Entertaining: Set the Table, Set the Tone for Successful Al Fresco Dining...

Can I tell you a secret? It is H-O-T here. I mean hot. Majorly hot. But after being trapped in side for a severe winter and a bizarrely wet (read: flash-flood emergency situation) spring we simply don't want to stare at the inside of our homes any more. As long as there's a patio, iced tea and a tiny speck of shade (hello, umbrella!) we are headed outside - especially for meals. 

The key to making this work is making the entire area around you look enchanting. It needn't be much in terms of food (simple is often the best approach) but it pays to have an inviting tablescape and a few accessories around to lure your guests outdoors. And don't worry... I have a sparkling lemonade recipe to help you with even the most jaded (and overheated) guest

SET THE TABLE, SET THE TONE

Bead-Rimmed Placemats & Napkin Rings // Byzantine Dinnerware // Hemstitch Linen Napkins // Valencia Etched Goblets // Cashmere Throw // Malibu Medallion Pillow //  Nickel Hurricane // Sonos WiFi // Frog Rain Drum Table

PRO TIPS FOR SUMMER ENTERTAINING

  1. Set the mood: background music is key. Keep it subtle and soft (think Buddha Bar or Hotel Costes style tracks (type Stéphane Pompougnac into Pandora and let the app do the rest of the work). We love our bluetooth Sonos sound system for music anywhere we want. 
  2. Keep it simple: a few great guests, a simple grilled menu, a signature drink. You're done. Don't overcomplicate with fussy menu items and complex presentation. A grilled vegetable, a grilled meat and a fresh salad - you're done. 
  3. Doll the place up: bring out a few toss pillows, sweep off the patio, windex the windows, rinse off the patio furniture and ready the place for guests - even if you're the only one enjoying the space. You deserve it! 
  4. Keep bugs at bay: Bay leaves will repel ants. Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint are all herbs and aromas that mosquitos will loathe. Mix up this concoction and don't be shy about spraying it around your perimeter. 
  5. Safety first: consider shatter-proof glassware and Melamine dishes for those al fresco meals. Why let one mishap ruin a night or cause you to need to drain the pool to fish out the glass?  
  6. Be prepared: have as much done ahead of time as possible to allow you to be a guest at your own fete - even if the guest list is limited to two. It's never fun when one person is slaving over a meal while others patiently (or impatiently) waits outside for them to join. 
  7. Mix it up: Consider a bar cart with an easy recipe printed up and a DIY approach to a simple cocktail. Empower your guests to serve themselves a drink to keep the hydration (and the conversation) flowing. 
  8. Light it up: the sun will eventually set. When it does, be prepared with lanterns and string lights. The change of scenery will enhance the mood and keep the fun going. 

Now... about that lemonade. Recipe here (and it's easy to sub stevia or xylitol for sugar to achieve that signature southern sweetness everyone loves). 

Happy al fresco dining, everyone! 

Art & Design: Light & Shadowplay by Anila Quayyum Agha...

Isn't this lovely? I just love the idea of light & shadows as the elements of a massive art installation. These images showcase the work of Anila Quayyum Agha and the photos instantly transport me to exotic Morocco with those intricate lace-like patterns formed from the cutouts. This is a must see, and if you're in or around Dallas you can view this at the Dallas Contemporary.

Learn more about Anila here and then please... go get your art on, friends! xoxo

Tech Chic: Thrillseekers, Meet Lily, Your Drone Bestie...

Ever wish you had a camera crew follow you everywhere you went? That's Lily. She's a next-generation drone designed for extreme sports enthusiasts who are always on the move. Lily is rugged, GPS stabilized and totally agile enough to handle whatever path you blaze. To get her up and running you literally throw her up in the air and she stabilizes herself. Led by a device you wear yourself, she'll follow you wherever your surfing, parkouring, running, rockclimbing self will lead her. She's waterproof, flies herself and is equipped with a high-def 1080p camera ready to shoot video, slo-mo films or perfect stills. How seriously cool. Will be $999 when she hits the market. Pre-order now for a steep (think: 50%) discount and be the coolest early-adopter around. 

Note to self: learn parkour and give yourself a reason to own this amazing piece of tech. 

The Art of Living: Designing the Ultimate Bed for Dreamy Nights...

It's no secret I'm a little obsessed with bedding, linens and all things sweet dreams. I thought it would be fun to bring in the expert advice of a self-professed linen aficionado and glean wisdom from her personal experience and professional expertise. Who is she? Felicia Marquie, owner of luxury home goods and accessories boutique Lucky Den. She was kind enough to answer all of my questions about selecting the right sheets, caring for linens and making what she feels is the perfect bed. I hope you'll enjoy the read and more importantly, I hope you'll learn a few tips for guaranteeing your own night of blissful rest. 

(Also... read to the end for a special promotional discount to make achieving that perfect bed a bit easier on the Amex.)

Felicia, your love of fine linens and fabulous accessories certainly shines through on Lucky Den. What events led you to launch your online boutique?
Not to sound like a cliché, but I have always daydreamed of owning my own linen line and flagship store.  Lucky Den is the first step in accomplishing this dream.

Lucky Den carries several of my favorite brands. Lily Alessandra, Arte Italica, Ankasa, Trina Turk and others. What criteria do you use to select your vendors?
I am always looking for great design and exceptional quality, but my interest is piqued by how the item is made and the materials used to construct each item. Everything we use has a story behind it. We don’t always think about it; we just logon or walk into the store and buy it, but the product we sell at Lucky Den were once an idea that eventually materialized as a piece we like to showcase and sell.

