All Hail Queen Victoria!

Author: Kirsten K., Literature, Magazines, Nostalgia

Victoria 1Tomorrow we say goodbye to spring and usher in the lazy months of summer. Every year, as we straddle these two seasons, I think of the Spring/Summer 1987 issue of Victoria magazine, the one that started it all.

I first encountered Victoria in the fall of 1987 when my mother passed on an issue that a friend had given her. I immediately swooned over the elegant fonts, feminine design, and dreamy photographs by Japanese photographer Toshi Otsuki. When I discovered that this was the second issue of the magazine, I quickly ordered a copy of the premier issue. I had no idea then that this was the beginning of an enduring romance.

Victoria 2The magazine’s mission statement could be summed up in a single line within the pages of that first issue: “A Return to Loveliness”. The editors stated that, “We have looked to the graceful, gracious days of the Victorian era as inspiration for Victoria—for that was the elegant time that brought loveliness to everyday American life.” As a modern-day American girl whose heart was in 19th-century England, I was hooked.

The magazine went from being published twice the first year, to seasonally, to bi-monthly, and finally to monthly in the fall of 1989. The first four issues said Good Housekeeping’s Victoria on the cover, but by the fifth issue it was simply called Victoria. On the cover of the May 1998 issue, the word “Bliss” appeared above the name and has continued to be used in the magazine and on special issues to this day.

Victoria 3Over the years, I have struggled to describe Victoria and how it makes me feel when I read it, but this one word—bliss—sums it up. It’s difficult to categorize the magazine: a mix of fashion and beauty, home and garden, cooking and entertaining, travel, literature, enterprising women, and so much more. There is such a wealth and variety of features in each slim issue that I can savor it over days or even weeks, instead of mere hours.

There have been three Editors-in-Chief of Victoria, each with her own personal style. Under the direction of founding editor Nancy Lindemeyer, Victoria was shamelessly feminine and romantic. When Peggy Kennedy took over with the November 2000 issue, the magazine took on a cleaner, more streamlined look and started featuring longer, in-depth articles on weightier topics. During her tenure, there was an unfortunate redesign of the logo and layout that didn’t seem too popular with readers (myself included), but the content was excellent.

Victoria 4By this time, Victoria had seen me through my difficult college years and was a beloved and constant friend, so I was horrified to discover in 2003 that the publisher, Hearst Corporation, had suddenly and inexplicably shuttered the magazine. After years of badgering Kirsti to subscribe, I’d finally decided to give her a gift subscription when I was told that the June 2003 issue would be Victoria’s last. Without any advance warning for the editors, there would be no farewell issue, no thank you to the loyal readers, no look back at 16 years of loveliness and bliss.

I was devastated. Victoria had been my port in the storm of modern life. Whatever ugliness I witnessed on the news or in the streets could be wiped away by a few minutes spent within the genteel beauty of its pages. I felt as though someone close to me had died.Victoria 5

In the ensuing years, I would regularly flip through my collection of back issues, but I lamented the fact that there would never be another new issue of Victoria. However, unbeknownst to me, there was someone else who felt as I did, and she was in a position to do something about it.

Victoria 6In the summer of 2007, I received a postcard in the mail with the words I never expected to read: Victoria was coming back! Phyllis Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman Media (which publishes Southern Lady magazine, among other titles), had been a huge fan of Victoria and took on the task of bringing it back to life, becoming the third and current Editor-in-Chief. In a true return to loveliness, Victoria resumed publication with the November/December 2007 issue. All was once again right in my world.

Victoria 7The magazine took a little while to regain its footing and become the Victoria I’d known and loved, but after almost eight years, it remains a familiar oasis of loveliness and bliss. The reincarnated Victoria has continued the traditions of a yearly Writer-in-Residence and Artist-in-Residence, as well as annual British- and French-themed issues and one devoted to women entrepreneurs. It is published bi-monthly, but there are special issues seasonally, such as Gardens of Bliss and Holiday Bliss—plenty to provide me with a regular dose of beauty and peace amid the chaos of a rapidly-changing world.

I swoon in my appreciation of Phyllis and all of the editors and contributors who have worked together over the years to deliver the gift of Victoria to its readers (they are Staff Worthy Of Our Notice). I hope you’ll discover the wonders of this magazine for yourself and join me in saying, “All hail Queen Victoria!”

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Victoria Magazine


Victoria is available on newsstands and in digital format for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Android devices. The first 208 issues of the magazine (from 1987-2012) can be found on the Victoria Complete Collection DVD, which features two searchable DVD-ROMs that are compatible with both Windows and Mac.


Author: Kirsten K., Beauty

I have long hair, and while I generally swoon over luxuriant tresses, I keep mine long more out of convenience than aesthetics. While there’s a lot of it, my hair is fine and prone to tangling, so I usually brush it out in the morning and twist it into a bun to keep it from ratting up during the day.

Untangled 1

My own personal weather barometer.

