Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Q & A | Author Stephanie Simons

The power of social media is not to be dismissed (thank you Twitter!). It's how I connected with Stephanie, a native San Franciscan with one impressive resume. She's a multi-hyphenate and all-around overachiever: author, global brand strategist, beauty and fashion editor and writer. She has worked with some of the most successful brands in the fashion and beauty industry: Benefit, Sephora, Piperlime, Banana Republic to name a few.  And by the way, Manolo Blahnik (yes, the one and only) called her "the real Carrie Bradshaw." Meet Stephanie Simons.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of your first book, All’s Fair in Love and Wardrobe! Was it always your goal to be a writer?
Thank you Jill! Now that you mention it, I used to spend a disproportionate amount of time on my English homework, probably an early sign of wanting to be a writer. In high school my English teacher was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively. Her classroom was the only one in the entire school with windows, flowers and music (rumor has it my high school used to be a prison). I looked forward to every class.

Once I got to college, a professor took my under her wing and told me I should be writing professionally. I was just a freshman when I began writing feature articles and pitching ideas for a regional magazine; the school paper didn’t really appeal to me. On some level, I think writing books was always my goal. When I was growing up, my grandma used to bring me a new book every time she’d visit, and my mom and dad used to make up all sorts of funny words and nicknames for me, so I learned to love language and “make it my own” very early in life. As far back as 1995, my journal contains notes to self like “write the book already!”
Pre-order your copy now at Barnes & Noble!
The book is a guide to navigating the often murky waters of both fashion and dating.  How did you conceptualize melding the two?
The idea for All’s Fair In Love And Wardrobe was born when I was working as the editorial manager for Piperlime and actively dating. That was when I began seeing so many similarities between shopping for clothes and shopping for love. The fleeting highs. The empty-handed lows. The thrill of the hunt. Many of the single women I worked with were beautiful, intelligent, funny and well-dressed; some of them had attracted A-listers and athletes, but that didn’t guarantee luck in love. We’d share our dating horror stories between conference calls to Rachel Zoe, or in the accessories closet between photo shoots.  Forever bonded by questionable boyfriends and boyfriend jeans.

The idea for Chic-tionary came about halfway through the first manuscript when I realized all of the humorous words I was making up should actually become their own book. It’s essentially the Urban Dictionary of new style lingo.
Both upcoming books were illustrated by the uber-talented Malia Carter.
Click here to pre-order Chic-tionary.
As a FIDM alumni, I appreciate the fashion and beauty industries, but often feel like the majority of brands out there are lacking depth and substance with their brand messaging. As an industry insider, what’s your take?  
I’ve worked on a lot of branding projects for global retailers. Sometimes the ones that do aim for depth and substance quickly decide to go another route because it doesn’t make fast money and there’s not a lot of patience. It’s interesting, fashion changes so quickly and yet it’s the one industry where people at the top are the most fearful of any sudden change.

What was your first ‘big break’?
I think I’ve had a lot of little breaks that collectively equal a big one. I’ve done a lot of unusual things, from being first-runner up at Miss California USA to appearing on The Bachelor: Paris. And I’ve written about all of them along the way. I’ve recently realized each one was a stepping stone to getting where I am now. I remember being in Paris, freshly rejected off the show, and saying to myself “Thank goodness, look at all this shopping I get to do!” That was the point when I realized I wanted to be a fashion writer and when I came back I was pretty determined to make that happen.

You’re the talent behind naming products and collections for some of the most popular industry brands (Benefit Cosmetics, Stella & Dot).  I’ve always thought that would be one of the coolest gigs out there.  How did you come to collaborate with those two companies?  
When I was at Benefit Cosmetics I had the opportunity to work directly with co-founder Jean Ford who is one of the funniest, most brilliant creative minds on the planet. We got along instantly because of our on-the-fly, wild brainstorming style. That brand was such a perfect fit for my writing style. I could make up words and eat Skittles (which were always within arm’s reach) all day long.

What is your dream for yourself?
Is it too early to start dreaming of another book? I certainly have one in me.

What or whom inspires you?
Most of my work these days is very solitary so I’ve learned to surround myself with inspiration and motivation. I have an outdoor work space, my own chick lit library, a magazine collection that spans the last decade and a chalkboard that always has a different phrase on it. This week it’s “fate loves the fearless.”

