12/08/2017

Ultimate Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot chocolate deserves its proper pageantry, which means avoid adding boiling water to the contents of a foil-lined package. When made with real cocoa and embellished with an assortment of toppings, this warm winter mainstay will become your drink of choice no matter what the season. Delight your guests with the ultimate hot chocolate bar for an easy, warm winter event.

Hot chocolate is the main event of this seasonal gathering.

 

Guests will enjoy making their own beverage while sampling new ways to create a winter drink staple.

Cocoa powder and shaved coconut, naturally decadent.

What you’ll need for a hot chocolate bar:

Use elegant small plates for the embellishments: real cocoa, sugar, coconut, candy, whipped cream.

Organic candy cane stirrers adorned with seasonal candies.

Recipe for one cup:

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Scoop powder and sugar in cup and add hot water. Garnish with coconut, crushed chocolate, whipped cream or cinnamon and a candy cane stirrer.

 

Bring in colorful accents that give the setting a festive jolt.

Resources:

Hammersmith Gold Teacup: http://www.mikasa.com/tea-cups-and-saucers/hammersmith-gold/tea-cup/5117476.html#q=gold%20cup&start=0&hitcount=4

Hot Chocolate: http://www.woodhousechocolate.com/dark-hot-chocolate

Cocoa Powder: https://www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Organic Candy Canes: http://wholesomesweet.com/product/organic-candy-canes/

Organic Delish Fish:  http://wholesomesweet.com/product/organic-delishfish/

Chocolates: https://www.ashers.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=christmas&x=0&y=0

A Little Princess: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316849/a-little-princess-by-frances-hodgson-burnett/9780147513991

Nest Holiday Candle: https://www.nestfragrances.com/shop-by-collection/seasonal-collections/holiday

Ziggy Dessert Spoons: https://www.frenchbull.com/products/ziggy-dessert-spoon-set-of-6

 

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12/03/2017

The Meghan Markle Effect

The last time we saw an American actor who snagged a prince was with Grace Kelly. Iconic Grace is a lofty comparison but Meghan Markle is primed for the role. In a country where our royalty is NFL quarterbacks, film stars and the Kardashians, having one of our own marry a royal generates excitement. Markle is a worthy ambassador of our nation.

Meghan Markle bids farewell to her acting career and lifestyle site, The Tig, to move onto more royal matters. Photo courtesy of The Tig.

This is what we adore about Meghan Markle:
  1. Smart: A degree from Northwestern confirms this.
  2. Creative and savvy: Markle was a calligrapher to earn extra dollars while she entered the acting game.
  3. Talented: She blows up the screen with her presence.
  4. Multi-racial: Another role model to integrate colors.
  5. An advocate: She speaks of gender equality, visits refugee camps, and is a feminist in a gentler form. Her beliefs are innate, she is bi-racial, and at age 11 she wrote Proctor & Gamble to edit their Ivory dish soap campaign, which stated that “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” P&G changed “women” to “people”.
  6. Understated: She is not a walking bling advertisement pushing brands but has her own crisp style that isn’t as fussy as your typical royal.
  7. Character: She has rescue dogs.

To have a public figure who is likable, genuine with a distinct beauty, and poised to be a public figure with a more substantive direction than a group of reality stars moaning about calorie intake, Meghan Markle is a personality of note.

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11/30/2017

Christmas Decorating Details with Taste

When it comes to adding all the fa la la to a holiday home, the tree can become an afterthought. Becoming reacquainted with your decorations, along with other festive pieces used in all seasons, you can achieve Christmas decorating pizzaz simply and beautifully.

Metallic ornaments in soft, trending colors do not need a tree to shine.

The other holiday go-to that delights the senses is food. Christmas cookies, candy and even boxed brownies spruced with red and green sprinkles can achieve instant oomph.

Festive cookies set with springs of herbs, vintage Christmas tree balls, over a handmade placemat made from Midori gift wrap.

While there will always be a craving for gingerbread and candy canes during the holiday, food does not have to be Christmas themed to have value. This also applies to everyday favorites like your child’s toys or mittens, which can add a personalized touch to a holiday vignette.

Create your own Christmas spectacle by following a few basic tips:
  1. Look to tree ornaments in new ways, such as adding flair to vacant, fragile-friendly spaces or shiny ornamentation in a table setting.
  2. Wrapping paper can do double duty as placemats or wallpaper.
  3. Treat any visual edible as an opportunity to embellish a vignette.
  4. Keep some of the Christmas decoration boxes in storage and look to everyday items as holiday props. Such decorating thriftiness will be even more valued once the holiday is over and cleanup begins.

Baked goods and candy highlighted on gold trimmed dessert dishes create a sophisticated, personalized look.

