culture · international

Just In Time for International Women’s Day . . .

I recently saw this great post about the first person to ever win the Whisky Magazine’s American Icons of Whisky Awards Master Blender of the Year Award in consecutive years. In an unprecedented win, Victoria Eady Butler, a fifth generation distiller and descendant of Nearest Green, the man credited as the skill and talent behind the Jack Daniel formula, was awarded this prestigious title two years in a row.

Victoria Eady Butler (photo credit: V. E. Butler)

As someone that has a growing appreciation for whiskey, I’m excited to see women entering this space and being recognized for their skills. This is especially fitting today, as it is also International Women’s Day. I love that we live in a time where women are entering spaces that were previously “closed”, and we are leaving our marks on history. What a time to be alive!

I plan to try Uncle Nearest whiskey soon, and I’ll be sure to post my review! Until then, you can check out the brand here, and learn more about the fascinating family that now has an award-winning brand.

Anyways . . . That’s the post. I know, pretty brief, but that’s because the regularly schedule post has been pushed to Thursday so that I could share the good news of Victoria Eady Butler’s win on International Women’s Day.

Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

beauty · culture · hollywood glamour · international · luxury · style

Kibbe Soft Classic Chat – Grace Kelly

As promised in a previous post, I want to start exploring some of deeper aspects of the concepts that interest me, and that I’ve previously discussed on the blog. In particular, I’m very interested in understanding the intersection between art, design and life, as well as the ways we can use the arts to support us in living our best lives.

To start these discussions, I want to begin with one of my favorite topics: the Kibbe Style ID system. The Kibbe system has been updated by David Kibbe in recent years but the overall concept is the same: there are certain style “IDs” that people fit in, and these style IDs can give us insight into the kind of clothing, accessories and hairstyling we can utilize to best present our physical selves. The style ID category that I fall into is Soft Classic (SC).

I’m in good company with the SC category: quite a few famous beauties share this ID (if you are interested in some of the women that are in other Kibbe categories, check out this post). The most famous of the SCs is probably Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.

Kibbe previously classified Grace as a Classic, but, after further consideration, he decided that a pure Classic category was too rare in nature to warrant its own group. Thus, Grace was reclassified as a SC. I won’t go into all of the features that make her a SC (you can undoubtedly find this information on numerous websites and YouTube). But I will discuss how her style and energy influenced her persona, and how she used fashion to mold her public perception.

A collection worth checking out: Grace Kelly: A Life In Pictures

The effect: The Eternal Princess

Even before she official became a princess, Grace had a royal look. This was, in part, due to her incredible bone structure and slim physique, but her styling played a heavy role in looking the part of a princess. The clothing she wore onscreen often featured fitted bodices in flattering colors, and these were often short sleeved or sleeveless (a perfect way to display perfectly toned arms). She didn’t often wear shorts or skirts with calves or knees exposed. This was partly due to the fashion trends of the time, but these also perpetuated the reserved image that is often seen in royal families.

SCs often look better in the structured and symmetrical garments favored during the 1950s/early 1960s (think Dior’s New Look era). Generally speaking, these items are feminine in silhouette but not overly embellished. Considering that Grace’s Hollywood career occurred during the New Look period, she was literally the right woman at the right time to wear these clothes. She has the perfect look for the clothing that was most popular during this time.

In addition to the clothes she wore, Grace also wore perfect SC hair and makeup. Her blond coiffure was always immaculately styled, with hair having rounded shapes but remaining sleek overall. She wore defined lips, flawless foundation, and gently enhanced eyes, allowing her facial balance to shine. This period was perfect for her look, as it occurred after the dramatically tweezed and redrawn brows and beestung lips of the 1920s and 30s, but before the heavily enhanced eye makeup and exaggerated hair of the 1960s.

The look of this period – reserved, elegant, structured but soft where it counts – are all traits that are often associated with elite women, specifically, royals. So Grace’s leveraging of these trends helped form the public opinion of her being queenly (indeed, she was considered an “ice princess” or “ice queen”, though her costars all agreed that she was quite the opposite [warm and friendly, by all accounts]). In many ways, Grace “dressed the part” of royal before she and Prince Rainier III ever crossed paths. Her sartorial assimilation into royal life in Monaco must have been fairly easy for her.

