Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded

We love the rooftop Skybar of The Drake Hotel for summer drinks. We're regulars at our favourite neighbourhood bistro, Batifole. I once found a diamond ring in my oyster at Starfish, so of course I like to go there.

So does the rest of the world. I hear the really fabulous people have forsaken The Dr
ake, because tourists know about it.

If a cafe's listed on a tourism web site or the New York Times' Frugal Traveler tips it, the camera-slingers crowd in, the hipn
oscenti roll their eyes and slouch to another less-publicized boite.

But we like these places, and we're sometimes tourists too. Let's practice the Golden Rule of Touring: welcome as you would like to be welcomed.

That goes for bar staff as well as patrons. So what if the young Japanese couple don't know know how to pronounce "Maudit", the potent Quebec craft beer? As Edina said to a snooty gallery greeter in a classic Ab Fab episode, "You only work in a shop, you know. You can drop the attitude."

Visitors make the local more fun.

Sitting in the Skybar, I saw an entourage enter, visitors with their footsore Tourist Trudge and 'where am I?' gaze.

A solid, sunburned young woman with wild black hair, tenuous bustier and vertiginous platforms looked the place over; when she saw the taps at the bar, a reckless blissful smile transformed her face, and she bellowed to her mates, "BEEEE-AH!"

Oz in the house!

Rescue the dresses in Dallas!

Sitting at the colourists, getting re-reded, I picked up the May Vogue (US edition), and read an item titled "Closet Case: Erin Mathews."

Ms Mathews is a Dallas real estate executive with a big-D dazzling wardrobe (Lanvin, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Louboutin); a photo shows her resembling Diane Keaton in dark shirt and white pants by YSL.

The quote I had to read three times:

"Dresses I'll do for special occasions, but if I ever wear one twice, it's a miracle. Once a dress makes a statement, I find there's not much to do with i
t after that. The charming little dress that you wear time after time never really intrigues me."

I pulled this photo from her real estate company's home page; the Vogue shot shows a lithe, smiling woman- maybe size 2 or 4? So I thought, "If I were petite, I'd ask if her worn-once frocks would be interested in a new home."

Maybe she does donate them to charity, but I will now announce the founding of my new benevolent venture, named for the patron saint of seamstresses: Saint Anne's Home for Unintriguing Dresses.

Stay tuned as we develop SAHUD. Board positions are available. I think some Texan input would be essential, Belette.

And speaking of wearing once, what's your take on
wedding dresses? I have never understood the urge to spend thousands of dollars on a dress you wear for one day. (OK, maybe two if you take photos another day.)

I've been married three times. (And I know some of you are saying, "I figured.")

The first time, for my hippie wedding at a chapel in the woods, I sewed my own cream-coloured prairie dress, which I wore with lace-up knee-high fine suede boots. After the wedding, I dyed it plum and wore it into the ground
- the dress lasted longer than the union.

For the second, at a country club, I chose a vintage amethyst silk crepe gown trimmed with ecru lace, with an orchid in my hair: languid deco glamour. I wore that dress on black tie occasions, and felt like Ava Gardner every time.

The third time, I found an oyster-white Emmanuelle Khanh cocktail dress to wear when married at home- nearly 23 happy years ago. I wore it as a wedding dress twice, for our civil and religious weddings. Come to think of it, the marriages lasted in inverse proportion to the wearing of the dresses.

But if I'd had the urge to wear a bride costume any of those times, I would have borrowed or bought second hand.

The civilized pleasure of the trunk show

Yesterday my friend Carolyn and I attended the Toronto trunk show of one of my favourite designers, Muriel Dombret, whose boutique, Clothes, is based in Canada's capitol, Ottawa.

Muriel began her designing career in Belgium, and her styles echo the relaxed, playful aesthetic of Anvers or Dries van Noten.

You can see sketches of various seasons on her site; what's not evident is the quality of the fabrics: for summer, subtle jacquard linens, a linen with a bit of metal to lend crinkle; supple printed jersey and Italian cottons.

