06/23/2017

Ultimate Guide to Leisure Activities

Leisure activities are not just the sport of Victorian ladies who could paint tea cups while keeping their crepe dresses spotless. Leisure is a fancy word for unplugged. That novel concept of turning off your devices and returning to the activities that padded your childhood, a childhood you survived despite the inability to engage in a cyber world that offers you everything from slaying an Ender Dragon to reading about Kate Middleton’s breakfast.

Cards offer countless options for leisure play.

Weave classic play into your lifestyle and you may find such benefits as crisper thoughts, improved health and overall calmer existence. Create a “Leisure Activity Day” in the same spirit as donuts at the office on Casual Fridays. Secure a weekend where electronics are outlawed. (Yes, that includes anything with a plug). Then revisit customs that may require some physical or mental activity.

Once you hit the pedal, cycling revs the spirit.

Weather is a natural consideration. If the day is worthy of the season, fill the bicycle’s tires with air, liberate the garden tools from the shed or take your dog for an epic walk so she will reconnect to her true canine spirit. Allow the kids to fight off the bramble, dressed in long socks and coated in bug spray (ticks are the new Gollum) for a quest that acquaints them with enchanted play.

On rainy days there are options besides undergoing the hypnosis of screen viewing. Play board games, cards, crafts and puzzles—there’s a reason why these activities are still thriving in rec rooms at camps—it’s fundamentally enjoyable.

We provide a list of those activities that are worth your leisure efforts.

Leisure Activities Refresher 101:

Baking
Bike riding
Bird watching/nature expeditions
Cards
Chess/Checkers/Backgammon
Coloring
Collecting
Crafts
Croquet
Crosswords
Creative writing
Dog walking
Flower arranging
Journal writing
Kiting
Gardening
Needlepoint/sewing
Music/instruments
Park exploration
Photography
Pottery
Puzzles
Reading
Recreational sports
Scrapbooking
Sketching
Woodworking

Resources:

Frederick & Mae playing cards: http://www.papress.com/html/product.details.dna?isbn=9781616893590&ipA25
Board games: https://www.hasbro.com/en-us/brands/monopoly
Chess set: https://www.burkedecor.com/collections/wild-wolf/products/chess-design-by-wild-wolf
Townie Electra bike: http://www.electrabike.com/Bikes/townie
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06/17/2017

Entertain like a Parisian

After days of taking in mansard roofs and sculptures with missing arms, a repose from the bustle of Paris happened within a sort of private museum. The home of my cousin is a mix of personalized art collections mixed with family life, an apt representation of a people who can pull off skinny suits and dresses with avant garden cuts like no other. This innate style translates to home and entertaining.

A lavish table spread relates to the grandeur of the dining room.

The Setting:

We marvel at the French’s ability to execute simple sophistication–personified in this setting via bundles of flowers set in stubby silver urns, three tiered candelabras, a layering of heavy tablecloths and mix of tableware.

The table is a centerpiece within a dining room that displays collections in every possible nook. Museum-worthy drawings, paintings and important collections take you to a time where guests dressed in wigs and shoe buckles (one of my cousins collections). The walls are painted in regal mint green trimmed with gilded moldings. Above a Juliet balcony leads to a private room. Even the omission of industrial, air conditioned blasts confirm our presence in a Parisian space.

The Meal:

Forget dietary constraints of finicky guests or meals delivered in aluminum trays, there was a selection of foods that encouraged sampling. The variety of small plats relates to the early June season with prosciutto, trays of cheese, cold ham, breads, tapenade and large bowls of cherries, apricots and potato chips–a favorite with the younger guests. A tray of gazpacho and pureed pea served in orange juice glasses was well received. Champagne was the main drink of the evening.

Such an intimate setting united guests and gave insight into the customs of gracious hosts. Gathering over food and drink is always a good idea.

