Luxe Accommodations: Effortless Luxury on Laguna Beach...

I'm an OC girl at heart. Can't help it. Always will be. I'm not from there but if I could choose anywhere in the US to live, this paradise on earth is surely my jam. Until the movers arrive (and my west coast dreams come true) the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort is a sweet cure for my California cravings. It's got everything a summer-loving girl wants: beach yoga, a stunning pool area, beautiful balconies and opulent elegance inside. There's a reason those SoCal brides flock to this property: it is picturesque and perfectly captures the romance of Mediterranean architecture against a backdrop of a blissful beach and craggy cliffs. 

So... what should we wear on our virtual vacation there today? Let's pack our make-believe bags and jet off to Laguna Beach, girls! 

PACK YOUR BAGS




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Beauty: D&G Makeup Artist Christian McCulloch Reveals His Luminous Tips...

Can you tell I'm obsessed with makeup and skin care? I'd say a series of deep-diving beauty posts can attest to my dedication to perfecting the art & science of beauty. Today I bring you a VERY special treat. Makeup artist to the stars Christian McCulloch was kind enough to put down his brushes long enough to answer some very detailed questions I posed to him. 

But before I share his "get glowing" tips I'd love to familiarize you with his work. Do the names Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Taylor Swift, Kate Hudson, Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Rachel Weisz, Shakira, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway, Nicole Richie, Milla Jovovich, and Rachel Zoe ring a bell? I know I had you at Taylor Swift, but the list of famous clientele is impressive. The Sydney, Australia native has worked with brand giants YSL, MAC, Oscar de la Renta, Jason Wu, Tory Burch, Donna Kara, MaxMara and many more. Let's just say when it comes to getting gorgeous, Christian has the lock on all things beauty and everyone in the industry knows it. 

Through a series of fortuitous events I was able to ask Christian a few questions about the makeup techniques & products he'll be featuring at the Spring Looks Event in Houston. Utilizing the newest products from the Summer Shine Collection as well as those Dolce Matte lipsticks everyone is dying to get their hands on, Christian will be gussying up Houston's finest on May 30th at Saks at the Galleria. Yes, you too can have this supremely talented (and incredibly fun) makeup and skin care guru bless you with the gift of his artistry. (Don't worry... full details at end of post!)

Okay... ready for my skin care & makeup questions? I pressed him for his thoughts on how to prep your lips for those richly pigmented matte lipsticks, how important moisturizing is to the final look and his thoughts on getting that natural luminosity when the mercury rises. Ready? Here we go: 

Franki Durbin: Christian, thank you for your time. I love your ability to leverage makeup to bring out the unique beauty in your clients. It is truly a gift! 

On to Dolce & Gabbana Summer Shine look… the step-by-step instructions begin with application of the luxurious 10-minute Aurealux Mask. Can you share with us the transformative properties of the mask and the qualities it lends the skin in preparation for the makeup to follow?

CM: I love the Dolce&Gabbana Aurealux Mask. It's super refreshing and hydrating and boosts the skin's overall quality and texture leaving it very silky. The Mask is a serum-based formula with a gorgeous luxurious consistency. The key ingredients are an exclusive Gold Flavo-silk complex  - with gold silk sericin, Italian olive oil extract and Vitamin B3.   The Mask perfectly primes and conditions skin beautifully before makeup application.

FD: What I love most about the finished Summer Shine Collection is the pairing of luminous skin and dramatic eyes. I’d love to hear your preferred method for applying the Luminous Foundation. Are you a brush enthusiast? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the difference in the finished look when foundation is applied with a brush versus with fingertips. 

CM: I like to use all methods for foundation, brushes, sponges, and yes, fingertips.  Tools are more helpful if the formulation is liquid and runnier as you can get a little more control. Fingers and hands can be great when used as an "instant palette" for thicker, more heavily pigmented foundations and concealers. The warmth of your hands melt and break it down so you don't apply too much. With the Dolce&Gabbana Luminous Foundation I usually apply it with a foundation brush first, starting in center of face working outwards, and then finessing with fingertips and sometimes a sponge, as I blend outwards to a seamless and sheer finish.

FD: It’s refreshing to see the Summer Shine look emphasize facial curvatures by way of highlighting rather than shading. I love this for creating a radiant summer look. Could you offer tips for giving the illusion of fuller cheekbones by placing the Dolce Illuminator in just the right spot? It’s often a challenge to nail the art of placement without going overboard. 

CM: Highlighting the face with contour and dimension is so big right now! The new Dolce&Gabbana illuminator in Luna works incredibly well in tandem with the Bronzers and Cheek Colors because it illuminates the cheekbones and makes them pop when applied over the color. It really brightens things up!  I like to sculpt with a gorgeous Bronzer such as Desert first, under the cheekbone area, lightly dust the "apples" of the cheeks (i.e where you smile) with a peach or pink blush. The Illuminator goes on the upper outer cheekbone area, just below the eye contour area. Your guide is about halfway between your outer nose and outer eye area, where the light hits. Lightly dusted over the whole area, blending, blending - blending. It's also great as a brightening base for the whole eyelid and brow area, as it functions as a finishing powder. 

FD: Matte red lips done well are a sensual statement on a woman. What professional advice can you give to us on achieving a flawless finished lip when daring to use such a richly pigmented lipstick as Dolce Matte? 

