24 June, 2009

Toe candy

Here's a bonus chunky post for the week.

I've been looking at toe rings recently, with summertime officially here. Maybe it's because other people's feet weird me out - just a little - but can I just say that there are some seriously heinous feet out there. Acryllic nails, never a good idea on toes.

A. Toe ring made with glass seed beads and Swarovski crystals in many colors, $9 at Darla's Parlor on Etsy.

I stumbled onto stretch rings at Toe Brights and like the quality at Footcandy (one word: platinum). I think the sterling silver blue enamel daisy at Eve's Addiction would look so cute with my hot pink toes, and I am digging the double ladybug and bamboo rings from Best Foot Jewelry. And Etsy too - I absolutely love the flower rings at Darla's Parlor.

For the first time in my life, I'm seriously contemplating a tatoo - I think a toe band would be pretty cool. But who am I kidding? I'd never in a million years permanently ink myself.

Of course, I'll need a new pedicure to properly complete the effect, whether it's a toe ring or tattoo, and probably some new shoes that allow an alluring peek at both the ring and the nails. ;)

23 June, 2009

Not your mother's mellow yellow

Yellow. It's a pretty happy color but also one that can be easily overdone. I think that yellow can be elegant and enduring (see exhibits A-F below) despite its current hotness. This is the post I wanted to give you last week.

From the flowers outside my office window to the glossy fashion mags, I'm seeing various shades of yellow everywhere these days. Back in December 2008, Pantone named "mimosa" (an orangey yellow) its color for 2009, and it is indeed one of the color trends for the current season.

I love yellow, a darn-impossible-not-to-feel-happy kind of color, or hungry which is why a many restaurants opt for this primary color on the walls. Oh, I've had a bold yellow kitchen but in terms of attire, I admit to shying away from it for the most part. Kate Hudson's knock-out dress in How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days made me blink twice, however; til then, I hadn't really given my wardrobe much thought. Now? I love the way a bold yellow top goes with white or a rich/denim blue bottom.

Here are some other ways you can incorporate yellow in your life:

A. Accessorize your indoor/outdoor decor or boldly paint a wall/room (above, Valspar Martha Stewart paint; here, inspiration from Apartment Therapy). For more ideas, check out Elements of Style.

B. Affordable glass and melamine tableware options from Crate and Barrel.

C. Or adorn your fingers, neck and ear lobes (Murano glass ring from Santellial).

D. Yellow almost always makes me think of Van Gogh. Sunflowers, anyone?

E. Shoes, because you know I wouldn't let you down! (Zappos, clockwise from top: Sofft Felicity, Naughty Monkey the Hype, and Santana Pounce)

F. Ed Hardy G'Gte silk scarf. Cute tops on sale at Bluefly and Overstock.

Anyway, you get the idea. This ought to be enough to get you started.

22 June, 2009

Does this fragrance make me look fat?

Of all the five senses — sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell — the latter is the one that has always held the most intrigue for me. Actually, let's be honest, I am captivated by smell and our ability (or inability comparatively speaking) to detect a scent and apply meaning to it whether consciously or subconsciously. We have a lot to be thankful for the role our sense of smell plays in our lives.

A. The secret to womanhood is — mmm, bacon...

First and foremost, in my humble opinion, taste and scent are intricately tied to one another — food would not be nearly as appealing and enjoyable without it. In fact according to one scientist-turned-CEO cited in a recent New York Times article, as much as 80% of what we perceive as taste might really be smell. Any sommelier or wine coinnesseur worth her/his salt, for instance, will tell you breathing in the bouquet and/or exhaling on the finish is so important to properly appreciating a fine wine. I swear to you it is true, based on first hand experience with this flavor-enhancing behavior almost every night. My most memorable and poignant example of this was in Portugal during the Euro 2004; I tasted the smell of olives in a vinho tinto we enjoyed late one night upon returning to our country pousada from a day spent driving through the vast stretches of olive trees during the drive to and from Aveiro.

Next, of all the five senses, smell is the one most closely linked with memory. Have you ever been somewhere else, when a wayward smell immediately transports you back in time to corn dog day in your elementary school cafeteria, summer camp after a light shower, or the weekly visit to a beloved elderly family member in assisted living, etc.? A few years back there was an interesting study published in the British Royal Society biology letters, which noted the roles memory and smell play in elephants' ability to keep tabs on family members near and far. I can imagine how liberating this might be if I had a similar ability to keep tabs on Big and Little CL at the neighborhood park around 11am every Sunday.

