5 of the Best Looking, Lightest Carry-on Luggage for Business Travel


5 of the Best-Looking, Lightest Carry-on Luggage for Business Travel

I had my carry-on luggage for 15 years and repaired it twice. Last month, I finally decided that it was beyond repair and that it was time to get a new one.

Here were my requirements:

Not ugly

Buying carry-on bags doesn't fill me with the same joy as buying other kinds of bags, like handbags. Why is that? Maybe it's because functionality gets top priority. Given that, the best you can hope for is "not ugly".

22 x 14 x 9 inches

These are the luggage requirements for United, Delta and American Airlines. Many international airlines like Qantas also require 45 combined inches or less (22 + 14 + 9 = 45). You can see a list of international carry-on requirements on To be very sure, check the airline website because this list may not be up to date.

Actually finding luggage that fits these dimensions is strangely hard. For example, only two of the bags that I've listed below meet these requirements. I assume this is because airlines in the U.S. are so relaxed about carry-on sizes. On the other hand, my carry-on size was checked a few times flying internationally.

And another thing: make sure your laptop, in it's laptop sleeve, fits these dimensions.

Under 8 pounds (3.5 kg)

Once I lost control of my heavy carry-on bag getting it down from overhead storage, and hit a man in the head. Oops.

Other than not braining your fellow passengers, there are many reasons to get light luggage: (1) you'll look strong and capable when you hoist the bag effortlessly into the overhead bin (2) some international airlines are very strict on weight - I have had my carry-on weighed and denied!

4 wheels

Three years ago I swore by 2 wheels, not 4, but now I've changed my mind. I know I am late to the 4 wheel party. If you are too, then let me persuade you: 4 wheels lets you push your bag very slightly to make it glide across a flat floor (like those found in many airports). In this situation it is almost weightless in your hands. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Under USD$500

If you have much more money than this (say, $2,000), then I like a lot of the bags sold by Mr Porter and the leather bags by Serapain.

Now, I like to jump on an earlier flight if I can. In this situation, often I am the last person to board and I have to check my carry-on at the door. I would never want the beauty / cost of my luggage to stop me from doing this. Life is too short.


That is, not a completely squish-able exterior like a duffle bag. If you have expensive high-heeled pumps and face lotions in your carry-on, then this is a must.

So now it's finally time to look at...

The five best carry-on bags according to me


Delsey Bastille Lite

USD$300, 22.75 x 15.25 x 10.75 inches, 6 pounds

I like the look of this one, but the dimensions are not ideal. I also don't know the brad that well, so I don't know if they make good quality bags. This leads me to look at their warranty. Now, Delsey only provide a warranty for defects, not normal wear and tear or damage by third parties.


Rimowa Salsa Air Ultralight Cabin Multiwheel

USD$500, 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches, 4.2 pounds

Of all the bags on this list, this one looks the most well-made. Look at how those wheels recess into the base. Very nice. It is also the lightest bag out there - 4.2 pounds is the weight of half a gallon (two litres) of milk. I would have bought this if the dimensions worked better.

It has a 5 year limited warranty in the U.S., where they only provide coverage if the luggage is actually defective.


Briggs and Riley International Carry-on Spinner

USD$400, 21 x 14.5 x 9 inches, 7.5 pounds

I still have a soft spot for fabric covered luggage. There just aren't that many that are light and have a rigid body. This one is a little too big and a little too heavy. 

I like Briggs and Riley because they have a lifetime repair guarantee on all their bags on any damage at all (not just defects). I think this is wonderful - I don't like waste and plan to keep my bags for decades. This guarantee is the number 1 reason that I got my check-in bag from Briggs and Riley.


Raden A22 Carry-on Suitcase

USD$300, 22 x 14 x 9 inches, 8.4 pounds

Raden make "smart" luggage - it has bluetooth sensors to locate your luggage, and it can charge your phone. This luggage also complies with U.S. airline dimensions. I really like the minimalist design and color. I'm guessing the "smart" part has added to the weight which I could have done without.

I cannot find any warranty information on the site.

Tumi V3 International Carry-on

USD$475, 22 x 14 x 9 inches, 6.4 pounds

This Tumi carry-on is the one I bought. It has the right dimensions with the lowest weight.

I love it. My only annoyance is the clam-shell design, which is impossible to avoid if you want a light bag. Why don't I like clam-shells? Well, try taking off your coat while in line for the plane and then unzipping your bag slightly to stuff the coat into your luggage. It is very hard.

Tumi's provides a one year warranty that covers all damage not matter what. Then, from years 2 to 5 I get confused. They say they cover normal wear and tear but then go on to exclude all situations that would result in normal wear and tear. Hmm.

I'm looking forward to 15 years of adventure with the Tumi!

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Links I Like: Decorating with Lemon Trees,

Joe's Coffee, West Village NYC. My local coffee shop on a very hot July day.

Joe's Coffee, West Village NYC. My local coffee shop on a very hot July day.

Links I Like: Vogue's Advice on How to Look Cool in a Suit, Indoor Trees, & Affordable Louboutins

My first post for the year, and it's already July! Woops. What have I been doing? This summer I went to Rome, Zurich, Savannah and Charleston. I have been catching Pokemon (53 so far). I KonMari-ed my apartment. 

And.. here are the links that I've saved up this whole time, just to share with you.


Vogue's 5 Ways to Look Cool in a Suit This Spring. Basically, make it look less corporate, and more like you are a Vogue model, all long and slouchy-chic. Piece. of. cake.


I went to Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston in May. For the best dining recommendations, I used the travel section of the New York Times. Do not look anywhere else. Trying to find good recommendations from food blogs, Opentable or Yelp lead us to very ho-hum places. But the NY Times gave us fantastic food every time.


One Kings Lane blogged on Potting an Indoor Tree in 3 Easy Steps. Click on it just to see the styling idea: a lemon tree in a blue Chinese ceramic pot. It's very classy. I got my lemon tree online and I have a blue Chinese pot already, but you can get one at Pearl River if you're in NYC. 

Now, my tree died.  But it was very pretty while it lasted.


I have been reminding girlfriends that a great place to shop is TheRealReal, a gigantic online consignment store. It is affordable, has great variety, a good returns policy and it ships around the world. I wrote about it a few years ago here, in a round-up of online consignment stores.

Last three things I bought from TheRealReal were all shoes, and all fabulous. Check them out: these Black Louboutin pumps ($310), white Ancient Greek Sandals ($100. Saw it in the Weekend FT) and black Prada booties ($105. Bargain).


If you like to read newspapers and magazines, then you will like The Browser. It's a site that finds 5 of the best articles online every day. One of my favorites is this 1950's article by Harper Lee, about a Christmas in New York.

I leave you with pictures of my Pokemon exploits. 

Pokemon in the kitchen

Pokemon in the kitchen

Pidgey in the office elevator bank

Pidgey in the office elevator bank

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Working Girl Fashion - Vintage Edition


Working Girl Fashion - Vintage Edition

One of my best buys this year was this blue 50's dress jacket, bought at A Current Affair, a twice-yearly vintage market in Brooklyn. I've gotten into vintage workwear, because you can get quality tailoring and fabric at decent prices. And I find it so very boring coming to work looking like an Ann Taylor catalog every day.

First, some inspiration

Here are some images of 50's workwear fashion for your inspiration. I would wear any of these looks to work on Monday and look so chic it hurts. (Minus the hat. Although I secretly wish we all still wore hats like these). 

I like short knitwear, slim fit and tapered at the waist.

Belted suits and dresses. The suits have to be very fitted, especially in the arms. I take clothes to my tailor to get the arms taken in.


Fitted dresses in fabrics that don't stretch are so elegant.

Where to buy

If you walk into just any vintage shop to find quality clothes for work, you'll be at it for a very long time. So here's a list of stores that curate their selection towards vintage workwear. It's still very time consuming. You've got to love the process and the end result. 

Online. I bought my blue dress coat from Wayward Collection, but they also have an etsy store. Here's a list of online sources for vintage:

Markets. The next Current Affair market is in December 2015 in LA and May 2016 in NYC. It is well curated but this comes at a cost. Most things there are between $100-$1,000.

In London I like Portobello Road (at the Ladbroke Grove end) for vintage clothes. Once, a long, long time ago, I scored a beautiful 60's Harrods coat from there.

Shops. I love Legacy NYC on Thompson Street in Soho, NYC. They have some vintage clothes online, but go to the store - it's fabulous. (The website, not so much)


Buying vintage clothes for work means you'll need a tailor. For instance, the blue dress coat that I bought (in the first picture) was full length and very large. My tailor took the seams in, hemmed it just below the knee and made the sleeves more fitted. If you're in NYC, I use Silhouettes and Profiles

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15 Holiday Gifts Under $15

Holly from  Cross Duck  on flickr. Bow by  Jamie  on flickr.

Holly from Cross Duck on flickr. Bow by Jamie on flickr.

15 Holiday Gifts Under $15

This year, I've decided to do a gift guide for some fail-safe stocking stuffers. Everything is less than $15. Happy shopping.

Brass coffee scoop with a clip for coffee lovers - use the clip to seal the coffee bag. By Hay and sold at The Line,  USD$11

Brass coffee scoop with a clip for coffee lovers - use the clip to seal the coffee bag. By Hay and sold at The Line, USD$11

Notebook from Public Supply,  USD$12

Notebook from Public Supply, USD$12

Acacia chopping boards from IKEA are just  USD$10

Acacia chopping boards from IKEA are just USD$10

Someone gave me paperwhite bulbs for Christmas last year. You add water and, hey presto, flowers. Amazon  USD$14

Someone gave me paperwhite bulbs for Christmas last year. You add water and, hey presto, flowers. Amazon USD$14

I got this 5 in 1 hammer for my husband when we rented a flat in London. It's very handy. I bought mine on eBay  USD$10 .

I got this 5 in 1 hammer for my husband when we rented a flat in London. It's very handy. I bought mine on eBay USD$10.

I'm sneaking in this set of note cards from  Rifle Paper Co  (16th gift for USD$16)! What can I say. I break the rules.

I'm sneaking in this set of note cards from Rifle Paper Co (16th gift for USD$16)! What can I say. I break the rules.

I have 4 of these bags and use them all the time to run errands. From Baggu  USD$9  each.

I have 4 of these bags and use them all the time to run errands. From Baggu USD$9 each.

This Christmas ornament, of a raccoon playing an accordion, is especially charming. From West Elm  USD$14

This Christmas ornament, of a raccoon playing an accordion, is especially charming. From West Elm USD$14

Persephone books is a small publisher in London, bringing back vintage titles by female authors. My husband got me "The Home-maker" as a gift many years ago (no, it is not about home making),  GBP12

Persephone books is a small publisher in London, bringing back vintage titles by female authors. My husband got me "The Home-maker" as a gift many years ago (no, it is not about home making), GBP12

Back when I had clients, I wrote holiday greetings to them on these correspondence cards from Smythson,  USD$15

Back when I had clients, I wrote holiday greetings to them on these correspondence cards from Smythson, USD$15

My sister has a bunch of these slippers from Uniqlo. They are super-comfortable, affordable and come in many different patterns. Uniqlo  USD$14.90

My sister has a bunch of these slippers from Uniqlo. They are super-comfortable, affordable and come in many different patterns. Uniqlo USD$14.90

Aesop hand sanitizer,  USD$10

Aesop hand sanitizer, USD$10

I went to Tokyo in August with this new Monocle Travel Guide. Both the city and the guide were wonderful.  USD$11

I went to Tokyo in August with this new Monocle Travel Guide. Both the city and the guide were wonderful. USD$11

5 years ago I discovered argan oil. It is wonderful for dry hair because it nourishes without being greasy. From Sephora  USD$12

5 years ago I discovered argan oil. It is wonderful for dry hair because it nourishes without being greasy. From Sephora USD$12

Marshmallows from Whimsy and Spice in Brooklyn are so soft, like little clouds of sugar.  USD$6.50

Marshmallows from Whimsy and Spice in Brooklyn are so soft, like little clouds of sugar. USD$6.50

I got L'Occitane hand cream as a gift one year. I liked it. Everyone likes it.  USD$12

I got L'Occitane hand cream as a gift one year. I liked it. Everyone likes it. USD$12

Trays are always useful. This one is just  USD$12  from Jamali Garden.