Handmade versus machine made linens: break it down for us. Aside from the romance of a duvet was hand embroidered in Italy (which, in and of itself is pretty spectacular), what makes the quality of these artisan products superior?
The artists are creating heirlooms;  One might argue that the difference is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe that the relationship between an artist and their creation is passed on with care from one generation to the next, whereas many items mass produced are more disposable and not made for longevity.

One look at my bed and you’d definitely label me pampered princess. I love fluffy down comforters, pretty white sheets and embroidered pillows. They make me happy. Would you share with us how you dress your bed?
I thought you’d never ask. I love making my bed, and I do every morning. I start with removing everything except the fitted sheet and then start layering from there; starting with my flat sheet, which is smoothed out evenly on either side. I don’t tuck, my husband is not a fan. Next, I spread a cotton blanket over the flat sheet and then my coverlet goes on.  After that, I fold the coverlet, the blanket and the flat sheet back exposing the banded part of the flat sheet. Now I am ready to add my pillows, my many plush pillows. I use between two and three Euro shams on our Queen bed, one or two propped against the headboard and one flat next to them and two standard shams, one standard sham lays flat on top of the Euro sham and the other propped in front of the two Euro shams against the headboard. Lastly, I toss a couple decorative pillows in front of the standard shams and neatly fold my fluffy duvet in its cover at the foot of the bed. Now, I love bedding, and this is one of the more elaborate ways I like to dress my bed. I like to keep it fresh and rotate between several sets and my Euro shams get changed just as often as my sheets. My advice is to have fun with it and get in the habit of making your bed every morning because there is nothing else more relaxing after a long day than crawling into an inviting bed.  

Sateen versus percale. I know some people are firmly in one camp or the other. For me it’s a seasonal choice. Warm weather = percale. Cooler months = cozy sateen. I would love to hear your thoughts on this epic debate.
Ah, the debate continues; it is true, sateen or percale is a personal choice. I happen to be neutral on the subject. I have linen, silk, sateen, and percale sheets and long for each the same when they adorn my bed.

I’ve heard that three is the perfect number. How many sets of sheets do you feel savvy homeowners should have on hand for each bed?
Three is a good number because one is always in the laundry because of breakfast or picnic in bed spills, the occasional “I want clean sheets tonight” night. 

Talk to us about maintenance. How do you suggest we care for our linens?
It is all ways best to follow the care instructions on your linens. However, I would suggest line drying, weather permitting.  If you can’t, then remove them from the dryer before they are completely dry, damp, and air dry them around your home.  The aromas of the detergent and fabric softeners will lighten the home as a pleasant side effect.  

The weather is warming up and I’d love to lighten up my home. What three things would you suggest to freshen up and signal “summer is coming” inside the home?
Aside from changing your linens and air drying them around the home, I also like to lighten up the bathrooms with a new shower curtain, bath mat and towels to match. You can also bring the outside inside by adding freshly cut flowers to the rooms that you use the most and I am a big fan of filling the fruit bowl with seasonal fruit. The colors and aromas are fantastic for the sprit.   

My most important question… any tips for getting a better night of sleep?
Yes, and practice makes perfect. Prepare yourself for bedtime, start a ritual, a bedtime ritual that includes some pampering and do not bring electronics to bed. I am a firm believer in getting eight hours of sleep a night.

Since no one knows her merchandise as well as Felicia, I thought we'd ask her to point out her favorite products and give us some insights on why she adores them so. Let's peek at some of the special Lucky Den items she's featured:

SILK BEDDING 

You might not know this, but silk is practical enough for everyday use, and naturally hypoallergenic - making silk is a wonderful option for people suffering from allergies and asthma. And have you ever slept on a silk pillow? I rest my case. It's a luxury you'll try once and look forward to forever. Discover her Kumi Kookoon Classic and French Pleat options to make your bed a hypoallergenic haven. 

FRESH & CLEAN WHITES

Nothing beats the luxury-hotel bedding of choice: opulent white bedding. My personal favorite. Felicia has rounded up quite a few of her private selections as well. Begin by using Lili Alessandra's Therese Lace bedskirt, top the mattress with Lili Alessandra Lace sheeting, add Anichini's White Chevron Blanket, encase your duvet in Anichini White Claridge Linen Bedding, use Anichini's Canette Shams on your euros, place the Rani Arabella Duke throw in beige at the foot of the bed, finish with Pyra & Co's very opulent Lili Pillow - and voila! You've design your very own Ritz-Carlton worthy bed prepped for a serene night of shut eye. 

BRIGHT & CHEERY

You bolder types (and me on rare weeks!) will love this section. These are color-happy options that would make even Jonathan Adler downright giddy. She loves a mix of Stamattina's colorful orange Sophie bedding and the brand's Kyara bedding in 100% Egyptian cotton for a bit of pattern play. The Giulia sheeting & shams with it's single band of colored embroidery plays well with the previous two collections. Rani Arabella's orange cotton throw adds a moment of Hermes chic to the foot of the bed. Finish with an array of Pyra & Co's Janagali pillows in Tangerine for shimmery & colorful appeal. Now that's an anti-depressant bed! 

Now... about that sweet dream of a deal I mentioned earlier. Simply use code MEMORIALDAY15 at checkout to save 15% through (you guessed it) Memorial Day at Lucky Den and enjoy your blissfully chic nights at home. I hope you enjoyed learning the art of bed making and gleaned a bit of wisdom about selecting and caring for your linens. Thank you, Felicia, for your time! 

Culinary Pursuits: Qui veut de délicieuses crêpes faites maison?

Food and literature have been intertwined for years. Under the Tuscan Sun inspired many to create authentic Italian countryside dishes. At the moment I'm reading two books making me yearn for authentic French food, the most accessible of these being crêpes.

Their simple preparation and fast cook time make crêpes ideal for weekend breakfast - especially if you have children with eager eyes and hungry stomachs. Which brings me to my next topic: encouraging these girls to crave healthy breakfasts when the western world seems bent on telling them a bowl of sugared flakes is the norm.

Crêpes - especially those of the savory variety - are rich in protein and vegetables. And did I mention how pretty they can be? Yes, sweet ones are all the rage and a fun treat, but for regular meals I love the idea of a chicken and broccoli crêpe or spinach and cheese. Both of these being easy to convince a your Francophile to try. 

A few quick and easy basics to help you channel your inner French girl (or guy): 

CREPE-MAKING ESSENTIALS

Ready to go beyond the basics? I thought so. Step up your crêpe game and brace yourself for an onslaught of compliments from your family & guests with a few culinary superstars: 

NEXT LEVEL ACCOUTREMENT

Now, about those books... I'm absolutely smitten with both. One is a novel that I can't put down and simultaneously hope never ends. Sadly I'll finish it this weekend, but every Loire Valley filled page of it has been inspiring and interesting. French Illusions has all the makings of a page-turner: tension, European travel and the potential for romance that never quite seems to pan out. An ambitious young American girl fibs her way into a lavish au pair position for a wealthy French family only to discover that perhaps lying about her language skills wasn't the most wise of plans. I won't spoil the story, but this is a fantastic read. 

My next recommendation is more of a reference book, but is so beautifully designed and chock full of useful information it is mind-blowing. I can't help but see the irony that The Farm-to-Table French Phrasebook would have helped the subject of the novel I'm reading navigate the terrain of her foreign surroundings with aplomb. Packed with foodie terms, cultural tips and everyday French phrases that will make even a novice sound like a local (well, except for that telltale accent). Even if you're not boarding the Boeing 777 Dreamliner soon you'll want to snag a copy of this book - if merely to entertain family and friends while you whip up those fancy crêpes. 

BOOKISH RECOMMENDATIONS

What I like most about these books is their non-touristy appeal. Both of them - in their own unique ways - are educating you on the nuances of French living, French language and the esteemed cultural cuisine. Reading each I've gained a getter understanding of customs, etiquette and an awareness of more pronounced and nuanced cultural differences. If you'd like a mini-vacation without lifting your passport from the drawer, consider these two books a delicious tour of French cuisine and cultural divides.

So now... Qui veut de délicieuses crêpes faites maison? Translation (courtesy of the fab Farm to Table book mentioned above) Who wants some delicious homemade crêpes? Answer: I believe we all do. Happy Weekend! 

Recipes: Why You Need Chimichurri In Your Life...

For some reason this simple sauce has become a full on flavorful obsession for me. We enjoy our grass-fed steaks and burgers here and I'm always trying to jazz mine up with zesty toppings. Whole Foods makes a ridiculously good pico de gallo which I use as often as I can. But how can you take your meal further? How can you take steak and burgers to the next level? I'm telling you - the secret is in the sauce. 

Chimichurri is surprisingly simple and fast to make. Don't mess around with other methods: you need a small food processor and little else. Simply Recipes offers this straightforward recipe that has helped me refine my ingredient ratios for more consistent success. Leave yours chunky or smooth it out - it's entirely up to you. What you'll discover is that this verdant topping makes your flavors sing and will entice you to fire up the grill as often as possible. Trust me on this!  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

HOW-TO

  1. Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
  2. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.

{recipe via}

CHEF'S TOOLS


Wondering about that grass-fed beef? We purchase ours either at Whole Foods or from a Texas farm. This easy bit of knowledge might give you reasons to consider going grass-fed yourself. I hope you'll try the chimichurri. I know you'll love it! 

Feeling Bookish: Following Charlotte Moss into the Garden...

project.jpg

Charlotte Moss is an uncommon talent. Successful in a variety of professional arenas, she commands a rich design portfolio, successful retail stores, several best-selling books, fabric and trim lines, upholstery collections and a host of other accolades and accomplishments in her wake. Known for her ability to embrace natural beauty in her spaces, it is only fitting that her newest book Garden Inspirations takes us on a very personal tour of her own gardens, her journeys around the world taking in both public and private gardens and offering us many lessons from the legend herself. 

There are a few very special aspects of the book that surprised me. Charlotte not only helps delineate the various types of gardens (think: English, Italian, Russian, American and French), she also offers menus for dining outside and lends her keen eye for tablescaping each meal. And for those of you looking for insights on how to make a bouquet of flowers look like a pro assembled it - the divine Mrs. Moss offers a wealth of reassuring tips and simple suggestions.

I found this entire book to be eye-opening. Not only does it offers insights on cultivating specific flowers or shrubs, it also encourages you to move beyond any fears of making mistakes. It turns out, even greats like Charlotte have had instances where experimentation failed and a well-intended planting failed to bear fruit. I loved reading the personal tales of highs and lows of tending to a private garden. Much like life, it is all about try, try again and find what works best for you. 

