Dear Chelsea Chronicles

Seersucker Thursday 2008

There is nothing that quite makes you feel like your own little universe’s fashion icon than to get questions from friends on what to wear. Lately, a number of you have suggested ideas for new blog posts, and most of these ideas come in the form of questions, such as “do you think it’s okay to…” or “how would you recommend styling…” Not to mention, “I have a wedding to go to…” As a result, beginning today, I am going to include a weekly post dedicated to your burning questions. So bring them on.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

When is it okay to wear linen? On that note, when is it okay to wear white?

Sincerely: Your Office Mates

Dear Office Mates:

You wouldn’t be asking me this question if you weren’t looking for a response that allowed both items to be worn outside the traditional Memorial-to-Labor Day window. And you are in luck, as the rules of fashion have been not only bent, but completely broken over the last few years. For example, while we were always told that white was only to be worn during the aforementioned time frame, I read a blog recently that advised women to wear white jeans in the early spring. The key is to make the outfit more seasonably appropriate by pairing the white jeans with a darker hued top and adding a cardigan or blazer. That is to say, white jeans and a sleeveless pink silk shell look out of place in March, but white jeans with an orange tee and a nautical striped shirt (and camel colored shoes) would pass my pre-Memorial Day test.

Part of the answer is in the styling, and part is in the weather. Last week, I saw a woman wearing a seersucker suit on a 62 degree day. Texture fail. It was just too breezy and cool of a day to pull out the seersucker. Even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who founded the tradition of Seersucker Thursday, would have looked out of place. If you’re going to don linen, seersucker or poplin fabrics, make sure the weather is appropriate for it. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to wool until May 31st, dearest office mates. Opt for lighter fabrics and play with color. When in doubt, you know where my office is if you need a personal consultation.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is there a red lipstick that doesn’t make teeth look yellow? I hate to have to bleach my smile every time I want to opt for a sexy red pout.

Yours Truly: Stuck in the Capitol

Dear Stuck in the Capitol:

Finding the right red lipstick can be harder than securing a date with an unmarried man over 5’8″ with a good head of hair who is gainfully employed and isn’t living with his mom. I have heard it said before that the “blue reds” will minimize the yellow tint caused by love of red wine and coffee. A quick Google search of “red lipsticks with blue base” revealed several hits for M.A.C. Ruby Woo. (I never knew there were so many blogs dedicated to red lipstick.) I myself am devoted to Chanel’s Rouge Allure in Lover, although recently I was seduced by Tom Ford’s Private Blend Lip Color in Smoke Red. Any make up artist should be able to steer you toward the so-called blue reds. The best advice I read though is that if you are testing lipsticks at the cosmetics counter of a department store, take a moment to step outside and see how you look in the natural light instead of relying on what the overhead lights (or self-absorbed bloggers) may tell you. Though given that you may be wearing your perfect non-teeth yellowing red lipstick while confined in the U.S. Capitol complex, perhaps natural light in this case is overrated.

Dear Chelsea Chronicles:

Is it okay to wear black to a wedding?

Warm Regards: What (Not?) to Wear.

Dear What (Not?) to Wear:

In my opinion, the only color it is not okay to wear to a wedding is white (or shades thereof) unless it happens to be your wedding. Or you are maid of honor to the future Queen of England. So if it is an evening wedding, wear your black dress, but make sure the fabric, cut and accessories (in particular, your shoes) don’t scream day at the office or funeral chic. And while you’re at it, try a lush red lipstick.

So, my dear readers, bring on the questions, the more challenging the better. I may even attempt a polyvore set for you.


war and rememberance the news broke last week that Osama bin Laden was dead, it was hard for me not to reflect upon my own generation’s “where were you?” moment.  And the answer is that on September 11, 2001, my nine-month pregnant self was at work in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

It was a crisp fall day. I remember the sky being a vivid blue when I opened my eyes after the 40-minute nap I routinely took in the car on the commute into the city. (Did you catch that I was nine months pregnant?) I remember driving (well, riding) on D Street, NE, approaching 2nd Street, heading to the Hart Senate Office Building where my now ex-husband used to drop me off because the lines weren’t as long there as they usually were at the doors to my own building. As always, that morning I lamented the end of the nap, and this particular morning, I marveled on the perfection of the weather.

