What to Wear: Late Night Dinner in Marrakesh...

exotic

In a previous post we explored the exotic La Mamounia in faraway Marrakesh. A hotel with an excess of Moroccan flair and an enchanted atmosphere. Now... onto the serious business of what to wear to dinner under the stars in the open air garden. With neat rows of swaying palms, a warm breeze and the faint sounds of Moroccan life all around, you'll love a look that is bold and sexy while still harboring plenty of mystery.

I found this incredible Norma Kamali gown, which I think would be perfect for drinks on the terrace & a dinner date. Add shimmering shadow on the eyes (Tom Ford does it best), spectacular shoes and a standout bangle (in gold, no less!) and you're out the door for a memorable dinner under the African stars. Don't forget to be a hit heavy-handed with the eyeliner for added glam. Add these beautiful elements to your suitcase to ensure you bring your own exotic charms on your next getaway. 

SHOP THE LOOK

Norma Kamali Floor-sweeping gown // Rene Caovilla crystal jeweled sandals // Kendra Scott Ivy Fringe bracelet // Tom Ford Seductive Rose Eye Quad // YSL Waterproof Gold Eyeliner

Luxe Accommodations: Arabian Nights at La Mamounia, Marrakesh...

These days when I think of "getting away" I'm most certainly focused on going far, far, far away. Perhaps it's too much of the familiar or too many long summer days. My soul is craving exotic locales and strange lands. 

Yesterday's interview with Alexandra Foster stirred up thoughts of Morocco and the infamous La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech. If ever a property called for jeweled sandals, flowing dresses and darker eyeliner, this surely is the one.

Most only dream of experiencing Arabian nights, but I cannot wait to experience the intoxicating grounds myself. From the moment you are greeted at the handcarved doors to the second you slip into the cobalt tiled pool, La Mamounia beckons with exotic charms and mysterious seduction.

Discover more of what awaits at La Mamounia and surrounding Morocco so you can plan your next far flung getaway. Wondering what to wear? I've got your bags packed. Happy traveling! 

Luxe Accommodations: Amazing Grace in Turks & Caicos...

This is the type of property I don't just want to visit, I want to own it. I want to revel in the joys of having it as my own. Isn't she gorgeous? The Villa, aptly named Amazing Grace is absolutely stunning. While there are no shortage of properties to stay at along the shores of Grace Bay, most of them swing either ultra-mod or traditional tropical in design. Frankly I love those styles when I'm vacationing. It is a nice contrast to my daily living space and a feast for the eyes. But when I spotted this villa listed as a rental, my jaw fell open. This one is absolutely a stunner and falls into the "Pack your bags, we're leaving now" category. Love at first sight. 

Still reeling from the inspiration, I couldn't wait to share the gallery images with you. Hellooooo, tropical haven I'd never want to leave. New life goal... own this property or one of the same caliber and enjoy it whenever it isn't being rented out to fellow wanderlusters like myself. #lifegoals

I have a friend headed to Turks & Caicos, where this beauty resides, and I'm helping her plan her wardrobe for the stay. Care to pack your virtual bags with me as we tour this ultra-plush pad? Let's do it...

WHAT TO WEAR: AMAZING GRACE IN TURKS & CAICOS


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Tastemakers: Capturing the "Lived In" Luxury of Benjamin Vandiver...

By now you've seen Benjamin Vandiver featured in every impressive design magazine and blog around. He's risen from "Nashville sensation" status to top designer faster than you can say Kings of Leon. Thanks to a few high profile clients and an uncanny ability to infuse any space with lived in appeal, Benjamin is at the beginning of a very long, very successful career trajectory. 

His trademark style is that he doesn't have one, although one would be quick to notice his deft use of black in almost any space as a grounding element. To me his projects reveal a sensual side and a love of carefully chosen, fine quality pieces. There's no "excess" and yet each room (and each room lived within the spaces) feels full and ample. There's a sexiness to his work that works in concert with his skillful restraint. To me this visual tension is palpable and highly coveted. It's no wonder he has a long line of successful projects and no doubt a full calendar ahead.  

Shoe Love: Stocking Up On Summer Stunners...

A girl and her shoes, right? A stylish match made in footwear heaven (because I do believe such a place exists). Summer for me means the pedicure is always on display and wedges are this vertically challenged girl's best friend. Yet I do love a shimmering gold flat sandal in the mix. Here's my summer shoe crush list, most of which are on sale at the moment.

Hold the phone... did someone say SHOE SALE? Yes, I did. Neiman MarcusNet-a-Porter and Nordstrom are all having ridiculously good sales right now on brands high and low. Shoes are discounted deeply (think 40% off) including this season's hottest styles. I do love a good find at a fabulous price. I'm sure you do too! So.. happy shoe shopping, ladies! 

