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


Tot Decor: Celebrating the Mighty Twenty...

We've been experiencing quite a few visits from the tooth fairy in our house. She's leaving a trail of magical glitter on my daughter's nightstand and a very special pillow we've added just for this momentous occasion. This sweet little zebra-adorned accessory offers a little pouch for those middle of the night money-for-a-tooth exchanges to go down.

As a mommy who values the art of learning, I appreciate that my resident loose tooth princess now tells me casually that her lateral incisors are readying themselves to come out. Mighty Twenty offers handy a Tooth Tracker Journal that lets your toothless wonder document the journey of their visits from the tooth fairy (e.g. which tooth fell out when). It also educates them on what this process is all about - after all, losing your teeth can be a little scary at first. My daughter is learning quite a bit about oral health and dentistry for a freshly minted 7 year old, and I love that she's gaining confidence by understanding more about the process of getting her adult teeth. Add that to the fun of prepping her flashy pillow on those special nights when an incisor has come out and it's a magical memory maker we love having in our home. 

Visit Mighty Twenty to help your little ones celebrate this milestone in style!   

Visual Poetry: World's Most Magnificent Sites as Seen By A Drone...

Seriously.. I have ONE thing I desperately want at the moment. A drone. I know, I know... controversial at best. Truly, I just want to look at gorgeous houses and green areas, nothing nefarious here. Although, the idea of everyone having ready access to these makes me nervous enough to leave the recreational espionage activities to others. Anyway... seeing the world from a top-down perspective such as the images above is beyond awesome. These photographs are of some of the world's most spectacular "bucket list" sites as seen via high-powered drones equipped with phenomenal camera equipment. Impressive? You bet. In fact, some might say this is precisely how these structures were designed to be viewed. Seem a God's-eye view of the world is actually pretty spectacular.  {source}

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

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Boutiquing: Fine Luxury Linens from Kimberly House...

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. 

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Feeling Bookish: Diving Into the Tropical World of India Hicks...

I can think of no instagram account I follow that plays out like a fantasy as much as India Hicks. From swimming with pigs in the Bahamas (yes, it's a thing) to zip lining through a lush green forest, this model-turned-designer-turned-author is living the life we all dream of living. Only it's her life - and her family's life - right here, right now.

For a woman with so many hyphens in her professional title, her lifestyle and her general vibe is one of ease, acceptance and balance. Her newest book Island Style celebrates that effortless bohemian style she's known for exuding and embracing. India's aesthetic is undone and fuss free, but also filled with fanciful flourishes and unexpected details. When you think of India's decorating style, it's a unique melange of formal British Colonial meets the carefree spirit of the Caribbean. 

Island Style invites us all to slide into our metallic espadrilles and find comfort in the shade in a hammock alongside she and her naturally tanned brood. Their smiles are infections, and even more reason to urge you to channel some of her laid-back sensibilities into your over-scheduled life. The timeless homes she designs are strikingly gorgeous and provide more stylistic range than I would have expected in a book of this title. Her eye for detail and breadth of knowledge is clear, as is her father's influence. The influential David Hicks would be incredibly proud of India's regal take on casual living. It is inspiring to see the wide range of styles that comprise island living. This stunning book she offers a roadmap for achieving a similar aesthetic into your own home.

This summary from the book's official release captures it perfectly:

"In ten chapters, India walks the reader through the basics of capturing the look: the subtle palette of island life; the miracle of tablescaping; the warm anarchy of a family kitchen; the pleasure of porches; the drama of entertaining; bedrooms as places of self-expression; the "more is more" style of living with collections; the importance of repurposing; and creating spaces of sanctuary." 

What makes India and this book so unique is how openly she invites us into her life via the pages. It is written from a very personal perspective, sharing her passion for scrapbooking, the importance of building collections, lovely details about her family life and her absolutely wonderful tips on design, living and entertaining. And through the photographs she fully opens the door to her love of family, entertaining and celebrating each day of life. 

Honestly, the whole book makes me want to sell it all and move my own small tribe to a warm sunny place with hammocks and swaying palms. Let me tell you, this woman knows how to live! India embraces life with a passion and an ease most of us could only hope to achieve. 

