Diamonds are Forever: Elizabeth Taylor’s Legend Lives On

Elizabeth Taylor


Elizabeth Taylor passed away yesterday but will live forever in her films and Hollywood lore. With her love affairs, perfume empire, famed jewels, charitable works and overall lust for life – Taylor was indeed a Luxe Lady.

Here is her fascinating and dramatic obit.

“Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79,” Los Angeles Times

“Theirs was a marriage on a grand scale. She gave him a Van Gogh, he lavished her with priceless gems, including the behemoth Krupp diamond and a 25-carat, heart-shaped pendant of diamonds, rubies and emeralds originally made for the bride of the man who built the Taj Mahal. Burton also outbid shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis for a $1.1-million, 69-carat diamond ring from Cartier in New York that became known as the Taylor-Burton diamond.”


“Elizabeth Taylors Obituary: Outtakes From a 12-Year Work In Progress,” Los Angeles Times

“One of my favorite anecdotes that didn’t make the final cut concerned Howard Hughes, the nutty billionaire who tried to run a movie studio after making a fortune building planes. After Taylor separated from her first husband, Conrad Hilton Jr. of the Hilton hotel chain, she was lying by a pool in Palm Springs when Hughes landed a helicopter next to her. “Come on, get your clothes on, we are getting married,” he told the raven-haired beauty. She told him he was mad, whereupon he dipped his hand into a coat pocket and scooped out a handful of diamonds, which he then proceeded to sprinkle on her. Taylor roared with laughter and ran into her friends’ house, scattering the diamonds behind her.”


Floral Inspirations: Tiffany Garden and The Philadelphia International Flower Show


Tiffany & Co. Garden Collection


You don’t need a green thumb to cultivate an appreciation for garden-inspired fine jewelry. I’m more likely to slip on a necklace than garden gloves (though it has happened). The Tiffany & Co. garden collection bursts into bloom this Spring. The delicate garden scenes are designed with beautifully colored and intricately cut gems set in platinum and 18 karat rose and yellow gold.

Tiffany Garden is based on diamond floral brooches created by legendary jewelry designer Paulding Farnham (1859-1927), whose vision of design was shaped by the American landscape.  Trained in botanic illustration, Farnham was chief designer of Tiffany’s exhibits that won gold medals at the great world expositions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These may be aspirational pieces, but then again I’m also aspiring to the spectacular garden displays at The Philadelphia International Flower Show. There is still time to visit. The show ends Sunday, March 13.



Tiffany & Co. Garden Collection


St. Patty’s Party Ideas for Luxe Irish Lads & Lassies

St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to have a wee bit o fun. Invite your pals over for a pint (or two). Create signage for your “pub” to go above your front door. If you weren’t blessed with an Irish last name – just add an O to the beginning. Example: O’Dachowski’s Pub. Remind invitees to wear green. Those who don’t, will be pinched. It’s tradition.

Be prepared with your best brogue, booze, Irish fare, a few good toasts and a couple dirty limericks. Here are some helpers from this very Irish luxe lady.


Centerpiece & Decoration Ideas:

Magically Easy – Place flower stems in individual water viles (available at craft stores). Arrange in a round clear vase. Fill in with Lucky Charms cereal to hide the stems.

created by Susan Matthews, The Luxe Lady, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato…- Fill Baskets with multi-colored potatoes (available at Whole Foods and gourmet grocers).

Pot of Gold - Get a large black cauldron (Halloween variety is fine). Spray paint green, if you’re inclined. Fill the bottom with crumpled newspaper. Fill in with gold foil-covered chocolate coins or gold plastic coins.

Lucky Find – Put a plastic shamrock in small pots of wheat grass.

Flag Flowers – Place floral foam for fresh flowers along the bottom of  a low-sided, rectangle box. Divide into three equal areas with one section for green spider mums, one section of white carnations and one section of orange roses. Cut stems close to bud, keeping all flowers the same height. Place stems in wet floral foam to create color blocks of Irish flag. (Found on


Beer Mug O’Blooms – . Fill a beer mug with acrylic amber crystal nuggets, cut a circle of floral foam to create the look of beer foam. Insert green carnations into foam. Prado carnations are naturally green. (Found on

· Drape streamers or tulle in orange, white and green throughout the house.

· Place a large rock on a table with Hershey kisses. Kiss the Blarney Stone!


St. Patrick’s Party Toast:

“May you live to be 100 years, with one extra year to repent.”

Slainte (Slon cha) = Cheers


Danny Boy’s Beverage List:

Guinness (dry stout from Dublin – used in many recipes including Irish stew)

Jameson Irish Whiskey (Five Things You Didn’t Know About Whiskey)

Baileys Irish Cream


St. Patty’s Day Playlist:

The Chieftans; The Corrs; The Dropkick Murphys; Van Morrison; U2; Cranberries; The Commitments (crowd favorite); Sinead O’Connor; The Pogues; The Irish Rovers; Enya; Ultimate St. Patrick’s Day: 30 Essential Irish Drinking Anthems (available on iTunes).


St. Patty’s Party Food:

What’s a 7-course dinner for an Irishman? A potato and six pack. But you might want to serve up something more substantial.

Irish Stew

Corn beef & Cabbage

Soda Bread

Irish Potato Candy

Dublin Lawyer

Smoked Salmon and Watercress Salad with Lemon-Pepper Vinaigrette

Black and Tan Pork with Spicy Ale

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie


St. Patty’s Party Favors:

A bar of Irish Spring Soap

A pot of chocolate-covered gold coins (craft store for pots)

A clover plant (available at garden nurseries and some supermarket florists)

Erin Go Braugh!


Nutella – A Sublime Treat for Your Tastebuds

I may be the last person on the planet to sample Nutella. But just in case I’m not, I highly recommend the yummy spread made from hazelnuts, skim milk and cocoa. There are no artificial colors or preservatives, but the sugar is a bit steep to consider it the health food it’s depicted as in recent ads.

It’s been a pantry staple in European kitchens for decades. Pastry maker Pietro Ferrero concocted Nutella in the 1940s. Chocolate rationing during WWII prompted him to create a way to stretch the flavor. Hazelnuts were plentiful in the Piedmont (Northwest) region of Italy and he found they did the trick.

The Luxe Lady Facebook fans shared all their favorite ways to eat Nutella – on crepes, waffles, pizzelles, biscotti, water crackers and fruit. My Aunt Eileen even recommends it straight from the jar. I’m going to try Bobby Flay’s recipe for a grilled banana and Nutella sandwich. Sweet and savory decadence!


Scents and Sensibility

Anyone who has ever been packed into an elevator can tell you perfume preference is highly subjective. A scent one person finds sublime, might smell like cat pee to another. I will never appreciate the appeal of the number-one selling perfume in the world – Chanel No. 5.

Marilyn Monroe famously proclaimed it was all she wore to bed. I’d rather slip into Chanel No. 19, CoCo or Chance. Maybe that’s my body chemistry at play. My best friend smells divine in a floral scent that turns me into Pepe le Pew. I’m delish in vanilla or citrus top notes – anything edible. It’s wise to try before you buy.

Everyone should have their “signature scent,” but building a fragrance wardrobe can be fun. Switch out your scent based on mood and situation. It’s ideal to have at least one light day-time scent and a sexier evening scent. I rotate scents seasonally – stronger for fall/winter and lighter for spring/summer.

Fragrances can last years and years if they aren’t exposed to heat and light. Sprays last longer than the bottles (the dabbing variety).

People are sentimental about fragrances. They are powerful memory triggers. One whiff of white gardenia has me remembering my grandmother. What was the first perfume or cologne you ever wore? What memories do certain scents conjure up? What are you wearing now? Please share your comments.

Classic Perfumes Make a Comeback


Goddesses Need Not Be Bronze

My pale skin is looking a bit pasty at this point. And, when I have 3 a.m. call time for a show, I could be mistaken for an extra in “Night of the Living Dead.” A makeup artist once told me that I just needed to “warm up” my complexion. Thankfully this doesn’t call for a Snookie-style spray tan or fake-n-bake. Traditional bronzer looks like dirt on this Irish gal’s winter face. Not a look I want. I’ve found three products that make me look like I’ve got a pulse and pretty me up.

Dandelion by Benefit, $28, Macys and

Bobbi Brown Illuminating Bronzing Powder in Antigua 2, $33, Macys

Balance-N-Brighten by Laura Geller, $31, and

Sometimes a great foundation and blush are not enough. When your skin needs that extra oomph turn to one of the above. They should be applied with a large dense brush (such as Sephora’s Platinum Series Bronzer Brush) to where sunlight would naturally hit your face. Some prefer to apply after foundation and before blush, but I leave it to the finishing touch. Now go perk up your pretty without an expensive trip to the tropics.


