How to Be a Happy Housewife: Get Yourself Some Alcohol!

Now don't get too excited, I am not talking about that kind of alcohol, ladies.
I'm talking about the kind you find at the drugstore.

Yesterday, my three year old decided to sneak downstairs to the family room and write all over my couch with a pen. Yes, I said ALL OVER my couch. Luckily for me, my couch had a removable slip cover that although light in colour (a pink, green and cream awning stripe combination), was chosen by yours truly in a durable cotton twill just in the event of an incident like this one.
After all the yelling and crying subsided (mine as well as his), I ran to the only place where I knew I could find some help, my Home Ec books. I have been collecting old Home Economics books for years, much to the amusement of my husabnd who has often wondered (out loud) what I could possibly do with all these books on the same subject. Well, I was glad that he was around to see all his hard earned dollars at work.
Book after book that I looked through told me that the only foolproof way to remove ink from almost all fabrics is to use rubbing alcohol. Good old isopropyl alcohol can be applied directly to the ink stain to soak for a few minutes and then you can wash the item according to the manufacturer's directions. I would never have believed it if I hadn't witnessed it myself but it really did the trick. The ink stains started to disappear slowly and about 15 minutes later the stains were almost completely gone. When I pulled the slipcover out of my washing machine, there wasn't even a trace of the stain left. The researcher in me decided to learn a little bit more about the varied household uses for rubbing alcohol and I was amazed with what I came up with.
An obvious germ killer, it's recommended to wipe down your phone on a regular basis with a cloth and rubbing alcohol to clean and disinfect. Bathroom fixtures (or anything chrome for that matter) will gleam like never before if you go over them with a soft cloth and a generous amount of alcohol, and the added bonus is that the alcohol will quickly evaporate and therefore no need to rinse the fixtures off.
From cleaning marker off of a countertop to getting hairspray off of your bathroom mirror, this little bottle hidden away in my medicine cabinet has become my new best friend.
Since I couldn't feel fully comfortable applying alcohol to my slip cover without finding out what Martha thought about it first, I double-checked the Martha Stewart site just to see what she had to say and she concurred that it was the only way to go. While I was there, I came across this great holiday stain removal guide that I am sure some of us will have to run to at some point during this holiday season.
Got any secret stain removal tricks up your sleeve?
Please post a comment and share them with us.

Look of the Day: Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett was our pick this week in this stunning one shoulder dress and matching velvet heels.
I adore this dress and especially this vibrant shade of purple on the lovely Ms. Blanchett. I was initially thrown off slightly by the singular shoulder pad on a sleeveless arm but I am a big fan of minimal accesories paired with statement dresses and I adore the rounded toe heel she is wearing.
After a slight nudge from my partner in fashion critique, Giorgena, I did come around and can't imagine the dress looking as stunning without the exaggerated shoulder.
While I was busy hesitating with my decision to make Cate the Great my choice for the week, Giorgena shot back with "I love the dress, I love it I love it I love it and I'll take it with the whacky shoulder pad - I don't know, I think the shoulder pad takes it from being any old one-shoulder dress to looking more upscale and special. I love the line the dress makes along the top and around to the back. Beautiful." How could I argue with that?!?

What do you think of Cate Blanchett's Look of the Day?

The Traditional Gift Guide-What to Get The One You Love

I am always on the look out for ways to make my life easier. Being without a personal assistant or secretary (which by the way would be just about the best present I could ever get-note to husband if you're reading!!!), it is difficult to streamline certain aspects of your life, while keeping your style and savoir-faire. Gift-giving has always been one of those areas for me. Around the holidays, I would drive myself bananas thinking about what to get for all the people on my gift list. A potential trip to the insane asylum really squeezes the fun out of gift-giving.

The same applied to the weeks approaching my anniversary. I am trying not to brag but I have a great husband. Since I am told that I can be a little demanding and hard to live with at times (absolute hearsay I tell you but I will roll with it for this post!), I try to do a really good job at picking great gifts for him, like a little extra appreciation for having to put up with my craziness. He really deserves the best and topping the 'best' year after year is not the easiest task. Right before my third anniversary, I came across a traditional anniversary gift guide and since I was stumped as to what I was going to get my husband that year, I decided to use the guide as my starting point.
The third anniversary is traditionally the 'leather' anniversary and since my husbands wallet was on its last leg, I decided to go with a beautiful leather wallet that I had monogramed with his initials on the inside. It was one of the easiest gifts I had ever purchased and he absolutely loved it. Since it worked so well, I used the same theme of leather for his birthday (a new briefcase) and Christmas (a leather jacket) that year. I have been using the guide ever since and it has never failed me as a starting point for inspiration. I have strayed from it on a few occasions, if I have the feeling my husband wants something in particular but I always go back to it, it's so much easier to find the best of what you are looking for if you know what you want to find!

You can use the guide exactly as it was originally listed, or use your creativity and modernize the guide as loosely as you like. I found a great article on the site Hitched that gives you some excellent suggestions for a modern take on the gift guide. I love the little extra suggestions at the bottom of each section that zeros in on a more masculine take on the guide.

Please post a comment and tell us what you do to make your holiday gift-giving go smoothly??

Look of The Day: Sandra Bullock

This week's pick was an easy one for Giorgena and I. There was very little of our usual back and forth critique, Sandra Bullock was our winner, hands down! Giorgena said "You know I wasn't too crazy about Sandra Bullock in the past but I've noticed lately that I like her. I'm even interested in seeing this new football movie she's in. After careful review, Sandra Bullock is absolutely my first and only choice for LOW".
Sandra looked absolutely lovely at the New York premiere for her new movie, The Blind Side. Her choice of a simple gold clutch, a bangle and hoop earrings is understated yet so refined. The absence of any neck jewellery only emphasizes one of the most neglected erogenous zones, the collarbone. I love the asymmetrical shoulder and the feathery(?) ruffles peeking out from the straps. This retro-styled version of the little black dress evokes a feeling of old Hollywood glamour for me! The fitted drape of the dress gives us just a hint of sexiness, nothing overt and in your face but there is no way you could miss this lady!
Now since we are speaking of old Hollywood glamour, I must send out some blog love to one of my fav blogs, Blonde Episodes. Kori never disappoints with great pics and fabulously interesting stories of some of the most stunning leading ladies of the past and present silver screen. A must-visit for anyone interested in glamour, vintage Hollywood and the cinema!

What do you think of Sandra Bullock's 'Look of the Day'??

HOW TO BEHAVE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: The Very Best Way to Begin and End Your Day!

Would it not be more refined and honest to live a little better everyday and make less a parade before company"
Eliza Farrar (1834)

I received an email last week from a reader who wanted my opinion on an etiquette matter concerning her children and since I have found this situation to be quite common, I thought I would share it with you (with her permission, of course-thanks L.R.!).

Her family had visited with some elderly relatives of hers and when they were getting ready to leave, her children (ages 4, 7 and 9) put their coats and shoes on and quickly ran out the door, without saying good-bye to their hosts. She said that she "could see looks of disapproval on my aunts faces but since I was a little embarrassed about it, I casually excused my children's behaviour by saying "oh, you know how kids are" and quickly said my good-byes". On the way home, she tried to speak to her kids about it but felt that she wasn't getting anywhere. She mentioned that she had also noticed since then, that she had to remind her children to greet others with a hello, otherwise they wouldn't acknowledge the presence of other people around them. She asked what the best way would be to address this with her children and how she could go about correcting this behaviour.

While we always want our children to be on their best behaviour when we are out visiting with others, we should start by looking at their behaviour at home first. I asked her if her family makes a habit of saying 'good morning' and 'good night' to each other, of greeting each other when they are coming into the home or on their way out. She responded that she had never really thought about it but that it wasn't something that they did on a regular basis. I explained that since it had never been made a habit to greet one another in their own home, how could her children know the difference between proper and unacceptable behaviour when they were out in the world. If your children are used to saying hello and goodbye to each other as they enter or leave your home, it will be second nature for them to do the same in someone elses home.
It is our responsibility as parents to lead and teach good manners by example. Explain what it is you expect of them when it comes to greeting others, that it is impolite to not say hello upon encountering someone or say goodbye when you or they are leaving. Then practice what you preach diligently in your own home. Greet your children with a warm 'good morning' when you are waking them or when they come down for breakfast. Make a habit of saying a pleasant 'good night' instead of barking for them to go to bed (I know, I know, easier said than done!). Greet your children (and don't forget your spouse) as they run out for school or work and on their way back home from an activity or shopping.
Children are like little sponges, they pick up and mimic parental behaviour. Accidentally use a four-letter word in front of them, and little Bobby will be sharing his new 'word' with anyone and everyone he comes across in a matter of minutes. The same goes for teaching your children politeness and common courtesy towards others.  Our best behaviour should not be reserved only for who we encounter outside of our front door, but also for the ones we love and cherish inside those four walls we call home sweet home!

Look Of The Day: Jennifer Aniston

Giorgena and I had such a kick last week doing our look of the day, that we have decided to do it as a regular feature.

We decided that our 'prestigious' award goes to Jennifer Aniston who always looks fantastic but this week she shines in this rather conservative mini dress and knee-high suede boots. The leather jacket with the ruffle trim gives the look a trendier edge. (Big fall trend on the ruffled jacket, leather or otherwise)
 Giorgena said "This is the way I wish I could make my appearances to just about anywhere. She looks fantastic." I couldn't agree with her more, I just love that All-American sexy girl look,  always showcasing her killer body in a very subtle way. This is the way to do sexy-a simple, no-fuss style which highlights one part of the body at a time, a classic Jennifer Aniston look.
Ms. Aniston probably wears more black than anyone I have ever come across but somehow she always manages to make it look fresh and sexy. A skirt as short as this one on a woman over 40 is usually not my favourite look but this lady has killer legs and she has smartly paired her short skirt with black opaque tights (another hot trend this season!) which still shows off those gams but in a not so obvious (or should I say trashy) way.
What do you think of Jennifer Aniston's look of the day??

The Art of the Glove In The Age of H1N1

It's everywhere you turn. Swine flu, vaccinations, H1N1, priority clinics. It is hard enough trying to decide what is the best way to protect your kiddies, let alone think about your own safety. Keeping your hands clean is one of your best defenses they say. Those hand sanitizers everyone carries around are great for ridding yourself of bacteria but not so great with killing viruses, like the H1N1, they say. Wash your hands with warm soapy water they say. But what if you are no where near a sink and some soap, do you avoid touching anthing and everything?? Shopping carts, door handles, the ATM, what does one do when they are out and about?
There is just so much you can do with an elbow or a foot, believe me I have tried. (I was the butt of some teenager's joke at the mall a few days ago when I was trying to push a stroller and myself through a set of doors using my forearm, elbow and my left foot) When I regained my 'cool', away from those laughing, pimpley adolescents, I did briefly entertain the idea of carrying around a pair of latex gloves for just these situations but I quickly came to my senses. Asides from looking like one of those cuckoos walking around in public with those hospital face masks on (yes, I have seen a few), latex can really bring down your style quotient. What is a girl to do who still wants to look chic while trying not to get contaminated??
As I strolled the mall, I happened to find myself in front of the window display of Club Monaco when it hit me. Staring me right in the face was the answer to my question, a pair of gloves. A beautiful suede, ruched pair that stopped about mid-forearm (referred to as elbow length). I ran in and tried them on and noticed how much nicer my outfit looked with the gloves on. I wasn't wearing anything special but there was something about the gloves, they made whatever I had thrown on look complete.
I have always loved the glove, the glove of yesterday, the kind of glove that used to grace the hands of all women, regardless of station or upbringing.

I was reminded of an article I had read about the history of the glove and one of the reasons that gloves came into fashion favor in the 18th century were to protect the hands from dirt and germs (you can add viruses to that list!). They didn't bathe a whole lot back then and they seemed to have been very creative when it came to keeping yourself somewhat clean (or at least masking the uncleanliness!) without the actual use of soap and water.

Jacqueline Kennedy

The glove continued to gain popularity throughout the next two centuries (especially during the height of Christian Dior's New Look) until the mid 1960's. Most women wouldn't be caught dead outside of their homes without a pair of gloves that complimented their outfit.

Doris Day

For some reason they fell out of favor with the young and fashionable during the decade of love and freedom (I am all for love and freedom but what did the poor little glove ever do to them??).

Grace Kelly

I love the way a fine pair of gloves completes an outfit and I yearn for the days when donning a pair of gloves outside of the winter season didn't bring about stares like you were an alien. With the weather getting colder, it is the perfect time to run out and grab yourself a pair. They are everywhere and at every price point, but to truely get the look you should try to invest in a crisp, fitted glove made of kid leather. These can be a little pricey but well worth the investment. The more expensive ones are usually made of better leather and therefore hold their shape a lot longer. Any colour will do but its always a good bet to start off with a basic (black, brown or if you are really careful a winter white or cream). Length of the glove is again a personal preference  but I just love the look of an elbow length glove with all the chic jackets and coats that are out there this season sporting a 3/4 length sleeve! Try it out with any outfit (well maybe not sweats and trainers but you shouldn't be out and about in those clothes anyway!) and I guarantee you will see the difference and love it.
As I was cruising the web looking for some fabulous images and interesting information on the glove, I came across a great post (and one of my new favourite blogs by the way!) from the very entertaining Merriam at Bygone Brillance. She has some great images to go along with her fab post that just proves our point that style and the glove go hand in hand (sorry, I just couldn't help it), so please click on the link and check it out.

I am on a mission to bring the glove back to its former glory and I know there are a lot of you out there that feel the same. Please post your thoughts!

Look of The Day: Claire Danes

I could have been doing something a little more productive this morning (like laundry, cleaning, dusting, you know all that 'fun' stuff) but I was lucky enough to catch my good friend Giorgena S. on the phone so that we could discuss more pressing matters like who looked great this week and what we would buy if we didn't have mortgages to pay!

Quite a boring week in celebrity fashion sightings, both of us decided we could have spent our imaginary millions much more wisely then the rich and famous did this first week of November. We concluded though that Claire Danes took the prize this week with this navy, embroidered Oscar De La Renta dress and silver Judith Leiber clutch.
Giorgena said "Smart, nice outfit. I like it. It's nothing that will stop traffic but everything about it is right. Something must be said about perfect tailoring here."
I absolutely agree that there is nothing offensive at all about this ourfit, the dress is pretty, the shoes compliment her frock appropriately and I always love the black and white colour combination. I think what pushed her past all the others this week was the fact that this dress looked like it was made for her.  It reallys makes a difference to your final look to have something nipped in a bit here or let out a smidge there, giving a custom look to almost anything you buy off the rack. Even common folk like ourselves can afford a good seamstress who will do wonders with our wardrobes. Every thing I have ever read about women of style leads me to believe that the truly chic hold their seamstresses closer to their hearts than some of their husbands!

What do what you think of Claire Danes' "Look of the Day"?

Style Icons that Inspire

Todays post has been inspired by a great guest post over at one of my favourite blogs, Social Climbers (if you haven't already visited Beth Dunn at Social Climbers, you are missing out!). Invited to grace us with stories of her very own style hero, The EntertainingMom from The Entertaining House gives us a glimpse into the life of her very glamourous grandmother. After a look at her chic family tree, it all starts to make sense! (Just look at her dad giving the Kennedys a run for their money in the style department)
I have always been fascinated with women like these, the quintessentially stylish, the ones who always look perfect, act divine and lead these fabulous (and fabulously interesting) lives.

Barbara 'Babe' Paley

I consider myself a stylish gal but I catch myself studying these woman, the famous and not-so-famous women, women we group under the umbrella of 'style icons' trying to figure out what it is that place them just a notch above other women and how I can incorporate their essence of style into my own life.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

After all these years, while I have garnered quite a few glimpses, through countless books and the glossy magazines, into this polished world, I continue to be mesmerized by a select few.

Grace Kelly

After polling about two hundred women about who they thought was the style icon of all time, I have come up with a short list of style icons that will be spotlighted over the coming months.

Gloria Guinness

Maybe if we get real lucky, the EntertainingMom will give us a few more peeks into the life of her fascinating hero!

Please leave a comment and let us know who your style icon is!!

My Home Ec Teacher Would Be Proud!

I try to do my part when it comes to bringing my own reusable bags to the grocery store but sometimes I have to run in for some last minute thing and I end up with the dreaded plastic bags. Add the ones that come from non-grocery shopping (the kind of shopping I prefer) and by the end of the week, I end up with a mountain of plastic bags. Not that I don't re-use them, we are still a household with projects to cart to school and smelly diapers to dispose of, so they do come in handy. The only problem is that they are everywhere and I find them unsightly when they are just stuffed into one another and hidden in a cupboard.

Enter Martha (Stewart of course, is there any other Martha??) with this fabulous idea for creating a bag holder out of an old kitchen towel and some twill tape. Really simple instructions (just click on this link) even for those of us who spent Home Ec class daydreaming of changing the world instead of replacing a button.(Yes, that would be me, I raise my hand in shame. I never thought anything that poor lady was trying to teach me was ever going to factor into my life. If I had only known then what I know now.....)

I tried this last night and I was impressed not only with my finished product but with myself. After my first few stitches, I started laughing while I thought "who are you kidding, you can't sew and you know this will not end up looking like what is in that picture" But lo and behold, my teenage brain must have absorbed something in that home ec class because it turned out great, exactly like in the picture. My mother couldn't believe that I had made this little tote, she was convinced I had purchased it. Since my husband was my only witness to the claim that I had made this myself, my mother first confirmed with him that I was telling the truth and then asked me if I could make one for her. Perfect to hang in a kitchen cabinet or even by the door you use the most, making it so much easier to grab a bag on your way out.

PREPARING YOUR CHRISTMAS CARD LIST :: Mrs. Lemontree's Guide on How to Behave Here, There and Everywhere

Christmas is less than 8 weeks away and now is the perfect time to get a leg up on the holiday madness that is just peaking around the corner. The first Christmas that we had with my first child was memorable for two reasons. We had a beautiful new baby to share this marvelous holiday with and I almost had a nervous breakdown. (Okay not quite a breakdown but pretty close!) I had always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of gal when it came to the holidays. I could go into detail but I am sure you all know what I mean, desperate last minute shopping, haphazard decorating if any and I am positive that most people received their Christmas cards on the same day that they were taking down their trees.
Being an organization freak, this was completely out of character for me but for some reason, I couldn't help it around the holidays. Add a new baby to the equation and the pressure of being responsible for creating Christmas memories for my growing family and I had stressed myself out beyond belief! After that Christmas, I vowed not to have that happen again so, the next year I set myself on a easy to follow timeline that has worked wonderfully for me ever since.
The first step I like to take is to start working on my Christmas card list during the first week of November. I know what you are saying, "we just finished with Halloween" but since we all know how the days fly by during this busy fall season, putting aside a few moments for this activity during this time will ensure you don't miss the boat!

Gather your Addresses
Set aside about an hour this week and seat yourself down with a pad of paper and a pen/pencil or your computer. I usually keep all my addresses on my computer (makes it easier to print out address labels and such) but I also have a back up hard copy of all important address in the household phone book. This may sound redundant but since I have had the pleasure of having a computer crash with all my information going down the drain, I realized how important it is to save a printed hard copy somewhere else as well.

Make a List and Check It Twice
Make a list of all the people that you want to send a holiday card to. This might seem like a very simple task but sometimes we tend to focus on individuals that are dear to us but that we don't have much contact with or live far away. Even if you see family members on a daily/weekly basis or live down the street from your friend and their family, this should not be the time to leave them out of receiving  heartfelt holiday wishes from yourself or your family. My mother lives about 5 minutes around the corner from me and visits my children on almost a daily basis but I am not fooling with you when I tell you that as soon as she receives our annual Christmas card, she calls squealing about how happy she was when she opened our envelope.
Also, never underestimate how little it takes to offend or hurt someone's feelings who feels they have been slighted by being left off your list. When you feel like your list is done, give yourself a few minutes away and then double check it again, just to make sure you haven't left anyone out.
When you have made your list of people to send cards to, confirm their addresses with what you have on hand and if you are missing any, use your list again to jot down notes about how you will go about getting the missing addresses. Start with addresses you can get from your parents, a relative or a friend. Don't forget the resources available to you like the your local phone book or an online 411 site. They might not supply all the information you are looking for (like the zip or postal code) but any missing information you can find on your national postal service site (Canada Post or The United States Postal Service).

Choose Your Card
Hopefully you have already made the decision of what kind of card you are going with but if you haven't, now is the time to do so. During the couple of days it might take you to finish rounding up your addresses, take a look in your local shops or cruise the web to find the perfect card. There is a great selection of beautiful cards out there but I just love the personalized family photo cards. There are pros and cons to both. Standard greeting cards can be picked up anywhere, making them readily available but they require you to write some sort of note inside of them (a simple Happy Holidays will work just as well as a more elaborate greeting, the only thing that limits you is your creativity here). If you choose to go with a personalized photo card(with a pre-printed greeting) from a website, you need to consider the extra time it will take to create these cards and have them shipped to you. Also, a personalized photo card will require, you guessed it, a photo so you need to have a picture on hand to submit to the company that will be making your cards.

Finalize and Set Aside
Now that you have decided on your card, filled them out appropriately if needed and collected all your addresses, the only steps left are to address your envelopes, place the appropriate postage in the top right hand corner and they are ready to go.
Even if you complete all the steps by the first week of November which is what we are aiming for here, try not to send your cards out too early. The whole point of this is to have yourself ready to go at the appropriate time, not to have your friends and family get your Christmas card before they celebrate Thanksgiving. I usually choose the last week of November to send out cards to anyone in Canada and the United States and as early as mid-November for any cards going overseas.
Since no plan is fool-proof, keep a few cards in a safe place, just in case. I keep a stash of extra cards in a greeting card organizer that come in handy in the off chance that someone is overlooked but during the last years that I have been following my "holiday schedule", it hasn't happened to me once.
What do you find helps you get a head start on the holidays?
Also, don't miss out on our etiquette survey. Scroll up to the top right and don't forget to vote!