SUMMER SHOES I'M HUNTING RIGHT NOW

Perspective: Stay the Course...

I'll be candid. I feel a little like that third little piggy in the nursery rhyme lately. That big bad wolf is out there huffing and puffing and trying to blow my house down. Little does he know it's a fruitless pursuit. My focus, my confidence, my path, my plans, my integrity cannot be detoured by the force of his hot air. My structure (in this case, my very being) is built so solidly that eventually he'll come to know that any attempts to fluster & bluster are a waste of time and effort

Can you relate? Do you ever feel like life is testing you? And you're passing the test with flying colors because your resolve cannot be shaken? I hope you can relate on some level. Because it feels really, truly satisfying to know deep down in your core that this everything is going to be all right. It feels extremely comforting to have a vision in mind so clear and so positively fabulous that no forces (visible or invisible) can shake me.

The inner resolve feels so good, that I feel compelled to share my methods with you (all of which are easily replicable). Here's the method I know works for me...

GET CLEAR. REALLY CLEAR.

The age old question... what do you want? Well, it's easy to say you want more financial wealth or improved fitness. But can you be more specific? Dig deeper. What exactly do you want? Imagine the legs you want to have, the ripped abs and the toned arms. Come up with an exact number you'd like to see in your savings account. Be specific. Very specific. And... WRITE IT ALL DOWN.

GET CURIOUS & PERSONAL

Now that you know you want a particular goal answer this... WHY? Why do you want it? Let's say you want more funds in the bank Okay... now look at that answer and go deeper. Why? Well, because I'll have more freedom, more security. Ah-ha. That's the real answer. It's not the thing... it's the feeling the thing will give you. Drill deep on every goal on your list and determine the real WHY behind the goal. And really feel those feelings. Allow yourself to connect to those deep desires. That's the key. You don't want things just to want things... you want them to feel beautiful, to feel connected, to feel secure... whatever your feelings are - own them and identify them. They are the fuel to drive you to make those goals reality.

GET VISUAL

Pinterest is great & magazines are wonderful, but I'm a big fan of adding images to the pinboard behind my desk. Fergie's legs in one image, my dream house in another, a Saint Laurent bag here, images of the Côte d'Azur there. Find photos, print them out, cut them out, hang them up. Silly? Not really. In fact it's pretty gorgeous when you get done and it provides constant daily reminders of the important WHY'S behind your pretty WHAT'S. If you skip this step (and most of you will) you lose out on the power of visualization. Which brings me to step four...

PICTURE PERFECT

The reason the metaphorical big bad wolf can't blow my house in? It's because my future is all locked up, baby. I have seen myself and my family in the exact house, I've smelled the flowers in the breeze, I've heard the splashing fountains, I've felt the sun and the wind on my face. In my mind I am already there living in my dream house experiencing that life. You can't shake me because it's not a dream. I spend time daily putting myself there, feeling happy in this place, experiencing perfect health and the love of my family & friends.

Call it meditation, call it daydreaming... it's perhaps one of the most underutilized tools out there. Athletes do this, performers do this, winners or all walks of life do this. You visualize the result you want. You do this again and again so many times that your brain begins to believe the imagined reality is indeed the present.

And you know what...? It works. Gymnasts nail that dismount, quarterbacks catch that ball, pianists nail that performance. Visualization is a powerful, powerful tool that many of us aren't incorporating into our lives. Try it. Model the top athletes and talents out there, and try this mental practice.

See yourself happy. REALLY happy. See yourself healthy. Mentally attend the celebration of your success. Daydream about your housewarming party. Feel the feeling of accomplishment after the marathon. Imagine yourself graduating. Visualize the signed contract in your hands. Master your mind, or your mind masters you. (Trust me on that last not of wisdom.)


So... are you willing to try it? Do you dare believe in a life better or just different than your current life? Are you bold enough to dream? Are you willing to spend a tiny amount of time and very little physical energy to give those dreams a fighting chance of becoming your reality? I'll walk out in faith here and believe you will. 

Bottom line, don't let anyone blow you off course. Your dreams, your plans, your vision of the perfect future are just that: YOURS. It is impossible for anyone else to have the same drive and desire to achieve them. They do not have the same WHY'S to achieve your WHAT'S. It is for this reason that you must make them of supreme importance and never ever lose sight of that vision your hold so near.

