Friday, April 25, 2014

My Favorite Things: St. John Boutique

Occasionally on my blog, I'll be visiting stores and picking out some of my favorite things.

I'm kicking it off with St. John boutique at SouthPark mall. I was there last week for an event to meet the store's new manager, Karal Kehres, and I asked them if they would send photos of my five favorite things from the store. Except I couldn't narrow it down so it became my 12 favorite things from the store. Why limit yourself?

St. John, a classic American brand that was founded in 1962 by Marie Gray, a woman who knew what accomplished women wanted to wear, is famous for its knits. Many shoppers don't realize it also offers other luxury fabrics including a liquid satin that feels as divine as its name implies. The fashion house has new owners, but they still consult with the Madam Gray who lives in California where the company is headquartered. She approves of their vision of updating the brand for the new modern woman who, in keeping with her philosophy, wants to look polished and successful wherever she goes.

Venetian red jacket - $1,795.

Venetian red skirt with fringe - $695.

Color block zip front cape cardigan - $895.

Crepe dress with ruffles - $795.

Liquid crepe gown with silk organza rosettes - $1,995.

Silk floral print dress with cap sleeves and beaded embroidery - $1,295.

Hand beaded jacket with sequins - $1,695.

Nappa leather peplum jacket - $2,395.

Silk charmeuse tiger print dress - $995.

Lace scalloped edge cape - $1,395.

Floral print silk dress with caplet - $995.

Wide belt with metal pyramid - $345.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tips from a stylish interior designer

Acclaimed interior designer Katie Ridder was extremely interesting to interview, but not everything we talked about made it into the print version of the story, which if you missed you can read at

But that's what blogs are for so here are some outtakes from our talk that I'll think you'll enjoy.

Working with Anna Wintour: Katie started out on the editorial design side working for Conde Nast Publications on magazines including House Beautiful and House & Garden. In the mid-1980s, she gained experience working for that magazine’s new buzzed-about editor, Anna Wintour, who later became a star in the international fashion world as editor of Vogue.
“(Anna) wanted to put models in dresses in someone’s beautiful living room on the cover,” Katie says. “We lost a lot of readers but we gained some, too. She liked young people and truly cared what they thought so she would call me into her office for brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas for stories and she gave me a lot of stories to do on my own. It was a really exciting time.”

How she makes her life work: With three children, a husband, a thriving business and two homes, how does Katie manage it all? “I’m a task master,” she says. “I do things quickly and immediately. As soon as something comes up, I deal with it.”

On her personal style:  Katie says she dresses the way she decorates. “I love big costume jewelry, I love color and pattern, but I still look casual. I don’t get dressed up that often. My go-to outfit is jeans with a colorful top or jacket, a big necklace and flats. I can’t wear heels. I have to walk around the city too much.”

Her entertaining style: (My husband) Peter and I love to stay at home. He’s a really good cook. He’s in charge of the dinner. I do the dessert and the table setting. We usually have no more than eight people over and it’s never organized – it’s always last minute. For the flowers, I love to use garden roses in full bloom with green hydrangea.”

There are no mistakes: Katie doesn't believe in interior design mistakes because decorating your home is about expressing your personal tastes and lifestyle. When pressed, she will say that having too much furniture in a room, or furniture that's too small for the home's scale, is something she cautions against. "My advice is to try to look at your home with a restrained eye," she says.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cocktails & Crafts

While doing my grocery shopping I saw a novelty for the Easter holiday: A box of about two dozen Whoppers Robin Eggs that have a plain white candy coating on them. The box comes with three food safe markers (yellow, blue and green) that you can use to decorate the eggs yourself.

I thought it would be so much fun to have a Cocktails & Crafts evening with my husband and decorate the candy eggs together. My husband definitely did not share my enthusiasm and refused to participate. Every man has his limits so I had to respect his refusal to understand my super fun idea. I would show him!

So I mixed my spring cocktail (lemonade with raspberry and Stoli) and got to work.

And it was work. By egg three I was frustrated with how bad mine looked. I enjoy painting as a hobby so I thought I could come up with a few designs and then recreate them in different colors. I did Chevron stripes, regular stripes, polka dots, flowers and then personalized eggs with names on them. I'm sure most 5-year-old children could have done a better job. After about egg six I just wanted it to be over.

Part of the problem is that the eggs are much smaller than working on a regular hard boiled egg, and the food safe ink in the markers has a tendency to smear easily.

That said, I do like the idea of a Cocktails & Crafts evening, but my next idea will not involve trying to make a small candy egg look like a pretty work of art.

I think kids would find decorating the eggs fun, which of course is who it's intended for. It is a bit time consuming so if you have a youngster or two you need to entertain it will keep them occupied for awhile. And it's neat to have candy that you can personalize with the name of your loved ones.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, April 14, 2014

Congratulations Kevin Siers!

