Friday, May 30, 2014

Style & Simplicity: Some ABCs For Everyday Beauty

Happy Friday, all! Did you have a lovely week? Yesterday brought so much inspiration, a delightful lunch with Ted Kennedy Watson of Watson Kennedy and the wonderful new book Style & Simplicity. If you've been to Watson Kennedy or visited Ted's blog, you know he has an eye for beauty and a way of cultivating magic in the littlest things. His belief that the best of life can be found by slowing down and noticing the smallest details is a philosophy I share, and his book - organized from A to Z - is full of life's most marvelous everyday wonders.

It got me thinking of a few of my own ABCs for living a more beautiful life, every single day...

A is for A CUP OF...It's not just the double shot of espresso that perks the morning up, it's the cup it's poured into. There's something about starting the day with something pretty in your hands - a little reminder to look for beauty all day long. Vintage Willow Ware, a handmade Rachel Dormor cup from Red Ticking, the Herend wedding china, or something passed down from grandmother, every day deserves a lovely beginning.
B is for BLUE and WHITE... Finding the little touchstones that make you happy - whether it's blue and white or baseball cards - and surrounding yourself with them makes the greyest day a little brighter. Especially when you have memories tied to your favorite finds - like the vases picked up on your last trip to Paris or the ginger jar that was a bridal shower gift from a favorite friend.

C is for CELEBRATE... Every day brings something to celebrate, which is why there's always a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in the fridge. Bringing a sense of occasion to the smaller moments - breaking out the good china because the roses started blooming or opening that bottle of Bordeaux because it's Tuesday - lends a healthy dose of joy to the days as they pass.
How do you celebrate everyday beauty in your life? Hope there's lots of beautiful in your weekend!
And if you don't have a copy of Style & Simplicity yet, picking one up would be a perfect way to bring some simple magic your way.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lighthouses, Lilacs and Lobsters

Well, hello! For those of you who enjoyed a lovely, long weekend, I hope that easing back into reality hasn't been too difficult.

We are still reveling in the happiness that comes after the perfect escape. A week in New England, divided up between a family reunion in coastal Maine and a quiet escape to pre-season Nantucket. So much to charm, sifting through the photos may take awhile! But already some themes are starting to emerge: LIGHTHOUSES, LILACS and LOBSTERS. 

There is something reassuring about never being outside of the sights of a LIGHTHOUSE.

How lovely to find the LILACS in Maine still in tight little purple fists, while those in Nantucket were just emerging, we were always in a heavenly cloud of fragrance, no matter where we wandered. It was like hitting the rewind button on spring!

And LOBSTER. Let's just say that pretty much every plate served up a little sweet, buttery goodness - whether packed up for a beach picnic or fancied up for fine dining. Yum.

I hope you'll join me for a little seaside escape over the next few days! And that your long weekend was just lovely. Tell me, what were you up to? XOXO 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Live In The Sunshine

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that no matter what the weather is like where you are, you'll manage to live in the sunshine this weekend.

I'll be away for a bit, taking some to be with family. See you after Memorial Day weekend! XOXO

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tasting Napa: A Visit To Round Pond Estate

Happy Wednesday, everyone! How's the week so far? Have to admit, it would be nice to forget all the errands, appointments and tasks of the day and instead meet up for a sun-drenched afternoon at Round Pond Estate. Nestled in the heart of Napa Valley in the Rutherford region, the family-owned Round Pond farm and winery specializes in blending old world traditions and state-of-the-art innovation. The result is wine and artisan foods that can only be produced with painstaking passion and meticulous care.

Our visit starts with a grand approach to the estate up a long, palm-lined drive. Once there, we meet up with Executive Chef Eric Maczko and walk -- with glass of rosé in hand -- to a grove of ancient olive trees to learn about the hands-on stone-milled process that produces Round Pond artisan olive oils.

After, we wander through the estate's lovely gardens for a lesson in biodynamic gardening and how to properly taste (using both the nose and the mouth). Enclosed by a fence made of recycled grape stakes and pine tee pee poles, the garden is home to all kinds of edible flowers, herbs, vegetables and a family of gorgeous chickens.