She brings her seasonal line and fabric swatches to her friend Sydney's home twice a year.

Though you could buy a piece from the trunk show, the most-appreciated feature is Muriel's eye for your body: she can change a sleeve length or bust dart, adapt the shape of a jacket... the clothes will
fit, and it's not as great a leap of faith as peering at a dress pattern and a bolt of expensive fabric and hoping it works out.

Trying a dress, pausing for champagne and strawberries, now
this is shopping. Carolyn chose a chic charcoal linen/metal knee-length skirt that dips slightly lower in the back, and a fluid knit dress in slate blue, perfect for summer parties.

I replaced an over-loved matte jersey skirt, and am feeling the tug of a linen bell-sleeved jacket.

The quality, flexibility, attention from the designer and lack of pressure create clothes-shopping paradise.

A close second is having a beloved boutique to yourself on a quiet morning.

The courage to wear a getup

My husband, Denis, reported that he saw a woman in a coffee shop on Saturday: bright yellow blouse, red skirt, green coat, purple scarf and red/black striped tights, seventy-five if a day.

"I had to admire her bravery", he said. I remembered an even older woman at a sidewalk café in Paris, every beautifully tailored piece clashing and chaotic, sitting up straight and enjoying the attention.

Several years ago I took a local woman to lunch at an austere restaurant; she showed up in head to toe neon purple. Her clothes were cheap, her eccentricity forced. If you're going to do mad, strive for coherence inside all that dazzling disorder, hard to do with sad synthetics.

Some women enjoy what eBay sellers love to call "wearable art''; it's usually neither. As my DH says, "Des goûts et des couleurs, il ne faut pas disputer."

Wish I were braver sometimes- not to the getup level, but more daring with colour.

First, I need some honkin' Tony Duquette jewelery t
o get the party started, like this coral and citrine bracelet.

Photo of jacket: Janice Heitbaum

Summer shades: Coral and citron

Ever notice how some colours blow into your world like burst milkweed pods, lightly setting down everywhere?

Coral is abundant, after years of banishment in Hollywood... Florida.

Effervescent for summer with its classic co-ordinates of turquoise, white, or navy, but also an in
fusion of life for winter palettes, a coral sweater in the depths of February tweaks a charcoal gray or bitter chocolate skirt toward the unexpected.

Risky to say a colour looks good on everybody, but I find coral easier to wear than orange, flattering to various skin tones.

And coral lifts a mature woman; it's mid-saturation is kinder than aggressive reds, less girlish than many pinks, not as sedate as blue.

The other colour of the season is an assertive lemon yellow.

It's fresh, but it doesn't work on me. I thought, "maybe in
a shoe" but my size 10 feet looked like twin fire hydrants.

Because of 1) my size, and 2) I'm bound to sit on the one blueberry on a banquette, I don't wear white on the bottom. The
summery combo shown above might make it though one wearing.

But I lik
e this refined version of the rugby shirt, below, posted on The Sartorialist blog, as did many of Scott Schuman's readers.

The voice as accessory

One's voice is The Ultimate Accessory.

Recall the greats: the gin-and-cigarettes Bacall, the Helen Mirren DCI Jane Tennison, the Cate Blanchett Queen.

Young women ignore this aspect of their presentation, and older women worry about wrinkles but ignore their voices.

Your mother may have advised "modulation". There's some truth in that. I heard a gorgeous young woman in her mid-20's at a restaurant; she screeched, "I'll have a slice-a peetsa and a dye-utt Coke". She sounded like Minnie Mouse through a megagphone.

Duchesse wants to march them by their collars to a private spot and hiss: Pay attention to the instrument that is your voice!

To a certain extent you are stuck with what you're born with, but you can make your voice more resonant and compelling by paying attention and using it consciously. ("Shrill", a criticism made frequently about Hilary Clinton's voice, is only ever made against women.)

If you have voice mail on your phone, record yourself most days and listen. Notice your intonation and pitch range. Identify the emotion you want to convey (warmth, enthusiasm, authority, confidence, etc.) and put that into your voice.