There's a party going on in the Charlotte Observer newsroom right now.

We just found out that our editorial cartoonist, Kevin Siers, won the Pulitzer. That's the highest award in American journalism so to say we're proud of him is an understatement.

I've worked here for more than two decades and there has always been a super strict ban on alcohol on the Observer premises. That went out the window today. The champagne is flowing and we are all giddy.

I've noticed that a lot of people mispronounce Kevin's last name. It's pronounced sigh-ers, not sears. I can always remember that because Kevin is so in love with his wife, Jean, that they look at each other and sigh all the time. Or at least that's the connection I've made in my brain so I can remember to say his last name correctly.

Since Kevin found out about the award yesterday, of course my first question for his wife was, "What's it like to sleep with a Pulitzer winner?" And that was before I had a glass of champagne.

Kevin, true to his terrific sense of humor, is quick to point out that he also recently won a fishing contest in his beloved home state of Minnesota.

Kevin and Jean have an equally outstanding son named Michael, so if the headline in tomorrow's paper says, "Michael's Dad Wins Pulitzer" you'll understand.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Brits: What's hot, what's not

I just finished reading a survey on the Daily Mail UK web site ( where the British public weighed in on what's hot, and what's not, this year.

I don't know if theses new trends will make it across the pond, but one of them really caught my attention.

Supposedly the hot new thing in London for singles wanting to mingle is Pheromone Parties. Held at clubs and pubs, the female attendees sniff plastic bags filled with T-shirts from males and pick their match based on the smell they find most attractive. What's the British slang equivalent of yuck? I do believe in the science of pheromone attraction, but surely there's a better way to go about it than sniffing a bag of some random guy's sweaty clothes.

A class I took several years ago at the Mint Museum qualifies as part of a hot new trend in the United Kingdom, so I feel quite cutting edge. The Brits call them Life Drawing classes. It's artists of all different skill levels meeting to paint portraits of a nude model. When I took my class, I didn't realize exactly what I was signing up for, so for the first few minutes I was surprised, but it was a fascinating artistic experience. No matter the age or body type of the model, it really does give you even more of an appreciation of the glory of the human body.

The trend I would must love to try (or watch others try) is Voga. Eighty-six percent of young British people who participated in the survey love this combination of yoga and Voguing, the 1980s New York dance craze made popular by drag queens and Madonna's famous "Vogue" song. As Madonna would say, strike a pose there's nothing to it. Now that's a way to make fitness fun! Here's a great video of a British yoga instructor demonstrating the trend. Leg warmers are optional.

Here's a summary of the report:

What's Cool
Lupito Nyong'o
Life Drawing Classes
Pheromone Parties

What's Uncool
Platform Heels
Miley Cyrus
Tinder (a smartphone dating site)
Hot Yoga

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cheers to you, Lex!

Last night my husband and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. We thought about going to a super fancy restaurant, but decided to keep it more low key.

My husband, an opera singer, had just returned from a month-long gig at Opera Southwest in New Mexico performing a starring  role in "The Pearl Fishers." The makeup artist for the show had asked him to grow out his sideburns. He's decided to keep the new look for a while. It's a very retro "Anchorman" look and I keep teasing him that he needs to hang out at the super cool music hall Chop Shop in NoDa.

So, yesterday afternoon I came up with a plan to eat dinner at  the Crepe Cellar, a NoDa restaurant I've been wanting to try, and head to the Chop Shop afterward. It turns out Chop Shop was closed last night (it's only open when they have a band booked). Fortunately, the Crepe Cellar was open.

What a meal, what a night! The restaurant has more than just crepes and the menu is innovative and delicious. We indulged in an embarrassing amount of food but hey, you only celebrate your 26th wedding anniversary once!

We were already having a great time when I noticed a waitress leave the bar with a tray overflowing with shots. I nudged my husband and told him to watch because I couldn't wait to see who was ordering that many drinks. We were shocked when she stopped at the attractive couple next to us who we found out later have been married for 32 years. Then the waitress stopped at our table and offered us shots. It turns out a cute young hipster named Lex was celebrating his birthday and bought everyone in the restaurant a drink.

That gesture turned the restaurant into a cocktail party and people sitting near each other started talking and carrying on like old friends. Then my husband stood up and led everyone in singing Happy Birthday to Lex.

The couple seated next to us live in Monroe but love to eat at the Crepe Cellar. They own Holloway's Music Center in Monroe where the motto is "We Give Sound Advice." They were a joy to be around.