By the time I got to my desk, I was greeted with a chorus of “oh my god, did you hears” as the first WTC tower had just been hit. We all promptly congregated in one office (mine) to follow the live coverage on CNN. We had no idea that we were watching the worst terrorist attack on American soil occur. But then that second plane hit and reality quickly sank in.

We were numb. Our first reaction was “back to business as usual”  but then there were smoke plumes reported at the Pentagon, mysterious reports of car bombs at the State Department, the internal “hotline” announced evacuation of the Senate complex, and my contractions were coming on strong, albeit erratically, every 5-9 minutes. As my colleagues and I were about to leave our suite, my ex bounded in, and we made an executive decision that retrieving our car, three floors under in the parking garage of the Rayburn House Office Building, made us sitting ducks since we didn’t know if there were other planes headed for more DC destinations. With uncharacteristic calm we quickly reached a unanimous decision.

Call Brigid.

Brigid lived on the Hill, but far enough away from the epicenter that we figured if a plane was heading for the Capitol, we would not be in the carnage. Again, in retrospect I marvel at our relatively detached demeanor in such a tense moment.  After 16 or so tries on my cell, walking as we speed dialed, we finally reached Brigid and got the green light to head to her place. As I lumbered from the Senate-side to the House-side, past Eastern Market, I pleaded with my baby to stay put and not be born on this terrible day. I also hoped that at Brig’s there would be space for an enormous pregnant woman to sit down.

We made it to Brigid’s. I was given a seat on the couch. And history unfolded before our eyes. I found out later that the 25 Hill staffers crammed into her tiny apartment secretly took bets on whether I’d go into labor. The contractions stopped (adrenaline suppresses pitocin) but the day perpetually plays in my mind, like the black and white films that run on a loop at Ted’s Bulletin. As we all know now, there was indeed a fourth plane. And to this day, I believe that plane was destined for the U.S. Capitol. The passengers of United Flight 93 saved not only my life, but the life of my unborn son.

Four days later, with a newborn in my arms, I wondered what kind of world awaited him. As I have grown to begrudgingly accept over the years, I can’t protect him from everything, and for this reason, I applauded the President’s decision not to release photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. My kid reads the paper. He has an email account. He is observant. Had that photo been released, he would have eventually seen it. The greatest generation didn’t need to see pictures of Hitler’s charred body to believe he was dead, but my child is growing up in a YouTube world that has to see, hear or google everything to believe it. As for me, even though I loved 24 with its crazily unrealistic conspiracies, I’m going to take the Administration’s word for it on this one.

While I can’t say I have closure on 9-11 or feel that the world is a safer place, at least the success of this mission reaffirmed for me that sometimes, the good guys still win. And that’s the kind of world I want for my sons.

super mommy blues Needs Moms. And moms need wine. If you are my Facebook friend, then you know that my schedule this week is: Monday Jack had little league practice, Tuesday both kids had practice, Wednesday Jack has a game, Thursday both boys have practice, Friday Jack has a game, Saturday Colin has a game, and Sunday both boys have practice. Just writing it makes me tired. In addition, Tuesdays are musical theater practice rehearsal (yes, I am a stage mom). This Saturday is Touch Truck. (If you live in the DC metro area and have a child obsessed with trucks, you need to come to Cheverly for this annual event.) Saturday is also the annual Cheverly Garden Club sale and this month’s “Weekend Warriors” day. (Weekend Warriors is a group of friends who once a month tackle a household project or projects at one family’s home. I have been trying to break into the club for six months, but with all the back brace issues, this is my first opportunity for an appearance.)

That means that on Saturday, I need to be in four places at once (garden sale, little league, warriors, touch truck) and Colin needs to be in two places (little league, touch truck). I almost had an aneurysm when Jack picked up the phone today to arrange a play date for this overbooked day.

Whether you are a stay-at-home-mom (a job that I don’t think I would ever be awarded should I apply for it), work part-time, work from home, have a nanny or have kids in daycare/school, being a soccer mom (that title sounds so much better than little league mom) is no easy business. And if you home school, you deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for not killing your children at some point in the curriculum and educating them in the process.

