite floral designer, gardener and entertainer. I own many of her books. Her Seasonal Notebooks are my faves. Out of print, they are available used on

Some of her fab table scapes.

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I don't visit florists anymore. Do you have any favorites in town? If you shop at Whole Foods, new flowers arrive in stores Tuesdays, Fridays and some Saturdays. Get them while they're fresh.

It's a mad, mod world

After a long hiatus,  Mad Men will return for its 6th season April 7 at 9:00 pm ET on AMC. I can't wait. Not one for spoilers myself, I couldn't help getting excited when tight-lipped Matthew Weiner recently shared some tid bits about the coming season with The Daily Beast.

Don with his bevy of beauties via.

Fat Betty no longer. January Jones will return slim after losing her baby weight and fat suit. Looking svelte at the Golden Globes. Beautiful hair and makeup. What's up with the dress?

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Has anyone else noticed the "Mad Men" trend in fashion and makeup? Don't forget you first learned about the mod revival right here on this blog.  Banana Republic will debut its "Mad Men" collection later this month in-store and online. The collection is going mod featuring bold stripes and plaids. BR is keeping it under wraps. After seeing a three-page ad spread in the March issue of InStyleI scoured the Web for a sneak peek. But there was none to be found.

You better hurry up and get a BR credit card if you want to attend the "Mad For Mod" cocktail party at Lenox February 28 to celebrate the launch and get 30% off your purchase. Check listings for stores in your area.

Estee Lauder is also jumping on the Mad Men wagon with a limited collection available in April to coincide with the show's season premiere. In keeping with the mod theme, the three new products center around the color pink (my fave!) -- like "pinkadelic" lip stick -- in 1960's inspired packaging.

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Speaking of mod, I've been eyeing these Louis Vuitton ads for months. Love them!

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Are you a Mad Men fan? If you missed it last season, hop on over to Tobi Failey's blog and check out the inspiration boards for Joan, Betty and Peggy. Which of the three lovely ladies do you identify with most? Betty for me.

Rocky Mountain High...

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Colorado. Yep, that's where I've been. The kids were on winter break last week, so we took our first-ever family ski trip. You all know that "family vacation" is an oxymoron, right?

Not off to a great start visited urgent care Friday with 8-year-old who had been coughing all week in fear that he had pneumonia again. Lungs were clear, but got a dose of antibiotics just in case. Phew. Arrived in Vail Sunday. Ten-year-old got altitude sickness. Laid up that night, he miraculously recovered the next day. Phew again.

Our condo was a total dive. Being a Ritz Carlton kind of girl, I wasn't a happy camper. Let's take a a quick tour:

Scary dear head and bust -- sure to cause child nightmares -- over fake fireplace.

You know how much I loathe faux flowers. This arrangement was especially offensive.

Sign in bathroom. Seriously? The bathroom was way too small to smoke in anyway. When you opened this door it hit the shower. One night both tubs were stopped up so I had to wash my hair in the kitchen sink.

 More fake greenery.

 One redeeming feature: beautiful view up the mountain on a snowy day. 

Monday morning the entire family headed to the slopes. Boys checked into ski school. I checked into ski lessons and Mr. Mophead checked into snow board lessons. Snowboarding aborted after lunch. I did not make it past the greens and fell off the ski lift all the while watching kids ages 3-10 whiz by me. On the way back down the slopes my poles got mixed up on the gondola. When I returned my ski equipment the guys at the rental shop asked: "whose poles are these?" "Yours of course," I said. "Nope. They're yours now and that'll be $65."

I decided to give it another try Tuesday taking a private lesson with my friend. I got totally hooked up by Jeannie Thoren at her shop that specializes in women's ski equipment. Feeling confident in my $450 ski boots and Jeannie's black rhinestone-studded goggles (I couldn't find mine in all the commotion.), I headed out to meet Denise 30 minutes late. The instructor told me that my skis were too short and sent me back to the shop. Being one of the 100 most influential skiers of the century (no lie), Jeannie wasn't pleased with my instructor. They didn't have the right size, but the ski dudes next door gladly handed some over. Love the sign over their tip jar:

One hour later we finally headed up the gondola. Denise was a natural, but it was back to square one for moi. It snowed the day before with poor visibility. Tuesday the sky was crystal clear and I now know why John Denver sang so passionately about the Rockies. Stunning! Of course I left my camera at Jeannie's shop.

Half way through the lesson -- and looking for an excuse for my inept ability -- I decided my boots were too big. Back down to the base I went. Jeannie scolded me saying that I needed at least 30 minutes to get my boots properly fitted that morning. As the saying goes: haste makes waste. After some adjustments, I headed back up the mountain. Things improved after lunch although I did fall off the ski lift again.

An aside. While hanging out in shelter on top of the mountain I saw several photos of Gerald Ford. The Fords owned a condo at the Lodge at Vail, which drew international attention when he became President. They later retired to their Beaver Creek home.

Speaking of international, Vail was teeming with foreign visitors primarily from Spanish-speaking countries. Three of the people in my ski group were from Mexico and South America. Many Brazilians made a mass exodus to skip Carnival. Another kid in my group was from New Orleans. His parents planned the ski trip to escape Mardi Gras.

Day three, my 8-year-old didn't want to go back to ski school and my calves were killing me. Jeannie was disappointed when I called to say that she could rent out the boots she had reserved for me. Instead we hung out and went tubing later that afternoon, met friends for dinner and settled in for the night. Headed back to Atlanta Thursday.

Comedy of errors aside, the trip was fab. Beautiful surroundings, fresh mountain air, good food, drink and company. Plus we have one skiing enthusiast in the family. Silver lining: Against all odds, I found the lost poles in another ski shop while shopping for gloves and got my money back. Score!

No doubt some of you have had similar "family vacation" experiences. Anyone care to share?

WTF Friday

Fashionable, high-end shoes have become all the rage these days, and women are going to extreme measures to wear them in comfort. Yesterday, Shoe Obsession opened at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Over the past decade, according to the exhibit description, heels have reached new heights. High-heeled shoes have become so tall that even a 4-inch heel is considered “low.”


Can someone actually walk in the pink ballet platforms? A 4-inch heel would put me in the emergency room. No, thanks. I'll stick with flats.

While catching up on News of the Weird last week, I come across some disturbing news. Women are reportedly having surgery to make their high heels more comfortable, receiving special foot injections, shortening their toes — and in extreme cases — cutting off their pinky toes altogether. Ouch!

After some digging, I found that News of the Weird has been reporting on this subject for years:
Five years ago, News of the Weird reported that a Philadelphia woman had undergone $10,000 elective surgery to shorten one toe and straighten another so that her foot would look better in the fashionable shoes she coveted. According to an October report by London's Daily Mail, foot surgeons' business has improved, especially since Manolo Blahnik's sleek, narrow models have become so popular. In addition to shortening and narrowing, young women seem concerned about the symmetry of their "toe cascades" (the curve from the big toe around to the little toe) and whether their ankles are shapely enough, with some women opting for liposuction on the lower calf. [Daily Mail, 10-19-08]
Most recently, the Daily Mail reported that a growing number of women are requesting pinky toe removal.

Are you a slave to fashion in the shoe department? If so, here are some options:

Common place: Dr. Nathan Lucas, a podiatrist in Memphis, said he saw nearly 30 patients per month last year for foot surgeries

Sex and the City (one of my all-time fave series) star Carrie Bradshaw's (Sarah Jessica Parker) shoe fetish -- especially her beloved Manolo Blahniks -- is often credited with launching the designer foot wear cult following. The show ran from 1998-2004, which is around the time the foot mutilation started

Seriously, women? This is nuts.

Have a good weekend!
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