Book discussing Grace Kelly’s fashion: Grace Kelly Style by Kristina Haugland

My takeaways from Grace’s style aren’t new information, but I’ll still state them briefly: dress for the life that you want, and wear the designs that work for your unique style ID. We’ve heard that we have to “dress for success”, and success can be whatever you define it as. So, if you want the life of a royal, dress like one (within reason and your budget, of course). And if you know your style ID, experiment with the recommended silhouettes to find a look that works for you. After all, this whole journey is about figuring out what works, and discarding what doesn’t.

That’s it for this style ID/SC chat. I hope you all are having a fabulous February! I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.

(This post includes affiliate links)

business · goals · health · international · life curation · luxury · reading list · travel · writing

December Goal Updates

Hey friends! This is my last goal update for the year, and I wanted to take some time to look over the things that I mentioned as my “goals” in 2021. Of course, you can look up my old goal posts for more info (like this one here, here, here, and this one here, too). But in this post, I’m going to re-share my original list, and let you know how all of this turned out for 2021.

Here’s my 2021 goal list:

  • Publish 5 books
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Manifest 3 international trips
  • Earn 6 figures in my businesses
  • Read 100+ books
  • Luxury purchases – Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Sophia Webster, Ralph & Russo
  • Cure my fibromyalgia

So let’s take it point by point, shall we?

I published my 5 books, and actually published more than that. Yay me!

I gained weight, instead of losing it. I figured out that I am likely heavier because of my prescription medication, and that’s fine. I’ve transitioned off of those meds, and now I’m getting my body back into balance. It’s a process, and I’m giving myself time to figure all of this out without judging my body for being a bit heavier. In most cases, you gotta make peace before you can make progress, so that’s what I’m doing.

No international travel! But, I did manifest a local trip for free, which was nice. I also have several international trips lined up for 2022 (as in, flights purchased and deposits paid). I’m confident that I’ll have my wings again in no time.

My businesses didn’t earn 6 figures however, I did reach an all-time income high for my businesses, which was very exciting. It only goes up from here!

I read somewhere between 85-90 books. I had to slow down during these last couple of months of the year, which was the time I scheduled to catch up due to some slower periods during the first part of the year. However, I’m still SUPER proud of how many books I’ve read. I’m sure I’ll read more than 100 books next year with no issue!

I bought some luxury items, but I decided I’d rather support Black American luxury designers in the future. I’m saving some coins for my next big luxury purchase, which I’m pretty sure I’ll have before the end of the season (if all goes well).

My fibro isn’t cured, but I’m learning a LOT about how to heal my body, and I’m seeing that eliminating the symptoms is possible. I’m also seen some positive effects after removing my medications (not nearly as exhausted or achy as I thought I’d be). For all of this, I’m thankful, and I’m going to press on and share information as I get it in this upcoming year.

Well, that’s my super-fast summary of my 2021 goals. I don’t anticipate posting a 2022 goal list because it doesn’t quite resonate with the direction where I want to take this blog, but if I’m inspired to do something different, then you’ll see a goal list in 2022. But, if you want to know more about my upcoming 2022 plans, check out Tuesday’s post (two days ago), or click here.

That’s all, folks! Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

business · career · fitness · goals · health · international · life curation · luxury · reading list · travel · writing

July Goal Updates

It’s that time of the month again: time to review my annual goals and give you all some updates on what’s been happening on my end!

As a quick refresher, here is the 2021 goal list that I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Publish 5 books
  • Lose 15 lbs
  • Manifest 3 international trips
  • Earn 6 figures in my businesses
  • Read 100+ books
  • Luxury purchases – Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Sophia Webster, Ralph & Russo
  • Cure my fibromyalgia

Next week, on Writer’s Wednesdays, I’ll be providing a publishing update, so I won’t be discussing that in depth today. However, I can say comfortably that I’ll have reached my publishing goal by August 1st, though, at this point, I plan to go far beyond my initial goal and aim for 10 books published by the end of the year.

As far as my weight loss goal, I’ve never progressed nor regressed. However, August 15th will be kicking off a dietary overall for me, which is connected to my last goal (curing my fibro). My next few Fibro Friday posts will cover this in more detail, as well as provide some background for context.