Trays are always useful. This one is just USD$12 from Jamali Garden.

For more holiday gift ideas, check out last year's holiday gift guides, below.

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25 Questions to Ask if You're Hiring a Cleaner


25 Questions to Ask if You're Hiring a Cleaner

I never regret deciding to get a cleaner. If you can at all afford it, I highly recommend it. The only thing that's truly yours is your time.

Getting a cleaner will work out fine if you're good at delegating. And if you're reading this blog, then I'm going to assume you're a successful working woman and pretty good at delegating to colleagues. It's the same set of skills.

To make the process as smooth as possible, here's a round up of the 25 questions to ask when getting a cleaner, distilled from Wikihow, AngiesList, Lifehacker as well as my own experience. 

What do you want from your cleaner?

1. What's your budget? This will dictate frequency and scope of the cleaning services. Make a list of the things you hate to do, from most hated first, and take it from there.

2. How often should they come? If you are lazy and poor, you can get creative. Our cleaner comes once every two weeks and does the laundry. Initially I thought I had to do laundry in between. But no! If you buy at least 14 sets of underwear then you can go two weeks without doing laundry. Brilliant. We have also gone with once a month during leaner times.

3. What special services you do need? Should they do the laundry, ironing, hand-washing? Do you have pets that need clean litter bins? Should they use eco-cleaners?

Find a good cleaner that you can trust

4. I leave my cleaner to come when I'm at work, so I have to trust her. Being at home with the cleaner in a small Manhattan apartment is untenable. If you can't find a recommendation through friends or neighbors, you can find one through online recommendations. I found mine online through a discussion board for new mothers.

5. Do they have references you can talk to? Call them and talk to them.

6. You'll need to choose between independent or corporate cleaners. Corporate cleaners have the necessary insurance and bonding. They may send the same person consistently (which is better) or different cleaners each time. For independent cleaners, you are the employer.

7. If the first cleaner fails, try again. The first cleaner I got wasn't great. I let her go and found another one. Be resigned to the fact that you may need to try out a few.

Ask Questions and Negotiate

8. How long will it take and how much will it cost? How do you pay? Are there any extra fees? Doing it less frequently will cost more per visit.

9. When can they come? I don't recommend Mondays or Fridays - when there are holidays on those days, you have to hide out somewhere else while the cleaning goes on.

10. Do they provide their own cleaning materials and/or cleaning tools? If they use yours, then what state will they leave them in? For example, are cleaning cloths left to dry in the sink when they leave? Do they prefer you supply certain types of cleaning products?

11. Do you want to trial them out just one time before committing to a more regular schedule?

12. Is there anything they wont do? For example, when hiring a corporate cleaner, they can have policies like not climbing up ladders.

13. For a corporate cleaner, ask what happens if a worker is injured in your home, or something is damaged or stolen. Ask if they do background checks.

Prepare for your cleaner

14. If you're supplying the cleaning equipment, make sure you have it

15. Put labels on things. It helps the cleaner put things away for you.

16. Find a way to lock up your valuables, if you have concerns.

At the first meeting

17. Discuss how they should get in and out of your house.

18. If they are using your cleaning materials, show them where they are and what should they do with the dirty cleaning equipment. Make sure they are happy with your cleaning materials. If they are using their own, discuss your preferences.

19. Talk about the scope of work. If you want to, you can write it all down, so there's no confusion. However, that's a lot of work in itself. Part of what I want from a cleaner is that she or he knows what it means to have a clean house. I shouldn't need to spell everything out. For me, a discussion as you wander in and out of every room should be enough.

20. Discuss any things that you are particular about. For example, how your marble should be cleaned, or if you want your house plants dusted and upholstery vacuumed.

21. Talk about how often to do special things like vacuuming the drapes, cleaning the oven and washing the windows.

Keep Talking

22. If you don't remember everything at the first meeting, don't worry. I keep a notebook where we can write notes back and forth, and leave it open on the kitchen counter. Just make sure you're being reasonable and not adding to your cleaner's workload every time.

23. Give feedback. Let them know when they are doing a good job and when there's room for improvement. It's not nasty - it's just a professional relationship. I treat my cleaner the same way I treat my employees at work.

Tips & Courtesy

24. In the U.S., it's customary to tip around the holiday season. One month's worth of fees is normal.

25. If you hire an individual, keep in mind that they depend on you for a regular income. That means I don't cancel any of my cleaning sessions, even if I haven't been in the apartment at all in between cleans.

If this is all too over-whelming, don't worry. Just get started, give regular feedback, and remember that you can always get a different cleaner if this one doesn't work out.


Angies List



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You Need Serious Hair


You Need Serious Hair

"You want to be taken seriously, you need serious hair." said Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl. Never were truer words said. See below for Melanie's hair style and resulting life style transformation, proving that good things happen to people with good hair.

Melanie Griffith before hair cut...she's a secretary with a cheating fiance and lives on Staten Island

Melanie Griffith before hair cut...she's a secretary with a cheating fiance and lives on Staten Island

Melanie Griffith after hair cut...proceeds to close on an M&A deal, win the heart of Harrison Ford and move to Manhattan

Melanie Griffith after hair cut...proceeds to close on an M&A deal, win the heart of Harrison Ford and move to Manhattan

I don't know why it took me so long to heed Melanie's advice, but two years ago I cut my hair and I'm so glad I did. Short, bouncy hair is sophisticated and pretty. See below for irrefutable proof. 

I got my cut by Kay at The Drawing Room in NY and bought the Hot Tools Ceramic Titanium 3/4" iron (USD$38). I also have the 1" but found that my curls didn't last that long, so I went down one size.

Also, if you haven't watched Working Girl, then you can rent it for USD$3 on Amazon. I highly recommend for life lessons on how to navigate corporate America. If you've seen it, please tell me what you think in the comments.

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Staying Productive When You're Traveling For Work


Staying Productive When You're Traveling for Work

I once saw a man get on a 3 hour flight with nothing. He had nothing to read, no laptop or tablet and there was no in-flight entertainment. He didn't sleep. He just sat there. I still don't know whether this is deeply disturbing or whether he should be applauded for reaching some level of inner Zen stillness that eludes most of us.

For now, I am going to go with "deeply disturbing". 

Every week I fly from New York to Chicago. And every week I fly back. It's 10 hours a week, door-to-door and, unlike Mr Zen, I am determined to NOT throw those 10 hours away. So here are ways I have come up with to get things one in the car, at the airport, or on the plane.

Things you can do in the car


To get some extra sleep for early morning flights, get a cab to the airport and do your makeup in the car. My top tips are:

  • firstly, only do the kind of makeup that involves smearing things all over your face. Moisturizer and foundation, yes. Eyeliner, no. Save that for the airport bathroom.
  • get this flat-top Shiseido foundation brush (USD$30). You cannot do detailed blending of concealer in the back of a car. I just apply the concealer and stamp this brush on my face to blend it in. Works like a dream.
  • A big-ish mirror like this aluminum compact mirror from Muji (USD$8.50).
  • a light-source if you're heading off at 6:30am in winter, as I have been. I use my iPad.
  • After I get through security, I check my makeup in the bathrooms at the airport. Sometimes I look completely flawless (and I high-five myself mentally). Sometimes I look, well, like I put my makeup on in the back of a car, but it's nothing that a few touch ups can't fix.

Call your friends and family

Catch up with friends and family while you're in the car, or waiting at the airport. You might as well.

Have a blue-tooth headset to facilitate all the talking and walking. I bought a cheap one but with so much background noise, I'd suggest investing more. Also handy is a phone re-charger. I have the Anker "lipstick-sized" charger (USD$10) and these four headed cables (USD$12).

Have a phone meeting

A car is quiet, so why not knock off one or two meetings for the week, freeing up time when you're at your desk and could do some actual work.

Listen to a podcast

My absolute favorite is The Entrepreneurs, a podcast by Monocle magazine. I also listen to Michael Hyatt for talks on leadership and organization. I'll do another post on my favorite podcasts - I have a few.


You can, sort of, sleep lying down in the back seat of the car with your seat belt on.



In the car in the mornings, I eat my oatmeal from a Thermos food jar (USD$12). Security has swiped it for analysis a couple of times but they've never taken it from me.

Things you can do at the airport

I like to spend as little time at the airport as possible. But sometimes you are stuck there. Here's what you can do:

Get food

The purpose of plane food is to make airport food look good. So stock up while you're still on the ground. I like Tortas Frontera at Chicago O'Hare, Pret a Manger at London Heathrow and Andela Mexican at San Francisco's SFO. For a healthy breakfast, I like the oatmeal  with all the fixin's at Jamba Juice, which has 20+ airport locations. So delicious.


On my Travel List app I have "Download files you need onto your C drive" and "Charge laptop". Things to do at home so you can work on the flight. 


Download things to read into Instapaper, for reading offline on the flight. Refresh your news apps on your phone or tablet to get the latest info.

Do your expenses

No better time to keep on top of your travel expenses than when you're actually traveling. I pull out my receipts and scan them with my iPhone using the Scannable app. It is better than just taking a photo because (1) it crops around your receipt and (2) it flattens out the receipt & enhances the words so everything is readable (3) it converts to pdf.

Things you can do on the Plane


For working on the plane, get a privacy screen like this one from 3M (USD$31).


If you can, catch some much needed zz's.

Do you have any tips for staying productive while traveling? Please let me know. 

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Removing the Ugly from A Corporate Office


Removing the Ugly from A Corporate Office

I have a new job, and that means a new office to decorate. Exciting!

Unfortunately I have to deal with a lot of dark browny-red fake wood furniture, paired with navy blue carpet and (thankfully) white walls. Think ugly and then multiply it by a zillion. 

This is not a unique challenge. Every office I have had starts out super ugly. (Why? Why??). But that is part of the fun - figuring out how to take a background of ugly and turn it into something you feel at home in.

I am finding Nicholas Felton's office (below) very inspiring. It's certainly not pinterest gold, but I think I like it because it's accessible. I look at it and think "yes, I can do this".

With Nicholas' office in mind, my shopping list is  below. Firstly, one giant, shiny white frame, with a riotous colored print. Then, lots of white, blonde wood accessories and a touch of black and gold.

1. A big shiny white IKEA RIBBA frame ($25) with this colorful print by Louisa Cookson (£130) of Columbia Road flower market.

2. I'll neutralize my dark red desk with this leather mat from Lucrin ($244).

3. Need a desk totchke, like this mini sculpture from Jonathan Adler ($225).

4. Desk supplies look neater on a tray. I like this lucite captains tray by Katy Skelton ($125)

5. Azmaya tissue box from Nalata Nalata ($90).

6. A wall clock is a good idea. This one is from Muji ($50).


7. I don't need more light. But a desk lamp will make my office feel more like a study ($600)

8. Cover up the chairs too (also very, very ugly) with this IKEA sheepskin ($30).


9. Stay hydrated. I like this s'well bottle ($45).


10. This PostalCo wall calendar will disguise a big, unused cupboard ($19).


11. A mirror to make sure I don't look like a disaster as the day wears on. IKEA ($100).

So there you are. And now, I'm curious to know how you remove the ugly from your office?