CM: Dolce&Gabbana Dolce Matte Lipsticks rock! They are the most amazing rich velvet lipsticks, packed with color.  The application is very smooth, especially for intense color with such a matte finish. I tend to apply it to the bottom lip first. That's easiest and the fullest area so you get an immediate sense of the color. Then I lightly rub the lips together to transfer the color straight up to the top lip.  This gives a great natural shape to the lips. Then I use a brush to finesse the edges, making the outside line more precise. Then if I want to really go for long wear, or super precise shape, I'll use a Dolce&Gabbana Precision Lip Liner Pencil in the corresponding shade to make the lip edges flawless. The resulting look can be very dramatic; without the pencil the delivered look is that of a softer edge. Depends on the occasion! You can always blot the lips with a tissue and reapply the lipstick to make sure it's really not going anywhere! 

SHOP THE GLAMOROUS POST




So allow me to talk about a few of these items. I just tried the Aurealux Mask and could not believe the instant plumping it delivered. My skin absolutely glowed for a few days after use and somehow, magically, my makeup seems to glide over the skin now when applying. Hydration is definitely key, and even more so as your skin adjusts to changing seasons. 

I loved getting his thoughts on brushes versus fingertips for foundation application. I've learned the value of a brush, but I admit to being a creature of habit and LOVING my fingertips for immediate (albeit messy) application. Tools definitely keep the hands clean, and the result is a very different finished look.

For D&G's Luminous Foundation I would suggest that either method delivers a stunning look. The product comes in whipped cream or liquid formulas, so you can choose the one that best suits your preference. But, ladies... do consider sitting with a pro at the counter and discussing brushes. I'm leaning towards their use more and more for that airbrushed look we all crave.

And about those red lips - as you know I'm a nude lip girl. But... his insights on a "softer" version of this look were eye opening. I've actually never heard the suggestion to apply on bottom lip and let the pigment from that lip color the top. The result would certainly be softer and more natural. This is a look I might actually be willing to try! What a  brilliant suggestion for those of us looking for a less dramatic result. 

For highlighting I am smitten with the Luna Illuminator. Just enough shimmer, not glittery at all. It is absolutely stunning and, as the name implies, is as subtle as moonlight on your beautiful face. If you're looking for a believable glow on the peaks of your cheekbones, this gorgeous illuminating powder is the one you seek. It's a keeper!!! 

Now... about that event. Mark your calendars and get ready to get gorgeous. Christian will be here in Texas making everyone who sits in his chair more beautiful. It's a great opportunity to sit with a pro and try out a new look. He's sure to teach you quite a few new techniques and arm you with a new (or at least expertly improved) approach to warm weather beauty. 

Need more inspiration? Here's the D&G behind-the-scenes video exploring the skin-celebrating look: 

EVENT

Dolce&Gabbana Make Up Hosts Spring Looks Event with Christian McCulloch in Houston

WHO

Dolce&Gabbana National Makeup Artist, Christian McCulloch
Christian is known for his keen eye in designing chic and sophisticated beauty looks for top celebrities and major publications.  He has recently worked with: Kate Hudson, Camila Alves, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Bosworth, Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes, Christina Hendricks, Olivia Wilde and major publications such as: Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Marie Claire.  

WHAT

Christian McCulloch and top Dolce&Gabbana make up artists will be on-hand to introduce the Dolce Matte Lipstick Collection and Dolce&Gabbana Summer Shine Collection and will be creating custom makeup applications inspired by Spring beauty trends.  

Customers are invited to make an appointment with Christian and the team as he reveals his insider makeup tips and demonstrates the newest Dolce&Gabbana trends and application techniques. 

WHEN/WHERE

May 30th, 2015; 11:00 – 7:00pm
Saks Fifth Avenue, The Galleria
5115 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77056

For appointments please call: (713) 627 – 0500 EXT. 5102

*Editor's Note: this is not a paid post, but the team at D&G Beauty were kind enough to send me a few samples to try. All opinions are authentic and unbiased and you can rest assured I do not author content or make product suggestions unless I'm personally impressed by the products and a fan of the brand.  See my FAQs for more on this and other topics. 

Wardrobe Management: Why You Need To KonMari It All...

Seriously. Aren't you tired of that overstuffed closet filled with "so-so" pieces of clothing? You are. I know you are. I'm sick of mine too. And while the litmus test "would I buy this today if I were shopping?" was good for a time, today I'm loving the much more challenging KonMari method.  

Marie Kondo's basic premise it to ask of each item in your possession this simple (yet profound) question: Does it bring you joy? Ooooh. That's a different question entirely, and the answer is a resounding "no" most of the time. This is an editing program I can fully get behind and finally dissect my wardrobe with purpose. 

Most of the images above are from the portfolio of Lisa Adams, LA's premier closet designer and the secret weapon behind many of those celebrity closets you fawn over on Pinterest. I admit to being a huge fan of her and her work. Not familiar? Watch this episode of Million Dollar Closets and consider yourself motivated to KonMari almost everything you own: 

Feeling Bookish: Falling Under Casa Bohemia's Spell...

It's no secret I harbor a love for Spanish-style architecture. Barrel tile roofs, ochre walls, arched doorways, ornate wrought iron accents - I love it all. We're lucky to have stunning examples of Mediterranean architecture here in Dallas. Drive through a pretty neighborhood and prepare to oooh and ahhh against your own will at the glory of these stunning stucco structures.

I went into my deep dive read of Casa Bohemia expecting to see beautiful examples of the elements mentioned above. It did not disappoint, page upon page of exquisite examples of ornate tiled floors and fanciful fountains. What surprised me, however, were the gorgeous homes that broke from my preconceived idea of the style. Modern creations with clean-lined furniture and sleek kitchens that still gave a nod to their Spanish design influence. The tie that binds these often diverse dwellings together is their inviting nature and almost palpable warmth. Perhaps it's a brick hearth or a stone interior wall, there is an inviting vibe and a relaxed feel achieved with the choice of materials, finish and design that unifies all of the homes featured in this beautiful book. 

