Thursday, May 31, 2012

Can you REALLY machine wash leather???

From my recent experience, I'd say YES!*

A couple of months ago, I sold a gorgeous suede skirt through my store and the buyer sent me an email letting me know that, because she is allergic to perfumes, she washes EVERYTHING even her suede and leather skirts.  WHAT?  How can that be?  Everyone knows that you have to go the dry cleaner to get those skins cleaned!

Well, Kris (the buyer) was kind enough to elaborate on how she launders her leather.

     I always just use Murphy's Oil Soap.  If you haven't used it before, you can usually find it at 
     Walmart and at hardware stores.  Some grocery stores carry it.  My skirt is in the washer 
     right now.   I just use a couple of tablespoons or so.  Then I throw most things in the dryer and 
     iron them if necessary.

I couldn't believe it could be that easy, but really wanted to give it a try.  I have 3 Coach purses that have absolutely taken a beating and looked pretty bad.  Spots, coffee spills, and a stain of unknown origin on the smallest one that was actually thrifted.  I had tried everything,  leather cleaner, polish and they still looked REALLY bad.  Furthermore,  NOTHING could take that spot out of the the small Coach satchel.  

Having nothing to lose, my purses being unusable,  I started with my bright pink leather Coach purse.  I figured I couldn't make the bag look worse than it already did.  (I want to insert here that the older Coach handbags hold up much nicer than the newer ones, in my opinion.    I even purchased the Coach leather cleaner and it didn't help my pink bag that I purchased new for almost $300!)

The Experiment 

I put about 1/4 cup of Murphy's Oil Soap into the washing machine and put it on the gentle cycle.  I closed my eyes, clinched my teeth and dropped in the purse!   I was so surprised when I took it out and it looked fine, even BETTER with it still being wet.  The real test was yet to come.  The dryer.    I loaded up the dryer with a few towels and jeans to buffer the purse while it was being tossed around and set the dryer on the most delicate setting.  I decided to dry it just long enough for the inside fabric lining to dry.

I took it out while the leather was still damp and hung the bag on the back of a chair.  It air dried the rest of the way.

I can't tell you my surprise when I took the purse out and not only was it unharmed, but what an improvement!!!  So then I decided to do the next two together since they're both brown.

This brown Coach bag was already pretty worn when I received it as a very generous hand me down from a friend.  And that's cool, because in my opinion, good leather just gets better the more it's used. But it's the stains, water spots and fading that I just can't deal with.

This is the one I thrifted and can you see that?  Big greasy stain is nowhere to be seen!

The Final Step

My husband made a suggestion that turned out to be the crowning touch to the whole experiment.  He suggested that I saturate the bags in furniture polish (I always use furniture polish to clean a leather chair and ottoman that we have in our living room), and let it soak in.  Again, I was a bit apprehensive expecting all kinds of spots, but I covered the entire bag with the polish, rubbed in as much as I could and let just let it all soak in.

Worked like a charm!  Now it feels like I have 3 new bags!!  I have yet to try this with my suede and leather skirts, but I have a small suede skirt that I thrifted just for the leather to use in a project.  I'm thinking this will be my experimental skirt.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Simple Instructions
  1. Totally clean out contents of your bag
  2. Set washer to gentle cycle, pour in about 1/4 cup of Murphy's Oil Soap (amount depends on size of bag).
  3. Drop bag in, close lid and go have a drink to calm your nerves!
  4. When washing is completed, remove bag and place in dryer along with a few other fluffy items that you don't have to worry about any fading.
  5. Set dryer to the gentlest setting and keep checking about every 10 minutes, JUST until the fabric lining dries.  If there's no lining, just eye ball your bag and take it out when the leather is still damp but not soaked.
  6. Reshape if needed and hang to dry.
  7. When your bag is completely dry, spray the entire bag with a good furniture polish (Pledge?) and  gently rub in all over.  
  8. Once again, hang to dry to allow the polish to set in.
  9. ENJOY!
*Disclaimer:  This worked for me, but I can't guarantee these results for everyone who may try this.  Please launder your leather at your own risk.  Start out with something that is pretty much unusable to begin with. 

And speaking of leather, I've got some leather goodies in my store right now!  Be sure to check out the leather cross body bag that I just found!  It's like BUDDAH!


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Elegant Bohemian has SCARVES!

Lately I've come across just a TON of gorgeous scarves! Not one to keep a haul to myself, I'm sharing these with you via my store. If scarves are your thing, feel free to check out my collection. Enjoy and have a FABULOUS Memorial Day Weekend!

By the way, I'm also having a weekend clearance sale with many of my items marked down 50%. If you see anything that's calling your name, now's the time to snag it!

And for ideas on ways to use a scarf to elevate your outfit, be sure to check out Pam at Over50Feeling40. This woman is AMAZING with scarves!!!

You can also check out this video for a lot of interesting ways to add a scarf to your day!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vlog: Microdermabrasion Review

I wanted to let all of you know how the Microdermabrasion facial went last week.  It's such a girly thing to talk about that I decided to do this post as a video blog.  This is completely unedited, so while it's not real polished, think of it as just you and me just chit chatting!  By the way, I thought I could do this in about 2 minutes, but I'm such a stinkin' talker, I ate up 6 minutes!!!

I've got a couple of things that I'd like to blog about this week that your comments generated.  You all such interesting and varied make up routines that it made me think of the whole philosophy behind cosmetics.  I'd love to explore that a bit.  Also, as I mention in the video, I had my brows done through a method called threading that I want to tell all of you about, if it's unfamiliar to you.  I had never heard of it before I moved here, but it's FABULOUS and incredibly interesting!

So, until next time, much love to you all for stopping by!  Group hug girlies!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

When it comes to makeup....

My iPhone definitely smooths out the face, but this photo still shows a MUCH improved complexion minus foundation makeup.

"A little bit of powder.  A little bit of paint.  Makes a little girlie look like what she ain't!"
                                             ~Told to me by a centenarian who learned it when she was a child

"Every old barn needs a fresh coat of paint!"
                                            ~Folk saying

Lately, when it comes to make up, I'm opting for a minimalist look.  Admittedly, I've always STUNK when it comes to putting on makeup.  I just can't seem to make it look natural.  And as I've mentioned before, there's enough going on on my face without adding MORE to the mix.

Last week I was sick with a flu like bug.  Basically, I felt like CRAP and the LAST thing I felt like doing was getting dressed up or putting on cosmetics.  After a few days of going bare faced, I noticed that my skin was looking sooooo much better than it has been.  I have very sensitive skin and have been prone to have irritation break outs. And while I love the smooth look that many foundations give,  that dewy skin look  seems to elude me.     So, that got me thinking that it may be time to REthink what I put on my face.

Here now, is my NEW makeup routine.

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I use this EVERY morning. At under $15, it's definitely reasonable without heading into the department store counters.

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I use this blush by E.L.F. which is ridiculously priced at $3. Yes. You read that right. $3. CRAZY!  You can find it at Walmart  Target or Target.

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I lightly brush this clarifying powder over my face BEFORE I put on mascara. Again, by E.L.F. and I'm almost embarrassed, feel very clever to say that it's only $1.

I finish off now with eye liner and generous mascara, throw on some

My favorite lip gloss!  It's the only lip product that I actually run out of!  Great deals on this can be found at Bath and Body Works.  

So there you go!  How simple is that?!  For me, the great thing about keeping it simple on the face is that it allows me to splurge on what I can't go cheap on...


Microdermabrasion facial  (getting my first one tomorrow!)


Friday, May 11, 2012

Motherhood: Forgiveness and Gratitude

I wrote this two Mother's Days ago.  Originally, I just put it on my Facebook, but wanted to bring it out again today.  I also think I need to clarify that my family calls me "Nicki" rather than "Serene" as Nicole is my middle name.  Thanks so much for reading and a Happy Mother's Day to all of you!!!  I say this all the time, but whether you've given birth to a child or not, as a woman, you've mothered someone!  Much love!

I feel like the story of my life begins, "She did not grow up with her mother".  My parents divorced when I was 5 after long periods of separation due to the Vietnam War and marital problems.  When they divorced, my dad asked my mother for custody of me.  She agreed.  She kept my younger brother with her and I and my sister (her mother lived in Germany and gave up custody of her also) went to live with my dad, or actually my grandparents.   Our family story is a complicated one, to say the least. 

Growing up, I literally craved the presence of my mother.  I would anxiously wait for her visits and there are times that she did not show up when she said that she would.  I remember one time in particular, my grandmother telling me, "Nicki, your mom's coming to see you today".  I was so excited!  So excited, that I stood in the front yard and played and played, performing imaginative shows to the cars as my audience just so I could see her arrive.  I don't remember eventually realizing that she was not coming, I just remember the anticipation.  
When Momma did come to visit, she always had a goodie.  She carried this really cool white basket that was lined in a beautiful orange floral fabric (hey!  this was the 70s after all!) and that basket was always so much fun to peek into.  I have pictures of me holding my mom's leg like a toddler, but by this time I was 7 years old and half her height!  I had to bend almost in half to hold onto her leg.  But I just could not get close enough to her.  I wanted to inhale her, to keep her with me always and never let her go.  At that age I was not old enough to be hurt by the reasons for me not living with her, I only hurt because I did not have her.

So much time passed and so many events happened during those years that now wash my childhood portrait in a sepia coated sadness.  I just wanted my mom.  So many times during the sporadic and inconsistent visits, Momma would tell me, "Nickipoo, I can't stand for you not to be with me.  I'm taking your dad to court so you can come live with me.  In about 3 months from now, you'll be living here and you, me and Terry (my brother) will all be together."  I would go back home and expect any time to get a call or someone come to the door saying, "Okay, pack your things.  It's official.  You're going to live with your mom."  I was expecting this big error of custody to be rectified.  My mom always said that it wasn't what she wanted, that she was tricked and I believed her.  I believed it was she and I against a world that for some reason wanted to keep us apart.  Helen Reddy's "You and Me against the world" was, in my mind, our song.  I never put together reasons why we were apart, just that we were and that it was absolutely not my mother's doing.

Childhood Naivete is so gracious.  It spares you from a truth that you're too young to handle.   My adolescent head was just filled with too much contradictory information and I just did not know how to process it.   But to process it with an outcome that portrayed my mother as anything other than a selfless beautiful angel was completely unacceptable.  I adored her.  I adored her smell, her hair, her nails, her style, EVERYTHING!  She and my aunt were my paradigms of beauty and I aspired to be like my mother.  I loved showing my friends her picture, because I was so proud that I came from such a beautiful woman.  As if, "See what I come from?  I have to grow up pretty because SHE'S my mom".
After having kids of my own, my mom and I went through a strained time in our relationship.  I had to come to terms with reality and the light in which  it portrayed her.  Being a mother brought up obvious questions like, "Oh my goodness, how could you stand to be without me?  I was your child?" and "Why didn't you fight for me?  I'd move Heaven and earth to keep my children!".   She did not have answers and to be honest, I'm sure she felt attacked and judged.  I had put her on such a vertiginous pedestal that her humanity alone would knock her off.  That was such a painful and emotional time for both of us.  Neither of us could say the right thing to the other, every spoken word just seemed like a drive by bullet, wounding erratically but deeply.

It took me a lot of years to gather my mother's story and to see why and how she made decisions that she did.  My great grandmother had put my grandmother and her siblings in an orphanage in Germany.  My grandmother got out of the orphanage when she was around 17 and did some modeling to support herself.  She had my mother out of wedlock and my mother's father left.  My mother never met or knew her father.  She only knew that he was in the French Surete and his name was Etienne Monier.  My grandmother, then left my mother to be raised by the same woman who put my grandmother in the orphanage.  My mom saw things and took on a responsibility far beyond her years.  To see any picture of my mom as a child is to see the eyes of a time worn elderly woman.  Momma moved to the US when she was around 13 years old to live with her mom and step-dad.  She then married my dad when she was 16 immediately got pregnant.   My mom delivered me, alone, a month after she turned 17.  
When I was mature enough to put all of this into perspective, I understood my mother so much more.  My mother was too proud to defend herself to me, so this process of understanding took longer than maybe it should have.  But what I learned was a gift.  I learned that my beautiful mother was human, fallible, uncertain, scared and searching.  She was too young to have a child and I believe she was overwhelmed.  There was nothing in her immediate lineage that she could use as an example of what a mother is and does.  Her Oma (Grandmother in German) had left her daughter, my grandmother left my mother, my mother left me.   I remember after one particularly ugly argument, I went to another room to gather up my kids and Momma came in, hugged me and said, "Nickipoo, I guess you and I have just always wanted our mothers."  That summed it up and I saw that my mother and I had this huge longing in common.  While I was trying to get her to meet my need to be mothered, she was busy trying to glean the same from her own mother.   I was finally able to reconcile that for me to acknowledge that she made mistakes where I was concerned, did not lessen my love for her and did not make me disloyal.  After all, isn't that what true love is?  Seeing someone as they are, blemishes and all and still valuing them greatly? 

 My mother and I became closer than ever after this.  I love poetry and when I mentioned this to Momma, I was surprised to find that she also shared that passion.  From the time I was a child, she had kept a small black journal that she filled with poetry and quotes she collected over the years.  It was an ongoing poetry journal that she passed onto me and seeing what inspired and moved her gave me even more insight into the life that she lived and the choices she made.

