Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some of Oscar de la Renta's Great Hits

Oscar de la Renta couture designs for Balmain in the recently closed retrospective of the designer's work, "Oscar de la Renta Five Decades of Style," at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Photo courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

A ladies man. From ladies who lunch, to first ladies to leading ladies to young ladies taking those first baby steps into full womanhood, he dressed them all.

Sandra Bullock in Oscar de la Renta at the 76th Annual Academy Awards in 2004. Archive photo.

Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo. Though the fashion world is in deep mourning over the death Monday at 82 of the man known the world over as Oscar de la Renta, the designer will live on through the exquisite frocks that emanated from his atelier. These are shoes that shan't easily – if ever – be filled.

Oscar de la Renta with models wearing his designs in 1973 at his induction into the Coty Hall of Fame. The award was bestowed on the designer in 1967 and 1968. Archive photo.

“I want to make clothes that people will wear, not styles that will make a big splash on the runway,” ODLR has said.

Yet his runway was the setting for both. Accessible. Transportive. Elegant. One could literally quit the runway for lunch or gala or awards ceremony without upsetting sartorial sensibilities. (See video of September's Spring 2014 show).

A citizen of both his native Dominican Republic and the United States, ODLR, along with Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene, helped put U.S. fashion on the maps that the doubtful and dismissive European gatekeepers were reading. Of course, ODLR was helped by having work in France. He understood the importance of having that city on his resume.

Then First Lady Laura Bush (with first dogs) in Oscar de la Renta outside the White House. Photo courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

“If you want to establish an international presence you can't do so from New York,” he once remarked. “You need the consecration of Paris.”

Jacqueline Kennedy was the first of the presidential wives to wear Oscar de la Renta. Archive photo.

Long after he had made a huge name for himself and won many prestigious awards, this old workhorse nimbly and shrewdly continued to evolve with the times and technology. He did not rest on his laurels. Many products beyond clothes and fragrances bear the de la Renta moniker ...

It is natural to mourn, but long after the mourning period comes to an end, a beautiful and bountiful legacy will continue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shaking Your Groove Thing and Other Powerful Weapons in the War on Breast Cancer

Get moving to lower the weight and risk of breast cancer. Archive photos.

This time of year, this month, more than any other time of the year, women (and men) are admonished and reminded to do regular checks and to undertake other preventative measures.

It is October and it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Consequently, a spotlight is on breast cancer, this decreasingly major killer, on the strides that have been made in eradicating it. A time of year when survivors celebrate, when fundraising and information initiatives are in overdrive.

Contributing to the general awareness are two of the country's top cancer-fighting institutions – the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. They suggest eight ways to significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting breast cancer.

These are common-sense approaches, some or all, of which many have likely been encouraged to undertake at one time or another, including the individuals quoted throughout:

1. Keep weight in check
It’s easy to tune out because it is said so often, but maintaining a healthy weight should be an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Post-menoopausal hormones have adverse effects if taken for long periods of time.

2. Exercise
Exercise is as close to a silver bullet for good health as there is. Women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to help keep weight in check.

It drove home, personally, the value of early detection and education and intervention.Janet Napolitano

3. Drink (alcohol) in moderation
Alcohol can be good for the heart, but when it comes to cancer, there’s really nothing good about it. Even moderate amounts increase the risk of breast cancer. In general, if you drink moderately (no more than one drink a day for women), the overall health benefits of drinking outweigh the risks. But if you don’t drink, don’t feel that you need to start.

Having cancer does make you try to be better at everything you do and enjoy every moment. It changes you forever. But it can be a positive change. Jaclyn Smith

4. Breastfeed, if possible
Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child.

My first thought was, 'Really? Me, breast cancer?' I just couldn't believe it.Wanda Sykes

5. Avoid birth control pills (particularly after age 35 or if you smoke)
Birth control pills have both risks and benefits. The younger a woman is, the lower the risks. While women are taking birth control pills, they have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk goes away quickly, though, after stopping the pill.

Avoiding excessive alcohol can prevent a multitude of ill, including breast cancer.

The risk of stroke and heart attack also is increased while on the pill – particularly if a woman smokes. However, long-term use also can have important benefits, like lowering the risk of ovarian cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer – not to mention unwanted pregnancy – so there’s also a lot in its favor. If you’re very concerned about breast cancer, avoiding birth control pills is one option to lower risk.

