Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

April 28, 2010

Five Great Lessons From Finishing School: pt 5, Meeting (the same) New People

Filed under: Five Great...,Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness — Miss Plumcake @ 9:16 am

It is never,  never  nice to meet me.

What, never?

No, never.

What, never?

Hardly ever.

Let me paint you a little picture. Last night I was the guest at a excruciatingly swank benefit in support of Conspirare, a wonderful vocal ensemble based right here in the City of the Violet Crown and was doing the regular huggy kissy smoochy schmoozy thing you do when you’re at that sort of shindig and you’ve given up deflowering busboys for Lent. I was teetering around on my recently rediscovered pony hair and crocodile Zanottis, looking good and feeling gorgeous as one so often does and making the social rounds.

Zanotti pony hair scoop wedge sandals

I bump into a familiar face. Now, this isn’t someone I know well, but he is a colleague and we’ve walked in and out of the same building roughly the same time for the past seven years. We’ve shared copy editors (not in the biblical sense) and had a conversation or two. I know, for example, we hail from the same hometown.

“Mike, how are you?!”

“Hi! I’m Mike Lastname, nice to meet you.”

See right there? That was a fail. Unless you know for a gospel truth there is no possible way you have never met this person anywhere before — not in college, not at the post office, not in a police lineup as a suspect for carving “Rowan Hearts Plumcake” on the great doors of Canterbury Cathedral EVEN THOUGH IT’S TOTALLY TRUE– you do NOT say “nice to meet you.”


Let’s return to our story:

April 23, 2010

Five Great Finishing School Lessons: Pt 4, Condolence Letters

Filed under: Five Great... — Miss Plumcake @ 1:34 pm

So I wasn’t really planning on doing a lesson on how to write sympathy cards, but it occurred to me it’s a handy skill to have, and much more fraught with peril than a card of thanks.

The problem with writing sympathy notes is there are so many variables; it takes a lot more finesse than a regular card and there are a LOT more “don’ts” than “do’s” when it comes to the subtle art of sending condolences.

So let’s have a go.

Phrases That Ought Never Appear in Sympathy Notes:

“I am sorry for your loss” –My problem with “I’m sorry for your loss.” aside from it being clichéd, is it smacks of “sucks to be you!” Use simple “I’m sorry” or “Please accept my condolences” instead. It’s not like the bereaved need to be reminded why you’re sorry. I can’t imagine a grieving widow opening a note the day after her husband’s funeral and thinking “Oh wow, I guess Cousin Alfred really IS sorry for that time he set that pair of attack swans on me at Aunt Winnie’s rose tea.”

“Passed” Trains pass: people die. Unless the deceased bought it while playing bridge and you can’t resist the pun. See also: “Was Lost”

“Let me know if you need anything.” Good intention, but completely useless. Of course they won’t let you know if they need anything. Instead make a very specific invitation no closer than three weeks away. “I’m going to the exhibit at the wildflower center next month and I’d love your company if you’re up to it.” Don’t expect a response, but do call a week or so before the event and extend the invitation again.

“Heaven has another angel” “Holding you up to the light” or anything you’d hear in a country song. Don’t. Just don’t.

“It’s a blessing” I understand if someone has had a long suffering illness it’s tempting, but don’t. If the bereaved do consider it a blessing, they don’t need to be reminded. If they don’t, you’ve REALLY stuck your foot in it.

Here are two examples of condolence letters: one for someone you knew, one for someone you didn’t. I find store-bought sympathy cards cheap and in poor taste. Use your personal stationery.

Dear Bert,

I’m so, so sorry to hear about Ernie, I cannot imagine how you must feel. You and Ernie had such a special relationship, and I loved the way two were always laughing together. I was just thinking about that time he thought your pigeons were looking sickly and gave them alka-seltzer. That was Ernie all over, always so caring, and of course the times we went out for brunch at Le Canard en Caoutchouc will remain some of my very happiest memories. I know you’re probably overwhelmed, so don’t worry about responding now, but there’s an exhibit on bottle caps through the ages at the Museum of Useless Ephemera next month and I’d love the company.

Know you’re in my thoughts and prayers and you –as always– have all my love.

With deepest sympathy,



Dear Bert,

I’m so, so sorry to hear about Ernie, I cannot imagine how you must feel. I never got the chance to know Ernie, but anyone you loved that well must have been a heck of a guy. I was just remembering the story you told me about that time he thought your pigeons were looking sickly and gave them alka-seltzer. Such a sweet story. I know you’re probably overwhelmed right now, so don’t worry about responding now, but there’s an exhibit on bottle caps through the ages at the Museum of Useless Ephemera next month and I’d love the company.