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11/24/2017

16 Need-It-Now Velvet Luxuries for the Season

It may upgrade a box to highlight a precious gem but velvet has its own cache. The soft textile with its iridescent effect can either veer into the tacky (Prince’s purple getup, the interior of a party van) or classic (girl’s Christmas dresses, the lining of the queen’s crown). Velvet is making a comeback as the material used in styled ways, which is the luxury must-have of the season.

The beauty in loose ribbon from the Ribbon Jar.

We round up our velvet favorites that are not just in expected black. In fact, consider something pink, which is making appearances in a variety of pieces.

  1. Wide-brimmed hat 2. Blush sneakers 3. Luis mules 4. Vix choker necklace 5. Gloss slipper pillow 6. Jogger pants 7. Emmie flats 8. Heritage deep-V dress 9. Baseball hat 10. Grandy bootie 11. Velvet silk scarf 12. Luxe quilt 13. Matrix blush sofa 14. Pegasus slipper 15. Leo clutch

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11/18/2017

Simplify the Thanksgiving Celebration

There is something intimidating by the carcass of a turkey with its epic preparation. The sides are another challenge and, god help them, some of your guests may expect marshmallows in their sweet potatoes or gravy made from the gizzards. Keep the bah humbug in the next holiday and focus on what makes the event an annual highlight, simplify Thanksgiving in a relaxed manner with some preparation and less rules.

Using everyday tableware meant one less task from not having to excavate the good china, which is spruced with accents for a more personalized, laid back gathering.

How to Simplify Thanksgiving:
  1. Eschew the customary rigmarole of polishing silver and organizing the wedding china by using what you have. Add personalized details like gilded placemats and decorative food as props.
  2. Consider scale in your tablescape. Cake plates elevate the style of desserts, a pedestal bowl of apples and teacups of dried fruit and candies are both decorative and offer the guests varied options to entice the senses.
  3. Flowers are always a table setting must but rather than choose expected fall arrangements with lots of sunflowers and coffee berries, try something more elegant but seasonal-friendly with orange dipped roses. Three day blooms add to the romance.
  4. Paper napkins are acceptable when they hallmark the season and look less papery when complimented by other notes on the table.
  5. Candlelight does not only have to be illuminated from a candelabra, a simple votive also achieves a comforting look

 

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11/16/2017

Everything You Need to Know About Framing Your Own Art

Art creates a Cinderella effect to a space, transforming a basic room through color, visual excitement, and scale. Though an unframed work will make Cinderella appear like she’s wearing her ball gown with mussy hair and no makeup. It takes the right frame to accentuate a piece’s beauty and understanding framing’s intricacies, like matting and scale, are nuggets framers earn top dollar for. Online framing resources allow you to take control of framing your own pieces, but there are few considerations you need to know before choosing that route.

A notable transformation with a silver frame that captures the style of the art.

Chrissy Droessler, co-founder & president of framed & matted, oversees an online framing destination where art enthusiasts can customize a frame to their piece’s specifications. “Our selection includes 14 frames and 30 mat colors, giving customers the confidence to choose their own custom framing materials at home. We also offer complimentary design assistance and samples. And if you are stuck deciding between two mat colors, we will send a second mat color so you can make your final decision at home,” says Droessler.

A larger painting has a styled look with the thick mat and white frame.

While many will be deterred by that key one to one interaction with a framer, where the ability to play with a variety of frames to the actual physical piece is lost, framed & matted is doing what Warby Parker does for buying eyewear via the web for picture frames.

A basic white frame gives a colorful piece a calming presentation.

How It Works:
Droessler shares tips on how to make the best choices when framing your own art.
Selection: You can select up to five mat and four frame samples to see the colors in actuality with the artwork. There are also detail images and a look book that offer a sense of how the frames look on the wall.

Customization: If you are going to pay for a custom frame, why not make it look custom? There are so many great ready-made frame options out there. Add some personality to your frame with a pop of color or interesting mat margin. You can either go bold and pick a bright colorful mat, or just add a little color and design a double mat with a neutral top mat (white, grey, black) and a colorful bottom mat.

How to choose: Pick a detail in your artwork and selecting a complimentary mat color. This will help draw attention to your artwork and make it look special. Of course, if white is what works best, try framing with a double mat using the same color white. This will add a little extra custom look to your frame.

The blue under mat subtly picks up the colors in the art for a distinctive look.

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11/11/2017

Color Crush: Pink, Orange + Gold

Pink and orange is not just for kids coming off a sherbet rush, especially when glamorized with a hint of gold. Tapping into the retro era of rainbows and illuminated disco floors, the scheme has a modern resurgence when paired with like minded decor-reliables such as books, wallpaper and textiles. However you wield pink, orange + gold, the result is fun and vibrant.