For those still not inspired to get outside and take in the verdant scenery, Charlotte peppers the book with historical notes and quotes from leading ladies of days gone by who influenced their cultures and their surroundings via cultivating their own gardens. Empress Josephine, Lady Bird Johnson, Bunny Mellon and Edith Wharton are all revealed to have been avid gardeners in possession each of especially green thumbs. 

While I consider myself lucky when my tiny herb garden blooms, I have been feeling the urge over the past few years to invest more time in planting flowers, adding more container shrubs and otherwise stretching my horticulturalist muscles.  

If you're looking for the perfect Mother's Day gift (and you should be!), Charlotte Moss's Garden Inspirations is an excellent choice. Perhaps you'll even be invited to join her on one of those fanciful al fresco meals in the garden and she too will impart some gardening wisdom on you.

And because I know you love bonus features: the book also features additional web content accessed by scanning watermarked pages with the Digimarc Discover App. Cool, right? Snag a copy of the book at Horchow and yes, please send a copy to your sweet mom. She'll love it as much as you. 

INTO THE GARDEN WE GO



Entertaining: Chalking It Up to Experience...

While some of us keep expecting the global love affair with chalk to fade away (no pun intended), love of this forgiving medium only seems to be growing stronger. Call it the cafe effect if you will, but hostesses everywhere are having fun discovering myriad uses (and surfaces) for those useful custom identifiers and personalized messages. Put frankly, guests love seeing their name on pretty handwritten cards and savvy entertainers love the flexibility of the last minute menu changes this style of display affords. 

My secret weapon? Chalk Ink markers with what they call a chisel tip. Being a classic girl, I adore the white and metallic gold & silver versions. But don't limit yourself to my preferences. These handy tools come in every color from neon orange to pastel pink, giving you complete control over design and the mood you wish to project. And that chisel tip gives you the ability to lend a calligrapher's look to the most simple of applications. All while keeping your hands clean. As you might guess, I love that! 

Since chalk designs and the handwriting styles that accompany them have become a sub-genre of the art world, myriad options abound to aid you in improving your skills in this area. Skillshare offers lettering classes that will put you on your journey to developing an artist's flair regardless of the medium. YouTube is loaded with similar lessons. Don't overlook the power of Pinterest to lead you to inspired (and easy) skill honing sessions to improve your handwriting and mature your chalk-specific talents. 

Believe it or not, the use for chalk has gone beyond those French hens bearing a menu around their neck (although I do have a soft spot in my heart for those) .I love the idea of small chalk-friendly place cards at the table or with a bar cart listing out the available drink options.

Starbucks has trained us that menus and signage need not be boring or restricted to just text. Perhaps a little artistry is just the thing for the dinner table. Placemats that wipe clean might make for great entertainment for creative guests or little ones while you're whipping up a feast. It makes the time fly by and gives guests (or family members) something fun to do.

One thing I have certainly learned: personalization is something everyone, old or young, enjoys. From their name to custom illustrations celebrating their individuality, it's the small touches that transform simple parties into fabulous and fêtes. Details matter, and seeing your name on a napkin ring is a small touch that warms the heart. Lesson: make it personal, make it memorable.

A FEW FAVORITE CHALK PRODUCTS



The key is to use the tools at your disposal and exercise those creative muscles. Take a cue from glamorous weddings and the many ideas offered by pinterest. I love keeping it simple, but don't be afraid to demonstrate your creative freedom. After all, the best part of chalk is its impermanence. If you decide to make a change simply wipe away the design with a damp cloth and... voila! A blank slate is born. 

A FEW MORE CHALK-FRIENDLY OPTIONS


Remember, with a quick spray or brushstroke almost any surface can be transformed into a chalkboard. From and old picture frame to an entire wall. Those of you with an "I can do it" streak in your soul (you know who you are!) can feed your need to create with these easy products below: 

FOR THE DIY-INCLINED


Recipes: Tangy, Crunchy & Oh, So Good Korean Tacos...

The weather is warming up and, well, it's time to move the cooking and the dining outdoors for the season. If Dallas does one thing really well it's tacos of every variety. I discovered this recipe over on Half-Baked Harvest and can't wait to give ti a try. It does not look particularly healthy, but the photos speak for themselves! I'd have to skip the queso fresco due to my cheese allergy, but aside from that, this is exactly what I'm craving right now. Spicy, tangy, colorful and packed with texture & crunch. 

CHEF'S TOOLS


Ingredients

  • Korean Fried Chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons gojujang (Korean chile paste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 pound cooked chow mein noodles or other thick asian noodles
  • Sweet Crunchy Asian Slaw
  • 3 cups mixed red and green cabbage
  • 2 carrots, sliced into match sticks
  • 2 red chiles, seeded + sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • black pepper, to taste
  • Topping
  • 4-8 warmed corn or flour tortillas or hard shell tacos
  • queso fresco
  • fresh cilantro
  • sesame seeds
  • picked ginger

Instructions

To make the slaw

In a medium bowl mix together the cabbage, carrots, red chilies, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice, sesame seeds and black pepper. Toss well to combine and place in the fridge until ready to use, but no longer than a few hours or the cabbage will get soggy.

Make the Chicken

In a large bowl mix together minced or grated garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, jojujang, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey. Set aside.

Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy bottom high sided skillet or pot to 350 degrees F.

Add the cooked noodles in 2 or 3 batches to the hot oil and fry until golden, 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towel and then break into pieces. Set aside.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup water in another bowl. Add chicken chunks and toss. Working in batches, fry chicken until golden, 6–8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Return oil to 350 degrees F. Fry chicken a second time until crisp, 6–8 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Add the chicken to the bowl with the sauce and toss well.

