Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Three-course thrill at Prime Meridian restaurant, Atlanta Omni




My recent stay at the Atlanta Omni hotel was made all the more magnificent by the fare from the Prime Meridian restaurant. Each course was a delight, and I have nothing but high praise for the place (and the chefs!).

Appetizer: Baked Vidalia onion soup with sourdough croutons & Wisconsin Valley Gruyere cheese
Both a sophisticated dish and a nourishing country pleasure, the onion soup is rich, sweet, deep, even overwhelming. The gruyere mellows the dish and adds nuttiness, while the sourdough provides a hint of down-home mamma's-kitchen salty goodness.

Entree: Pan seared woodland mushroom salad with a garlic-shallot vinaigrette
The delicious mushroom takes center stage with crisp smaller pieces bursting with woody juices and larger, tender pieces that taste much like chicken, except with an added nuttiness. The vinaigrette is light and barely there, allowing the mushroom all the (deserved) attention.

Dessert: "Sinless" chocolate-raspberry mousse served shooter-style
It would be a crime not to mention the presentation: a milk chocolate mousse served in a small shot glass, shot through with a ribbon of raspberry sauce and topped with a milk chocolate stick wrapped in thin raspberry ribbons. The mousse is of a thicker texture than expected, making for a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth, substantial sweet. Decadent!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Week of Silence, Part 1: Dress size & happiness



Why is this post entitled, ‘Week of Silence, Part 1’? Well, this week, I will be targeting social issues often swept under the rug, starting with the topic of the fashion industry, body image & dieting. Although I realize that much of what I post this week will most likely be controversial and provoke discussion, I believe that is, after all, a basic human responsibility: to improve the lives of ourselves and others by challenging situations that we take for granted, provoking conversation that can lead to action and positive change. Anyway, on with the house cleaning. Lift that rug up for me: I’ve got a heavy-duty vacuum, and I’m not afraid to use it.



Some of you may be aware of the post that I wrote a little while ago on body image and bloggers. I discussed the apparent relationship between a blogger’s success and her dress size (the trend being the smaller the dress size, the larger the success), and concluded that no matter what your size, or whether you are involved in the fashion industry or not, if you’re healthy, that’s great. I have since realized a couple of things. Firstly, that such a trend seems to prevail throughout the whole of the fashion industry (I mean really, have you ever seen a plus-size magazine editor?). And secondly, that I might be a hypocrite.



It’s no secret that I’ve been watching my diet recently, and losing weight as a result. I wrote a little bit about my regimen in this Black Swan-related post on attaining a dancer’s body the healthy way. My weight loss hasn’t exactly been subtle: 20 lbs and 2 inches off everything (bust, waist, hips and thighs) in a month. I’m going to be upfront: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like myself better. I’m now a lean, strong, and fit size 6, and I’m pretty much always pleased when I look in the mirror these days. Is this hypocritical of me? I will always advocate that health and personal happiness (being healthy and being happy with yourself) are the only important considerations in light of your outward appearance, and that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. I believe that no one, whether they are involved in the fashion industry or not, should have to conform to any imposed standard of beauty. Thus, am I being hypocritical in my personal life? Am I just another hypocrite advocating health while secretly enslaved to some intangible iron rod of a social standard?

I don’t believe so. I don’t want to be stick thin - I like having curves, albeit in the right places. For me, my own vision of personal beauty is one of a healthy, curvaceous, sensual body, and by ‘sensual’ I do not mean sexually appealing by means of curves, thereby denigrating the appeal of a healthy, thin body. I’m talking about the sensuality that arises from the happiness and content of the body’s owner, the beauty that stems from self-confidence and personal security. For me, beauty comes not from any tangible source, but from confidence, from happiness. Anything tangible that we choose to adopt as a symbol of that beauty is only a means of attaining the ends: whether we’re trying to attain a different body (thinner, curvier, more muscular or leaner) or a different life (one with more affluence and wealth, or one with more of a philanthropic community service-style approach), we are only ever trying to secure our own version of personal beauty, and thus attain happiness. Personally, I find a toned, lean, slim but curvaceous body attractive, so that’s what I’m working towards in my own body: a healthy, toned size 4. Having achieved this, I will feel confident, attractive, and happy.

Some might think this is a negative attitude: do I feel like I have to change my body to feel attractive and happy? Isn’t this implying that I’m not good enough, not happy with myself currently? Isn’t this intrinsically bad? Although society would probably deem this to be the situation, think about it for a second. I never said that I was unhappy with myself, and indeed I am not, not at all. I know that I am of intrinsic value, regardless of my appearance. I was happy with myself even before I lost those 20 lbs. I simply believe that my outward appearance can be improved upon. While society might tell you that doing so suggests a negative attitude, I believe that as long as you are doing so without a negative or unhealthy mindset, it is an entirely positive thing. Why not make something good, better? I mean, think about it, should you not try to improve upon and develop your natural intelligence by going to university?