And Lex, I have no idea what your story is, but I like your style. Happy Birthday, and cheers to you! It's spontaneous and generous moments like that one that make life so much fun.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson 


Monday, April 7, 2014

The reality of Carole Radziwill

There are a lot of closet "The Real Housewives of New York" fans out there. I learned that when I interviewed Carole Radziwill, a star of the Bravo TV reality show, before her book signing in Charlotte last week at Park Road Books.

So many people called me, emailed me or approached me in person wanting to know what I really thought about her. The Number One thing they wanted to know is if she looks too skinny in person. (The answer is no, she doesn't look too skinny. She looks trim and healthy).

Let me rewind back to my phone conversation with her.

Carole was in between business meetings in New York City, and I'm pretty sure at one point she was eating during our interview, but she's a busy lady so that didn't bother me. The only other person I've interviewed who did that was music/fashion mogul Russell Simmons, so she's in good company. I really appreciated that she let me run over my scheduled 30 minutes with her. Some celebrities won't so that was kind of her.

I did not have time to read her New York Times best-selling memoir "What Remains," and her new fun novel "The Widow's Guide to Sex & Dating" beforehand, but I bought them at her book signing and I look forward to reading them.

Here's the link to the interview:

Among the Bravo TV insider info she told me is that she was friends with Andy Cohen before she joined "The Real Housewives of New York" in season five. Her favorite fellow "Bravolebrity" is Jenni Pulos of Bravo's "Flipping Out." "She's  a doll," Carole says. "I've met her at a few parties and she's so much fun. Such a sweetheart. She just came out with greatest book ("Grin and Bear It: How to Be Happy No Matter What Reality Throws Your Way.")

Carole also shared with me how she prefers to entertain.

“I like to have people over to my apartment,” she says. “I don’t like overly produced parties. I’m rebelling against the whole New York scene of parties that are branded and have sponsors and gift bags. I like to have a random mix of people over to my apartment. People like to hang out in the kitchen, so I set up the bar in there and let people serve themselves. If people spill drinks I don’t care. I like a very Holly Golightly apartment party that’s filled with fun music, talking and drinks.”

The night of her book signing I didn't get a chance to talk to her before she started the program and I had to leave early to pick my husband up at the airport, so I never did get to officially meet her in person. When she was introduced to the audience, I thought that she looked even more beautiful in person than she does on TV and that she's very witty, intelligent, polite and charming.

(The photos of her in this blog were taken by photographer Daniel Coston at the book signing).

Some of her fellow "RHONY" cast members accuse of her of not being a "girl's girl." I don't know about that, but my intuition was telling me she's a guy's girl. I have a feeling men love her. I bet she has beaux of all ages who have crushes on her. I don't imagine that she sits alone in her New York apartment very often unless it's by choice.

It's also clear she's a woman in love - with the character Claire she created who's the heroine of her novel. It was very interesting to watch how much she cares for Claire and it gave a peek into the life of a writer. She read two excerpts from the novel and it sounds like a hilarious and frothy read, but with more insight and intelligence than the average "chick lit" novel.

She thought Charlotte was beautiful and a weekend spent covering NASCAR for the luxury travel magazine Departures had turned her into a giddy NASCAR fan, which was fun to see. She had met Dale Jr. and sat in Jimmie Johnson's car. Now she has even more reasons for guys to love her.

Random observation on my part: She has elegant and truly lovely hands. I had never noticed that from watching her on TV. I think I'm always too busy looking at what she's wearing because she has an incredible sense of style.

After our phone interview, I went a little cray-cray as they like to say in reality TV and sent her a list of things I hoped she would do while she's here. One was visit the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art for its collection of Giacometti sculptures (in her novel, the main character's husband dies after being hit over the head with a Giacometti sculpture).

I also hoped she would drop by Capitol boutique. (When I asked Carole if she would have time to shop while she was here, she lowered her voice and in a very charming way said, "A girl always has time to shop.") Visiting I.C. London was also on my list for her because the store carries Carole's friend and fellow RHONY star Heather Thomson's Yummie Tummie shapewear line.

Carole already knew about my last suggestion, which was to visit Heather's sister-in-law, the highly respected Rabbi Judith Schindler. (Heather's husband is Jonathan Schindler, the brother of Rabbi Schindler.) "Heather told me I need to go see her," Carole said.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, April 4, 2014

A classic event on May 10

Celebrating American Classics, an inaugural spring gala sponsored by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch to benefit the Mint Museum, takes place May 10 on the lawn of the Mint Museum Randolph.

Chandra and Jimmie Johnson are honorary chairs of the black tie evening that features cocktails, dinner, dessert and dancing to music from the Atlanta band The Rupert’s Orchestra. Proceeds go to the Mint Annual Fund, which supports the museum’s programming, exhibitions and arts education.

Tickets are $500 per person. Tickets for just the dancing and dessert starting at 9 p.m. are $100.


Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson