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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06/09/2017

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.

05/20/2017

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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04/04/2017

Easter Egg Decorating Basics

Let nature take its course is the theme for holiday decorating in our home. There are no Dollar Store outings where we rip items from their cellophane prisons to add loud package flash that looks inspired from a children’s cereal box. Decorating Easter eggs also follows a simple approach. It comes down to a few basics: non-reactive bowls, hardboiled white eggs, distilled vinegar and food coloring.

Easter egg decorating simplified when made with household items.

White eggs hold their own beauty and can mix well within the decor–even the carton has its own design appeal. For the dyes, stick to the main colors of the spectrum and you can play with combinations as you watch how your eggs hold their color. We also kept our bowls shallow and less colored to achieve the pastel shades.

Easter Egg Decorating Tips:

  1. Mix 8 tablespoons of vinegar, 1/4 cup of water and 5 drops of coloring (less for pastels, more for deeper shades). The vinegar helps brighten the shade.
  2. Keep paper towels on hand to soak up dye splatter.
  3. Allow enough time for eggs to sit, from 5-15 minutes depending on how deep you want the shade to set. Switch non-dyed side to another color. You can also add more dye mixture if you want the eggs to be coated in one color.
  4. Let dry in egg carton or plate lined with paper towels.
  5. Keep your children’s art supplies on hand so they can be creative with their decorating.
  6. Save some white hardboiled eggs and have the children draw Easter motifs. Or, design yourself and at breakfast tell the children that the decorated eggs must have come from the “Easter Chicken”.

Breakfast made with eggs from the “Easter Chicken” began a new tradition with my son.

Non-dyed eggs colored with marker.

Resources:

Easter basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Gigogne ice cream cups: 
https://www.duralexusa.com/tableware/Gigogne-Ice-Cream-Cup-Pink-8-75-ounce- Set-of-6-plu5002EB06-6.html

Carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

03/23/2017

Ultimate Easter Basket

Forget the Easter basket spilling with flammable straw that takes months to clean up, create a display that looks so good you won’t want to eat the treats (but don’t do that). When browsing your holiday market aisle with an assault of colors so bright you need to wear sunglasses, the natural response is to stock up on all things spring and festive. Take the classic approach of this time honored tradition by focusing on chocolates created by artisans skilled in their craft and custom woven baskets that will have an appearance each holiday. We rounded up the best offerings in a few styles that will make the Easter Bunny envious.

A delicious mix of chocolates and novelties.

Begin with a solid basket, like this willow style with a cloth insert. Add shredded paper in your color scheme and style with Easter candies, pom poms and toys in likeminded colors.

Even grownups can look forward to receiving an Easter basket.

Using a fair trade basket as the starting point, pull from the colors and keep the styling simple. Surround with mini pom poms and chocolate Easter eggs to complete the look.

A simple basket with thoughtful touches.

This basket has a story. Made from 100% cotton rope in the Mountain Thread Company shop and studio in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, it shows the beauty in handcrafted work. Complimented by chocolate covered marzipan bars with packaging that recalls Easter’s past and inserted with a festive tea cloth, the basket has a soft appeal that will work past the holiday.

 

A free trade market basket shows a green approach alongside organic chocolates and toys that do not beep.

After a season of cold and dreary colors, a bright scheme is welcomed. A scattering of purple and orange carrots connect to the jewel tones of the African market bag. Add some gift items, like artful watercolors, that fit the look.

What you’ll need:

Gather quality supplies and candies that pack in more style than your local drug store variety. Begin with a festive basket, fill with colored paper or straw, and adorn with foiled wrapped candies and treats. Take the theme further with organic sweets and free trade wares that make a difference.

 

Resources:

White willow Easter basket: https://www.burtonandburton.com/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Branded&utm_term=burton%2Bburton&utm_content=burton%20%2B%20BURTON%20-%20E

Market baskets: www.BasketsOfAfrica.com

Blue rope basket: www.themountainthreadcompany.com/shop/colorful-easter-basket-with-handle

Stuffed bunnies, chicks: www.jellycat.com

Gold bunnies, carrots, bugs and bees, white truffle eggs: www.lindt.com

White chocolate bunny, dark chocolate purple carrots, organic filled chocolates, mini gift basket: http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.

Organic Easter candies and eggs: lilliebellefarms.com

Bunny Munny: http://m.rmpalmer.com/easter/

Yellow chubby bunny: http://www.thompsonchocolate.com/products-easter.php

Chocolate marzipan bunny bars: http://www.niederegger.de/en_GB

Mini pom poms, carrot garland: hobbylobby.com

Tissue, corrugated paper wrappings: www.nashvillewraps.com

Yellow pom poms, watercolor set: http://shop.eeboo.com

Organic jelly beans: https://www.jellybelly.com/online-candy-store

03/15/2017

Homemade Snow Cones

When life gives you snow make snow cones. Such is the motto I practiced when you experience the arrival of crocuses one week and then faced with a record blizzard the following. With only so many sled runs and ice forts to create when school is cancelled, we used our snow for an alternative kind of treat.