My hair falls somewhere between wavy and curly, but not the smooth, glossy waves you see in a shampoo ad. I sport a perpetual halo of frizz that has defied all attempts to tame it. There are times in my life when I’ve worn my hair short, but it’s typically an unruly mess. I’m fortunate to live in Southern California where the air is dry. On those occasions when I’ve visited areas with high humidity, I look like Monica from The One in Barbados.

Untangled 2

photo credit: Melissa Elliott

I have painful—literally—memories of having my hair brushed as a child, and both combing my hair when it’s wet and brushing it when it’s dry have been a chore for most of my life…until, that is, I found two miraculous products that have turned this child’s nightmare into child’s play.

The first is the Hair Fitness® Detangling Comb. It has rounded metal teeth that move independently of each other within the plastic base of the comb. As a result, they “dance” around tangles instead of forcing their way through and making things worse. It’s always best to work from the ends of the hair up, and it may take a minute or two to unravel the worst of the knots, but once you do, the comb just glides through the hair like a hot knife through butter.

Untangled 3Recently, I discovered the Wet Brush. I was looking for a new hairbrush to replace my unwieldy paddle brush and liked the natural bamboo of their Earth Collection, which complemented my set of body brushes. However, this brush turns out to be a champion detangler. It was created specifically to detangle wet hair, but its IntelliFlex™ bristles work equally well on hair that is dry—and frizzy.

With my Hair Fitness® comb in one hand and the Wet Brush in the other, I no longer tangle with tangles. There are no more tears or tears (get it?). If trying to detangle your hair causes you to snarl, stop tying yourself up in knots and snag one—or both—of these handy tools.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Hair Fitness® Detangling Comb
The Wet Brush


The Wet Brush is also available from Amazon.


On the Mehndi

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Books, Literature, Nostalgia, Synchronicity

Mehndi 1Mehndi is the ancient art of applying a paste made from henna powder to the skin in intricate patterns, which creates a reddish-brown stain that can last for one to three weeks. Even though this form of ornamentation has been practiced in India, North Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years, it didn’t become popular in the United States until Madonna and other celebrities started sporting henna designs in the 1990s.

Mehndi 2At the time, I was working for a skin and hair care company. We sold a book featuring cosmetic practices of different cultures around the world, which included pictures of mehndi designs. A co-worker and I were fascinated and wanted to try it for ourselves, so we picked up some black henna hair powder (not to be confused with PPD “Black Henna”, which can be dangerous) at a health food store, mixed it with water, and applied the paste to our feet to test it out. Nothing happened. We’d figured that black henna would create a darker stain, but without the Internet as a resource, we had difficulty finding answers to our questions, so we gave up.

Mehndi 3

photo credit: Christina Chico, model: Payal Patel, makeup: Shirley J. Arcia

In 1997, the movie Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love was released to much controversy over the erotic nature of the film. The trailers featured Indian women covered in mehndi, so I knew I had to see it. I sat alone in the theater with a bunch of pervy-looking men and, while they were salivating over the racy love scenes (which actually seem quaint by today’s standards), I was swooning over the henna designs on the women’s hands and feet.

Mehndi 4Earlier in the year, I’d read an article about mehndi in the January 1997 issue of Los Angeles magazine, which mentioned that henna artist Loretta Roome would be setting up The Mehndi Project at Galerie Lakaye in West Hollywood that month. When my friend Maggie was visiting from Seattle a short time later, I told her about it and she was interested, so I took her there to get a henna “tattoo”. I observed the process and took mental notes. It turns out that you must use red henna and you should mix the paste with lemon juice or a similar acidic substance to properly activate the lawsone dye in the plant, which produces the stain.Mehndi 5

When I got home, I searched out the tiny plastic bottles with their fine metal tips that I’d seen the artist use on Maggie, then bought some red henna from my local Indian market. I mixed it with water and lemon juice and applied a simple design on the palm of my hand. When I washed it off a few hours later, there was a pale orange stain, which developed into a dark reddish-brown over the next couple of days. I’d done it!

Mehndi 6I played around with mehndi off and on for a few years, reading some books on the topic and even making mehndi cookies at one point, but I’m no artist. I eventually became frustrated with my limitations and abandoned it, but I never stopped appreciating the beauty and artistry of the practice, so it was an act of serendipity that brought Prashanta from Divya Henna into my life.

Mehndi 7I met her three years ago and we discovered immediately that we had many interests in common, among them a love of mehndi. Unlike me, Prashanta is actually a talented artist who had been practicing mehndi informally for years, but wanted to do it professionally. She was just getting her career underway and was looking for a guinea pig on whom to practice new designs and techniques, so I volunteered. One of the things that Kirsti and I find the most swoon-worthy is synchronicity—that magical moment when things line up perfectly in ways you could never have planned or foreseen. After years of wanting to wear beautiful mehndi designs myself, I had a professional henna artist who couldn’t wait to paint me up one side and down the other!

Mehndi 8

Mehndi by Divya Henna from an original design by Ravie Kattaura.

Whenever I am adorned in one of Prashanta’s designs, I get stopped in stores, restaurants, and even on the street by people who want to admire her artwork and ask questions. She loves and respects Indian culture and prefers traditional Indian mehndi designs over the types of henna tattoos you typically see offered at fairs and along boardwalks. Nowadays, she is in demand as a mehndi artist for Indian weddings, doing elaborate and exquisite designs on brides that cover the hands, arms, feet, and legs and can take hours to complete.Mehndi 9

She doesn’t have much free time anymore to practice on me, but I’m still fortunate to get mehndi from her on occasion and to enjoy her company in the process. I am also routinely stunned by the precision and creativity displayed in the pictures she posts online of designs she has completed, a few of which are featured here. If you don’t live close enough for Prashanta to paste mehndi on your skin, seeing her masterful handiwork will definitely paste a smile on your face.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Divya Henna – Facebook
Divya Henna – Instagram


The book Mehndi: The Timeless Art of Henna Painting by Loretta Roome can be purchased at Amazon.

Visit Christina Chico Photography and makeup artist Shirley J. Arcia online.

The Brush-Off

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

The Brush-Off 1Want skin that’s so soft and smooth it would make a baby swoon? Then give it the brush-off! Dry skin brushing has probably been around since the invention of the brush, but it’s gained in popularity over the past several years as people have discovered its multitude of benefits.

I got caught up in the raw foods movement as it was starting to become trendy in the early 2000s. Like most of those who jumped on the bandwagon, I quickly fell back off, but there were a few practices I adopted then that I continue to this day. One of those is dry skin brushing. Many raw foodists recommend dry brushing as a way to assist the body with detoxification and ease any “healing crisis” symptoms as it adjusts to a cleaner diet. I never experienced a healing crisis (although I did fantasize about bread for several hours a day), but the idea of dry brushing appealed to me. It’s natural and economical and only requires a few minutes each day. Plus, here in drought-parched Southern California, doing your exfoliating before you get in the shower makes good sense. So I bought a wooden brush with natural bristles and got down to the business of scrubbing. Ouch—that hurt!

The Brush-Off 2I like to dive into things feet first and had purchased a brush with stiff bristles, but I’ve learned with dry brushing that it’s best to start off gently and slowly. I’ve also found that certain brushes work better on different body parts, so I’ve amassed a collection over the years that covers all the bases.

My first brush was the CRT (Cellulite Removal Techniques) Skin Tightening Body Brush from T-Tapp, which has bristles made of stiff plant fibers. I only used it on my legs for the first week as I broke in the bristles and got into a routine, then I started using it all over my body. In a short amount of time, I was brushing like a pro and wondered how it could have hurt at first. This felt great! My skin would tingle all over afterwards, and it woke me up more effectively than a morning shower.

The Brush-Off 3When a friend offered to give me her long-handled back brush from Bass because it was too rough for her, I eagerly took it…only to find that it was also too rough for me. Undaunted, I did as before, starting off slowly and building up a tolerance until I was scrubbing with gusto. People had said that dry brushing would strengthen the skin, and they were right!

However, neither of these brushes was suitable for the more sensitive skin of my face. I tried out a few face brushes, but found them to be either too soft or too rough, so when I came across the Facial Brush from Beautiful On Raw, I had a Goldilocks moment as I discovered that it was just right. Some people say that you should only brush the face once or twice a week, but I do it every day—sometimes twice—and have seen and felt only positive effects.

The Brush-Off 4When the company came out with a body brush made of natural Tampico fibers, I quickly bought it, but I scratched myself up the first time I used it. I’d gotten so accustomed to brushing with a certain amount of force that I’d forgotten my rule to start off slowly. This brush requires a gentler touch, so I backed off a bit and have begun to make friends with it.

Now I’ve developed a routine where I use the Beautiful On Raw Body Brush on my legs (up to my hips), the T-Tapp brush on my abdomen, lower back, arms, and chest, the long-handled brush on my upper and middle back, and the Facial Brush on my face and throat. I recently added to my collection with a Bass natural bristle nail brush, which has short, stiff bristles that I like to use on my nails and the backs of my hands.

The Brush-Off 5But you don’t need an army of brushes to get the job done. One good body brush and one facial brush should do the trick. Tonya Zavasta from Beautiful On Raw recommends that you NOT use a long-handled back brush, but try to increase your flexibility by reaching over your shoulders and around your sides with a regular body brush in order to scrub the back. I haven’t quite mastered this yet.

Whatever you do, make sure to clean your brushes regularly by washing them with gentle soap and water, patting the bristles with a towel, and either laying them in the sun to dry or resting them with the bristles facing down on an absorbent towel to prevent mildew.

Beautiful On Raw has a wealth of information about the history and benefits of dry brushing, along with tips and recommendations. Check it out, then start scrubbing! Once you’ve given your skin the brush-off, you’ll rebuff any other method.

Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Beautiful On Raw Body Brush
Beautiful On Raw Facial Brush
T-Tapp CRT Skin Tightening Body Brush
Bass 100% Vegetable Bristle Extra Firm Back Brush
Bass 100% Natural Bristle Extra Firm Nail Cleansing Brush


Bass brushes are available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and many natural foods stores.