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06/09/2017

Decorating with Flowers – Peonies

I fall for limited editions. Perfume, ice cream flavors, printed socks–an exclusive holds cache. Peonies exude cache. Every year from late May to early June their tight fisted buds explode into feathery pink flowers that grip us with their scent and style. Part of the attraction is that as quickly as they enchant they then shrivel into the ground, like that icy beauty who will seduce and then leave town with someone cooler. Call it the limited edition flowers.

A bedside vignette takes on some va va voom with fully bloomed peonies. Note the linking colors of soft pastels, gold with a shock of pink.

Styling with flowers is a simple exercise, just allow the flowers to lead the direction. I always pick what’s seasonal and then see how they work within my scheme. Add accents, like jewelry boxes, dishes and decorative candles to build your vignette.

Even in a room with a different color scheme, the addition of a vibrant statement color through flowers contours the look to a styled direction.

Regardless of whether the flowers match your design or not, anything natural will always fit in.

A fresh bundle of peonies is so dramatic they add beauty without supporting cuttings.

Connect with color, textiles and art for a timeless look.

It’s not necessary to designate to your most public spaces–bedrooms, bathrooms, the office–all rooms deserve a floral touch.

Bring some style, and inspiration, to your work area with flowers.

 

06/02/2017

Ultimate Boy’s Birthday Party

A styled celebration with games is not exclusive to brides-to-be or expecting moms who have to wear silly hats made from the gift wrapping. You can tastefully host a group of elementary schoolers without depending on a Xbox truck.

Such was the agenda with my son’s seventh birthday. In fact, the main source of entertainment was chests of sporting goods dragged from the shed. Then something miraculous and innovative happened. Luc and his guests created their own games! Yes, that old-fashioned concept where children use their imagination to entertain. While moderation was needed for a few moments where the play became a tad aggressive in homage to Lord of the Flies, overall it was fun and they got their after school ya yas out. What may be most surprising is that they chose to play over breaking for the inviting spread of food, which included sweet options. Playtime trumped eating. My son actually became slightly annoyed when I intruded on their activity to see if he and his guests would like to have the cake.

Assemble a group of boys, add some sporting goods, and healthy play happens. Batteries not needed.

The scheme of the party centers around the season. Luc’s birthday fortunately falls on June 1. Its subtle launch into summer has always revolved around an outdoor/at home party. While organization and cleanup can be a challenge, I mix festive dishware in our color palette with paper plates, napkins, cake topper and straws that share the look.

 

A mix of paper goods with my own pieces, which are both attractive and cuts on cleanup time.

A colorful cake topper can compensate for an imperfect homemade cake.

We have created an annual tradition where Luc picks the kind of cake he wants for us to bake. This year he chose lemon with vanilla frosting and coconut. However, as a working mother, I always have a bakery back up as insurance for a possible cooking catastrophe. I had been scouting the fondant cookies at my local market since Memorial Day and became overly enthusiastic when, on the morning of the party, they had cookies made as hotdogs, lemonade and watermelon. It was meant to be. Every year we serve Luc’s favorites of seasonal watermelon and lemonade drunk from small milk jars.

To accommodate the young guests, and offer something that’s not pulled from a cardboard box, we had hotdogs, corn, fruit and a cold Greek pasta salad simply made with penne, cut tomatoes, onion, cucumber and an Italian vinaigrette.

As the table is being set, the colors of seasonal foods stand out.

Greek pasta made with vegetables, feta cheese and diced herbs from the garden.

Overall the young guests enjoyed themselves and were reacquainted to classic celebrating.

Blowing the candles brings out the best in a birthday boy.

05/26/2017

Ultimate Surf Shacks

Surf shacks bring to mind homes filled with beach finds a crusty sea captain would favor. Surf Shack//Laid Back Living by the Water by Nina Freudenberger proves the contrary. While the coastal-inspired homes do feature sandy spaces and dwellers with salt streaked hair in cut offs, they are also personal and curated.

A sunroom porch is styled with such beach staples as striped pillows and fouta throw. Blue ceiling are thought to ward off spirits but the dweller simply loves the look.