Many animals of course use their sense of smell to guide them, sometimes over considerable distances, to a member of the opposite sex ripe for mating. And this brings me to smell as a vehicle for bodily communication, or smell's sensual and sexual sides. I recently brought your attention to one study that suggests women are more capable than men of sniffing out biologically relevant information from sweat. As gross as that may at first sound, odor and the ability to detect it play a crucial role in mate selection, and thus reproduction; this is a biological function of hormone and pheromone production seen in many (most?) animals.

Think about it, body odor is either a turn-off or a turn-on, and a strong one at that. Humans are the only species of which I'm aware that intentionally apply scents in order to be more sexually attractive — dogs do not roll in deer feces to attract other dogs. The company who can develop and bottle human pheromones will make a killing (ever see that X-File gender bender episode?), and those Axe commercials would have you believe that company already has. Is it any wonder perfume is a multi-billion dollar business? And that doesn't include aromatherapy or the myriad other personal care product companies that spend fortunes on developing or acquiring fragrances for their lotions, shampoos, lip glosses, etc.

With all of this in mind, I am pretty sure I'm advertising to Mr. CL that I'm open for business when I wear perfume (personal favorites are Lauren and No. 5, oldies but goodies). Having children has altered the frequency with which I apply fragrance; I don't spritz and dab as regularly as I used to because a mother's scent is very important in the early bonding with baby (and vice versa). My childhood memories of my own mother are tied to Jungle Gardenia, and I can't help but think of her when I smell the real flower.

So, what does your scent say about you —
Can you bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan? I won't hate you because you're Beautiful, smart and a good cook.
Do you have a Passion for Poison?
What's your Pleasure, or has it been an Eternity?

19 June, 2009

Royal Ascot 2009 update

In my humble non-hat-wearing opinion, this year's best (i.e., most chunk light) hat goes to Jordan's HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, seen here. I have searched without much success for a photo of the princess's entire ensemble, but judging by the hat it appears very simple yet sophisticated.

More hat images from the event at the link above; other outlandishly funny ones at Zimbio and a showstopper at TeamSugar — oh, you'll know it when you see it. (Note to self: do not wear g-string/dress combo on a blustery day.)

17 June, 2009

I wanted to give you yellow, but instead it's Barbie

This is going to turn out to be a Barbie-inspired post, but that was not my original intent because Royal Ascot, which opened yesterday, was and is the inspiration today.

I might have skipped over Ascot altogether and instead given you this news from the Barbie Fashion Show 2009, in part because the Christian Louboutin hot pink shoes go so well with the lips in this month's grab bag. Except that I love gawking at all the silly hats, so chances of me not paying attention to Ascot's opening day are slim (Thursday is Ladies' Day, when all the truly wacky ones are on display). Then low and behold I noticed two other very cute CL — one red and one nude/pink — in coverage from Ascot's opening day. And, in addition to the latter of the two (well, the whole ensemble really) reminding me of Barbie...

A. Totally sexy Christian Louboutin 4'' satin platform peeptoe on sale at Footcandy

... this generally got me thinking about hats, which I don't wear. Call it curiosity or rubber necking, but I am fascinated with these hats. I loved Isabella Kristensen's gorgeous purple and green swirl last year and her berry one yesterday is growing on me. It's, um, fresh.

B + C. What do they do with these hats post-Ascot? (photos: Natalya's Blog and Oli Scarff for the Telegraph)

I don't do hats because I can't tolerate something on my head; I have been known to occasionally don a scarf or bandana. I didn't even wear a veil at my wedding. However, I can imagine — in an alternate hat-wearing universe — opting for this cloche from Hatagories in the spirit of the peeptoe pumps above.

I also noted the Queen was dressed in yellow, a color I have been noting of late. (Apparently, you'd have netted 4-1 odds if you had bet on the Queen wearing this smashing color.) I think it's the "it" color of the moment, more to come on this next post...