My international travel goal is not inspiring me nearly as much as it did when I first envisioned it. Make no mistake: I will be doing some travel this year. But with the Delta variant of COVID-19 on the rise, even my best plans may be thwarted by a new set of travel restrictions. For this reason, I’m focusing more on local travel this year. If an international trip is still possible in December, then yes, I will do that. But I’m not putting a ton of pressure on myself to “manifest” 3 international trips in 2021. Domestic travel can be just as satisfying, and it will allow me to reconnect with loved ones stateside.

My reading goals are coming along nicely. I’ll have my latest Books Read post coming out next week. At the rate that I’m going, I should be at 100 books by late October (fingers crossed). Audiobooks have really been saving me so much time! However, I’ll also be getting back to my ebooks and paperbacks soon: I miss looking at words in print.

My business goals are … meh. Monday’s post covered this topic already, but I’ll be doing some more strategizing in the upcoming weeks to see how close I can get to reaching the $100K+ mark in my businesses. It’s quite a stretch, but I can see where, with some adjustments, it’s doable.

And finally, about those luxury purchases . . . I’m adjusting this as well, and for good reason. I had a revelation that is far more aligned with the kind of consumer I intend to be (going forward). When you have those sorts of “aha!” moments, doing some course correction is the natural next step. The post all about this revelation will be coming out within a week or two, so look out for it soon.

That’s it for my goal updates! Progress in some areas, stagnation in others, and completely rewriting one or two. I’m pleased overall, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things come together over the next few months.

I hope you all are having a great day, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

culture · international

Harry, Meghan and Oprah – My Thoughts

Happy Tuesday, friends! Most of the online spaces I frequent are buzzing after the bombshell interview that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, had with the queen of American media, Oprah Winfrey.

You all know I had to write my thoughts on the interview. There were too many lessons for me to keep silent. I’m breaking down some of my favorite takeaways from the discussion.

  • Stay ready so that you don’t have to get ready.

Meghan was not given the opportunity to receive royal protocol training. However, Meghan quickly schooled herself enough (with the help of Harry) to pass the protocol tests with flying colors.

I’m certain that she had no idea that she would be under so much scrutiny, but as an actress, she knows that being flexible and adjusting quickly to change and unexpected circumstances is key. So, she learned what she needed to know and performed beautifully. If she had waited for the training to be offered to her, she would have failed miserably at impressing the Queen as well as the public. One of the things Meghan mentions as a regret was not being more informed about the role of “working royal”. So, if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s this: stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Prepare yourself as much as you can for each new circumstance, so when life throws you a curve ball, you can knock it out of the park.

  • Always have your own bag.

The Sussexes are not receiving any security or other financial support from the British royal family (BRF). For this reason, having your own “bag” (money) is key. The move from working royal to private citizen is challenging enough, but doing it with no money is impossible. Likewise, no matter what situation life finds you in, remember to save for a rainy day and always have your own “bag”, so you will have the freedom to walk away from anything that doesn’t serve you.

  • Legacy planning can save your life, as well as the life of your children, grandchildren, etc.,.

Part of the money being used to support the Sussexes is Harry’s inheritance from his mother, Princess Diana. Legacy planning isn’t always easy, but some measure of it is always feasible. Even if you can’t leave your children millions of dollars, strive to leave them something of value. That money may be just what they need to escape a dangerous situation in the future. Legacy planning is a literal lifesaver, and should be prioritized by everyone (but especially those among us that have children).

  • Prioritize your mental health.

The most heartbreaking thing about this interview was Meghan’s description of her suicidal thoughts. Whatever you do, always make sure to prioritize your mental health. Find the resources to help you to cope NOW. Many resources are available online for free, so you don’t have to be wealthy to get some measure of help. Take care of your mental health: your life depends on it.

  • Sometimes, the best way to win the game is to walk away from the table.

In light of this interview, it’s clear that Harry and Meghan made the best choice for their family. Their faces are obviously pained, but there is a peace still emanating from both of them. They won this game simply by opting out. They have endeared themselves even further to those of us that believe them and want them to be happy and safe. I, for one, am thrilled that they are forging this new path for themselves. They are sharing their story so that the world will know the truth. All of the world is watching, sending them positive energy, and hoping that they remain safe.

