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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Here is another brand new gem of a cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook:  Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out, by Angela Liddon of one of the top vegan blogs in the world, Oh She Glows.  I've been a faithful reader of Angela's blog for more than five years now and her creativity in coming up with new recipes always amazes me.  Angela's story is quite compelling.  She overcame an eating disorder a decade ago and put an end to weight and health issues through a vegan diet and lifestyle.  Angela's version of vegan diet is plant-based (mine back in law school was more vegan-processed-foods-based -- fake cheese, fake meat, and soy ice-cream anyone?).  Having become older and wiser I can't get enough of veggies these days, so Angela's recipes and all her vegan wisdom are very welcome in my kitchen.   So I was very excited when I learned a few months ago that Angela got a book deal and marked my calendar for Spring 2014.

The cookbook is finally here and it's everything I've been waiting for:  gorgeous photography (of the food and the author), one hundred good-for-you vegan recipes, an overview of Angela's natural food pantry, a run through Angela's favorite kitchen tools and equipment, a basic cooking chart, and a very informative introduction that details Angela's "journey to health."

The recipes are divided into sections:

  • Breakfast
  • Smoothies, juice & tea
  • Appetizers
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Entrees
  • Sides
  • Power snacks
  • Desserts
  • Homemade staples (in case you want to learn how to make your very own Creamy Vanilla Almond Milk -- I do!)
This appetizer from Angela's book combines three of my favorite foods:  strawberries, mango, and avocado.  Yum!

Glowing Strawberry-Mango Guacamole

Makes 3 cups

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, raw/no-bake, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free

  • 2 medium avocados, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 fresh mango, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped hulled strawberries
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, to taste
  • Fine-grain sea salt
  • Corn chips, for serving (I used Garden of Eatin' Sweet Potato Chips)

  1. In a medium bowl, gently mash the avocado, leaving some chunks for texture.
  2. Rinse and drain the chopped onion in a strainer to wash off the sulfurous compounds.  This makes the taste of the raw onion more pleasant.  Fold the mango, strawberries, onion, and cilantro (if using) into the avocado.  Season with the lime juice and salt to taste.
  3. Serve immediately with your favorite corn chips.  Avocado tends to spoil quickly, so leftovers won't keep for longer than 12 hours or so.  One more reason to dig in!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Clean Green Drinks

A couple of weeks ago I pre-ordered Candice Kumai's new book, Clean Green Drinks:  100+ Cleansing Recipes to Renew & Restore Your Body and Mind.  I get most of my books on Kindle, but, knowing that Candice's books are always gorgeous, I ordered the hardcover copy.  When the book arrived yesterday, I could hardly stay away from it the rest of the evening.   The recipes are simple and provide nutrition information (calories, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals).  The photography is amazingly beautiful.  The whole book is inspiring.  I spent today being a model health eater.  Also as a very nice surprise, I learned yesterday that I won one of Candice's Clean Green Drinks giveaway prizes from Kitchen IQ.  My kitchen is overjoyed to be getting new gadgets!

The recipes in the book are divided into sections:
  • Cleansing Juices & Smoothies
  • Morning Starter Juices & Smoothies
  • Filling Juices & Smoothies
  • Super Energy-Boosting Juices & Smoothies
  • Post-Workout Lean-Protein Smoothies
  • Skin-Cleansing Juices & Smoothies
  • Superfood Brain-Boosting Smoothies
  • Happy, Flat Tummy Juices & Smoothies
  • Body & Mind:  Calming Juices & Smoothies
  • Immunity-Boosting Juices & Smoothies 
In addition to the recipes, the book covers in detail the nutritional benefits of the smoothie ingredients used in the recipes, from the greens & herbs to super-boosters to thickeners & sweeteners.  It also includes Clean Green Eating & Exercise Guide.   As well as a variety of health information sprinkled throughout the book.

Here is one of the recipes from Candice's book.