Casa Bohemia: The Spanish-Style House is a cool book filled with even cooler casas. It would be difficult to choose a favorite, but if pressed I'd reveal that Casa Nequette (p. 73) was gorgeous. This was one of the homes that revealed a surprisingly modern interior hidden beneath a white stucco facade that reminded me of the Alamo. Once within it was a pleasant surprise to see rooms so cleanly designed Jeff Lewis would be proud. 

Don't get me wrong - there are many examples of ornate interiors filled with spectacular examples of what would traditionally be seen as Spanish-style (think: hanging tapestries, ornately carved poster beds in dark woods and elaborate iron candelabras), but Linda Leigh Paul makes a great case for broadening the definition of the quintessential bohemian casa.

Frankly, it felt like a vacation packed in a glossy book. Spectacular pools, cool tile floors, palm trees, scenic vistas and meandering bougainvillea transported me visually to enchanting houses all around the globe. If the real estate gods are good to me (and I trust they will be!) I'll one day have a bohemian casa of my own overlooking the water. In the meantime I'll keep dreaming of the romantic balustrades and arched french doors that only a Spanish-style home can offer. 

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

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

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

Musings: On the Merits of a Life Edit...

This sums it up perfectly, doesn't it? Evaluate everything in your life and make decisions about the value everything holds. If it isn't bettering you, perhaps it's time to let it go. This could be an overflowing closet or an overstuffed social calendar. There's no shame in prioritizing yourself and your time. The life edit isn't just good for you, it's oddly freeing and empowering. This newfound freedom from real or imaginary weights will be deeply liberating and will offer you a fresh perspective on everything you've shuffled into the "keep" category.

So go ahead... donate those clothes, clean out those cabinets, carefully consider your future appointments, outsource a few tasks and focus on what really matters in life. The people, the projects, the relationships, the goals - make them your highest priorities and whittle away those things that work against that flow.  

I promise... the results of such an edit are worth it! 

xoxo
Franki 

Interview: Inside the Studio with Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter of Serena & Lily...

Ahhhh, Serena & Lily. Just thinking of the brand reminds me of trips to the beach while growing up in North Carolina. Salty air, boardwalks, sand dunes and a certain easy way of living are all part of the vibe this laid-back lifestyle brand suggests.

Last week I featured their initial capsule collection of apparel - the Serena & Lily's first foray into fashion. Seeing the simple silhouettes and everyday styling made realize that most clothing these days is over-designed. Somehow the creative minds behind this small collection had tapped into our collective desire for beautifully tailored clothing that feels effortless and natural to wear. They've created exactly that with these simple yet lovely dresses and casual separates - and managed to time the launch perfectly to coincide with our season of trips to the beach. Genius indeed. 

I'm pleased to share that I was able to interview Serena Dugan & Lily Kanter (yes, the real women behind the brand) to discover what makes them tick, what inspired these fresh pieces and whether or not we might see "mini-me" dresses coming online anytime soon (spoiler: nothing is impossible for these two).  

 
There’s no easy road, you have to remain optimistic, keep an open mind, and you have to be tenacious.
— Lily Kanter
 

Are you ready? You will be once you see their fantastic answers! Read on to get to know the brains behind this wildly successful lifestyle brand: 

Thank you ladies for taking time to dig a bit deeper into your capsule collection. I love that the collection was inspired by what you deemed a void in the market. I happen to agree. Where did you look for inspiration for the simple silhouettes for the Serena & Lily apparel? 

Serena Dugan:  I designed the collection to be classic in reference, flattering in fit, and timeless in your wardrobe.  I was the target audience for the collection, as it is exactly what I was missing and wanted to see.  Much of the collection was assembled around vintage pieces I had kept in my closet, knowing that they spoke not only to my aesthetic sensibility but to any female's...and were surprisingly hard to find.  

Your unique textile designs have played a key role in differentiating your brand. Tell us about the nuances of designing those textiles for dresses and pajamas versus those for bedding and other home textiles? 

SD: Ultimately designing for home and designing clothing is complementary. Our point of design differentiation for both categories is our attention to detail, quality construction, and our timeless silhouettes. We’re able to apply much of our knowledge of textiles and construction and production to apparel, while bringing a more feminine sensibility and fashion aesthetic.

I love that the limited collection focuses mainly on effortlessly chic dresses. Do you both find that dresses are your “go to” look for busy days? 

Lily Kanter: Yes, the shirt dress in particular is a favorite for me. The Jane dress is the perfect fit, impeccably tailored with just the right combination of fit and flare to take you from day to night. We are introducing four new colors with our fall collection, launching on 8/18.

You’ve imbued the capsule collection with that special southern California bohemian vibe, but still masterfully nailed the art of tailoring and fit. This must have been quite a learning process, moving from bedding and draperies into fitted garments. Tell us about that learning curve and what drove you to persist in spite of the challenges that are always paired with pushing ourselves to learn something entirely new. 

SD:  We learned that much like with home items, the fabric selection was incredibly important. We chose fabrics according to the fit and drape that we wanted the garment to have.  Our more tailored pieces needed fabrics with structure (which is why we chose an almost taffeta-like cotton for the party dress), and our flowy pieces needed to be silk, to get the effect that we were aiming for.  It’s not unlike décor:  You choose a material that fits the desired effect.

This is one of those instances where your brand extension leaves us (as fans and loyal customers) thinking “Yes, of course!” It feels like an organic and surprisingly obvious evolution of the Serena & Lily lifestyle brand. When did the idea first occur to dive into fashion and how long did it take from truly making the decision to develop a line until it hit production? 

SD: I’ve always wanted to design apparel, but it really began to take shape as we imagined people living in the environments we were creating for our catalog. It was a natural segue to envision their style and what they’re wearing.