Listen to great voices; observe how the professional uses breath and the pause. Breath is the gasoline of the voice.

Notice how she emphasizes key words and phrases. She will (unless speaking a dialect) pronounce every vowel and consonant that is supposed to be pronounced, in every word. She will never, ever use the rising intonation at the end of a declarative sentence, known as "upspeak".

I don't support purging an accent, whatever it may be, unless people squinch their faces when you speak. That means, in any culture, "I can't understand you."

Printed linen and lamé: J. Crew eschews prep

J. Crew are getting it right, drifting further from Hyannis, closer to Capri, each season.

Lots of touches in the new collection that I've seen at four times the price.

If cut longer, I'd take the Antonia printed linen dress, a popping lick of colour for $165- and I could wash it!

The Zooey silver lame top, $88, channels Edie Sedgewick, perfect for a midnight mojito at the rooftop bar.

I'll spring for a fine merino deep V (bottom). Not for the stickiest weather, but this is Canada so I'll wear it though June, and I like the graceful V.

The wise beauty: Renata Molho

The Sartorialist occasionally publishes interviews with style icons; here is one he has discovered, Renata Molho, a Milanese writer.

I never break this fashion rule...
"Not too many beautiful things together: one particular element and the rest must be something cooler, silent and respectful like a frame in a picture."

I skimp when buying ...
"I do not know: I don’t have items, I have different periods: or I become mystic and don’t by anything or I buy everything I meet and I can afford."

See the link for the full interview; she is quirky, assured and intelligent. And her style icon? Jane Birkin.

Photo: The Sartorialist

No-buy list

The latest me-too: Tiffany Notes

A silver pendant inscribed "Tiffany & Co 727 Fifth Avenue, New York"; price: $225

Could you live on a Hundred Mile Clothes Diet?

Yesterday's post set off a flurry of thoughts and contributions on clothing as class indicators, and the inevitable: the politics of clothing.

Materfamilias commented that her Hermes scarf is made in France, where workers receive far higher wages and benefits than developing countries.

I think of this when I buy made-in-EU items...but besides contributing to the French workers' benefits, I am also paying for the company's gazillion-dollar ad campaign.

Feel a twinge when I read the Made in Sri Lanka label in a $30 Gap t-shirt, and pause... som
etimes buy, sometimes not. Then I pick up the German t-shirt, yikes, $120!

I struggle with this issue every time I shop, pleased and relieved when I can Buy Canadian. I like to support our local designers, even though many skew too club-kid cute or society-matron safe for my taste.

What if I invoked the clothing equivalent of the Hundred Mile Diet for my clothes: nothing not designed and made outside of 100 miles?

Adios, Fila yoga pants, which wear like iron. Ciao, shawls from Italy, France, India. Sorry, DH, the Sabbia Rosa lingerie est partie. Sayonara, Uniqlo $
70 sweater.

If I adhered to the rules:

The shoe situation would be dire. Roots and John Fluevog (shoes shown in photo, top) manufacture offshore now. There's a bespoke shoemaker I can see from my house, a sweet guy my husband likes. He uses some Canadian hides, but how many brogues do I want?

The findings, from coat buttons to bra hooks are not produced here, a major problem. Opaque tights- could I live without? The Comrags suit shown is a winner, but the fabric is not local. Revised in Ontario-spun hemp, gaaaah!

Bags would be a breeze- there are some world-class leatherworkers like Negash at Dessa and Negash in Toronto... maybe he could assure me the brass fittings are forged locally.Swimsuits? Hello, skinny-dip.

Some Hundred Mile Dieters say they cheat on coffee, so I would cheat on hosiery and bras (the thought of tying a bra closed is terrifying).

How rich do you want to look?

Linda Grant over at The Thoughtful Dresser unleashed a torrent of posts on scarves, and one woman (I assume) commented that she did not wear Hermes scarves for fear of looking bourgeois.

