Entertaining: Bring Together Fronds & Friends...

Fronds are EVERYWHERE this summer and I am loving it. From jumpsuits to candleholders (more on that in a moment) these oversized leaves are showing up in the most unusual of places.

Let's first pay tribute to 1942 by decorator Don Loper and others for popularizing the iconic Martinique wallpaper. Using a banana leaf wallcovering is a bold design choice that has made the Beverly Hills Hotel a legendary example of chic design over the years. Dorothy Draper decked the halls of The The Greenbrier Hotel in leafy green paper as well during in it's renovation in the 40's (what was it with that decade?). In more recent years, designer Tom Scheerer made waves when he wrapped the walls of the Lyford Cay Club lobby in Quadrille's towering palm wallpaper.

The message is clear: palms are cool. Palm leaf prints are even cooler. So today's post is all about working this motif into your life in the most sophisticated of ways. It doesn't need to be a head to toe look, just a hint of a frondy print does a space good. Think: Palm Beach Chic and you've got the right vibe. 

Personally, I love the look in proximity to the water. If you have a pool, God bless you. This is the moment it will shine! Rocking a waterless patio? Not to worry, these plans will make you feel as though you're lounging at the Beverly Hills Hotel being catered too by their overly-solicitous staff. 

Now... are you ready to see how I'm suggesting you dress up your dining area to channel that iconic leafy vibe. 

DRESS UP YOUR DINING AREA (INSIDE OR OUT)

Michael Aram Palm Candleholders (note: these are pricey, so bookmark & watch for a sale!) // Velvet Leaf Applique Pillow // Bead-Trimmed Placemats & Napkin Rings // Juliska Classic Bamboo Dinnerware // Palm Leaf Pitcher & Drinkware (note: total steal!)

The key is to have fun and play up the tropical vibe without being terribly overt. The pillows are gorgeous and the dinnerware is CLASSIC for indoor or outdoor use. You will never, ever be disappointed you invested in the Juliska dinnerware. I am obsessed with the brand, so more on that later! 

Set the tone with the right tunes. Think: bossanova. Think: Bebel Gilberto. Think: chill mode. Now for scent. Yes, I know fragrance and dining are supposed to be mortal enemies. But in this instance I love Nest's Sicilian Tangerine to seal the deal on the tropical vibe. The diffuser (versus a candle) will lend subtle fragrance to the space. 

Need more help getting in the mood? I have a few books you might enjoy. 

PALM-FROND INSPIRED READING

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Objects of Desire: All Things Crystal Clear...

Confession time: I am not a big fan of all things acrylic. It requires proper application of this sparkling medium to impress me. The waters have been seriously muddied by cheap plastic $5 objects that just happen to be clear. Plastic spoons = not sexy. Perfectly crafted Lucite legs = dead sexy. 

Like anything, it comes down to quality. High quality Lucite and some of the more luxurious English acrylic products on the market are stunning. Cheap impostors are everywhere, though, and it seems many don't know the difference because they've only seen them online. To try to give insight: It's the difference between Waterford Crystal and a mason jar - they might both be clear containers but that's where to comparison ends. 

Higher quality acrylics (name brand or not) will set you back a pretty penny. You can, however, begin to develop an eye for those pieces produced with more intention by studying the clarity of the pieces. Look for crystal clear legs on ottomans,  heavier objects, pieces that look have substantial weight and clearly cut edges. Like diamonds, it comes down to the four C's of acrylic: you are looking for the best cut, clarity, color and cost you can afford. Don't fool yourself into thinking that a piece of clear plastic is going to sparkle and shine as nice as a lovingly made high-end acrylic. It's just not happening.  

However jaded I may be, when something beautifully created catches my eye I have to celebrate it. Recently I've noticed the emergence of high-end furniture using top quality acrylic and an abundance of very nice home accessories (a few of which are on sale at the moment). 

I hope you'll appreciate a little post featuring some lovely scenes that tastefully use Lucite or acrylic that give me hope that it is indeed a timeless material when skillfully employed. 

CLEAR WINNERS

Game Changers: "Rise" Puts You (Yes, You) On a Private Jet...