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Links I Like: Network like a CIA Agent, Google Flights & Molly Ringwald's Hair

Love the hair Molly

Love the hair Molly

Links I Like: Network like a CIA Agent, Google Flights & Molly Ringwald's Hair


Network like a CIA agent: When a CIA agent needs to work their way into a group, they make sure they have a "hook": a reason to meet once, a reason to connect and a reason to keep on meeting. Read more on Lifehacker.

Travel Ever heard of it? Neither have I. But if you're searching for flights in a hurry, it gives lightning fast results. Is it the cheapest? Probably not, according to these reviews on the New York Times and the Telegraph. But it's getting better. Must be nerve-wracking when Google enters your market.


I like the quality and simplicity of Japanese homewares. Usually hard to find outside of Japan, I've found two U.S.-based Japanese homeware shops: rikumo and Nalata Nalta. I like the thin chambray towels and the Saito Wood Co waste basket.


I am really liking 80's hair. Like Molly Ringwald's hair here, in the Breakfast Club. Or Cybill Shepherd's hair in Moonlighting (see it here). It's very grown up, very sexy. Am I crazy? You tell me.


My husband and I are not romantic. At. All. But I read this oddly titled article To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, and we tried the 36 questions. They say, to feel loved is to feel that someone really knows you. And these 36 questions, each more intimate than the next, are meant to accelerate that intimacy. We went through the list at dinner time and, although we have known each other for 15 years, I found out new and surprising things.

It's corny, but it works. Try it.

And I leave you with some pictures of Uetliberg, Switzerland, where I went for a very snowy offsite meeting last week. 1. The train 2. The walk to the hotel and 3. my very inappropriate shoes.

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Autobiography of Jimmy Choo's Tamara Mellon


Autobiography of Jimmy Choo's Tamara Mellon

I read Tamara Mellon's autobiography in one (long) night. Tamara was the woman behind Jimmy Choo before stepping down in 2011. Her story is half entrepreneurial drama and half trash.

The half that's trash has her in rehab and in legal battles with her mother and husband. Everybody is out to get her but she succeeds in the end.

The entrepreneurial half goes something like this:

  1. Start off working at VOGUE
  2. Get fired
  3. Start a shoe brand
  4. Partner with someone who can do what you can't. In Tamara's case, make shoes.
  5. If you can't get start-up funding, look to your (preferably wealthy) family
  6. Celebrities are your friends. She dyes shoes to match dresses for the Oscars.
  7. Cut out your business partner if they aren't pulling their weight (goodbye Jimmy)
  8. Private equity will give you money in return for your soul. Beware.

If you have entrepreneurial fantasies of your own, then read the book - you may not learn much but you'll enjoy it. You can get it here for USD$8.

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What Shall I Wear to Work Today?


What Shall I Wear to Work Today?

I like work fashion. I like dressing up in a pencil skirt and heels and tottering off to work. But finding beautiful, work-appropriate fashion inspiration is tough. Most of the images in VOGUE are party dresses or leisure wear. And articles focusing on work fashion show either (1) very boring suits or (2) clothes that would be OK if you worked in a magazine, but not on Wall Street.

That's why I've scraped together 48 pictures on work-friendly fashion on Pinterest. No boring suits. No full floral skirts. 

Below I've picked 5 of my favorite images for inspiration for every day of the work week. Follow me on Pinterest for updates!


Do you know any great resources for work-friendly fashion? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 Tips on Forming Habits to Achieve your 2015 Resolutions


4 Tips on Forming Habits to Achieve your 2015 Resolutions

Are you resolving to form new habits for 2015, like exercising more, or writing 1,000 words a day? Obviously you have an iron resolve and will-power. But, just in case you don't (and if you need all the help you can get) then take this excellent online SkillShare class called Design Your Habits.

I had a goal to workout 3 times a week in 2014, and, after taking the class, I increased my weekly average number of workouts from 1.5 to 3. Yay! It's been 2 months and it's still working.

The class has a lot of tips that I had never thought of before to maintain your habit. Here are just a few:

Check it off a list

Every time you complete your task, check it off a list. Jerry Seinfeld famously used this method to keep him at the daily task of writing: "Seinfeld ... hangs a ...calendar on his wall and, for every day he wrote new material, he had the exquisite pleasure that can only come from drawing a big red "X" over that day." You can do it old-school or on an app like XXX

Think of Excuses Before hand

Think of all the excuses you have not to complete your task, ahead of time. For example, if you're trying to exercise, then when the time comes, you may say "I don't have the time" or "It's raining and I can't jog". For each of these, think whether they are legitimate (eg, you're sick. Fair enough), or not legitimate, and how to work around it. So, for "I don't have the time" you can have a short, 5 minute workout up your sleeve. For "It's raining and I can't jog" you can have an indoor circuit training workout ready.

Create easier versions of your task

Prepare progressively easier versions of your task. So, my task is to do a 20 minute workout video every morning. The easier version is to do a 10 minute workout video. An even easier version is to do this 7 minutes New York Times Workout app. The next easiest version is to put on my workout clothes and walk up and down the stairs once.

Now, when I wake up in the morning and really can't face my 20 minute workout, I go down the list until I find one I can face. I made the last one so stupidly easy that I really can't say no. When I do an easier version, I have achieved my workout for the day.

Is this a cop-out? Well, the hardest part of keeping a habit is getting the momentum. Each morning you're in bed and comfortable, and getting up and putting on your workout clothes is more than half the battle. Once you have them on, you'll find yourself thinking - well, I might as well do that 20 minute workout.

Prepare your environment

Make sure that you prepare your environment so that it's very, very easy to do your task. Whatever difficulties you have in getting ready to exercise, note them down and fix it. For example, each morning I need to find my workout gear in the dark and not wake my husband. This is hard work. Solution? Wear my workout clothes to bed.

