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Beach Entertaining Family Living Martha's Vineyard Style

Romance by the Sea

August 30, 2018

I love this dock, and being by the sea, in all weather.   We have spent many summer nights here gazing at the stars and cozy freezing nights snuggled up under what feels like a thousand blankets with friends drinking red wine in late fall.    Once, a great friend’s bracelet slipped through the crack and her boyfriend went diving for it in the icy sea — we all had in nervous giggles as he got down to his underwear and jumped in, thankful it wasn’t us — heroic if you ask me, and yes he found it!

When we have family in the house, and our son has gone to bed, it’s a lovely way to unwind for a bit just the two of us.    I love slipping into something a little more special, and I have always had a place in my heart for a good wrap dressThis one feels particularly amazing on, feminine, classic and great for both day and night (although I would favor it for an all-season date dress).    I was so pleased that I stumbled across the coolest little shop in Edgartown, Slate, where I found this new brand I hadn’t seen before.

Slipping into something special made the evening feel more note-worthy and romantic, I highly recommend!  Other little things we did to enhance the atmosphere were to stop by our favorite gourmet market on the way home and pick up some local cheeses (a lavender and espresso rubbed cows cheese was the highlight), with some incredible French style fresh bread to enjoy them with.  We brought mini votives with us (that were admittedly hard to keep alight), as well as cushions and blankets that we allowed us to stay out talking and enjoy the twilight in comfort – we were rewarded with a wonderful moonrise and the gentle sound of lapping waves.   Hard to beat if you ask me and a must-do for the coming holiday weekend. Xx 

Baby Family France Personal Travel

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe….with a Toddler!

July 24, 2018

Will and I have been determined to travel with our son (and hopefully future children) as much as we can but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t intimidating, especially the days leading up to a big trip.    Our son has traveled with us a lot, he has gone to the West coast a handful of times, Europe twice and up and down the East coast often.    I actually find that the more we do it, the easier it is.   The most nervous I have been to travel is when we are entirely out of practice.    There was one six week period early (maybe 7 or 8 months old) on where we traveled four times (including one of our West coast trips) and it became quite breezy because it was a set part of our routine.    This time before we left for France for our extended stay, we spent more time at home in Charleston than we have in years, and so I was feeling a bit panicked.   Regardless, I could easily remember how worth it it all is as last year’s memory was fresh in my mind.

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - The Coltswolds!

Flying to Europe

A redeye is great if you have a decent sleeper.   If you can, do an extra seat.   We never did it and we made it through just fine, back of the plane, hopefully not in the middle.   I do recommend booking flights on the phone and talking to an emphatic operator.  On more than one occasion, booking on the phone on JetBlue (local flights) and Delta has helped us get better seats — either the very front of the plane, which is desirable with a baby for so many reasons, or on a longer flight, in a two seat set rather than a middle row of four, which is far more comfortable.      Even if it is miserable, remember that it’s just a blip in time.   If there’s a meltdown, so be it.   Most people on the flight have either had children and wish to relate to you about one excruciating flight experience  or they have noise-canceling headphones and are just thrilled its not them.

I try to remind myself to just relax, go with the flow, bring baby carrier and lots of new toys.   Sticker books, a white board, and big legos were our go-to’s this time around.    My best friend traveled from San Diego to France to join us this year with her six month old and told me that she asked the hostesses to tell her all the worst things they had seen over a glass of wine — fantastic idea!

I forgo a handbag and just use a diaper bag packed to the brim with new toys, snacks, water bottles, extra pacifiers (because our guy still uses his), diapers, wipes, sanitizer, milk etc.      I also dress comfortably, and this time I switched from jeans into something more comfortable on the flight which was life-changing.   Growing up, my mother always taught me to dress up for flights, and I try maintain this as best I can while also being realistic.    Bring spare clothes for the whole family if possible!

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe. - English Country Garden

Make yourself at home. 