Turn snow into a delicacy with hand made snow cones.

What you’ll need:

Fresh snow

Vitamin Water (any flavored powder or liquid drink works)

Gummy vitamins

Cupcake holder

Directions:

Scoop a ball of snow into a cupcake cup holder. Add flavored water. Garnish with a gummy bear. Enjoy.

01/28/2017

Ultimate Dog Gift Guide

Our dog Ellie came into our lives after a $140 donation and pitch to Bideawee that we have a backyard. She is a mixed breed, but nothing trendy with a doodle or poo. Once her little paws click clacked into our home we have been forever smitten. Pets are not just novelties that add cuteness to family photos, they are part of the family worthy of canine comforts.

Keeping your canine warm and well-dressed in a Pendleton dog coat.

When a Milk-Bone doesn’t say enough, give your pooch what she truly deserves.

 

  1. Rain Coat 2. National Park Dog Coat 3. Roll Up Bed 4. Dog Treats 5. Leash  6. Bow Tie Collar 7. Fabric Dog Toy 8. Bowl 9. Heart Sweater 10. Collar

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01/25/2017

Ultimate Coastal Cottage Bedroom

As design trends follow the spikes and lows of a real estate graph, one style that remains consistent is the coastal cottage. Putting together a space that stirs up seaside emotions restores, makes you want to say namaste, or lie face down with warm rocks on your back. The one room where tranquility is foremost is the bedroom. As someone who can’t make it through a night without abusing my pillow, I welcome any natural based assistance. In my Laguna Beach bedroom I brought in the core elements of the beach cottage look.

Laguna Beach bedroom follows a basic scheme of a few colors and coastal accents.

Beach design is quite simple, just add these 5 basic ideas:

  1. Natural woven pieces: Anything rattan, wicker or seagrass supports the coastal look. Accent with an accessory, sisal rug or bed frame. Since “beach” and “cottage” typically equates to space challenged, rattan baskets offer both storage and style while a bamboo side table can be a catchall for your bedtime needs within the desired design.
  2. Stripes: Blue and white stripes are the unspoken uniform of seaside style. The pattern is simple and easy to pair with other like-minded prints. A basic duvet is layered with throw pillows and blanket for a styled, relaxed feel.
  3. Batik prints: Classic British Colonial batiks that conjure up faraway places are a solid investment piece. The simple indigo color and hand-printed design of the accent pillows seamlessly weave into the room’s scheme.
  4. Color: White always says cottage and creates a soothing atmosphere. Touches of blue and beach colors are the natural choices to make a room coastal.
  5. Light: Since cottage bedrooms are often smaller, keep the room paired down to the essential needs and accessories to create the illusion of more space. White walls make the room feel open and doesn’t compete with blending items. A wood framed mirror that has the effect of a window on a boat is both decorative and reflects additional light.

Storage is always needed in a cottage bedroom. A wicker hamper and pine armoire conceal belongings in a pulled together presentation.

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01/13/2017

Classroom Friendly Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been assigned the role of Mystery Reader in Luc’s class. One of those parental duties when reading The Day the Crayons Quit with verve is simply not enough to engage your young audience. They want treats and sugar free lollipops aren’t enough. (Too trite and sticky). While other sweets could warrant a flurry of emails from parents on responsible snacks along with their child’s nutritional requirements if a future feeding should arise. I settled on gluten, dairy and peanut free muffins.

Fresh blueberries add natural flavor to a recipe.

In the thick of winter blueberries are thriving somewhere (Peru) and the taste of summer is missed (January in Connecticut).

Mini muffins is a healthy alternative over candy and cookies.

Following the mix’s directions–supplementing with fresh berries and almond milk–allows me to serve something homemade, not ripped from loud packaging, and requires minimal effort.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

(Courtesy of Authentic Foods)

Ingredients:

1 package Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix

2 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk, non-dairy substitute or buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup fresh blueberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease the bottom of 12 regular size muffin cups or 24 mini size muffin cups or place cupcake liners inside the muffin cups.

Beat the eggs, vegetable oil and milk (or non-dairy substitute or buttermilk) in a large bowl until very bubbly.

Stir in the Authentic Foods Blueberry Muffin Mix and cinnamon. Stir until the flour is moistened and the batter is slightly lumpy.  Using a tablespoon or medium sized ice cream scooper, spoon the batter into the muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffin top bounces up when touched (the muffin is not ready if it sinks down when you touch it).

Remove muffins from muffin cups and cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Resources:
Ceramic berry basket: https://www.katom.com
Tea towel: https://pomegranateinc.com/

Bite sized treat that goes well with story time.

 

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