I am a single parent, but only 50% of the time. With our week-to-week schedule, that means that I get a break that not all single parents get. It isn’t the every night break that a two-parent family balances out, but a shift from managed chaos to solitude. Some kid-free weeks, my nights are filled with happy hours and dinners. In the pre-Beatrix days, I went to the gym (in particular, Jess’s spin class is better than any happy hour special). Most nights, I work late. When I go home on my off-nights, my house is clutter-free. (I know most of you think this all sounds appealing.) But one thing is constant and that is that whether the boys are home or not, at my own bedtime, I instinctively head to their room to tuck them in because I’m always thinking of them and sleeping soundly in their beds is where they should be.

Usually, I am a multi-tasking genius. But this week, it’s only Tuesday and I’m already overwhelmed with our pending schedules (work and extracurricular) and to do list. I am feeling a little like the mom in Mars Needs Moms. The tyrant mom, that is, not the beautiful, green-eyed mom gasping for breath on Mars, inspiring the life-saving action of her previously unappreciative son. But still, regardless of the schedule or the demands, I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t have my boys in it. It’s just that some nights, that life needs an extra glass of wine.

sun goddess

Meghann is finally getting her glow from bronzing products and not human microwaves.

Who doesn’t love that sun-kissed look that says you spent the day outside playing in the sun? People will go to great lengths to acquire that look. Some do it the old fashioned way. Who from high school remembers crawling out my bathroom window to lay out on the roof of my house?  Kim? Debbie? Jen? We used to spend our summers worshiping the sun (Debbie always had a gorgeous summer tan) and often lathering ourselves with canola oil to attract the sun because we were out of, um, baby oil. We also went to the beach and laid out at Sheila’s pool without using SPF-loaded products. (I always justified this by thinking the Maine sun was less harmful than the California sun.)

It was the 80s. Everyday products like body lotion and foundation didn’t have SPF. Or maybe it did and we didn’t pay attention. Maybe it was the invincibility of youth.

But really, I should have known better. When we were little, my mom was putting sunscreen on us (I can still envision the bottles of Sea & Ski) in the 70s before it was vogue to do such a thing. We even had our noses routinely painted with a healthy dose of zinc oxide before going to the pool. But that didn’t stop my teenage self from absorbing a sun that we did not acknowledge would give us the wrinkles we now curse.

While these days I’m more or less a direct sun-evader, there are many who embrace its deceiving glow. If you want or need to be in the sun, all your skin asks of you is to use sunscreen. And something better than SPF 4. For me, I’m a big fan, for everyday use, of the Bobbi Brown Brightening Protective Face Base. I use serious sunscreen if I am going to the pool, but for everyday under-the-make-up purposes, the Bobbi Brown provides SPF of 50, goes on lightly and doesn’t smell like Coppertone (after all, who needs an olfactory reminder that they’re going to work and not the beach?)

I have also been a devoted fan for many years of Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer. While it only has SPF 20, and thus is not sufficient by itself, the product is superb, and when combined with the aforementioned face base, I feel protected enough to sit outside at the Cafe Berlin and enjoy a seasonally appropriate Spaten after work.

What I am trying to say is: if you need to be in the sun, be smart about it. Take it from someone in her early 40s who still gets carded. While I have not but on a handful of occasions in my irresponsible youth visited a tanning salon, it seems that these beds of aging have a draw that is undeniable for the Millennials. I have to admit to watching a dreadful episode of a TLC show called My Strange Addiction in which a young woman was seriously addicted to tanning. Her need for a UV fix was so bad that she would travel to more than one salon a day, because no one place would not allow her to tan twice daily. She might have been 21 (if that) but her skin looked much older than mine does at 41. Long ago, I gave the anti-tanning bed advice to my 25-year old sister Meghann and it seems she has finally switched to self-tanners (or so she tells me). But on that note, if you are going to do liquid tan, take time to apply it evenly. Even super cute shoes can’t hide a streaky orange ankle.

With the money you save by not going to the tanning salon, you can save up to fund a trip to the Greek Isles. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

I’m that mom

I love baseball. I know there are many people who find its nine (if you are lucky) un-timed innings boring. I’m even one of those people sometimes. It’s all about the pace of the game. Unless the Red Sox are playing the Yankees and we happen to be on the assaulting end of an uneven score, give me a quick pitchers duel over a high-scoring pile-on any day of the week

Sadly, when it comes to Little League, you get more of the latter than the former. All I can say is, thank god for the mercy rule.

