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SUMMER SWEATER WEATHER

Jennifer Mejia

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Summer is here (at least if you look at the thermometer). Today was definitely a shorts kind of day in New York City. But this afternoon, I headed to the beach, and it's not as warm here. For those cool summer nights with a coastal breeze, it's always great to have a terrific sweater (that isn't from your winter wool stash) and a great pair of jeans that look a little more...summery! I'm posting two sweaters, along with my new favorite pair of jeans and basic accessories to keep it casual without being boring. CLICK ON THE INDIVIDUAL PRODUCT IMAGES BELOW TO SHOP THE LOOK.

I love this white sweatshirt because it's the perfect length to wear untucked or to do a half-tuck. The cuff of the sleeves tie to keep it from being too ordinary. And the neckline is perfect for a simple charm necklace or pendant. Best of all, it's currently 40% off! I ordered an XS and it feels just right. The jeans are from Madewell, and although they're called "high rise", they're actually more of a mid-rise. I love the raw hem for summer. These Soludos espadrilles are from last season, but I've linked a similar pair by Steve Madden. My engraved "K" charm (for my boys) is probably the piece I wear the most. And when I'm at the beach and pool, I will trade my real jewels for these Sparkle Studs. At $19, I won't be devastated if they're lost. Finally, the bag is casual yet adds just the right pop to an otherwise basic outfit. It's reversible with a shiny side and a matte side.

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In the following photos, I simply swapped out my sweater. My true size is usually an XS, but I actually went with a medium because I wanted it to be a slightly oversized. The navy stripes are a little nautical, making it perfect for summer. It's also currently on sale!

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SHOP THE LOOK

SALE FAVORITES FROM STELLA & DOT

Jennifer Mejia

Stella & Dot is having a sale! Beautiful jewels and accessories, some at 50% off. If you're looking for end-of-year gifts for teachers and/or summer accessories to freshen up your look, look no further. Here are my picks! CLICK ON THE PRODUCT PHOTOS BELOW TO SHOP FAVORITES. Or CLICK BUTTONS to shop the entire sale or the entire line, including new arrivals.

GLOWING SUMMER SKIN

Jennifer Mejia

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Miranda Kerr, Image via Pinterest

Summer is here. Well, technically it doesn't arrive for another month, but I think we can all agree that Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to this season. Summertime, when we all strive to have beautiful skin...that perfectly sun-kissed glow. This winter was particularly cold and dreadful here in New York City. Just two weeks ago, I found myself wearing my winter coat on the playground with my kids. Yes, in May. But I think we've finally turned a corner, and slowly I've begun breaking out the summer wardrobe, trading lined boots for espadrilles and sweaters for off-the-shoulder blouses and t-shirts. As I begin preparing to bare more of my skin, I'm reminded that it's not quite as ready for summer as my heart and mind are. So I turned to Eva Scrivo, a highly acclaimed hair and makeup artist, owner of New York City's Eva Scrivo Salons, and award-winning author of Eva Scrivo on Beauty

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The Book: Eva Scrivo on Beauty

Eva has been my colorist and friend for 12 years. She really is the authority on all things beauty. Anyone who knows me well knows I sometimes have a need or desire to control much of a situation. But with my hair color, something everyone sees every day of my life, I hand the reins over to Eva. Completely. And in 12 years, she's never disappointed me. In addition to my hair, I've entrusted Eva and other professionals at her salon to my skin, from facials to peels to make-up for a special occasion. A few months ago, Amanda Gabbard, a medical aesthetician and make-up artist, gave me my first Pumpkin Peel. My skin was completely renewed, and I had an unbelievable glow and even skin tone that allowed me to leave my foundation in the bag for quite some time. 

