Style File: Lucille Ball

Last night, we watched something fabulous on PBS called Pioneers of Television: Funny Ladies. I found it both inspiring and also rather disheartening… how did we go from I Love Lucy & Mary Tyler Moore to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? (And, for that matter, does anyone else remember when TLC really was The Learning Channel?) Anyway, all that to say, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to draw on a little inspiration from one of my favorite ladies of the past: Lucille Ball.

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

1.) Whoever said blondes have more fun was dead wrong! Having been many colors of the rainbow myself, I can definitely vouch for the redhead. Despite what Anne Shirley would tell you, everyone should embrace the fun & carefree spirit of red hair at least once!

“Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.”

Also on that note…

2.) If you are lucky enough to find your signature look young, stick with it. Lucy was not a redhead until she was 32 when she dyed her hair to a flaming red after getting a part in a new MGM picture. However, she was smart enough to know a good thing when she found it and suddenly she went from being known as “Queen of the B’s” (seriously: check out imdb… the girl could own a B movie) to the *Lucy* that we all know and love.

“The more things you do, the more you can do.”

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

“I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”

3.) Always be willing to try new things. Say what you like about Lucy, but she was never known as ‘timid.’ If only we were all so brave.

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

4.) Play the part of devoted wife. This involves patience with your husband when starts pontificating in Spanish, regular visits to the salon, cute aprons and, of course, putting on your pearls & a fresh coat of lipstick before he gets home!

“How I Love Lucy was born? We decided that instead of divorce lawyers profiting from our mistakes, we’d profit from them.”

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

5.) No one will ever love you like your pup, so why not have 2?

“The more things you do, the more you can do.”

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

6.) She may have been a screwball comic, but she was also a great fashionista! Think polka dots, scarves & bedazzled horn-rimmed glasses. Just remember, ladies don’t smoke… and those that do catch their fake noses on fire.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Style File: Lucille Ball  |  Secrets of a Belle

7.) Share your successes with your friends. While Lucille Ball was initially stand-offish about the casting of Vivian Vance as her sidekick Ethel Mertz, the 2 quickly became friends and remained close until Vance’s death in 1979. (One random fact that’s worth noting: Vance was around Lucy’s age and was really quite a looker so on the show she was made to wear frumpier clothing so that the 2 contrasted a little better.)

“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’ t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”

Lessons on Being a Socialite courtesy of 1936

I am a huge fan of William Powell so the other night when I realized that My Man Godfrey was available on Instant Netflix, I just couldn’t resist. Powell costars opposite his ex, Carole Lombard, whom he actually recommended for the part of eccentric socialite Irene Bullock. However, as with many Hollywood films around this time, the costumes nearly steal the show…

1. There is a uniform for people of a certain class. Whether it is a night on the town or a party with 300 of your closest friends, a lady of status is expected to wear shine, silk, and fur. This same rule applies when she is going to a city dump to look for a ‘forgotten man’ (or for that matter a goat).

Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

2. While we’re on the subject, one’s silk pajamas should also be chic and versatile… lest one is forced to get up in the middle of the night and meet the queen or go to a 2a.m. cocktail party.

Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

3. Speaking of cocktails, if your new butler knows how to make a good martini, he really needn’t know anything else.

Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

4. After all, it’s a joy to help with the dishes for a socialite. One really should try something new every day.

Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

5. A pouty face is always in the lady’s back pocket. Just in case something terrible happens– or she finds herself in need of attention.

Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

6. Finally, at the end of the day, the lady knows how to get what she wants. She can talk sense into her man simply by properly executing ‘the look.’

 Lessons on being a socialite courtesy of 1936. | Secrets of a Belle

In Honor of Princess Grace, a Little Style File…

On her birthday, I just couldn’t resist sharing a little Style File from my *very* favorite of Princess Grace’s films: High Society. Two random facts before we start: It was Grace’s last film before becoming princess consort of Monaco. Also, High Society, released in 1956, was a musical remake of 1940’s A Philadelphia Story, which also had a crazy amazing line-up of stars, but we’ll have to get into that another time.

1.) Stripes are essential, flowers are abundant and a *lovely* accent (plus a little crazy) are essential in Newport…

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2.) The staple of every home is hidden bar. This one pictured happens to pop out from among the library books… that is, if you know which one to choose!

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3.) One never just walks from the dressing room to the pool in their swimsuit. Instead, one glides in a robe that makes them seem like a goddess and disrobes to reveal a suit that is just revealing enough to make  one seem untouchable.