To Assemble

Divide the chicken among the warmed taco shells. Top with sesame seeds and slaw. If desired: add the crunchy noodles, cilantro and queso fresco. 

*Recipe via Half-Baked Harvest

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY

Boutiquing: Fine Luxury Linens from Kimberly House...

{Photos via yours truly, Franki Durbin}

{Photos via yours truly, Franki Durbin}

Easter is behind us, so it's on with summer decorating for me. Gone are the pastel objects that make egg hunt season so fun, and onward with colors and accents that remind us that summer is coming. 

Over the years I've developed a lovely selection of coral and shells that make tablescaping so much easier. This year I've added a few new linens to the mix in an effort to up my entertaining game. Embroidered linen pretty much makes me weak in the knees, and when I spied the Ornament collection from Kimberly House my eyes lit up like fireflies. Hand embroidered table runners and napkins just give a dining table that special vibe that shows your guests you're thrilled they came. It's the smallest of details that make the difference, and this is where these hemstitch accents really shine.

SETTING THE TABLE

On my table: Kim Seybert Placemats (similar above) but all are gorgeous! // Williams Sonoma Water Goblets // Bianca Dinnerware // Mini Starfish // Assorted Coral & here

I'm using the Ornament Runner & Napkins to set the stage for summer dining. Frankly, the site offers so many beautiful creations you might be challenged to find just one design you like. But for me, a medallion type design always steals the show and looks timeless. 

The overall vibe of Kimberly House is one of finely made goods crafted from natural, high quality materials. Think: beautiful living with simple, elegant details. Products range from linens and towels, to purses and candles, table runners, napkins, and even a baby line which features quilts, sheets, sleep sacks, clothing, and adorable bib and burp cloth sets. With baby shower season quickly approaching (is it ever really NOT baby shower season?) I thought you'd love knowing these amazing gifts options were available. Bonus: these selections are so uncommon you'll be the only one at the fete with your special gift in tow.

About my images: Pardon the poor lighting, it's a hideous day here and I was eager to get my styling done today. Clearly there's more to do to set the stage for my summer-inspired table, but the sweet team at Kimberly House has been gracious enough to create a special offer just for you. 20% off your ENTIRE purchase. An elegant discount just when you need it - tax time! 

A FEW KIMBERLY HOUSE FAVORITES

Simply use code FRANKI20 at checkout April 15-May 1 for 20% off the entire Kimberly House site. Amazingly generous, of them! I hope you'll enjoy topping your table and adorning your home with these supremely fine linens. I can't wait to choose a few more. 

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY

Buon Weekend: What I ❤ This Week...

What a week. It's as if life - like those dormant tulip bulbs - decided to reinvent themselves as new and more beautiful forms. Me? I'm working on reinventing myself, one pretty new blusher and flare skirt at a time. Yes, it goes deeper than that, but periodically a shortcut to reinvention is to begin with what you can see and work inwards. A slight life refresh might just be what I need, and what better time than spring? With that, here's what I am loving this week: 

GET SPRUCED UP

Dermatology appointments via your iPhone with Spruce. Not kidding. The future is indeed here. Alas, Texas is not yet one of the states offering this service, but those of you in NY, PA, FL and CA are in luck. Download the new app for derm advice & prescriptions for just $40 without ever stepping foot in an office. 

BRONZERS & BLUSHES & BEAUTY BLENDERS, OH MY!

Beauty bloggers make me so, so happy. Where do I begin with the massive list of girls worth reading? I'll start with my present faves: the Beauty Professor, Lily Pebbles, and Vivianna Does Makeup. There are dozens of others I read, but these do a great job of getting into the nitty gritty of each product they get their manicured paws on. Why the addiction? Fiscal sanity, frankly. Studying their likes, dislikes and weeding out winners from losers at the department store beauty department saves me tremendous time and energy. And, you bet: dinero. That's not to say you won't have to get out and get samples yourself to find your beauty & skin care mainstays, but these girls work hard to reviews new (and existing) products so you don't have to. 

QUICHE IS GREAT. FRITTATAS ARE BETTER. 

My mother LOVED to make quiche when I was growing up. While I always assumed it was due to it's creamy texture and flavorful taste, I'm also keen to suspect she realized it was a brilliant solution to lazy Sunday brunches. While I prefer frittatas for their crustless (and gluten-free) ways, the spirit of the recipe is still the same. Mix it. Bake it. Enjoy it. I've rounded up a few great recipes here, here and here to help you navigate your Easter brunch contribution like a boss. 

Hosting? Bake a frittata, pair with a leafy salad, offer homemade sparkling lemonade and call it a day. You win the hostess game. Pro tip: add (nitrate-free) bacon, no matter the recipe. Everyone will thank you and come back for seconds. Oh, and did you know these are easily made to be paleo-friendly? Bonus, right? 

New to frittatas? They are God's gift to chic but busy hostesses everywhere. Seriously. Get schooled with this handy list from Bon Appetit outlining a few pitfalls to avoid while preparing these one-dish wonders. 

LIFT 'EM HIGH & TIGHT

It's that time again. Spring. Which means legs and skin must be ready for use and maximum exposure. Me? I'm all about workouts that require little more than body weight. Yoga ranks high, as do those Brazilian workouts guaranteed to lift your rear into gear. Try this 5 minute workout and Ali Kamenova's wide range of yoga videos. I also like to mix in a little Ballet Beautiful when I can. Get moving, mix it up, start juicing, drink lots of water and clean up your diet - fast. Spring is already here. 

