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Five Foreign FINDS for unique GIFTS

Oh dear...gift-giving season is upon us. We all have that person who's impossible to shop for, right? Well, perhaps they'd like something unique from one of these five international sources. All are inspired by some traveling I've done, all ship to the United States, and all are sure to make an impression!

1) SPAIN: Lladró Porcelain. This beloved Spanish brand creates pieces that can sometimes be a bit fussy for my taste, and they're expensive to boot, with pieces regularly in the thousands. But they also have hipper and more wallet-friendly alternatives, such as this cool "Egg Cup" sculpture, a more affordable $110.

2) AUSTRIA: Imperial Torte. It wasn't until my last night in Vienna that I tried our hotel's eponymous Imperial Torte. A pity - I'll just have to go back. I much prefer this heavenly chocolate/almond creation to the better known Viennese export, the sachertorte.

3) UK: Christmas Hampers. No one does a good hamper ("gift basket" to us Yanks) like the English do, and Fortnum and Mason does one of the best hampers in the UK. They will even ship to the USA, should you get a tea and biscuits craving like I do, on the regular.

4) THAILAND: GOODJOB Bags. I was immediately drawn to these "Blossom" bags at a department store in Bangkok. So glad I whipped out the plastic for a tote... it's one of my favorite purchases ever! I've only found one online outlet that will ship GOODJOB to the USA, and while it's expensive, it beats airfare to Thailand.

5) FRANCE: Maison Georges Chocolat. J'adore traveling with the mister, but sometimes a girl needs time on her own. On a cloudy morning in Paris, he went off and studied WWII memorials while I hit the shops in Marais, where I literally followed my nose to the Maison Georges near the métro St-Paul. One bag of bon-bons later, I had an edible souvenir of Paris (that lasted all of two days. Oops.)


EASY or ELABORATE? Last minute Halloween Pumpkins

Attention last minute gourd decorators! I found two how-to videos (well, one is a series) detailing how to make an easy - or an elaborate - jack o'lantern for Halloween. Scroll through the video bar below. The first is the easy Duct Tape Pumpkin. Sure, you could go nuts with the tape if you wanted (see the examples on her table), but I think one shown in the picture above will do in a pinch.

If, on the other hand, you want to get cuh-ray-zee with the squash, try the elaborate Skull Pumpkin detailed in videos 3-8). Yes, six videos. That should give you an indication of how involved it is, but look at the results!

Happy Halloween!


Nine TIPS from the party PROFESSIONALS

How do I decode the dress code? What music should I play? Where can I find a good hostess gift for someone I don't know very well?

All very valid questions. Parties can be tricky, right? To find the answers, earlier in the year I interviewed nine professionals for their little-known soiree secrets. Quite a few of the answers were surprising (ditch the try-hard "hand on the hip" pose, and avoid makeup with SPF if you'll be taking a lot of photos), so even the most seasoned social butterflies should learn a few things.

Nine Tips from Top Party Pros from the April print edition of Make It Better magazine


photo credits: dress codes, props, wedding, DJ Madrid, blue steel, cultures, gifts, makeup, candles


TRENDS from CS Interiors 5th Anniversary HOME

Isn't it fun to oogle picture-perfect show houses? I always like to imagine my life in the space ("Let's adjourn to the living room. You know, the room with the hand-stitched leather walls. But first, grab a drink from the refrigerator. It's behind the faux ostrich skin panel.") and the CS Interiors Fifth Anniversary Home was an ideal occasion to do so. Better yet, it was hosted at the newly completed Ritz-Carlton Residences, which I have been dying to peek. Neither the building nor the decor disappointed. Have a look at the six rooms, outfitted by some of the city's top designers.

Foyer and Bathroom

by Anne Coyle



by Tracy Hickman



by James E. Ruud


Dining Room

by Jessica Lagrange



by Julia Buckingham Edelmen


Living Room

by Tom Stringer


Stylish HALLOWEEN inspiration at FASHION FOCUS Masquerade

Well, look at that... Halloween's almost here! Do you have a costume yet? If you're still hunting for inspiration, I think I found it Saturday night at the Fashion Focus event, Via del Corso Masquerade, held at Fiat of Chicago.

While I was there covering the evening's festivities as the eyes and ears for The Printed Blog, I couldn't help but pick up some costume tips. Forget the pre-packaged Sexy Nurse/Devil/Schoolgirl from your local pop-up shop. The most stylish models (and guests!) at Via del Corso were sporting three things:

1) A mask. The more unusual, the better
2) Memorable hair, ranging from simple streaks of color to poofy wigs made of colored cotton.
3) A killer outfit. This is the time for something glam and over-the-top, yet comfortable, since Halloween celebrations have a habit of morphing into multi-venue nights.

A few of my favorites:

GUESS WHO, on the right? ;)

Besides the juicy people watching, Rosemary Fanti was on site creating her beloved fashion illustrations, and Das Foods set up a delicious candy bar, including their "Man Bait" bacon/maple lollipops. I admit, I took one for the road and had it for breakfast this morning.

And the performers! Just look at these costumes! Their detailed corsets (like the one shown above, from Romantika) and elaborate masks were so eye-catching. The trick to making a costume look expensive are the little details, like luxe fabric and lace.

As fun as the performers were, the highlight of the evening were the three fashion shows, hosted by Whitney Reynolds of NBC 5.

No, that's not Whitney's dagger - just a model who's prepared for an emergency.


Ok, is everyone seated?


Enough waiting, on with the show! I hope this inspires you as much as it did me.

photos: Dean Paul

bottom row of photos: Dean Paul

photo: Dean Paul

Happy Halloween!

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