But just as Starbucks gives pumpkin a break for a few seasons, so does Eva. Arriving in time for summer, Eva Scrivo Salons is offering a Citrus Peel to its clients. Why citrus? Well, because at Eva Scrivo, Eva creates peels appropriate for the season, based on environmental factors and the lifestyle of her clients. Many clients use retinol-containing products to achieve a more even skin tone, to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and to unclog pores and achieve a clearer complexion. But those who use retinol during the winter are careful not to overuse it during summer months, as retinol sensitizes the skin and can encourage hyperpigmentation. So without retinol to keep us looking our best, what should we do? In steps the Citrus Peel. And here's why...

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The Citrus Peel

The Citrus Peel at Eva Scrivo Salons contains orange zest. It's loaded with antioxidants and natural sugars that help to remove dead skin cells, similar to glycolic peels, but it's gentler on your skin. It removes the dull top layer of the skin (the epidermis), causing the dermis (the thick layer underneath the epidermis) to sense a loss and begin producing more collagen to help repair and replace the epidermis. This plumps and brightens the skin, and if done with proper frequency, a Citrus Peel is a great alternative to more invasive procedures such as fillers and strong chemical peels. Removing the epidermis via a Citrus Peel also allows one to eliminate pore-clogging silicone-based primers from their beauty regimen. With the dull top layer of skin removed, clients will experience smoother make-up application. 

So how often should one have a Citrus Peel? It depends on your skin type and the strength of the peel, which Amanda customizes for each client. She can even customize the strength for different parts of a client's face since many people have different zones and sensitive areas. For someone with rosacea or extremely sensitive skin, it is safe and effective to peel weekly with a strength of 5% glycolic acid. For clients with normal skin, Eva suggests peeling every two weeks with a 10-20% glycolic acid formulation. If you want a stronger peel, for example at 30% glycolic acid, it should only be done monthly. This strength is similar to that used in dermatology offices. At Eva Scrivo Salons, the Citrus Peel can be done as a 15-minute express service and can be applied at the sink simultaneously with glazes or conditioning treatments. The cost of the service is $75. 

So what should you expect after your peel? And how should you care for your skin after leaving the salon? When your peel is complete, you'll see a pinkness in your skin due to increased circulation in that new layer of skin. For me, I loved the soft pink glow and went out that evening without applying foundation. Any peel, regardless of the strength, makes your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, so always use a daily sunscreen. (You should actually do this even if you haven't had a peel or don't use retinol.) Eva recommends applying the sunscreen under your makeup but on top of your moisturizer. In addition, for the week after your peel, you should skip exfoliation. You won't need it, and you don't want to irritate the fresh new layer of skin. You should also be more gentle with the use of washcloths and sponges for a week post-peel.

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Eva Scrivo Salon, Fifth Avenue

Summer temperatures are here, so don't wait to get your skin summer-ready. To schedule your Citrus Peel, contact Eva Scrivo Salons at 212-677-7315 or reservations@evascrivo.com. Eva has two locations: 139 Fifth Avenue and 903 Madison Avenue in New York City. Tell them Jennifer at Beauty, Love & Grub sent you!
 

NYC COOL FOR HOT SUMMER DAYS

Jennifer Mejia

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Have you ever visited New York City during the dog days of summer? If you haven't, I wouldn't recommend it. It's H-O-T. And if you ride the subway, it's even more unbearable on the platform while waiting for a train. Believe me when I tell you that I get dressed some mornings thinking about the absolute lightest thing I can put on my body. When I saw this "dress" at H&M (I later discovered it's actually a shirt), I imagined it being perfect for one of those dreaded days because it's light and sheer. But as you can see, it still rises to the occasion and can be part of a chic look by pairing it with a few versatile summer basics. Because it's sheer, it's important to wear flesh-colored undergarments. You could also wear a thin cotton slip that isn't too clingy if you're more comfortable that way. The "dress" actually holds up pretty well against wrinkles. Just before this shoot, it was in a bag with many other pieces, and I had been sitting, standing, and moving quite a bit. You can see the extent of the wrinkling in the next close-up.