Freudenberger takes an anthropological interest in surf culture. She connects to profiles who are disengaged from mornings draining lidded coffees in pursuit of a 9:00 a.m. meeting, a dichotomy intimately understood from experiencing an east (Manhattan) to west (Venice) relocation. There is an admiration of a surfer’s daily incentive to get to the waves and not the office, cultivating a life central to that ambition. “A surf shack is not built around what you think you need, so much as it is about an understanding of all the things you don’t,” says Freudenberger.

A handprinted surfboard is at one with the artful design.

The spaces welcome imperfection–a style set around loved items over monied design. Call it relaxed authenticity. They traverse territories, ranging from California, Australia, Japan and New York. Residents are a mix of young families, creative people and entrepreneurs of a no-tie variety.

Eco-friendly fabric swatches from the Eskayel line seamlessly pair with a colorful surfboard in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn home of the Eskayel line’s owners.

5 Characteristics of Surf Shack Style

  1. Whether you are 500 steps or 500 miles from the swell, design has a connection to the outdoors through natural elements like plants and abundant sunlight.
  2. Room will always be made for personal collections and local art.
  3. Layer the look through textiles, color and materials.
  4. Impromptu guests are welcomed.
  5. Surfboards are part of the decor.

Reprinted from Surf Shack. Copyright © 2017 by Nina Freudenberger. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Brittany Ambridge. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

05/20/2017

Ultimate “Healthy” Ice Cream Social

Ice cream. Forget yoga chants or preaching motivational snippets in the mirror, just say ice cream and you’re instantly grounded, squeezing back into your little kid self where life’s punches could be soothed from one lick of the frosty sweet pleasure. Eating ice cream has the ability to lighten a mood. Experiencing marital discord? Go out for ice cream. The kids are not getting along? Ice cream. Inter-office conflicts? You get it.

Creative flavors abound with natural ingredients you can read from Halo Top.

Though the fine print killjoy of an ice cream obsession includes weight gain, high blood pressure and other health offenders. There is a solution. Taste your way through all natural, low sugar varieties, which is a great option if you are a pint eater like myself.

Phin & Phebes offers innovative flavors with natural ingredients that don’t scrimp on taste.

 

Ice Cream + real ingredients = happy

Ellen McCormick, Phin and Phebes head of business development, enjoys a good bowl of artisnal ice cream in such flavors as Vanilla Cinnamon and Toasted Green Tea churned with real ingredients. Says McCormick, “I generally prefer to eat things made with simple ingredients, and a lot of the so-called ‘healthy’ ice cream out there is loaded with a lot of ingredients I can’t even pronounce. I’d rather eat something that has more calories but is made with simple ingredients than something that’s low calorie and made with ingredients that make me wonder just how healthy it actually is.”

Take this sensual exercise further by hosting an ice cream tasters party where guests can sample their way through assorted flavors and espouse informed notes on their findings. To create your event, simply serve ice cream by the pint, whipped cream, and enough toppings to rival your local ice cream parlor. Pull in those soda fountain details to seal the theme.

Toppings:

Berries
Candy
Chia seeds
Cinnamon
Crushed peppermint
Coffee
Cereal
Chocolate sauce
Coconut
Cookie crumbs
Dried fruit
Flavored seltzer
Fruit
Fudge
Granola
Graham crackers
Gummy bears
Jam
Honey
Marshmallows
Nuts
Nut butter
Pie crumbs
Pretzels
Sprinkles

Resources:

Halo Top ice cream: https://www.halotop.com
Phin and Phebes ice cream: http://phinandphebes.com
Ice cream bowls: https://www.duralexusa.com/tableware/Gigogne-Ice-Cream-Cups-cat28.html
Viva dessert spoons: https://www.frenchbull.com/collections/colorful-scoop-dessert-spoons/products/viva-dessert-spoon-set-of-6
Wooden paddle spoon: https://hardwood-stix.com/popsicle-sticks-craft-sticks/ice-cream-sticks-and-spoons/3.6-wood-taster-spoon
Paper napkins: www.caspari.com
Red cloth tea towel: www.Robertarollerrabbit.com
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05/13/2017

Bee Aware – Shop the Bumblebee Look

Napoleon anointed the bee icon as a symbol of power. Winnie the Pooh * perpetually warded off bees in his quest for a honey fix. Bees are a timeless motif. While they are as complex as a femme fatal, they are an essential part of the food chain. Who doesn’t love warm toast smeared with the golden nectar?