15 June, 2009

Magnesium rocks

** Note: I am not a doctor or medical expert. You should always check with your doctor before trying any treatment.**

"Menstrual migraine is generally severe, lasts longer, recurs more frequently, results in greater disability and is more resistant to therapy than nonmenstrual migraine." -SD Silberstein and J Goldberg in Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2007 Oct; 52(10):888-95.

If this is you, read on. [Updated 6/18/2009]

In my previous ode to the avocado, I noted it as a good source of magnesium. This may seem an obscure reference — that's not usually the thing one associates with avocados. Let me explain.

A. Me, during horridly horrible migraines at regular monthly intervals. Thank you, Mother Nature.

A migraine sufferer, one might assume that I have devoted much time researching this condition, and one would be absolutely correct. I did not want to take a prescription medication to deal with the migraines, offered a little too quickly by doctors. Over-the-counter pain killers didn't work well (I have tried them all at one point or another), and avoiding triggers like red wine helped but did not prevent my migraines. For a very long time, all of my adult life actually, I resigned myself to lying still in a dark and quiet room, usually until the next morning. This was fine, until I had children and couldn't temporarily drop all motherly duties. "There has got to be a better way," I kept telling myself, as I tried each new natural remedy and browsed the scientific literature. There is.

I have been migraine-free (and virtually headache-free) for nearly a year now, thanks to magnesium (Mg) and vitamin B-2 (riboflavin). This has worked for me and it might help others, too — but let me stress again that I am not a doctor, not all of this information is accepted medical practice, and may not work for every individual.

There are a few clinical researchers looking at the role of magnesium in the pathogenesis of migraines. Briefly, it is thought that some individuals naturally have lowered levels of ionized magnesium (the active form that is able to bind easily to proteins and other substances), a situation which may cause them to suffer migraines and which may also be remedied through dietary intake. Although the National Migraine Association cites the medical community's mixed support for magnesium, it nonetheless says taking the 100% RDA of Mg is probably a "safe and prudent" preventive. If you would like to geek out with the research — hey, I did and there is nothing wrong with that — knock yourself out here, here, here, here, here, and here (all link to the abstracts of published papers on PubMed).

Then I stumbled upon Mauskop and Fox's book in my search for The Miracle of Magnesium, and after a lengthy perusal of its contents at the local bookstore while deciding whether to buy it, I was convinced it couldn't hurt to try the remedy of Mg + riboflavin + feverfew favored by the authors. I figured I'd try this because in the off chance it worked for me, it would be worth avoiding a prescription drug and any associated side effects. And as long as I stayed within the recommended daily allowances (RDA), I couldn't see a downside. This would be the best decision related to treating my headaches I have ever made.

B. This is me now. Really.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health office of dietary supplements, Mg is essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, helping to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, heart rhythym, a healthy immune system, strong bones and more. A lack of energy may also be associated with low levels of Mg.

A few other bits of info you should know before trying this for yourself: The U.S. recommended daily allowances for Mg and riboflavin vary depending on your age and gender (for women aged 31-50 it is 320 mg and 1.1 mg, respectively). As with any vitamin and mineral, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Hence the RDAs.

My own headache/migraine prevention regimen includes:
  • Calcium-magnesium supplement containing 300-400 mg of Mg every other day
  • Daily multivitamin that contains the max for riboflavin and low to no Mg
  • Drink lots of water, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and avoid any known triggers
  • Magnesium-rich foods (pumpkin seeds, spinach, soybeans, Alaskan salmon and halibut, black beans, avocados) during times when I know I'm prone to getting headaches.
While my migraines have ceased, I continue to get headaches although not as regularly and not as severe. I feel it worth repeating my previous admonition to talk to your doctor before trying this or any other new regimen for yourself.

11 June, 2009

Grab bag: Lip gloss

This one is for all my girlfriends and special peeps...

Summer is almost officially here, and that means lipgloss!

My google search for "lip gloss" returned the following music video from up and coming young aritst, Lil Mama (embedding is disabled, so click through and you won't be disappointed).

Whatcha know 'bout me? My lip gloss is poppin'.

Amen! A round-up of my particular favorites is in the side bar - conditioning, free of ickiest chemicals, great color, not too tacky, long lasting or just all around chunky. And for the love of lips, please use SPFeither in the gloss or as a base to protect your pout from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays.