I began to wonder, as opposed to what? Insouciantly bohemian? Stoutly working class? Private-jet megarich?

Fact is, I am a femme bourgeoise. Middle-aged (the upper reaches), middle-class, respectable. I vote, work, look after my teeth, teach my children some social skills and pray they stick. My first reaction when hearing of a divorce is sadness (but not judgment). I like buying good things and making them last.

And so on.

No matter what your class, and especially if you blur or straddle these too-easy distinctions, everyone has an Inner Snob. Mine is peevish and superior, and nags, "Don't look suburban." For Inner Snob, suburban is shorthand for a mall-centred esthetic that prizes buying the latest me-too trend and utter devotion to logos.

If told I look like a European haute-bourgeois woman, I'd be complimented. I think of my Swedish friend Towe, in fine wool pants, merino sweater cut like a shirt and patterned cashmere shawl, relaxed and elegant. She says, "I let my clothes speak, so I don't have to use so many words."

Or of Ja
ne Birkin (below) whose style I love but cannot really replicate as I'm heavier.

To be fair, what's behind that fear of "looking bourgeois:" too safe, uniform-y, rigid, is something I worry about too.

You can look tense and overdone in any class to which you belong or aspire. I see overdressed punks every day. And it's risky to attempt a look far outside your natural order.

My GF Suzanna's sister sometimes dresses, as she says, "looking rich": more gold jewelry than Mr T, $600 jeans (no I don't know the brand but she told me the price) and a Tod's bag. To me she just looks overwrought, put together by a stylist.

While some of us like to think we're beyond these class distinctions, sales people and marketers know differently.

Eating less to feed more

With grocery bills rising, food banks running short, and food shortages causing riots in many poor countries, it's time to change how we think about food consumption.

The problem can be tackled with various strategies; one is to cut down on the amount of food people pile on their plates.

Some restaurants are beginning to offer two portion sizes, bravo!

College cafeterias have eliminated trays, so students must carry each plate to the table.

I avoid buffet-style restaurants.
Waste is built-in: no one wants to amble down a buffet line with scanty offerings.

What happens to that potato salad or chicken tikka at the end of the day? Some use agencies like Second Harvest to pick up uneaten food, but many simply throw it out.

I learned in an article in The New York Times on Sunday, May 18 ("One Country's Scraps, Another Country's Meal" by Andrew Martin) that edible food wasted in 1995 by US retailers, food service businesses and consumers amounted to roughly
a pound of waste per day for every adult and child in the nation.

In England, a recent study reports that Britons toss away a third of the food they purchase, a figure that shocked me.

Food has been cheap in North America, and portions increasingly huge. As the article says, "Eliminating food waste won't solve world hunger and greenhouse gas pollution (from dumped leftovers). But it could make a dent in this country and wouldn't require a huge amount of effort or money."

When good hairdressers turn bad

Most hairdressers I've visited truly care. I have friends in the profession, so I appreciate the physical and emotional demands, the hours, the client hassles.

At the same time, a good haircut in Toronto often hits three figures, and the custom of not tipping the owner (as my mother did) has vanished.

These Seven Deadly Sins are behaviours that keep me switching salons. Not all are deal-breakers, but if several happen during one visit, I'm gone forever, and will tell the world about you.

1. Inconsistent
Brilliant cut one visit, and the next I leave wondering if I saw the same person. Yes, consistency is challenging, but it's your business, especially at $100, to get the the June cut as brilliant as the April one.

2. Bored

Is this why my beloved late hairdresser, James, once coloured my hair shocking strawberry (rather than deep auburn), without quite telling me?
("I'm just going to pick up the colour a bit for summer.")

But James didn't have to stand in front of a corporate board of directors looking like an Ozzfest swag-seller, did he?

3. Pressure-Sells

You can create your line of hair care products but if they do not best the ones I use, I'm not buying. If you want me to try it, a sample would work. Stop asking me at the cash if I need any product. Stop pitching facials, lowlights or satin pillowcases ("to protect your hair"). If I'm interested, I'll ask.