Last week I learned about Rise, an awesome Dallas company that is to aviation what Uber is to taxis. For $1650 per month you and a companion can fly unlimited (yes, unlimited) flights. Currently it's a regional service, but even as such this is a game changer. If you've booked a flight anywhere lately your jaw has no doubt dropped by reading he above line about unlimited monthly jaunts to and from a destination for a flat fee.

A single round-trip flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Houston for a couple will set you back a pretty penny - and that's you and your lovely sitting cramped in commercial. Imagine if you will the fine appointments of private jet. You and your guest casually strolling out on the tarmac at an agreed upon time and being greeted by plush leather seating, a charming pilot, and none of the stress of what has become typical modern air travel.

This all-you-can-fly service requires no long-term contracts, has no hidden fees and is definitely taking the area by storm for professionals who regularly travel back and forth from Texas's major metropolitan areas. Need to take more than just your client? A variety of membership level options make it easy to scale up the size of your entourage. 

All of this is thanks to Rise founder and CEO Nick Kennedy who is perhaps not so quietly changing the world of private aviation. 

Members of Nick's private flight club enjoy the ease of booking online or via a smartphone app, before being transported directly from their homes and offered complimentary drinks and snacks. This is all the much anticipated before wheels up moment. Imagine how nice it is once aboard the jet? At the airport, guests board the luxurious eight-seat Beechcraft King Air 350 and relax in a comfortable seat that is both window and aisle before heading off to one of the cities currently covered by the service. In flight fresh coffee, accessories and travel kit are provided by Dallas startup Need - another game-changing service.

Not in Dallas? Don't worry, Rise is in a growth phase, expanding to the UK and other US regions is just a matter of time. 

Change your life one flight at a time at iflyrise.com.

Luxe Accommodations: Securing Some Alone Time In Sicily...

When someone asks you to fly to Sicily, you don't take long to say yes. Instead, you promptly thank them for their graciousness and begin plotting outfits and pulling out your TSA-friendly toiletries. In addition to checking another destination off my list, it is Italy - my happy place! I'll be traveling alone and I cannot think of a time in my life when I've been more excited about flying solo (literally & figuratively). Hectic schedule? Daily routine? Workout rut? Buh-bye! Armed with my camera, a few dresses and little more, I'm excited about making this a carry-on only trip. 

Where to stay? I'm looking at all options, but have stumbled upon what looks like paradise. Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo has hosted such lovely ladies as Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. The hotel is nestled in a stunning hillside overlooking an ancient Greek theatre and oozes Sicilian charm. One look at that view & those suites and it's not difficult to see why. A wellness center, locally grown fruits, the essence of orange blossom drifting through the air - this is one vacation I'm really looking forward to. 

So... why am I going? It's a work trip, actually, for a fun new client. More on that later. And since this isn't exactly a business hotel I'll be trying to work out the accommodations on my own. BUT... since I am desperate DES-PER-ATE for some "me time" it would be worth the cost if Im footing the bill on my own. Did I mention there will be fresh flowers and fresh fruit in my room upon arrival? Major swoon. And can't you just see me on that balcony overlooking the water, dreaming up lovely ideas? I certainly can. And you can bet I'll be instagramming my little heart out. But I'm also very, very committed to a not checking my bags. It's a fast trip, so a carry-on sounds like sheer heaven. And that pool? I have got to squeeze in a quick dip in that lovely situation. Dreamy, indeed. 

Care to see what I'm hoping to stuff in a my bag? Let's look:

WHAT I'M PACKING





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Musings: On Leaping Before You Look...

They say that fortune favors the bold. In my experience, this is so very true. It is also said that she who hesitates is lost. Another truth in my world. I prefer to say I'm decisive rather than impulsive, as I do draw upon my experiences before action. But the other side of that rapid-fire decision making coin is instinct. I trust mine implicitly to guide me through daily life. When I'm in a good state (read: sleeping well, eating right and exercising) that inner voice speaks to me loud and clear shouting "do this" and "don't do that" commands on seemingly everything. 

This article really spoke to me when it dropped wisdom on what "impulsive" people experience in life. We are quick to tackle the bigger forks in the road of life, but when it comes to tiny details we obsess. Yes. I have to give a fist bump to whoever pegged us on that issue. Absolutely true. Buying shoes? I fuss over every detail. New foundation? I try every ption available and test them all repeatedly before bellying up to the counter to purchase a bottle.