The Chocolate Avocado Goddess Smoothie

1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 ripe avocado, pitted
1 frozen banana (I used fresh)
2 tbs dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp agave nectar (I used a couple of dates instead)
                         1 cup ice

Add ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Serves 2.  Per Serving:  180 calories; 12 g fat; 3 g protein; 21 g carbohydrates; 7 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 600 mg potassium; 10% DV calcium; 10% DV Vitamin D; 30% DV Vitamin E; 15% DV folate.

This was delicious and creamy and gave me just enough clean energy to last through a busy afternoon.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter

We are waiting for the Easter Bunny at our house and trying to sweeten up the wait to make it go faster.  This year, in addition to coloring the eggs and getting some pastel-colored candy, we've also made these amazing chocolates, which are free of refined sugar, dairy, or artificial additives.  The recipe is from Dr. Libby Weaver's book, The Real Food Chef.   Dr. Libby is a holistic nutritional biochemist, author and speaker.  I am a big fan of her work and found loads of eye-opening health, wellness, and beauty information in her books Accidentally Overweight and Beauty from the Inside Out.

Dr. Libby's Healthy Homemade Chocolates


100 g (3 1/2 ounces) cacao butter, melted (I got this raw organic cacao butter)
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/4 maple syrup
10 drops organic peppermint oil - make sure it is food grade (I skipped it)
1/4 cup cocoa nibs, for optional crunch

  1. Melt the cacao butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then allow it to cool.
  2. Add the maple syrup to the cooled cacao butter, then stir in the cacao powder and mix to blend well.
  3. Stir in the drops of peppermint oil (if using).
  4. Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays (I poured it our of glass measuring cup) and top with the optional cacao nibs.   Freeze until set, then pop them out.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Picasso Exotic Aquatics

Our house has new residents.  After months and months of talking me into getting "a pet," the kids have finally talked me into getting them fish.   As far as I am concerned, fish make perfect pets.  They don't need to be walked in the rain at 6 a.m., they can make it through the whole day by themselves, they don't shed hair on the floors, and they don't chew on your favorite pair of shoes.  And studies show that watching fish can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.  They are also beautiful.   Like I said, perfect.

We got our fish and the fish tank from Picasso Exotic Aquatics in Park Place.   The staff at Picasso was friendly and knowledgeable, which was important to us, since we knew nothing about caring for fish.

Picasso store
Picasso fish
Picasso fish
 The fish tank we bought was the floor model, so it came home with us the same day.   It had one fish in it already and we added five more.  The kids were overjoyed and named each pet the same day:  Victory, Goldy, Blossom, Dash, Splashers, and Teddy.  Unfortunately, the next morning we woke up to discover that Teddy jumped out of the tank.  There were lots of tears, questions, and demands to revive Teddy at once.   We went back to Picasso the same day to get another fish and were given a little guppy the kids picked out and holders to secure the tank cover free of charge.  We've now kept all the pets, including Booster Teddy, II, alive and well for a whole week.

Emily contemplated giving up eating fish, out of respect for the new pets, but we managed to talk her out of it.  However, we now eat our salmon out of sight of our new friends.  (And I decided that I am definitely not getting a pet cow or a pet chicken.)

Our new pets

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sweet Honey Chèvre and Sardine Flatbread Pizza

I fully believe in the power of food over our health and well-being, so I am always in search of food with benefits.  Candice Kumai, a former model turned chef, is all about being sexy and enjoying your (very healthful) food.  This recipe is from Candice's book Cook Yourself Sexy:  Easy Delicious Recipes for the Hottest, Most Confident You.   This pizza is very easy to make and is full of good for you nutrition.  What I especially like about Candice's book, besides the photos of beautiful chef herself and the gorgeous food photography, is that it reminds you of the nutrients and benefits of the star ingredients in each dish.  Starring in this one are arugula, goat cheese, and sardines.  I also added smoked oysters to my version of this pizza!   Here are the "benefits" from Candice's book.

