DIY project with your kids: a whimsical mailbox

Collaborate with your youngsters to turn your run-of-the-mill mailbox into a little piece of art and make your mail carrier’s jaw drop! Just be aware that for this project it is necessary to wear a face mask – so it’s only suitable for kids old enough to do that and use a spray paint can responsibly.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

Medium-grit sandpaper

Painters masks

Painters tape

Aluminum primer

Metal paint spray paint in the beautiful color of your choice

First of all, outfit all participants with protective masks, then start sanding off rust and old paint from your mailbox.

Next, you need to cover house numbers and the mail flag with painters tape (older kids can do that!).

Spray on aluminum primer and allow it to dry.

Then, apply the metal spray paint and let it dry completely. AND THEN the real fun begins! Have your young artists decorate your mailbox – easiest way is using stencils. Want to go one step further? Make a sculpture of your mailbox! Get inspired:

Clownfish
Piggy
Woof!

And the results? WOW!!

Dessert for Father’s Day (or any day…)

As promised, here come more ideas for a leisurely Father’s Day meal (or Fourth of July brunch, or BBQ, or or or…) – super easy to make and great to prepare beforehand!

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No-bake personal cheesecakes

Need: muffin tin with 8oz cups – lined with plastic wrap.

Finely grind 13 Graham crackers (7oz) with 3 tbsp sugar in a food processor, mix with ½ stick of melted unsalted butter. Distribute mixture between 6 of the prepared muffin cups, press firmly into bottom and place muffin tray in freezer.

With electric mixer, beat 1 cup of heavy cream to stiff peaks, set aside. Mix 10 oz of softened cream cheese with 6 oz of crème fraiche and 2/3 cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar; carefully fold in the whipped heavy cream and distribute among the prepared muffin cups. Freeze until firm (at least 30 min).

When ready to serve, lift cheesecakes out of the muffin cups (using the plastic wrap), set on plates and top with fruit or preserves of your choosing.

The fascination of vintage scarves

Today I would like to share with you my fascination with vintage scarves – Hermes scarves, to be precise. I know, I know – they are considered a bit conservative these days… but I love them for their beautiful motifs and colors and for the effortless elegance they lend to any outfit. Here I am wearing one of my favorites, a maritime motif in shades of white and blue, with jeans and a shirt:

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I have to admit, I have collected a few over many years, and I’d like to give you an idea why (and maybe get you enthusiastic as well!). Each of these scarves is a little piece of art, printed on silk twill in a step-wise process. The most intricate patterns ever made by Hermes show Native American scenes and contain 140 colors which are printed one after the other! Amazingly, the print lines are 100% sharp and crisp. No wonder these scarves are so expensive! I do not own any one of this collection, but I’d like to share a sample:

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It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? And from a practical standpoint – look at how these colors work with each other, allowing to wear this scarf with so many outfits – ivory, navy blue and black; natural tones, even red. So versatile! Given that the House of Hermes originated as a saddlemaker, many of their classical motifs are equestrian-themed:

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Unsure how to wear such a scarf, how to tie it, how to style it? Here are some examples – get inspired!

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And lastly, given that with hair salons closed, we are all having more-than-average bad hair days, it might be time to bring back this timeless style from the fifties and sixties:

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Start experimenting!!

What’s the hype about Dalgona coffee?

And what IS it, after all? So, I did some research.

“Dalgona” is a caramel-colored crunchy sugar confection that became popular in Korea in the 1970s and 1980s as inexpensive street food – a whole generation grew up with it. Fast-forward to 2020, during the COVID-19 period: an easy-to-make creamy coffee concoction becomes all the rage – first in Korea, now worldwide – named after the beloved childhood candy for its caramel color and sweet-and-bitter taste.

I had to try it!!

For one serving, whip

2 tbsp instant coffee, 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp water with an electric mixer until it becomes airy, creamy and turns a light caramel color, forming stiff peaks (1 and a half minutes with an electric mixer or 400 turns with a whisk – don’t do that to yourself!).

Spoon over a half cup of chilled or hot milk, stir as desired.

It’s THAT easy!

And it’s actually really good. I have begun experimenting with the flavor – a little less sugar, or adding 1 tablespoon agave nectar for more (soft) sweetness; you can even give it a hint of spice with cinnamon or nutmeg. Koreans top it with crushed Dalgona candy for a sweet childhood memory…

ENJOY!

Summer projects to keep the kids busy and entertained

The governmental restrictions during the current COVID-19 pandemic – necessary as they are – have made the lives of young parents especially difficult, and with the upcoming summer break it won’t be getting any easier: no sports programs, no camps, and all public swimming pools closed. What to do to keep the kids happy, busy and entertained?

I have an idea – do constructive projects with them so that they feel pride in their accomplishments, and actually learn practical skills. I received tutorials from zillow.com and would like to share a few of their ideas here.

Here’s an easy one to start with: gardening! A garden not only gives you the benefit of fresh herbs, vegetables or flowers, it’s also a natural outdoor classroom for your kids — helping them learn measurements, basic botany facts and an appreciation of nature.

Raised garden beds are easy to maintain and allow plants to thrive, and they are a great beginner project for children to help with.

To make a 4×4 raised garden bed, you will need:

  • 8 untreated 2x4s (each 4 feet long)
  • 4 untreated 12-inch 4×4 corner posts
  • 1 package of 4-inch wood screws
  • A power drill 

To construct the square box, attach two 2x4s to each corner post (stacking them vertically). Have an (older) child hold the boards securely in place as you drill. When your structure is complete, children of all ages can help to pick a sunny spot in the backyard for your raised garden bed and to pour in the soil and plant whatever you like.

Need more inspiration? Take it from community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley who became famous for planting community gardens in a bleak part of Los Angeles – to make his neighborhood a better place. Ron has a totally relaxed and common-sense approach to gardening, and here is a little introduction to his “Masterclass” lessons.

The new breakfast fun: pancake cereal!

Not sure you’ve seen it yet – it’s all over the web and social media these days: pancake cereal! It’s just a new and fun breakfast item, and so easy to DIY at home.

I found this tutorial online:

Looks yummy, right? I made it for my family, and they LOVED it. Here’s the recipe I used:

And if you don’t feel like whipping up the batter from scratch – I have alternatively used Bisquick (their “enriched” pancake batter recipe on the box), and it worked just fine. Enjoy!

Dreamcatcher Maya teaches make-up application

We all know that we immediately FEEL good when we know we LOOK good! And as we all can use a little bit of “uplift” these days – here’s to you, courtesy of hair and makeup artist Maya of Dreamcatcher Artistry.

No Yeast? No Problem! (Try Our Soda Bread)

Like most of us, you’ve probably always thought that bread needs some type of yeast. If you are an advanced baker, you were maybe even thinking of sourdough starters. Bread without yeast? Not really… But currently yeast is impossible to come by! During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of commodities have simply disappeared from the market. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, to start with; followed by toilet paper, kitchen paper towels – and yeast. So what to do?

I’ll tell you. Replace yeast as a leavening agent with a combination of bicarbonate of soda and acid. In plain English: baking soda and the leftover liquid from our yoghurt project! (As you can see, nothing goes to waste in my kitchen…)

Here is what you need to make one bread – 45 min from start to finish!!

Preheat oven to 425 F. Mix 500 g flour (50/50 all-purpose and whole wheat), 1 tsp of baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt with scant 2 cups of the whey from yoghurt-making (alternatively the same amount of buttermilk OR regular milk mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar). Stir just to bring the dough together.

It will look shaggy and be a little sticky. Turn out on a slightly floured work surface. Knead just enough to achieve a smooth consistency. Shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough ball to a nonstick cookie sheet. Cut crosswise nearly all the way through.

Bake for roughly 30 min until a golden crust has formed and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

And here is your delicious bread – ready to eat! Should you (miraculously) have any leftovers, just rewarm in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes; tastes like fresh-baked. Enjoy!

Ali and Rick: Friends, Family, Food and Fun for a Fall Wedding

Ali and Rick are wonderfully unconventional. Their wedding would NOT follow the common scheme of “wedding venue, garter toss, bouquet toss…” and a lot of other “frills.” They had their own vision – but they needed help to pull it off. When they asked my company, A Day Like No Other, for support, I was immediately on board.

They would have their ceremony and reception at a private residence – a “backyard wedding.” Well – until I saw that “backyard!” Perched high on a hillside with endless views and breathtaking sunsets, the Tuscan-style residence is surrounded by a lush garden, sheltered patios and porches, and a large dining patio under dense, mature trees. A dream! And off we went with our preparations. Last Saturday, it all came together on a beautiful, sunny and warm September day under blue skies and with a slight breeze. The Weather Gods were clearly playing along!

So many personal touches went into this wedding that I don’t even know where to begin… Ali’s dress had been handsewn by her mother and grandmother, and hand-embroidered and beaded – a true labor of love!

Ali’s mother, an artist, had also created all floral arrangements, had built the arch from birch logs,

… and put endless personal touches on the decor – from handwritten signage …

…. to lanterns lining the walkways and twinkling hanging lights in the trees.

For Ali and her bridesmaids, the day began with hair and makeup by Lindsay and Sarah from Miabel Artistry,

Then, Ali slipped into her dress, assisted by her bridesmaids…

… and into her pretty sandals…

… picked up her summery bouquet of her favorite flowers – sunflowers – in her favorite colors of yellow and light blue…

… and was ready to meet her “Prince Charming,” Rick.

Time for many, many photos with photographer Sandra Fazzino – just wait until you see HER photos! (So far, all we have to offer are our snapshots…)

Meanwhile, my team (assistants Alexandra and Stephanie, and myself), the delivery crew from Stuart Event Rentals, the catering crew from Elaine Bell Catering, and our DJ Henry Kim from BIG FUN Disc Jockeys were all hard at work to get our preparations done before the first guests were arriving.

The motor court of the residence had been transformed into something resembling an Italian “piazza” with living trees to disguise the garage doors, market umbrellas for shade and string lights for the later part of the evening.

Soon enough, our first guest shuttle from El Paseo Limousine arrived. Guests were greeted by more handmade signage and much-needed hand fans!

Time for the ceremony! Again, a personal touch – the ceremony was officiated by the groom’s younger brother. It couldn’t have been more personal and more lighthearted.

Just married!

Party time, and time for dinner! While our guests were enjoying their cocktails, the decor,

the views…

… and the sunset,

the ceremony area was quietly transformed into an open-air nightclub. A professional dance floor was installed, the string lights overhead came on, and DJ Henry had his disco lights ready before our guests even sat down to dinner on the back patio.

Inspired by the Tuscan atmosphere of the residence, guests were dining at beautiful bare wooden tables…

During dinner, dusk fell, and the twinkling lights in the tree made the scene truly magical.

And the glorious food served by EBC made this dinner all the more memorable!

Next up – dessert! Mini cupcakes and fruit accompanied the couple’s presentation cake (again lovingly decorated by the mother of the bride).

 

After that, there was no holding back! Without further ado (like a First Dance, or Special Dances, or the like…) the dance floor was opened, the disco lights came on, and the party went into overdrive!

We even had wedding crashers!! A bunch of eleven-year olds had escaped from their slumber party next door (in their pajamas!!) and snuck right onto the dance floor… Of course they were welcomed and invited to stay on until 10 pm when the music had to conclude (per local noise ordinance…) – otherwise everyone would gladly have stayed on!

Congratulations, Ali and Rick, to a truly unforgettable wedding celebration! Party on… and stay as unconventional as you are!

 

Erin and Gabriel – Rustic Elegance with South-of-the-Border Charm

Erin and Gabe are super-busy young professionals – both physicians, working long hours. When they embarked on their wedding planning, they realized immediately that they would need support for all the details, the logistics, the design; in short, pretty much everything. I was honored that they chose my company, A Day Like No Other, to organize their preparations every step of the way.

We started with their exceptional venue, Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, a historic Spanish-Mediterranean compound surrounded by a beautiful, park-like garden. On Wedding Day, all the lush plantings were in full bloom, and despite a serious threat of rain in the weather forecast, we got incredibly lucky with sunshine and blue skies and were able to hold ceremony, Cocktail Hour and dinner outside, as planned.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Hard to believe that this hidden gem is nestled into a quiet residential neighborhood right in the heart of Silicon Valley!

Erin and Gabe and their bridesmaids and groomsmen all got ready at the nearby Garden Court Hotel

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… with hair and makeup services for the ladies by Fiona and Joey of Urban Beauty Loft.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

The bride had chosen a beautiful ivory wedding dress with a lace top and flowing skirt – so young and elegant in its simplicity…

… Helping the bride into her dress is always a true mother-daughter moment…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Florist Janelle Jacky-Litt of Green Petal Designs brought the bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets – and they looked exactly like Erin had envisioned them! Not an easy feat as Erin’s favorite flowers are red Bougainvilleas which are notoriously fragile and do not last in bouquets and centerpieces. Not one to ever give up easily, Janelle came up with a master plan to cut these prized blooms onsite from living plants she brought in, only hours before the ceremony… and Erin got her dream bouquet! Here it is…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… accompanied, of course, by matching bridesmaids’ bouquets…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and boutonnieres for the gentlemen.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Groom …

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and groomsmen were also dressing up…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Ready for “First Look!” Photographer extraordinaire Vicens Forns and his second shooter Ana Silva captured every precious moment throughout the day and evening.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Bride and groom exchanged gifts right then and there – a wristwatch for the groom and stunning pearl-and-diamond earrings for the bride.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Time for many, many photos, with the bridal party….

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and without!

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

All the while, the Day Like No Other team – assistants Lisa, Alexandra, and myself – was working frantically to get everything set up in time for the big celebration!

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

The ceremony was officiated by a close friend of the couple’s and accompanied by live music by the Hit Waves Unplugged duo – “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” for the processional.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

It doesn’t get much more romantic than that! The bride was walked in by her Dad, as tradition prescribes…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

During the very personal ceremony with several readings,

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

guests helped to fill a “time capsule” for the couple, to be opened on their fifth wedding anniversary.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

And here they are, JUST MARRIED!

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Official wedding photo:

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Guests were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres …

… on the adjacent patio – with a whole menu to choose from:

… with the pretty signage (including a program sign)…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… provided by the bride’s talented friend Jess. Of course, there was more fun waiting for the guests:

… and not only that: guests were also invited to watch dinner preparations: Two spectacular paellas (by Nora’s Spanish Catering) were cooking in the courtyard…

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

 

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and long rows of bare wooden tables (from Stuart Event Rentals) decked out with garlands and blooms in fiery reds and oranges (all by Green Petal Designs) were waiting for the guests.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Place settings were adorned with olive branches …

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and – of course – the Sweetheart Table got “special treatment!”

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Whimsical “escort cards” showed guests their table assignments:

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Everyone was raving about the paella! With background music by DJ Sami Funk of Heart of Gold DJs, lively conversation and free-flowing Spanish wine, everyone was having a great time.

Next up: cake cutting! A pretty lemon-buttercream cake (from Cake Coquette) with more Bougainvilleas for decor was set up inside the “Sunset Room” on an antique table, alongside chocolates and cookies.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

The back wall had been decorated with family heirlooms and photos …

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… and surrounded by all these sweet memories and lots and lots of candlelight, the newlyweds performed their official first joint task as husband and wife – cutting the cake.

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

What now? First Dance, of course!

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Following that, there was no holding back – everyone hit the dance floor to the tunes of DJ Sami …

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

… under twinkling string lights from Stuart Event Rentals.

Guests took just one little break in between dancing, and that was when delicious fresh churros with chocolate sauce were served!

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

When this party did come to an end – it was on another high note: a sparkler exit to the most beautiful car imaginable, to take Erin and Gabe off to their married bliss:

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

A 1927 Stutz chauffeured by owner George Rose of Elegant Journey Limousines

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

Photo credit: Vicens Forns

With our best wishes on your lifelong journey together, Erin and Gabe, and may all your days be as happy as this one!