The espadrilles I'm wearing are perfect with dresses, shorts, and pants. They're from one of my favorite brands, Soludos, and they come in two colors. The belt is at least seven years old so no longer available, but I've featured a few wonderful alternatives. For jewels, my trusty Stella & Dot Georgia Hoops and half of my Kari Layered Necklace add the perfect finishing touches. You've also seen the bag before in several other posts, proving its versatility and that it's a worthwhile investment. TO SHOP THE LOOK, click on the individual product photos or names below.

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SHOP THE LOOK

Soludos Minorca Espadrille
(also comes in nude/tan color)

MY EYE FOR EYELET

Jennifer Mejia

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I have always loved eyelet. But there was a point in time when I thought I was too old to wear it. Until I saw The Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton, wearing an off-white Zimmermann eyelet dress on her visit to Australia a few years ago. (Yes, I know, what sane person remembers that?) When I saw her looking stunning in it, that was the unofficial stamp of approval for me to continue wearing eyelet after the age of 30. (And I passed that quite milestone some time ago.) 

This sundress is reminiscent of Kate's beloved dress, so I couldn't resist purchasing it. As I mentioned yesterday, I love versatility in clothing. I wore wedge espadrilles for this shoot, but I also plan to pair it with flat open-toed espadrilles or even thong sandals. You could even throw a black blazer or cardigan over it and swap out the handbag to wear it to church or an evening event. For accessories, I didn't want to draw too much attention away from the eyelet, so I stuck with my trusty Georgia Hoops and half of my Kari Layered Necklace. CLICK ON THE PRODUCT PHOTOS AND NAMES BELOW TO SHOP. 

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SHOP THE LOOK

Braided Hat (mine is old & sold out but this is a good bet)

DAY TO NIGHT MADE EASY

Jennifer Mejia

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I don't work out of home anymore, but when I did, I was always on the hunt for outfits that went easily from day to night. This is useful when you truly can't go home before an evening event. It's also great to have a versatile outfit and/or pieces that can work double duty so you get your money's worth. We've all heard of people doing that with a little black dress, but this summer, I'm doing that with a little black romper

Black is easy for many reasons. It's typically a universally flattering color. It's usually slimming. And it serves as a backdrop for beautiful shoes and accessories, allowing you to create several different looks simply by changing up those two things. Black is also a great color if you are purchasing an item that isn't made with the most expensive material. Always go with a darker color if the fabric isn't high-end...it makes that shortcoming more difficult to detect. 

I love so many things about the ensemble I'm wearing here. First, this romper from Loft is a perfect day to night outfit, and with all of the sales Loft runs, it won't break the bank. I'm wearing espadrilles because this shoot was in Manhattan's Riverside Park, but I could have easily swapped them for my open-toed stilettos and headed downtown that night. And I will probably do that someday soon. The ruffles on the legs make it feminine and something more special than a plain black romper. And as some of you may know, I recently became a Stella & Dot Stylist. The accessories I'm wearing here provide some explanation behind that decision. I'm a yellow gold gal these days, and these Georgia Hoops are my new best friend. Over the next few days, you're going to see them again. The necklace I'm wearing is the Kari Layered Necklace, and the two pieces can be worn together or separately, giving you three looks for the price of one. I'll also be sporting the Awning Clutch with denim and every color of the rainbow this summer because it goes with almost anything. I'm linking everything below. Simply click on the product photos or product names to shop. (And right now, it’s Dot Dollar time at Stella & Dot, which means you'll get a $25 credit for every $50 you spend, and you can redeem Dot Dollars on purchases made between June 26 and July 9.)

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SHOP THE LOOK

Beach Bags, Baby!

Jennifer Mejia

For some reason, all I could think about yesterday was the fact that the official kickoff to summer is less than two weeks away. Perhaps it had something to do with the unusually warm temperature and sunshine, followed by a late afternoon doozy of a thunderstorm. With the start of summer comes long, lazy, relaxing beach days. That's a joke because I have two active boys who are 3 and 6, so there won't be any relaxing for me. Regardless, whether you're heading to the beach alone, with friends, or with kids in tow, you'll need something stylish in which you can carry all of your essentials. Fortunately for you, I've chosen a few of my favorites to hope you narrow it down. Be sure to read until the end of the post because I've added an extra special treat that you're going to want (and I think you actually need) for any trip to the pool or beach. CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SHOP.

TOTES

 

POUCHES

These pouches are great to hold the little things like lip gloss, your cell phone, money, and other things you don't want to lose or get covered in sand. I especially like the clear pouches to help me find everything easily. They're all fun and playful, which is how things should be at the beach!

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BEACH JEWELS

I don't know about you, but I still like to look my best at the beach if I can help it. But what I don't like is the idea of the ocean whisking away my real jewels. At $19, these Sparkle Studs are a steal and not a complete heartbreaker if you lose them. And I promise you, they look so authentic, you'll want to wear them off the beach and everywhere you go.

These 'pizzazz without overdoing it' Gold Hammered Hoops are great for the beach (not the ocean), and again, you'll want to wear them every day no matter where you go. They're a perfect price point just in case you lose them in the sand. And don't worry, they come with a small, clear, rubber back to keep them on your ears.

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See you at the beach!

LUX-URIOUS LOCKS CAN BE YOURS

Jennifer Mejia

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Think you need to be a celebrity to have beautiful long locks? Is that because you think quality hair extensions are too expensive? Or is it because you think you need your own personal beauty squad to maintain and style them? Well think again because Lux Beauty Club is going to change the way you feel about hair extensions. 

A few weeks ago, my friend Victoria Flores, Co-Founder and CEO of Lux Beauty Club, asked me if I would consider modeling their hair extensions for a photo shoot to prepare for the launch of a new product and a new website. She could barely finish the question before I could exclaim, “Yes, of course! Where and when?” When I met Victoria last fall, I immediately noticed her beautiful, thick, dark locks. And I nearly fell off my chair when she told me about her company and the fact that she’s also a customer. In a million years, you would never look at Victoria and think her hair wasn’t all her own. I was intrigued and have been dying to check them out ever since. 

This is an exciting time for Lux Beauty Club, as they just began taking pre-orders for their new Magnet Hair®Human Extensions.  They are expected to ship mid-June. And around that time, they will also be re-launching their website to include an interactive hair quiz to ensure you find the perfect extensions for your hair color and type and lifestyle. 

But first, let’s get over one sticking point that some of you might have. You may be thinking that you don’t want “fake” hair. In my opinion, having hair extensions is no different than wearing makeup, having your nails done, getting a spray tan, or so many other things we do to make ourselves look and feel more beautiful. Let’s just be grateful we have all of these things at our disposal to have fun and enhance our outer beauty! And as much as many celebrities would love for us to think they have natural, long, thick, luscious locks, they don’t. Many of them are wearing hair extensions. I personally watched Kelly Ripa pull off a flip-in one morning on live television. 

If you’re thinking about hair extensions, it’s best if your hair is almost touching your shoulders. That said, Lux has many satisfied customers with shorter hair. If in doubt, they’re happy to have you send them a recent photo of yourself and tell you if they feel extensions are right for you. 

Now let’s get to the good stuff. Here are a few before and after photos of yours truly (I don't think I need to label them as such!) I wasn’t a true believer until I saw my own transformation and witnessed how real the extensions looked and felt…as they should because I was wearing real human hair. Lux Beauty Club offers both synthetic and human hair extensions to meet your needs and price point. 

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Lux Beauty Club’s Human Hair Extensions are made with 100% Remy hair and sourced from India. There are different grades of human hair, and Lux uses only the best. Remy is the ultimate luxury in hair. Remy is not a brand but rather a grading system for hair extensions. It is human hair that has been collected from one donor and handpicked strand by strand. The hair follicles all go in the same direction. This is a must for human hair extensions, as it means the extensions will flow naturally with your own hair and be far less likely to matt or tangle when worn. It is soft to the touch, long lasting, and tangle free. Remy human hair extensions should last up to 2-4 months with regular maintenance.

Lux’s synthetic hair is sourced from China. 

So how does one determine which hair extension is right for them? You should ask yourself how you want to apply them. Are you going to give it a go on your own or have a professional apply them? How long do you want to wear them? For a few months or do you want to take them in and out for special events or a night out here and there? What is your budget? Then you want to choose the color and length. Of course, all types can be applied by a professional, which is how my clip-ins were applied. Weaves always require professional application. 

In order of ease for self-application, your options are Flip-In, Magnet Hair, Clip-In, and Tape-In. Human hair is more expensive than synthetic. Regarding budget by type/method, from least expensive to more expensive are Flip-In, Clip-In, Tape-In, and Magnet Hair. 

Flip-In Halo Hair Extensions
The Flip-In Halo is a revolutionary hairpiece design featuring an invisible attachment that no one can see. There are no clips, glue, or tape, and you apply it in a few seconds. You literally flip the hairpiece on top of your head, style and go.  It's almost like wearing a wig but without the crown. 

*Great for someone who has short, thick hair where a tape or clip option would not work
*Easiest method to apply and most dramatic change for the price
*Not as secure as the Clip, Tape, Magnet or Weave method
*Available in human hair and synthetic material
*Straight or wavy
*Several options starting at $99.99

Magnet Hair® Human Extensions—Available Mid-June.  Pre-Order Now.
Magnet Hair ® is a new revolutionary way to transform your hair in minutes.  Place the Magnet Hair anywhere you need volume or length.  It can’t get any easier! Magnet Hair works with your lifestyle. You can work out, go for a run, and most importantly, feel confident that it won't slip out while out on the town.  You can also dye the hair to any color your heart desires. This set already comes in a light wave but can be straightened and curled.

*No clips, glue, tape, or tools required
*Patented set of 10 pieces creates five full hair extensions
*Simply snap them together between your own hair and go! 
*100% Indian Remy human hair
*Offered in 11 gorgeous colors--mix and match a few colors for highlights or low lights
*$149.99

Watch this video to see for yourself how easy and beautiful it is!

Clip-In Hair Extensions
Clip-In Hair Extensions are very easy to place in your own hair. They have the added bonus of blending into your hair to be virtually undetected by everyone around you. They also never fall out because the clips are so firm—the clips have been sewn onto the hair extensions. You can even exercise and dance in them. 

*Easy to apply and come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and colors
*Offer the most variety of choices and are the most popular amongst Lux customers
*Available in human hair and synthetic material
*Prices starting at $29.99

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Dancing like a maniac to Calvin Harris and Rihanna with my Clip-Ins

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Tape-In Hair Extensions
Tape-In Hair Extensions are 100% human Remy hair and allow you to achieve a celebrity high-style look. They last 2-6 months, depending on your maintenance and care.

*Easy on/off application method
*The most natural looking hair extension method but also the most expensive of non-permanent methods
*Available in straight or wavy and 10 different shades of each
*High maintenance, daily maintenance required
*Straight priced at $79.99 and Wavy at $139.99

Weave Hair Extensions
Weave Hair Extensions are the most time-consuming application
*Must be sewn or braided into the hair
*Permanent
*Available in human hair or synthetic material
*Three options starting at $49

Lux Beauty Club’s human and synthetic hair extensions can last for years if maintained and cared for properly. Tape-Ins that are more permanent last from 2-6 months. Using Lux’s maintenance products will help extend their duration. As with your own hair, excessive heat and chemicals affect the extensions. And while they are not indestructible, you can wash and style human hair extensions just as you would your own hair. All suggested care instructions can be found at luxbeautyclub.com

If you need help choosing a color before their new color selction quiz is launched, Lux Beauty Club is thrilled to assist in a few ways. They’re happy to help you choose if you contact them and send them a photo. Or you can choose a few and return whichever extensions you don’t keep. Lux offers a money back guarantee of unopened product that has not been applied to your hair. I know Victoria personally, and she is extremely passionate about this business and helping women achieve the outer beauty they desire. So please feel free to contact them with any questions you might have before purchasing your Lux Beauty Club Hair Extensions. I promise you, you'll love the way you look and feel wearing them!

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BE THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST

Jennifer Mejia

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(Somehow Traci knew I'd use this goofy photo someday.)

I recently hosted a small party at my home, and I was thrilled that so many expressed gratitude for a wonderfully fun and delicious evening. Unfortunately, I didn't take one photo because I was too busy drinking, talking, and laughing, as a host should. One of my dear friends, whose opinion I value tremendously, gave me the greatest compliment when she said, “Barefoot Contessa doesn’t have anything on you.” I also found that amusing because Ina is my idol, and I have taken so many pointers from her over the years. But I’ve also taken tips from my mom, stepmother, sister, and grandmothers. And they all have a few things in common. They make you feel welcome in their home, they make you glad you came, and they make you want to return again and again. When all is said and done, that’s the key to being a great host, no matter how you choose to do it. 

I ran into my friend this morning after school dropoff, and I spoke to her again on the phone this evening. She was kind enough to articulate a few of the reasons she loves coming to our home. With that, I thought I’d put together a post on how to be the hostess with the mostest. Whether it’s an intimate dinner with a few friends, a party, or hosting people overnight, there are a few things that will ensure your guests enjoy themselves, leave with a smile, and want to return. 

1. Begin with the mindset of what I said earlier—you want to make them feel welcome and ensure they have a pleasant visit. To accomplish this, you need to have fun because as a host, you will set the mood. So that means…

2. Do as much as you can before your guests arrive. Remember that your guests came to see you. As much as they might like your cooking, drinks, and the entertaining and wonderful things in your home, they want to spend time with you. And as a host, it’s no fun at all to hear about the wonderful time they had with your spouse and kids after the fact. 

3. Have a clean and tidy home. At least the parts that they see.

4. If they are dinner or party guests, think about the presentation, but keep it simple. 

·       Display fresh flowers but not any that are too fragrant. You don’t want to trigger any allergies or offend or overwhelm your guests (fragrance is very personal). 

·       For serving dishes, white is always right because it allows the food to be the star of the show. But feel free to mix in other serveware that complements the white and/or goes with the tone or theme of the party. Home Goods is a terrific place for beautiful and inexpensive serving dishes (and many other things!)

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Photo via Ina Garten Instagram

·       If you can, use real dinnerware, flatware, and glasses, i.e., avoid using paper and plastic. If you have a larger party, I think paper napkins are fine…but use pretty ones. For a small dinner party, cloth napkins are always a nice touch. You want them to enjoy dining at your place as much as they enjoy all of the elements of a nice restaurant. 

5. Food. There is a rule (I can’t remember who I heard it from first) that you should never make something for the first time when you are having guests. I have a slightly different version: For the main course and/or the majority of what you serve, you should offer things that are foolproof and tried and true for you. As long as you know your guests will really enjoy a few things, I think it’s okay to experiment a little and use them as your guinea pigs, especially if they know you like to cook and bake. That could actually make for a little fun. But be sure to taste it before you serve it. Don’t experiment if that makes preparation too stressful. 

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, find out what your guests like and don’t like and what they can and cannot eat. If someone is a vegetarian or pescatarian, don’t serve chicken or beef. If they have food allergies, don’t serve something that is or contains an allergen. You don’t want to make your guests uncomfortable when they have to politely decline your food, and you don’t want to make them feel like a problem when they have to ask for something else to avoid anaphylaxis.

Try to have a nice mix of things. For example, have something hearty, something light, and something sweet and indulgent. I always try to serve something that is special or unique--something my guests probably wouldn’t have anywhere else and/or something I know is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. And as my friend said, she loved the way all of the colors of the food and dishes complemented each other and seemed very cohesive. She enjoyed feeling that a lot of thought went into preparing for her arrival and that of the rest of my guests. If it’s a party, try to serve finger foods. Don’t make it difficult for people to juggle holding a glass, a plate, and a fork. Finally, not everything needs to be made from scratch. Head to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or your favorite local market to procure meats, cheese, crackers, and fruit for a beautiful platter that you simply assemble before your guests arrive. And if cooking just isn’t your thing, order from a catering company.