Be different. Put up images of your dream house, your dream body, your dream life. Photoshop yourself on a sweet yacht and pin that image right over your desk. Place photos of Venice or Ibiza or Angkor Wat all over the house if that's where you want to be. Make it REAL and make it happen. FEEL that as a reality. Imagine yourself there doing that very thing experiencing that reality. Make it happen. I believe in you! 

{image credits 1 // 2 // 3 // 4}


LOVING RIGHT NOW


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Perspective: It's Time to Awaken the Beast Within...

If you've ever worked very hard to reawaken your inner lioness you'll know where I'm at right now. I'm excited. I'm brimming with enthusiasm. I'm reclaiming my inner beast. She has not been dormant, she's simply been chilling for a bit. The priorities and needs of others so often come to the forefront. Clients, children, projects... But you can't subdue your own needs and wants forever. She may lie back and wait, but she doesn't go away. And she shouldn't suffer for long. But now? She is focused. She is fabulous. She is ready to leap and jump and flex her muscular frame again. May Thursday greet you like a gorgeous lioness eager to take on the world. Let's forge some new paths in the jungle, everyone. The time is now. Enjoy your marvelous day! 

{all images via Office to #GirlBoss Community}

LOVING RIGHT NOW

Musings On: Connecting & Creating...

Have you ever stopped to consider what it is you do? Not how you spend your time, but what you DO with your focus and how you fulfill yourself. For me, creation is a huge part of who I am. I consider myself a mega-producer, creating things constantly. It's what makes me a great designer and fuels me. I love the act of creating something from nothing and ensuring it is beautiful. It is my passion. Like every other human on the planet, connecting with others is also an enormous emotional driver. Not just talking and filling time, but actually connecting with them more deeply. Also of key importance, connecting with nature and with myself. I do this typically through outdoor exercise, which I crave and can't really function without. It is integral to who I am. In fact, the connecting with nature, self and others is what fuels my ability to create beautiful spaces and things. What about you? What drives you? What fills you up? What recharges you? What propels you?

{images via my Instagram feed}

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Buon Weekend: Making Moments Matter...

{image via Nordstrom}

Sunday isn't over but I can happily say I've been "present" all weekend. Fully engaged with every activity, every interaction, every conversation. Attentiveness allows you to capture moments, and moments will be the sum total of your life. Chase them, embrace them, seek them, enjoy them. I can only hope your days have had some taste of this and the sunny season to come and more than one or two special moments that made you smile. May the rest of your day be exquisite and may you bask in the sunlight of those around you. Happy weekend, loves! 

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Beauty: Three New (and Natural) Products I'm Loving Right Now...

Confession: I'm obsessed with discovering the "miracle" product to make all-things-beauty easier and better for myself. In a parallel goal, I'm also on a quest to rid my life (and body) of artificial substances and potentially harmful ingredients. These dual goals require considerable trial and error to discover "clean" products that deliver on their healthy promise and are superstars in their own right. I'm not in search of so-so replacements. I'm on a quest for the best in class of every category. The results (the winners) are shared here with you and the flops never see the light of day. 

This week I'm introducing you to three products that have recently won me over. All of these are silicone-free, paraben-free and derived from natural ingredients. I'm eager to share them with you and share how they won me over. 

First, the Omorovicza Refining Facial Polisher. This is a must-have product for my particular skin. No makeup or moisturizer can fix dull, blah skin. It is ALL about gently buffing away those dead skin cells and revealing fresh, soft skin. Your serums will better penetrate your epidermis, your moisturizer will "take" and your makeup will go on smooth as buttah. What makes this one so special to me is its versatility. 

I often use it for my second step of my face wash (the first being a balm to remove makeup). It is marvelous here at removing muck without stripping the skin of natural oils. And, used correctly, you'll enjoy a gently buffing of the skin too. 

Other times I apply it post-shower as a leave-on mask. All that mineral-rich Hungarian mud has time to do its magic. It does not dry up, instead it stays wet and seems to hydrate the skin. It typically do a few things to busy myself for a while and then rinse it off (or leverage the fine buffing capabilities) to reveal glowing, smooth, nourished skin. LOVE this and I feel it will last me a while since it requires so little to cover the face. Bonus: it goes on a lovely aqua color! 

Now... the crucial one. It's not glamorous to discuss, but we all need deodorant. I recently ventured into the all-natural zone when I read a Vogue editor's praise of Agent Nateur (holi)stick deodorant. Loaded with non-gmo, pesticide-free, food-grade ingredients I was intrigued. Would this lovely little stick hold up to my grueling workouts? I needed to know. I'm two weeks into my test and I'm a convert.