It’s no secret that the collection as a whole has been favorably received. Many items are even sold out, so congratulations on nailing your vision and executing a very successful first foray into our closets! What has been the most satisfying part of seeing your creative and strategic vision come to fruition? 

SD: Many things about this collection and launch have been rewarding, but I think the best part has been seeing people react to and fall in love with the garments. I can’t wait to do it again for fall.

 
The entrepreneurs that succeed get knocked down every day, get up, brush themselves off, and start a new day.
— Lily Kanter
 

Can you share any insights for business owners and entrepreneurs considering extending their brand beyond what others might see as their obvious niche? 

LK: The entrepreneurs that succeed get knocked down every day, get up, brush themselves off, and start a new day. There’s no easy road, you have to remain optimistic, keep an open mind, and you have to be tenacious. Surround yourself with smarter people then yourself. I know I make it sound easy. It has not been easy and takes a lot of perseverance. 

As a mommy to two young girls I’ll just add this: I’d love to see a girls collection emerge next year. We live in cotton dresses all spring & summer long! 

LK: Nothing is out of the realm of possibility for us!


Oh, I love a duo on a mission, don't you? Based upon their vision, drive and history of successful designs I feel there's nothing out of reach for Serena & Lily - the women, the brand, the visionaries.  

SHOP A FEW OF MY SERENA & LILY FAVORITES



Love hearing entrepreneurial stories? Be sure to see my interview series, filled with inspiration and ideas for your mind & soul. 

Coveted Pieces: Stepping Up Your Sleepwear Game...

This is one area where i feel even the best of us falter: sleepwear. Let's face it - almost no one sees us in our jammies and this category of fashion essentials often falls to the bottom of the investment priority list.

Whether you're the t-shirt type or you're rocking a delicate silk negligee, there's likely some room for improvement in your nighttime wardrobe situation. I shall raise my hand high as a candidate that needs a major sartorial sleepy-time upgrade. I tend to favor the same look and would benefit from adding a wider variety of looks. And frankly, sometimes letting go is great to make room for new floral prettiness in this arena.

Favorite brands? Eberjey is absolutely a favorite. It's a "girl's girl" kind of brand with sleepwear that is feminine and girly but not impractical. I LOVE this brand above most others, but Anthropologie has one or two other lines that are hard to resist. I'm also a fan of chest support, it's just more comfortable. So fitted camis and chemises with at least some definition up top are the way to go. 

With that, let's see what's available to bring home so I can toss out my over-loved black cami & pants combo and add a little feminine glamour back into my dream state. 

SERIOUSLY CHIC SLEEPWEAR



Interested in a better night of sleep? Me too, sister! I was fortunate enough to ask linen expert Felicia Marquie, owner of Lucky Den, a few questions. Earlier this week she offered her insights on building the perfect bed top situation (think: luxurious sheets & cozy comforters) in my in-depth interview. I hope it will encourage you to focus more on the importance of sleep and bedtime rituals. Never underestimate the power of beauty sleep! The word beauty in the name says it all!  

Beauty: Discussing Skin-Saving Strategies with Dallas's Own Dr. Teotia...

One thing I'm learning is that "aging" starts from within us. Happiness may very well be the secret to long-lasting beauty & good looks, and stress is likely one of our greatest foes. Sadly, no amount of yoga can give us a truly stress-free existence and that big bright sun up above is determined to dash any hopes we all have of baby smooth skin forever. So... what's a beauty-loving girl to do? There are choices we can make from a young age (think: childhood & teen years) to preserve the physical beauty with which we are all born to enjoy. There are also decisions we can (and should) make as adults to put our foot down when it comes to lagging skin and a dull complexion. 

You've likely noticed I've been ramping up the sheer number of beauty posts here lately. It's definitely a passionate topic for me as I feel we are very much in control of the impact our lifestyle choices have on our appearance. Adding daily exercise, fresh greens and a clean diet will definitely give you a more radiant complexion and more energy. Drinking abundant water will keep you hydrated and balanced. Being happy will visibly show on your lovely visage. Sunscreen, while not sexy, will prevent you from prematurely aging. All of these things will help - and you should be doing every one of them. 

What we can't do, however, is stop the clock. But perhaps... perhaps we can at least slow it down a bit with the right topical products and in-office professional treatments.  

I've been holding back on kicking up my skin care regime until I felt I found the right skin guru to help me. Peels, microdermabrasion, injections... they can all seem a bit "out there" if you've merely been dipping into the day spa facial services all your life. For me, this is all about trusting the right professional to guide me to the right choices and help me choose appropriate products. And then... I met her. She completely changed my mind about upgrading my skin care and putting regular chemical peels on my calendar. Who is she? Dallas's very own Dr. Stephanie Teotia. And she's amazing. 

I sat down with the lovely Dr. Teotia to talk about face-saving strategies, advanced skin care products and a range of in-office beauty treatments. How often do I have an opportunity to ask a Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon how she keeps her clients looking fresh, the "Golden Mean" and why we're so obsessed with those Kylie Jenner lips? Not often enough. Thus... I jumped at the chance to tap into her wisdom on our youth-obsessed culture and how we can indeed age gracefully and appropriately. 

This, dear friends, is what I learned:   

Dr. Stephanie Teotia


Dr. Stephanie Teotia

Dr. Teotia, you began our conversation with a discussion of lifestyle choices (smoking or non etc) and skin care. How much do those factors influence the condition of the skin and one’s appearance?

Lifestyle makes a huge difference in regard to appearance. I encourage my patients to exercise, eat nutrient rich foods, and take time to reflect. We know that smoking is harmful to our bodies. Smoking accelerates aging of the face and skin. Smokers are often not candidates for large cosmetic procedures. I saw a woman this week who was a great facelift candidate; however, she is an active smoker. Operating on her would be inviting wound healing problems. I love when patients stop smoking in order to have surgery! They both look and feel better.