INFUSE YOUR LIFE WITH LAID-BACK ISLAND GLAMOUR




So find spot in the shade, fill up your glass with mango-infused tea and for a moment, just a moment, imagine swear you can feel the breeze from the sea on your skin, hear the waves crashing, breathing in the salty air as it blows the vibrant bougainvillea branches against against the shutters. Island Style will take you there and leave you inspired and empowered to lend a little of India's signature subtle boho glamour in your own home. 

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Outdoor Glamour: Lessons From the Garden...

That moment when you realize your grandmother totally had it going on (and still does) when it comes to living the dream. I was always impressed by the time and attention my grandparents gave to their garden.

They were farm-to-table before it was cool. But instead of a farm it was a lush suburban backyard with a decidedly English feel. Ivy, raised beds, herringbone brick patios, wrought iron furniture, sculptures with patina one could only wish for... seriously. Who knew these two dynamos were so cool? Well, I suppose I did on some level, but as the years pass I begin to realize how fully they have always embraced life and daily living. There are millions of lessons to be learned from these two. 

Fast forward to today and I'm trying to channel some of that good green energy of my own into my own patio and yard. We have two enormous rose bushes outside which are in full bloom right now. While I am a bit astonished by their wild and crazy ways, I can't help but be won over by their colorful pink blooms. One favors a delicate pale pink flower, the other a hot pink worthy of a Bollywood hit. Once in a while a wildcard blossom erupts with a flower divided into each of these bold opposites. To see our patio floor dusted in pink petals makes spring a very sweet time indeed. 

MY FAVORITE OUTDOOR ELEMENTS


But now the mission is mine to excel at container gardening. I've decided to add window boxes to a wall and to focus on adding a few gardenias to the mix via large urns. If you're a southerner, you'll know these fragrant shrubs are a favorite around here. They thrive in the heat and offer the most intoxicating scent to your outdoor living area. Those of you more prone to killing a plant (myself included!) might like Southern Living's video with tips on keeping these hearty plants alive. And that, in a nutshell is my plan. 

So... back to my awesome grandparents and those life lessons they offer by example. To this day, they have a robust and thriving back yard filled with colorful blooms are carefully chosen plants. They've gravitated towards far more fuss-free options as the years have passed, but the message is clear: care for the things you love and they will repay you in beauty and enjoyment. I can take absolutely no credit for the roses in the yard. They were here when we arrived and are never my favorite shrubs until spring brings their gratuitous display of wild pink blooms. The rest of the space is up to me. It's time to refill those empty urns and pots and make our covered area a floral paradise. It will be thrilling to see (and smell!) the gardenias in full bloom and turn our plain but ample patio into a private Shangri La. 

HERB GARDENING MADE EASY

But that farm to table (or more accurately, windowsill to pizza oven) concept. I know my girls LOVE the idea of growing their own herbs. A slew of good looking raised beds have cropped up on the market and herb garden starter kits are available everywhere I look. Choose your herbs of choice and get started today. Your meals will thank you and your family will benefit from taking part in the creation of the ingredients. You don't have to veer much further than the classic trio of parsley, basil and oregano. These three will get you going and offer much culinary inspiration! 

DINING AL FRESCO IN STYLE



What about you? What do you love to grow? Are you skilled at raising herb gardens and tending to your plants? Are you a rose aficionado? Is there wisdom you can impart to me? What plants do you love to grow in containers? I'd love to hear and learn from you!   

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Coveted Pieces: One-Piece Wonders...

Jumpers and rompers and playsuits... oh, my! While I've pledged my love for the dress this summer, there's one alternative look I'm always down for: the adult onesie. The idea is the same: pop on a single piece of clothing, accessorize and bolt. It is the season of sartorial ease. Since Texas is home to serious wind (I'm talking gust force gales that could make Marilyn blush), on breezy days it's often best to wear something guaranteed to stay put. Enter: jumpsuits, rompers and playsuits. Honestly, I thank God for the thoughtful souls that originated the concept and the designers who continue to love us by rolling out new options. All hail these wardrobe wonders! 