Then it's over to the winery crush pad and barrel room to talk about the wine making tradition at Round Pond, from the vine and harvest, all the way to the aging process in French oak barrels. Today I'm loving the light, crisp rosé, but the estate is known for producing some amazing Cabernet Sauvignons.

Finally, we're off to the terrace to taste it all - estate bottled olive oils, vinegars, wines and a long, luxurious lunch made with vegetables fresh from the garden.

To finish the feast, the most dreamiest piece of olive oil cake you've ever tasted, not too sweet, perfectly light and fluffy, and made even more yummy by a drizzle of Round Pond Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange syrup. (Seriously, this cake is insane, you can find the recipe here.)

As delicious as everything tastes, the best part is the incredible view across the vines and the valley. So let's pour another glass and stay awhile.

The next time you're in the Napa Valley, Round Pond is definitely worth a visit. In addition to this wonderful Il Pranzo lunch, they offer a variety of experiences from wine tastings, to an olive oil mill tour and tasting, and a garden-to-table brunch.

Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday? XO

Thanks once again to my lovely friend Dana for sharing some of her beautiful photos with me! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Blues And Whites: Stopping To Smell The Peonies

Happy, happy Monday, everyone! Did you enjoy your Mother's Day. Hope so. Admittedly I had a whole other post thought up for today, but Sunday was so lovely, time with Mom quite sweet, and plans were abandoned for play. So instead, how about something pretty to start the week? Peonies season seems to start in earnest on Mother's Day weekend, and this year was no exception. Bunches of beauty awaited, all lined up at the corner grocery. Of course some had to come home when picking out a few for Mom.... 

They look so pretty nestled with white hydrangeas in pretty little blue and white vases from the Paris puces, softly perched on the mantle.

The perfect companions to a little blue bowl and some seashells found on our last visit to Nantucket... and a few blue and white starfish, too.

Have a lovely week, everyone! Hope you get to stop and smell the peonies! XOXO

Friday, May 9, 2014

Three Things I Learned From Mom

Happy Friday, everyone - and happy Mother's Day. I hope that all you mothers out there will be treated like queens this weekend. Isn't it wonderful that we can take a moment to celebrate our moms and all the things they've taught us? The long list of lessons would keep us here all day, so here's just a few things I've learned from my lovely mother:

MAKE LIFE SWEET: My mom taught me how to make a pie, but more importantly, she taught me how much better life can be when you focus on the sweetness. Her optimistic attitude and positive outlook always made things brighter, and are qualities that I try to emulate every day. 

MAKE LIFE BEAUTIFUL: Every birthday, every holiday and sometimes just the occasional Saturday morning were always something special - the table set with the best china, parties with themes and all sorts of personal touches, handmade decorations for the Christmas tree. Any creativity I possess, I inherited from my mom. Every time I host a dinner party and decide to make the table a little personal and special, I think of her.

MAKE LIFE AN ADVENTURE: My mom wasn't really one for travel. She loved spending summers at the lake house my Dad built and the occasional week at the ocean. But even if we were close to home, it didn't mean that every day wasn't an adventure. Whether picking daisies in the field across the lane or a long walk on the beach searching for shells, my Mom always helped us see the wonder of it all. I've been lucky to take the natural curiosity she instilled around the world with me, but know there's plenty to see and observe in my own backyard.

What lessons have you learned from your mom?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! XOXO

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Notes from Napa Valley

Hi all, happy Wednesday! I'm still floating on air after a perfect girl's weekend in Napa Valley. Just a few thoughts on what makes it such a wonderful spot to escape, whether you are into wine or not....

Everywhere you turn there's something beautiful. Our favorite form of exercise was walking through the vines... 

Although we did stop to smell the roses every now and then.

And there are more luxurious ways of getting around than on foot....

You can't turn around without finding something yummy to eat...

Fantastically fancy French, not-so-fancy French and everything in between...

Not to mention golden hour dining in the gardens at Brix...

There's plenty that's unique and unexpected, and the good life is pretty much an art form.

 It certainly is a sweet spot.

And if you do like wine. Well...

You can find plenty of that, too.

More notes on Napa favorites to come. A big thanks to my lovey friend Dana for sharing some of her gorgeous photos with me.

Have you been to California wine country? Anything you absolutely love there?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pest Control: How To Squash Things That Bug

We've all got them, right? Those little (and big) things that crawl under our skin and drive us crazy.

When "five things that bug you" came up as the topic for this month's By Invitation Only post, my first instinct was to poll my girlfriends to see what they'd say on the subject - of course, we all had pests a plenty in our lives. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to focus on what bugs, and the more I wanted to explore how keep those creepy crawlies from ruining our proverbial picnic. Because, unfortunately, toilet seats will be left up, the driver in front of us will fail to signal, foods we love will be full of fat and calories, and moths will make meals out of our favorite cashmere sweaters. Right? The bugs probably aren't going anywhere. So here's five ideas for how to keep the pests in our lives from driving us nuts, and how to make sure we don't become the fly in someone else's ointment...

1) PRACTICE KINDNESS: I mentioned recently the amazing bucket of lilacs my landscaper so thoughtfully left on my porch. I had just spent 90 minutes stuck in stop-and-go traffic and was simmering with road rage when I got home. The sight and scent of those lilacs defused all that in an instant. Suddenly getting dinner on the table seemed less of a chore. The junk mail and bills in the mail box weren't so annoying. Doing something kind for someone else is one of the best ways to drown out the irritating buzz of life's little mosquitoes - the person on the receiving end of the kindness feels so happy, they are less likely to notice things that might otherwise bug them. And, when you do something nice for someone else, you get the high that comes with knowing you made their day - it's kind of a natural bug spray. Those lose little irritants just can't get near you.

2) PUT DOWN THE PHONE: We know texting while driving can be deadly. It's often considered rude when you check your email during a meeting. But another problem with our constant need to keep an eye on our phones is that it robs us of our mindfulness. And the less connected we are to what's going on around us, the more likely we are to lose track of how our actions impact others. Not to mention, feeling out of touch with what's happening in real time in our own daily life can throw us off balance and make us cranky.  Of course sometimes family emergencies or work issues need to be dealt with in the moment. But maybe we'd all be happier if we resisted the temptation to check our Insta feed on date night (sorry Mr. H.) or waited until after lunch with a girlfriend to respond to that text about our plans for the evening.

3) SAY THANKS:  While I am a big believer in a handwritten thank you note, just taking the time to say thanks in any way, shape or form goes a long way to making us less susceptible to minor irritants and bites. Practicing gratitude helps us be more aware of how rich and wonderful our lives are. Suddenly the gnats and noseeums - the neighbor who won't clean up after their dog, the rude waiter, etc. - aren't quite so bothersome anymore.

4) BEE QUIET: The only thing that bothers me more than being needlessly snapped at by my husband is when I do the same to him - taking the stress of every day life out on an innocent bystander feels terrible. I don't know about your brain, but mine is constantly buzzing with random thoughts, resentments, worries, shopping lists, useless trivia, etc. If I don't take a little time each day to do something that creates peace and quiet in my mind, that stress gets the better of me, and I'm more likely to sting someone. For me, an intense workout or getting lost in a good book is the perfect head clearing. For others it might be getting outside, binge watching Scandal or hiding in the closet with a box of Girl Scout cookies. Whatever it is, take that time out, even if it is just five minutes.

5) THERE'S NO COMPARISON: Everybody's different, so why do we keep insisting on comparing ourselves to others? Nothing ruins a good day faster than judging our own accomplishments, thigh gap or vacation plans against someone else's. And maybe we shouldn't expect others to have the same beliefs, standards and lifestyles as our own. Cutting ourselves and everyone else a bit of slack and not rushing to judgement makes life a heck of a lot more pleasant.

So tell me, what "mosquito nets" do you deploy to keep your own bugs at bay?

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Hope your day is pest free. And please check out what the rest of the By Invitation Only crew has to say on the entomology subject. You can find them all at Splenderosa.


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