6. Don't take post-menopausal hormones
Postmenopausal hormones shouldn’t be taken long term to prevent chronic diseases, like osteoporosis and heart disease. Studies show they have a mixed effect on health, increasing the risk of some diseases and lowering the risk of others, and both estrogen-only hormones and estrogen-plus-progestin hormones increase the risk of breast cancer.

If women do take post-menopausal hormones, it should be for the shortest time possible. The best person to talk to about the risks and benefits of post-menopausal hormones is a personal physcian.

Men get it . I think us men need you women to help us survive.Peter Criss

7. Learn your family history
Women with a strong family history of cancer can take special steps to protect themselves, so it’s important for women to know their family history.

You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age) or if you have multiple family members (including males) who developed breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.A doctor or genetic counselor can help you understand your family history of the disease.

Cancer is really heard to go through and it's really hard to watch someone you love go through, and I know because I have been on both sides of the equation.Cynthia Nixon

Tamoxifen has been found to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in those at high risk for contracting it.

8. Take Tamoxifen and raloxifene (for women at high risk)
Although not commonly thought of as a “healthy behavior,” taking the prescription drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene can significantly lower the risk of breast cancer in woman at high risk of the disease.

Approved by the FDA for breast cancer prevention, these powerful drugs can have side effects, so they aren’t right for everyone. If you think you’re at high risk, talk to your doctor to see if tamoxifen or raloxifene may be right for you.

Fight each round take it on the chin. And never, never, never ever give in.Olivia Newton-John

Visit to learn more about breast cancer prevention, treatment and other aspects of the disease.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

NYCWFF Day 3: A Bloody, Jamaican Crazy, Stacked and Fit to be Thaied Smoke Revival

The Jamaican Crazy Bloody Mary created by Robert McShea is a hangover starter. Photos by Yours Truly.

IT has the makings of a curative: Yellow Heirloom Tomato Puree, Agave Nectar. One is sure of it: Lemon, Mango Chip. Perhaps, though, Yours Truly is being a little naive: “Bloody Jerk” mix, Prawn, ABSOLUT Citron.

Still seduced by mango and lemon, I venture the question burning my lips like those Jamaican spices on the rim of the cup, “Is this a hangover cure?”

Robert McShea regards me as if he is explaining that 1 +1 = 2. “It's a hangover starter.”

Perhaps, too, the name should have been a clue about the origins of the “Jamaican Crazy.” It is the libation that the barman and assistant General Manager of The Duck Dive in San Diego, Calif. has concocted for the “'CHOPPED' Best Bloody Mary Brunch perfected by ABSOLUT.”

Jamaican Crazy is one of the Bloody Marys in the running for “Best Bloody Mary in America.” Alas, it did not attain that distinction – it would go to David Wakefield's "A Bloody Beaux Thai" – but it is delicious and innocuous-tasting. Further, it is clearly only a take on the famous drink with its bright mango coloring. As the saying goes, it's all good.

Is it bad form for Robert Irvine's (Restaurant: Impossible) Smoked Expresso Rubbed Brisket Sandwich to have won the
Stacked: A Sandwich Showdown 
presented by Martin's Famous Potato Rolls hosted by Restaurant: Impossible's Robert Irvine?
In any case, clearly there was something special about the lineup of Expresso dry rubbed smoked beef brisket, grilled onions, taleggio cheese, horseradish aioli and crispy pickled jalapenos on a Martin's hoagie roll ... The whole is quite yummy; the beef so tender and succulent, it almost felt liquidy.

There is lot of good at the 2014 Food Network New York City Wine&Food Festival on Saturday, the busiest day of the four-day bacchanal. That includes Stacked: A Sandwich Showdown presented by Martin's Famous Potato Rolls hosted by Restaurant: Impossible's Robert Irvine and Riesling Revival hosted by Eric Hemer Celebrity Cruises® Wine Seminars hosted by FOOD & WINE.

Today – LAST DAY – for two good causes: Food Bank For New York City Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign, there is more good stuff.

Offerings include: Down-Home Country Brunch hosted by Trisha Yearwood, Chocolate and Whiskey Pairing, Anolon Cookware presents The Art of Pasta Making, Oktoberfest, Dale's Dim Sum Party and the second and final Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite

Meanwhile, the “'CHOPPED' Best Bloody Mary Brunch" has also presented an opportunity to catch up with one of its chefs and former “CHOPPED” champ, Dinah Surh. (

The effervescent DS dished on her brunch dish, Korean Sweet and Spicey BLT w/Pinenut Mayonnaise: “I just love everything having to do with bacon.”