An extended stay is designed to help you create a second way of life, a second home.    Put your baby on a schedule, settle into a new routine.   It’s not about a hotel mentality, it’s about a home mentality in a totally new place and it is such a pleasure!  I really recommend trying to find a rental so that you can get into a rhythm.

We try to get on the local time zone right away.   We’re zombies after the redeye but the excitement of arriving, and the endless espressos help.   If our little one sleeps in the car, we usually arrive mid-morning so try to skip a nap for the rest of the day to get on a regular bedtime.    The first year was tough with lots of nightly wake ups, this year was a dream.   Both trips were great, so we just did the best we could.

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - France Last YearHow to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - A Dip In The Ocean

What to pack

As little as possible while still also bringing the essentials that help with the transition:  a handful of cuddly toys, a favorite blanket, some familiar books and toys.   We find that our son is so fascinated by his new surroundings that he doesn’t need as many toys in the beginning, and then we pick up cheap and cheerful items as needed: a plastic truck, a noodle for the pool, some new books, etc.

In our case, all the toiletries that we use in the U.S. are readily available in the French pharmacies, so we can leave those heavy items at home and pick them up locally.   Same goes for diapers, formula, etc, no need to bring them for an extended stay.

I know that we have a laundry machine so don’t need to overpack on clothes, and if he outgrows anything on the trip, we leave it behind (give it away).

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - Playtime

 

Other thoughts, in no particular order: 

  1.  Don’t forget that you need a baby passport!!
  2.  Use the local currency, even when prompted on the card machines.
  3.  Rather than renting a hotel, I recommend renting an apartment or house for the extended stay so that you can have a kitchen and get into a routine without worrying
  4.  Go early in the summer.   Everybody in Europe takes their holiday in August, so go May and June.  August is the most expensive and most crowded.
  5.  Transition into village life, local life, as quickly as possible by finding out what the heartbeat of the town is,  pottery, rug making, etc.  and also where the best bakers and artisans are.
  6.  Eat where the locals eat (hint:  places that are full at lunchtime and evenings.
  7.  Buy local buy local buy local!!!!  As in America, look for local markets.  Cook at home 🙂  Particularly places like France, people don’t do big shopping they go every day to buy fresh bread, vegetables.   They buy what is ripe that day and they eat it that night, it’s a very different way of shopping and eating.
  8.  Pimsleur programs are a great way to learn the language, just enough to get by at least!

REALX AND ENJOY  you extended stay, it’s all a part of life’s rich tapestry. XX

Collecting Family Home

Quick Lessons from an English Countryside House

June 18, 2018

Some of you might have seen that we have popped over to England for a friend’s wedding.   We decided to make a week of it so that we could catch up with family (and better wifi!) and have been staying with my aunt in the countryside.    Her house has always been a favorite of mine, both cozy and pulled together, inviting and grown up.    Over the last twenty odd years they have made changes and additions, the latest being the expansion of the most beautiful rose garden as seen in the previous post.    I absolutely love this house, and without wishing to reveal too much of it for privacy’s sake, there are just a few “notes to self” which I have made as we continue to create our first home.

The house is filled with endless cozy layers and textures.   Rugs upon rugs, endless pillows and cashmere blankets, perfect to fight off winter cold (which can sneak into summertime here in England too).    The house is also filled with endless reading material:  books, magazines and the best coffee table books which I have been hungrily leafing through.   It really does make you want to grab a cup of tea and sink into one of the plush chairs for a good long read.

The center of a cozy English home is of course the kitchen.   This one is made particularly warm by an AGA, an oven which is always on.   It makes the floors toasty and delivers the most delicious dry heat.   The dogs curl up next to it for an afternoon nap and we have also dried clothes and other things on it.  One week living with one and Will and I are itching to get one of our own, although it is obviously not suitable for the Charleston heat!

The dogs.   How I miss having them!  We grew up with three and it has been so hard not to have one but, with all of our travel, it just isn’t fair right now.   Dogs are wonderful companions, make a house extra cozy and provide a rhythm to the day which I miss.

A place for everything.  Twenty years of living somewhere could create massive build up but my aunt has done such a phenomenal job of staying organized.   There is a place for every plate, spare lightbulb and pillow case.  It makes tidying easy and it is a pleasure to see everything stacked away in its place.

Deep bathtubs with lots of bubble bath options.   We take lots of baths in Charleston and are lucky to have pretty big tubs.  These are so beautiful and deep, our son has never enjoyed a bath so much (I think it feels more like a swim).  We’re struggling to pry him out of it at the end, even after it has run cold.

Last, an oasis outside.   English summers are short and spectacular.  The days are so long, and every bit of sunshine should be soaked up outside.

Charleston Entertaining Family Food

Adventures in the Kitchen: Sweet Animal Cookies

May 1, 2018

Our little one, Baby R, loves activities in the kitchen.   Whether it’s tinkering with a can opener, or creating some wild smoothie (like arugula & milk for “mama” — yuck!), he absolutely adores to spend time creating his own concoctions and playing with all the tools.   I am not particularly gifted in the kitchen and am prone to burning/over-cooking and generally forgetting what’s in the oven (lost in the act of flower arranging/candle-lighting) but since having our child, I have been determined to learn more to ensure that we stick around the table for meals as our family grows.

I love the idea of having glass jars filled with (healthy) baked goods that the children can grab;  I know this is not the best example but it was definitely a fun place to start.   Baking is an art form and I loved mixing together the frosting with the natural coloring the most — felt a lot like painting which I always love to do…

We try to really take our weekends as a family, and to check out from work.   This is particularly important during wedding season when we have so few weekends totally “off”.    This past weekend we spent most of our time outside playing under the hose and scooting around the neighborhood but in the height of the afternoon, we came inside to do some baking.    Those of you who follow us on Instagram stories might know that right now we have nine pets — four cats & five turtles (long story, and we’re not hoarding we promise).   We thought it might be fun to make some (as healthy as can be) sugar cookies to enjoy with an iced tea in the late afternoon and naturally gravitated towards the animal molds … I particularly love the unicorn which I am icing below:

The lady who sold us the molds reminded us that we should freeze our cookie dough for 20 minutes or so to make sure that it’s extra cold when it’s going into the oven — this way the shapes won’t expand/spoil — good to know!   He really loved watching me smooth the frosting with my finger and found it to be the most amusing part of the process — we didn’t let him have too many cookies !! xx

Entertaining Family Home Personal

Silly Dinner Party Games!

April 25, 2018

Center: wearing one of my favorite new dinner party dresses, see here! Fits like a glove. xx 

I love spending time with my extended family because it’s always a riot.   We stay up late, we sing, we dance, and we play lots and lots of silly games which make us laugh until our tummies ache or someone inevitably wets their pants.   It’s lively and it’s so full of love.  My childhood was spent staying up late for these special occasions, cozied up in the winter and dancing under the stars in summer.   It’s no wonder I have such a deep love for entertaining friends, and for keeping it light, amusing, unfussy and totally relaxed.    Will and I often play cards together over dinner when it’s just the two of us, but when it’s a larger group, there are a few go-to games that I love to play (besides the obvious cards against humanity, etc.).

One of my most memorable was the Christmas we tried to play murder mystery.    The idea was that everyone had a separate instructions about who they had to “off” and it had to involve being in a specific place with a specific weapon while simultaneously tapping your victim.   An example would be:  have three towels in the garden (freezing garden) with Auntie Leslie, or a lightbulb in the shower with cousin Tommy, the more random the better.   I got very overexcited and decided that I was going to win (this game was due to take place over the course of the entire week).    Those of you who know me might have guessed correctly that I blew my cover in the first night due to sheer over excitement and trying to force my uncle into the garage mid-dinner party.  Busted.  I was then handed a lightbulb at dessert and was “out”.  Bummer.  But! It’s a game that I am anxious to play again and think it would be really fun to pre-assign guests for a larger party.

Next we have some easier games to throw together.   My aunt Leslie is the QUEEN of the after dinner game, and loves playing this a grown up version of beer pong:  two teams on opposite sides (girls vs boys is fun).  Fill the glasses (no stems) with wine.  Each team has a ping pong ball — bounce into the glass and once it gets there you down the glass and pass the ball…. she adds, “we girls always win!” and I have to say I believe it to be true.

Pass the orange is another one where you divide into two sides and try to pass an orange all the way down your side — the only trick is that you can’t use your arms and that it can’t touch the floor, if it does you’re out.

And of course name that tune, charades and celebrity are still classics.   When in doubt, the family all puts on silly hats which seems to freshen things up.

Now it’s time to hear from you!  What’s your favorite dinner party game??? xxx

Charleston Entertaining Family Food Personal

What I Learned From Alice Waters

April 24, 2018

When I left university, I was torn between pursuing my career in photography or my interest in the slow food movement, in particular, introducing gardens into the school system so that the next generation would grow up able to recognize foods, understand where they came from and how to prepare them.   I was well studied on and passionate about this topic  (I get very very focused when I am interested in something) and couldn’t believe my luck when I scored an internship in the office of Alice Waters — it was a dream come true, or at least the result of lots of persistence.

My father flew out to Berkeley with me to help find an apartment.   He jokes that the moment we rolled into town, I peeled off my preppy knit cashmere sweater to reveal my tie-die tee underneath — like I had finally come home!   In the end, I was only there for four months but, my father visited me three times in that short duration.   One of the trips, we took a two week drive around California to every national park, just the two of us.  Another trip, I accidentally ate my roommate’s medicinal pot cookies and had to get him to come rescue me, which he did, without question.  He’s a really good dad.

Back to Alice:  I imagined that I would be a fly on the wall, performing surface level tasks and hiding in the bathroom whenever possible, and was terrifyingly and pleasantly surprised to be thrown right in.   I loved every minute of it — Alice had built a team of incredibly talented people, some of whom are still good friends, and the day Michael Pollan walked in and tapped me on the shoulder to ask where Alice might be was one I will never forget.   You would have thought it was … Obama?  I practically fell out of my chair, he was and still is a huge hero of mine.

It was in Alice’s office that I first learned how to arrange and tend to flowers, a passion that continues to this day.   I was also fortunate to have a few non-work related dinners with her when we were able to drink lots of wine and have DMCs (deep and meaningful conversations) — most memorable was my 24th birthday when we spoke long into the night about love.   Little did I know that I would meet Will, my husband to be, just five weeks later.     Before heading off to Savannah for graduate school,  I returned to Berkeley for my first professional photography gig:  The 40th Anniversary of Chez Panisse.  When I was hugging Alice goodbye after a weekend of celebration she said, “you’ll be back…”.

Dinner, or any meal, with Alice is never simple.   It is infused with love, coziness, magic and a seasonal freshness that connects you with your environment.  She will introduce you to a fruit that you haven’t even heard of or hand you the most delicious strawberry that you have ever tasted.   She will talk to you with an unguarded and open heart, about anything.  She is not self-conscious or worried about what you might think of her; she is deeply and unapologetically herself.   So what does this teach us, really, besides the obvious tenants that she has fought for her entire life?

It teaches us to live with passion.  To fight for something that we can dedicate our lives to, in pursuit of the betterment of our families, communities and our planet.   And if that feels too daunting for now,  Alice teaches us to make time to celebrate others, and to make them feel so so special.    She teaches us to live for the pleasure of it all, for ourselves and the people around us, to listen and engage, understanding that learning something new might just set us on yet another glorious adventure.

 

Here is a link to an auction raising funds for the Edible Schoolyard!!

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