Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year of Living Fabulously

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

As we usher out 2006 and look ahead to 2007, we reflect on the things we've done, the places we've been, and the things we've acquired.

It was a year of monumental changes. A year of exhausting work. A new house. A new pet, my first cat ever. A year of tireless new work projects that kept me far away from my new house and kitty for many a late night, not to mention my honey. And of course, it was a year of one of the biggest events of my life: in less than 5 hours, I went from being a single girl to a married woman. Of course, the planning took 9 stressful months, which fell in between busy worknights and tiring moving weekends, and the wedding cost as much as a new car. Which is definitely on my list of things to acquire in 2007. But at least I won a small bet -- I was the last girl standing among my high school and college friends.

And boy was it a year of seeing the world! A 22-day whirlwind tour of Italy, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Bologna, and Tuscan wine country. Plus a 4-day shopping trip through London, the city of ladylike style. Eating, drinking, and shopping our way through Europe without a care in the world. Now that's La Dolce Vita!

It was a year of buying generously. Where should I start? January: Ralph Lauren leopard-print calf-hair kitten-heel flats, Off Saks. February: Tod's chocolate leather Kate media bag, eBay. June: Cole Haan white pocket Village tote, eBay. August: King-sized bed frame, Ikea, and new King-sized mattress, mattress store down the street. New sunroom-dining room furniture, Ikea. September: Cole Haan G-Series mink-trimmed black skimmers, TJ Maxx. October: Gucci gold-trimmed signature Abby bag, Gucci boutique, Rome. MaxMara red leather satchel, and MaxMara black and white wool pencil skirt, MaxMara store, Florence. Joseph navy cotton sateen 3/4-length trench, Harvey Nichols, London. And others, I'm sure, but who's counting?

Unfortunately, the generous buying eventually gave way to some necessary selling. Gone: Louis Vuitton Marais bucket bag and gold keychain, 2 of my prized possessions. 3 Coach bags and a pair of suede Coach gloves. Dooney & Bourke bag and keychain. Oh well...

Just as it as a year of buying generously, it was also a year of giving generously. I gave some great presents this year. $700 to my sweetie from New Egg for his birthday. $500 Dell computer to sweetie for Christmas. $250 worth of steaks and seafood to my parents in Florida. Jars of preserved white truffles from Tuscany for my mother-in-law (which I may point out are litterally worth their weight in gold). Several Furla handbags from Rome for my pal Anna, my sister-in-law, and my father-in-law's significant other. A Michael Kors bag and several gently-used Nordstrom and Ann Taylor goods to a friend. A knock-em-dead black velvet Moschino cocktail confection to a different (very teeny) friend, who admittedly squeezed into the dress in a way that I would never be able to again. A veritable trunkful of apparel to same friend. A nice collection of soft girly treasures to a friend who seems to be lacking them. The usual shoes and clothes to charity.

With sorrow, we lost people near and dear. My grandmother, the matriarch of my mother's family, who finally lost her battle with many illnesses. We pray that she is truly in a better place now. We also said goodbye to some people that made us laugh, made us think, and made us boogie down. Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin. Tough-guy and actor extraordinaire Jack Palance. Joseph Barbera of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon power duo. Soul man Wilson Pickett. Prolific TV producer Aaron Spelling. All-around nice guy President Gerald Ford. Larger-than-life singer James Brown. And with great drama -- and much more publicity than he deserved --ruthless genocidal tyrant Saddam Hussein was brought to justice and executed under the watchful eye of the world.

Who could forget the year if hookups and breakups? Out: Jen & Brad, Nick & Jessica, Sir Paul & Heather, Jude & Sienna, Charlie & Denise, Mr. and Mrs. Locklear, Pamela & Kid, Carmen & Dave, and everyone's favorite sweethearts Ryan & Reese. In: Brangelina, Tomkat, Denise and Richie, the new Benifer, and Nicole & Paris BFF again.

And so we say farewell to a year that will be one of the most memorable for me. Goodbye, 2006!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? ...
And here's a hand, my trusty friend And gie's a hand o' thine ...
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for (days of) auld lang syne.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Santa Baby, Slip a Longines Under the Tree (For Me!)

