Monday, June 30, 2014

10 Things I Cannot Live Without -- as a Parent

10 Things I Cannot Live Without -- as a Parent

Our Piano

Not only do we play at the piano, we also play in front of it!

Bookshelves (to hold all those books)

Burt's Bees Tear Free Hair and Body Wash

Has kept my daughter's hair beautiful,  silky and chemical free since birth!

Relaxing WQXR Classical Radio

Vitamix Smoothie Maker

You can sneak so many nutritious fruits and vegetables into your child's diet with the Vitamix.

Swimming Pools - nothing tires them out more effectively

(or better yet, the ocean!)

My homemade, kid-approved Salad Dressing (recipe to follow!)

Colored Pencils


You'll be amazed at what your children will learn when watching this wonderful educational online program.

Oh, and my incredibly comfortable Bed!

Hairstyles for children

Little girls are magical!  And fortunately for us style-happy types, having daughters who love their dresses, jewelry and long hair is a blessing!

Admittedly, when it came to hair, I had a huge learning curve. Prior to having our daughter, I had not helped anyone with their coif.  Well, that has certainly changed!  Multiple times a day, I now brush, primp, wash, condition and sometimes even curl my daughters hair.  Thankfully, she is a good sport and enjoys getting all dolled up.  Here are some of the fun looks we have done together...

The Beach Bun
The Flower Girl

The Frozen Sisters Hairstyle (on this day it is Elsa)
The Shirley Temple
The practical French braid

The hair feature

Ah, and THE BUN!  It took years to get this one down -- years of curious looks from the ballet moms!

For those of you still learning, here is a simple hair style that will surely impress...

Brush back hair into pony tail
Put in elastic tie, and then pull it down on the tail a bit
Spread hair evenly above the elastic
Twist bottom of pony tail into the hole created above
Slide hair through
Tighten elastic tie and, Voila!

If you need new hair ties for school, I recommend these autumn colored ties from Sephora:

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's Gardening Time!

Gardens are fun for both children and adults,  and especially in the springtime, perfect for parties!  Logically, everyone has their own style -- formal, modern, family-friendly, Asian, naturalist...whatever works for you, works!

 I encourage parents to involve their children in gardening, it gets everyone outside and kids love getting their hands dirty!
For small urban gardens, less is more; unless of course you designed your garden to look like the garden you enjoyed while staying at a 18th century villa in Tuscany (as we did here)...

We just had to have that water feature! Allium (purple pompom) look great in almost any garden and are always pleasing to children.  Also, for the less dedicated gardener, bulbs are a great way to get color into the garden without too much trouble.  

Sparkling white Guara pictured here at our beach house offers a whimsical, elegant touch to any garden.  It magically looks like hundreds of little butterflies.  It blooms all summer long in the Northeast. 

Amazing early-summer container, look at those verigated ferns!  Who would have thought purple basil and pink geranium would tie it all together?

Foxglove (Digitalis) is a low-maintenance, deer-resistant tower of flower that flourishes in our garden by the beach.  You can  cut down the stalk and it will re-bloom in the fall. It also self-seeds. 

Gardens should have color. Aside from the plantings, a great way to brighten up your outdoor space is to use lively fabrics, as I did here with this French stripe. 

It takes years for a garden to mature. But its worth the wait!  This wonderful Russian Sage, planted over 8 years ago, gets fuller every year. 

These colors are not normally part of my preferred palate, but my daughter LOVES this arrangement!

Soon enough it will be time to buy bulbs for fall planting.  Here are some great online sources:

McClure & Zimmerman
John Scheepers         
Van Engelen             

Easy and Healthy Summer Recipe

Summer Chilled Quinoa Salad
Here is an easy, tasty and healthy chilled quinoa salad recipe -- makes a great light supper:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil, add 2 cups prewashed quinoa, reduce heat to a simmer, cover pan and cook until soft and fluffy (15-20 minutes).  Refrigerate until quinoa is chilled.  

Boil 2 ears of fresh corn (in my opinion, fresh corn only needs 1-2 minutes in boiling water).  Cut kernals off the cob.  

In food processor, pulse 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, 1/2 cup lime juice, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 3 cloves of garlic, salt/pepper and a dash of hot pepper seeds.  (If cooking fish with this quinoa salad, double this puree and use the second half as a marinade!). 

Add the puree mix to chilled quinoa. Stir in salt and pepper.  Add a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), a container of grape tomatoes cut up and a chopped avocado (or 2, if you really like avocado). Stir in the corn kernals. 
Chill for a least 15 minutes.  If making in advance, stir in the avocado just before serving to avoid browning. 


Summer Reading

For most parents, finding time to read is challenging. Often, the only time I can read is just before I nod off to sleep. So depending on the day's events, reading can be for as little as 10 minutes.  With such limited time, I try to choose books that are well-written, poignant, thought-provoking.

I have read a few books recently that meet my stringent requirements for solid writing but are also entertaining enough to be classified as summer reading.  Here are a few that I highly recommend:

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walker 

If you haven't read this, pick it up NOW!  Its the perfect escape!  And what could be better summer reading than a book that takes place in a fictional Italian seaside town? Enough said.

Where'd You Go Bernadette, By Maria Semple

Bernadette is such an entertainingly (crazy) character.  This book is filled with humor, its sharp and is a quick page-turner.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Sophisticated, elegant and witty book set in romantic 1930s New York City.  I raced through this one!

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Such a modern novel, interestingly observed from the perspective of a non-American African woman.  It is warm and multi-layered.  It most certainly will be made into a movie...

Oh, and pick up anything written by Colm Toibin!!!

 Just today I bought Empty Mansion by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.  Its about the mysterious life of the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, who died recently.  We'll see..

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting the House Together

My colorful Living Room

Over the years, I have renovated and decorated 5 houses! I am ready to do it again, but am not sure if the sentiment is shared with the rest of my family. I feel like our current house in Brooklyn will always be a work in progress, despite being here for close to 6 years.  After parenting, designing a living space is what I truly enjoy.  I could spend all day looking at Persian rugs or Gustavian side tables or Flavor Paper wall coverings. Oh, and don't let me near a garden store! Aside from my own homes, I have happily helped numerous friends with their renovations and design.

So many wonderful parties cooked in this kitchen

Last year, friends of ours, a young couple living outside NYC, bought a house and asked for some advice on where to begin.  Not surprising, I had some thoughts!  Here they are:

Earthy tones I chose for our bedroom

First and foremost! Do not get overwhelmed with a new house.  It doesn't all need to be done immediately. It took 20 years of collecting things from all over the world to get my house the way I like it, and I am still working on it!  

A few of the many boxes we collected when traveling

Speaking of the world, when you are traveling be sure to pick up something for the house (art usually lasts forever) and  something for the kitchen (so when you use it, you are reminded of your trip).  Most houses look very vanilla to me or lack personality if there aren't interesting talking pieces around.  

Home chalk board walls are brilliant; and they are great for children and adults alike.  It also showcases your kid's art.  Another great way of showcasing and preserving the treasures your kids create is to frame a few pieces of their early art.  

I framed this piece of pre-school art and hung it in my daughter's room.

Love this European antique bed and side table

In new houses, antiques here and there look great.  Go to the local flea markets and look around.  A big antique mirror will look great almost anywhere and adds a great deal of light and space to a room.  

The bed clothes in my daughter's room

Kids rooms should have color!  I do not care for the all- white trend in rooms for young people.  Instead, make them lively, interesting and challenging; give the kids something to explore and enjoy.  Our daughters room is the most colorful room in the house. 

Be careful using white on walls.  Its a wonderfully cool color if you have a house in Mykonos or in the Hamptons; but elsewhere it frequently reads a bit cold and very often does not compliment furnishings and art.  Don't be afraid of color, especially creams and soft, muted earth tones.  

Great cool colors, but maybe best for a beach house.

Sectional sofas are practical and comfortable, but best for an informal basement or TV room.  For the main floor, I would use a sofa with clean lines. I also like facing sofas, anchored by some fun chairs. 

Be sure to mix it up!! In our guest room, we put together an antique Asian Tansu dresser, with all sorts of religious art and then logically paired it all with a driftwood lamp!

Do not buy "sets" of furniture, the goal is to coordinate, not match.  I love dining tables surrounded by 2 different types of chairs. I also like a simple dining table with high backed "super comfy" upholstered chairs. 

Burled Wood, always in style!

So much of good design is about the accessories. Much like a simple dress, take what you have and accessorize. A simple  IKEA side table with a fabulous eccentric lamp, some great art books, a leather box from Florence,  looks fabulous.

More to come on design...