4. Pain in the Neck

Go to one of your sinks and lean your neck back. Hold it at that weird 60-degree angle with no support, not just for a shampoo, but while the shampoo girl takes a call, wanders off to get someone a tea, changes the music or chats with the receptionist.

I've been to precisely one salon with adjustable and padded neckrests (Toni & Guy). I have neck pain for days from the typical salon setup.

5. Values Productivity Over Results

When my bright red faded after a week despite colour care shampoo, I asked why, and learned the salon had changed product. The new one processes faster, but a disgruntled ex-employee said almost all customers complained about colour lift.

However, productivity is king, and they can get 'em out the door faster if the goo steeps for 10 min. instead of 30.

6. Dishonest

When my colour turns out too brassy, do not recruit the youngest stylists, have them ring my chair and pronounce it "awesome". Their sweet young faces give it away, and you're turning them into the next generation of dishonest hairdressers.

And it's sleazy to tell me that you discontinued carrying my preferred product line (Phytologie) because "the company was sold to Estee Lauder, and we prefer boutique brands." Not true.

7. Unprofessional

Be on time.
If your previous client arrives late, rebook her, rather than imposing a domino effect on me, the punctual one. Keep your person, workstation, lounge and bathrooms clean. I especially dislike having the hair whisked from my face with a rancid brush.

I do not want to hear about your mother's substance abuse issues, your boyfriend's failed club. Don't ask me to mention you when I visit a hot restaurant whose chef is a friend. If you want a publicist, hire one; if you see me with a magazine in my lap, reduce your chat.

Signatures: I see the classic and I raise you one

Just read Nina Garcia's "Little Black Book of Style", attracted by Reuben Toledo's illustrations and the Amazon blurb. Deeply disappointing.

I won't waste electrons castigating this unedifying, clunky book. My copines in the style blog world are posting more nuanced material every day... so read them!

Garcia lists ten style essentials that include the Little Black Dress, the trench coat, the white shirt, the mans' watch, the jean- perhaps useful counsel if you're fifteen, but nothing new or even well-said here.

Once you've done a bit of living, you own (and have replenished) these essentials and are loo
king for more deeply-considered perspective. Signatures, not standards.

My aunt Magdalen wore Seaman Schepps "Night and Day" seashell earrings (left) with everything, her white up-do floating like a meringue above them.

Style signatures I've admired:
- Rosalind's armful of bangles

- Mhendi tattoos on Anita's feet

- Denis' Breton sailor shirts

- Lenora's collection of cats' eye glasses

- Clare's exquisite Indian necklaces, piled on

- Christi
ne's Opium fragrance ("It's not supposed to work on a blonde", she says, "but it does.")

- Daniele's antique hatpins, worn on her beret

This is the difference between a woman who wears the eternal basics, and the one who ventures a signature.

She may wear the white shirt, black pant, ballerina flat... but she enters, smiles into your eyes, offers something to remember her by.

What style signatures are memorable to you?

Give your old stones some new lovin'

At some point north of 40, jewels you acquired in your 20's look dated, unless you have antiques of fine quality.

If the pieces were set with tiny diamonds, you likely no longer wear them. Hell, you may have trouble
seeing them.

This is the tangle at the bottom of your jewelry box.

Paulette Goddard, fiancee of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks (and apparently a few others) solved the problem by making a charm bracelet from her old engagement rings.

Another idea: restyle the pieces into one breathtaking item that you wear with joy.

Shahasp Valentine works in an unusual medium, Precious Metal Clay (PMC). The malleable quality of the material allows her to mold, carve and set pieces, then fire them in her kiln. As durable as cast metal, PMC is pure silver, or 22k to 24k gold, not an alloy.

She shows two collections on her web site,
Organic, very modern, free-form designs, and Modern Artifacts, more traditional with a whisper of goth-edgy.

Above, the Grande Fleur necklace, a showcase for your neglected diamonds. They won't look forlorn anymore!