In conclusion, I think it’s crucial to attempt not to follow social dogma, even when it masquerades as healthy advice. Gaining weight is not a necessarily negative thing, and neither is losing weight, even if you’re already healthy. Nor is maintaining weight. Or striving to achieve any of the previously mentioned effects. As long as it is done in a healthy mindset, with no damage to yourself or others, it is perfectly acceptable. No matter what society says, it is not necessarily good or necessarily bad. It is simply progress.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Dress to impress (only without the 'dress' part)



Got a holiday party to attend? Not feeling a dress but still want to light up the room? Try these party-perfect pieces for shine and sex appeal. No dress, all impress.

From top, clockwise:
-Topshop Oyster Open Tie Front Shirt
-Topshop Stag Head Ring
-ASOS Double Finger Wrapped Vine Ring
-Topshop purse
-Topshop High Waisted Wet Look Leggings
-Jeffrey Campbell Jenn shoes in Brown Croc
-Topshop Long Sleeved Top
-Topshop Long Line Seamed Silk Bralet

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Last-Minute Party Pieces

Ah, Christmas, don’t cha love it. You frantically scramble to get the perfect gift for everyone on your list, panic when you remember someone on Christmas Eve, sigh in relief after checking out my last-minute gift guide, then practically hyperventilate when you realize you don’t have all the pieces necessary to throw that incredible Christmas/ New Year’s Eve party you’re hosting. Well never fear, I have another guide to help you through the last-minute party jitters.

No matter what you may be missing - whether you just remembered (after searching the attic, basement, space between the floorboards, etc.) that you lent half your fine china dinnerware set to your Blair Waldorf-esque dinner party-obsessed compadre, or broke the last champagne glasses you own at your last anniversary (what? It was a moment of excitement. And well worth the broken glasses, I assure you…) - you can get the perfect party piece from Mikasa.

Mikasa offers a vast array of what might best be classified as home d├ęcor: from dinnerware to champagne flutes to frosted martini glasses to Christmas ornaments. Whatever you need to make your party sparkle, you can find it at the Mikasa website (www.mikasa.com). Below, I’ve included some of my top Mikasa picks for a perfect holiday party.



1.) Mikasa Damask Copper dinnerware. The Damask Copper dinnerware comes in sets numbering from 5 to 60 pieces, and is elegant yet not overwhelming, lending your party a aura of sophistication without the oft-accompanying sense of aloofness.

2.) Mikasa French Countryside Crystal Wine Glasses, set of 4. Simple yet sophisticated drink ware for your guests’ cocktails, be they alcoholic or no.

3.) Mikasa Arctic Lights Modern Crystal Martini Glasses, set of 8. These winter wonderland treasures will make any hand-crafted Christmas cocktail taste that much better, and make a stunning addition to any home bar, adding a glamorous and cosmopolitan touch to your holiday party.

4.) Mikasa Corinth Candleholder. A festive beauty in and of itself, soft candlelight is the perfect lighting for an evening party.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Last-Minute Gift Guide: For the Girls

If, like me, you leave your Christmas shopping until, well, Christmas Eve, don’t worry: I’ve got the solution. (Yes, the solution. Like, the solution to Christmas. OK, just kidding, you still have to bake those cookies. And I can’t really help you with the relatives either. What? I’ve been trying to manage my own for years.)

Anyway, if you’ve been hurled around by the Christmas whirlwind recently and been left feeling overwhelmed, and still haven’t checked off everyone on your list, that’s where I come in. If you’re like me, you get all excited and proactive at the beginning of the season, hit off all the ‘difficult’ people on your shopping list (the boys, basically), and then get hit, in the face like a cream puff, with all the other seasonal obligations that fall to your capable hands (I only have two of them, people! Remember that!). Then before you know it, it’s Christmas Eve and you haven’t shopped for the easy people - your best friend, for example. Help?

Well, help is at (someone else’s) hand (for once, huh?). Below, I’ve put together a little last-minute gift guide for all the lovely women in your life. No matter what their tastes, they’re sure to enjoy one of the treats below. Enjoy!



Row number one: for the sexy fashionista.
These two items are perfect for those confident, sensual women in your life. The first item, the Mineral Blemish Kit from e.l.f. Cosmetics, is a translucent mineral powder created with active acne fighting ingredients to hide and heal acne, and can be applied over your daily makeup or at night for use while you sleep. Why is this perfect for the sexy fashionista? Well, while reading the (glowing) reviews for this e.l.f. makeup product, I came across a rather intriguing one, which detailed the particular benefits of using the product at night. Apparently, it’s great for when you have overnight company (and we don’t mean a sleepover!), for looking clean, groomed, and glowing (and acne-free!) without having to worry about wearing skin-clogging makeup to bed. The mineral blemish kit can be purchased from the website for the incredible price of $8.

The second item pretty much speaks for itself. Well, yells, really, with all that bling. The Victoria’s Secret Limited-edition Miraculous Push-Up Bra with Swarovski Elements is really a gift for two people (at least!), so it’s a bargain at $250. Especially when you consider the cost-per-wear. I mean really, can you imagine wearing anything else in the boudoir? Available from the Victoria’s Secret website.

Row number two: for the sporty fashionista.
Just because she’s into sports doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to look good. In fact, with that sports-honed body, she probably loves showing it off. And even though she could probably look good in a garbage bag, she’ll look even better in these great pieces. The first, a luxury running jacket with Swarovski Elements from Christine Alexander, is a decadent splurge at $240, but an incredibly beautiful piece that she’ll treasure forever. You can view it here, at the Swarovski Elements Facebook store. The second item, the Nike Dri-FIT Training Pant, is more affordable at just $40, but will also keep her looking strong and sexy while at the gym or anywhere else, like lounging around the house after a big Christmas dinner. See, a gift that’s beautiful and practical! Available from Nike stores or online.

Row number three: for the fashionable bookworm.
Encyclopedia of the Exquisite by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, $16 at Amazon, The Goddess Guide by Gisele Scanlon, $20, and 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman, $25 at Amazon. Give the trendy bookworm some trendy culture with these great selections, available at bookstores and online at Amazon.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Want to be the next Mulleavy or McQueen? Read on...

Want to start your own fashion line? It is the dream of many fashionistas as it can be a fun, profitable and glamorous career. But, of course, it’s not that easy.

I sat down with David Colby, the Managing Partner of Colby Law Office to ask about some of the challenges fashion entrepreneurs must face.

As an introduction, please tell us a little bit about Colby Law Office. For example, where are you based?
We are a law firm dedicated to ideas, plans and strategies of entrepreneurs, designers and creative business revolutionaries. We’re based in NYC, but we represent clients from all over the U.S. and the world.

What services do you offer that might be of particular relevance to creative individuals, especially those working in the fashion industry? 
Perhaps the number one thing a fashion designer can do is register a trademark of their brand. Whether it is their name, a pseudonym, or a logo—or all of the above, it is the premier asset for fashion. Fashions come and go, but the designer name is what builds value and goodwill. We take it very seriously and we use our experience to accomplish these goals for our fashion design clients. The earlier the better for an aspiring designer. There are many other things that are important in the fashion industry, but trademark is of particular relevance.



How might your services benefit those just starting up a fashion line? Are there any legal issues that designers starting out tend to run into? How might these issues be resolved or averted with your assistance?
It is very important for any business to start off with some kind of plan and a smart organization to organize everything properly. We help structure the formation. We draft agreements of all key players so everyone knows their proper role. So many people run into ego battles with “partners” or investors and even early employees. It all seems very simple and matter of fact, but there are so many details to consider—especially if you plan to be successful someday. Our aim is to help you become successful. We want to be there for you every step of the way—protecting, suggesting, and helping. We love to be part of the strategy and I believe our attorneys truly deliver value beyond the immediate tasks at hand.
 
What assistance can you offer to those whose designs and brands are a little more well-established? Are there any ‘potholes’ further along the road that designers can run into that you can help with?
We firmly advocate two important principles for any business. 1) Define all relationships and 2) Get them in writing. From this advice, we draft all manner of contracts, agreements, licenses, employment handbooks, etc., etc. It has to do with the day to day business. It is just easier to do it right the first time and avoid bigger problems, or potholes as you say, later. It’s not fun to get sued or try to collect money. We draft clear, plain language agreements that are easy for all parties to understand and to sign. We throw out the arcane legalese and modernize the idea of a contract. Our clients that operate with our advice can concentrate on their designs and their business and avoid larger problems by being clearer up front. Of course, we do take on clients that come to us with the larger problems already in play—and we love to creatively solve those problems, but we learn from those every day. And we pass that learning on to our new, entrepreneurial clients.

More information on Colby Law Office can be found at http://www.colbylaw.com and you can contact David for more information at dcolby@colbylaw.com.