Quick trip to Sicily? I say yes in an instant and don't think twice. Why? Because I trust my gut and I don't like to waste a moment of this precious existence deliberating on nonsense. Italy = good. New foundation = risky. It might seem like a strange logic to you but this is the reality of the decisive thinker. 

What about you? Are you a leap before you look kind of person? Are you hesitant? I'm sure life either way has its pluses and minuses. I'd love to hear your side of the coin! 

LOVING RIGHT NOW

Perspective: Why "Going For It" Is the Best Decision You'll Ever Make...

Fear is a terrible thing. It's the silent killer of dreams, passions, opportunities and goals. If I can offer you one piece of advice it's to identify your fears and push through them. If "going for it" seems scary, think of the alternative. Imagine the company you didn't launch, the phenomeal house you never placed a bid on, the trip you didn't take, the relationships not restored, the friends not made, the promotion you didn't have the courage to vie for. A life lived under the chokehold of fear is not a life, it's an existence. Is that what you want? Let me answer for you: NO. 

The road of your life should be paved with experience - littered with mistakes. After all, the most successful people you'll ever meet or know would be considered huge failures statistically. 

Walt Disney, as you may recall, was fired from newspaper job because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas."  

Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. One of them clearly worked.

Michael Jordan has said of himself "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Those names sound familiar of course because they looked fear and failure in the face and persevered. Every entrepreneur I know has failed and surely faced silent middle of the night moments of fear. Perhaps they battled it daily, but they kept on progressing and they continued in spite it. 

What about you? You may not be striving to become and NBA All-Star or an inventor, but I'm certain you want to live the best (read: most enjoyable and fulfilling) life possible. As a human you crave new experiences and you will measure your happiness, as most of us do, by your progress. You can't make progress if you are frozen by fear. It's as simple as that. And what are you afraid of anyway? Most f us think everyone is staring at us watching our every move. It simply isn't the case.  

Failing means you TRIED something. It means you are daring to do new things. It builds character, experience and confidence. Do you know who ultimately succeeds in life? You guessed it: experienced, confident people with a well-developed character.

Failing actually builds the very traits you need to be successful. It develops your instincts, your sense of self-worth and makes you a far more interesting person. The kind of person who gets invited to dinner parties. The kind of parties that open you up to having life-changing conversations. Do you know who doesn't get invited to those parties? Boring people who always play it safe and never dare to try anything. I know this isn't you. If it is, I know you want more. You need more. Your soul is begging you for more. 

What does this mean? It means you should be trying to do new things as often as possible and open yourself to the very real possibility that you may fail regularly, repeatedly, again and again. Remember, all it takes is one shot, one successful product launch, one life-changing first date, one business opportunity, one perfectly timed investment, one moment, one miracle vacation, one serendipitous meeting to forever change your life. 

Now... go out and TRY something. DO something. Give yourself a solid shot at failing miserably at something. Then brush your shoulders off, get back up and do it again until that mess you may make becomes your legacy and the greatest dinner party story anyone has ever told. Happiness lies just on the other side of that invisible wall of fear. I dare you to push through it like a boss. I believe in you. 

xoxo,
Franki

CURRENT CRUSHES

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Beauty: The Life-Changing Mineral Sunscreens You've Been Seeking...

You situation may be different, but there's just not a chance I'll be able to completely dodge getting sun this summer. It's Texas. It's sunny. It's hot. And try as we might to do most of our outdoor activities in the shade or early mornings/late afternoons, it is inevitable that Mr. Sun will find a way to shine his light my way. And that's a good thing, since catching those rays buoys your mood and boosts your health. But there is a dark side to too much sun exposure: premature aging and the very real risk of skin cancer. 

Truth is, sunscreen is needed year-round no matter where you live. Even car and office windows can't keep you shielded from the harmful effects of those strong UVA/UVB rays. And please don't tell me I need sun to produce vitamin D. I assure you, I'm getting plenty through my exposed lower body. But can you blame a girl for wanting to keep her face, décolletage and arms free from speckles, spots and damage? My doctor (this gorgeous one) would agree, prevention is the best cure and no on is immune to potential damage.