10 June, 2009

Sharing the love

I [heart] my iPhone. This week, Apple released its spiffiest version, the 3Gs. So instead of posting some totally chunky shoes, I thought I would mark the occasion by sharing the next best thing, if that is indeed at all possible.

Chunky App List
(or, Get Thee to the Apple Store!)

iBags - Brand spanking new to the iStore, 20,000+ handbags, clutches, hobos and more! You can sort by style or label (Marc Jacobs, Coach etc.). Click on a bag to view its picture and details, where to buy, and the app will even alert you when it goes on sale. The images are sharp, and the features are way cool. And - are you ready for this? - there is also iShoes from the same maker.

A. The language of love IS universal. Can you say kid in a [bag and shoe] candy store?

FarmFresh NYC - If I lived in the Big Apple, I'd surely be biting at this app. Good news is that there seem to be San Francisco, LA, Chicago and New Orleans versions in the pipeline. As the maker's description says, this app takes the guesswork out of eating local and in-season produce and seafood. (For more info on sustainable seafood options, check out the app from the folks at Seafood Watch.)

Bloom - This is a generative music app developed by ambient music pioneer Brian Eno. Touch the screen to create your own soothing melodies and patterns, then listen and "watch" your music. As the description says, it's part instrument, composition and artwork all in one.

More Cowbell - Sorry, but for $0.99 this is a bargain I can't resist. "Useless... and a stroke of genius" says the UK's Pocket Picks; "Finally an app that can compete with the light-saber. My wife hates my new iphone" says a reviewer. Yes, this app is exactly what you think it is, cowbell a la Will Ferrell's classic SNL sketch ripping on the Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper.

What are your favorite apps?

02 June, 2009

Diatomaceous update

Speaking of diatoms, a colleague just forwarded this to me - what a totally chunky bit of reporting!

Through the eye of a needle, a world writ small. In this award-winning image, wildlife photgrapher Peter Parks depicts a single drop of seawater collected at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and magnified 20 times to reveal its living contents.
Go check the rest of it out for yourself at the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Photo courtesy of Nikon Small World and Imagemarinequest.com)

Diatoms are cool and hot, trust me on this

Has this ever happened to you, when you know what you are talking about but unfortunately [dumb ass!] cannot articulate at the time? It happened to me yesterday in a staff meeting, no less. As I lay in bed drifting off to sleep last night, the relevant info - dimethyl sulfide, of course! - that had been locked away in storage in the nether regions of my brain hit me like a bolt of lightening.

My organization has a journal club - once a month, we devote a part of our regular staff meeting to covering oceans-relevant studies and news from pre-assigned journals. I think it's a brilliant idea - from what I understand, it's a tradition borrowed from medical school (but I haven't verified this) - and makes staying on top of a number of journals much easier than any one person could do on her/his own.

While summarizing the microbial oceanography content from the May 14 Nature Insight, I included the what-I-thought-to-be-common-knowledge remark that "diatoms, as you know, are responsible for cloud production."

"Um, no we don't know" was the immediate response.

My colleagues were eager for an explanation, and the intricacies of phytoplanktonic life were momentarily eluding me. All I could say was, "I don't recall the precise biological and chemical processes, but, trust me, diatoms are linked to cloud formation and the regulation of temperature. I'll get back to you on this."

Here is the plain-speak answer I should have been able to articulate:

A. The picture that would have been worth 1,000 words. (courtesy of Oceanworld)

Phytoplankton such as diatoms emit dimethyl sulfide or DMS, a component in the "smell of the sea." Some of this gas ends up in the atmosphere, where it oxidizes and forms particles around which water can condense and form cloud droplets. The reflectivity of clouds (or their albedo) is influenced by the number of these condensation particles. According to my now totally outdated Environmental Science textbook (I see it's currently in its tenth edition), as the ocean warms more DMS is produced. Clouds block sunlight, so more DMS means more potential clouds to block sunlight. This, in turn, would result in a cooling effect, however, less solar energy means less active phytoplankton, which means less DMS and thus less cloud condensation particles. Hot, cold, hot, and so on...

In other words, what we have is a nice little feedback mechanism that is thought to help regulate temperature and keep it within a suitable range for life. Under normal conditions and all other things being equal, which of course we know they are not. (For more on diatoms and the regulation of planetary temperature, see Science Progress.)