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
Been an awful good girl...

So I didn't get anything super girly to wear for my birthday. Quel disappointment! Now, before I get carried away, I should point out that I did receive one very girly present that made me feel totally soft and furry. My faithful friend Anna gave me a luscious pair of dark brown rabbit fur earmuffs trimmed with velvet. I was able to test them immediately as the thermometer suddenly dropped from 78 degrees to 39 degrees. In fact, as I write this, the mercury is plummeting to 14 degrees this very night. I couldn't have walked a step outside today without the gentle insulating caress of my luxurious new earmuffs. So to be fair, I did receive one girly present for my birthday.

Lest you feel too sorry for me, let me assure you that I got some adorable presents. My dad dutifully bought me a set of very stylish steak knives, per my request. They were a chic French set with slightly curvey blades and unique red handles. My gal pal Pamela got me a tres chic little photo book for my honeymoon photos that will one day migrate from digital to paper format, and my other gal pal Valerie gave me a fabulous set of drink mixes from Williams Sonoma (we should all be so blessed as to have friends that work at Williams Sonoma, because the presents I get from her are always the presents I keep and love to use). And, my sophisticated friend Suzanne gave me a beautiful ivory porcelain jewelry box to match the ivory porcelain picture frame she had given me for my bridal shower.

Finally, my hubby presented me with a brand spanking new, top-of-the-moment souped-up Dell computer. It has 2 processors, slots for several different memory cards, at least a couple hundred gigs of hard drive space, and enough RAM to run all the memory-hog applications I insist on using at the same time. It was really a generous present, especially seeing as how we've way overspent our budget with the wedding, 3-week European honeymoon, and my liberal spending on clothes and handbags in Italy and London. And of course the little splurges I have made since our return. So I put him under no obligation whatsoever to get me anything more than a "token" present, say an angora sweater or a little silk treat from Vickie's. But he decided that my computer was so outdated, it made my almost 7-year-old car look new. My, how time flies! I remember like it was yesterday when I custom ordered my first Dell computer in 2000 and was brimming with joy when my then-roommate helped carry and install everything into my room, including our first DSL line. It was the coolest technology at the time, with an Intel Pentium 800 GHz processor and a 20 GB hard drive. How funny that sounds now! Anyway, I've now been using my new computer for a week and I definitely adore it! Dell is so the way to go with computers. Once you have one, you are converted. So, I definitely received some fabulous (and fabulously expensive) presents.

But no little sparkly gemstones or gold presents I had been -- however unrealistically and unfairly -- holding out for. Or a lovely new handbag to complement my new society wife status. Or a fur jacket that I had been drooling over. Or the present that I really really really wanted this year, and I told my man too many times to remember: a new watch. Granted, I didn't really hold anyone to my ambitious demands. I sort of threw it out there a few (dozen) times and was met with such an abrupt reply that I sort of lost hope. "You are getting a computer." So I comforted myself with the fact that I would have the coolest, fastest, most revved up computer this side of the Mississippi, thanks to the efforts of my techno-brilliant better half. And I would now be able to type my blog faster, edit budget spreadsheets without suddenly losing all my work, save my photos without wondering if my hard drive was going to crash the next day, and most imprtantly, surf the net faster to e-swipe all the goodies in the last 10 seconds from under the noses of unsuspecting ebayers. Ha, there are some uses for a super-fast processor!

So I was (and am) very grateful for a fab new computer. I needed it and not a day too soon. But my hedonistic desires nagged and nagged until I had to so indulge them. I wanted, needed, something shiny to play with, and unlike my man, electronics just didn't do it for me in the right way. So what was the first thing I did when my hubby finished custom installing all the newest software on my Dell? I took it out for a spin -- on the online retail superhighway, of course. To look for presents that make a girl feel like, well, a girl. And what was at the top of my list? A gleaming, superfly, classy watch, preferably encrusted with a few specks of ice.