At the practice, we try to practice what we preach. We have an outside vegetable garden growing near our clinic front door. We recently opened our location and have discussed having weekend yoga classes in our “clinic home” backyard.

The “Holy Trinity” of topical skin care seemed to include Sunscreen, Retin A (Trentinoin), and a skin lightener. What are the benefits of each?

I love the "Holy Trinity" term! Consistent use of a sunscreen is the simplest (yet most important) part of a beauty regimen. We all love a bronzed look; however, sun damage causes loss of skin elasticity resulting in wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancers.

Retin A (Trentinoin) is one of the few scientifically proven topical creams that rolls back time at the molecular level. Retin A acts by decreasing fine lines. It creates a smoother skin texture and helps to diminish brown spots. In Texas, Retin A is a prescription product which is dispensed by a pharmacy. Retinoids are the less potent cousin to Retin A and can be sold without a prescription. Retin A can cause skin redness and flaking. A patient should work with a health professional to adjust the strength or frequency of use.

Hyroquinone is a very effective skin lightener and is also a prescription product. It acts on the cells that make pigment to give an even skin tone. Hyroquinones are frequently used in the United States and are deemed safe by the FDA. However, the safety of hydrquinone has been disputed and use is banned in some countries. There are excellent natural alternatives to hydroquinone, including arbutus (from the bearberry plant), kojic acid and licorice root.

Both Retin A and and most skin lighteners make skin “sun sensitive” which is even more reason to use a sunscreen. I offer SkinMedica products in my office. I would encourage your readers to consider prescription products sold from a physician’s office. It is unfortunate that you can easily spend $400 on a jar of beauty goop at department stores. {Editor's note: she's speaking directly to all of us - or perhaps just me - with that one, isn't she? Oh, if I could recoup all the money lost an department store beauty counters... likely enough for a trip to Bali!}

Prevention is clearly the best cure. Sunscreen being the main factor in preventing visible signs of aging. What other products do you wish young patients would use and when do you recommend we all begin a regimen of the above three active ingredients?

Great question Franki. Rather than starting a specific product, I wish some products were banned. Specifically tanning beds. I realize some people "feel better" with UV light. However, it takes too much of a toll on skin. Regarding products, Vitamin C serums are great for younger (and older) patients as long as they do not have acne issues.

Sunscreens should be started in early childhood. Speak to your child's pediatrician regarding specific products and timing. Retin A is sometimes prescribed for acne and thus started at a young age. For aesthetic purposes, I would consider Retin A and a skin lightener in your 30’s.

Let’s talk treatments beyond topical. You are known for your very subtle technique when it comes to fillers and other injectibles. Describe your aesthetic approach and your philosophy on helping each patient look his or her unique best?

I first assess whether or not a patient is a surgical candidate. This decision is mostly based on the individual patient’s goals. We all see things that bother us when we look in the mirror. My main objective is to determine how to effectively and safely address the patient's concern. Facial soft tissue fillers (which increase facial volume) and neurotoxins (such as Botox) are a great alternative to surgery in the appropriate candidate. I am a bit unusual in that I do my own facial injections rather than having my staff do these procedures. Soft tissue fillers and neurotoxins are a great way to look refreshed. Unfortunately patients can appear overfilled. My philosophy is, “Less is sometimes more.” I tell patients that I am not doing my job correctly if anyone asks her or him, "Who is your plastic surgeon?" Results should elicit a response but be subtle. Instead patients should be asked, "Did you change your hair or go on vacation?"

You are a Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. Could you share with my readers why that professional distinction is an important one to them?

Absolutely. Too often physicians will take weekend courses on performing liposuction or other procedures and then claim to be a Cosmetic or Plastic Surgeon. It is no wonder that there are a lot of bad results out there! A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon has completed an accredited residency training program; the current minimum is 6 years of surgical training after medical school. In addition, once in practice,the Board Certified Plastic Surgeon must pass rigorous written and oral exams. Every physician has different talents, abilities and beside manners.

However, certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) should give a patient a significant degree of comfort.

What do you wish new (or potential) patients knew about Botox®, Restylane® and other treatments? Are there common misconceptions or frequent questions you’d love to address?

Patients have often heard of Botox. However, they are not sure how it works and are concerned about safety. There are three neurotoxins on the US market at this time. These include Botox, Xeomin and Dysport. I use all three in my practice. Neurotoxins act by paralyzing the facial muscles that cause wrinkles. I only use these products in the upper third of the face (forehead, crows feet, between the eyes and to elevate the eyebrows) for aesthetic purposes. The product lasts for 4-6 months. Neurotoxins can also be used for excessive sweating of the hands or under the arms.

Facial soft tissue fillers are injected to recreate facial volume and harmony. The vast majority of the products that I inject are hyaluronic acid (HA) based. HA’s are naturally found in your body but also naturally break down in time. Thus, the fillers are temporary and last between 6 months to 2 years. It is fairly easy to inject these products. We use a numbing cream on the patients face, and injections are performed, in clinic, with the patient awake. I use different products in different areas based on the thickness and properties of the filler. Injections can fill in hollowing of the temples, cheek volume loss, tear troughs, nasolabial folds, pre-jowls — to name a few. It is pretty amazing how you can subtly change the structure of the face using these fillers. Make sure that your injector has significant experience.

Dr. Teotia, much like our prized relationships with personal hairstylists it seems that a long-term relationship with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon would yield the best results. Building the relationship over time develops a deeper understanding of the patient as well as provides a trusted medical professional to turn to for medical needs beyond beauty treatements. Do you find this to be true? 