I wrote previously about what it means to step away from royal duties, and I’m glad that I watched this interview and got an even better sense of what this entails. I am so proud of Harry and Meghan, and I feel very optimistic about their future. I foresee nothing but success and happiness for them!

career · culture · international

Back in School

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all are doing well, and I also hope that you all had a restful and restorative weekend.

I’ve been busy behind the scenes (as I noted in this previous post), but I wanted to make sure that I shared additional details about what I’ve been working on. I recently was accepted into a certificate program, so I’ll be attending Cornell University for the next several months (that was the entrepreneur training I mentioned previously). I don’t anticipate that this will interfere with my posting schedule, but that remains to be seen.

At this point, I’m adjusting my schedule so that I can (fingers crossed) have enough time to do everything that I need to do. I’m getting back to using one of my old favorites: a planner than maps out your day, hour by hour. That way, I can stay on top of all of the things I need to do daily, and if I need to shift things around, at least I’m less likely to skip a task that desperately needs to be done.

Along with these Cornell courses, I’m taking two free courses on FutureLearn. The first course is Unleash Your Potential: Global Citizenship, focusing on the different opportunities that arise from being a global citizen. The second course is What is International Development (the title is self explanatory). These courses aren’t as intense as my Cornell schedule, so I’m fitting them into 30 minute chunks every day.

Between my classes, my job, and my writing, I am BUSY! But honestly, I love it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to do all of these things. I have some big goals which means I have to take some drastic action this year. There’s no time like the present to work on everything I want to do, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more musings, because this recent Harry and Meghan interview has my mind churning! Talk to you all soon.

culture · international · life curation

Embracing The Year of the Ox

We recently saw the beginning of a brand new Lunar Year on February 12th. Somehow, I was a bit late this year, and I didn’t realize that the Lunar New Year occurred until two days after.

What can I say? It’s been a challenging year for all of us, and if I miss a couple of holidays, it’s only because this year has done a number on most of us.

Anyway, back to the Lunar New Year. I thought of the significance of this year’s animal, the ox. I reflected back on the last lunar year, the year of the rat. I think of mice and rats, and how these animals, while indicative of abundance (they are always in places with adequate food supply), can overconsume and leave desolation where abundance used to reside. I think the year of the rat, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a collective wake-up call. We are abundant, but, as a society, we have taken too much from nature, and balance must be restored.

Enter the year of the ox. This hardworking beast of burden only consumes what it needs to sustain itself, and it’s purpose for existing is to produce through manual efforts. Unlike rats, whose body waste is toxic and often spreads disease, oxen are useful all the way down to their fecal matter, which can fertilize and restore balance to the soil. The ox is sturdy, reliable, and work-oriented. It is the animal that’s most representative of the attitude we need in these times.

I think this year will be a year of restoration and balance. Life will get back to normal, more or less, but what is considered baseline normal has changed. We’ve had roughly one year to stay close to home, spend more time doing domestic activities, and to closely examine what matters to us. Now, we have our work to do.

It’s time for us to produce. We’ve been incubating our skills and talents during lockdowns and quarantines: now is the time to put out into the world what we’ve been creating during our downtime. And yes, I understand that many of us were too stressed and otherwise limited to “create” in the traditional sense. But, our creations need not be tangible: they can be our musings, creative nudges or even inklings of necessary change in our personal lives or in society. We have all created “something” in the past year: now it’s time to unleash it.

May the year of the ox give you great favor and lead you closer to a wonderful existence.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

culture · international · life curation

What Stepping Away From Royal Duties REALLY Means

Happy Monday, friends! I don’t know about you all, but the past few days have been wonderful. The weather is becoming milder here on the East Coast, and COVID-19 seems to be FINALLY decreasing. Let’s hope that these good things continue!

Recently, I read Buckingham Palace’s statement on Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan and their decision to step away from royal duties. As a result of this decision, they will be stripped of their royal patronages. This could not have been easy for the Sussexes, as they have made service a crucial theme in their personal and professional lives. In particular, I think of Prince Harry, who, as a result of this decision to step away, will have his honorary military titles removed. This must have been a very painful outcome for this proud veteran, who dutifully served the Crown for ten years.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (Photo as shown on People Magazine [Karwai Tang/WireImage])

As painful as it must be, I am so happy for and proud of this couple. There is far more at stake with this decision that simply losing titles and patronages. The decision to step away from royal duties is the decision to forge a brand new path. No one so close to the Crown has opted to become a private citizen since Edward VIII, and we all know how much of a crisis that caused. This is truly untrodden ground, as the world that we know today is quite different from the one occupied by Edward VIII and his beloved, Wallis Simpson.