Below, the Knife Edge necklace with diamond in 14k gold prong setting, pearl and pearl in chain and clasp. I'd choose this to repurpose a long-ago engagement ring and rock on. Don't miss the entire Knife Edge series on her site.

Ms Valentine's work is also shown at Metalworks Gallery, San Francisco.


Simple, beautiful clothes from Kiss of the Wolf

Lori Baciagalupa makes dream clothes, simple designs in exquisite fabrics. I met her at a craft show here in Toronto (the only one she attended) and fell under the spell.

She is an award-winning textile designer whose company, Kiss of the Wolf, is based in Norman, Oklahoma, about the most unlikely place I could think of. (My friend Linda, who lives there, agrees.)

I've worn my small collection for about four years; I feel wonderful in them, and they travel like a dream.

I chose two pieces in Lori's ethereal shibori-printed silk, the Little Jacket (left), which is very lightly padded, and the Kimono Top (right). Also chose an Original Bias Skirt and Diamond Neck Top in black krinkle, an unusual silk with stretch.

Kiss will replace a worn sleeve or collar; Lori has clients who wear their jackets a dozen years and send them back for refurbishment.
The company is easy to work with by phone and e-mail; they'll send swatches, suggest options and adapt designs to your measurements.

At $300-$1500 per piece, obviously I fell in love and lept in, damn the expense- but non, je ne regrette rein.

You might also enjoy the clothes made by Asiatica, similar aesthetic at a higher price.

The coif thing: Part two

It's not that I'm against styling tools; see this photo of Helen Mirren. Her hair looks fantastic: soft, touchable, there's movement to it. I'm guessing styling with curling iron or hot rollers, applied to a great cut. The colour boosts her hair's healthy shine.

And while I'm at it: the most expensive highlights just look like dull stripes unless your hair has some shine.

That's why I'm sticking with her as a great model for how good 62 can look. I chose this photo because, famously, it has not been airbrushed, and shows her lines.

In her role as the Queen, she is coiffed within an inch of her life, a formal armor. Few intend this level of stiffness.

And here's what I see every day, a corporate executive with nary a hair out of place; she looks confident and professional, though not very interesting.

I'm tired of this bland, perfectionistic, disciplined look.

It's not wash and go, just as Mirren's isn't, but what a difference.

Too much coif, bof!

Don't over-coif.

Muss it, free it. Don't seal the style tighter than a Tupperware bowl, so every hair is frozen in helmetized perfection.

If your 'do takes two appliances, several products and 35 minutes, you're locked in litigation with your hair. Even if you win, y
ou lose: you look untouchable, uptight, and utterly conventional. It's the hair equivalent of too much Botox.

Get a hairdresser who understands what you have, and works with it.

Here's a photo of Paul McCartney's divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, left, arriving in court last March, strenuously styled and sprayed. Heather Mills doused her with a jug of water at the trial's end; see result at right.

How much lovelier and looser she looks post-watering! (She also has that twinkle in her eye, the cat that ate the crazy canary.)

Where is Heather Mills when we need her?

My three eras of buying clothes

As I ease into semi-retirement, I'm reflecting on the three eras of my clothes-buying.

Era 1
When I was in my mid-20's through 30s, working in the financial district, I'd drop $600 on an Armani silk blouse, and who knows what on a suit. I liked Japanese designers, Maud Frizon heels.

I would graph my Visa bill, tape it to my refrigerator door, and force myself to get the slope running downward, but I don't think it was
ever entirely paid off.

On a business trip to London, I almost bought a $4,000 Claude Montana leather jacket with a red eagle on the back, till I realized I'd have to declare it and pay customs duty, thank god for that shred of sense.

Era 2
Late 30's to late 50's: Marriage and a family changed my habits; no longer willing to live on toast for a month to pay for a pair of turquoise suede boots. Became a "bridge" customer, with occasional splurges at the boutiques.

With the advent of business casual, let go of "fashiony" looks. At the same time, very important t
o me to avoid anything mumsy. I looked for simple shapes like the look at the left, and did not wear much colour.