Go now and take the class. It's the best thing you can do to maintain your goals for 2015.

And let me know in the comments if you've got more ideas on how to maintain your resolutions.

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Vintage Advice for the Working Girl


Vintage Advice for the Working Girl

I collect vintage books on advice for women, with titles like "A Young Girl's Guide to Intelligent Living" and "Woman's World". I think they are charming. I think they still give good advice. Except for careers advice - do not listen to a book written in the 60's for careers advice for women, unless you want to appreciate how far we've come.

I've boiled down the most useful and interesting parts for you here - read and learn from the doyennes of the past. They knew a thing or two.

Saving money

Superwoman (1975): 

"Cut down on big things: Don't economize on things which will hardly save more than a few pence - margarine instead of butter, unless your butter consumption is gargantuan. This will not be much of an economy and will make everyone feel pinched...

The trick is to economize in a big way on something boring, not to bring down the whole family by being miserly and making yourself miserable....You might trade the car in for a smaller one or put the family on bicycles - which is way more sensible in cities."


Look Like a Million (1978):

"Don't wear anything until it fits perfectly...Are the shoulders tight and high enough? ...I find that a shoulder just an inch too wide makes any garment look wrong...I also like the very high, small, Coco Chanel armhole."


Superwoman 2 (1977):

"If you intend to make up and/or shave in the bathroom, fix a strip light on either side of the mirror, rather than above it (depressingly, it will underline every line on your face). Always make up in daylight for daylight; it's really being cruel to be kind to yourself.

Saving Time

Superwoman (1975): 

"Don't wear nail varnish...Don't dry dishes. Buy a second drainer and stand it in front of the first, or else spread teatowels on the table..."


A Young Girl's Guide to Intelligent Living (1964):

"A lot of girls are mesmerized by the glamour of a job. They think life would be wonderful as a model girl or a film star. To have something to do with ponies."


Superwoman 2 (1977):

"20 Ways to Make Your Living Room More Expensive:

- One big exuberant plant. Put all your money into size and durability

- A weekly change of fresh flowers, however few

- A heaped dish or wicker basket of lemons or oranges

- Slabs of mirror

- Fur. Fling and exotic rug across a sofa or try fake tiger skin cushions

- Anything that looks heavy or weighty; a real, genuine solid something or other, whether it's an armchair or brass lamp

- One very large picture or properly mounted poster or printer or photograph" 

Of all the books I have, the most useful is Superwoman by Shirley Conran (one time wife of Terrance Conran). It was a very successful book in the UK in it's time. You can get it on Amazon second hand for $4 including shipping.

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Holiday Gift Guide for Men


Holiday Gift Guide for Men

It's hard to buy gifts for men, especially if they aren't particularly stylish, or wish to be. They, for sure, have some other interests like ice-caving or plane-spotting, but it's fool-hardy for an amateur to buy gifts for these hobbies.

That's why this gift list is longer. I figure you need all the help you can get. There's things here for men who are a little bit dashing, for a man about to go on vacation, for a techno-phile or - for men who are truly hard to buy for - some food gifts. They still have to eat, right?

This silver-plated vintage cocktail shaker from Etsy shop michaelthompson1 (USD$36) is a step above the usual stainless steel shakers. You can find others with this Etsy search (search for: silver cocktail shaker, then Item Type = Vintage). Pair it with this tiger-maple Mojito muddler from CattailsWoodwork, also on Etsy (USD$27).

One year, I got dad some Prada gloves, which he unwrapped and said "Are they leather? Yes? Very nice." Right. You don't need to spend a tonne of money to get some good-looking gloves like these (USD$60) from Kaufman Mercantile.

If your friend is planning a big vacation, then one of these Herb Lester maps (GBP4) will be an extremely thoughtful gift.

Murray's is a temple to cheese just down the road from me. They do a great cheese-of-the-month club (USD$275) and a meat of the month club. Yum.

To absorb the moisture from shoes, this shoe tree is unvarnished, and awfully handsome. Good for your more sartorially-inclined friends. (See my post on How to Care for Your Shoes). 

It's handy to have multiple headsets. I have these and that for the price (USD$25, Amazon) it is super-luxurious - both the headset itself and the packaging. Makes for a neat little gift.

Does your friend have a rectangular dining table? If yes, then they can turn it into a table tennis table with this kit. This is a fun Christmas present - you can whip it out and play it right then-and-there. (USD$28 from Restoration Hardware).


If your friend has an iPad, this solid-walnut stand is useful, cheap and good-looking. Get it on Etsy shop btrWoodWorksUSD$12

Everyone needs a water bottle, and this one from S'well, in matte black, is very nice indeed. Get a 17oz bottle for USD$35 from Jack Spade.

Once you buy your gift, you'll need to wrap it. One year I found this fantastic video from Eddie Ross on how to tie a bow on a gift box. It was a revelation. It is not as obvious as you would think - watch and learn.

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Holiday Gift Guide for Ladies

Bow from Jamie on flcikr

Bow from Jamie on flcikr

Holiday Gift Guide for Ladies

"I like to choose presents that show I understand the festival itself completely. I like to choose presents that show I understand the recipient in a way no-one else does. I like to choose presents that will take your breath away and make you love me forever." High is the bar set by Susie Boyt, my favorite columnist in the Financial Times.

However, every year you'll have to buy a presents for a decent number of people. So gift giving must take a more pragmatic bent. 

I like things that the recipient has a very good chance of liking and using. Below is a list of such things - universal things that 90% of people would be happy to receive. And for those 10%? Bah humbug.

If I got this for Christmas I'd (1) be pretty happy and (2) wish for rain, so I could brandish this beauty down the street. No more sad, black, $10 umbrellas. Get it from LondonUnderground (GBP60).

Cuyana make this curvy little number (two for USD$95). They are sold as a travel case set, but it can be used as a clutch or a pencil case.


I am sitting typing this wearing some black pajamas from Victoria Secret, USD$52. They are very chic and very comfortable. JCrew factory also have these great pajamas, pictured, USD$49.50.

This is a very decadent pot of lip balm (USD$27), by Christian Dior. Even if your girlfriend doesn't wear makeup, they can still indulge in this.

The recipient can keep this in her handbag, so when she pulls it out to write everyone would marvel at her (your) good taste. USD$61 from Jet Pens.

This little bauble is a great stocking-stuffer. It's GBP4.50 from Penreath & Hall - a great shop for holiday gifts.


The holidays mean more time for reading. A welcome gift would be a couple of slightly obscure magazines, tied up in a bow. I like Monocle USD$12.


A gift card for a blow dry (this one is from the DryBar USD$40) is a good gift for a city-dwelling friend. They are likely to be busy, and live in a tiny apartment. You do not want to give such people "stuff". Something like this is useful and doesn't add to the clutter.

I'd love to hear your suggestions on fool-proof gifts for women in the comments section below. You can also follow me on Pinterest for more gift ideas:

To get in the mood of gift giving, Susie Boyt writes wonderful articles about Christmas. The latest one came out today in the weekend Financial Times, and you can read old articles on her website, here.

Next week - a men's gift guide.

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Tags: home




4 Shops with A Singular Devotion to Stationery


4 Shops with a Singular Devotion to Stationery

If you've got a desk job, then pencils, pens and notepads are the tools of your trade. And these four stationery stores let you practice your trade in style. They do this with a a singular devotion to stationery. Some source it from around the world, some have vintage lots of stationery and some make their own. They sit on both sides of the Atlantic, and you can find them online here:

Last summer, I found Choosing Keeping behind a Victorian store-front along Columbia Road, London. Choosing Keeping sources stationery from all around the world, including the UK, Italy and Japan. I love their Kaweco clutch pencils (16 pounds) and I couldn't resist buying these double-sided pencils (3 pounds) (one end is red and the other blue - pictured above). My Italian friend said she used similar ones at school. One side to write, and the other side to correct.

Go to this website. It's a wonderful little corner of the internet. Present and Correct's sells stationery with a vintage feel, with some actual vintage things mixed in, like these old Belgian invoice books (10 pounds). Most of the things on this site, I've never seen anywhere else, like this ideas notebook (6.50 pounds) and brass bull dog clip (6 pounds).

Public Supply is a New York outfit that makes and sells good-look notebooks (USD$12) in New Jersey and gives 25% of their profits to support creativity in schools in the USA. If you like Muji notebooks but wish for something slightly more stylish, in more colors, then this is for you.

I am trying to find a good excuse to buy these pricey-but-beautiful custom self-inking stamps from WMS&Co (from USD$135). For example, it would make a good Christmas gift, with the recipient's name and address, for an easy way to stamp a return address on mail. So gorgeous. So expensive.

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ApartmentTherapy Reader Post: Soundproof Your Rental Bedroom in Under 10 Minutes for $40


ApartmentTherapy: Soundproof your Rental Bedroom in Under 10 Minutes for $40

Last weekend I tried to soundproof the door to my bedroom. It was effortless and effective, so I shared my DIY with ApartmentTherapy. They posted it (so happy!) and you can read about it here

Before I put in the soundproofing, I could hear everything going on in the living room, from the bedroom, even with the door closed. You could hear a cup being put down. It's a seriously solid door, but it had gaps around it.

Not any more! Now, when I get up at 6am for flights, my husband can sleep soundly.



Two Simple Tools for Getting Things Done


Two Simple Tools for Getting Things Done


Two Simple Tools for Getting Things Done

My "to do" system has been working well for me this year, so I want to share it with you. It's a combination of the old and very popular Getting Things Done method by David Allen, and a relatively new online "to do" list I found called TeuxDeux.

It's really simple - sometimes these systems are so complicated that it is a full-time job "to do" your "to do" list. No so with this system.

Getting Things Done

I've used this method, detailed in David Allen's hugely popular book, for years, because it works. It stops you from stress and procrastination - the two evils of productivity. The basics are:

  • How to stop stressing: write down ALL of the things you have to do the moment you think of them. For this, you'll need a system to capture things in any situation (when you're out-and-about, when you're in bed, etc. David recommends a simple notepad. I recommend TeuxDeux, below). Having a system for off-loading your "to do"s onto a list to be taken care of systematically frees your mind from constantly having to remember that "to do".
  • Stop procrastinating: when you write down your task, make it the next action you should take. For example, you might think "See the doctor" is your task. But have you made your appointment? So "Make an appointment" might be your task. But do you know the number of your doctor? So instead put down "Find number of Dr Melissa Wang". That's really the next step. Imagine that you have a personal assistant that you couldn't talk to. How would you write the "to do" for them? That's what you should put down. This method stops procrastination - you know exactly what to do next.

Get Getting Things Done on Amazon for USD$9.

TeuxDeux is a recent find. It's an intuitive, simple and good-looking online to do list. I really like it, so I think it deserves to be more well-known.

It isn't packed with features, but is wonderful in its simplicity. Just type in what you need to do. You can move your "to do"s up and down that day's list, as well as across to different days. Tasks you haven't done today automatically carry over to the next day. You can have repeating tasks by typing "Call mum every week", which then repeats once a week automatically. You can email tasks to your list. It doesn't sound like much, but honestly, what more do you need a "to do" list to do?

It syncs onto apps on my iPhone and iPad. It's also a little obscure, which is great since the site is not blocked at work.

TeuxDeux has a 30 day free trial, and is $24 a year or $3 a month.

I have just checked off "Write post about TeuxDeux system" from my TeuxDeux list.  Very satisfying.

We all have systems for getting things done. What's yours?

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Tags: work



5 Short City Guides for the Business Traveler


5 Short City Guides for the Business Traveler


5 Short City Guides for the Business Traveler

Very occasionally when I travel for work, I find myself with some free time in a nice city. Instead of working some more, I try to do what normal people do and enjoy myself. 

And I'm trying to be more deliberate about it, so I started looking for short, quick travel guides for people like me. That's what I'd like to share with you today, with my own rating for how likely I'll use it the next time I find myself with a cheeky two hours in Chicago, Zurich or Tokyo.

Monocle travel guides are short, succinct and targeted squarely at the business traveler. I love it. And it's a free.

Some good advice I once read: To see if a travel guide is good for you, see what it recommends in your city. For New York, Monocle has got many of the same places I'd recommend (Balthazaar, Blue Hill). Excellent.

On top of the regular recommendations, it also tells you where to eat on your own and where to shop if you've lost your luggage. Plus some tips: did you know that you aren't supposed to open your own taxi door in Tokyo? Or pour your own drinks? Very handy.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Guided is a very pretty set of travel guides by Cereal magazine that you can subscribe to for GBP20 a year. It's aimed at design-lovers, not business travelers. There's a well-curated, beautifully photographed list of recommendations, but it's somewhat lacking in practicality: there's no external links to a website, to maps or to make a call. Get it if you love discovering beautiful stores and restaurants.

Rating: 3 stars

It's $5 to download an app for each Wallpaper City Guide. What's useful is the narrative for where to shop and or what you can do in 24 hrs, instead of just a list of places. They also show their recommendations laid out on a map. I'd get this if I had at least a day to explore the city.

Rating: 4 stars

The TripAdvisor app is not aimed at the business traveler, but it's free and comprehensive. It has a handy "Near Me Now" feature that maps the nearest restaurants, attractions and shopping on your smart phone. But it really lists ALL of the venues near you - you'll have to curate it yourself. I'd use it if I was searching for a good, nearby restaurant in a foreign city, since it will show lots of restaurants with lots of English reviews on a map.

Rating: 3 stars

This app by a UK newspaper is surprisingly good. It combines the best of many of the apps here: it's free, it has 24 hour itineraries and it maps out a well-selected list of attractions, restaurants and shops near you on your smart phone. Brilliant!

Rating: 4 stars

Here's to mixing business and pleasure! Happy travels!

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Tags: travel, work



5 Ways to Workout if You Have Hardly Any Time and Hardly Any Equipment


5 Ways to Workout if You Have Hardly Any Time and Hardly Any Equipment


5 Ways to Workout if You Have Hardly Any Time and Hardly Any Equipment

Since I travel so much for work, I had to figure out a way to workout quickly, no matter where I was. Here are 5 solutions that I've found for quick workouts you can do anywhere, with hardly any equipment:

1. Jogging

Let's starting with an obvious one: jogging. You just need sneakers, and you get to see the neighborhood, which may be the only chance you get if you're traveling for business. However, I've been falling apart over the years and jogging is hard on my joints.

What is it?

A serious aerobic workout

What you'll need

- sneakers

2. Amazon Workout Videos

Jillian Michael's 30 day shred is a 20 minute long workout with 3,435 five-star reviews on Amazon. I can't explain why Jillian's workouts are better than other people's, suffice to say that her exercises are novel and effective. You know when you do an exercise and wonder "is this really working out a muscle?" or, think "this routine is so complicated I've spent more time learning it than working out" or, "if I do one more grapevine move I will top myself"? This doesn't happen when you're doing Jillian's workout videos.

Now, the 30 day shred has three workouts, which could get repetitive. Thankfully, Jillian has been quite prolific, and a bunch of her other workouts are free if you have Amazon Prime. Many take longer than 20 minutes, but I do one warm up set, a few workout sets and just stop when I hit the 17 minute mark to stretch.

What is it?

20 minute+ aerobic and strength, full body workouts

What you'll need

- workout mat (or a carpeted hotel room)

- dumbbells (or bottles of hotel water). I like the 1, 2, and 3 pound ones. It seems light but not when you're jumping around at the same time.

- tablet and stand or a laptop

- sneakers, although I've done without on occassion

3. YouTube Workout Videos

There are a bunch of fitness channels on YouTube, some that post "professional" workout videos and some that are started by individuals with a passion for working out and a video camera. Watch a channel's most popular videos to see if it works for you. Here are two channels that I like:

BeFit is a channel with 1.4 million subscribers that posts new workout videos daily. I use it when I'm overseas and can't play Jillian Michael's workouts on Amazon, since BeFit as a few of her workouts as well. I also subscribe for unexpected videos like vintage 90's workouts by Paula Abdul and some random ballet workouts that are basically 20 minutes where you flap your arms like a swan.

Blogilates shows Cassey Ho combining pilates with top 40 pop music for the enjoyment of her 1.6 million subscribers. One of the most popular videos has Cassey doing squats for 5 minutes to Call Me Maybe. You'll either love it or hate it.

What is it?

YouTube has a huge variety of videos, so you can find whatever you want. The made-for-YouTube videos tend towards short, 5 minute workouts.

What you'll need

Some of the videos require nothing, and some need modest equipment, like a mat and some dumbbells.

4. Workout Apps

Sworkit is a free app that builds randomized circuit training workouts that you can do anywhere, with no equipment. And no music. Someone just tells you "Next exercise....Spiderman pushup" then there's a countdown to how long they want you to do it, with a static picture of a girl doing it. If you don't know what a Spiderman pushup is, press a button and it shows you a video of that move. Verdict? Great for a 5-15 minute hotel room workout. Longer than that could get boring. 

What is it?

5 to 45 minute, minimalist circuit training workouts

What you'll need

- sneakers, although there are exercises that don't even require this

5. Workouts in Print

In 2013, the New York Times published this 7 minute scientific workout, that distills all the latest research into a short, high-intensity workout. You only need a chair and a wall.

Other good workouts that you can follow in print can be found online from Whole Living by Martha Stewart, like this quick 15 minute workout.

What is it?

Short circuit training workouts

What you'll need

- a chair and a wall