Absolutely. You can often create a timeline with the patient regarding future treatments or procedures. The relationship often expands to other family members as well. You repair a laceration on their child's face or perform their mom's breast cancer reconstruction. 

Botox® seems unique to me in that it can (and perhaps should) be used preventatively. Would you share with us the long-term benefits of using Botox® (and similar products) before those pesky signs of aging begin to appear? 

When you paralyze a muscle, the muscle begins to waste away (similar to not exercising). It is movement of the forehead muscles and muscles around the eyes that cause lines in the upper face. In time, these lines become etched wrinkles that are present without muscular animation. Recurrent use of a neurotoxin in the upper third of the face helps prevent these lines from forming. However, the injector must know which muscles to paralyze and which ones to avoid. Detailed knowledge of facial anatomy is needed for the best result. 

Lip treatments are popular, and celebs like Kylie Jenner are fueling our cultural desire for fuller lips. What can you tell us the treatment and patient satisfaction?

I see a number of younger patients that want full lips. Other than breast augmentation, this is probably the most popular procedure on my 20-something patient age group. Older patients just want their lips back! Part of facial aging is elongation of the upper lip with turning in of the vermillion (the red part). Time causes you to lose your upper lip.

There are several ways to augment lips. Some options include silicone implants, fat injection, and placement of an acellular matrix sheet. I pretty much stick to injections with a hyaluronic acid based filler. The fillers are soft and can give a very natural look. I tend to be conservative - especially if the patient has not had lip augmentation before.

I spent a year operating on the lips of cleft patients during my Pediatric Craniofacial Fellowship. I learned that there are natural ratios to the size and projection of the upper and lower lip. Once these ratios are unbalanced the eye knows that the lips look “fake” or often duck-like.

It seems to me that our culture is fighting the signs of aging earlier than perhaps our mothers did. What tips can you offer readers for determining if it’s time to begin considering stepping up their skin care program by visiting a medical professional like yourself?

We maintain our cars. We update our software (it seems like continually). Why should it be a big deal to work on ourselves? There is a spectrum of treatments for different ages and goals. Protect your skin when young, and seek professional advise when signs of bothersome aging appear (note the word bothersome).

Your office! Can I just way how attentive and warm your staff and the environment is? I love that you are in a freestanding building and not in a hospital. What guided your decision to locate your practice in it’s current location?

I wanted patients to feel like they were at home or at least hanging out with good friends (who also happen to be qualified medical professionals). I checked out numerous options in the Dallas area. I was put off by parking issues and confusing medical campuses. Our "clinic home" affords patients both privacy and ease. Hospitals (my hospital privileges are at Baylor facilities) serve a great purpose. I always operate on larger cases in accredited facilities.

Is there anything else you’d love to share with my readers? We are eager to glean any wisdom and professional insights you can offer!

It is important for patients to know that I am a mom, wife and caregiver. I'm the one unloading the dishes in the evening (not that I want to)! As a female plastic surgeon, I feel that I can relate to most issues or concerns that my female patients express. The best part of my job is feeling like I get to know my patients well and knowing that they feel good about how they look and feel.

Also, I recently moved my plastic surgery practice to Dallas and I have to thank many people in the medical community for being so welcoming. Specifically, prior to his recent death, Dr Byron Brown gifted me his patients, phone number and his amazing nurse. Dr Brown was the Chairman of Plastic Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center for about 30 years. I am honored to try to follow his footsteps.

Beauty really is from the inside; however, it never hurts to look good on the outside as well. Investigate your physician and proposed treatments. If something doesn't seem to be right or fit your goals, then seek a second opinion.

PROFESSIONAL SKIN-SAVERS

A few of the SkinMedia products she offers that I'll be switching to:

So much knowledge and if you noticed - her preferred weapons against signs of aging are all tools YOU have at your disposal: healthy living, exercise, a positive outlook on life and SUNBLOCK. I can't stress sun care enough as it is near and dear to me. 

As mentioned above, Dr. Teotia's office is not in a hospital. Instead, she and her amazing staff have a freestanding building with ample sunlight and a terrific vibe. I was impressed with their selection of skin care products and, frankly, every touchpoint of her practice. She's rallied a great team of attentive employees who all seem to truly enjoy what they do. It seemed fun to tap into their world as well and give you their side of the skin care experience. 


Here's what Michelle from Dr. Teotia's team had to share: 

What is a typical day at Dr. Stephanie Teotia’s office like?

Our typical day consists of a busy schedule of consults, minor office procedures and Surgeries at our various facilities: Baylor University Medical Center, Baylor Surgical, Baylor Uptown, and Valley View.  

I am not only the Patient Coordinator, I am here Marketing Manager.  I work with the website developer, Facebook, RealSelf, as well as market around the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex.  Being as though we are new to this area I really try and market to other Surgeons, Dermatologists, OBGYN’s to get our Name and Business out there.  Also Bridal Boutiques, Hair Salons (Mens and Womens), Jewelry Stores, and even Restaurants and Retail.  

I discovered Dr. Stephanie via RealSelf.com. They seem to be dominating Google at the moment, so I'm guessing I'm not the only one! 

We are going on month 3 of RealSelf and are seeing a large amount of inquiries from the site. We stay active on it answering questions and posting before and after photos, as well as post offers on there as well.

Dallas girls (and boys!) are very into beauty treatments! What treatments performed at the office seem to be trending right now? 

We are always trying to stay up with the “latest trends” and right now we are offering a New type of procedure called the “Weekend Augmentation”: an outpatient procedure done under local, where you inject saline solution directly into the breasts for instant volume and enhancement.  It is virtually painless and gives the patient a temporary look for a Night out, Red Carpet Event, Wedding, etc.  It lasts 24-48 hours and right now we are offering a Special - for $1500.  It is a NEW and exciting procedure and Dr Teotia is one of the only Surgeons in Dallas offering it.  