LIFE IN BLOOM

Warms days mean heading outside every chance we get. It also means drawing inspiration from neighbors and magazines for how to de-winter your home. I'm crushing on pretty floral wreaths for my front door and boxwood wreaths layered over mirrors. I'm also planting herbs for our kitchen windowsills like it's going out of style. Hopefully this is the year my green thumbs emerge in lieu of my traditional plant-killer signature style. 

Here are a few faves from Terrain, which is quickly becoming my new shopping obsession as it offers major horticulture inspiration. Even for those of us with a rack record for killing even the most hardy of plants. Hey, a girl can dream, right? 

Spring in Bloom Wreath // Quilted Pot Blooming Oregano // Larkspur Garden Wreath

Happy weekend, everyone! 
xoxo

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY

Culinary Pursuits: How I Became the Queen of Quinoa...

One day you're scoffing at the nervous nellies desperate to ensure those lemon cupcakes are both gluten-free and organic, the next you're trolling the grass-fed recipe sites and cooking up quinoa wondering when exactly you yourself became so healthy food obsessed. It took a while, but I'm definitely looking at everything through my whole food lenses these days. Perhaps it's my quest to improve my own energy levels and reduce risk of future disease. Even more likely, the two smiling faces that look up to me (literally and figuratively) to prepare tasty meals have had a huge impact on my thinking of where our food comes from and how it is grown before it arrives at our table. Farm to fork, baby. Farm to fork. 

My new obsession? Quinoa. I'm not a pasta girl or a rice lover. I avoid wheat like it's the plague, but this ancient grain rings my bell. New to this superfood? I've rounded up a few transition products to ease you into the protein-rich goodness I've come to know and love. 

First, these Simply 7 chips. Let me apologize to you now for your new crunchy addiction. We can barely keep a bag around the house more than a day - and we are NOT snackers. They are that good. Made of quinoa and better than any chip I've had, these non-GMO goodies come in a range of flavors. They are also available in Hummus and Lentil varieties - but the quinoa are straight up amazing in my book. Ah-mazing. I grab mine at Whole Foods, but I've seen them popping up in quite a few shops. Seems I'm not the only fan! 

Next, these great Ancient Harvest rotelle noodles. A year ago I switched my daughter to brown rice noodles and never looked back. Now we've rolled over to these quinoa based oodles and she practically begs me to make my signature italian dishes with them. Major win. Another Whole Foods find that's worth searching for in the aisles. 

My new pantry secret weapon is this packet of goodness from Seeds of Change. It's a mix of brown rice & quinoa and it takes just moments to simmer in a pan and prepare. This incredible (and organic) combo has become the base for many a fabulous meal in our home. I LOVE this stuff and am always grabbing one or two more when I hit the market. It opened my eyes to the marvel of the delicious taste of quinoa. And... the whole family loves it. Another major win. 

Already a quinoa lover? You'll dig this tasty recipe from Alter Eco Foods. Packed with protein and a lively mix of fresh flavors, it's a terrific dish to introduce as spring and summer unroll themselves. Make it for brunch and watch eager eyes ask for the recipe. It's that tasty.  

RECIPE: BASIL, PEPPER & CORN QUINOA SUMMER SALAD

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups Alter Eco quinoa
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 cup tightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 or 2 lemons)

METHOD

Rinse Quinoa thoroughly in cool water and drain.
In a medium saucepan combine quinoa, salt and 3 cups water. Bring to boil over high heat.
Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add corn, cover and cook until water is
absorbed. Let cool, then transfer mixture to large serving bowl. Toss well with fork, fluffing
quinoa. Add basil, peppers and onion. Stir in oil and enough lemon juice to give salad a
distinct lemony edge. Adjust seasons to taste.

Shopping: Exploring Terrain's Bounty of Natural Goodness...

Have you nosed around Terrain? Anthropologie's sister brand is less about fashion and more about a very focused selection of nature-derived and inspired lifestyle goods. Terrain's aim is to merge the idea of house and garden and I believe they do a lovely job of filling that flowering, budding niche.

Locally sourced plants and artisan goods are what you should come seeking. Think: gorgeous dried floral wreaths, hand-poured peony-infused soy candles and hand-carved sustainably crafted cutting boards and you've got the idea.

There's a nod to flowers everywhere you look and the overall effect of the site is one of romance. Below are a few of my favorite little items from their online shop, perfect for Valentine's Day or just a sweet way to say "I love you" to friends, sisters, moms or even yourself. 

Green thumb? Immerse yourself in their Greenhouse section where you'll find all you need to foster a love of gardening and growing your own flowers, herbs and food. On that note, why send cut flowers for Valentine's Day when you could send a potted plant that will last for as long as your recipient cares for it? I love the Raisin Pie Orchid myself. It even comes in a gorgeous urn. 

Happy shopping & even happier gardening to you. 

The Art of Living: Wrinkle-Free Window Treatments...

My signature window treatment has long been the floor to ceiling silk dupioni panel. It's a look I love and can't imagine giving up. What I don't love is softening those creases that occur when moving or installing these lengthy creations. Since I like dusting my panels from time to time, it has served me to learn how to properly care for them without sending them to the cleaners each time I decide to spring clean. Besides: all that dry cleaning fluid can damage delicate textiles and mistakes do sometimes occur. Thus, it pays to learn a few methods of cleaning and caring for these simple window treatments on your own so you can keep them clean and crisp on your own schedule. 