Also of note: Bing’s 2-tone brogues with matching tie and pocket square. That reminds me, if you haven’t seen Mr. Crosby’s dressing room in this movie, you should…

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4.) If you are going to get drunk at your engagement party with your ex-husband, be sure to wear something fabulous and act so charming that no one can resist you. After all, you’re “sensational, everybody says so…”

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5.) Eventually you will have to go home and sober up. This is best done while wearing a yellow silk kimono and lounging in your impeccably decorated boudoir.

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6.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when you do get married the next morning. Be sure you pick the Mr. Right. (*The wedding march jazzed up by Louis at the end of this video never fails to make me smile!)

Debra Shriver: Take It With You

debra shriver portrait

Let me start by telling you about an afternoon in late summer that I spent reading in Central Park. I sat down on a park bench next to The Met, the different languages of the passing park guests were like music, and 2 hours later I looked up and realized I was still sitting in the same spot in the middle of Manhattan. I had been lost in New Orleans–or, more accurately, in a love story to New Orleans. I was reading Debra Shriver’s first book: Stealing Magnolias.

Several days later, I found myself near the top of the Hearst building sitting in front of quite a spread: iced tea, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, & a few of the other Southern delicacies that are so hard to come by in the city. In a city of 8 million people, I’d found a corner of Southern hospitality that made this overwhelmed Southern girl feel right at home thanks to the *lovely* Debra Shriver.

When I asked her about how these Southern roots had influenced her life in New York, she said simply, “I take it with me.” That seems to be her way of saying that the people and places she’s come from–the traditions, the food, the language, the lifestyle–inform her everyday life.

Raised in Alabama, Debra comes from four generations of working Southern women who not only taught her to have a good work ethic, but also taught her to make a mean jambalaya. Whether it’s hosting a dinner party in New Orleans or Southern hors d’oeuvres in her New York office, you know immediately that  this lady is the real deal. She’s the epitome of a belle: poised, driven, and the perfect hostess. “I can leave New York at 7am,” she said, “arrive in New Orleans by 9:30, and feed 40-60 friends a great Southern meal by 6.”

Today, Debra is self-proclaimed “New-New,” she and her husband divide their time between New Orleans and New York City. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans or New York, you know that they both seem to be on their own time table. New Orleans is the definition of laid-back. There you can take your time to enjoy the meal, enjoy the music, enjoy the drink… New York, on the other hand, seems to constantly be running at a quicker pace than the moment before. Why, you ask, would Debra choose to be a “New-New”? Because she has this “art of living a more beautiful life” down. It’s not about where she is, it’s about the lifestyle that she takes wherever she goes.

For example, recently the Shrivers down-sized their New York digs. Why, you ask? To move into a historic building where Debra can walk to work every morning instead of getting caught in traffic. (She had to sell several china patterns in the process from what I understand… tragic, I know, but que sera!) She takes the time to get to know her neighbors. She’s invested in the city. She values living and working in historic buildings–in places that have a history & a story of which she and Jerry, her husband, are now a part.

This is also true of her other home in New Orleans. After the devastation of Katrina, the Shrivers were among the first to buy and restore a home. They’d always loved the city: the people, the pace of life, the history, the food. So it seemed only logical that they would put down some roots there. In her first book, Stealing Magnolias, she writes a captivating story of restoration and a love letter of sorts to the city. Her new book, “In the Spirit of New Orleans,” she wrote for people who want to really experience the city.

“In the Spirit of New Orleans”  will be released by Assouline next month. Whether you’ve been to New Orleans a million times or are just beginning to plan a trip, this is a book you’ll want on your shelf mainly due to the fact that it gives you a real feel for the city. Shriver’s writing is so vivid, so descriptive. You can almost hear a horn player wailing on the high notes in the corner of a smoky room. She paints a beautiful picture of the mysterious spiritual aspects of New Orleans. And, perhaps a favorite feature of mine, she has loaded the book with resources. Everything from what restaurants to eat at, how to mix a sazerac, and how to translate the language of Mardi Gras. (After all, your first New Orleans cotillion is not to be taken lightly, my dear.)

picture of the book and a sazerac

Where to Read It: on the front porch where you can watch the world walk by
Reading Cocktail of Choice: Sazerac

Get the book, read about the traditions and the history, and then “take something with you.” After all, that’s what the art of living a more beautiful life is really about. What choices do you make that allow you to live a beautiful life regardless of your location? Perhaps it’s walking to work in the city like Debra or turning on a little Louis Armstrong while you cook a big pot of gumbo for dinner (recipe on page 94). Read Debra’s books and then take something from her story of New Orleans. Me? Well, I’m probably going to spend the afternoon listening to a little Ella and learning to make a Ramos Gin Fizz (page 106).

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You may have seen my live tweets from the book release party at Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant in Harlem. If not check them out.

You may also want to follow @DebraShriver on twitter… obviously, she’s fabulous!

Picking an Exterior Palette

Yesterday, I shared the Before & After of our recent paint job. Today, I wanted to share with you just how we got there.

Picking a color palette, especially one that is such a bear to get done as well as quite costly like your exterior paint, should not be taken lightly. However, I am also a firm believer in ‘just going for it.’ What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you are going with your gut, the odds are that whatever colors you choose will be great. Here’s how I like to go about choosing a palette.

First, I go to Pinterest. I look through all the images that speak to me at that moment and see if I can spot any similarities. Above is a collage of some of the pictures that were really singing when I was choosing the palette for our home.

Next, I go to the paint store and start looking. Live with the paint chips for a while. Carry them around in your bag. Get them out and mix them up. Odds are, after a couple of days, you will be looking at the same few every time you get them out. When you find a few that work, I highly suggest trying them out online. In the world of computerized everything, each paint brand has a way to “try on” their colors. We chose these 3 from Sherwin Williams.

Finally, look at accent fabrics. For this step, go back to your original set of pictures. What are the accent colors that are repeated in several photographs. Then, start sorting fabrics by what type of fabric you need (in this case we needed Indoor/Outdoor fabric.) and colors.

I chose the 4 fabrics you see above on, and then let Husband make the final decision. If you have a significant other, this is a great step to do together. To be honest, the fabric he chose was just one I’d thrown in the mix. It seemed a bit much for me at first, but now I am completely in love! Significant others have a way of seeing things that you may not even know you like, but you’ll be surprised at how much this stretches you!

Finally, don’t be scared! Try something new. If you don’t want to start with your whole house, maybe you just need some encouragement to liven up that old guest room. A little fabric and a fresh coat of paint can totally change your outlook. Just take my word for it!

Getting ready for the Weekend

If there’s one way to ensure a perfect start to your weekend, it’s to get all the right pieces in place the night before. Husband and I like to start our Saturday mornings slowly–lying on the couch, reading, sipping coffee, listening to NPR. So often, on Friday nights, I’ll make these muffins and get the coffee maker ready so that all we have to do is make our plates and relax. As a bonus, they smell absolutely delicious and happen to make just enough that you can eat one on Friday for a midnight snack if you’re so inclined.

Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 c All-Purpose Flour
3/4 c Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder

1/3 c Vegetable Oil
1 egg
1/3 c milk
1/3 c Greek Yogurt *

1 1/4 c fresh blueberries

Cinnamon + Sugar **


  • Preheat over to 400°F and grease a muffin tin. This recipe should make 10 muffins.
  • Mix together dry ingredients. Then, mix together your wet ingredients to make a nice batter.
  • Fold in the fresh blueberries.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to scoop mixture into muffin tin.
  • Bake for 18 minutes.
  • Pull out and top with cinnamon + sugar.
  • Put back into the oven and bake for another 3 minutes.

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The dairy products in this recipe can be played with quite a bit without losing the muffin’s perfect texture… It all depends on what you’ve got in your fridge. I’ve used a bit of sour cream, heavy cream, and I’m sure buttermilk would add a lovely little dimension.

** We always have cinnamon + sugar mixture in an airtight container to use on muffins, on toast, in drinks, etc. Just another thing to make your life a little easier!

Movin’ On Up

Secrets of a Belle has moved… well, kind of. I’m making a fresh start with a brand new design and completely revamped content. I will still be blogging about the art of living a more beautiful life, but in the coming weeks you’ll see that there will also be profiles of people & products from our region, lots of places to go, things to see in the South, as well as a plethora of HowTos.

So if you have *Secrets of a Belle* bookmarked, you’re good go. But if you subscribe to this blog through an RSS feed, please change the address to: feed://  Also, if you make something awesome or just have a product you love, please let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

xo* ~ Hannah B.


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