In the last decade, found several local designers who are so talented they pass the "I'd Wear This in Paris" test.

Era 3

I'm in another state, not a return Era 1, but different from Era 2.

I think about
Holding Up the Side. I don't want to be that sad senior on the wrong (Never Cool) side of Sherrie Mathieson's "Forever Cool" book.

On the other end of the Senior Style Error continuum, I recently came across the term Fifteen-Fifty (fifteen from the back, fifty from the front) and cringed. Not that I could, even if I were tempted.

Thumbing through an old copy of Germaine Greer's "Menopause", I read her comment that Italian women my age drape themselves in gorgeous fabrics. I thought,
there's a plan: simple, current but not desperately trendy clothes in beautiful fabrics.

Finding these fabrics is not easy; the houses renowned for them (such as Etro, Missoni, Hermes) only rarely make something in my size and I get sticker shock. Even finding a white shirt in a fine Egyptian cotton is a challenge.

But now that
I know what I want, the hunt is on, with focus and reverence.

As you'd expect, my price point has flown up again. But this time I'm not in pursuit of the latest trend. The pieces should last longer, so I apply the time-honoured cost-per-wear formula.

Photo bottom:
Caroline Charles

Six unremarkable quirks

Tagged by Deja Pseu, here's my response:

1. So debt-averse that I'll charge something on my Visa, then go straight to a bank machine and pay it. (Use card for air miles).

2. Usually wear black as the bottom of any outfit, and kind of resent wearing anything else. Rut or 'signature'? Depends on who's calling it.

3. Have hardly cooked a full meal except breakfast for 23 years- le Duc is the chef, and his
dishes are divine!

4. Rarely drive; I can, and it's not life-threatening to ride with me, just don't enjoy it and live in city with great transit.
Am the deeply annoying passenger-seat driver.

5. Bugged when people do not observe the conventions of grammar (e.g., "Me and Karen went to the movies.") Even though I know language is ever-changing, when authors do this during an interview, I go wild. (That's you, Agusten Burroughs.)

6. Excited to rise every day knowing I will see a person I have never seen before. A plus is that I live in the most multicultural city on earth.

Therapeutic waters: Ode to soaking

My GF Susan wrote me today, "Two more sleeps until Body Blitz!"

Full disclosure: the traditional beauty spas make me really nervous. I find the treatments overpriced or silly, the atmosphere pretentious; the whole experience is not a treat for me.

Then I visited the hammam at the Mosque of Paris, and I went into the zone. In the exquisitely mosaic-tiled baths, I drifted, relaxed, experienced the exfoliating scrub (gommage). A simple, spirit-lifting, deeply female experience.

In this blissed out zone, I passed several hours, and left serene in the Paris twilight.
I looked for a hammam in my city, and one day a woman old me about Body Blitz, which is similar: an all-women therepeutic water spa.

Aside from the waters, they offer only a few treatments: massage, exfoliation, mud wraps. No Chocolate Chakra Thermal Stone foo-faw, no mani-pedi, and (yay) no Anti-aging Cellulite-blasting Bull-S.

You enter, turn off all electronics, shower, change into your swim or birthday suit, and begin a circuit (without strict time requirements) of salt-water pool (shown in the photo at top), steam room, cold plunge pool, sauna, green tea pool and finish in the salt pool.

You're surrounded by natural stone and wood, immaculate rooms. Graceful attendants bring you tea.

If your city has a hammam or a therapeutic-water spa, try it. Every friend I have taken longs for a return visit.

Scoop this: Linen sweater on sale!

Here's a really good buy: the linen sweater from J. Crew, on sale now on their website for $39.99!

I bought it last year in Sandstone and this year in the lively Soft Fuscia, shown.

It's perfect for air-conditioned interiors, and the deep V neck is flattering to everyone.

Only drawback is "dry clean only" but I'm about to try handwashing one, as I do with my linen blouses.