But what if the sunscreen itself is more harmful than the dreaded ailments you're trying to prevent? Ahhhh. Therein lies the problem. Chemical sunscreens are loaded with questionable substances. Look for a lengthy list of complex names typically ending in -one, -ate or -ene. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor and octinoxate (aka octyl methoxycinnamate) has periodically been labeled a cancer causing ingredient. Retinyl palmitate - another common ingredient "may increase photocarcinogenicity, the rate of developing cancerous lesions or tumors from sun exposure, according to a 2009 study (1)" , You might have never given this a second thought before, but spraying or rubbing this into your skin gives these active ingredients the opportunity to get into your system and cause a range of problems. 

Why are chemical sunscreens more popular? It's simple: they are invisible, readily available and never leave that ghastly white cast on skin.

What exactly is a mineral sunscreen and what's the difference? I can't wait to share...

The all-star ingredients here are Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and Zinc oxide (ZnO). Whereas chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the suns rays or scattering them, they take 20 minutes to begin performing. So no spraying it on and jumping in the pool feeling protected. 

Mineral sunscreens, by contrast, are a physical barrier that sits on top of the skin and prevent the rays from actually penetrating the skin. They begin working immediately upon application. Good news - the best of the bunch are also loaded with antioxidants which have been proven to work synergistically to protect your from damage caused by exposure to the sun. 

I have done exhaustive research and come up with my top recommended high spf (30+ sunscreen fluids & creams for face & body. Used properly, none of these will leave you with a kabuki-faced appearance (although you may have to work them into the skin a bit) and all are paraben free. I'll be frank - this is a SHORT list because I've eliminated even some old favorites once I dug into the ingredients list. Let's go: 

MY FAVORITE MINERAL FACIAL SUNSCREENS 

For my face & upper body I need a water-light formulas with SPF 45+ that melts into the skin. These top my list with Josie Maran & Omorovicza being tied in first place for being by far the most natural and skin nourishing of those I discovered. 

FAVORITE MINERAL SUNSCREENS FOR THE BODY

For body, this Avene lotion is my personal choice but the three creams listed below are hydrating, top quality and terrific performers. They just require a bit more rubbing in, being thicker formulas than the thinner facial liquids. For kids, Hampton Sun is the way to go. No doubt. Yes, they are pricey - but nothing is as sacred as your health and avoiding expensive treatments or reparative efforts later on. 

THE BEST MINERAL SUNSCREEN POWDERS FOR THE FACE

One other secret weapon for saving your gorgeous face? SPF powder for reapplying during the day. Remember, they recommend we reapply sunscreen every two hours for effectiveness and I'm not about to put a fluid on top of my makeup once I'm ready for the day. Hence the need for powders. Yes. It works and is largely free from unnecessary ingredients. I LOVE the Chantecaille, but it's a bit pricey. So I've added two other winners I love. Note: these are NOT granny formulas. These are finely milled and can be dusted on like an invisible veil. No - you will not have powdery face, but you might just avoid some major sun damage by tossing one in your tote. 

 

I'll be candid here: my dad is a skin cancer survivor. My maternal grandfather regularly has to go and have melanomas removed. Having grown up in the Carolinas I can tell you I wasn't so sun safe. To say that prevention of future damage is a priority for me is an understatement. Couple that with my love of exercising outdoors and generally having fun and you get a girl who is obsessed with finding fantastic products. 

So if I seem passionate about the topic of "safe sun" and a bit obsessed with maintaining my youthful glow, I'll agree with you. I am. Better late than never, right? I'm not advocating hiding indoors - I'm encouraging to find high quality products that allow you to live your dreams in the safest and healthiest way possible. 

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The Art of Living: 5 Ways to Be Happier...

Need a few quick ways to feel happy? I'm all about channeling energy into something positive or creating momentum when none exists. Ready for five of my surefire tips? Here goes...

1. Feel an inner urge to chase a dream? Don't hesitate!
Stop what you're doing and book that class, buy that ticket, make that call - whatever that first small step is - take action NOW to put your life in motion towards achieving what your heart desires. The simple act of taking a meaningful step towards doing and completing something you've been putting off (or were previously afraid of starting) will fill you with a natural thrill and enliven your body and mind. Do it. It feels so good you'll notice you feel more bold in a wide range of areas of you life. This snowball effect is incredible and will open you to many serendipitous moments. Just do it. 

2. Cherish your "ride or die" relationships. 
There are certain friends & family members that are there for you no matter what. No matter what. These are your anchors in life. Draw near to them and invest a significant part of your life in furthering those relationships. Be there for them with the same intensity. These people are rare indeed! Dig in to them and don't forget to hug them. Hugging is good for you and essential to your satisfaction in life. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.
Simple fact: you cannot do it all. Time does not allow us to agree to every invitation that crosses our threshold or accept every project that tempts us with its shiny gold coins. You simply must choose wisely and commit to those things that you value most. 

4. Move your body. 
Sorry, lazy bones. You need to dust off your dancing shoes and get moving. Yoga, running CrossFit, tango lessons... something must lure you off the sofa and into an intense session of moving that body. Motion = emotion and I promise you the healthy endorphins that will flow through your body will be all the reassurance you need that you need to shake that booty more often. 

5. Laugh with reckless abandon. 
Find the humor in life and let the uncontrollable urge to laugh rise up and out. Studies have demonstrated again and again that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Need help? YouTube is loaded with humorous clips and cray cray silliness. Go get your giggle on. 

BONUS:
6: Let the sun shine. 

There's no disputing the mood elevating effects of sunshine. Whether it's restoring your supply of natural vitamin D or simply feeling those warm rays on your face, make it a point every day to get out in nature and feel the freedom of the wind in your hair. Extra points if you can get your daily workout session on in the great outdoors. Be it a trail, a sidewalk, a rooftop or simply your 2 block stroll to get coffee, step outside EVERY day to let the sun kiss your face. It loves you. 
 

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Luxe Accommodations: An Elegant Seaside Villa in Sunny La Jolla...

This is one of those properties I'd rather own than enjoy for a week. Wouldn't you? A stunning villa that overlooks the silk sands of La Jolla beach, decked out in all its Mediterranean opulence. Seriously, people. This is what happiness looks like.

Imagine opening your bedroom doors in the morning to take a dip in the lagoon-style pool after enjoying the requisite outdoor shower. This, dear friends, is what a luxe rental is all about. Everything you could possibly wish for has been provided, and you are mere feet from places to dine, go paddle boarding or merely digging your toes in the sand while you watch those towering palms sway overhead. Heaven on earth, seriously.  

You and your nine favorite people can book this sweet pad at Luxury Rentals. Looking for a two bedroom? This light, airy rental is just a few feet away (and half the price) with a gorgeous white kitchen and enviable views of those crashing waves. I'll be waiting for your text invite, by the way, because it looks like absolute perfection. 

WHAT TO PACK




Feeling Bookish: Megan Hess Raises the Bar on Fashion Illustrations...

Fashion House is one of those rare books that will have you gasping and squealing as you flip each candy colored page. Raising the bar for fashion illustrators everywhere, this stunning book explores fashion icons in rooms epitomizing their style, then masterfully breaks down the elements in a sharply simplified "get the look" manner.

I saw this book originally when a very stylish designer friend showed it to me and knew I had to have one. Asa  book lover, it is a library essential. As a decorator, it's impossible not to appreciate Megan Hess's ability to capture the finer details of what it takes to achieve the look of these stunning imaginary rooms. As a fashion lover, I feel drawn to the iconic looks throughout the book. As an artist I'm very motivated to whip out my pens and start drawing again. This book serves up powerful style and inspiration on every level. 

Whether you're a fabric swatch wielding designer or an aspiring fashionista, I can't recommend this gem of a book more. It far exceeded my expectations and is the type of book you'll open time and time again when seeking style inspiration.

SHOP THE LOOKS INSPIRED BY THE BOOK




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Beauty: Secrets to an All-Over Sublime & Safe Summer Glow...

Growing up in the Carolinas, "safe sun" meant slathering on Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 body oil as we baked on the beach or the patio. If I could go back in time to my younger self it would be all chatter about "sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen" (none of which teenaged me would understand).

Fast forward to today and I am as sun-savvy as it gets. Thankfully we are blessed with a BOUNTY of luxurious beauty products on the market that pamper the body, support healthy skin and deliver the most dreamy St. Tropez worthy glow a girl could ever dream of having. Bye-bye harmful rays, we're hitting our beauty drawer for everything we need to achieve that sexy & sublime summer color - absent of any UVA/UVB rays. 

What am I loving? The newest brand on my radar is Vita Liberata. Touted as "the best—and longest lasting—self tanner in the world" this remarkable collection of bottles & potions deliver streak-free, odorless, deeply hydrating color via a mix of organic botanicals and a unique Moisture Lock™ system that actually draws water to the skin’s surface - giving your skin that coveted glow typically reserved for magazine spreads. Whether you want a subtle and gradual tan or want a deeply bronzed look by nightfall, Vita Liberata has you covered. 

But I do have a few there tricks up my sleeve for smooth skin and a cabana-ready body. Here we go: 

FIRST: SMOOTH IT OUT

Don't expect to tan and go. The secret to silky skin and buttery smooth legs is dry brushing, exfoliating and prepping with a lotion loaded with lactic acid & humectants to facilitate cell turnover and leave skin ready for your tanning products. I will tell you that I have looked F-O-R-E-V-E-R for a body brush and finally found "the one" at Net-a-Porter. Read any supermodel or fitness interview and they all tell you they dry brush regularly. Not only does it get your lymphatic system moving, it eliminates puffiness in the limbs. I highly recommend you give this a try. Did I mention it's only $24? Enough said. 

SECOND: GET YOUR GLOW ON

A day or so after your full body prep, I like to apply a sunless tanner mousse. Using a good mitt you an ensure a streak free application without risking the dreaded "tan hands" situation. A more gradual approach would be to use a self-tanning lotion that slowly develops color over a few days. My preference? I'm loving the Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 week tan. It's a mousse, and when applied with the mitt it's pretty much goof proof. LOVE IT. 

THIRD: HYDRATE & PROTECT

I love a good moisturizing routine. Matte skin isn't chic, so keep yours dewy and hydrated with daily moisturizers. Don't forget to spray on the SPF regularly every day. Those dashes to the car count as exposure, so don't kid yourself into thinking you are indoors all day. A little oil on the legs, a little bronzer on your collarbones and shoulders plus an emollient sunscreen mist will do the trick. I'm loving this Neroli & Argan Milk SPF 50 fine mist. Protection perfected. 

Now you, my darling, are a bronzed goddess who is actually babying her skin and treating her body to a spa treatment all while looking darn good doing so. Looking for that sun-kissed appearance for your face? Don't miss this post where I share my secrets to achieving a radiant glow on your fabulous visage. Happy (sun-free) tanning! 

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Musings: On Being Inspired...

I've spent a few days focusing on cleaning out my inbox. Thousands of deleted emails later I'm feeling relieved, liberated and convinced that creative inspiration is often the result of unblocking things in your way. All that negative static created by spam, unread notes, unseen opportunities and client emails steals your energy. Perhaps a good digital cleanse is all you need to unleash your imagination and open your eyes to the world of possibilities around you. 

Need help getting to the fairytale state of "Inbox Zero"...? Here's what I do: 

  • Start by sorting by "from" 
    This method of seeing all emails from one sender at a time allows me to delete huge blocks of emails all at once. It also identified repeat offenders and demonstrates to you instantly whose emails you never open. 
  • Unsubscribe
    As often as possible (and when it's clearly not spam) take half a second to unsubscribe from emails, even if it's from stores and sources I love. Trust me, you won't forget Shopbop exists or that there's an Airbnb available in Del Mar. Absence might even make the heart grow stronger. 
  • Mix it up
    When I get bored (or feel overwhelmed) during this process, I switch up my "sort" method. Try viewing all "unread" emails first and tackle those or take a (scary) look at oldest emails first. 
  • Don't delay
    Stop the madness by replying RIGHT AWAY to any and all emails you can. Stop the vicious cycle of waiting to reply until later. Tackle messages & assignments, tasks, next steps as they occur. 
  • Use "no extra" time wisely
    I like to do this while sipping coffee or eating breakfast. It sets me on a clear and focused path for the day and eliminates considerable mental clutter.

Have a great Sunday! 

WHAT I'M LOVING RIGHT NOW



Wanderlusting: Drop Dead Gorgeous Hotel Pools Around the World...

A quick google search will turn up lists everywhere touting the "top infinity pools", "the most luxurious pools", the "most exclusive pools", and even the most photogenic pools in the world. At the moment, I'm reading (perhaps the more appropriate phrasing is "ogling") Dream Pools: Enchnating Pools of Italy's Emerald Coast. And as you might imagine, it's making me rethink everything I'm doing with my life and pulling out my copy of Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Work Week (essential reading, by the way). But for today we're just looking at a few stunning images of what I would label as some of the most beautiful hotel pools in the world. Of course, I'm packing my imaginary bag quickly. Won't you join me? 

