Friday, May 28, 2010

Wear a little Sex and the City

Sex and the City Charms 
published it the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In time for the release of two summer movies, Dogeared Jewelry & Gifts is releasing lines of jewelry inspired by the original media.

This month, the iconic TV series "Sex in the City" gets a necklace charm line. Later in the summer, the book "Eat, Pray, Love" is in negotiations for a keepsake line about the same time the movie is released.

Dogeared is known for creating sentimental totems and keepsake gifts as well as charms associated with charities like Make a Wish. The step up to the silver screen wasn't planned.

"We didn't really set out to do this," said sales director Elizabeth Dinette. "HBO reached out to us. Licensing wasn't in our business plan."
However, a "Sex and the City" jewelry line made perfect sense; the popularity of the series and first movie came from an intimate, yet lighthearted, connection among women.

"Our strength has always been themed concepts, words of inspiration and reflection that relate to our consumers," says Ms. Dinette. "We take the themes from the series that many women identify with and give them a part of that theme."

Dogeared is known for the simplicity of the designs and messages that accompany each item. Quotes were pulled from the show to represent each of the main characters of the series -- Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Each quote card receives a different charm emblematic of the message.

Attached to charms representing the Eiffel Tower, a martini glass, a diamond and a stiletto heel are quotations such as: "I've been dating since I was 15. I'm exhausted! Where is he?" and "Shopping is my cardio."

"The 'Single and Fabulous' card means you got to have confidence. The jewelry is a reminder," says Ms. Dinette. "The line is about life's journey from a female point of view and the different phases we experience. Every woman can see a part of themselves in this series."

The charms will be released first with HBO and Bloomingdales; later, they will be available wherever you find Dogeared charms. Prices range from $54 to $150.

Dogeared is still in negotiations on items from the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. The movie with Julia Roberts is set for release in August.
First published on May 19, 2010 at 12:00 am

Monday, May 3, 2010

Adventures of an Urban Mom in the Woods

If you are like me, you may cringe at the idea of letting your child dig in dirt or romp through poison ivy. You may have screamed, as I did on a recent Saturday morning, at spotting spiders in the toilet at Boyce-Mayview Park while the other parents waited to use the compost restroom.

If, like me, you're exceptionally squeamish when it comes to the natural world, Venture Outdoors' Tyke Hikes provide a low-maintenance way to get your child involved with nature.

The program's main goal is to introduce children -- including infants -- to nature while utilizing the city's parks and nearby outdoor recreational venues. The nature walks are so popular during the moderate weather that it is normal to have 40-50 people attend a hike.

Organizer Lindsey Rethage inherited the program in 2004 and has rejuvenated it by working to organize neighborhood chapters. Rethage makes it easy for parents by making the trails low impact and full of pit stops where participants look at vegetation and animals -- including insects -- that reside in the parks.

"As long as you introduce your kids to the outdoors, they are happy," says Rethage. Her oldest daughter Avery was 3 weeks old when she started leading hikes. Madison, her second child, was a fussier baby, but being outdoors calmed her down.

Rethage finds a lot of children are really fascinated by nature when they get around other children. Her two girls are often the ring leaders, she said, and naturally connect with the other kids.

Rethage says 60 percent of Tyke Hikers are parents trying out the program for the first time. Many, like Laureen Colusci of Ross, recognize that their children spend more time indoors than they did as children.

"I want him to learn about nature and see things," said Colusci, of her 4-year-old son Liam.

It was an exceptionally cold day at Boyce-Mayview Park, but three families showed for the Saturday hike. Kate Snyder of Mount Lebanon, 18 weeks pregnant, came out with her 18 month-old child, Eliah.

"I tend to like the idea of outdoor activity," said Snyder.

Parents like Julie Azzam of Dormont, who aren't exactly outdoors types, find their children provide incentive to search for more activities in nature.

The University of Maryland reported that the average American child spends 50 percent more time indoors than 20 years ago. The study found kids are spending 55 hours a week with electronic media. The American Journal of Public Health attributed outdoor play to a reduction in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children as young as 5 years old.

Rethage's interest in nature was inspired by her kids' need to get outdoors, as well as her own childhood in Canada. Her father was an outdoors educator. She found the inspiration again when she left the corporate world to become a mother.

One of the intimidating factors of nature, Rethage said, is that parents worry about their children's safety and health risks. During a recent camping trip she discovered one of her daughters has asthma. But that hasn't stopped her from engaging her daughter with nature.

"It really is like we are a community when we are on a hike," she says. "The stories from kids are great. They can remember the littlest things they discovered in nature."

During a recent Tuesday stroll, a group of six families was introduced to Ebony Scott of East Liberty, who is being trained to guide some of the programs. Her reason for getting involved in Tyke Hikes is also personal.

"I love to be able to teach my kids outdoor activities," she says. "I am also trying to get African Americans out on trips in the parks. There is a lot of obesity in our communities. I don't want my own children to become unhealthy."

Her daughter Heaven is 5, and her 6-month-old son Earth was strapped to her as she helped Rethage dole out complimentary snack for the kids.

Some hikers are grandparents. Nellie Curran of Shaler has been taking her grand kids out on Tyke Hikes for three years.

"I would be bored to death if I had to keep them at home," she said. Now her grandchildren, 1-year-old Seamus and 4-year-old Peter, have found regular playmates in some of the children.

I examined the mud on my daughter's pants and sighed, but I had to agree with everyone. Despite the dirt, she was much happier.

Adventures in Swimwear

When my editor at the Post-Gazette asked me to write an article about swimwear, he asked me to focus on “regular women.” I quickly responded that they didn’t exist, and that is what is wrong with swimwear; women are not regular. Either small on top, or big on bottom, or just plain soft all over, women were made with glorious differences in size and contour. So where are all the options in swimwear?

This year thanks to the social networking of the internet, a lot of designers have answered the needs of women everywhere with more creative and better built swimwear. However, there are designs that were made for only the young or svelte body types. For instance, the boy short has made way for the “hipster” bottom that barely covers the inappropriate bits that may show when you sit down.

Lesson number one: when trying on a bathing suit bend over, sit down, dance around, and lift your arms to test how the suit moves with you. Posing in the mirror and sucking in your gut does not count.

The bandeau top became en vogue in the last few years, but was not really appropriate for fuller women. However, designers have managed to build a support top with adjustable straps and reinforcing materials giving the look a more practical application.

The same goes for one-piece suits that are built with new tummy slimming materials. Vix, Gottex, Miraclesuit, and La Blanca are on the racks at your typical places to go swimwear hunting like Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Saks. They have built-in a tremendous amount of ruching and strategic ruffling into there suits. Contrary to this trend, I suspect that after I give birth to the baby in my belly next month I won’t want to wear a tutu or anything that accentuates a rippling affect.

The alternative trends to ruffles and ridges are the asymmetrical shoulder and cut-outs. Last year I tried a few on with laughable results. I was curious if the Fergie inspired hip-waist exposure, sometimes call the monokini, might be my bathing suit savior. I was profoundly mistaken. However, this year the term “cut-out” applies to many different styles that are less dramatic. The cuts are smaller around the hips, for instance the Stella McCartney version. Others appear as deep V-cuts that are made to elongate your trunk and give

a little styling to tummy tucking one-pieces like the ones found by Trina Turk. The one-shoulder look has the ability lift a one-piece bandeau suit into a better fitting statement.

A lot of designers are going the route of tactical colors and shapes. Clashing patterns and creating a busy bosom of color is completely acceptable this year. The look can be fun and, hey, it was popular in the Sports Illustrated Swimwear Issue this year. If you can’t quite get your mind around a string bikini from Maaji or Beach B

unny, which were featured in the sports magazine, than there are more un-revealing styles available in the tankini, and halter versions found at Kohl’s and Target.

Drenching yourself in a ridiculous upbeat pattern lends itself to having a sense of humor about the whole idea of baring your skin and no one does this quite as loud as Lilly Pultizer. This year Lilly Pulitzer, available at Palm Place in Shady

Side, is offering separates for the first time in her career. According to Fashion Director Jane Shoenborn, the change was in direct response to the feedback they received from social networking groups like Facebook and Twitter. Now you can buy tops and bottoms in different sizes and styles.

“What we love is that just like the rest of the brand, we are print driven. We have a resorty atmosphere so we don’t spend a lot of time tricking up the suit. We let the prints speak,” says Shoenborn. This year the collection was inspired by endangered animals and nature. The swimwear line is full of crazy corals and shells in hot pink, vivid green and electric blue.

I am not sure any of the new fashions will turn anyone into a “regular” woman, but they will be more comfortable and maybe even a little fun to wear.

Published version of this story available at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Swimwear for Real Women