Amazingly, it works. It smells lovely going on and it prevents any post workout embarrassment. It passed my 75-minute hot yoga test with aplomb. The ingredient list is short, all natural and completely non-toxic. Curious? Here's the composition: "Organic coconut oil, sodium bicarbonate, beeswax, sunflower butter, avocado butter, castor oil, raw organic honey, lavender essential oil, hydrogen peroxide, eucalyptus oil, love." Love. Sweet, right? 

Things to know: it is not touted as antiperspirant. While I didn't notice any lack of performance in that area, I didn't put it to the "silk dress at a summer wedding" test. Yet during my two weeks of daily use I stayed completely dry. On that note: the ingredient list, while short, does include essential lavender & eucalyptus oils along with a host of skin soothing ingredients. Here's why this matters: Typically in my post-workout shower I fully exfoliate my body before dressing for the day. Mistake. I do not suggest doing anything to irritate sensitive underarm skin before applying this product. The delicate tissue was sensitive to application post-shower anytime I exfoliated that area. So spare the loofah or scrubbing products in this region prior to use. 

All in all I loved it and am completely impressed. I'll be tossing my old-school aluminum-filled products in the trash pronto.

Next, my heavenly gold tube of hair care magic. Seriously, this product has my name all over it. Shu Uemura The Art of Hair Nourishing Cleansing Milk. Hello! My color-treated hair was crying for this and drank it in like...milk! Used in lieu of my normal Aveda shampoo, it left my long locks silky and happy. Styling was a breeze and it definitely added shine. I should note it is silicone-free, sulfate-free and paraben-free. I don't like many bottles in the shower, but this glistening golden tube earned a spot alongside my trusty Aveda products. It earned it by producing silky tresses without buildup or weight. Very nice, and it will be used in rotation with my beloved Shampure. I'm happy to welcome it to the small hair care family. 

Ciao for now, all! 

Buon Weekend: Sundays Are For...

Sundays (especially those of the torrential rainstorm variety) are exquisite treats in my world. This rare gift from the weather gods gives me the excuses I need to stay in and fully indulge myself. No driving to hot yoga class today (even tough my absolute fave teacher is leading the sweat session this morning). No errands. No goals more lofty than enjoying the perfect cappuccino and reading this stack of books staring back at me on the nightstand. In bed. All day. Thank you, lovely spring storm, for the day of rest I truly needed.  If you can, sleep in a bit today. Laze around a bit today. Recharge yourself. Consider an at-home pedicure an achievement. Strive for indulgent bliss. Finally read those pretty books you collect. See what Bravo has to offer. Dive into those glossy magazines you receive but rarely read. Wear your most cherished perfume. Meditate while wearing a hydrating sheet mask. Drink lemon water. Appreciate the heady fragrance of a bouquet of fresh roses. Take a midday nap. Delight yourself. Enjoy yourself. Pamper yourself. Finally reward yourself with a day of much needed "you" time. I promise this: you absolutely deserve it. 

{images via here & here & here & here}

WHAT I'M LOVING TODAY

Loving: The Brilliance of Cork Platform Wedges...

Personally, I scoff at any of those in/out lists that claim cork wedges are no longer chic. I'm sorry, have you feet not been blessed by the softly cushioned experience of this magical mix of high-heel-meets-pillowy-cloud experience? Aquazzura agrees with me. As does Jimmy, Jack, Stuart, Tory, Donald, Michael and Christian and pretty much every other designer with feet planted firmly on the ground. Need evidence, take a peek at these beauties. Comfort is chic and cork wedges are brilliant. And so are you for loving them. Be sleek. Be smart. Be kind to your lovely feet. They do so much for you they deserve to be elevated on cushy pillows of fabulousness all season long.

Musings: On The Importance of Thinking Big & Dreaming Bold Dreams...

{background image via Anthropologie, list my own}

{background image via Anthropologie, list my own}

Do you take time to dream? I mean really, truly dream big. To think beyond your current situation and imagine a better reality. To dream in this way it the precursor to all achievement. You need to allow your imagination to run free. You need to give it permission to fearlessly come up with amazing things to achieve, terrific places to see, incredible experiences to enjoy, crazy moments to experience. This is dreaming big and the beginnings of living out bold dreams.  

Is this happening for you? If not, ask yourself ... How healthy is your appetite for life itself? Are you thirsting for more? Aching for a bigger bite of opportunity? The enemy of success isn't failure - it's apathy. Failure is awesome, as it means you DID something and put your heart into it. Failure means you can fall down and get back up. Failure is progress. Apathy? A silent killer. Killer of dreams. Killer of relationships. Killer of ideas and potential. 

RELAX. WE CAN FIX THIS...