Saturday was my older son’s first little league game. The kid is a little behind his teammates in not only age (as the youngest on the team) and size (he is certainly the smallest) but also in experience. Last year, for some reason t-ball for his age group never organized, so he missed one last year of totally hitting the crap out of the ball and gaining the confidence of driving in a lot of runs. This year, he is old enough to play with the big kids. I swear some of them are already sprouting facial hair on their upper lip. Those first few practices, I was nervous for him, but it turns out, Jack has some natural talent. He is small but quick. He is aggressive. And this season, he is the starting second baseman because, according to his coach, he goes after a ball better than kids twice his size.

But put a bat in his hand and he hasn’t seen a pitch he doesn’t want to swing at, whether they cross the plate over his head or at his knees. Turns out, Jack is an all-glove, no-bat second baseman.

Yesterday, at his first at bat, I winced as the poor kid struck out swinging on three mediocre pitches. Like me, my son loves baseball, but given that he is only 9-years old, he doesn’t watch games for the thrill of a potential no-hitter. He wants to see homerun after homerun. He wants the Red Sox (his American League team) or the Nats (his National League team) to “get a lot of points.” And more than anything, this kid wants to make contact with the ball.

I knew he was sad after his second inning strikeout. I could feel it in his body language as he walked back to the bench to watch the player after him drive in a few runs. Between innings I said to my ex-husband, “he needs to not swing at every pitch. If he could work a walk and get on base, given his speed, he will score.”

Fast-forward to the fourth inning. Bases are loaded. Jack comes to the plate. He quickly goes down 0-2 in the count (swinging, of course). I yell to my ex, who is coaching third-base, “tell him to take the next pitch.” His dad is gesturing instructions to him, and of course, I’m not subtle so I am yelling this instruction myself because, let’s be honest, I am that parent. The pitcher winds up, delivers his pitch straight down the plate. Called strike three. Damn.

Tears welled in my eyes as Jack dejectedly walked back to the bench. It was my fault he struck out and I knew it. I saw his coach put his arm around him and give him what looked to be words of encouragement. Would it be worse for him to have his mom come over and apologize in front of all his teammates? I couldn’t let my son sit there on the bench and cry. So I went over to give his shoulder a squeeze and tell him I was proud of him. As he looked up at me, I saw one alligator tear escape from him, but I also saw a look in his eyes that told me he isn’t going to give up.

I kept my bench visit brief and while he still struck out at the next at bat, he at least worked a 2-2 count first (and honestly, one of those called strikes was totally a ball, it never even got over the plate). I know at some point I will probably have to have the “there’s no crying in baseball” talk with him (and maybe his dad already has) but given that I both delivered the instructions that led to the tears and almost cried myself, maybe I am not the right messenger.

something blue

I know that it’s cliche to write about weddings today of all days. While I did not get up at 3:00am to watch the royal wedding (though I did wake up at 3:00am for other neurotic Chelsea reasons) by the time I got out of bed at 6:00am to do my physical therapy exercises, I caught more or less the meat of the royal event without being intentionally in a sleep deficit. But if I had had others to join me in the drinking of the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, trust me, I would have made the move from bed to living room a tad bit earlier.

If I may, let me muse for a moment over the whole “should we watch it or should we not” pressure. In my opinion, it’s a world event. Prince William will be King of England. He may be a king in name only, but let’s give respect where respect is due. Second of all, I personally am very up to speed on world events. I don’t watch the Jersey Shore. (I don’t even watch American Idol.) I understand what the “debt ceiling” is. I watch C-SPAN for god’s sake. So let me enjoy something light and happy. Don’t judge me for wanting to see two people express a very public display of affection and commitment.

In 1981, my almost 12-year-old self watched Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I had never had a boyfriend (and was probably just on this side of thinking that boys didn’t have cooties) but I was enamored with all things royal. I cut out of magazine photos of presumed designs of what her dress would look like. I had a coffee mug commemorating their engagement. I woke up at 2:00am to follow the coverage. But given all that, I cannot say in all honesty that even at that age I was bought into the fantasy. Did Diana’s later courage to divorce Prince Charles in the most public of ways give me the validation to terminate my own marriage?