If you're looking for fuss-free dressing, you've just found it. Pair with heels or flats, it doesn't matter. The right piece is guaranteed to look good regardless of whether you turn it up or dial it down. Here are a few of my favorites: 

SHOP THESE ONE-PIECE WONDERS




Options abound. From strapless to long-sleeved, you can find these miracle workers in every style imaginable. I suggest you hone in on your summer style but don't be afraid to mix it up with a festive floral or pretty pink. Those of you who feel this look is reserved for weekends, think again. Top with a blazer or cardigan and you'll find many of these pieces work as well for the boardroom as it does the bistro. And trust me on this: you'll feel as cozy as if you wore your jammies all day while totally looking like you glammed up for the occasion. Win-win, baby!

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What to Wear: Channeling Effortless Island Style...

I've just finished reading the latest India Hicks book, Island Style, and it not only transported me to a breezier, more relaxed way of living, it has inspired me to loosen up my approach to spring and summer dressing. 

A kaftan is surely necessary. In fact, after this brutal winter (yes, even here in the south it was punishing by our standards) I'm eschewing the idea of any restrictive clothing. My mission: dresses & skirts all day every day. With one exception: culottes. My summer fashion edict is t approach the season with easy, breezy style that perhaps - just maybe - can help me channel some of India's unfussy approach to glamour. Think: Calypso St. Barths and you've nailed it. 

With this you'll see I've found the PERFECT summer tote. And I do mean perfect. Leave it to Tory to absolutely nail the straw tote. Pair it with these amazing metallic espadrilles and you are ready for the resort, the corner cafe or a fun afternoon out and about. 

GET THE LOOK: RESORT CHIC


And of course, no belle du jour look is complete without a sun-kissed glow on your beaming visage. I love a good bronzer-blush duo to give my face a milk dusting of bronzy-peachy goodness. Gloss up legs with a good gel to get that coveted gleaming gams look. Finish with a swipe of balm in the most delicious shade of tropical punch. You. Are. Done. 

SUN-KISSED BEAUTY

DRESSED FOR THE LAID-BACK OCCASION


Above are few more dresses to help you channel that vacation state of mind - even if it's Monday. I like them simple and swingy, but figure flattering too. And while I chiefly choose solids, a few prints are fun to mix it up. 

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Quotes: Work For It...

It's Monday, everyone! Time to rise and shine and make strides towards your best life. What simple actions can you take today to move the ball forward? What call are you putting off? What conversation is crucial to unblocking your path? What decision are you deliberating? The smallest steps are often the key to significant change. Be bold in your tiny actions and relish in the fact that they add up to major shifts in your life. 

Don't wish for it... work for it! 

Perspective: As a Man Thinketh...

 
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi
 

There's no question that your physical reality is the result of thoughts you brought to life. Everything in your existence was born of your inner thinking and your focus. Isn't it true then, that we need to better harness those private moments and the inner workings of our mind? If our thoughts - all of them - join together to become the sum total of our lives, we'd better get a grip on our intentions. And fast. 

What are you focusing on these days? What are you bringing into your life? Are you channeling radiant health, vibrant relationships and abundance? Or are you focusing on the negative? If you've ever ridden a bike, you'll agree that you begin heading in the direction of your gaze. I encourage you to be more deliberate with your inner thoughts. What you're thinking and saying to yourself right now will soon become the life you're living. 

Let me ask you this. Would you want to board a plane with a pilot that wasn't terribly sure where he was flying? Would you accept a full time job with little indication of what the role entailed? Would you agree to let someone design your life for you without ever revealing their plan? Quite frankly, if you're not designing your life you are relinquishing complete control of your existence to circumstances and people around you. Not planning at all is in fact planning to just "let it ride" and let whatever happens happen. That's a pretty big gamble to take with your relatively short life. 

The good news? You can stop the spinning right now and get a grip on things. Today's thoughts become tomorrow's reality. So take some time to pull out a journal and plan - deliberately - the type of life you wish to live, the kind of person you want to be and the variety of relationships you intend to enjoy. Write it out. Plan it out. Make it happen. Describe it in such detail that you can't help but move toward that vision of yourself. Sounds a bit funny, and I know very few of you will perform this exercise. For the few who do, the results will be remarkable. 

It's your life's story. Decide how you want it to play out, how you want to live each day and how you want to feel. Yes, believe it or not this is all within your control. So grab a journal, baby, and write a life story so good, so juicy and so satisfying you can't help but begin to make it your reality. 