Arugula is full of Vitamins A and C, folate, and magnesium.   It is an aphrodisiac, which will keep your eyes bright and promote overall optimum health.
Goat cheese provides calcium and protein.  It is easier to digest than cow's milk and it promotes gorgeous hair, skin, and nails.
Pacific sardines bring protein, omega-3s, vitamins B12 and D, and calcium.

The oysters I added are full of Vitamins B 12, D, and A, as well as magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and selenium.  

Pizza crust

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 pound ready-to-bake pizza dough (I got my garlic-herb pizza dough at Trader Joe's)
1 tbsp sea salt


1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons chèvre (goat cheese), divided  (I used a bit more, I love goat cheese)
1 tbsp honey
1 (4-ounce) can sardines in olive oil, drained
1 1/2 cups arugula
1/4 cup capers, drained
Pinch of sea salt

To make the pizza crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet with 1 tbsp of the olive oil.
  2. Lightly flour a work surface.  Using a rolling pin, shape the pizza dough into a rectangle large enough to reach all sides of the baking sheet. Lightly drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the pizza dough and sprinkle it with the sea salt.
  3. Prebake the pizza dough for 15 minutes, until the bottom of the crust is firm and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

To make the toppings
  1. Meanwhile, prepare the pizza toppings.  In a small mixing bowl, blend 1/4 cup of the chèvre with the honey until a smooth past forms.
  2. Once the crust is cool spread the honey chèvre mix evenly over it.  Arrange the sardines, arugula, and capers on top.  Add small parts of the remaining 2 tbs chèvre.
Candice's beautiful book
All the ingredients you need (not pictured are the smoked oysters I got at Trader Joe's)
Sprinkle your working surface with flour, to help roll the dough
Don't forge to sprinkle some flour on top -- it will help the rolling pin not to stick to the dough
Arrange the dough on the pizza stone (don't forget to spread some olive oil on the pizza stone first) and pinch the outer edge
Goat cheese + local honey (it has been reported that eating local honey can help you fight seasonal allergies) 
The chevre+ honey mixture, sardines, and capers
Bake the dough for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown, then spread the chevre+honey mixture, and arrange the toppings
Here is to a healthy, beautiful you!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sweetpea & Company

This Saturday, Alexis and I had a girls' morning out, while Emily was attending an event at the library and Bill was running errands.  A couple of hours into our adventure, Alexis and I ended up at the Park Place in Leawood, which has lately become one of the coolest places to eat, shop, relax and take The Bar Method class.   Alexis quickly found her favorite shop, Sweetpea & Company, which had a great sale going on on the sidewalk, and took me inside the store.  After she checked out all the cute dresses, accessories, and toys, she zeroed in on this beautiful pink and white big pearl necklace with a big pink jewel, which I would wear myself but for the fear of looking a bit strange.  The sales clerk put it on Alexis's neck and called Alexis by her name (having heard me say it), much to Alexis's surprise and delight.  My lover of all things pink was one happy pea in a pod enjoying the sunshine the rest of the day.

Oh, so much fun!

"Buttermilk" Waffles

One of my favorite weekend breakfasts are homemade waffles, always with cranberries and dark chocolate chips, a strawberry syrup, and a cappuccino.  It's especially delicious when combined with nowhere to rush.   Given that I am now a participant to all sorts of challenges (the latest is the 10K steps a day 30-day challenge at the gym that started yesterday), I set out in search of a "lighter" recipe.   I opened up several of the cookbooks I own (interestingly, most of them began the "W" section with "walnuts") and finally found "waffles" in Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Good:  Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.   These were gluten-free, sugar-free (I made them less so by adding chocolate chips), dairy-free and yet amazing.  The kids proclaimed these their favorite (and I've fed them waffles that required whole sticks of butter in the past), so I'll be making them again.

Here is the recipe from It's All Good.