This annual task used to befuddle me. Fortunately I've invested in a few tools of the trade and learned quite a bit about maintaining my silky creations. A commercial grade steam iron, for one, has made life significantly easier. Those cool new "crease release" sprays are another (high five for that one, scientists!). And let's not forget the good old iron. But caution: test all products or methods on a small area to ensure you aren't leaving spots or scorching your fabrics. 

Silk may be tricky, but those of you rocking linen or cotton panels can relax knowing that steam can power out any wrinkles your little heart desires to force out. My tip: Iron the top on a classic ironing board. I actually like using crease release fabric in lieu of starch as it really encourages the fabric to let go of those folds.

I like to iron the back of the panels to protect the integrity of the front-facing fabric. It's also a great moment to mist with fabric freshening liquid with a light clean scent. The Laundress makes a great one I love using. Even if the window treatments are new, this is a rare opportunity to add a "clean" scent to the fabric before they are installed. Why iron the top? The top dictates how the bottom and "body" of the panels will hang. Eliminating wayward wrinkles and unruly folds is key to allowing the length of the panels hang how you wish them to hang. 

Once you've achieved a few feet of flawless fabric at the top of the panels from the iron, hang those panels and hang them high. From there I move on to a professional garment/upholstery steamer. I use a Jiffy, but you can shop around to find what meets your needs. I gently pull on the fabric to "train" the folds of the panels as I go down to the floor. I like having a handheld option too for those hard-to-reach areas.

Again, work with what seems best for your fabric. Cotton and other natural fibers can handle the heat of an iron. Synthetics and delicate textiles like silk require more of a delicate approach and you'll want to experiment with heat settings and techniques to see what works best for you. 

Then, for lasting gentle folds where you want them, grab some scarves or other fabric ties to train your panels to hold soft creases where you want them. Give them a day or so to "set" and voila! Fabulous, crease free drapery panels just the way you've always dreamed you'd have. 


Finally...stand back, take a deep breath and admire your work. No need to think about these beautiful window treatments again for a year. And by then you'll feel like a boss when you tackle the task. ;) 

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY

Art & Design: Let Your Art Speak For You...

Hope you're all having an amazing week so far. Today the topic of creativity came up over and over again in conversation. To celebrate artistic design in its many varied and wondrous forms, I've pulled together a few images of diverse abstract paintings that really "make" the space. Enjoy these and other inspiring works of art on this pinterest board. Until tomorrow... xoxo

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY...

Mind & Body: The Quest for Authentic Matcha...

Lately whenever I drink my morning coffee I'm plagued by a nagging feeling that I'm in dire need of a health overhaul. I wish it weren't true, but I can't deny it to myself any longer. Shouldn't I start my day with a green tea or a superfood-packed wheat grass shot? I should, I know I should. Last year I gave up a host of bad dietary habits: gluten (which was an underlying cause of multiple issues), Splenda (horrible and very difficult to give up, but I did!) and protein bars. 

2014 was the year I committed myself to whole foods, less convenient meals (those aforementioned protein bars) and cleaning up my diet. Well... it's time to take it to the next level. Yes, I'm jumping on the goji berry, chia seed, matcha track much beloved by supermodels for good reason.

If 2014 was the year for eliminating the bad, I want this year to be the year I focus on adding in the good to my life and my nutritional routine. 

Why am I considering kicking my coffee habit? First: coffee is acidic. Green tea by contrast is rich in antioxidants and is alkaline in nature. It is hailed as a cancer fighter and a fat burner. All good things, but what I really want is a genuine health boost and an energy lift that doesn't affect my blood sugar levels. All of which lead me back to my coffee habits. 

That second reason? I don't drink my coffee black. I want to stop using stevia (my splenda stand-in in my daily java) and look for ways to radically transform my natural energy levels. In addition to stevia I also add either milk or creamer - neither of which seem easy to clean from my mugs, so I can only imagine what these film-inducing substances are doing to me internally. Ick. Ick. Double ick. 

And so...  it seems perhaps my rabid coffee-lust could perhaps, just perhaps, be replaced by something more positive and better for mind & body. 

Matcha is hailed as a miracle drink for all that ails us. And I'm ready to add this to my repertoire as well as add in a collection of those other yummy superfoods I mentioned. The berries & seeds are easy picks. These and a host of other popular miracle foods are readily available at Whole Foods and any organic market. Even Amazon can get them here in record time (hello, Prime!). 

But the matcha? It's a bit trickier. I'm not in search of the American version of this frothy whole-leaf tea concoction. I'd like to be a purist and enjoy a traditional bowl of the good stuff. After much research I determined that O-Cha has an amazing organic version. Prized for its smooth taste and rich verdant hue. But this award-winning Japanese tea requires special accessories to make properly, and it's no shock I don't have those specialized accoutrements on hand. 

Enter Panatea. I discovered them via a Bon Appetit article late last night. Panatea makes entering the world of matcha look easy and, dare I say it, desirable. Their videos and streamlined site make it seem simple to whip up a batch of this rich-in-antioxidants drink. Yes, they are Americanizing it for me (exactly what I swore I didn't want), but it makes the ceremonial drink a bit more approachable and attainable for the masses.

If you've been curious about matcha yourself, peep at their starter kit for a very reasonable $59. It comes with a traditional double-wall glass bowl, a measuring scoop and a traditional whisk (called a "chasen") to transform this coffee boss into a matcha guru in no time flat. Hopefully. 