{illustrations by MySoulFly}

INSPIRING TOOLS TO GET YOU STARTED


For some, the advice above may seem abstract and difficult to take seriously. There are other sites you can read for further inspiration and maybe a bit more encouragement.

Do What You Love is a great help with an option to receive inspiring emails or sign up for online courses.

Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour Workweek & 4-Hour Body fame interviews the best and brightest of our time to open your mind to new possibilities. I highly recommend his podcasts for eye-opening discussions and cutting edge scoop.

I was fortunate to grow up with parents who were deeply curious about how to better their life experience and ways to maximize their health, their mental game and their lives through studying human performance. I know... right? They introduced me to Tony Robbins and I've always considered him a terrific life coach. If the "informercial" side of his business turns you off, rest assured, this guy is the real deal. Check out his many free videos, books and blog posts and take a listen or read what he's churning out. If you're interested in maximum personal performance, this guy has the lock on living your best life. 

Joel Osteen is another excellent resource. I've enjoyed Break Out find his podcasts to be so on point with life lessons based on scriptural truths. He offers a very simple, approachable system for breaking barriers and living an optimized life. 

Regardless of where you draw inspiration, the idea is to get started and become more intentional with your thinking and your life. This isn't a one time fix, though. Think of this like detailing your car. You'll need to tidy it up each day to keep it perfect and at some not too distant point you'll want to detail it again. Life planning is much the same (but far less frequently necessary). I find that a thorough examination and planning session once a year is absolutely critical, and every 6 months is perhaps an even better strategy to make sure I'm on course. 

So... start journaling. Start strategizing. Begin enjoying the life you're intentionally creating. Don't waste another precious moment because you'll NEVER ever get another NOW.

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Luxe Accommodations: Thailand's Tranquil 137 Pillars House...

The idea of spending a few slow weeks in Southeast Asia is absolutely thrilling to me. Cambodia, Burma, Java, Bali... oh, it entices me like few places do. So far I can boast about no Asian travels as we've stayed largely on the European continent and surrounding areas. But when I think of epic journeys and unforgettable voyages, Thailand and the surrounding areas certainly come to mind. 

A quick tour of Kiwi Collection (which I ADORE for their unique rating system & huge photography) led me to 137 Pillars House, a tucked away retreat in Chang Mai. Stay long enough (or even for one magical night) and you'll forget it's a hotel at all. The suites feel like private estates hidden within tropical gardens. In addition to inspiring my approach to patio decorating this season (hello, wall of meandering greens!) it conjures up images a breezy dresses and slip on shoes over nothing more than a bathing suit. Now that's the kind of vacation wardrobe I can get behind.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER VACATION BABE 



Now... on to the idea of vacations. Where do you long to go? Where are you plotting to visit this year? What was your favorite trip. And how do you go about researching your accommodations? 

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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

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Beauty: Unsung Heroes in My Makeup Arsenal...

It's easy to chat up the visible products - lip gloss and a dreamy bronzer come to mind. But what about the workhorses in my beauty routine? What love am I giving the makeup remover that erases that Angelina-worthy cat eye eyeliner or the foundation brush that made me a convert? It's time to give those items a round of applause and (hopefully) give you a few new items to solve some of life's nagging beauty issues. 

First up: my cleanser. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating. Clarins's One-Step Gentle Cleanser IS AMAZING. I have combination skin with drier cheeks than my dewy t-zone. I would also classify my skin as sensitive, since one brush with an irritating product seems to wreak havoc on my face. But this dreamy cleanser-exfoliant combo is a MUST. Gentle enough to use regularly, I love how smooth my face is after use but how it also doesn't feel stripped of those essential natural oils. Did I mention it smells lightly of oranges? I just love this stuff. I hope this is never discontinued. 

Next, a pair that goes hand in hand: Chanel Waterproof Eyeliner in Noir Intense is a black that is actually black. Not charcoal. Not blue. Not brown. But black. It's the liner I've looked for my entire life. That said, you'll need help removing it. Clarins saves the day with their Instant Eye Makeup Remover, a beauty blogger favorite. Lauded for it's eraser-like qualities, one swipe of a properly soaked cotton swab and those raccoon eyes are a thing of the past. 

