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
SaveSave

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

04/10/2017

Ultimate Guide to French Living

The French have their beautiful little phrases to sum up life lessons. A beloved style that somehow cannot be replicated unless your passport is from France. Their mannered customs that fail to crumble in a fast-paced world. It’s all intertwined, how life can follow a joie de vivre approach.

A colorful view of French life, as seen in France: Inspiration du Jour.

Americans have a tendency to try too hard. We purchase an abundance of things we don’t really need. Test health fads that don’t seem to work. Fall into the influence of marketing manipulation. The French aren’t as quick to change their storefronts. They market by connecting to the supplier who grows the food, sliding soil speckled produce into a reusable bag well before it was trendy.

The French find time to enjoy and reflect, which is important considering what’s involved in all the buttoning and tying when getting dressed in tailored clothing, beautifying their meals with inventive sauces, and setting a table that could stage an Old Master painting.

The artistry of a French meal as featured by Rae Dunn in France Inspiration du Jour.

Mimi Bleu of Belle Inspiration, a delightful magazine (which I happen to contribute to) and imaginative nook in the online world that interprets Paris through an American’s eyes. Mimi married a Parisian but her romantic sensibility doesn’t end there, she treats each day as an adventure and shares her city explorations with those who want to taste a sample. Mimi breaks down French living into three important segments, as follows:

Food/Markets

“The food markets are serious business here in France. Living in Paris, or even during your stay, you’ll soon get to know your local fromagerie, butcherie, patisserie and the all-important boulangerie for your fresh baguettes, croissants and sweet treats,” says Mimi.

Marketing the French way is the only way for Mimi Bleu. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

Passport to France? Bonjour

“The food vendors take pride in their products and will gladly share their freshest picks, or even the perfect recipe for the veal chop you purchased. The key is to always (did I say always?) greet them with ‘Bonjour.’ In fact, this is the golden key to open all of France – cafés, boutiques, offices–you name it, bonjour is the way to start to friendlier service. And don’t forget to leave with a merci, au revoir,” she says.

Flea Markets

“French flea markets, or marché aux puces, are truly a window into Frenchness. Again, bonjour is your key and an opening to better negotiations. The big market at Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) is an endless display of anything you can imagine in every price range–so everyone leaves happy,” says Mimi.

Finds at a Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Smaller brocantes (popup flea markets) and vide-greniers (attic sales, the French version of a neighborhood garage sale) pop up all over the Paris arrondissements each month. These are a fun way to get some great deals in a relaxed atmosphere to strike up a conversation with the vendors. Don’t forget that bonjour!”

Décor

“French interior décor has many faces and styles. Today’s modern touches make sure there’s not too much gilt or heaviness. True French décor is never overdone. It’s all about subtlety…and fresh flowers,” she says.

Flowers are a main staple in a French household. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Authentic French pieces are almost always unpainted (except in the south of France where you’ll find more of that style), the natural beauty of the wood shines through. It seems to have two distinct looks: Traditional French period pieces from top to bottom or as I like to call it, ‘Eclectic French,'” says Mimi.

Selections at a marche aux puces. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Visiting my traditional French friends draws an image of true French home décor and it does still include marble-topped commodes, Louis XV a fauteuils and ornate gold frames are still surrounding oil paintings. Eclectic French is more modern, it works with touches of gilt and the classic French lines but the period pieces are calmed with modern touches. A glass coffee table in front of a carved settee. Modern lucite chairs slide under a dark wood dining table. An elaborate gilted mirror inherited from grandmother’s living fireplace sits atop a mid-century piece,” she says.

The blend, or melange, honors the past in a present day context. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Pieces passed down from generation to generation keeps the past alive and the French appreciate heritage. There’s a bit of a movement to move away from all that charm and beauty, to replace it with IKEA–quelle dommage! Fortunately, there are still many who insist on keeping those grand armoires, cachepots and gilted sconces.”

Louis XIV chaise is authentic with a modern sensibility from its upholstery.Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

Two recently published illustrated books capture glimpses of French living. France Inspiration du Jour is a travelogue by artist Rae Dunn where the reader has a deviant feeling of sneaking a glimpse into her personal diary. Her watercolors bring to mind a fashion page that illustrates pieces on what to wear to a polo match. There are dreamy renderings of tea towels, roadways, a lot of food and the beauty found in a simple teacup. Or despite eating enough figs to warrant an Oompa Loompa cleanse she till has not tired of the fruit.

This is not a passageway. Dunn learns to navigate French roads by keeping a mindful eye on doorways that could be a safe haven from incoming cars.

With a cover designed in airmail colors and iconic city monuments, Say Bonjour to the Lady features authors Florence Mars and Pauline Leveque sketches on the difference in child rearing between New York and Paris.

Say Bonjour to the Lady takes on two great cities and their parenting philosophies.

Family

Covering such topics as school and holidays, the authors poke fun of both parenting methods in metropolitan life. There is a Manhattan home overrun with kid things aside an elegant Parisian dwelling void of any sign of children. At the beach an American toddler is seated beneath a beach umbrella, dressed in protected clothing, Swimmies and sunscreen, while the French child plays along the coast in the nude.

The French make us question our ways. If a trip the country is not in the plan, you can always take note of their customs with a bit of mind travel.

City backdrops and the children they influence.

Credits:

Belle Inspiration Magazine

Reprinted from France: Inspiration du Jour by Rae Dunn, published by Chronicle Books 2017.

Reprinted from Say Bonjour to the Lady. Copyright © 2017 by Florence Mars and Pauline Lévêque. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Pauline Lévêque. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

 

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