WHAT TO PACK? ONLY THE ESSENTIALS





What's coming up next week? Book reviews. Three of them as well as a closer look at what I'm crushing on right now. In the meantime, have a great weekend and get out here and LIVE. 

Samantha's Picks: What She Scored at Tea Collection's Massive Summer Sale...

We did it. We snagged our top choices and in preferred sizes during Tea Collection's seriously discounted summer sale. If you've ever shopped for not one but two children and needed to find clothing for both (four years apart in age) you'll know this was definitely a fist bump from the good Lord above. Right?

My oldest has quite a strong sense of personal style (not surprisingly) and has a very clear vision of how she wants to present herself. She quickly sussed out her Tea favorites and nudged me towards pieces I didn't notice. We're featuring the final selections here and giving a bit of insight into what we both love about our seriously discounted haul. 

What she loves about the brand: Pretty designs in comfortable fabrics. End of story. Samantha shares that she feels girly in her Tea dresses & leggings but can still have fun at the park. 

What I love about the brand: high quality construction, terrific fabrics, durable pieces, mix and match opportunities and perfect price points. Did I mention I can order online and it arrives quickly via free shipping? Hallelujah. 

So what did we buy? Some very cute summer outfits for both girls that are easy to mix and match. This flexibility means our outfits are multiplied because we can get creative with our pairings. Striped leggings are a mainstay for us, especially with a swingy floral print dress. We also snagged a few leggings with gold accents to liven up the mix. Seems gold is appealing to girls of all ages. 

We also invested in a perfect cream cardigan because it was significantly marked down it is always smart use of resources to add classics to the closet. Cool fall nights will arrive before you know it and pieces like this last for many years. On that note: Tea does a lovely job of slowly transitioning colors from season to season, meaning these summer coordinates will blend well with the upcoming fall collection pieces and those fall looks will ease us into the spring 2016 colorway. I've always appreciated this "build as you go" approach to children's clothing. Tea wins major points for me here. 

No coupon code is needed to shop the sale, but I suggest you make selections before your sizes vanish - never to be seen again. Also note: we just discovered Salt Water shoes and have fallen in love with these sandals for my littlest. Made from waterproof leather that gets better when it gets wet? I and my puddle jumping toddler will take them. Tea has Salt Water, and you can also also find them at Nordstrom. Happy hunting!  

SHOP OUR TEA SALE FAVORITES


A bit of backstory: I discovered Tea Collection when my oldest (now 7) was about 18 months old. At the time it was very much a boutique brand and was difficult to find. Over the years their reach and customer base has grown. Each "collection" of fabrics is inspired by a different global location with silhouettes largely remaining the same and a few special occasion dresses mixed in.

The shapes evolve slightly over the years, but we always return for their easy swingy dresses and super soft leggings. While I do focus on the looks for girls, their quality is unrivaled when it comes to durable boy's clothing. Those twill shorts and cotton shirts feel as though they are made from military-grade fabrics. If long-term use is a goal (and for families with boys, a summer feels quite long) this brand is a winner. 

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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! 

Tot Fashion: Kate Mack's Playful Glamour for Little Girls...

Summer is here and now is the time for long days of endless activity. Since I'm in the company of my two minis-in-training, I can't help but see life through the lens of their young eyes. Both girls love dressing up, but a requirement for each of them is comfort. So when it's time to put on a pretty dress, good looks and thoughtful design details are important. Thankfully, we found our sartorial love match.

These pretty little frocks may be shimmery and sparkly, but Kate Mack/Biscotti knows looks shouldn't trump feeling fabulous. Those sequins you see are encased in a fluid veil of the dreamiest mesh making these glam little getups as comfy as a pair of jammies (not kidding). Whether we're headed to brunch or it's simply time for cupcakes, these two cuties can toss these on and go at a moment's notice and I know they'll be comfortable all day long. Can't ask for more than that, can you? I have yet to come across another brand that offers my girls this level of chic and still encourages movement. 