With deepest sympathy,


April 22, 2010

Five Great Finishing School Lessons: Pt 3, No, Thank YOU.

Filed under: Five Great...,Plumcake's Closet — Miss Plumcake @ 5:41 pm

Dearest Big Willie,

William you are the sweetest thing with two eyebrows on the face of this earth! Thank you so much for the monogrammed set of toothbrushes, I just adore them. I’ve needed a good toiletry set for ages and these are perfect. Now I can keep one at the cathedral and one at Lambeth, so you won’t have to go waking up the curates asking them to run to the corner shop. You’re so thoughtful! The whole thing reminds me of the time we were up all night writing “Canterbury Rules, York Drools” in toothpaste on Archbishop Sentamu’s Daewoo. The look on his face! We should definitely do it again soon…how is Pentecost looking for you? I’d love to express my appreciation in person. Thank you again and give my best to the Queen next time you see her, is she still made at us? I’m so embarrassed. Who would’ve thought palace walls would be so thin.

All my love,


That, my friend is how you write a thank-you note, which you should do. Often. On nice stationery with a proper pen. If you think you can get away without writing thank you notes you are wrong wrong wrongity wrong.  Email is handy, the telephone is fun, and texting is convenient but nothing will ever replace the thoughtfully written note of thanks, received in the mail.

Now, the received wisdom is “Nice Girls only use Crane” and rest assured, I love my Crane letterhead, but  for notes I’ve been a devotee of the California Classic Frame from Sassy Girl Stationery for years.

Plumcake's stationery

And since an order from Sassy Girl usually sets me back  less than $60 including embossed envelopes and monogram seals as compared to Crane where fifty embossed note cards would set me back over $300.  Crane IS better, but it’s not $240/yr better.

The format for writing a thank you note is as follows:

  • Salutation –If you are affectionate with the person, use an affectionate salutation. Otherwise use the appropriate business title and plain old “Dear”.
  • Opening Acclimation —This is finesse work and makes the note feel more conversational
  • First Thanks —You thank the person for the gift, specifying what it is.
  • Express Need — Let them know how your life was just a shell before their gift IF IT’S A BAD GIFT skip expressing need and put something nice about how flattered you are that Auntie Hilda was thinking about you.
  • Express intent —What you’re going to DO with the gift.
  • Personal Anecdote —Another bit of finesse work. Remind them of a happy time together.
  • Invitation —Invite them to keep in touch or have an activity together so you can thank them in person. If this isn’t plausible, at least express a wish.
  • Final Thanks —Thank them again and add a little “stinger” at the end to make them smile.
  • Closing —Love, Sincerely, whatever works for you and is appropriate.

April 21, 2010

Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Pt 2 Merci Mercy Me (ugh)

“Thank you.”

“Oh thank you! You’ve just made my day!”

“Stop, stop.  I couldn’t listen to more than another hour of this.”

“Well, one tries.”

“You’re too kind.”

“Can you write that down? I want to send it to my mother.”

“Aren’t you the sweetest thing?”

“Well, a girl’s gotta have a hobby.

Those are just some of my tried-and-true ways of accepting a compliment, today’s finishing school lesson.  For some reason we are just not taught how to respond graciously to a compliment.





I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told a girlfriend she looked fantastic only to have her automatically touch her hair or make a face and respond “No, I look awful.”

It takes all my generations of breeding and counting to ten not to snatch her bald and say “Listen, I’ve got better taste than you do. I’ve ALWAYS had better taste than you do,  so when I say you look nice, shut up and say ‘thank you’ because people pay me a LOT of money for my approval and it doesn’t come easily.”

And while I understand women are conditioned to deflect any compliment because GOD FORBID a woman think highly of herself (or worse, actually be BETTER than someone else) denying a honestly-paid compliment is one thing and one thing only:


Okay two things: rude and stupid.

Wait, three:  rude and stupid and annoying.

When you fail to accept a compliment graciously, it’s an insult to the person who paid it.

You wouldn’t go up to someone and say “Hi, you know your favorite green cardigan? It’s awful. Seriously. It looks like a tennis ball sexually assaulted your grandma.”  (well, I’d say that, but you all are nicer than I am) because obviously they LIKE the sweater and you don’t just go up to people and tell them they have bad taste, even if they really really deserve it.

This is doubly true in states with concealed handgun laws.

See, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the compliment or not. If someone says you have a lovely singing voice and you say you sound like a frog, what you’re telling this person is they have bad taste in music.


