The Spooks are Loose!

  • 19th October 2013

Whether you’re throwing an impromptu Halloween fete or just looking for a few super easy holiday-themed crafts and decor to do with your mini goblins at home, these simple activities are fun for all ages, even the youngest in the bunch.


We’ve combed through idea after idea to find the easiest crafts for little kids (and time-stressed parents) which do not require numerous unique supplies.


Halloween Fun!



French Pumpkins


Des Citrouilles  (French Pumpkins)


This idea, courtesy of Rachael Ray Magazine is uber cute and easy to create using black felt, pom-poms or pipe cleaners, a black sharpie and black mustache stickers (optional).  Kids 4+ are easily able to make it on their own.  Group (des hommes) in a bunch and they look especially fun!

• Cut a circle out of black felt to make the beret.  Glue a pom-pom or a loop out of black pipe cleaner onto the top.

• Place your mustache, or create your own with sharpie.

• Sketch on a fanciful face



Vampire Pumpkins


Vampire Pumpkins



For these little blood-suckers white pumpkins typically work best.  The idea comes courtesy of Martha Stewart Living and requires little to nothing.  Carve out a small mouth.  Have a little friend decorate the vampire teeth and a pair of googly eyes with a red sharpie.  Pop them in and glue them on respectively.  Eyelashes optional!




Coy Cat


Cat Pumpkin



Again, courtesy of Martha Stewart Living, this is the easiest of the bunch.  The trick is in picking the right pumpkins.  One should be a shorter, flatter, almost disc like pumpkin and the other a taller, thinner pumpkin with a well defined stem.  Cut the stem off of the shorter pumpkin and flip it onto its bottom.  While you paint a cat face, have your little one paint the stem of the tall pumpkin black creating a tail.  Black ears made from thick construction paper are the finishing touch.



Take the More Elegant Route


Metallic Pumpkins



Simple hardware store metallic silver spray paint and a sheet of Martha Stewart Line stickers transforms pumpkins elegantly.  You do the spraying and let the kids do the sticking.


Spider Attack! 



Spiders attacking pumpkin



Again, a flat disc like pumpkin makes the spider infested look easier to achieve.  Wipe the pumpkin clean first with a wet paper towel and using plastic spiders and glue dots the mock siege is easy to create.


Black & White Centerpieces


Black and White Halloween Centerpiece





Black & White Halloween Centerpiece




A pure white arrangement with black plastic spiders and black spray painted mini pumpkins.


Sneaky Mice Infestation


Mice Silhouette Halloween





Mice Silhouette Halloween



These templates are also available at Martha Stewart Living.  You can trace them onto black construction paper or just cut out the mice printed directly from your computer.  Let the kids stick them along the baseboards of a staircase and scattered running throughout the house!



Vamped Up Straws


Vampire Straws




Template for the straws are available at Rachael Ray Magazine.



3 Easy Party Crafts:


White Chocolate Dipped, Halloween Sprinkled Pretzels


Halloween Themed Sprinkled White Chocolate Pretzels




Dip the pretzel in white chocolate




Sprinkle Pretzel on parchment paper or paper plate





Add pretzels to the decorated bags





Send white chocolate dipped pretzels home in goody bags



Fun, delicious and a take-home treat, these Halloween spirited pretzels are easy for all guests.  You will need a bag of pretzels, white chocolate baking chips (the better the brand the better the taste), Halloween-themed sprinkles, paper plates, (clear bags and halloween stickers are optional).


Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes, stir and repeat until the chocolate is smooth.  Have sprinkles and paper plates at hand.  Dip the pretzels in half-way one-at-a-time and transfer to the plate.  Sprinkle and pop them into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  Let sit 5 minutes and transfer to clear bags or your mouth!



Candy Filled Witches Brooms


Candy Filled Witches Brooms



This cute craft triples as a favor and/or centerpieces.  Amazingly easy to make they require minimal supplies.  Grab sticks from the park or your backyard.  Any candy will do as a filler.  (Idea courtesy of Martha Stewart Living)


Two lunch size paper bags are required for each broom.  Unfold one bag, push it out of its base while folding in the left and right sides.  Cut the bag into thinnish strips stopping before the base.  Cut thin strips as well into the top inch of the second bag.  Open both bags, and place the second bag inside the shredded one, then fill with candy.  Put a small twig about one inch into the bag and cinch the tops of both bags with pipe cleaners, black twine, or black twisty ties.


Your supplies:

All you need to make witches brooms




Pasta Skeletons


A little more time intensive, this is a great craft for a play date or a rainy afternoon.  Any pasta you have in the house can be substituted in and broken up to make different sizes.  Glue dots are easier and faster to use than craft glue for this activity.   (Idea courtesy of Martha Stewart Living)



Pasta Skeleton Mandible





Pasta Skeleton Humerus





If You’re Heading to….Santa Barbara

  • 8th October 2013

A walk through Lotusland is not far away…..



The iconic Blue Garden in Madame Walksa's Lotusland.

The iconic Blue Garden in Madame Walska’s Lotusland.


Lotusland, close to Santa Barbara, was once home to Madame Ganna Walska, a renowned Polish opera-singer, who upon moving to California devoted more than 40 years to amassing the most unique collection of plants from all corners of the world.  In order to allow them the presentation they deserved, she commissioned the most innovative designers to help her with the more than 15 individual gardens within.


Spanish Moss adds silvery elegance to many trees.

Spanish Moss adds silvery elegance to many trees.



Lotusland is in the heart of a residential area, so reservations are required to visit.  Even if you cannot plan your trip for when the legendary lotus’ are in bloom in early summer, there are many many spectacular plants that are well worth a trip.





If you are not heading to the Santa Barbara area anytime soon, here are some of our favorite tips we discovered at Lotusland, that could even apply to a backyard (with a few fewer than 3,000 plants).


The Beauty of Spanish Moss:

Also called ‘Air Moss’ this air plant can hang from anything from trees to statues.  It takes all the substances it needs to survive straight from the air with specialized hairs called trichomes. Their beautiful silvery leaves are thin, elegant and threadlike.



Air Moss decorates a tree in Lotusland.

Air Moss decorates a tree in Lotusland.




Lion statue with a Spanish  Air Moss Mane.

A lion guarding the house gets a unique mane.



Nonconventional Arbors:


Veering away from the traditional (Grapes, Wisteria, or the climbing rose), two arbors at Lotusland celebrate the more atypical starting with Austalian Tea Tree and then citrus.


The Australian Tea Tree Arbor at Lotusland.

The Australian Tea Tree Arbor at Lotusland.



Australian Tea Tree works beautifully because it can be easily trained into many differing formations.  Young plants can be planted very close together and lower growth easily pruned away.  It does best in full sun to partial shade.  Once established it is both drought tolerant and salt tolerant.  It’s weeping branches and shaggy trunk offer both texture and personality to the garden.



The citrus arbor at Lotusland.

The citrus arbor at Lotusland.




Citrus trees can work beautifully in an arbor because they are medium to small trees and can also be trained.  Beyond providing an abundant supply of succulent fruit they add the most beautiful pop of color.  Citrus trees require frost-free climates with rich and loamy soil, full sun and regular water.



Hang an Orchid Cactus in Dappled Shade:



Orchid Cactus hanging in the shade at Lotusland.

An Orchid Cactus hanging in the shade at Lotusland.



The Orchid Cactus is native to the tropical forests of Mexico and Central America.



Orchid Cactus Blossom up close.




They make beautiful hanging baskets especially from other trees and many varieties flower often throughout the year.


Orchid Cactus at Lotusland.



They like filtered sunlight with heavy morning sun that is bright but not as strong as afternoon sun.  The Orchid Cactus is an Epiphyte, meaning they can grown on other plants directly.



In Part Two we will delve right into Madame Walksa’s Blue Garden….



Ganna Walksa






Apple & Pecan Pie Take a Back Seat…

  • 29th September 2013

This week we’ve tried a few different desserts and most of them did not make the cut.  This moist bundt cake from Martha Stewart Living, however is an ideal recipe for the upcoming season combining all the goodness of pecan and apple pie in one shot.


Apple Walnut Bundt Cake

Ready to eat


Similar to your favorite pecan pie recipe, it deftly combines nuts and brown sugar all the while mirroring the tartness of the best apple pies.  Nutmeg and ground cinnamon add depth.


Using the best quality apple cider you can find, will make the cake a real showstopper.



Apple Walnut Bundt Cake

Cake glazed and ready to serve.




An apple-cider glaze and caramelized apples in the batter, set this cake apart,”  Martha Stewart Living




For the caramelized apples:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

3 tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks


For the cake:


2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Coarse salt

1 3/4 cups packed light-brown sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts



For the glaze:


1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons best-quality, apple cider



Apples and brown sugar

Apples and brown sugar

Apples caramelizing

Apples caramelizing





Make the caramelized apples: Cook granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in apples. Cook, covered, until softened, about 6 minutes. Slightly mash apples with a fork until broken down but still chunky. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring, until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Make the cake: Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl.  Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix in caramelized apples and the walnuts.



Batter ready for the walnuts and apples.

Batter ready for the walnuts and apples.




Once you've added the apples and walnuts it gets messy.  Don't worry if the batter does not look smooth.

Once you’ve added the apples and walnuts it gets messy. Don’t worry if the batter does not look smooth.



Transfer batter to pan. Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cake cool in pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes (We recommend longer, maybe 30-40 minutes for cooling). Turn out cake onto rack, and let cool completely.



Cake is ready for glaze.

Cake is ready for glaze.




Cut nice hearty slices for serving.  Similar to apple pie, this cake tastes especially delicious served alongside vanilla, caramel or praline ice-cream.




You can serve the slices re-heated slightly in microwave, then add ice-cream.

You can serve the slices re-heated slightly in microwave, then add ice-cream.




des Plumes

  • 26th September 2013

Do it right and it looks luxuriously elegant….with not a trace of Sesame Street.  Pair feathers with slightly tousled hair and you might have stepped right off the stage at a music festival.

From Chanel’s fall accessory line to eyelashes hitting the fashion runways, feathers are partout!


….Some of our favorite ways to fall prey to this look….


Naeem Khan channels looks from Gatsby (or maybe it was the reverse?!)


Naeem Khan Fall 2013

Naeem Khan Fall 2013, Photo Courtesy of

Naeem Khan Fall 2013

Naeem Khan Fall 2013, Photo Courtesy of:




Carey Mulligan as Daisy in the Great Gatsby. Photo Courtesy of:  Google Images

Carey Mulligan as Daisy in the Great Gatsby. Photo Courtesy of: Google Images



How to do the feather cape:


Kate Moss for Topshop Black Feather Cape
Black Feather Cape

Pair it with leather and elegant sheers.  Photo Courtesy of:




Biba Feather Cape in Black
Biba Feather Cape in White


Biba Feather Cape in Black or White,,  £ 65.00



Debenhams Feather Cape
Rare Opulence Feather Cape




Star by Julien Macdonald Black Feather Cape,, £16.50

Rare Opulence Feather Cape,, £120.00



Our Favorite Dresses & Skirts:



Feather Dress Collage



1.) Jay Ahr Ostrich Feather-Trimmed Jersey Dress,, $1560.00

2.) Nanette Lepore Plume Feather-Hem Crepe Dress,, $398.00

3.) Collection Feather Flutter Dress,, $1950.00

4.) Milly Feather Sleeveless Dress,, $645.00



Matthew Williamson Mirror Lace and Feather Dress
Jason Wu Stretch Feather Ostrich Dress



Matthew Williamson Mirror Feather Dress,, £3,495.00

Jason Wu Ostrich Feather Dress,, $4950.00


Work runway trends into your eye-ensemble!



Shu Umera Rainbow Feather Eyelashes




Shu Uemura Rainbow Feather Lashes,, £34.00



Bohemian & Dreamy:


Sienna Miller in Feather Earrings.

Sienna Miller in Feather Earrings. Photo Courtesy of: Google Images




Aime Parades Earrings
Aime Parades Earrings



Aime Parades Earrings,, $161.00



Feather Earring Collage



5.) Daytrip Feather Earring,, $5.36

6.) Nadia Earrings by ToniMay,, $89.00

7.) Evocateur Peacock Feather Earrings,, $168.00

8.) House of Cach Italian Horn Feather Earrings,, $65.00



Elegant & Classic:


Thomas Sabo Feather Wing Earrings



Thomas Sabo Feather Wing Earrings,, £109.00





Jason Wu Ostrich Feather Top Vogue Russia

Ostrich Feather Top by Jason Wu: Photo Courtesy of Vogue Russia




Photo Courtesy of: Vogue Russia

Photo Courtesy of: Vogue Russia



Mixing rose gold, black & feathers this shoe it truly ethereal…


The Carlton Shoe Kate Spade



The Carlton,, $598.00

Gulai Terung Dengan Daging (Beef & Eggplant Curry)

  • 20th September 2013

This Indonesian curry comes to us by way of the Around the World Cookbook and is aromatic with a lovely lemon grass flavor.

Like most curries it tastes even better the next day as the flavors sit and meld together.  The long, slow cooking time ensures the softest pieces of meat and the coconut milk brings true depth and offsets any heat.


Beef and Eggplant Curry

Beef and Eggplant Curry. Photo Courtesy of: The Around the World Cookbook





1/2 cup sunflower, vegetable or canola oil

2 onions thinly sliced

1 inch fresh ginger root, sliced, and cut in matchsticks

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 fresh red chilies, seeded and finely sliced

1 inch fresh turmeric peeled and crushed, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder

1 lemon grass stem, lower part finely sliced (top part reserved)

1 1/2 pounds good quality steak, cut in even slices

14 ounces of coconut milk

1 1/4 cup water

1 eggplant, sliced and patted dry (when picking up eggplant look for shiny skin, no bruises, and light weight)

1 teaspoon tamarind pulp, soaked in 4 tablespoons warm water

Deep-fried onion garnish

Ground salt and pepper



Brown the meat with the lemongrass, garlic, onions and turmeric

Brown the meat with the lemongrass, garlic, onions and turmeric.



Heat half of the oil and sautée the onions, ginger and garlic until they give off a rich aroma.  Add the chilies, turmeric, and the lower part of the lemon grass.  Push to one side and then turn up the heat and add the steak, stirring until the meat is browned.


Add the coconut milk, water, lemon grass top and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is very tender.



Add the rich coconut milk, and remaining lemongrass stalk and cook until the meat is super tender.

Add the rich coconut milk, and remaining lemon grass stalk and cook until the meat is super tender.



Towards the end of the cooking time heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant slices until they are brown on both sides.




Fry the thinly sliced eggplant.

Fry the thinly sliced eggplant.



Add the browned eggplant slices to the beef curry and cook for another 15 minutes.  Stir gently from time to time.  Strain the tamarind and stir the juice into the curry.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve with basmati rice and garnish (if desired) with deep-fried onions.




Delicious, rich, tender and ready to serve with rice.

Delicious, rich, tender and ready to serve with rice.

Cape Crusades

  • 18th September 2013

You do not need to be a superhero to don a cape this fall!  The best part is, that like their superhuman counterparts, the cape has many iterations in the form of a dress, coat, blazer, top, even jumpsuit!


Bluemarine Vogue Japan

Bluemarine Vogue Japan

Balenciaga, Vogue Collections Paris

Balenciaga, Vogue Collections Paris



Derek Lam Vogue Collections Paris

Derek Lam Vogue Collections Paris

Burberry, Vogue

Burberry, Vogue



We take a peek at the most divine in all price ranges from the extraordinary to the more down-to-earth.


The Cape Top:



Dior Cape Top, Saks Fifth Avenue
J Brand Cape Top









Dior Cape Top, select Saks Fifth Avenue stores, $2700.00

J Brand Ready-to-Wear Cowley Crepe Top,, $395.00 (available on pre-order)




Levi Cape Shirt



Levi’s Cape Shirt,, $78.00



The Cape Dress:


St. John Cape Dress Saks Fifth Avenue
Yes Clothing Cape Dress







St. John Cape Dress, Available at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores

Inset Cape Two-Tone Dress,, $122.00





anthropologie cape



Alpine Paisley Cape,, $168.00



Uber Sleek:


Victoria Beckham Blazer Style Cape
Diane von Furstenberg Cape Sleeve Jumpsuit





Blazer-Style Cape, Victoria Beckham,, € 2,275.00

Diane von Furstenberg Lucy Crepe, Cape Sleeve Jumpsuit,, $425.00





Carey Mulligan looks sharp in Victoria Beckham's Cape Suit.

Carey Mulligan looks sharp in Victoria Beckham’s Cape Suit.





Marni Glenn Check Cape
Moschino Cape






Marni Glen Check Cape,, $1535.00

Moschino Cape,, $515.00




La Fiorentina Military Cape
Aran Knit Cape with Leather Buckles




La Fiorentina Military Cape,, $78.00

Aran Knit Cape with Turtleneck and Leather Buckles,, $135.00




Wearing Coats as Capes:


The how-to for a nonchalant, chic (because it’s just so easy) look!


Coats as Capes

Photo Courtesy of Vogue UK




Vintage Chic Look:


Cape and beret combination.  Photo courtesy of: Vogue Russia

Cape and beret combination. Photo courtesy of: Vogue Russia