Despite a varied mix of accents, the design keeps from looking cluttered by sharing the same color scheme. Original art atop metallic wallpaper by Aimee Wilder creates a classic composition.

Not one pillow is part of a set yet linked by the unifying palette.

A simple way to verve up a wall with paper goods in our color crush.

A bedroom has a modern classic style from its grouping of vintage and contemporary items in this fresh palette.

Accessories used to layer the look.

Resources:

Art: ducks goose

Pina Sola wallpaper: Aimee Wilder

Bicycle pillow: Art Goodies

Bunting: etsy

Kate Spade New York Bow quilt: Bed Bath & Beyond

Toiletry case: Roberta Roller Rabbit

Journal: Motto journals

A Little Princess: Rifle Paper Co.

Notecards: Waste Not Paper

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11/03/2017

Ultimate Guide to a Casual Tea

When you invite someone over for a drink they typically expect, time of day permitting, coffee or something alcoholic. When I invite someone over, time of day not permitting, the drink will be tea. It may not be a martini or trendy elixir I am unaware of but tea is the balm. It is the ultimate drink from its healthful properties, antioxidant rich, and calming taste.

Serve tea, guests will feel relaxed and restored.

Tea comes with customs in every variety–religious, business–and heroines from an Austen novel to the dowager of Downton would break from unworthy suitor woes, prop up the lap dog, to drink a cup of tea. Serve tea and guests will feel pampered and restored without the impending hangover.

A tea gathering in real time.

How to create a casual tea:

If I am having a few guests I will have two pots in motion as well as a sampling of blends so friends have a selection. To show your devotion to the tea ritual without significant effort serve loose leaves. It’s simple and the taste has a hint of freshness over the bagged kind. Loose varieties are available in most tea aisles, typically in attractive tins that have a second life as a change holder.

The fresh quality of loose tea.

Tea wares:

Loose tea can be served with a strainer, filled in bags, infuser or an all in one tea pot, my preference being a glass model for its visual impact and comes with all the excitement of a second grade science experiment. It is similar to a coffeemaker in that you equate a tea spoon to a cup, scoop into the infuser, and add the measured water. Another tea accessory I am partial to is the electric kettle for its ability to produce steaming water quickly with little fuss.

The nibbles:

While tea parties are most commonly associated with crustless finger sandwiches that make white bread acceptable, I prefer real food like edamame, fruit or nuts. Always have something sweet, which relates to the British elevenses–a custom introduced to me by Paddington Bear where the Brits will have an 11:00 a.m. tea with something savory.

Choice of tea bags for the no-fuss approach.

Tablescape:

Compliment your tea and edibles with attractive dishware, teacups and napkins. Flowers and candles always add to your vignette. Add something personal, like a  handmade item.

Necessities: infuser tea pot and kettle.

Resources:

Glass teapot: Enjoying Tea

Electric kettle: Hamilton Beach

Loose tea: Talbott Tea

Printed bowls: Sighouse

Pierre Frey Le Jardin de Mysore napkins: Caspari

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10/30/2017

Ultimate Guide to the Romantic Home

A long time ago in publishing turnover years I helmed a magazine that celebrated grown women who hosted tea parties, collected antique dolls, and cherished pieces with fat cabbage roses and chippy patinas. While some of the styles look like the remnants of a dried flower explosion there were designs that showed a restrained elegance, hallmarking the perservaitionist feel in a modern way, which the Europeans do so well. The woman who owns this style is Joanne Coletti of Vintage Rose Collection, her lifestyle enterprise that offers an edited selection of original artwork, shabby chic wares, and tips on achieving the ultimate romantic home.

The decor maven is an author, artist, photographer and writer for decorating magazines. “I absolutely love what I do!” she gushes. Coletti is so feminine she addresses you as “doll” and makes you feel pretty even if you haven’t washed your hair and ate a garlicy lunch. A stunning woman in that Charlie’s Angels knockout kind of way (she’d play the Farah Fawcett role), I don’t think she ever has a bad hair day or eats garlic.

She speaks of her husband, Mark, with the same passion reserved to a new relationship. They have been married for 26 years and are the parents of “two amazing boys and our little special yorkie, Jessy.”

You can never have too many roses in a romantic home, the main theme in Joanne’s art and vignettes.

 Men Can Live in a Romantic Home

You would think a household where Coletti is outnumbered by men would tone down all the poof and puff, but Coletti attests that her husband finds that soft tones “calm the bull in me.” Mark operates a landscape company and is in charge of the outdoors, contributing to his wife’s design with outdoor cuttings.

 

Their boys grew up with white sofas and feminine things, it’s what they know. “But, their own rooms, that’s a whole different story. I always allowed them freedom of their own creativity, after all it’s their personal space,” she says.

Joanne Coletti pictured with Jessy.

Feminine Outlook

Perhaps breathing in all that rose infused air has given Coletti a sensitive outlook toward her environment. “My surroundings are very important to me,” she says, “it’s like fresh air. For me my home is not only my visual art board but it alludes a feeling of goodness. And the ‘good life’ is not about riches but rather living lavishly modest, in-the-moment, and in a caring way. To care about your surroundings and to take pride in wherever you may hang your hat–that is the ‘good life.’”

Blushing pinks compose this unabashedly ladylike vignette.

5 Steps to the Romantic Look:
1. Honor your space’s natural light and do not obscure with dark furnishings or color.
2. If you love something you will find a space for it, a romantic home is about items with a story.
3. Look at vintage in new ways by pairing with like minded pieces or embellishing with flowers.
4. Keep the palette soft and light.
5. Texture, texture, texture. A surplus of textiles, pillows and accessories is both comfortable and pretty.

Pillows from the Vintage Rose Collection.

Resources:

Vintage Rose Collection of hand-painted items, note cards, bedding, fabric and vintage finds handpicked by Joanne Coletti: www.vintagerosecollection.com

Joanne Coletti’s blog: https://vintagerosecollection.com/wp/

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10/27/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Cereals

We know the super foods, typically some form of nut or bright leafy green, but when it comes to an overall efficient meal I’ll fill my bowl with healthy cereal. What is considered a reliable breakfast food helped me through weekend mornings feeding myself when the parents slept in, overcoming bad food in college, and eating on the run in those hectic single city girl days. Now, with motherhood, it’s the go-to option when hunger calls despite the time crunch called family life. Though cereal need not be the loud packaging variety with enough sugar to disintegrate a tooth, it’s a matter of understanding ingredients that may be included on those super food lists such as oats and almonds. Here is our guide to the ultimate healthy cereals with guidance from our trusted nutrition expert Eliza Savage, RD at Middleberg Nutrition in Manhattan.

A healthy breakfast with the added bonus that kids can prepare themselves.

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast Option?

Yes, absolutely, you just have to make an educated choice and enforce portion control. What you pair the cereal with is important, especially as many cereals are relatively low in protein. If you can’t have grass-fed, organic milk or plain greek yogurt with your cereal, then I would suggest boosting protein and fat with chia or flax seeds and/or nuts. Fresh fruit can provide added sweetness and additional fiber.

Review the nutritional panel for cereals low in sugar, high in fiber and no artificial coloring.

How to Choose Healthy Cereal Options?

◦ Look for first ingredient to be listed as 100% whole grain, unless you have a specific dietary restriction, like gluten-free.

◦ Low in sugar (under 10g per serving).

◦ Good source of fiber (at least 3g per serving).

◦ Free of artificial colors or dyes (these have been shown to cause hyperactivity in children, and have no nutritional benefit for anyone!)

◦ Look for protein. Many cereals do not have a ton of protein, so you can increase protein with milk or an organic, grass-fed yogurt. See above for other ideas.

◦ Check portion size (should be 1/2 cup or 1 cup). You’ll notice that granola or high-sugar, high-calorie cereal generally has a portion size of 1/3 or 1/4 cup.

Healthful + Nutritious Toppings:

Almonds/nuts, chia seeds, cinnamon, dried fruit/fruit, flax, honey, yogurt.

Healthy toppings that add to the taste and make it a more well rounded meal.

Is gluten a no no?

Gluten is only off limits if someone has an allergy or intolerance. If not, 100% whole grain is a nutritionally sound choice. Unfortunately, gluten-free cereals do tend to have more additives and generally have lower protein and fiber as a result of the rice or wheat-alternatives used.

Do you have to stick to organic offerings or are there mainstream versions that are beneficial?

Choosing organic is best, but not always the “best” nutrition-wise.

 

Best overall cereal?

This is so individual, based on the person and their restrictions. Though I would suggest the following healthy cereal options:

General: Cheerios, Trader Joes O’s, Barbara’s High Fiber Medley, All-Bran, Kashi GoLean, Cascadian Farms Purely O’s, Total, Wheaties, Heart to Heart, Grape Nuts.

Gluten-Free: Jessica’s granola, CheeriosBarbara’s Puffins, Rice Chex, Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flakes, Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise, Purely Elizabeth Hot Cereal, Bob’s gluten free rolled oats.

Resources:

Colored bowls: http://www.boboandboo.com.au/

 

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