So, next time, instead of making an ass of yourself, make  A ASS of yourself:

Acknowledge – body language, a nodded head or a hand to the chest (preferably your chest) conveying you heard what they said and it’s touched you.

Accept – the actual words you use, “Thank you” is a good start. Keep it brief.

Smile – a smile lets them know they’ve made you happy, even if you don’t believe them

Shut up – Don’t devalue the compliment or try to repay it. You don’t want them to feel like they were fishing for a compliment of their own.

That’s it.

Feel free to use some of my favorites, but you’ll want to be careful with using humor at first since it’s so easy to be self-deprecating. Do your best to just say “Thank you” until you feel more comfortable.

Good luck!

April 20, 2010

Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Part 1, The Way I Walk

Filed under: Absolutely Fabulous,Elements of Style,Five Great... — Miss Plumcake @ 2:30 pm

As I mentioned yesterday is has been raining in Austin for the past three days, which is like a year and a half in Texas time, and since the Volvo is in the shop I have been partaking in the varied smells and delights of public transportation.

Now you’d think I would be anti-bus, what with me hating poor people and the environment and all, but you would be wrong; I heart the bus.

See, deep down (okay, not that deep down) I’m one of those Southerners who will have a conversation with anybody about anything (as long as it’s decent) and there are few things that give me more delight than asking how someone’s mama is.  Sometimes I ask even if I don’t really know the person, because they won’t know they haven’t said anything and odds are if you live in the South, you will ALWAYS have a story about your mama.

So that part of the bus is awesome, as is getting exercise first thing in the morning.  The part I do not relish is getting caught in the rain.

One might suspect that a girl who collects silk umbrellas wouldn’t get caught without one very often. Well, one would be wrong. Sometimes I’ll remember to take an umbrella, but odds are I’ll leave it somewhere.  If the homeless citizenry of Austin have, on average, a posher collection of parapluies  than the average city it’s mostly because I have personally bumbershot them all myself.  See also: Ray-Ban Classic Wayfarers (in tortoiseshell, if you please).

That being said, if you DO get caught in the rain there is an excellent life lesson to be learned (and it’s not “stop forgetting your stupid umbrella, you dingdong.”)

Walk gracefully in the rain.

I know, I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but trust me. Shoulders back, head up (like that little neck scrunch is going to do a darn thing to keep you dry anyway) determined –or at least not miserable– look and purposeful steps.

The moral of the story is this:

If you can walk with dignity in the rain, you can walk with dignity anywhere.

You can walk with dignity when you’ve been entirely humiliated by an ex-boyfriend, you can walk with dignity when you’ve been turned down for a promotion or laid off. You can walk with dignity even if you’ve just show the publisher of your newspaper your rear-end (festooned with Laundry Day Undies) because it’s the ONE FREAKIN’  DAY you forgot to wear a slip. You can walk with dignity and command a room before you even open your mouth if you’re called on to make a speech, and for safety reasons, you can walk with dignity down a dark street at night and make potential baddies think twice about messing with you.

How many of us really pay attention to our walks? And yet they say so much. Remember that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts lopes like a linebacker through the hotel lobby? Or Mister Humphries adorable mince in Are You Being Served?  What about John Wayne in pretty much everything? Just as much –perhaps more– than clothing, your walk defines how people see you and what’s better: it doesn’t cost a dime.
And for a little added tuition in the ambulatory arts, let’s hear from Professor Lux Interior and the rest of The Cramps playing The Way I Walk, live at Napa State Mental Hospital, 1978.

April 15, 2010

Five Great Linen Pieces: Part 4, The Lazy Sunday Outfit

Filed under: Fashion,Five Great...,How To Wear It — Miss Plumcake @ 1:29 pm

So it’s Sunday –well really it’s Friday, and it’ll be next Thursday when you read this, except it’ll be regular Thursday to you and Next Thursday will be NEXT next Thursday, by which time you’ll have passed Sunday, which is the day we’re pretending it to be. Got it? Moving on.

It is, as I said Sunday.  In my head, Sunday is a day where people loll around and do crossword puzzles and have all sorts of lazy but inventive sex because it’s Sunday, what else do they have to do?  In my actual  LIFE, Sundays are my busiest day of the week what with various clients and social obligations and  kicking ass for the Lord and all, but in my head? Crumpets and coitus, 100% of the time.

If ever I had a Sunday without anything to do but go to the farmer’s market and do Stuff White People Like I’d like to think I’d wear something like these:

linen pants

(click images for links)

These aren’t pajamas! I know! They’re ALMOST pajamas, but …and here’s the brilliant part…they’re NOT! Which means you can wear them outside. Plus you can sort of feel like you’re in that Dolce ss2009 show with all the Noel Coward glammy jammies.

Dolce SS2009

and I’d like to wear them with a slim-cut tunic or something easy in a bateau neck, like these silk/linen sweaters.

silk linen sweater olivesilk linen sweater

(how gorgeous is that model?!)

I know, they’re nothing on the screen BUT they’re heaven in person.

April 14, 2010

Five Great: Plumcake-tested Skin Care Products

Filed under: Five Great...,Makeup,Plumcake's Closet,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 12:38 pm

Know what I love? Stuff that works.

I feel like I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to find things that DO what they say they do.  And you know, I’m not raising kids or brokering world peace, but my time is still valuable.  I mean, I’m not in my twenties anymore…I’m only going to stay wrinkle-free and immaculately bosomed for so long, and each moment I spend in the grocery aisle debating which glass cleaner will make computer-generated birds fly into my French doors  is a moment I’m NOT slipping roofies into the bourbons of easily-entrapped elderly rich dudes and frankly, I just can’t live with that.

Another thing I love is “The Natural Look.”

No really, I do. Mine are some very lazy bones and although I am perfectly capable and willing to wear a full face of makeup when it is required, for the most part, my day look involves nada in the way of paints and powders.

I subscribe to the French technique  –it sounds fancier than just saying I’m lazy– which is relatively little in the way of actual cosmetics, but a serious skin care regime. Honestly, if you’ve got great skin and a well-shaped, flawlessly groomed brow (and if you’re me, a draconian position on unwelcome facial hair) you should –theoretically– be able to wake up, wash your face, moisturize and be ready for your close up.

Here are the exact products I use and love:

Full disclosure:

I’ve got big ole eyelash extensions comme ça, so keep in mind you might want to add a slick of mascara –or better yet, lash tinting– for a natural-but-polished look.

Plumcake mid-scrub

(oh what, you thought it was all glamor? This is mid-exfoliation, yo! And you say I don’t love you.)

Here is what I use for skin care:

Aveeno cleansing pads

Aveeno Positively Radiant Cleansing Pads

I was looking for something that didn’t require rinsing as I can’t get my eyelashes wet for 24 hours after a fill when I bought these by mistake. Happily it was one of those rare mistakes that work out in my favor.  My skin –which had been suffering– noticeably improved within a few days. Each pad has a little scrubby side and a lathery side. The scrubby side is perfect for gentle exfoliation, but when I want something a bit stronger –about once a week– I pour a little rice flour onto the pad and scrub it into my face.  Rice flour is an excellent and dirt cheap natural exfoliant. It doesn’t get super sudsy (see picture above) but has a nice little lather that rinses off easily.

Aveeno moisturizer

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30

This isn’t the best moisturizer/radiance serum I’ve ever used –those awards go to Sisley, Chanel and Caudelie– but it’s the best one I’ve found for under $90.  My skin tone is more even and brighter, and the lotion absorbs quickly, which is nice because “glowy” is a good look for me, “greased up like Charleton Heston” is not.

Olay Regenerist Firming night cream

Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Cream

I use this before bed, on top of my Aveeno moisturizer. Again, it’s not the best I’ve ever used but it’s the best for under $90, and it’s not markedly less effective than my $200 cream.  This is some thick goop though, so a little bit goes a long way. While I wouldn’t say it’s greasy, it stays on the skin longer than I’d like for day wear so this night cream really is better just at night.

CG Clear Mascara

Cover Girl Professional Natural Lash No Color Mascara

Really any old clear mascara should do to run over your brows to keep them nicely shaped for the day but I like giving my money to Cover Girl because I appreciate they use plus-size Queen Latifah and other women of color in their ads.  Next week (I hope) I’ll show you how I do my brows when I’m wearing makeup, but usually it’s just the clear mascara and a very good waxist.

lip venom

Lip Venom by DuWop

This is the perfect lip gloss because it just brings a flush of blood to your lips. I’ve never noticed any real lip plumping, but I’ve got a big mouth (hush, you know what I mean) so I’m not sure I’d notice it if it did. Incidentally, if you don’t have high coloring in your cheeks, a little bit of this on your fingertips and rubbed into your cheeks like a cream blush should do the trick.

So there you go, the five products I use every day to get a fresh, polished natural look. If you decide to try any of them –and I highly recommend them all– be sure to let us know!

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress