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

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

03/17/2017

Hello Tokyo: The Ultimate Bento Box Guide

Tokyo has the energy and sense of humor of a child who collects all things Pokemon or Hello Kitty. It is loud, bright and doesn’t take itself too seriously, where it’s okay to dress in colorful rain slickers or style your hair in Minnie Mouse buns. Dining also has that pop art appeal, even eating a bento meal makes you feel like you are part of a graphic novel. In Hello Tokyo author Ebony Bizys features crafts and ideas to animate your home in this quirky style. Here, she shares her tips on how to on create a bento box like a native.

A bento box is a fun craft that will get a lot of play.

Bento Tip 1

FIVES

You might be aware of the “five color rule” that says each bento (lunch box) should contain at least five colors; however, you may not know that the ideal bento should be constructed according to five sets of five rules. These are:

+ Five colors: aka (red), kiiro (yellow), midori (green), kuro (black), shiro (white)

+ Five cooking methods: niru (simmer), musu (steam), yaku (grill), ageru (fry), tsukuru (create).

+ Five flavors: shiokarai (salty), suppai (sour), amai (sweet), nigai (bitter), karai (spicy)

+ Five senses: miru (see), kiku (hear), kyukaku (smell), ajiwau (taste), fureru (touch)

+ Five viewpoints or outlooks (gokan no mon): a set of Buddhist principles on the appropriate state of mind when consuming food I have a little “bento” drawer in my mini Shimokitazawa apartment. It’s full of cute accessories that inspire me to make bento boxes: bento dividers, bento belts, bento patties, sauce containers, and onigiri (rice ball) wrappers.

Follow the five color and idea rule to a successful bento.

There is another entire cupboard dedicated to furoshiki (wrapping cloth) used for bento wrapping. I also have a collection of bento lunch bags and bento freezer packs. When you buy refrigerated goods from fancier supermarkets in Tokyo, you often receive little refrigerator packs taped onto the cold goods. These reusable packs are great for keeping your bento fresh. You can also buy cute versions of these, such as heart shaped cold packs with sparkle dust inside and so on.

A bento is composed with a thoughtful assemblage of accessories.

Many Japanese stores, such as Daiso, sell a large range of bento accessories and essentials, such as seaweed punches, picks for small vegetables, and other obento items.

Look for Bento pieces online or make a trip to Japan where they are plentiful.

Bento Tip 2

BENTO DIVIDERS

Separate items in your bento with colorful dividers. Colored faux grass? So cute! This little fake lettuce divider has small perforations, allowing you to fit the divider perfectly to your bento box. For a more eco-friendly version, pick up silicone dividers such as the lilac doily option shown below.

Bento dividers are a colorful way to keep foods separated.

Bento Tip 3

ONIGIRI WRAPPERS

There is nothing more pleasurable than biting into an onigiri with crunchy seaweed. In order to keep the seaweed crunchy, you’ll need to pack your onigiri in one of these wrappers, which keep the rice and seaweed apart. Imagine this cheery little face waiting to greet you at lunch!

Even a bento box can benefit from styled accessories, like this onigiri wrapper that keeps rice fresh.

Bento Tip 4

BENTO PATTIES

Bento patties are a fantastic and colorful way to keep your obento ingredients separated and fresh until you are ready to enjoy your obento.

Divide each little osozai (side dish) with a bento patty. Try mixing a variety of colors and patterns. I’ve found some in sweet patterns such as gingham, stripes, and polka dots. If you have a green osozai, such as spinach or lettuce, try using a contrasting patty for aesthetic effect. You can also find silicone versions of bento patties, which can be reused without any reheating issues.

Bento patties act as miniature plates and are can be reused.

Bento Tip 5

BENTO PICKS

Bento picks can help to arrange little items—such as a cube of cheese, a small roll of ham, a mini tomato, or a pickled vegetable—and keep them in place in your bento. They also make eating these items a lot easier. The variety of bento picks available in Tokyo is enormous, but you may also be able to find some at your local Japanese market.

Stylish picks for smaller items jam in more color without taking up space.

Bento Tip 6

SUPERMARKET OBENTO

A delicious and convenient obento is never too far away in Tokyo. Most supermarkets and convenience stores sell colorful and inexpensive obento at all hours of the day. Many department stores have a basement food level where you can find delicious obento. These are called depachika obento: depa is short for “department store,” and chika means “basement.”

It’s ridiculous just how tasty, cheap, colorful, and presumably healthy(ish) these obento are!

An obento fix can easily be granted in Tokyo, where supermarkets and convenience stores offer them at all hours.

Bento Tip 7

OBENTO FUROSHIKI

Furoshiki are cloths used to wrap many objects, particularly obento. They are such a pretty way to transport your lunch, and provide a lovely little impromptu tablecloth, too. There are many types of furoshiki and various ways of wrapping them. In true Japanese style, there is an entire art to furoshiki wrapping, and you can find many tutorials on the Internet.

Furoshiki wrapping cloths is another accessory to add more style and function to your meal.

Hello Tokyo is officially available on March 28.

Hello Tokyo is your guide to this spirited lifestyle.

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.

03/10/2017

Ultimate Wallpaper Guide

Wallpaper has evolved from manor house motifs and the loud prints of a Palm Beach cocktail dress (though we love those too.) Updated selections will give any room pizzazz. Choose from a colorful tableaux resembling Andy Warhol’s take on wildflowers to artistic compositions a muralist would create. Installation options also vary. There is the classic pasted paper method or–renters and dorm residents take note–self adhesive varieties.

Forget the artwork, the floral infused color of this design direct a room’s theme that is both modern and personalized.

 

  1. NYC Water Towers by Tom Slaughter 2. Parisian Dandelions 3. Connect Wash on White 4. Cloud Garden 5. Hoya 6. Hydrangeas 7. Jungle Dream 8. Small Flowers 10. Drawing Cactus Pattern 11. Lovely Gingham 12. Confetti 13. Pina 14. Cactus Spirit
03/01/2017

The Art of Adding Wallpaper – Finer Things by Christiane Lemieux Part II

Congratulations, if you read past the headline and are considering wallpaper in your home, the treatment will place you in a stylish coterie. Papered walls have glamorized rooms throughout history, shifting a functional room into a descriptive art piece. It’s not a simple addition, permanently sealing a print to your room’s wall is a decision as weighty as converting a shed or leaving the animal shelter with a new pet. While trends evolve, wallpaper styles adjust to the times but they will always add to a room’s gushing with love factor.

Fabric is used as wallpaper above the fireplace. The pattern, texture and color creates a layered contemporary classic at London’s Ham Yard Hotel. Copyright by Horst P. Horst / Vogue / OTTO / Conde Nast

In Christiane Lemieux’s latest design book, The Finer Things, she devotes a section to wallpaper. Lemieux is a proponent of quality and personalized style, dressing a room in a sophisticated look like a Parisian wearing a hat.

The Gottwald bathroom in Richmond, Virginia, is not your typical bathing experience. The addition of wallpaper with blended pieces amps the luxury factor, creating a design more expected in the lobby of a lux hotel. Courtesy of Bunny Williams.

Lemieux Guidelines: What You Need to Know About Wallpaper:

  1. History: Wallpaper descended from tapestries, which were used to warm up the interiors of those drafty old homes.
  2. Why It Stuck: A more decorative, affordable option than weighty works of art.
  3. Enduring Evolution: Still holds the same composite as papers dating back to the 17th century, just updated with the trends.
  4. Composition: When selecting papers, research on how it was made–hand painted, wood block, silkscreen techniques–or current developments like digital printing.
  5. Installation: Begin by priming the walls beforehand the way you would with paint, which allows the paper to adhere correctly. Though wallpapering a room is an intricate process that is more involved than coating a wall with paint, a project where considering an expert is a sensible expense.
  6. How Much Is Needed: While square footage in relation to the amount in a roll will make you dust off your math skills, err on over buying. Wallpaper will be cut and tossed due to the complexities of a room’s layout from the doors, windows etc.

The size and simple quality of this rouge grass cloth print by Phillip Jeffries is a simple installation that brings in a unique element to the room via the tactile feel and shade. Copyright by Benjamin Benschneider / OTTO

The Finer Things. Copyright © 2016 by Christiane Lemieux. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

02/17/2017

Travel Style Guide: What to Pack

The realistic traveler does not depend on valets and bellhops but will race through terminals to make a 15 minute connection. A sensible traveler will not pack optional hairdryers but travels with an edited collection of items that coalesce–wrinkle-free compact pieces that can be spot cleaned in a hotel sink. To keep from looking like you followed tips in a “What to Pack” guide, throw in a few accessories with a shared accent color that add verve to holiday snaps.

On the Plane: Distinguish yourself from the black nylon cases by wheeling a statement piece. While delays and turbulence are par for the travel course, lighten the mood with comedic socks and bright baggage.

  1. Rolling suitcase 2. Hat Box 3. Socks

In the Case: You don’t need to travel with a steamer trunk for a curated collection of dependable comfort pieces without looking slouchy. Affordable accessories are lightweight additions that polish a look for those who rather leave the pricey baubles at home.

  1. Scarf 2. Sneakers 3. Straw tote 4. Veronica Beard blazer with hoodie 5. Panama hat 6. Shirt dress 7. Knit pants 8. Sunglasses 9. Skinny jeans 10. Beaded necklace 11. Pajamas 12. Cape 13. Square Scarf 14. Silver Pleated Skirt 15. Foldable Flats

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02/07/2017

Floret Flowers Take the Chill Out of Winter

Winter doldrums have hit. The sad, spindly trees. Wearing so many layers I will need a reintroduction to my toes come spring. A dog who refuses to go out. While the change of seasons has its allure, I’d rather visit winter over a long weekend in an alpine cabin with heated floors. A way to beat the cold is to bring in elements that remind us of warmer days. Cut Flower Garden accomplishes exactly that with the best of the forgiving seasons without having to spend on an airfare headed south. Erin Benzakein is the master floral designer and maverick in the farm-to-centerpiece movement, sharing insight and inspiration from her farm, Floret Flowers.

Erin Benzakein gathering her tools of the trade.

From designing a flower bed to bundling a bouquet for Mother’s Day, Erin’s easy-to-follow guides enlighten on gardening and styling. The book also provides detailed information on the most popular blooms like dahlias, peonies and roses.

Erin grows around 400 rose bushes in countless varieties.

If you are at a loss on how to mix flowers ideas abound. Other insider morsels include increasing your bloom’s vase life by cutting the stem’s ends and using cool, fresh water. Learn how to make market tied bouquets, floral crowns and, as this is a seasonal guide, holiday wreath.

Lilacs should be picked early in the morning or evening to minimize wilting.

From seed to stem, lush imagery alongside expert guidance elevate the book from coffee table darling to dependable resource guide.

Cut Flower Garden has that alluring combo in being both beautiful and smart.

Photography by Michele M. Waite for Chronicle Books, 2017.

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02/03/2017

Designer Tara Bernerd’s Contemporary Style

Art Deco meets futurism in the spaces designed by Tara Bernerd, as if Jay Gatsby time traveled to the early 2000s and decorated his modernist den. In her new book, Tara Bernerd: Place (Rizzoli), Bernerd guides enthusiasts through a visual journey with a striking representation of homes, hotels and luxury interiors across the globe.

Contemporary is far from minimal in this space within a yacht.

Bernerd has pedigree. She worked with Phillippe Starck, contoured her training into her own aesthetic, and struck out on her own by establishing a firm in London. Bernerd’s layered approach respects curated pieces, an attention to art, and a genius approach to lighting.

Melding texture and tone while an attention to art and lighting add intrigue.

She understands how to make a place both inviting yet sophisticated with a clever assemblage of accents and treatments to warm up a room.

In this Hong Kong penthouse, a rich mix of textures, materials and treatments coalesce.

Subdued color schemes with the occasional injection of a statement shade, parlayed with a variety of materials, keep the designs from looking hackneyed.

A bathroom deviates from expected marble and white with an exquisite blend of color, pattern and materials, as seen in this space’s balance of brass and black with classic marble.

The lobby of the Four Seasons in Fort Lauderdale has the right combination of dramatic and comfortable.

Customized built-ins, “book-matched” walnut, and such opulent texture as leather and velvet direct the focus in this Central Park West apartment.

A mix of comfort and luxury define Tara Bernerd’s places as memorable, livable and secure their placement as architectural gems.

Tara Bernerd: Place is a rich compendium of luxurious spaces you can live in.

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