On her “CHOPPED” (hosted by Ted Allen) victory earlier this year: “When Ted Allen announced that, 'Dinah you are the chopped champion', I was just on top of the world. I felt Iwas in the moon. I was so excited that I did a horsey dance!”

And some things she would do with $1 million if she is the overall victor in a major cooking contest next month: “I would love to start a food career and publish a cookbook.” (See video above).

Eight is enough for the Riesling Revival hosted by Eric Hemer Celebrity Cruises® Wine Seminars hosted by FOOD & WINE. What say the experts about some of the wines:
2010 Villa Maria Riesling Cellar Selection (New Zealand), “Forthright.” It says, “I'm great, drink me”;
2012 Lamoreaux Landing Dry Riesling (New York), “green apples, peach”;
2010 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett (Germany), “Old World,” “honey,” “All the things you want in a Riesling.”

Yes siree, Saturday is a good day at NYCWFF.

Visit to learn more about the 2014 Food Network Wine & Food Festival, including schedule, tickets and venue.
Visit to learn more about Food Bank For New York City;
Visit to learn more about Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.

Friday, October 17, 2014

NYCWFF Day 2: A LAMB-MARC (by Murphy) Is Judges' Best at Blue Moon Burger Bash

Marc Murphy (center, pointing), flanked by Racheal Ray (third from left) and others, created the winning burger in the Blue Moon Burger Bash competition. Photo by Yours Truly.

THE spiced ground lamb and mint chimichurri are in perfect harmony. The lamb is nice and crunchy on the outside. On the inside it is moist, juicy, medium-rare. Somebody's palate is having a moment.

The LAMB-MARC came in as a lamb but went out like a lion. The “hamburger” created by Marc Murphy of Landmarc (Time Warner Center) emerged at the top of the judges' list, beating out more than 25 others earlier tonight during the Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray.

In the 2014 Food Network New York City Wine&Food Festival (NYCWFF) ever-popular event, the LAMB-MARC had some stiff competition, including from 5 Napkin Burger's Beef Knockwurst Burger, a confection crafted from Muenster cheese, bacon and mustard onions.

Another worthy competitor is Ramen Co.'s Ramen Burger, made from prime ground chuck, secret shoyu sauce, scallions and arugula. It is dressed with the signature ramen noodle bun, one of the few burgers in competition that did not use the bread provided by sponsor, Martin's Famous Potato Rolls and Bread. Once again, Pat LaFrieda brought the meat.

The LAMB-MARC burger is not meek and mild. Photo by Yours Truly.

Two that deserve an honorable mention are Brindle Room's Brindle Room Burger and the Meister Shack from Shake Shack. The former hews toward minimalism. It is a dry-aged burger on bun. The well-done patty is crunchy throughout but is packed with flavor. The latter benefits from the fireworks set off by the chemistry between the cheese and crispy beer-marinated shallots.

Meanwhile, one can infer that MM is surprised by his victory. He seems a little shell-shocked; he has that deer-in-the headlights look as he navigates his way to the stage, a plastic glass of Blue Moon beer on hand and in hand. He didn't have much to say for himself.

His burger did the talking.

Elsewhere, tomorrow, one big day for NYCWFF's two good causes: Food Bank For New York City Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.

The two Marthas are burning at "'CHOPPED' Best Bloody Mary Brunch, Cooking with One Pot: A Master Class, and MasterCard® Priceless® New York Demo Pass at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite. (

Riesling is getting its sexy back. Photo courtesy of New York City Wine and Food Festival.

Indeed, NYCWFF Day 3 is full to bursting. Some of the other events on tap: Foie Gras Fête, Jets + Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate hosted by Joe Namath and Mario Batali, Brilliant Bubbles hosted by Ray Isle and Riesling Revival hosted by Eric Hemer.

Also on the schedule are Expect The Unexpected A Panel Discussion at Bumble and bumble, the first Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite and another marquee event, CASAMIGOS Tequila presents Tacos & Tequila: A Late Night Fiesta sponsored by Mohegan Sun hosted by Bobby Flay.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

There Is Room for Two Marthas at the 2014 Food Network NYC Wine&Food Festival

'Cue tips from one Martha to another. Photos from Dinah Surh Web site.

IN the culinary world, when one invokes the name, “Martha,” everybody knows the person. It's a one-moniker situation akin to Prince, Madonna, Beyonce.

Well, this year at the 2014 Food Network New York City Wine&Food Festival, which starts tomorrow (through 19 Oct.), there will be another Martha (Stewart), the Korean variety, so named by MARTHA herself. Introducing Dina Surh.