Downsides: I don't see any reviews or details regarding the quality or source of their matcha powder. It's not organic and I see little info on the product itself. I'm not expecting the product itself to be on the level with O-Cha's premium powders. But... for my initial foray into the world of Japanese tea this starter kit might be a good first stop. The gateway product to set me on the path to my "zenlightenment" that surely must follow. Primarily, I see the acquisition of the tools themselves and the knowledge of how to use them as perhaps the real beauty of the Panatea offer. 

I haven't ordered it yet, but I've got a kit in my online cart. Pondering. Considering. Researching. (Note: I have no vested interest in the brand, but their sleek marketing and mention in Bon Appetit has me intrigued.) 

***update: I ended up going with quality over quantity. O-Cha makes a truly organic authentic premium grade matcha. It's on the way from Japan as I type this. From all online accounts this is a very good brand with high quality products. I decided to start with the very best and make my decisions from there!***

What about you? Have you matcha'd yet? Are you whisking up a frothy batch of the good stuff each morning in lieu of coffee or are you dabbling in it with matcha-infused baked goods or lattes? Do tell. Also.. Are you tossing back goji berries and chia seeds on the regular? I'd love to hear all about it. What nutritional changes are you making this year? 

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY...

The Art of Living: Write It Down. Get It Done.

Let me guess... you got this, right? You've got a mental list or a scrap of paper somewhere (wasn't it just here?) with your to do list on it. Or part of your to do list. Sorry, Charlie. This approach to life isn't going to land you in Forbes anytime soon. Putting pen to paper (yes, a pen to actual paper) is the only way to go. 

Time and time again studies and examples have proven that the very act of writing down not only your "to do" list but your "to BE" list will radically alter your future. The very process of articulating to yourself what you intend to accomplish ("build prototype" or "book first training session with Matt") is enough to begin propelling you in the direction of DOING the thing you intend to do. By writing it out in bold black and white (or blue medium tip, as I prefer) is enough to begin changing your perception of the task. It now becomes an ACTION item on your life list. It's now in front of you as a more concrete facet of your life. Before it was just a thought or a "should" and now it is a MUST. But... you've got to write it down. 

I'm don't mind embarrassing myself by telling you that I prefer not only a pretty little journal but a pretty little pen. Sorry, it's true. Perhaps it makes it all so much more enjoyable to do. Regardless of the "why" I can tell you that having one set destination for fresh ideas, "aha" moment, clear thoughts and daily "to accomplish" lists helps keep my creative brain focused. 

Best part? Crossing out things I've done. Oh, yeah. This is incredibly satisfying. It tells my brain that I'm getting closer to my goals. It feeds my subconscious a steady diet of "you go, girl!" reinforcement to encourage me to keep doing this very small act of life discipline. 

Will you join me on this? Will you buy into this concept? Will you just WRITE. IT. DOWN?Will you?

If you're lured by pretty things (as I clearly am) give Anthro a try. They have these pretty botanical notebooks (I die!) and these artsy marbled versions as well. Pretty pens don't hurt either (especially those with caps that keep you from having mishaps in your handbag) You'd be surprised by how a small investment (all of these are less than $17) can make your lofty dreams suddenly seem more fabulous and your action items seem more important. Do it. Do it and watch your life change and your days stop blurring together. Do it and do yourself the favor of actually running your days instead of having them run you (and run you over). 

So... what is your assignment? It's simple. Get yourself a notebook, a journal, an agenda or SOME specific bound book to write EVERYTHING down. Get one fast, honey, because we're already midway through January. Next: actually write it down. "It" can be anything, but the more you express, the more you'll accomplish. 

Now... go out there and be the Beyonce you were meant to be. 

 

Spectacular Properties: Gorgeous West Coast Escapes...

When I grown up, I want to own a handful of rental properties like this villa in Del Mar. Just look at those views? Holy smokes. And at a $1500 per night surely I could use the income to make a dent in those California property taxes and such. It sleeps 13 and is so fabulous it was was featured in the July 2013 San Diego Home and Gardens magazine. This gorgeous place is walking distance to shops and a mile from the beach. Hello, home away from home!

And did you see the cool bedroom with the bunk beds? Certainly not just for kids. My favorite parts are the open air areas including those slide-away doors in the kitchen. Amazing. 

This pad is pimped and perfect. Ahhhh... goals. I now have a new one: own several insanely gorgeous luxury rentals. 

It seems the more significant earnings would seem to be found in Oprah's hilly enclave of Montecito. This expansive (and expensive) 53 acre pad will set you back a neat $12,500 per week. Not to worry, it sleeps a dozen so you & your friends can each chip in just over a grand per week (actually not unrealistic when broken up that way compared to a hotel) to stay in this private hillside sanctuary. Pretty gorgeous if you ask me. This gated retreat are yours for the taking if you've got the cash to spare (and the minimum seven days to stay). 

There's one more I have to show you but I can't find it right now. Stay tuned and I'll showcase my ultimate rental and the home I'd actually love to own myself. Happy real estate dreaming! 

Visual Poetry: I Heart #IHaveThisThingWithFloors...

I have had great love of this Instagram account since discovering it last year. This week Reese Witherspoon discovered I Have This Thing With Floors for the first time and confessed that she too as a thing for cool patterned floors paired with fancy feet. The variety of images this account generates is nothing short of astonishing. Can I just say that I love the power of a good hashtag? Happy Instagramming, friends! xoxo