"Buttermilk" Waffles

  • 3 cups soy milk (I don't use soy milk, so I substituted almond)
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp good-quality maple syrup
  • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used 1 cup almond flour)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour (I used 1 cup tapioca flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • A large pinch of sea salt
  • Oil spray for the waffle maker
  • My add-ons:  1 cup of frozen cranberries + 3/4 cup of dark chocolate chips

Mix the milk and lemon juice in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken (to make the "buttermilk").  Whisk in vanilla and maple syrup.  In another bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients but be careful to not over mix.  Add the add-ons, if any.  Heat the waffle maker, grease with a little oil, and cook 4-7 minutes depending on the machine.   (A couple of years ago I took the guessing work out of the waffle making and bought this Calphalon No Peek? waffle maker that rings when the waffles reach the cooking setting you use.)  Serve with maple syrup or with the syrup I suggest below (which I adapted from Nigella Lawson).

Strawberry Syrup

  • 1-2 cups frozen strawberries (if using 2 cups, may need to add 1-2 tbs of hot water to get the right consistency)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar

Process everything in a blender (I use the Vitamix, which always makes it super smooth).


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chic & Slim a la Francaise Mentions Pralines and Crunches

I received a very nice present today.  One of my lifestyle icons, Anne Barone, whose book I reviewed a couple of posts ago, wrote about my review on her website, which you can read here.   Thank you, Anne!   Here is to a Chic & Slim week!

The Honest Co.

I honestly love Honest!   This love affair started over a year ago when I picked up a magazine with Jessica Alba on the cover.  In the feature, Jessica talked about raising her two daughters, her philosophy on keeping life healthy and clean, her new company, The Honest Co., and her views on nutrition.  Also included was a reference to Jessica's upcoming book, The Honest Life:  Living Naturally and True to You.   I immediately pre-ordered the Kindle version and gave a few copies as gifts to family and friends.  I loved the book so much that I also bought the paperback version for easier reference on the vast variety of subjects Jessica covers in it.  If you are still cleaning with mainstream cleaning products, don't believe organic foods are better for you, and using regular cosmetics, please do yourself a favor and check out Jessica's book.

About five minutes after I got the book, I signed up for a trial product shipment from  I then became a regular cleaning "bundle" subscriber.   My bundle arrives every 8 weeks and I can adjust the date of shipment and the contents as the date of regularly scheduled shipment gets closer.  I've spent years hunting for natural products and a lot of them, unfortunately, were either too pricey, didn't work well, weren't pretty, or all of the above.  The Honest Co. products suffer from none of that.  They are very reasonably priced, easy to look at, and they get the job done!  I have an allergy to house dust, the kids can't handle the regular detergent, and none of us do well with the chemical cocktail known as "fragrance," which is liberally added to pretty much all mainstream products.   The kids' doctor also recommended at several visits that we use only natural cleaners, since the stuff you spray in the house, stays in your house and can affect breathing.   Using clean products is very, very important to me.  Of course, I also care about the environment and these products are environmentally friendly as well.  All around winners.  The Honest Co. also has the coolest diapers in cute patterns (my year-old nephew is rocking those now) and training pants (Alexis was a recent fan for night time).

My last bundle:  4 in 1 laundry pods (LOVE!), rinse aid, light mandarin foam soap, dish soap, glass + window cleaner -- all ROCK STARS!

The laundry pods go really well with the oxy boost for when the kids (ahem, husband) decide to spill strawberry sauce on their clothes.
These were some extras I ordered to add to my regular bundle:  scrubber sponge and dishwasher pods (just got the pods yesterday and will start using them tomorrow)
And I am not opposed to a bit of child labor in my house.   Emily loves putting the Honest multi-surface cleaner to action.  She begs me to let her use it.  Honest.

Thank you, Jessica and The Honest Co.!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Skinny Confidential Book

Lauryn Evarts at The Skinny Confidential has a great new book out, The Skinny Confidential:  A Babe's Sexy, Sassy Health and Lifestyle Guide.  The book is full to the brim with great nutrition, fitness, fashion, and self-care advice, and some very simple, but delicious healthy recipes (I made the banana pancakes and the kids ate them up and asked for seconds).

Lauryn is clearly passionate about all these subjects.  But most importantly she knows what she is taking about.  Lauryn is working to become a certified nutritionist and she's been a Pure Barre teacher for two years.  She also  teaches Proformer Pilates and writes for a whole host of health and fabulous-lifestyle oriented sites.  Lauryn's writing style is light and humorous.  She also gets straight to the point, which I really appreciate.

Here are the titles and subtitles of the chapters of the book, which will give you a good idea of what's inside (and what Lauryn's writing is like):

  1. Fake It Until You Make It.   Time for a change, Peeps!  Not tomorrow.  Not the next day.  Today.  (Love the message!  Yes, start today -- whatever changes in your life you want to make, don't wait until Monday, until you get a new job, move to a new city, or get a beach vacation on your calendar.)
  2. Cravings, Schmavings.  Tips and tricks for subsiding cravings and turning healthy living into a full-blown habit.  (I like the message about not ignoring your cravings, but rather having a small portion and moving on with your life.  Lauryn tells a riveting story about a certain snack, commercially produced with all sorts of not-good-for-you ingredients, that she craved until she decided to give it up FOREVER.   I don't know about you, but I've given things up in the past FOREVER.  Usually, it lasts no longer than a week, which I spend in total obsession with whatever I'm trying to break up with.  Lauryn lasted a whole month!  But with the same results.  Lesson learned.)  
  3. Skinny Recipes that Will Change Your Freaking Life.  Easy, quick, accessible recipes every woman should memorize.  (The aforementioned banana pancakes were amazing!  The other recipes look very tempting, as well.  I don't plan to memorize them, but I do plan to be taking my Kindle to the kitchen a lot.)
  4. Green Potion.  The good, the bad, and the not-so ugly on green drinks.  (I was reading this chapter yesterday on my iPhone's Kindle, while waiting for Sherman and Mr. Peabody to come on the screen and became so inspired that I decided to do a green-juice cleanse in the near future.  It's been ages since my juicer's been up and running and apparently Lauryn's passion for the green juice was just enough to send me right back to it.  I always feel amazing drinking green juice.   Thank you for the reminder, Lauryn!)
  5. Meet Cardio, Your New Bestie.  F off, Fat.   How to easily, effectively and inexpensively melt away those extra pounds.  (So, first of all, I spent months going to a barre studio, where I was repeatedly told that no cardio is required and that barre workouts were perfectly enough to get me where I was going.  I really wanted to believe it.   So I did.  That is until it got me nowhere.  To hear from a Pure Barre teacher that you have to do cardio is refreshing honesty.  Yes, you do have to do cardio.  I was reading this chapter this morning while on my treadmill and found myself nodding my head when I read that Lauryn endorses running as the best fat-melter/metabolism-booster.  