I can feel you rolling your eyes, but at the same time, I cannot for sure say no, just as we can’t today predict how today’s betrothal of Prince William and Kate Middleton will impact weddings to come. Will brides imitate her dress? (Personally, I think Kaitlan could totally pull off Kate’s look. And bridesmaids… you should demand a dress as flattering as that worn by Kate’s sister.) Prince William and the new Princess Kate are a modern royal couple. She is older than he is. One can presume they have had sex. (Does anyone else remember the release of the details of Diana’s embarrassing examination that showed she was a virgin?) She rattled off  his obnoxiously long name in the right order. And held her flowers with seemingly steady hands. An inspiration.

The one question I have, which I am sure would be answered by a quick Google search, is what shoes did she wear? While her dress was timeless, how fun would it have been to mix it up with a sassy pair of shoes in an exotic color? Maybe even use it as her something blue. I know that if I ever get married again, I will pay way more attention to the shoes than the dress.

But the bottom line is that while today millions worldwide fawned over the ceremony joining this couple, it was really a private moment between two young people in love. Their demure pubic kiss may have passed with the blink of an eye, but I have faith that in their alone time, they were able to embrace the significance of the day. And hopefully, in the process, she flashed him a rocking royal blue satin heel.

my girl-crush on Gwyneth Paltrow am not usually drawn to blonds, but I admit it. I am totally in like with all things Gwyneth Paltrow. (Except, with all due respect, her singing.) Ever since I saw her in the movie Se7en with her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, I’ve had a soft spot for her movies. (Except, with all due respect, the ones in which she sings.) How many times in my own life have I had a Sliding Doors moment? And the period pieces? Love. How I wish I could do a British accent.

I so wanted her and my other crush, Ben Affleck, to make it as a couple. That would have been quite convenient. But alas, he took the J.Lo detour. Gwyneth assumed a macrobiotic diet. And in some chronological order that I don’t know without looking it up, she won an Oscar, lost her beloved father, met Chris Martin from Coldplay and had babies named Apple and Moses. I still marvel that they didn’t notice (or perhaps they did) Apple’s full name is one vowel away from being Apple Martini.

Then, aside from looking hot for the Iron Man movies, Gp sort of slipped under the radar for me except when I came across the random shot of her in my InStyle magazine. She is definitely the consummate trend-setter, making every look seem effortless (except that one goth ensemble she wore to the 2002 Academy Awards). Something about Gwyneth’s style makes me want to grow my hair long, buy a closet of white cotton blouses, and wear Tod’s driving shoes.

A year or so ago, my friend Adrienne introduced me to Gp’s website and newsletter Goop. Goop! I love Goop! Granted, I am pretty sure I will never stay in any of her recommended hotels in Paris (unless I am there on my next honeymoon). I won’t be doing her insane detox program (though only Gwyneth could make me think twice about drinking kale juice for breakfast). And I certainly didn’t need to see her list of international apothecary drugstore products to know that I am a sucker for such a thing (after all, I discovered the Boots line that Target now carries when studying in the UK in 1991.)

And then there is her recently released cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. I have to admit, I bought it on a whim. I tend to be a little skeptical of celebrity cookbooks. Sophie Dahl’s attempt, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights (which I actually first read about on Goop) sits in my kitchen without a single recipe having been prepared from it (though her recipe preludes are very entertaining and the photography is brilliant). But in two nights I have made three recipes from MFD and they all were fabulous. Even the kids cleaned their plates, which held such green things as kale and zucchini.

I do have to mock a little. Aside from her slightly preachy comments on organic and unprocessed foods (we know, we know) her recipes are peppered with comments like “good for the working parent” but none more so than ten-hour chicken. Having just roasted a chicken for the boys, which they declared “the best chicken in the world” I thought I should take a look. She bills this recipe as the perfect dish for the busy working parent. According to her recipe, put your whole chicken in a 200 degree oven before you leave for work in the morning, and when you get home that night, the chicken will be done. Yeah. Except most of us don’t have help who stay at our houses during the day to make sure they don’t burn down when we leave the oven on unattended for ten hours. An editor didn’t notice that maybe this is a great recipe for a cold Saturday when you don’t intend to leave the house but might not be not appropriate for those of us who neurotically check and recheck the knobs on our gas stoves before we leave the house in the morning?

But I forgive. After all, last night, my kids ate kale. Tonight, they ate fried zucchini spaghetti which is only significant (since they like zucchini) in that usually Jack won’t eat foods that touch. But he never once complained that his vegetable and his pasta were co-mingling in the bowl.

And if her recipes are so good, how bad can her detox program be?