Other than that, Breast Augmentations, Body Contouring, and Facelifts are always trending. Quite possibly our most popular surgeries. We also have a lot of patients come in for Botox, Fillers, and Chemical peels.  

I was impressed by the skin care products you offered. Which lines does the doctor recommend and which products seem to be the most highly prized? 

We carry SkinMedica, a great line that helps to refine pores, smooth and diminish wrinkles, and brighten & lighten dark pigmentation in the skin.  Many of our products include growth factors that helps build healthy collagen in the skin. 

I loved everything about my visit to your sunny office! Dr. Stephanie has a way of putting you at ease right away. What do patients seem to love most about her and the results she produces?

Dr. Teotia has a large, loyal patient following from Midland (where she practiced for a over a year)…and we love to have patients visit us from all over.  Not only those patients but ALL of our patients always give us a lot of feedback regarding the practice and state things such as “it is so inviting”, “it is so homey”, “i love how it doesn’t feel like a medical office” etc.

It is very nice to hear all the positive feedback.  

Is there something offered by Dr. Stephanie that you wish more patients (current, new or potential) knew about? 

One thing we really push on our end is the fact that Dr. Teotia is a FEMALE Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. We find that a lot of our patients come in stating that they found us on the internet by searching “Female Surgeon”….It is a breath of fresh air for our patients to meet Dr. Teotia and see that 1. she’s extremely personable, 2. she is FEMALE 3. she’s a mom and can relate to other women. {Editor's note: I agree! Standing face to face with another mommy was comforting and I instantly knew she "got it" when it came to my questions and concerns.}

It has to be fun seeing smiles on faces all day. What do you love most about your job? 

The thing I LOVE most about my job is meeting patients from ALL over with different ethnicities, backgrounds, cultures, etc and help them to change their lives…..give them confidence and put a smile on their face….I love the Medical Field (especially Plastic Surgery) because it is constantly changing and NEW and modern techniques are always coming out.  I believe in empowering people (especially women) and I am so blessed to be a part of Dr Teotia’s practice.  I feel we can be one of the BEST in the Nation :)


Suffice it to say I'm convinced. I am also actively planning out my peels and upgrading to better products - pronto. Thanks to this introduction I'm also no longer afraid to ramp it up and take preventative care much more seriously. Retin A is a must and those peels are sure to help kickstart my "get fresh-faced" program. Dr. Teotia's advice on skin care and lifestyle choices really hit home for me, as they are exactly in line with my personal beliefs and way of living. If you're still sitting on the sidelines wondering if you should step it up - the answer is yes. Start wearing sunblock immediately and find a highly qualified physician like I did to talk about stepping up your face-saving game. Your future self will thank you! 

(Editor's note: for those interested, Dr. Stephanie's profile is on RealSelf. As I discovered, you don't need to be seeking plastic surgery to see a physician for your skin care. And yes, I love that she's a female and "gets it" when it comes to our girly concerns! Plus, who better to trust for chemical peels and other in-office treatments than an expert? If you are in Dallas, her office has SkinMedica products for sale right at the front desk. Swing by & say hello!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SILK BEDDING 

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

FRESH & CLEAN WHITES

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

BRIGHT & CHEERY

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

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

Objects of Desire: A Glamorous Punch of Color for My Desk

My eyes are suddenly ravenous for color. Bold, bright, unapologetic color. Happy color. The starting point was the discovery of a certain Christian Lacroix journal I spied at Neiman Marcus a day or so ago. From that moment I have been mentally assembling the other bold elements which need to play a role in what promises to be a colorful home office moment. 

I'm also blaming all of these amazing spring blooms (peonies are off the hook this season!) for my sudden need for an explosion of pink inside my house. It's a welcome shift from my usual cream & gold mix, and I love the idea of my interior color story being a moving, evolving creation.

So... what am I loving? Let me share...

Now you can see why that notebook held such power for me. The rest of these goodies will all play a role in my home office refresh. I've even considering adding a single wall of wallpaper to the mix. I've got my eyes on Speckled in Black from Chasing Paper and the "everyone has it but I still want one anyway" hair on hide zebra rug.  

So... what about you? Do you feel the urge for boldness in your desk area? A "life lift" that can be yours for the cost of a mere hardbound designer journal? If so, I hope you'll feel inspired to add a burst of energizing color to your home work area. Even if your "office" is a tiny bit of kitchen counter space (no shame in your game, right?), you deserve to feel pretty and powerful when handling your business. May the injection of happy hues bring light and love into your life. xoxo 

COLOR-INJECTED ACCESSORIES


Culinary Pursuits: Qui veut de délicieuses crêpes faites maison?

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

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

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

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

CREPE-MAKING ESSENTIALS

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

NEXT LEVEL ACCOUTREMENT

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

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

BOOKISH RECOMMENDATIONS

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

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

Loving: Serena & Lily's Capsule Collection Is Everything You Hoped It Would Be...

It was only a matter of time before the reigning purveyor of California cool furnishings & accessories slid into our closets as well. The brand has just launched their first capsule collection of easy-breezy fashion goods - firmly entrenching them in the lifestyle category and making them our go-to source for effortless pieces that reflect our attitude du jour.

Cotton shift dresses and fringy-tassel necklaces set the tone for simple dressing in classic pieces that should have existed before - but didn't. While a bit vintage in feel, these pieces are so simple and straightforward that they read fresh and modern. 

 

 “My vision for this collection started with a void I found in my own wardrobe – iconic pieces that are surprisingly hard to find in just the right fit,” explains Serena Dugan, Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of Serena & Lily. “In keeping with the spirit of our brand, the collection allows a woman to create her own unique look and express her own style. Each piece will look different from one woman to the next, based on the individual — who she is, and how she styles it." 

CAPSULE COLLECTION FAVORITES



I have only rounded a few pieces here that I love, but be sure to see the entire collection. The swim coverups are so fresh and pretty. I love the classic styling of everything and could easily see living in these all summer long. Based upon this first collection, I'm guessing this won't be the last of the duo's foray into fashion. We welcome more of their signature West Coast appeal into our lives. One pretty frock at a time. 

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

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

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

INGREDIENTS

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

HOW-TO

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

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

{recipe via}

CHEF'S TOOLS


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

Spectacular Properties: Mighty Moroccan Influence on the Gulf Coast...

Without seeing the surroundings I'd have guessed this home was in Santorini or (more obviously perhaps) Marrakesh. Surprisingly, this ode to all things Moroccan sits squarely on Florida's Gulf Coast. And while those exterior spaces are sleek and modern with hints of exoticism, this home's interiors are a transcendent mix of well-chosen pieces that boast a modern-meets-antique vibe. It is amazing, to say the least. 

A not to our modern lives, the first thing I thought when seeing it on Elle Decor was this: I wonder if it's on Airbnb? :) 

So let's be fair: all you and I care about here is what to wear on a killer rooftop deck like this. I say let the enchanted atmosphere transport you - of only temporarily - to a faraway destination. One look at that private pool - and I do mean private - means you can while away your cares while soaking in the warm rays. Ahhh... it might not be Morocco, but you can pretend at least for a while. 

SHOP THE MOD MOROCCAN RESORT LOOK


Personal Style: Shifting into Pre-Summer Style...

You'll either kiss me or want to kill me for the fashion secret I'm about to share. I love (L-O-V-E) the Nordstrom juniors section for finding fab summer dresses for next to nothing. Let's face it: spring & summer dressing is all about easy "toss 'em on and go" frocks. May weather means those questionably cool days are a thing of the past and it's time to take summer style seriously. Meaning shop now or see your sizes go buh-bye before you've nailed down your essentials. 

So... why the juniors section love, you ask? Aside from the lighthearted nature of the looks I also love the price. All of these dresses - ALL of them - are less than $60. Most of them are less than $50. Those are numbers that make me giddy, since it's far more enjoyable to invest in fab handbags and spectacular shoes than to drop several hundred on a dress. Don't get me wrong - I love luxe fashion. But being able to add chic dresses to my closet for next to nothing makes me jump up and down in my Jimmy Choos.

So... what's the key to high-low summer dressing? Keep it simple: think solid colors & simple silhouettes. Next: shoes. Always shoes. And a great tote never hurt either. With that... here are my high-low picks for the heat wave that surely will come and the sunny days that are already upon us. 

GET YOUR HIGH-LOW ON





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTO THE GARDEN WE GO



Buon Weekend: Take it Outside...

This week marked a small but subtle change in my life. I moved my yoga practice outside. The first evening I was serenaded by the moon up high in blue cloudy sky while it was still daylight. As I moved through my poses I'd see it and smile. The next morning it was quite possibly the most perfect outdoor morning ever. Picture perfect blue skies, puffy white clouds and perfect temps: Not too coo, not too sunny. 

Although I find yoga to be excellent for clearing my head, I realized I need more greenery outside. Let's just say I'm all about improving my "yoga studio" this year to accommodate my new location for my vinyasa flow. 

Dallas, you see, has but three seasons: sleet, perfection and summer. Right now we're in that weird moment of perfection that seems to last forever and at the same time only half a moment. Spring and fall are fabulous here but never last quite as long as you'd like them to. Our sole goal as locals is to dine on every patio, walk every path and shop every outdoor plaza during these fleeting moments of outdoor bliss. 

Coming up this weekend: a review of Charlotte Moss Garden Inspirations. Expect to see much more on the topic of beautifying your outdoor spaces. Trust me on this: it's worth it. 

For Mom: Garden-Inspired Gifts Blooming with Love...

If I didn't "get it" before, now I am officially in the club. Believe me when I tell you that your mom deserves the sun, moon and stars this Mother's Day. Truly, she does. Giving your all to your children everyday is a selfless act that requires considerable personal compromise, patience and effort. My children are the two small humans I love more than anything else on Earth. But they also require the most from me. It's a lesson in giving and growing. 

It's the growth aspect of motherhood that makes those pretty gardening gifts such a natural fit for gift giving. Like a garden, your mother nurtured you and protected you from the moment you were created - tending to your needs and protecting you. As you grew, you establishing your roots and began to flourish. With her love and care you grew to be the well-established individual you are today. Surely just the sight of you makes her beam with pride and joy. 

With that... these beautiful garden-inspired gifts will keep her smiling and thinking of you, her finest creation.  

GARDEN-INSPIRED MOTHER'S DAY GIFTS

Abstract Pansies Scarf // Hunter Floral Boots //  "I Love You, Mom" Journal // Scattered Hydrangea Necklace // Fresh Bouquet from The Bouqs $40 // Leather & Linen Floral Gardening Gloves // Cherry Blossom Napkin Rings // Pink Floral Shears // Herb Duo Pot & Snips

Most of these are from Shop Terrain, but I absolutely adore the idea of a fresh bouquet from The Bouqs for $40 flat. You can double it or triple the bunch for a mere $10. Delivery is free and (best of all) you can set your sweet, giving mommy up on auto-delivery. Imagine her getting a fresh bouquet of roses, lilies or whatever her favorite bloom is every month for a year. Now that's a gift that keeps on giving - just like her unwavering love for you. See their amazing story here and feel inspired to give the gift of love.