I've gotten into jogging in the last few weeks (it only took my last and my current trainer months of nagging to get me going) and it's been a game changer.  As luck had it, just as I warmed up, I read about Lauryn's regime for a thirty-minute high intensity interval treadmill workout that involves changing speeds for just a minute at a time, taking your heart rate up and down the entire workout.   I made slight modifications to it:   walk at 3 mph for 1 minute; jog at 4 mph for 1 minute; run at 5 mph for 1 minute; run at 6 mph for 1 minute; back to walking at 3 mph for 1 minute, and repeat the interval until 35 minutes are up.  I had the best cardio workout in a month!   Thanks, Lauryn!)
  6. Strength Training:  Get it Right, Get It Tight!  Weight lifting isn't just for the boys!  Why weights equal long, lean, sexy muscles.  (I've been doing strength training with a trainer for 6 months now and I see a big difference (although adding jogging to it really took things to another level!), so I didn't need to be sold on the importance of strength training.  This chapter introduced me to some simple innovative moves sure to tone the hard-to-tone areas.  The best thing is, as Lauryn says, you can do them as you watch The Real Housewives of Whatever City.  These days, I am watching the Housewives of New York and waiting for the OC edition to begin soon.  That's two hours a week of added toning and reduced guilt for spending my time with the Housewives.)
  7. WTF's in My Makeup Bag?  Makeup tips that will rock your world.  (Lauryn has some great makeup tips that I haven't seen anywhere else before.  And I read about makeup a lot.)
  8. Buh-Bye, Pimples.  Improve your skin asap.  Easy tricks from a total product whore. (As I've said before, to have great skin, you have to fill up on nutrition.  I was glad to see that this was also Lauryn's message.  Staying out of the sun and using the right products with SPF is also huge help.)
  9. Hair, Hair and More Hair.  Learn about dusting and how to maintain bombshell locks.  (So, Lauryn's hair looks amazing, and she must know what she's talking about.)
  10. Flatter Your Bod.  Fashion, fashion, fashion!  Just because it's cute doesn't mean it's for you.  How to pick sexy styles that flatter your bod and make you feel sexy.  (I just talked about this one a couple of posts ago -- know yourself and choose clothes that flatter YOU, not your neighbor or a VS model.)
  11. Love Chub.  Relationships 101.  Plus, why you shouldn't let another person control what you eat or when you sweat.  (I think as women, we tend to take care of everyone around us and put ourselves last.  Although Lauryn talks about not falling out of your healthy habits as you fall into a new relationship, I find that the same applies for all of your other relationships and responsibilities.  For moms of small children this can translate into not eating leftover chicken nuggets off their child's plate and finding time to workout either during the child's nap or courtesy of a gym's daycare.  The kids can be even better at controlling what you eat and when you sweat than any Mr. Man, but do what you can to not let them!)
  12. Learn It, Live It, Love It.  Embracing your inner skinny girl.  It's a lifestyle, not a diet.  (You are in it for the long haul.  You can't take care of yourself for two weeks and go back to not being your best self.  You deserve tender loving self-care every day of your life.)

Mixed greens + romain lettuce + apple + ginger + lemon + kiwi + tangerine + plum + parsley
Thanks for the inspiration, Lauryn!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chic & Slim Techniques

That's the title of one of Anne Barone's books.  Ms. Barone, now a femme d'un certain age, tells a story about growing up as an overweight teenager in the United States, then traveling to France in her mid-20s, discovering those mysterious, chic, and slim French women, learning their secrets, dropping 55 pounds, and returning back to the States to lead a new life.  Although mystery, chicness, and slimness appear to be highly European attributes, cattiness is universal, so upon her return home, young Anne, who's gone from size 18 to size 5, was greeted by a family friend who looked her up and down and exclaimed:  "Hello, Anne, I see your face still breaks out."

Here are the techniques from Ms. Barone's books, with my comments.  I'd like to note, again, that a lot of these techniques are applicable to all European women, but again, to the rest of the world, the French seem to have monopolized the entire reputation.

The 10 Techniques to Make You Chic & Slim a la Francaise.

  1. The Sabrina Technique.  The reference here is to the 1954 movie, where the main character, Sabrina, is played by Audrey Hepburn.  Sabrina is a daughter of a chauffeur employed by a wealthy family.  She travels to Paris to take a cooking course and returns back home a vision of sophistication and elegance, quickly putting her employer-brothers under the spell of her charms.  "I have learned how to live.  How to be in the world, and of the world.  And not just to stand aside and watch," says Sabrina of her transformation.  How often do we stand aside and watch?  Every time we are not living our life to the fullest or dimming our light so not to offend others or not presenting ourselves in the best light to the world.  Ms. Barone suggests picking a French alias for yourself with the idea that perhaps someone named Bobbie Jo is just the kind of woman to eat a full dinner, then chase it down with a pizza, wash it down with a Big Gulp , and spend her evening watching reruns on TV.   But a Marie-Jeanne would never!  In essence, this is the "fake it until you make" technique.  Behave as if you already possess all of the qualities you want to see in yourself and eventually they will become your true nature.
  2. The Classique Technique, or Using the Men-As-Inspiration Technique.  So, maybe you would wear sweatpants, have unbrushed hair, and eat peanut butter out of a jar with a spatula, standing over the sink.  But would you do it if your dream man was watching you?   Exactly.  So, imagine that He is watching you, put down the spatula, put a mask on your face, coconut oil in your hair, take a bath, style your hair, get dressed in something that makes you look beautiful and see how you feel then.  Looking at American magazines, you'd think women here were by and large obsessed with looking good at all times, but unscientific observations at American supermarkets, streets, and schools tell a different story.   I'll never forget how, as a new immigrant and newly in law school (my first and only foray into American education), I saw one morning, to my horror, a fellow female student roll into class in pajamas, and then another.  I spent five years as an undergraduate student in Kiev, where something like this would be completely unheard of.  The girls came to class in makeup, heels, and in outfits that made them look their most attractive.  Perhaps one of the differences is that in Europe these efforts are rewarded by the open admiration of the men, which is not culturally acceptable in the States.  Something tells me though, that American men are no different than the men in Europe and they do notice the effort, but have to admire in silence.   This technique would work better in Europe, where male feedback is vocalized and immediate, but put your best foot forward, anyway, even if just for the silent admiration, if that helps you.   (And, by the way, in my deep conviction, this is a beginner technique.  The goal is to get to a stage where you are your own inspiration and you are well groomed for yourself.  Because it makes you feel good.  And every day you are alive, your main goal should be to feel good about yourself.)
  3. The Partout Technique.  Ms. Barone talks about the difficulties of shopping to find just the right chic clothes, purses, and shoes and how French women see shopping as serious business rather than a fun day out at the mall.   While I agree that finding just the right clothes takes time and commitment, and that the magazines these days are not helpful (unless you are 16 years old and at least 6 feet tall), I still think that shopping can and should be fun.  As I wrote in my last post, I think the seriousness of the shopping experience in Europe comes from sky-high prices (compared to the prices for clothes in the U.S.), small closet space, and traditionally small wardrobes.  As Ms. Barone points out, if you are out shopping in Paris and reach for a garment at the same time as a French woman in serious shopping mode, you better let go of the hanger or you won't come out a winner.  Yes, all true.  Same applied for shopping in Kiev, when I lived there.  I, actually, adore American shopping, where it is a fun and light-hearted activity.  I adore my large American closet, 75% off sales every season, "surprise" deep sales here and there, and that if I like a skirt, but the store doesn't have my size, the saleswoman will get on the phone, call other stores in the chain, find me that skirt in my size and have it shipped to my home at no fee for the service.  I don't want to return to the seriousness of European shopping.  Viva America!
  4. The Mystique Technique.  This is the same sentiment as the "mystique" lesson from Madame Chic in Jennifer L. Scott's book.  Don't talk that much about yourself, don't spill your guts to perfect strangers who happen to be trapped next to you on a plane, don't answer your husband's question "how was your day, dear?" with a thirty-minute monologue (he's just interested in the beginning and the end, skip the middle).
  5. The Elegance Technique or The No Snacking Technique.  Ms. Barone's technique actually allows for more than three traditional meals a day and includes an afternoon tea.  This is much closer to my idea of eating, because, as I've said before, I believe in a structured snack here or there (once a day only, timed depending on your schedule and level of hunger).  The key here is that it's a structured (conscious and mindful) event.   Don't grab something as you pass by the kitchen or the assistant's desk.  Chewing outside of an actual meal time is not chic.  Neither is eating raw ingredients when you are cooking.   Seriously, don't do that.   Who wants to sit down to a dinner, when you are already full?   If your answer is that you never eat raw ingredients because your dinner comes from a fast-food place and the employees there just want let you snack on lettuce before they hand you your burger, you need to rethink your dinners.  Start cooking for yourself.  All European women do.
  6. The Music Technique.   Have music in your life and use it often.  It will calm or energize you, depending on what you need and what music you choose.  It will also set a stage for a nice, relaxing dinner after a stressful day.  A little Mozart can even turn your kids into geniuses.  Music is a great background to life.
  7. The Resistance Technique or The Sugar Reduction Technique.   Elegance is refusal, just say, No!   Say no anything that is not in your best interests and that doesn't lead to better health, physical and mental.  Everything you consume has an effect on you and either builds you up or takes you down.  There are no neutral substances.  Choose yours wisely.   And do lay off the sugar.  American sweets are sickeningly sweet.  But if that's all you've ever eaten you won't know it.  Go without sugar for a month and try a traditional dessert.  Once you get to a point where it feels like you've just placed a spoonful of straight sugar in your mouth, that's when you know your taste buds have been recalibrated.  And don't forget, fancy cheese makes great dessert.
  8. The Reality Technique.   Don't hide from the truth.  It will find you.   When I first moved to the U.S., an overweight member of my new family told me about the list of "negative-calorie" foods that was circulating the e-mail at that time.  I've never heard of those at home, but to my surprise she (and some of her friends) believed that eating celery sticks will burn more calories than what those celery sticks provide, resulting in massive weight loss.   Insane, no?  You have to face the reality about food and exercise.  And yes, European women do watch their food and they do what they can to stay active.   What they won't do is admit that they are doing it.  They won't let you see them sweat.  They want you to think that it comes to them effortlessly.  You know those interviews that models give to magazines and say things like - oh, I eat what I want, and I don't workout.  That's usually the story you will get from a European woman (if you will be so brave as to ask her how she stays in shape).  And, yes, we are back to the mystery technique - European woman hold themselves in a way that doesn't encourage nosiness.   But, anyway, don't kid yourself.  It takes work to be in shape.  It takes work to have an organized house.  It takes work to have your kids on the honor roll.  Nothing worth having is easy or free.  (At least that's what I tell myself when I wake up at 5:45 am to meet my trainer at the gym.)
  9. The Femininity Technique.  Again, as we discussed last time, this is something that's embraced in Europe, but I do question it's viability in most of the United States.  Thanks in large part to the advanced women's movement (which is not so advanced in Europe, where women are still seen first and foremost as women, rather than co-workers, co-students, captains of the soccer teams), femininity is largely a lost art here.  It's impractical and archaic and quite a bit out of place.  It can also be taken too far.  It is one thing to wear a bright pink trench coat to the office, it is quite another to manage to carry yourself in a feminine way that doesn't raise eyebrows.  Yes, that's a difficult one.
  10. The Chic & Slim Always Technique.   This one is about the repeatability of the processes by which you groom and put yourself together.   There is a law that says you can do something 99% of the time and not do it 1% of the time and that that 1% of the time will be the only time that will matter.  You can always have perfectly manicured nails, but the day you are running around crazy trying to get everything done, yet never making your way to the nail polish remover, will be the day when your chipped nail polish will be seen by a client.  Or, worse yet, an ex-boyfriend.   You can always eat seated (even if at your desk in front of your computer), but that one day when you pop a cracker in your mouth and decide to take three steps outside your office door to the printer to pick up your paper, will be the day when your boss will run into you and ask you a question about the project.  She will then watch you chew and swallow your cracker before you can get out an answer.   Anyway, not that a government agency is coming with an inspection, but, seriously, try to have it together all the time.
Ms. Barone's book offers great detail and insight into the mysteries of what makes French women chic and slim.  Quite an enjoyable read and great food for thought.