Keep the bee in flight.

Sadly bees have been put on the endangered list for the first time. Certain pesticides and diminishing natural food sources are some offenders, making awareness increasingly important. Beekeeper Andrew Coté of Andrew’s Honey not only operates a family honey business but founded Bees Without Borders, where he roams the world to educate poverty stricken communities on the trade. Increase the buzz by adding bee beauty to the everyday.

  1. Bee print 2. Honey tin 3. Stationery 4.  5. Sealing stamp 6. Ring 7. Wine charmers 8. Honey 9. Tea towel 10. Tattoos 11. Wallpaper 12. Door knocker 13. Cushion cover 14. Carafe set

* For more information on supporting the honey bee and to download the ‘bee-friendly’ guide inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh and friends visit www.friendsofthehoneybee.com

Other ways to help the honey bee:

1. Plant a window box

2. Buy local honey

3. Build a bee habitat

05/05/2017

A New Orleans’ Home Exterior Gets a Bright Makeover

A compact house in the Marginy district of New Orleans is so bright, visitors don’t need a house number to find it. Formerly in shades of green, an offbeat scheme to compensate for its lackluster, was reinvented into a sparkly gem thanks to a redesign by Julie A. Babin, Partner and Architect with studioWTA.

Babin first appraised the home as awkward and space-challenged, which she transformed into an inspired design with some clever manipulations. For the exterior the selection of festive colors is a nod to Jazzfest and the city’s exuberance, which is why the homeowner’s chose the city as their second residence.

The outdoor space’s completed redesign.

“This particular renovation was challenging because the site was extremely
small. The existing house was a one bedroom, one bathroom house,” says Babin

The home’s exterior has an inviting color pairing of butter yellow with bleached turquoise.

Babin reconfigured the kitchen and bath to include a second bedroom and detached office. They kept the existing pool in tact but removed a Jacuzzi to allot for the office at the end of the property. “We positioned both the master bedroom and office to overlook the pool creating a backyard oasis within a tight site and urban neighborhood,” says Babin.

She selected a Caribbean inspired palette for an instant awakening. “We decided to choose colors that would reflect the vibrancy of New Orleans,” she says.

While color is often viewed as a space offender, here the shades add dimension. The dramatic wall colors visually open up the pool area to provide a visually exciting contrast.  The open sky and accent lighting offer more illumination and add to the effect. “Choosing the right lighting is key,” says Babin. “For the exterior lighting of the renovation and new office we selected a wall sconce that provides a soft illumination and glow, similar to the lighting cast from the traditional gas lamps found in New Orleans and on the front of the home.”

The infusion of alteration, color and light have created a sort of Coachella in design, where the artistic mix creates a departure from the everyday. The tiny plot is treated as an advantage, cleverly contoured so all footage is utilized, with a resort appeal that captures the romance of staying in a grand-a-night island cabana.

Photography by Jeff Johnson

For more information on Studio WTA please visit http://studiowta.com.
04/28/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Kid Snacks

The morning whirl of organizing meals on-the-go can become more of a battle than preparation. You are competing with other activities like inspecting socks or packing a lunch free of snacks so salty they could brine a turkey. Discover ways to alter the snacking slump by considering healthy, packable options that don’t scrimp on nutrition. Call upon those good for you snack sized brands–packaged items with happy fonts, colors and illustrated logos made to look like cartoon characters. They become your support system in the morning jam. Another handy tip that works: prep the night before.

Portrait of a healthy, fuss-free snack bag.

Says Eliza Whetzel, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition, “Always follow nut-free or any guidelines for your child’s school or camp.” Then plan a day of balanced meals where every food is derived from a natural source. Says Savage, “Read the ingredient list! if you can’t read it, don’t eat it! try to keep to foods that are as unprocessed as possible.”