My family and I moved to NC almost 6 years ago.  The Mother's Day right before I moved, I called Momma to say "Happy Mother's Day".  It hit me in that moment and I said to her, "If everything that we have been through, even not being able to be together when I was growing up, brought us to what we have today, I'll take it.  I would not want to change anything and risk not having this wonderful relationship that you and I have now."  That was such a new beginning for both of more judging, wishing, lamenting and wishing for something that was not.....we had moved into acceptance and gratitude for what we had right at that moment.  

Three months after I moved to NC, for my family to be closer to my mom, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  We went through the cancer together.  I went to every doctor's appointment with her.  She refused to have any treatment, she had already seen her step-dad go through hell trying to save his life from cancer and she wanted no part of it.   I was her mouthpiece when she needed me to be and when she signed herself up on Hospice, it was just she and I and the Hospice nurse sitting around her kitchen table talking about living wills and did she want a DNR order.  It was surreal.  I couldn't believe I was actually going to lose my precious mother, I had just gotten her back!  But that time with her was precious and we used it well.  We spent so much time together talking, joking, questioning, pondering and coming to terms with the past and the present.  Momma would tell me, "Nicki, you just don't know how strong you are.  You just don't know how much you're worth.  You sell yourself short".  
After the expected head shaking and "Oh Mom" from me, I got it.  She was trying to do in a few months what most mothers take years to do and there was such an urgency in her voice.  She wanted to make sure she did not leave me without getting it through my ridiculously thick head how special I was to her and her not raising me was not a reflection on my worth.  It was about her, not me.   I would dishonor her now by ever selling myself short or thinking of myself as less than a precious creation, as we all are.  

 About 16 months later, she would die in my home, in my arms.  It was just she and I when I came into this world and it was so fitting that for those few moments, it was just she and I when she left this world.  My mother's life continues to influence me, at times as an inspiration and at times as a warning.  As a mom now, I do the best I can, but I've blown it many times.  I've made stupid decisions.  I've been selfish when I should have been more giving and I've martyred myself when I should have taken what I needed.  I hope my kids know, that in spite of the myriad of traits and moods that make me "Serene", I love them with a love so deep and so strong that sometimes it's the only thing that feels consistent and unchanging in life.   I want to cement it into their soul that they are NEVER alone.  I want for them the opportunity to go out into the world and follow their hearts and live their passion.  They needn't live next door to me, just to make me feel good.  I try to tell them often, "Live where you want and do what your heart desires.  I'LL get to YOU.  You don't have to live your life for me."   I want them to know that through all of life's uncertainties, there is one thing that they never have to be uncertain love and loyalty to them; which comes from The One Who first loved us all.

 Mothers aren't perfect.  They aren't pillars of angelic virtues.  They're just girls who've had children.    Now and always, I love you Momma.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Elegant Bohemian: The definition

Isn't this a gorgeous picture of Cher?!  Early Cher embodies what, to me, "elegant bohemian" is all about.  There's a sleekness, dignity and ELEGANCE to her style.  But it's her unexpected details that bring out the BOHEMIAN in her look.  The ethnic jewelry.  The hair.  The WOW factor of her jewelry.

One of the things that I relate to about Cher is that there is nothing subtle about her looks.  She doesn't have "fine" features.  Everything on her face demands attention.  I get that.  I'm well past wishing I had delicate features and an ethereal beauty.  I have rebellious eye brows that MUST be tamed.  Large eyes.  A nose that's been broke and is far from delicate.  Teeth that just refuse remain within the confines of my mouth!  And I have a sneaking suspicion that my hair line and brows have a thing for one another because my forehead just can't seem to keep the two apart!!  Truly! My brows want to grow right into my forehead!  And if I didn't tame the hair above my lip............well, enough of that.  I think you get the picture!  I'm not being self deprecating here, just embracing what I see in the mirror.

Cher has never been ethereal in her beauty either.  She has "in your face" features and she has NEVER tried to tone them down by her personal style.  No shying away from bold accessories or clothes.  No reeling anything in.   She's full on, unapologetic, CHER!

And I'd like to think that that is REALLY what Elegant Bohemian is all about.  Again that word, ownership.  Seems to be a recurring theme for me lately, even in my personal conversations with my husband.  Owning who we are and what we are.  "No complaining.  No explaining." Drawing a line in the sand between inspiration and imitation and staying well clear of the imitation side.   Embracing what makes us unique while allowing (and even celebrating ) others their own uniqueness.  

Elegant Bohemian is the equivalent of what I say when I'm complimented on my name, Serene and asked, "Well, are you serene?"   My standard reply rarely wavers, "While not yet a done deal,  it IS a work in progress and a definitive goal!"