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Lita Love Affair



Seventeen different versions, most perpetually sold out, often within hours of a delivery. Rave reviews, ordinary people paying over $500 at the drop of a hat and going to extreme measures to avoid the ‘three per customer’ restrictions (and their landlords, in that order). Facebook wars over sweepstakes and over-caffeinated and hysterical girls refusing to leave the computer for even a moment in case the next refresh produces a windfall (yes, really. I should know, I was one of them). All of this is not such a strange picture, not in the fashion world where the oft-outlandish price tags are the last thing you need to worry about (if you had an aneurism over the price, just wait until you hear how far down your name falls on the waitlist). What is wrong with this picture is not the dramatic depiction of desperation and war over a much-coveted fashion item, but the Gatling gun in an 1815-Napoleon’s hands: the origin of the item of lust.

The name on everyone’s lips this season was not one that might have immediately sprung to mind. Surprisingly, the obsession of the fashion set came not from an established label but from an independent, family-run shoe company. Jeffrey Campbell shot to star status when he unveiled the much-coveted Lita shoe - a platform lace-up shoe-boot with 5 inch wooden block heels, 2 inch platforms and a propensity for both elongating the wearer’s legs and infecting women everywhere with fashion rabies.

Admittedly, the Lita is not exactly a sensible choice of footwear. Just think of all the potential potholes they could pock the path of your day with. Teetering on 5 inch heels, you’re practically a magnet for twisted ankles or maybe (in an extreme scenario) muggers. Think about it - how much easier is it to mug someone on stilts? They certainly aren’t going to be up and running after you in a hurry.

Nonetheless, the Lita is probably the most popular, most coveted, and most commonly purchased fashion item of the season. Just because it might be ridiculous doesn’t mean it isn’t essential, for goodness’ sake! The point of fashion is not to be pedestrian, boring, or ‘sensible’. The point of fashion is to elevate everything: your self-image, your self-esteem, even reality. Fashion transforms the humdrum and everyday into the extraordinary. And at under $200 per pair, the Litas quite literally fit the bill. So yes, while the Litas might be impractical at best, possibly even crazy at worst, they are nonetheless the breakout star of the season, and deservedly so. Long live our Lita love affair.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

You knew it had to be: my Christmas wishlist








From the top:
1.) Topshop Strapless Corset by Unique, $50. I loved the underwear-as-outerwear trend and have held onto it tenaciously as the trend has slipped from popularity. I like my sex classy, not cliche, though: I'd wear this corset over a scoop-neck long, soft grey jersey shirt tucked into a long black (sheer? maybe) maxi skirt.

2.) Topshop Rosette Corset Dress by Rare Opulence, $250. The perfect party dress for all those classy events (and all that mistletoe...).

3.) Jeffrey Campbell JENN shoes in Brown Croc, $150. Perfect styled with cable knit over the knee socks in light pastels, a floaty mini skirt, pussybow blouse and lazer-cut lace back shrug. Tie it all up with a thin brown belt and you'll look precious enough to sit under the Christmas tree with the other gifts. Question is, who's going to unwrap you?

4.) Jeffrey Campbell Solvang shoes in Black Tapestry, $170. Throw these together with the aforementioned pussybow blouse tucked into a pair of leather hotpants, a shearling aviator jacket and a whole load of bold metal cocktail rings. Add tights for colder weather, preferably some Henry Holland mock-suspenders.

5.) MoMA Highlights, $20. For some culture.

6.) 100 Years of Fashion Illustration, $25. For some fashionable culture.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Parties and mincemeat and carols, oh my!








The Christmas and holiday season brings joy, cheer, and the usual slew of holiday parties. Stand out from the crowd by embracing subtle sparkle with embellished Litas, a lurex sweater and a gold-finish necklace.

Let's take it from the top, people:
Blazer - Topshop Camel Ruched Shrunken 3/4 Sleeve Blazer, $110
Necklace - ASOS Filigree Ball Long Pendant, $10.34
Sweater - ASOS Whistles Aileen Lurex Flare Sweater, $146.54
Skirt - Topshop Grey Spot Floaty Contrast Waistband Skirt, $70
Socks - Topshop Taupe Rib Over The Knee Socks, $14
Shoes - Jeffrey Campbell Taupe Suede Litas, $159.95

Monday, 13 December 2010

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sunday Lunch Special: Givenchy giveaway - CLOSED



So, there is just ONE WEEK LEFT before I announce the winner of the Marc Jacobs giveaway I first introduced here. But, why wait for one giveaway to expire before offering another, right? That's right folks, Christmas comes (slightly) early this year!

For one week only, you guys will have a chance to win this Givenchy Rouge Interdit lipstick in Illicit Raspberry (a virbrant berry-red shade, pretty much exactly as it appears in the photo above). HOWEVER, not only will you get a chance to win the Givenchy lipstick, BUT, if you have also entered the Marc Jacobs giveaway, entering this one will give you an additional entry into the Marc Jacobs contest (and a better chance of winning!). Also, if you haven't already entered the Marc Jacobs contest, you can enter this one, then head on over to this page and get yourself a double entry to the Marc Jacobs contest, as well as being in the running for this Givenchy treasure.

To enter:
1.) Follow me on Twitter (@O_Coolness).
2.) Like the Obsessive Coolness facebook page (widget on the right-hand side under the Bloglovin link).

That's it! Be sure to comment and let me know you've entered! Remember to leave an email address or link to your website so I can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

UPDATE: the Givenchy and Marc Jacobs giveaways are now closed; the winners will be announced shortly!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Sweet Song Saturday



Listening to Florrie's 'Call of the Wild' is kind of an interesting experience, to say the least. Think the urgency of Florence + the Machine's uptempo chorus in 'Kiss With a Fist' paired with the catchiness, strong chorus and surprisingly unique, even poetic, lyrics of 'The Age of the Understatement' by The Last Shadow Puppets. All in all you've got a somewhat paradoxical experience: 50% guilty pop pleasure, 50% innovative culture. It's sort of like reading Kundera or Garcia Marquez for pleasure, rather than because it's on your required reading list. Except, this way, everyone thinks you have great taste in music, rather than just thinking you're a wanker.

To get yourself some free Florrie, head on over to this site, where you can download her EP, including 'Call of the Wild', for free.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Get a 'Black Swan' body



In light of the film Black Swan’s imminent release and critical attention, its cast members have been front-and-center in the media, especially actress Mila Kunis, who plays dancer Lily, Portman’s character Nina’s antagonist and rival. Slight and slim, Kunis engaged in a rigorous diet and exercise prior to shooting the movie, and lost 20 pounds to weigh in at 95 pounds.

Kunis openly commented on her weight loss, saying that in real life she looked “disgusting” and friends and family started “panicking”. Co-star Natalie Portman also engaged in an extreme program six months prior to filming, attempting to attain a physique akin to that of a professional dancer. Kunis engaged in cardiovascular training and Pilates while Portman favored hours of ballet, cross training and swimming.

It is no secret that professional ballet dancers maintain a below average weight and slender physique, which is considered enviable by many due to the long, lean muscles and corresponding slim, elegant look. Can such a look ever be healthy and attainable for a ‘normal’ person?

After some investigation, I discovered a book that would answer this question called ‘Diet for Dancers: A Complete Guide to Nutrition and Weight Control’ by Robin D. Chmelar and Sally S. Fitt. The book details what to eat in order to lose weight and maintain a low but healthy weight ideal for the aesthetic demanded of dancers, and provides nutrition breakdown, sample meal plans, and a suggested exercise regimen. The book is full of scientific research and findings that, although a little dense at times, are mostly approachable and seem entirely sensible and trustworthy. Still, I decided to test the book’s premises to find out whether the methods work for a non-dancer, and produce desirable and healthy results.

The book recommends engaging in a combined diet and exercise program including 30 to 60 minutes of low-impact cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week, Pilates three times a week, and a low-fat diet plan that involves 60% of the calories coming from carbohydrates, 20% from protein and 20% from healthy fat, while restricting calories.

I opted for a 1,000 calorie diet on weekends and a 1,200 calorie diet on weekdays, purchased an elliptical machine (there's a great selection here http://www.ellipticalreviews.net/), and added Pilates three times a week. Now, I am a person who found losing weight very difficult in the past, however in the first two weeks I lost 8 pounds, and after only a month I was at my lowest weight ever with a visibly slimmer and more toned physique. I also found the 1,200 calorie diet plan easy to stick to and had increasing levels of energy. Even more satisfying, a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch skinny jeans that I previously had trouble fitting into was comfortable on the thighs and too loose around the waist and hips to wear.

The ‘dancer diet’ worked wonders for me, and continues to do so as I work my way towards a physique I never dreamed I could attain. Best of all, I feel healthier than ever before. It is possible to attain a physique worthy of a Black Swan performance while remaining healthy, too.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Perhaps this is going a step too far...



Yes, I love cupcakes. Yes, I love macaroons. Does this mean I should actually plaster my bedroom wall with representations of them? Probably not - I'd gain 20 pounds in about 20 hours, most likely. However, one tiny little adorable art print wouldn't hurt, right?

Print, part of the 'Paris versus New York' series, available at this blog.