Wearing what you want

I used to love hanging out at the pool at Mom's seniors' apartment in Florida. In the company of a fun-loving crowd in their seventies and eighties, I, in my forties and fifties, felt fit and sleek. It's all relative.

Now I'm nearly 60, beginning to look like them, with spreading and softness and bits that exercise won't alter. They have become my role models. Aside from sunscreen, Mom's friends didn't cover up. They wore shorts, sleeveless blouses, halter tops.

Last week a forty-year-old friend lamented the arrival of spring, because her "loose" underarms would show in her tank tops. "I dread the summer", she said, "I feel like hiding."

I'd just returned from Florida, where I met older women at the beach every day. They looked at home in their aged bodies.

They are not are giving up or letting themselves go. They are just not going to obsess about perfection.

There's a point where you say, this is a beach, dammit, it's a sweet, sunny day. If my underarms jiggle or my varicose veins show, well, I'm walking at the ocean's edge, smiling at passers-by, watching a three-year-old leap into the waves, squealing with joy.

On your toes, get set...

...go! Sandal season is here at last.

I will happily choose either of these spring models from Arche, my favourite shoe brand:
1. Dalou in amber (shown above) or a beautiful blue, $290

2. Cuzco (left) in or/platine, $225

You can wash the nubuck styles, a plus for those of us hitting the city streets.

Worth every penny!

From nips to tips: Hidden essentials

I've had to search out a couple of discreet wardrobe enhancements. Maybe you need them too?

Sheer t-shirts mean showing more breast features than I want. When I tried one of those foam-cup bras it lept out of my drawer like a demented stuffed animal and felt stiff and unnatural on.

So I've ordered a $6 pack of Fashion Forms Silicone Gel Petals from Bare Necessities, which I can tuck in my bra; I hope they work.

If the petals prove insufficient, Wacoal (one of my favourite bra brands) makes a foam cup that slides in any bra; they are sized, and cost $10 from the same source.

I don't mind showing toe cleavage but found the Jackie O ballerina flats I bought at Nordstrom scarily insufficient in the arch.

These FootSmart leather 3/4 arc
h insoles give blessed, breathable support.

UdeMan Part Three: Clark Johnson

I'm a fanatic about "The Wire", all five seasons. A rave-within-a rave for a major character in Season Five, Baltimore Sun City Editor Gus Haynes, played by Clark Johnson.

The role was written for him- which helps- but he took that leg up and vaulted through the season. (If you missed it, watch for the DVD release of Season Five.)

I've noticed him since he was an 20-ish actor on Canadian TV. He was the cute little brother of chanteuse Molly and actor Tabby... then the years passed.

Fiftyish looks great on Johnson. Gained some weight, lost some hair, got subtle instead of stud-muffiny. He has gravitas, an unhurried depth- somewhat like William Hurt, but hipper.

I read in the New York Times that his current focus is directing, but I'm eager for another turn
in front of the camera. And since he has a house in Toronto, I'd love to run into him at the movies, or shopping for bok choy in Chinatown.

Photo: Steve Payne for The New York Times

A marvelous spring cleaning product!

I don't know how the first bottle came into the house, but I bless the sweet-smelling day.

This essence of orange (made from an extract from the peel and seeds) conquers every stubborn, entrenched stain and odor in your home. Because it's made from an extract from the skins and seed of the fruit, the real citrus freshness lifts spirits as well as grime.

One of the products in the line even de-skunks your pet, but our preferred use is on my sons' sheets, which are pretty close to skunk on the funk-o-meter.

Windows, counters, yoga mats, gym gear, candy and gum: go ahead! Put a half ounce in a gallon or a half teaspoon in a spray bottle, and mist away, or add mere drops to your laundry. (The web site gives instructions.)

You can get it in the organic section of a supermarket or order directly from the Orange aPEEL web site (including international orders). And for the francophiles, the site is in French as well as English.

Available in various sizes; 8 oz. of the concentrate is $15 and it'll go a long way.

The most addicting legal substance I have ever run across.