Follow Stephanie on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and Instagram!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Q & A | Winemaker Ed Thralls

Ed Thralls is a man of many talents. Social media savant (he taught me all I know), all-around smartypants/funny guy, and man, does he make a mean pulled pork! Leave it to Ed to follow his dream and start his own winery.  Meet the founder of Thralls Family Cellars.

What inspired your move across the country, leaving your profession, to join the wine industry?
Ultimately, it was a decision to chase my passion for wine and understanding I owed it to myself to be happy in this one life we all have. People are constantly changing, growing and eventually there was a plateau I had reached in my previous career in terms of interest and excitement. I found myself only wanting to learn more about wine, enjoy wine with friends, sharing my wine stories via my popular blog, WineTonite!, and eventually leading to actually making it myself. I started as a “garagiste” winemaker that was self-taught in the beginning and over 8 years since I have studied at UC Davis, interned at Holdredge Wines, moved to Sonoma County and launched my brand, Thralls Family Cellars in 2012.

Who are your major influencers?
There are so many influencers in all aspects of my journey it’s hard to list them all here without forgetting someone. I have to mention my good friend, Rick Bakas (Certified Sommelier and a digital wine influencer), who has supported my transition. He has gone through a similar journey and the process has helped both of us develop relationships across the industry and at a personal level. From a Pinot Noir perspective, which is my main focus at Thralls, I align my philosophies with long-time leaders as well as up-and-comers in this space like Ted Lemon at Littorai, Flowers, Jamie Kutch, Cartograph Wines and Gavin Chanin to name a few. Additionally, I find Jon Bonne’, wine writer for the SF Chronicle and author of the book “New California Wine” has his finger square on the pulse of where wine is heading. I also owe a lot to good friend, John Holdredge, of Holdredge Wines for his support and sage advice throughout this journey.

What or whom inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by wine, mother nature and my personal goals and dreams. I have worked hard to become less risk-averse in life and take the time to look within myself. Wine has the ability to transport you to a different time and place and invites introspection. I constantly learn to invite that introspection, respect it and act through the medium of wine and in the context of family and close friends old and new. That is the mission of Thralls, where I am wholly obedient to my passion.

Apart from your own, which wineries produce some of your favorites?
[Those I mentioned above as my influencers], though I am an open-minded when it comes to tasting and understanding wine from all regions and varieties of the world.  I would like to add Cathy Corison to my list as well because I love her style and approach and the fact she has stuck to her approach and philosophy for over 30 years and makes probably the best domestic Cabernet Sauvignon out there.

What is one of your best food and wine experiences to date?
A Sake and Sushi dinner at Hana Sushi in Rohnert Park. Sake Sommelier Stuart is one of only a handful in the world and the pairings he prescribes simply make your mouth water and take you to another level of time and space. I know it’s not “wine” per se but my most recent food and beverage experience that was phenomenal. Certified Sommelier, Rachel Voorhees (and my girlfriend) created some amazing food pairings for my 2012 Pinots with my favorite being Wild Mushroom Crostini paired with the 2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Roma’s Vineyard from Anderson Valley. It’s easy to make, savory and just blows you away!

What is your ultimate professional goal or dream?
My ultimate goal is to live a long and happy life. Professionally speaking, the perfect scenario would be to work on Thralls wine full-time and enjoy the life that accompanies the world of wine.

Favorite part of winemaking?
Seeking out quality and unique vineyards, walking those vineyards throughout the growing season, and working closely with growers I trust and have built a close relationships with. Knowing I have a quality fruit source and the process of intimately learning each site is paramount to making great wine.

What do you love most about the wine industry?
The best part of the wine industry are the people on both sides of the tasting table. Wine is best when enjoyed with great people, conversation and food and when those all come together the emotional connection is engrained in your being and you will always remember that amazing time.

What is the secret to your success so far?
The secret of my success is to believe in myself, chase after what I love to do and surround myself with wonderful people.

Follow Thralls Family Cellars on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tasting Notes

2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
This Gold Medal winner boasts vibrant garnet color with raspberry and rose aromas. Bright acidity, medium-bodied and even on the palate. Flavors of strawberry, cranberry, and cedar expand into mouth-filling finish. A beautiful wine!

2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Another Gold Medal winner, this wine is ruby in color with strawberry and tea aromas. Good structured acidity and smooth tannins. Flavors of fresh cherries and white pepper round out the finish of this racy wine. Truly delicious!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

HuffPost Live with Actor, Author, and Family Equality Activist Dan Bucatinsky

I was so excited to be a part of a HuffPost Live segment today with one of my favorites, Dan Bucatinsky. Up until last week (when his character was heartbreakingly killed off) Dan portrayed James Novak on ABC's hit drama Scandal, for which he won an Emmy.

Pre-production screen shot. I'm on bottom right.

Thank you to Dan for his heartfelt answer to the one question I was permitted to ask, and to Associate Producer Francina Morel for reaching out to me.  Today is one for the memory book! 

Check out Dan's website danbucatinsky.com.  All of his links appear there, along with his hilarious blog and excerpts from his laugh-out-loud funny book Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?

And for all of you Gladiators out there, enter for your chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to have brunch with Dan, fellow Scandal actor Tony Goldwyn, and other cast members, at Omaze.com/Scandal. All proceeds benefit Family Equality Council.

P.S.  My weird face when I first appear onscreen is due to the fact that my screen went blank right before I was to speak and my microphone seemingly was not working. Thank goodness for small miracles!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Q & A | Artist Anna Corba

It was my absolute honor to spend some time recently with artist and author Anna Corba at her Found Cat Studio in Northern California. Anna is the artist behind some of my most treasured artful objects, purchased at my favorite spot, Chateau Sonoma.  After meeting Anna at Chateau Sonoma's French Flea Market last spring, imagine my gratitude when she granted my wish to be interviewed for Lovely Inspirations.

What inspires you?
Being out in the world. When I see things that are beautiful, I want to create them anew. I'm not looking for materialistic things to collect, I'm medium driven and want to recreate humble, simple, functional objects that are slightly embellished.

As an artist, do you have a method while in your creative zone? Does it depend on the project? 
Both. For an artist, I'm actually very organized. For my product lines (Anthropologie, Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic) it was structured. But now, creating, living a creative life and doing what I love, it's meditative.

What is your dream project?  Has it happened yet?
Teaching in France. (Anna hosts two week-long workshops, Bonne Fete: Crafting in the French Countryside in October each year.) It is the joy in teaching combined with my love of France. I love the scale. Everything is smaller, and simple. Reconnecting with it each year for the past four years - it's a gift. And making it be about something bigger than myself.

What do your students take away from the experience?
I think they really appreciate how slowed down, simple, and calm it is. There is a lot to be found in that. There is a richness to the rural area, yet we are in gorgeous Chateau Dumas!

Chateau Dumas in the tiny village of Auty, Southern France
You've spoken about the importance of creating an inspiring environment. How do you go about that?
I need a beautiful, calm space to tap into the well. And yet, so much is just showing up. You can't wait around for the inspiration, and sometimes it is just plain, hard work. Things come to me as much as I go to them. 

Tell me about how you came to write your book Doodling in French: How to Draw with Joie De Vivre.
I am not a doodler and it really just fell into my lap. I was approached with the idea at a gift show by a colleague, Jo Packham, Creator and Founder of Where Women Create. I didn't overthink it and Chronicle Books loved the name. It was serendipity. Sometimes you have to stay out of your own way.

For more about Anna's projects, classes, and workshops, please visit annacorbastudio.com

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Random Lovelies: Beauty Files

Here are just a few of my tried-and-true favorites.  Please share yours!

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Foundation

Medium weight with a smooth finish.  (Sounds like a good Tuesday night bottle of vino!)

Stila Eye Palette

Just about every color you could want for baby blues.  You can highlight, shadow, and line, with this entire palette.

Lancome Hypnose Star Mascara

For those of us who need lengthening and volumizing all in one, this is it.  Plus, no clumps ever!

MAC Lip Liner

A classic liner in a classic color and completely versatile. Line or color in and top with clear gloss.  Voila!

Dior Addict Lip Glow

This glossy balm is one of the many natural color
enhancers, but the best one out there.  Your natural color with a Dior spin!

Bvlgari Jasmin Noir

My all-time favorite, love-at-first-spritz, scent.  I cannot imagine a time when this will not be on my vanity.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Inspirations Files: Designers I Adore

I believe, as many of my favorite designers do, that a beautiful space enriches one's life. And since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, everyone's 'pretty' will vary. Here are some favorite spaces from some of my favorite design industry faces.

The most brilliant use of awning stripes in this gorgeous bathroom

This kitchen would inspire me to make the most delicious meals

A stunning dining room to eat previously said inspired and delicious meals

A beautiful, elegant, & comfortable living room. So pretty!

Share some of your favorites with me and they may appear in a future post.

Happy Thursday,