The beauty of fruit, an one ingredient food.

Whetzel offers these suggestions for a healthful, tasty day:

Pair a carb with protein or a healthy fat to promote satiety: protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, and will help to modulate blood sugar levels. This means no sugar high and then subsequent drop.

Snack sized hummus and crackers pairs carbs with protein.

Portion and frequency control—especially with children. I see kids who are grazing all day long, don’t eat their meals, and the parents can’t figure out what is happening. Create a specific snack time or times (maybe 10am and 3pm) and stick to it.

Healthy snacking is an early life lesson. Fruit will always be a go-to healthy option. Create designated meal times in order to avoid snacking.

Sensible Snack Options:

Apple sauce/fruit smashersCheese/string cheeseCereal/granolaCrackersDried fruit. Energy bars/granola bitesFreeze dried fruit. Fruit. Graham crackers. Guacamole. Hardboiled egg. Hummus. Lean, low-sodium deli meats like turkey and chicken. Low-calorie cookiesLow-fat milkNut butters. Olives. Popcorn. Rice cakes. Pretzels. Veggies and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Yogurt.

Resources:

Almond butter packs: http://shop.justins.com/Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter/p/JNB-000490&c=JustinsNutButters

Peanut butter packets: https://www.nuttzo.com

Apple Crisps fruits: https://www.horizon.com/products

Cactus water: http://truenopal.com/

Cookies: https://www.dickandjanebakingco.com

Dried fruit: www.madeinnature.com

Hummus: bluemooseofboulder.com

Granola bites: www.mysuperfoodscompany.com

Granola minis: www.madegoodfoods.com

String cheese: https://www.horizon.com/products

Organic low fat milk: https://www.horizon.com/products

Special K cereal: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/brands/special-k-consumer-brand.html#filter-gsaCategory=Crackers&num=12

Rice rusks: www.mummums.com

Rice cakes: https://www.lundberg.com

Yogurt: http://yoyummykids.com/

Glass containers: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/simply-store-14-pc-set-w–multi-colored-lids/1081886.html#start=27

Lunch bag: http://dabbawallabags.com

04/21/2017

Stay Here: Luxurious Italian Treehouse

I want to travel to a treehouse and not with my child. Is there something fundamentally wrong with this? Though Casa Bartel is not your expected fort in a tree made from broken down orange crates for children enacting battles with styrofoam swords.

“No Kids Allowed.” A tree house built for romance or a creative escape, 20 minutes outside of Florence.

On the outskirts of Florence, the structure is plotted within a family compound that includes other residences, themed after the interior’s collections like the “Movie House” (decorated with vintage film posters) and “Ceramic House” (designed with handmade 18th century tiles).

The terrace acts as an additional room with views of the sublime grounds and Italian countryside.

Casa Bartel overlooks orchards, olive groves, the Tuscan landscape, pool, tennis court and a sole cypress tree. The terrace is spacious enough for dining, which you will share with the tree’s neighboring tenants of birds and the occasional squirrel. Inside and you will quickly forget that you climbed a narrow staircase up a tree to discover a room with a fireplace, bathroom and full-service kitchenette. The chalkboard wall behind the bed displays an artistic rotation of drawings and notes from past guests. The decor rivals most New York City apartments.

Travel has become a luxury service operation. We have glamping in pods equipped with wood burning tubs. Safaris where you can see wildlife outside a cabin that’s illuminated with antique chandeliers. Desert hotels with pools that can be dove into from a room’s terrace. Luxury tree houses are a natural extension for the traveler who doesn’t want to be close to nature but in it. While the sounds of birds and wildlife are engaging, there is something appealing to the swish of a running shower as well.

Creative impulses facilitated with a chalkboard wall.

Learn more about Casa Bartel at www.casabarthel.com. The owner’s design shop in Florence can be visited at www.riccardobarthel.it, www.desinare.it.

Photography by Elena Barthel