By now you might be squirming in your seat. If this is you and you feel the dead stare of apathy looking back at you in the mirror, it's time to wake up & shake up. Let's do a little dreaming. Let's do a little dancing. Let's do a little growing.

YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG FOR A BUCKET LIST

Do you even have a bucket list? A real one. A list of extraordinary achievements or experiences you really need to do? Have you planned out your life with any intention? Do you have things you MUST cross off a list before you toss off this spinning rock we call Earth? I'm going to ask you to do this. Not for me... but for yourself. Are you ready? I mean really ready? This will change your life, friends. This one activity if you'll do it will alter your life.  I'll answer for you. YES. You're ready and willing. 

HOW? HERE'S HOW

I highly suggest you read this post, as it sums up this task in a potent way. This will encourage you to block off some time and MAKE A LIST of MUSTS for your life. It's time to stop drifting and start driving. Tomorrow, sweet friends. But if you can map out a list of items you are genuinely thrilled about doing, experiencing, feeling and achieving then each day will be a gift. Each day will get you one step (or one trans-Atlantic flight) closer to living the life you dream to live. Do this for yourself. 

Although it suggests a digital app for notes, studies have proven that writing things down on physical paper has far more power to deliver results. Part of the exercise will involve shuffling those listed goals around, so for this one exercise it makes sense to begin digitally. But after this, commit to writing the edited lists in a fresh new notebook. Try this. I challenge you to carve out an hour or two of time this weekend (more if you have it) and perform this simple exercise. It will motivate you. Propel you. Focus  you. It will also likely surprise you. 

Butterfly Journal & Spiral "Notes" Notebook (Anthro has lovely ones as well!) // Parker "Jotter" ballpoint Pen (I require blue ink myself) // Fabulously Fagranced Candle (take this experience to the next level with a mood-elevating luxury candle to inspire you!)

One thing I know for sure: if YOU don't design your life, circumstances will. Others will. Your days will be driven by meaningless (read: not goal-oriented) tasks. Your years will blur together. You might end up with a pleasant life, but without identifying (and making plans to accomplish) those unique things that ONLY YOU hope to do in your lifetime - they simply won't come to pass. Your partner's goals are not your goals. Your children's passions are not your passions. Your family's accomplishments are not your accomplishments. It's important to honor your unique yearnings. 

What are some of mine? A small smattering, in no particular order:

  • See the Great Pyramids of Giza up close. Touch them. 
  • Experience an open-vehicle drive through the Sahara
  • Rent a flat in Paris and "live there" for a period of time
  • View the Amalfi coast by luxury boat, stopping periodically in those idyllic towns
  • Stay at Le Sireneuse in Positano
  • Experience the Hungarian flagship spa of Omorovicza 
  • Train with professional chefs to master knife skills and other specialty food preparations
  • Shop at (not browse, s-h-o-p) at the flagship Chanel at 31 Rue Cambon
  • Enjoy ridiculously fresh sashimi in Japan
  • Dine on a rooftop at night in Shanghai
  • Live overlooking the Pacific in a gorgeous house

There are many, many more. I hope you'll do this exercise. I hope you'll feel inspired. I hope you'll click this link to see the process to which I'm referring. Your life will change!

Beauty: Nailing the Perfect Ten with Toxin-Free Nail Polish...

{photo by Franki Durbin}

{photo by Franki Durbin}

It's become second nature to seek out organic foods, grass-fed beef, hormone-free this and antibiotic free that when it comes to our food. But I'll be candid when I say that I've been willfully turning a blind eye to the nasty bits in my beauty arsenal. Quarternium-what? It's no wonder the font is so small. One close look at those ingredient lists make me queazy. What is this I'm putting on (and therefore in) my body? 

Enter the next phase of my "life edit" which involves removing the next frontier of poisons and unknowns from my life. Hair was easy, as I've shifted back to Aveda completely on all of my products. Even better, the elusive brand is now available at Nordstrom. Hello, free shipping! Healthy hair: check. And I'll tackle my main products for taming my mane in a coming post. 

But what about the ultimate taboo... nail polish? We've all read about the dangers of formaldehyde yet we dutifully paint our claws in dazzling shades of ruby, coral and azalea pink. How can we resist? Well, we can. But for those who do enjoy their mani/pedi with a dose of color (or even just shine) I've finally surrendered to (read: found my solution in) celeb favorite Smith & Cult.

Why this brand? I've tried a few with lackluster results (literally). No durability. No bold colors. No flawless finish. This brand has somehow nailed (see what I did there?) the ability to marry the luxury of pretty nails with our current health-conscious mindset. Not one of their beautifully packaged nail lacquers contains the main five nasty polish ingredients. Not familiar? These are Dibutyl, Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor. Smith & Cult features high-shine, flawless coverage, heavy durability and - last but definitely not least - stunning colors in an exclusive 5-Free formula.