You see, the watch I've been wearing for the past 7 years was a gift for my 25th birthday. And at the time, I had received a generous sum of cash from relatives, shopped around, and carefully picked out the watch I had wanted. And I had worn this watch lovingly for the past 7 years, faithfully and proudly, without so much as cheating on it with a cheap glittery evening accessory watch. But the watch had been showing more and more signs of my reckless wear. First, some rubbing off around the bezel. Then, slight dents and even window cracks in the face. And frankly, the showroom quality of the watch just wasn't up to par with my current glamorous lifestyle. It was more than okay for an aspiring 25-year old: A sharp-looking Seiko kinetic with notched numerals, a black face, and two-toned metal band. I'll give credit where credit is due: it's one heck of a tough watch for putting up with constant banging into furniture, drowning in water, and exposing to cold and heat. And I never once had to change the battery -- just shake it up baby, then twist and shout. Presto! It runs on kinetic energy. Hard to beat a feature like that.

Alas, for all these years, I clung to my Seiko like a baby blankie, not being able to find anything as efficient as the kinetic energy source, and not having the money to afford anything truly high end to make my trouble worthwhile. But you see, I kind of outgrew it, sort of like a teenager outgrows a kids' bike, or an up-and-coming Hollywood starlet outgrows a trashy boyfriend. They might still function fine, but they don't really look right on you anymore. My watch looked much too clunky to wear with dressy attire, and lately, it was just too annoying and big with its oversized face to fit under slim sweaters. Then there was the new bling factor, which intruded like an unwelcome baby into the life of a beloved only pet. All of a sudden, the bling on my left hand became more important than the watch on my left wrist, and the watch just didn't measure up to the bling. So either the watch had to go or the bling, and you can bet your last penny that the bling wasn't going anywhere. (You might ask why I didn't just switch the watch to my right wrist, but this is simply not ergonomically feasible given the fact that I've worn my watch on my left wrist ever since I've had a watch. And besides, even on the right wrist, the watch would still look out of place when seen on the same body as the bling.) I wanted more and more to just leave the watch off, poor thing. Unfortunately, there are those of us who can't fathom going through a day -- let alone life -- without a watch, which is why I never cease to be surprised by folks who don't find the need to wear one. Granted, we have cell phones now that tell the time, but these folks were around long before we had the luxury of cell phones, and they baffled me then. How can one not want to know constantly what time it is?

As an aside, I should be completely honest, since anyone who knows me even remotely will immediately laugh and poke holes in my logic. I have always owned a watch ever since I can remember, and all these decades, it hasn't helped me in the least, because I am always hopelessly running behind and late to everything in life. Yes, before you ask, I was late to my own wedding. Of which I warned people for several years prior... But that's another topic altogether.

Hence, I set out to indulge myself with a little harmless online "looking" -- which is one or two degrees behind online "shopping" -- at some watches. It couldn't hurt to know what was out there. Maybe I wasn't yet deserving of a Cartier or a Patek Philippe, or the Omega I had torn out of a magazine, but perhaps a little Coach or Gucci? Maybe an innocent Esquire or new Swiss Army ladies model? Perhaps a vintage Tiffany? I certainly deserved that! I still had Christmas, for heaven's sake!

So I ambled on to Amazon, Overstock, Smart Bargains, ebay, the usual starting places. Nothing at the big "O" or Smart Bargains -- either the watches I could afford were too cheap, or the "luxury" watches I drooled over were priced $2000 and up. Amazon showed some promise. Ebay, as always, produced more than a few pretty pieces. Found a distinctive Coach pink aligator strap watch with a diamond bezel. Not too bad, at the now reduced price of $399. Found a few used Tiffany's, but nothing recent. Found tons of Omegas, but the diamond models just wouldn't drop below $1700. Sigh. Took a tour of Amazon. Thousands of watches! So many, I had to delegate one brand search per day. Came across some beauties from brands that I had never really considered before: Michelle, Raymond Weil, and my new favorite, Longines.

After a week of avid searching, price comparison shopping, and narrowing down my selections, I have finally found the objects of my affection. 1) An exquisite Longines Dolcevita with a blue mother-of-pearl dial and diamond-encrusted face and bezel. 2) A stunningly chic Longines Dolcevita with black face, Roman numerals, and diamond bezel.

So Santa, what do you say? Can you dig into your bag o' treats for just one more present for this good little girl?

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me

Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight.