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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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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11/18/2017

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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11/11/2017

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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10/27/2017

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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10/10/2017

The Charms of an Older Home

While the Jetsons may be amusingly space aged I am comfortable living in this year, even a few centuries back. It’s the customs that engage. You can’t have an elegant pheasant meal served by footmen when a robot beeps by.

Our parlor room brought into the modern day.

An attention to craftsmanship and history is seen in every detail, like how our 1915 farmhouse was built around the fireplace as it was the main source of warmth. We have not fallen into your typical suburban model, which shares the same style imprint as every other home in this community. The marble baths, rugs that capture the same motif as the valences, lucite coffee table bought from cb2 and stacked with coffee table books in ruler edged precision–it’s the same concept as the Benetton sweater every girl wore back in high school. While it’s a very nice sweater it made overplayed appearances in the classroom. I am more inspired by the student who broke from the norm and wore something a bit alternative, found from a vintage shop, or styled the basic uniform in a personalized way.

Detailing of our original bannister.

My favorite homes are from my childhood, notably in the Hamptons. We lived In a house unique to the other’s with a pink tiled bathroom and floorboards with holes that led to enchanting places. This was all that we knew. Finding beauty from imperfection was revered, the decor composed with pieces that had stories behind them, or a kitchen designed with materials sourced from salvage yards.

An antique cupboard displaying motley pieces linked through color, scale or style.

Another trend that baffles me is new constructions. Everyone appears to want the same home. When I grew up the older homes were considered more authentic. You can’t replicate their clusters of rooms with thick walls and artisanal bannisters. Now it’s common to extract these architectural gems from the space.

The girls’ bedroom has a mix of old and new.

Our home is like fashion, I am constantly tweaking by bringing in my latest paintings and editing vignettes. While sometimes it looks like a child with a box of crayons who had a color meltdown, I try to maintain a merchandiser’s eye. The decor has a mix of pieces from all time periods but they typically share a theme through color, pattern or scale. It’s a constant process but the result reflects a singular style.

Resources:

Belle Bloom Robert Allen fabric for customized pillows, seat cushions and valances: Robert Allen

Lemon painting: Ducks Goose

A True Love Story Never Ends picture: Tuvalu Home

Dipper ceramic blue bowls: Wagoo

Pink pedestal plates, striped dishes: Rosanna Inc.

Mosser Jadeite Cake Stand: Sur la Table

Kate Spade bow tiled pink comforter: Bed Bath & Beyond

Standard pillow cases: Stamattina

Bicycle throw pile: Art Goodies

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09/10/2017

5 Steps to an Inviting Fall Front Porch

The switch over from daisies to mums is happening, and porches are starting to take note. In designing the front entrance, rather than go the Halloween route with crawling spiders and loud ghoulish ornaments that transform your yard into a Dollar Store graveyard, I’ve always preferred the harvest theme. Here, in our former Laguna Beach cottage, we let color and whatever looked good at the the nursery guide the exterior’s design.

A fall porch is as simple as selecting a few well edited pieces.

5 steps to a fall front porch:

  1. Browse your local nursery, market and farmstead for gourds and fall fruits that can add style to your tableau.
  2. Choose a secondary theme, as we did with burlap and straw, and find pieces that connect. We found the burlap garland on Etsy and mini stack of hay from Michael’s, which we tied to the front door and used as filler to the vignette.
  3. Place fake leaves here and there, also bought at Michael’s, if you live in a climate that does not shed its leaves in abundance.
  4. Survey your own pieces to use as decoration. A vintage wire basket is a great container for apples while a straw market bag is the perfect vessel for mums.
  5. Use your dog as a prop and, if you don’t have one, borrow a friend or neighbor’s like Baxter in this image.

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09/04/2017

Celebrate Indian Summer

For those who are not part of the warm-weathered privilege who either live in a mild climate or chase the sun year round, September is a crucial time to take in summer’s last hurrah. As a four-season dweller, customs like squirrels gathering nuts early and the thickness of a spider’s web are noted and feared. (All signs in the Farmer’s Almanac of a cold winter).

Beach Tent by Lovin’ Summer creates an instant campground.

The exchange between summer to fall may be the most spectacular period of the year. In our neighborhood you won’t see a countdown sign till summer ends but in spring they are prevalent. This is why being outdoors is a necessity.

Beaches are less crowded. Deals on summer necessities abound. You can still feel the rays of the sun before she relinquishes her power to another hemisphere and go home to an evening by the fire. Engage in a seashore outing simply but with verve and style by erecting a beach tent with nibbles and games. Just because the month may switch over doesn’t mean you have to.

Boat’s experiencing their own end of summer moment.

Create an end of summer celebration:

  • Postpone stowing away beach gear and make a trip to the beach for a more private experience than jostling for sand space.
  • Take advantage of end of season specials and stock up on those great beach pieces you had your eye on.
  • Pack snacks, games, plan a kayak expedition or just go on one of those endless, meditative walks. Make an effort to get in beach time before days become cooler and shorter.

Indulge on the last stock of summer fruit.

Resources:

Beach Tent: https://lovinsummer.com/shop/beach-tent/santorini-beach-tent/

Wategos Round Beach Towel: http://thebeachpeopleco.com/thttp://thebeachpeopleco.com/the-wategos.htmlhe-native-petite.html

Fair Trade Basket Bag: http://basketsofafrica.com

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

Adirondack chair: https://www.polywoodoutdoor.com

Lovin’ Summer sums it up.

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08/30/2017

Back to School – Back to Responsibility

Summer is loose with its liberal stance on iGadget time, bike riding until bed, eat-the-brownies-we-made-last-night-for-breakfast approach. Everything about the warm season is scaled back, including busy moms who also need a summer off from parenting. And then you pay for it… To avoid getting the new teacher phone call about your child, and I am not referring to the one where she breezily checks in to say what a delight he or she is but how they simply are, ahem, struggling to get back into the routine. Routine is a necessity in our young citizen’s life and if family holidays were not only spent on the shore but at home, you can always get back into the groove.

Prepare gear the night before to omit one stress on the first day, just nix the light saber.

Begin by helping them prepare their backpack with its new supplies, help them choose their clothes, and make the last days of summer vacation count by planning structured activities. They will find enjoyment in being a part of the process and excited for the New Year ahead. Also, if they try to smuggle their light saber into school as my son did, make it funny and suggest that a new teacher may not be as receptive to their aspiring Jedi ambition on the first day.

Resources:

Backpack, lunch bag: https://us.soyoung.ca

 

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