Beyond the beauty of the dresses themselves, it's the quality craftsmanship I appreciate as well as the age-appropriate designs. Big sister and little sister can often dress the same or merely have a similar look and still be fashionably on-point. This is especially nice for those siblings wishing to exert a little style independence. In terms of quality, I assure you these sequined numbers are marvelously made. My girls may look like delicate flowers but they play hard from dawn til dusk. They have the mosquito bites, skinned knees and bruises to show for it. And yet... these pretty dresses allow them to run, jump and play without restriction of movement or discomfort. That's quality. 

Now... I do believe I have some bubble makers to go catch. Enjoy your day! 

WHAT WE WORE

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Extraordinary Journeys: Escape to a Billionaire's Private Paradise on Necker Island...

I've known of Richard Branson's island paradise for years, but these days I'm thinking of it more and more. An isolated island paradise, this unspoiled sandy piece of property in the British Virgin Islands beckons all who make the journey. Pristine beaches, attentive staff and a host of activities are sure to please every style of vacationer. Are you a lounge in the shade kind variety or does the thrill of an open-top underwater speed craft (known as the Necker Nymph) satisfy you? Both extremes will be completely sated at Necker's uber private resort. 

Falling in the category of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Necker Island is best reserved for momentous occasions. Think: exotic wedding locale, the reward for taking your company IPO, celebrating a major anniversary or achievement.

Why is Necker so highly esteemed when so many islands dot the ocean landscape? First, you aren't just on an island. You are on a privately owned island that is Sir Richard Branson's personal oasis. Rather than keep it to himself, he shares it (for a fee) with all who dream to join him in his tropical paradise. 

So... now the pressing question. Just how much does the rare privilege cost? From $28,000/week (yes, you read that right) you and your amore can rent a suite. From $65k per night (yes, per night) you and your posse can have the entire island to yourselves. Imagine, you and all of your favorite faces enjoying this idyllic sandy Caribbean paradise together for the vacation of a lifetime. So very #richkidsofinstagram of you. 

So.... how do you go? Right here. And of course, I'm helping you pack. Hint: bathing suits and sunscreen aplenty and scarcely anything else save for a dusting of bronzer and perhaps your FitBit bracelet to see how much activity you enjoy have during your stay. 

WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR BILLIONAIRE ESCAPE






Wanderlusting: West Coast is the Best Coast...

Normally my wanderlusting posts are reserved for exotic locales and destinations that require a passport. But right now I'm in a Laguna Beach state of mind and have my sights set on a West Coast escape that meanders up the picturesque coast. Those of you who've stood on the craggy rocks in La Jolla or seen the to-die-for vistas from Geoffrey's in Malibu know what I mean. Cali has the lock on natural beauty and the power of the Pacific. 

So, where to stay? I do love luxe hotels, so it's no surprise I'm loving Pelican Hill and a handful of other comparably impressive resort-style accommodations. Also, the girls will be in tow, meaning a family-friendly stay is a must. L'Auberge Del Mar is always my go-to stop in Del Mar. But as we head up the coast to Malibu I realize I've stayed with friends there, not in hotels. So those airbnb and home away spots start standing out. Choices, choices. 

The best part of this type of trip? Every roadtripping on Highway 1, the most dreamy of "woah, look at that!" drives. So hearing my own thoughts echoed from the back seat of a sweet rental is going to be well worth the airfare from Dallas . 

Now... what to do? Well, that's a matter of preference. For me it's all about getting outside and soaking in the view and the sunshine. Golf is a huge draw for the men, for the girls...? We love ti all. Spa days, chilling in a cabana and of course,  plunging your toes in the sand as the sun sets. Few things compare to strolling the local scene and window shopping between iced coffees and fresh food on gorgeous restaurant patios. 

So... you can expect to see a few more posts as I plan this mid-summer getaway to the Golden State. In the meantime, let's pack our imaginary bags... shall we? 

WEST COAST STYLE = BEST COAST STYLE




The mood? Totally low key. Effortless. Comfortable. An off the shoulder dress here, some espadrilles there. Add a hint of gloss, a light misting of sunblock, a shimmery bronzer and pop on your hat. Boom. Outfit done. 

West coast may catch flack for being casual, but in summer I see no reason to deny them that right. Frankly, I think we've all adopted a more laid back approach to fashion in recent years. SoCal natives have simply been ahead of the curve. 

So... where are you going this summer?