I'm becoming a believer. Mostly. First wash since the Brazilian Blowout and much to my delight, I did notice a difference. My hair retained that silkiness even after shampooing (they tell you to use a sulfate-free shampoo – like theirs; I already have the all-natural WEN, so I used that. I did get talked into the Brazilian Blowout deep conditioning masque, which might have made a difference in styling). Blow drying was a spectacular science project: no frizz! As I live and breathe, I've never seen anything like it. My hair looked like it had been flat-ironed. It hadn't. Now, that is not to say that it came out as good as it did in professional hands. There is no such thing as an automatic blowout – you either have that skill, or you don't. I don't. But given that I usually end up with a kinky, crazy stubborn mess – and that's when I try – this helped. My hair is smoother, more polished. No doubt about it.

Brazilblow My hair was flat-ironed once, blow-dried twice, painted with a protein treatment by three stylists and washed four times over the course of 90 minutes today. I was a model for a Brazilian Blowout training seminar at Spalon Montage. The treatment costs $200 to $250 and the promise is three months of silky smooth, frizz-free hair. Initial reaction: my hair is smooth, sleek, shiny and totally cooperative – but then, I would expect no less after three stylists – and a teacher – worked on it at the same time. True, they didn't use any finishing products to get it to stay in place and it does feel really silky. The real test will come when I attempt to style it myself…and when I take it on vacation, for a week of humidity, salt water and chlorine. Then I'll let you know if I'd recommend it.

Was just about to post the details of next week's Patina Odds & Ends Sale – always a popular and fruitful event for bargain seekers – when news broke about today's devastating fire that engulfed the Patina building at 50th & Bryant in South Minneapolis – also home to Patina's Shoppe Local, Stacey Johnson Jewelry and restaurants Heidi's and Blackbird. A Patina employee just told me no one was injured, but it appears the stores are a total loss. What a loss for a vibrant urban block, and for these locally owned businesses. For now, Patina plans to go on with the big sale next week, so pay them a visit – they're going to need the support. Details here.

Caught up today with the developer of The Shops at West End who has been working against odds to lease the new outdoor center at Highway 100 and 394 in St. Louis Park that broke ground just before the economy crashed. It's taken considerably longer than expected, but that's partly because they are sticking to their original upscale concept, targeting fashionable, urban women 20-55 who want the latest – as long as parking is convenient and free. The payoff will finally start to be realized in April and May with the opening of Lululemon Athletica yoga wear and Republic of Couture, a boutique-y chain offering trendy labels like William Rast and Hugo Boss for women and men. Both are new to the Twin Cities – an admirable goal of the developer's. (Anthropologie and Love Culture are currently holding down the retail front along with local fave Creative Kidstuff.) The other priority: a mix of local boutiques, and to that end: Uptown retailer Ini Iyamba has signed on to do an Ivy women and men's store and Amy Briesemeister will resurrect her Long Lake boutique Pink Champagne. Also opening this spring: Uber Baby and Hot Mama. Raze, a men's hair salon from Regis, is scheduled to open March 1, followed by Toby Keith's bar and grill the third week of March with more food concepts to come including Mexican, pizza, crepes, a wine bar and – fingers crossed – a local coffee/dessert joint that would be open late. As the action picks up this spring, don't be surprised if a few national chains flee their current Minneapolis or west metro (watch out, Ridgedale) homes to join West End.

Lucielu The "Lu" of plus size fashion e-tailer b&lu has parted ways with her Twin Cities-based sister, moved to Green Bay and launched her own contemporary plus size line: Lucie Lu. The similarities are undeniable: modern, feminine looks driven by style rather than size. Like b&lu, Lucie Lu is extremely price-conscious: Dresses for $39; jeans for $42. Where b&lu is quite whimsical, Lucie appears to be going for a somewhat more refined look, offering blazers with sheen and cable knit cardigans in addition to smart dresses and chic tops. Sibling rivalry looks to be a boon to the 1X to 5X fashionista.

FinnStylefurn Look what new fabric can do. FinnStyle saved these pieces from Dumpters – and made them modern with nothing more than Marimekko fabric. Check them out, and get design inspiration at the new FinnStyle store on Glenwood Avenue near downtown Minneapolis and International Market Square.

Peeptoeboot Schedule that pedicure a bit earlier this year – peep toe boots are big for spring. Anything's possible after the shoe-bootie, right? And while the peep toe boot seems destined for a short season between slushy streets and oppressive heat, it is the ultimate in transitional wardrobing, for those frustrating weeks when nothing looks quite right. This one, in a grayish-tan suede by Bettye Muller, is now on the shelves at Pumpz & Company at the Galleria in Edina. (Warning: it's $525. The trend's got to start somewhere.) 

The tweets started mere moments after the shocking news of fashion designer Alexander McQueen's untimely death: "RIP Alexander McQueen" or "Alexander McQueen, you will be missed" or a few hours later, which may as well be days in this immediate society we've created: "Just heard Alexander McQueen died! Whoa! So sad." I'm sure these posts come from a place of sadness or surprise, or at least wanting followers to know that you're up on the news. Is Twitter the new condolence card? Are we okay with that? If social networking is the modern day water cooler, then it makes sense we'd pay our respects to someone we knew only through the media and magazines (and amazing clothes – if you're lucky enough to shop at that level, or smart enough to shop at Target). It's weirder to me somehow when the tweets of grief come from those who actually knew the person – is this really the best way to express your loss? But then, it has become the way to express most everything we're feeling, thinking and doing and perhaps should not be interpreted as anything more than it is: a status update. There is a more formal online avenue to share condolences: Legacy.com - an online funeral guest book, really. The thoughts and memories live on…at least until a system crash.

Nothing says love like a good blowout. That's blowout – as in hair. Every girl loves one, and the always enterprising Jon Charles Salon is encouraging men to attend its popular Blow Dry Boot Camp for Valentine's Day. The salon says 10 brave gents have already signed on to learn how to style their loved one's locks. Lessons are available at the Uptown and Wayzata locations Friday, Feb. 12 to Sunday, Feb. 14. Bring your partner for the promotional price of $25. And guys, you'd better have a dinner reservation to follow: She's going to want to show off her new 'do, even if you can think of other things you'd rather do.

While it can't compete with Nordstrom on ambiance or designer goods, Walgreens – yes, Walgreens – intends to give personalized service a shot in the desperate days leading up to Valentine's Day. Thursday, Feb. 11 to Saturday, Feb. 13, the drug store will have "Personal Gift Advisors" available at select locations (sales associates from the beauty counter will assume the temporary role). Allow them to escort you from candy to cards to…personal hygiene – or maybe plush toys? If anyone should know the right Rx, it's Walgreens. This is Walgreens' first foray into personal shopping   – a free service that has become increasingly popular in tough times at upscale clothing chains like J. Crew and Anthropologie. "We want to help the clueless male at a store he's familiar with," spokeswoman Danielle Rabin said. "So he doesn't have to go to Victoria's Secret."