Did I mention they are readily available and reasonably priced? And the packaging is gorgeous. So for me this is high fives (once my nails dry, of course) all around. Can't wait? Shop them all at Net-a-Porter & Neiman Marcus. Each bottle is exactly $18, so for the price of a single spa visit you've got yourself a foolproof three-step mani/pedi. Toxin-free, I might add. Otherwise here's what I recommend as you dip your toes (sorry, can't help myself) in the colorful 5-Free waters. 

The Basis of Everything (base coat) // Psycho Candy (bright coral orange) // Plastic Beach (the ultimate Barbie pink) // Suburban Warrior (fierce bougainvillea pink) // Above It All (top coat)

Wondering how to remove that pretty lacquer? I like RGB's pre-soaked cotton pads which are made without harmful acetone or acetate. They'll whisk away that polish when you're ready to refresh your color. Now, go forth and beautify yourself, lovelies! What am I wearing this week? The delightful Plastic Beach is my current favorite, but don't count out the shocking pink of Suburban Warrior. I feel a summer pedi coming on soon! 

Editor's note: If you have a brand you love more that you suggest, I'm all ears. I'm tackling each section of life one by one and making improvements. Even my deodorant is being replaced by a less sinister one. If you're a wellness lover, health freak and a natural beauty lover please share your expertise. I would very much love to learn about your favorite products. xoxo! 

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Loving: Monoque Lhuillier's Dreamy Collection for PBKids...

When I heard about an upcoming collaboration between bridal designer Monique Lhuillier and Pottery Barn Kids was intrigued. Would she be able to deliver those dressmaker details to the retail giant? Would the supreme quality of her celebrity-adored collections come through in the child-centric designs. And, possibly most importantly, would there be dresses?!? The answer it seems is a firm yes. 

The collection launched last week but I waited a few days to craft this post. My standards for childrens' collections is very high and the selection on the market is still quite small. There are few options out there, RH Baby & Child being my favorite amongst the retail offerings. Monique has somehow designed a beautiful collection that not only lives up to my expectations, it does so at prices we can all enjoy. 

If you've read about my nursery design before you know that I believe these spaces should not be out of step with the rest of your home. Tasteful, elegant and bright are words I would use to describe my style. Subtle colors, soft fabrics and glamorous touches are hallmarks of my design - not qualities some think of when it comes to spaces for children. On this it's clear Monique and I agree. And frankly, she's stepping firmly into RHB&C territory in the most dreamy and ethereal way. 

Let's dish on a few of my favorite pieces from the collaboration

 

ELEGANCE UNDERFOOT

While bold graphic rugs will always have their place, I value subtlety & soft shades in m floor coverings. Monique's rugs truly foot the bill with soothing hues of of blue and blush in soft wool. Details here >>

 

TERRIFIC TUTUS

Not dresses, but marvelously designed tutus in soft shades of blush, seafoam and latte let your little dreamer imagine herself as queen of her own kingdom. Pro tip: I would put money on the emergence of dresses & Halloween costumes in the future. Details here >>


MIDAS TOUCH: THE GOLD CORNICE

This thoughtful piece is gorgeous over a daybed, crib or traditional bed frame. I love the idea of a royal vibe without the full commitment of a canopy bed. Add in Lhuillier's ethereal tulle in the most delicate blush pink and you've won me over. Smashing. Details here >> 

 

FIT FOR A QUEEN (OR KING)

What they've labeled an ottoman is clearly a curule, a chair design hailing from the height of ancient Rome, a perch upon which rulers proudly sat. This elegant piece will suit any room of your palace. Details here >>


THE CANOPY OF YOUR DREAMS

It's simple. ML has done for children what Mary McDonald has done for the rest of us. Simply put, this incredible canopy bed is not just for little ones. Turn your guest bedroom into a luxurious haven with this one simple focal point. Pieces available individually as well. Details here >>

I've barely touched upon the expanse of this large introductory collection. Lamps, chandeliers, bedding, dressers, chairs and desks... there are many pieces to be seen and appreciated. All with Monique's signature feminine flourish. It's a good time to be a girl, isn't it? Visit Pottery Barn Kids for more of what I hope is just the beginning of their partnership with the divine Mrs. Lhuillier. 

Musings: On Clearing Out the Unnecessary to Make Room for the Excellent...

{This photo is property of & taken by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

{This photo is property of & taken by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

This topic isn't new on this blog, but I hear feedback from many of you on this topic: how do you make room or time in your life for XYZ. The answer is simple. Say no thank you to more things. And by things I might mean a so-so black dress or a calendar commitment you'd rather not keep. Time is far too precious to spend it unwisely. Guard it jealously and selfishly. You will NEVER get today back. This moment is *poof* gone and the next one is here. Time, as a concept, is marching on whether we invest it or waste it. So let's talk about conserving our most precious resource. How exactly do you do it? 

  • RESPECT: Respect your time AND the time of others. Don't offer a half-hearted yes to someone unless you're passionate about them or the reason for getting together.
  • PAUSE: Wait half a beat before adding another activity to your schedule. Are you filling time, killing time or seizing the moment to do something terrific? Evaluate each new piece of your life to be certain you're really excited about it. For each class, each group, each project, each date, each outing you are making an exchange. You are giving away a parcel of your time and attention to be present. Be positive it's driving you towards your goal OR pays dividends in other ways. 
  • STRATEGIZE: You know what's coming. Plain old pen & paper. No digital to-do list will ever sway me from the bliss of scratching off my "done" items on a physical list. It WORKS. Run the day or it runs you is so true. So map out a simple plan and stick to you. You'll be surprised how much more "free" time you have when you knock out all of your essential tasks right away. 
  • UPSIDE DOWN: On the above note: schedule your day upside down. Most intimidating task first. That dreaded call, the important email, the overly long form, the overdue project - just do it. Knock it out and move on down the line. The endorphin lift you'll get from knocking down your biggest challenge first will throttle you through your other tasks with ease. Test this approach and I promise it works. Hardest & most intimidating task FIRST. All other to-do's after. By lunch you'll be singing my praises. 

The bottom line is this... simplify. Life isn't meant to be so complicated. Simplify where you can and learn to value yourself, your loved ones, your friends and your time. Attack your uphill marches in the morning like a marine and enjoy the downhill cruise the rest of the day. Say yes to what inspires you and be comfortable saying no to those things which don't stir the fire within. Days are precious and so is your limited attention. Manage them wisely.  

Beauty: Sulwhasoo, My First Foray Into the World of Korean Skin Care...

{All images in this post are property of & taken by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

{All images in this post are property of & taken by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

The widespread popularity of Korean beauty has been a lovely thing to observe. The prized features and key elements are all in line with my own approach to skin care. Dewy, bright, moist, plump skin and an obsession with sun protection. This is what I seek in my own skin care and this is precisely what almost every K-beauty product promises. While there are many, many choices on the market, Amore Pacific's Sulwhasoo has risen to the top of my radar for its ready availability and growing fan base, 

Two weeks ago I dove in head first via their medicinal herb driven brightening sheet masks, ultra-hydrating serum and clarifying mask. Oh, what a treat my skin has received! Smooth, cleansed, radiant skin that happily absorbs my new moisturizer (more on that in an upcoming post) and smiles at me when I look in the mirror. 

Let's chat about these different products one by one. First, let's talk about the Clarifying Mask. Think: honey. The color, texture and consistency remind me of the deepest, darkest honey. I have been using it pre-shower which allows me to take it off easily. Note that this product is meant to be peeled off. Knowing this you'll want to begin peeling right away, before the steam works its normal magic. I like it pre-shower so I can let the steam penetrate my pores after removal of the mask. The results: dull skin, be gone! Much like mud masks, this worked to clarify my skin and clean my pores - all without stripping it of hydration (which most mud masks do). You know how normally a mask leaves your skin tight and dry? Not this one. I am convinced it plumps and moistens. LOVELY product. Don't let the brown sticky texture throw you off. Your skin will appreciate the results. 

Post-shower I do one of two things: use the 'Hydro-Aid' Moisturizing Lifting Serum (a miracle in a bottle) or lie down for a few minutes with a 'Snowise EX' Brightening Mask on. Let's talk about the sheet mask first. Rather than the thick tissue style masks to which I've become accustomed, Sulwhasoo uses a mesh fabric. Yes, you still look like a mummy come back from the dead, with eye, nose & mouth holes, but the fabric of this mask is different. Each side of the mesh features a peelable film, allowing a multi-phase use. Those meshy quality of the mesh seems to work to retain the moisture of the mask for a longer period of time.

I like to lie on my back until the mask has dried a bit then remove the outer film from the front of the mask. In about 25 minutes your skin will have absorbed most of the fluid. The results? PLUMP! Fermented ginsing and a cocktail of other medicinal herbs work to stimulate collagen and "brighten" the skin. I don't have specific spots to lighten, but I can say with certainty that my skin was more dewy and clearer on the days I used this sheet mask. Less "muddled" and more evenly toned. I don't know about you, but I place a high value on even skin tone once I see it - and with this I definitely saw pretty results. This simple (and relaxing!) mask seemed to calm any redness and hydrate my combination skin. My favorite part? After use I apply the rest of the serum from the pouch onto my face and décolletage to extend the luxurious experience and maximize the benefits. 

Next up, my new favorite serum. The 'Hydro-Aid' Moisturizing Lifting Serum had me at hello. With a pump top (thank you, Jesus) I fell for it with my first use. The scent, the consistency, the dewy results - this is a treat to use. Olive oil, peony extract, honeysuckle, licorice and dozens of other natural botanicals plus my fave ingredient... hyaluronic acid combine to make this silky serum work miracles to plump and renew the skin. LOVE, love, love this silky miracle liquid. If you're serious about your hydration I would definitely consider adding this to your repertoire. That Korean obsession with adding "bounce" back to the cheeks must have inspired this amazing fluid. It is divine. And the pump top allows perfect and even dispensing every single time. Big fan.  

What I learned from this experience.

  1. Slow down & take your time. I've used masks before fairly frequently, but this one took longer to dry down. This was a pleasant exercise in patience and allowed my mind to drift and my body to relax. Think of this as an at-home spa experience. 
  2. Be open to new things: The honey-like clarifying mask & mesh-style brightening face mask were both different in texture and appearance than other products I've used, but the results spoke for themselves. Experimenting is a valuable tool and these are two new powerhouses in my beauty arsenal. 
  3. Eastern beauty products & techniques work: Korean medicinal herbs, honeysuckle extract, fermented ginseng, the ingredients on these products differed from any lists I'd examined before. And I liked it. My skin loved it. I want more of this old-school east-meets-west beauty action in my life. 
  4. Luxury comes in many forms: I truly enjoy the application of the serum and the "feel" of the brightening mask fluid. It is as if my skin is literally drinking in the minerals and nutrients. The ritual of application is not lost on me, and with each use I develop a greater appreciation of the legendary multi-step Korean skin care application process. Those girls are really on to something. 

This will not be my last deep dive into the world of K-beauty. In fact, I consider this just a tiny little dip in the pool of skin care potential. I can't wait to share more with you! Available at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman

Current Obsession: Brilliant White Beaded Eyelet Dresses...

If I were in the habit of buying $7000 dresses at a moment's notice, this lovely Altuzarra frock would surely be mine. Never fear, trendsetters... Olivia Palermo & Chelsea28 have a similarly styled white dress (not as opulent, but definitely a stand-in for those of you on the hunt for the look) offered for a mere $148. You are welcome. :) 

Loving: Elegant Cups + Exotic Coffees...

{All images above property of and taken by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

How can your day be marvelous if it begins with the ordinary? I like to treat even quiet daily moments as special times, because those micro-habits really do become the sum total of your life. A simple morning drink transformed into something extraordinary with a tiny bit of effort. My secret? I love fancy little espresso cups. I have a small stable of beauties from Wedgwood and one from Ralph Lauren that make me smile. And I'm always on the lookout for a new addition to the crew. Fine bone china with gold accents, these spectacular creations make my morning cuppa a very festive affair. 

How can you infuse a little fabulousness into your sunrise? With the careful addition of a few choice elements. A cup & saucer set you adore, a robust espresso (or tea or green drink if you choose!) and a special place to enjoy them both. Perhaps it's a barstool in your kitchen, maybe it's a window seat in your bedroom, maybe it's a chaise on your patio. Find a space and find a place to have that moment for yourself. Steal that time and make it yours. Enjoy this opportunity to pause, to think and to frame up your thinking. Celebrate being alive. Enjoy what is rightfully yours. Breathe deeply. Then take charge of your day. This is how successful people begin their morning: with a moment of meditation, gratitude and reflection. This then, is how you should kick start your days as well. 

IDEAS & INSPIRATION FOR YOUR MORNING RITUAL

L'Objet Lapis Espresso Cup & Saucer // Marchesa Baroque Night Cup & Saucer // Wedgwood Hibiscus Cup & Saucer // Marchesa by Lenox Painted Camellia Cup & Saucer

Also, if you're a Nespresso fan I cannot begin to gush about how marvelous their newest cru tastes. Tanim de Chiapas de Mexico is beyond excellent. If you like a flavorful espresso with a full-bodied flavor, this is it. It is almost sweet in its nutty complexity. A really remarkable cup of coffee. Roma is typically my go-to morning cup, but this limited edition option has me reordering it on repeat! 

If you love my pretty cups, follow me on instagram for a stream of pretty pix like these of my morning (and afternoon) coffees & teas!