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!!

How did Father’s Day come into being – do you know?

Per Wikipedia, Father’s Day is a day of honoring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic countries of Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 as Saint Joseph’s Day since the Middle Ages. In America, Father’s Day was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd and celebrated on the third Sunday of June for the first time in 1910. It is held on various days in many parts of the world all throughout the year, often in the months of March, May and June.

On June 19, 1910, the very first Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd whose father, a single parent, had raised his six children there. She felt that fathers should have a similar holiday like Mother’s Day to honor them, and on June 19, 1910, sermons honoring fathers were presented in churches throughout the city.

Ms. Dodd raised awareness for the new holiday at a national level with the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional presents for fathers. 

 In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

So – now you know! What are you doing for Father’s Day?

Delicious home-made dips

As promised, here are more ideas for your upcoming (small…) summer gatherings, especially for bridging the time from guest arrival to food coming sizzling hot off the grill!

Nothing is better to keep guests entertained than delicious snacks – these days served as “portion packages…” – but just as yummy. A fresh dip goes with so many things – from celery and carrot sticks to pretzel rods, toasted baguette slices to breadsticks.

Get inspired by this relaxed approach to mixing a fresh dip!

First: select your base, be it a creamy (full-fat) yoghurt, creme fraiche, or sour cream.

Next: stir in fresh chopped herbs, and let your own preference guide you. The sky is the limit: chives, parsley, cilantro, sage… whatever you have on hand, BUT fresh!

Then: season to taste! Salt, pepper, cayenne are a must. Balance the taste with acidity with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Finish: by adding an eye-catching garnish on top – crunchy nuts, for example, also add texture.

Now that you’ve gotten the hang of it – what about a dessert dip of your own creation?!

Gummy Bears!

The gummy bear we all love originated in my native Germany as “Gummibär” (gum or gummy bear), or – much more popular in the endearing form – as  “Gummibärchen” ([little] gum or gummy bear). As Gum arabic was the original base ingredient used in the gummy bear recipe, the little guys are still carrying the term gum or gummy in their name. The company that invented the original gummy bear was founded by confectioner Hans Riegel in Bonn (and called Haribo) in 1920. Riegel wanted to offer a “children’s article,” and two years into his new company, in 1922, inspired by the trained bears at street festivities and county fairs in Europe through to the 19th century, he invented the Dancing Bear (Tanzbär), a small, inexpensive, fruit-flavored gum candy treat for children (and adults alike), which was much larger in form than its later successor, the Gold-Bear (Goldbär) which we are enjoying today. Even during the horrific economic crisis in Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s, Haribo’s fruit-gum Dancing Bear treats remained affordably priced for a mere 1 Pfennig, (roughly – half a US penny!) in pairs, at kiosks. In 1967, the smaller version of the Dancing Bear was invented – the gummy bear we can buy today as “Haribo Goldbär.” It is certainly one of the most successful (and beloved…) candy products EVER!

With the success of the gummi bears, many similar products have followed – gummy candies  that look like animals and other objects: rings, worms, frogs, snakes, hamburgers, cherries, sharks, penguins, hippos, lobsters, octopuses, apples, peaches, oranges… So, what’s YOUR favorite?

Music by the Espiritu Ensembles

Today I would like to “tip my hat” to a longtime collaborator who has become very dear to me over the years, cellist Suellen Primost, leader of the Espiritu Ensembles.

Suellen is not only a talented musician, through and through and an expert in non-Western music with an extensive repertoire – I admire her as much for who she is as a person. Always in harmony and at peace with herself, she creates an atmosphere of quiet joy for all around her, and that is truly a rare gift. When she fell seriously ill, she accepted it with her usual grace and composure – and then, by a sheer miracle, she recovered, and lately she has even gotten back to playing her beloved cello. I have learned a lot from her, and now I would like to share with you all a sample of her music. Enjoy!

Photobooth fun. All virtual!

Hard to believe, but one company here in the Bay Area has found a way to take photobooth fun “all virtual!” – Giggle & Riot. Here is how it works.

Want to book? Contact studio@giggleandriot.com!

OR would you rather go for some simple, informal fun? That works, too. Make a DIY backdrop (e.g. paper flowers strung on fishing line)

… craft a few fun props…

… and take selfies! That’s it – then share online or on a photo sharing app. So easy these days! Have fun!

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.

Get perfect skin – now!

A guest post by Tiffany Chiang, founder and owner of Design Her Image, bridal hair and makeup design

I’d love to share with you these easy ways to get gorgeous skin – perfect Beauty Tips for At-Home Skin Care!

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Use a Sheet Mask Before Bed
Sheet masks are great for skin hydration. I like to layer on a serum before a sheet mask to help double the absorption and for extra moisture. My favorite is the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask, which contains Pitera™: a combination of over 50 micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and natural acids to condition skin. Another great product with 2X Hyaluronic Acid will give you a glowing, dewy appearance – Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask.  Try it! 

Best time to use Vitamin C Serum 
Also, apply Vitamin C both in the AM and PM to renew your skin – especially around the eyes. Vitamin C brightens dark under-eye circles while improving the look of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. This is the product for brighter, healthier-looking skin that I recommend:  MURAD Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum.
Hope everyone is safe and healthy! Looking forward to accentuating your natural beauty!!! 

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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!!

Working at home – with our beloved pets!

All of us pet lovers have always been wishing to spend more time with our “fur babies,” and for many of us this wish has suddenly come true as we are working from home. But – since we are home all day, our cats and dogs expect us to focus on THEM, so that arrangement turns out to be trickier than we had thought. How to keep Fido or Kitty entertained and happy while getting some serious work done? Because if they get bored, they might find “entertainment” themselves – and not necessarily the type we like…

The key is providing mental, physical and emotional stimulation, for example through “enrichment toys” that require a certain mental effort – preferably, in order to get treats!

You can also make your own simple toys, e.g. for tug-of-war (a tennis ball in an old sock, tie a knot – done); a rattle bottle (empty water bottle with a few small rocks or pennies); a little bundle of feathers or a ball of yarn for your kitty.

Also, consider adding a game into your work schedule. Take a few minutes and play hide and seek with your furry friend; you can also incorporate their favorite toy or a treat into the game. And – most importantly, at least for doggie parents: take them out in the yard,

on a walk or to a dog park (with proper distancing, of course).

Dogs have a natural need for running (most of them at least), so allow them that big joy at least once a day. It’s good for you, too; and once puppy is happy and tired, you will get in those necessary hours of work. Win-win!