Like a home, a finished face is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built. Admittedly I have never been a primer girl. I've tried. I've also politely tossed all of those lovely samples in my "rainy day" drawer in case I ever changed my mind. Perhaps it's the odd Dallas climate (mostly dry with severe temperature swings and just enough humidity to mess up your makeup), but I'm suddenly in need of a base. Thankfully I've found my solution in a pretty little gold tube. Napoleon Perdis "Auto-Pilot" Primer does more than just coat the skin, it treats it with moisture via a lovely dose of chamomile and Vitamin E. The result? A face ready to let your tinted moisturizer or foundation actually "take" and last without ever feeling like a mask. I finally see the light and "get it" with primers. This fabulous product and I am SO happy to be a convert. 

Now... on to a few brushes I adore. First is a Laura Mercier stippling brush. I happen to use it for my bronzing powder mainly, but periodically use it to deliver a feather light dusting of finishing powder on my face. Like primer, I'm not normally a powder girl, but as you now know Charlotte Tilbury has changed my perspective on powders and their miraculous air brushing effect. It's been a personal favorite for several years. I may give the Chanel one a go here soon, as it has a serious fan base. 

Now let's talk foundation brushes. Here's where it gets fun. I know the beauty blender is allllll the rage. I just don't get it. Not a fan and I prefer either fingertips (messy but marvelous) or Chanel's Foundation Brush #6. Obviously this depends upon the type of foundation you use. I tend to wear creamy liquid varieties. A more versatile option is Chanel's Foundation Brush #7, designed to handle cream, powder or liquid formulas. It's a versatile wonder product and it is next on my list to acquire. 

Let's face it. Brushes aren't cheap but they are worth every bit of their investment as long as you care for them properly. Clean them religiously with a proper cleanser (MAC still offers one of the best) and keep them in a case or in a dedicated area where the bristles won't get bent and damaged. 

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Beauty: Achieving the Tantalizing Tilbury Glow...

There's little question that most of us girls covet glowing skin, toned bodies and shiny hair. As if by storm, makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury has taken the beauty market by storm with her line of dew-inducing, lip-enhancing, glow-achieving products. While I resisted for a moment (no one wants to be a lemming), I have now finally succumbed to the siren call of her eponymous line. And I couldn't be happier about it. 

What do I love? For me it all begins with the canvas: great skin. I've touched upon the wonders of her Magic Cream before, but what about those hours of the day when you're trying to look your best. Can you treat your skin with makeup? These days, yes. And Tilbury's dynamic duo is hailed for bringing a healthy glow to faces of all colors across the globe. What is this combo? Wonderflash & Light Wonder, her collagen-stimulating primer & lightweight foundation that pack a powerful one-two punch. 

Loaded with peptides and wrinkle-combating ingredients, Wonderflash sets the stage for a luminous all-day healthy "lit from within" glow. Topped with her flawless finish Light Wonder foundation, skin takes on that ethereal glow we're all craving. This is a duet worth singing about. 

Next up, a little high/low action helps you achieve the look of enviable cheekbones and under eye areas that convince everyone (even you) that you're sleeping 8+ hours each night. 

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Replacing my staple YSL highlighting pen is Charlottes Retoucher treat & conceal pen (which almost works like a magic eraser over trouble spots). I'm amazed at how well it works to actually TREAT skin, not just camouflage spots & dark areas. 

Check to Chic blush is all over your instagram feed - and for good reason - it's gorgeous! I love the dual color or giving just the right hint of "pop" on your cheeks. BUT... I think Film Star on the Go is totally underrated. Imagine handling lips, cheeks and eyes in one little chic package? That's what this amazing little compact offers. My fave? Some Like it Hot. Finally..  finish with her MIRACLE of a powder (of which I normally am not a fan) Air Brush Flawless Finish Micro Powder. WOW is this amazing. You can't even see it once it's on and it magically helps your look last all day. Hello, closeup! 

Seriously, her line has made a major impact on my daily routine. I've spent the last month experimenting with foundations, CC creams and primers - all of which finally, desperately sent me to the Tilbury counter at Nordstrom. Could not have been more pleased to discover items that treat the skin all day while helping you look more flawless. If you choose ONE product, I suggest the Light Wonder foundation. It delivers a poreless finish with a very natural "you, only much better" look. I just love it. Alice Gloss describes this product perfectly "Imagine Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk and Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua had a baby, well this is it. " Enough said.

I've actually been experimenting with those exact two foundations (Armani & Chanel) and am happy to report that Charlotte Tilbury's Light Wonder never leaves me feeling like I have a mask on. For me it feels like a tinted moisturizer (which I love) but appearing more finished & flawless (which I need). This is presently my holy grail of foundation/tinted moisturizers. All others being kicked to the curb! 

One thing I appreciate about most of the products is their ability to serve double duty. You're hydrating or fighting free-radicals while looking fabulous. How's that for multi-tasking? Also, the prices aren't out of line with what i'd like to pay for beauty. Coming in at less than comparable brands, Charlotte Tilbury is a great value with generous sizing inside smart packaging. I think it's a makeup love story for me. Perhaps you'll feel the same with a little time at the Tilbury counter too. 

More Tilbury gushing to come soon! 

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Interview: Discussing Timeless Design with the Illustrious Jan Showers...

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Photograph by Eric Piasecki for ELLE DECOR, featured in March 2015 issue.

A recent issue of Elle Decor featured a beautiful project from Jan Showers. As you know from reading, Jan is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to making interiors look positively gorgeous and timeless but still fresh and exciting. It's a delicate dance, but the gorgeous blonde Texas designer seems perfectly suited for creative luminous interiors that balance glamour and sumptuous comfort.

This project, however, posed an unusual challenge: the client was her very own daughter Susanna. Fascinated by the idea of family dynamics and the normal client-designer tango, I reached out to Jan to ask about the project as well as tap into her glorious wisdom on all things beauty, style and design. 

Pull up a tufted velvet chair and ready yourself for Jan's infinite wisdom (and a few lovely tips for you fellow jet-setters):

Jan, first - thank you for your time. You are a shining star in the design landscape and a professional icon for many of us. It is a pleasure to talk with you and glean a bit of insight into your approach to design. With that, a few fun questions…
Thanks for you kind words!
 
I loved the Elle Decor feature about you and your daughter Susanna working together to freshen up her family home in Houston. It’s clear that you both have great appreciation for one another and the collaborative nature of residential design. She really embraced the strong influence of color and you honored her personal attachment to many furnishings and special pieces. How was this dynamic different from the normal give and take process with other clients?
It was actually very similar---we always try to incorporate pieces that have special meaning to clients and certainly colors that are complimentary to the clients or the art.  I suppose that it could have been different in that Susanna and i certainly speak the same design language (at least 95% of the time).
 
Often, spectacular results come from happy accidents. Was there a particular area or feature of the Moldawer redesign that resulted in a “wow moment" due to a mutual compromise where each of you had to “bend” a little? This is a great question!  Because I love happy accidents.  I honestly cannot remember one on this project---we thought everything through so completely---Susanna is very detailed and knows what she wants.
 
Susanna, like you, has a tremendous respect for family heirlooms and antiques. When did you first discover your passion for furnishings with history?  
When I was in my early teens---i most fortunately had a mother and grandmother who both had a great eye and amazing taste.  
 
How has that influenced your work?
I go to Paris once or twice a year to buy antiques and have for the past 20 years.  Before that, I was going to New Orleans, New York and LA to buy with occasional trips to Paris.  I am so inspired by unusual pieces, particularly those with a history.
 
Amazingly, I've never seen a Jan Showers project that looks dated. Your timeless style is nothing short of impressive. And yet you are able to achier a fresh, fun, contemporary feel to your spaces. How would you describe your creative approach to designing timeless interiors?  
Thanks, again!  This is what I strive to do at all times.  I think this happens because i am not fond of trends—i never want to use fabrics, colors, wallcoverings, etc. That are trendy.  This is why I love the work of Billy Baldwin, Mark Hampton, David Hicks, Frances Elkins and Sister Parish----their rooms stand the test of time because they ignored trends.
 
Chic high-rises, sprawling vacation retreats - you master them all. Can you share any favorite projects that you look back on and feel they perfectly captured your vision and aesthetic?
This is a question I never answer---I love all my projects and hope that they fit my client, not me.  Guess i would pick our two houses since they reflect exactly what I like.  Our country house is more traditional and our city townhouse is a bit more modern while still comfortable and inviting---two elements that must be present in any project I do.
 
Your book "Glamorous Retreats" offered us insights into vacation homes and hideaways of some of your clients. Designing in various locations offers exciting challenges. What is it about designing secondary residences that you find rewarding?
In general, they are lots of fun---clients tend to take more chances with their second or third homes---they always want their second residence to be different from their first.  It's fun to have the challenge of making the project appropriate to its environs.
 
How do you recharge and unwind from professional demands?  
I love to read, watch movies and great cable tv shows which i record---i love bbc mysteries if they are well done---foyle's war is a great example.  Writing relaxes and challenges me---i love to write on my mac air on the weekends.  The most important thing for me to unwind is to get to our country house at least every two weeks----every week is even better!
 
Travel is a necessary part of your profession. Often there’s the need to be fresh & fabulous as you step off the plane and into a client meeting. Any “must-have” items in your carry-on you could share for keeping chic on the go?  
I always wear something that will look good when I arrive---in other words, no fabrics that wrinkle easily.  I carry makeup essentials in my carry on so that I can freshen up on the plane.  I also carry a scarf in my handbag to add to pants and a blazer when i arrive---a trick that all french women use.
 
Dream project… what type of challenge would set your heart on fire if the call came to your studio today?  
We just got a job for an apartment in new york and have done 2 projects in London, one in Toronto---i would love to get a project in paris.
 
And finally… what can we expect to see next from jan showers?
I am doing a wonderful lifestyle line for Kravet Couture that will be introduced in the spring of next year. We have been working on it for well over a year---very exciting.  Details to be released later this year.

Isn't she just a jewel? Jan is widely regarded as a Texas favorite and Dallas couldn't be more proud to call her their own. If you haven't yet visited her site, I encourage you to take a closer look at her portfolio and designer collections for serious style inspiration. Next, grab Glamorous Rooms and Glamorous Retreats and consider these two critical design books for your private library. Yes, they are gorgeous, but each volume is also filled with fantastic ideas and solid wisdom from the AD100 designer herself.  While we're a bit spoiled by our ready access to her furnishings at local showrooms, you too may have a Jan Showers Collection showroom near you. If so, I encourage you to step inside and immerse yourself in her beautiful world of effortless glamour.

Now, for a bit more inspiration....

CHANNEL YOUR INNER JAN SHOWERS

DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD
Consider a sinewy curved sofa. It encourages conversation and lends subtle energy to an otherwise linear floor plan.
(Velvet Curved Sofa via Horchow)

LET THE SUN SHINE
I can't help it. When I think of Jan my mind immediately imagines stunning sunburst mirrors. Classic, chic and always visually appealing.
(Gold Mirror via Horchow)

GILDED GOODNESS
Set the tone for functional glamour with gilded tables featuring tapered legs and durable marble tops. Form & function align to create small (and incredibly useful) masterpieces.
(Global Views Table via Horchow)

SHINE ON
A little reflection is good. A little eglomise? Even better. Place a showstopper like this gold leaf-edged chest on a long wall to make a grand statement without saying a word.
(John Richard Mirrored Chest via Horchow)

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ANIMAL INSTINCTS
Add a bit of verve to shake up a room. This exotic leopard curule seat is a regal as it is feisty. 
(Macayla Bench via Horchow)

EMBRACE THE ABSTRACT
No doubt about it, art sets the tone for a home. Add a cheerful, colorful painting to your walls for an instant mood boost.
("Cherry Nuance" via Horchow

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What to Wear: Easter Sunday...


Oh, Easter. It sneaks up on me every year much like spring. It's cold & dreary for weeks on end and then suddenly *boom!* tulips are in bloom and the season of pretty pastels and decorated eggs is upon us. So now the question of what to wear. 

As fashion loving women we wake up with two choices every day: to start with the shoes or not. Some days it's all about those pretty pink pumps. Other days the look begins with my outfit. Easter, mind you, is the perfect opportunity to sport pretty lace or eyelet dresses, floral heels or even bubble gum pink peep-toe patent pumps. The world is literally your oyster and you've been given a temporary hall pass to dress as sweetly as you like. It's your brunch-going duty, in fact to look girly and represent the season. With that, here are a few of my favorite pieces (and beauty counter extras) to ring in the season of bouquets with blooming aplomb. 