Luxe Libraries for Library Lovers Month

Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo for

Adding up my 2010 receipts from Barnes and Noble revealed the depth of my book addiction. Tack on purchases from Amazon, ebooks and boutique book stores and I spent what amounts to a week-long European vacation. Does the Betty Ford Clinic deal with bookaholics? No? That’s alright. I’m at peace with my problem. I know what you’re thinking. “Just get yourself to the free library, lady!” As a kid, the local library was my gateway and enabler. I still carry a card, but nothing beats my home library. It’s a luxury I wouldn’t want to live without.

The denim blue room (a Ralph Lauren paint treatment) is anchored by glass-front cabinets in black wood that hold my treasured books by category. Family heirlooms and a few collectibles break up the rows and stacks. My favorite art adorns the walls and there’s a piano, an oriental rug, an antique typewriter and a very large, comfy distressed leather sofa with the requisite nail head trim and rolled arms. I can sink in for hours.

If you haven’t already, create your own library. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated room.  A nook or a wall will do. A dining room/library combo is a great use of space and the books create warmth and ambience. Stocking your library doesn’t have to be expensive if you purchase your hardcover classics at second hand book stores. In honor of Library Lovers Month I’m sharing some inspiring links. Enjoy!

House Beautiful Designer Library Gallery

Most Interesting Libraries of the World

A History of Libraries/History Magazine


Smart Luxury Travel’s Gilded Getaway

I’ve always had a thing for Tudor mansions. It’s the result of watching Masterpiece Theatre as a child with my parents (only one TV in our house).  So when I paged through the winter edition of Smart Luxury Travel magazine, Blantrye in the Berkshires caught my eye. Listed as one of their 2010 Smart Luxury Award Winners, this Relais and Chateaux-approved* hotel is located in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was built by millionaire businessman Robert Warden Paterson and his wife Louise in 1901. Wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts and Carnegies had nearby summer “cottages” as did authors Melville, Wharton and Hawthorne. It’s the type of place where I imagine one might play a lot of croquet.

Blantrye is lavishly decorated in a traditional English style with antiques, oil paintings, tapestries and many yards of chintz. An all-season destination, there’s plenty to enjoy there this winter: snowshoeing; winter BBQ; oysters served on snowballs; Sunday afternoon tea; hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows and ice skating. Before dinner (jackets and ties required), owner Ann Fitzpatrick Brown offers guests champagne and canapes before a crackling fire. She also selects books and movies for each beautifully decorated guest room. For photos and more information, visit With rooms starting at $675 a night, it’s not a bargain in my book but could make for a gilded getaway.

*Relais and Chateaux is an international association of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants. The group has strict admission criteria. Prospective and current members are evaluated by the group’s five C’s: Caractère, Courtoisie, Calme, Charme et Cuisine.


Get Markdowns on Rub Downs

Massages may not be a medical necessity but they are beneficial to both mental and physical health. Plus, they sure do feel nice. Studies show regular rub downs can lower pain, anxiety and tension. Check, check and triple check on those three. If an appointment at the local ooh la la day spa isn’t in the budget, check local listings for Massage Envy, a national chain that offers discounted services. An initial 50-minute massage is advertised for $49. Also, check for local massage therapy schools. They often offer deeply discounted and sometimes free student sessions. If all else fails, make a mutually beneficial trade deal with your partner. Ahh.


Is Your Home Sad?

Now that the dreary dead of winter is upon many of us, a few friends have begun to complain about Seasonal Affective Disorder, S.A.D. It’s when a lack of sunlight creates a depressive state. I think my house has been suffering from it since the glitter of Christmas was packed away. A couple rooms seem to be crying out for a little something-something. It’s time to lighten up and refresh.

I’m taking a longer, harder look at everything while I’m stuck in hibernation mode. I know many of you are doing the same. Don’t worry if your short on decorating dollars. We can do this using what we already own and a few new finishing touches.

Pick your most needy space. Decluttering comes before redecorating. It’s a daunting task. For inspiration, turn on Enough Already with Peter Walsh on Oprah’s O.W.N. or Clean House on the Style Network. As Niecy Nash would say, it’s time to get rid of “all your mayhem and foolishness.” If you don’t love it or use it, donate it. Get over what it cost or that your cousin gave it to you. Never let guilt do the decorating. It may be OK, but do you want an OK room? No! You want a FABULOUS room. This may take a day or two. Check back in for the next installment.