The Senior Executive Administrator at Morrisania Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Bronx has been setting the culinary world afire over the last couple of years or so. And she will be bringing the heat to the kitchen on Saturday for NYCWFF's “'CHOPPED' Best Bloody Mary Brunch.”

Dinah Surh with her "CHOPPED" mystery ingredients basket.

DS is no stranger to “CHOPPED.” She is a past winner. Her winning dishes were: Appetizer, Asian Fried Chicken with Fennel and Ginger Sauce; Entree, Grilled Tika Masala Hanger Steak with Linguine Carbonara; Dessert, Guava Cottage Cheese Sabayon with Candy-Infused Berries. Yum, yum and yum.

That win qualified DS to compete last month in the Food Network’s Ultimate CHOPPED Champions Tournament.

DS is indeed hot. She has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show and The Martha Stewart Show, where she told herself a thing or two about Korean barbecue.

Speaking of, original Martha will be busy at NYCWFF on Saturday, too. She will preside over Cooking with One Pot: A Master Class and MasterCard® Priceless® New York Demo Pass at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite.

To continue to expound on the hotness of MS's protege, the native New Yorker also has been a staple on the Staten Island Advance newspaper cooking contest circuit. She is a past grand prize winner of its “Scallop Up” competition. Her winning dish was a Bay Scallop and Potato Pancake Appetizer.

Next month, the woman who has disclosed that she started entering cooking contests because she has “a love for all things food related,” will compete in the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest and a chance for $1 million. Perhaps, this third (and final) time will be the charm. The recipe that won her one of the 100 spots is “Spinach Turkey Sliders with Lemon Yogurt Sauce.”

What will DS whip up for the “'CHOPPED' Best Bloody Mary Brunch?” All-day Breakfast Sliders or Korean Cucumber Salad (See video above)? Not likely. This is a “CHOPPED” affair, after all. It's a mystery.

Dinah Surh's spinach turkey sliders can potentially be the most expensive ever.

It is no mystery, however, that the dishes will be prepared in the name of two good causes, Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.

Visit to learn more about the 2014 Food Network Wine & Food Festival, including schedule, tickets and venue.
Visit to learn more about Food Bank For New York City.
Visit to learn more about Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.
Visit to learn more about Dinah Surh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Positive Evidence That a Simple 'Thank You' Can Win Friends and (Possibly) Influence People

Monica Y. Bartlett (center) in the classroom at Gonzaga University. Photo by Rajah Bose.

THANK you. Two simple words that have serve humankind well throughout the age.

Though increasingly missing from interpersonal communications in the United States, research shows that expressing them shows good manners, of course. Significantly, however, in a first, research shows that saying thank you – expressing and showing gratitude – can foster new relationships, leading to a multitude of good.

“Our study was the first to show evidence that yes, indeed, an expression of gratitude could help to initiate a new relationship,” Monica Y. Bartlett, one of the two researchers and social psychologists, is quoted as saying on the Newswise wire service. MYB, of Gonzaga University (Spokane, Washington), conducted the study with Lisa A. Williams of the University of New South Wales (Australia).

“Our study shows just how important it is to say thank you to someone. A simple thank you leads people to view you as a warmer human being and, consequently, to be more interested in socially engaging with you and continuing to get to know you to build a relationship with you.” (See video below).

The study, Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression Facilitates Social Affiliation in New Relationships via Perceived Warmth, will be appearing in an upcoming issue of the journal, “Emotion.”

MYB has conducted extensive research on how an attitude of gratitude leads people to behave in more thoughtful, helpful and kind ways. Research has also shown that gratitude experienced more deeply and more often is linked to many benefits for people, including increases in well-being and decreases in depression.

Through their Warm Thanks study, she and LAW were also able to confirm the findings of University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) psychology professor Sara B. Algoe in Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. It is a (2012) study suggesting that expressions of gratitude can potentially lead to the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

There are numerous possible explanations for gratitude’s benefits but more research is necessary to determine why it is so beneficial, MAB stresses.

In the MYB and LAW's study of 70 university undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 26, they told them that their mentoring of a high school student would take the form of critiquing a university admission essay. A week later mentors received a handwritten note that they believed was from their mentee.

Half of the notes read, “I received your feedback through the editing program. I hope to use the paper for my college applications.”

The other half read, “I received your feedback through the editing program. Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put into doing that for me! I hope to use the paper for my college applications."

The undergraduate mentors who were thanked were more likely to consider their mentees appreciative and warm. Further, these mentors were more likely to want to have further interactions with the mentee, resulting in some sharing their contact information. Mentors who were not thanked expressed no such interest.