The decision to step away, closing the door leading to life as a royal, has opened a myriad other doors for the couple. Walking away made it possible for them to create Archewell, a revolutionary media company that will distribute the content that the Sussexes want to bring into the world. The Archewell umbrella will also allow them to support causes that are near and dear, and will allow them to influence people in ways that they feel are most impactful, without the limitations imposed upon royals. Stepping away from royal duties will allow the Sussexes to step into serving on their terms.

Ultimately, this is what the couple truly wants to be known for: service that matters to them, and done in the way that they feel will do the most good. The Sussexes demonstrated this almost immediately after the Buckingham Palace statement was released, by supporting a Dallas woman’s shelter that was badly damaged by the devastating winter storms that slammed Texas last week. The unexpected act of kindness is the first public contribution made by the Archewell Foundation, and is likely a small preview of the many charitable acts that we can expect from Harry and Meghan in the future.

This entire discussion brings to mind the famous poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. The poem references how the speaker, considering two paths, “kept the first for another day”, but he also knew well, “how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back”. I doubt that the Sussexes will ever decide to rejoin the royal family in the capacity that was expected of them, but their decision to step away is undoubtedly a choice full of promise and potential. They can make a bigger impact in the way that they see fit, and they can author a spectacular story that starkly contrasts anything that royal life could offer, yet remains true to them. That, I believe, is why they chose to step away, and that, to paraphrase Frost, will make all the difference.

culture · food · international

Snack Review: Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

While quarantined, I haven’t been enjoying takeout as much as I used to. However, I still enjoy trying new foods, especially snacks. So when I saw this food that combines two of my favorite snacks – spring rolls and Thai mango and sticky rice – I couldn’t resist. I had to try it!

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Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls were easy to prepare. The rolls had a crispy exterior after baking, and I was excited at how the texture of the baked spring roll was similar to a fried roll. I was concerned that the roll would be a tad bit soggy, but it was crispy, crunchy and delicious.

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A perfectly crisp spring roll

Now, when it comes to the filling . . . Let me qualify this by saying I’ve had many different mango and sticky rice desserts. I’ve eaten at over a dozen different Thai restaurants in different cities and I usually have my mango and sticky rice at each one. So, I feel really comfortable saying that I know what the dessert should taste like. This interior was not as tasty as I’d hoped. It was especially chewy, and the mango flavoring wasn’t as prominent as I’d like. So the filling wasn’t as delightful as the exterior, unfortunately.

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The interior wasn’t as tasty as I hoped

Here’s the rub: I was looking forward to the filling more than the outside, yet the outside was the best part of the snack. But, I don’t think that this product is a complete fail: in fact, I can think of a few ways that it can be improved. First, the company should tinker with the rice recipe to see how to prevent the rice from getting too “tough” when baking. Also, a little more mango would be wonderful. Finally, this needs COCONUT SAUCE! These rolls practically begged to be dipped into a creamy, sweetened coconut sauce to amp up the flavor and to add a contrast to the crisp exterior.

Would I try this again? Sure, especially if I had my own coconut sauce (or if the company started including sauce with the rolls). I’d be sure to have some additional mango to accompany these rolls, too.

Have any of you tried these before? Or, do you have another Thai dessert that you prefer? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

art · culture · international · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 1

I shared some photos of my trip to China almost two years ago (to the date!) on this blog. I remember this trip fondly and I can’t wait to return when international travel is an option again. Until then, here are some photos that I haven’t shared before. These are all from Beijing: I’ll add pictures from Hangzhou and Shanghai in a separate post. Enjoy!

Meal I enjoyed at a local mall: one of the best veggie curries I’ve ever had!

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A quick snap at The Forbidden City

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The Great Wall

Local shopping district: I visited Plastered8 t-shirt shop and found some cool stuff

Yum!

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Spots of beauty everywhere

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Cute bib from Haidilao restaurant (their hotpot was superb!)

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A philosophy for life

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