SHOP THSE EASTER LOOKS




Whether you begin with fab footwear or a dress you've been eager to wear, you'll appreciate that all of the dresses above are less than $200. For me it's all about investing in top quality accessories but saving where possible on less frequently worn pieces. Shoes should be the best money can buy. Handbags, it goes without saying, are investment pieces. But dresses can be loads of fun and don't have to break the bank.

Happy Spring to everyone. May your season be filled with flowers and fun! 

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Musings: On Making it Fabulous...

Have you ever had one of those days - or weeks - where you just felt powerless to make things the way you'd like them to be? I have. And it isn't fun. But that's life, right? it's messy. It's unpredictable. It's marvelous.

When those days arise (and they will) you need to tap into your resource of personal strength and summon the awesomeness within. It's time to pick yourself up, realize YOU are in the driver's seat and you have better things to do than worry or wallow or wonder.

The truth is, your 24 hours are yours to design and yours to enjoy. Make your moments, your days and your life FABULOUS. Please. Because you deserve it.

Extraordinary Journeys: The Life-Affirming African Safari...

Recently the epic conversation starter "what would you do if..." came up. Specifically, we explored how we would spend our last precious weeks here on this water-covered rock if given news that our number was up. I'm talking Queen Latifah in Last Holiday type of trip. Cash it in. Spend it all. No looking back. For me, there's no question exactly what I would do. Travel. In fact, I'd keep on going until... well, until the movie ended if you know what I mean. ;) 

So where would I go? Many places. And I plan to craft many posts featuring each of them. So buckle up, you bucket listers! It's a whirlwind trip around the globe and we've all got first class tickets and generous uncles sympathetic to our globetrotting cause. 

First up: the African safari. Non-negotiable, my very first experience would be amongst the most menacing predators on earth and the most sensational scenery. There is no other travel experience that even comes close to rivaling the thrill of seeing the "big five" from the comfort of a tricked out jeep with skilled (and let's not kid ourselves here: armed) tour guides. One such company offering the most luxurious safari experience is And Beyond. They keep it chic and make camping in the wilderness seem like the most logical thing in the world.

Regardless of your travel partner of choice, my focus is still the same: dinner under a vast sky where the beauty of our galaxy is actually visible. The very real life-threatening thrill of lurking big game nearby the camp (hello, lions!). The juxtaposition of fine white tablecloth dining amongst the tall grass in a remote game reserve. And, if lucky, playing witness to the great migration and some pretty vivid food chain activities (I'm talking about you, crazy hyenas). The idea of seeing cheetah, prides of lions and massive African elephants up close is beyond thrilling to me. And frankly, I think most people perish from pure lack of passion & excitement in their life. A trip of this magnitude would wake up the most tied of souls and (yes, I'll say it) perhaps even cure you. 

Naturally I would want my husband and girls to go, the inner core of my tight posse. Watching big game with my crew is everything this luxe loving babe could hope for. But... the Mr. being the extremely risk-averse person he is, I'm certain he'd put the kibosh on any plans to bring our little ones. Hyenas, wildebeest and some of the world's most potent predators in close proximity to our daughters strikes him as reckless and irresponsible. I disagree. These stunning creatures are some of the most magnificent on the planet. How can we not expose our girls to beautiful animals in their natural habitat? What if we can witness grazing gazelles and those gorgeous giraffes up close and personal. Together. Talk about a life-changing trip for all of us. 

Now, some of you may be asking why I'd spend my last days on earth (in this hypothetical situation) traveling. If you have to ask, you don't suffer from wanderlust. Plain and simple. Those of us with an unquenchable thirst to move about the globe simply won't be sated until we've seen it all. And then we'll want to go BACK to our favorite places. So if you're married to one of us, brace yourself. The trips will be many, they will be awesome. They will be the best investments you ever make. And they will be what you'll be expected to join us in doing for our entire lives. So keep the passports active. 

Can't get away? Enjoy these safari inspired objects...

VIRTUAL LUXE SAFARI

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