In their concluding remarks, MYB and LAW write in part, “As is the case with many colloquialisms, we suggest that there is some truth to the phrase 'warm thanks.' ”

Curious about why MYB undertook such a study, which on the surface seems elementary, Yours Truly fired off a few questions. She answered!:

YOURS TRULY: What inspired the study?
Monica Y. Bartlett: I have been working on the functions of the emotion gratitude since graduate school. I am interested in the ways in which positive emotional experiences help to better our lives.

YT: What surprised you the most and least about your findings?
MYB: I was not surprised to find that participants rated the grateful mentee as warmer but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they also were more willing to leave their actual contact information (phone number or email address) to continue socializing with the mentee.

YT: How can the findings be incorporated into everyday life by government, institutions, industry and individuals?

MYB Failing to show gratitude may carry significant costs! Slowing down for a minute to notice someone else’s kindness or hard work and TELLING them so may help to strengthen their impressions of YOU and help to continue building a good relationship between the two of you.

YT: Can the findings be applied to all cultures? If not, what are some prescriptions you suggest for cultures that cannot be helped by these findings:
MYB: We don’t know for sure at this time as the study has only been done here in the U.S.

YT: What, if any, caveats do you offer as it regards these findings?
MYB: We need to examine whether ALL expressions of thanks are equal in the good they do. That is, are some expressions of gratitude more authentic than others? If so, what happens if someone believes your expression of thanks to be inauthentic?

YT: Thanks.

Visit to read an abstract or the full text of “Warm Thanks: Gratitude Expression Facilitates Social Affiliation in New Relationships via Perceived Warmth.”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

'You Can't Take It With You' Is Back Again and As Dazzling as Ever

Kristine Nielsen and Mark Linn-Baker are oddballs who live under a strange roof in "You Can't Take It With You." Photos by Joan Marcus.


before the sitcom came into everyone's living room, there was a great American comedy deeply ingrained in theatrical tradition.

"You Can't Take It With You," in a beautifully staged and spectacular revival at the Longacre Theatre through 4 Jan. 2015, is a bright and shining part of that heritage.

"#YCTIWY," as it is widely advertised, is George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Pulitzer-winning play, written in 1936 and first produced at the Booth Theatre from December of that year until December 1938.

The show has been on Broadway stages often over the years since, most recently in 1983. As reincarnated here with a gorgeous set by David Rockwell and under the expert guidance of Scott Ellis, "#YCTIWY" is as sparkly and modern a rom-com as any seen in years. (See video below).

Rose Byrne is the face of normalcy and James Earl Jones is the indulging patriarch in "You Can't Take It With You."

The Sycamores, mother Penny (Kristine Nielsen), father Paul (Mark Linn-Baker), daughter Essie (Annaleigh Ashford) and her husband, Ed Carmichael (Will Brill), live under Penny's father's beneficent roof. Grandpa is Martin Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) who indulges all their eccentricities and has some of his own.

Penny writes plays. Paul builds fireworks, with the assistance of Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), another of grandpa's houseguests. Although her talents are limited, Essie dances under the tutelage of the boisterous Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers.)

The household is regulated by the family's maid, Rheba (Crystal A. Dickinson) and her live-in beau, Donald (Marc Damon Johnson.) Only Alice Sycamore (Rose Byrne) seems immune from the unconventional.

Unlike the rest of the gathered brood, she holds an ordinary job as a secretary at a Wall Street firm. There, she and the boss's son, Tony (Fran Kranz), have fallen in love.

When Tony's straitlaced parents, Anthony Kirby, Sr. (Byron Jennings) and his wife and Tony's mother, Miriam (Johanna Day), drop in for dinner the antics of the Sycamore extended clan threaten Alice and Tony's happiness.

Rounding out the assembled visitors and residents is Olga (Elizabeth Ashley), Kolenkhov's friend and a grand duchess. She drops by to make blintzes and add to the madcap. An IRS agent named Henderson (Karl Kenzler) also stops in, along with a few Justice Department chaps (Nick Corley, Austin Durant and Joe Tapper).

Elizabeth Ashley is a grand lady with a recipe in "You Can't Take It With You."

The performances in "You Can't Take It With You" are universally grand. RR and EA provide the over-the-top and slapstick elements. JEJ, especially, gives an affecting and subtle performance as the patriarch. RB and FK are charming lovers.

The teamwork on display in this brilliant ensemble is wonderful to watch.

Visit to learn more about “You Can't Take It With You.”
Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at