6. Alcohol and Beverages. Make it festive and have a variety. With a small group, as with food, find out what your guests like and don’t like. If they aren’t wine drinkers, get their favorite spirit and mixers so they can enjoy their favorite cocktail. For a party, keep it simple and set it up so your guests can be self-sufficient. You don’t want to play bartender all night, although it’s nice to pour them a drink when you can. For my gathering last week, I served two of my favorite Wolffer roses, a festive sangria, LaCroix lime sparkling water (with cute straws for the cans or glasses), and a beautiful pitcher of ice water with lemons. 

7. If it’s a party, try to have everything where your guests will congregate most of the time, but have it organized into stations if possible. For my recent gathering, I used our étagère in our dining area to create a beverage station. It had wine and highball glasses on a shelf above all of the beverages and ice bucket. On the island that is open to the dining area, I displayed all of the food. The appetizers were in front/on the dining room side, and the desserts were on cake stands behind the appetizers/on the kitchen side. Ideally I would have brought desserts out later, but I wanted to enjoy my guests’ company, so I opted to put everything out at once and present it in the order it would likely be consumed (not that having dessert first is a crime!)

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8. The party I had last week was a gathering to celebrate the launch of my blog. I invited all women. I served a few of the recipes that have been featured on my blog. But I’m also a busy mom, and all of the women I invited are busy with kids and/or full-time jobs. That means we really don’t have a lot of time to shop and indulge. So I added the option to shop Stella & Dot and transformed my dining table (in between the drinks and food) into a jewelry and accessory department. In addition to the fact that she loved the jewelry, my girlfriend expressed that she liked that there was a common activity that sparked conversation between people who entered the party as strangers. After all, women usually dress for other women (contrary to what many think), so it was fun for her to shop and share opinions in a fun and comfortable setting. So whether it’s jewelry or a game or a wine tasting, try to have some activity to get the party started, especially when people aren’t from the same crowd. 

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Photo via Pinterest

9. And finally, a few tips for overnight guests. Make their room a cozy retreat. Last summer, we hosted many people at our home, and the guest room was far from decorated and complete. But I tried to make it cozy by adding a nice candle and fresh flowers to the nightstand. If you have the space, try to give your guests a dedicated bathroom so they can make themselves at home without having to pack up and clean up each time they use it. Make sure they have plenty of clean towels (bath, hand, and washcloths). Have shampoo, toothpaste, and a few of the basics in the bathroom in case they forgot to pack omething. And make sure they know they are welcome to anything in your home. They can go into the pantry or refrigerator at any time and they are welcome to whatever they need (assuming it’s not your chicken marinating for tomorrow’s lunch!)

Having a beautiful home means nothing without people to share it with. So do everything you can to make your guests feel welcome and leave counting the days until their return.

Blackberry Galette

Jennifer Mejia

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I said it last week, and I'll say it again. I'm all about the berries once the weather gets warmer. Last summer, my kids and I picked almost every berry—first strawberries, then blackberries, and finally raspberries. They’re ripe for picking in that order, at least in the New York area. There was something about remembering those little hands working so hard and seeing the pride in their faces that made the desserts we created taste that much better.

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This galette is one of the simplest berry desserts you can make, and its shape is beautiful, even when imperfect! Like the picking, something about its handcrafted look makes it one of my favorites. You can actually use any berry, or better yet, a mixture of berries. This yields enough dough for two galettes, but you could also use the other half for a quiche, or freeze it, if you're only preparing one dessert.

SERVES 4-6

4 cups                              fresh blackberries or a mixture of berries
1/3 cup                             granulated sugar
1 heaping tablespoon      cornstarch
1 teaspoon                        lemon zest
2 tablespoons                  freshly squeezed lemon juice

2- 2/3 cups                       all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon                        granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon                    kosher salt
1-1/8 cups                          (2 sticks + 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup                              ice water
to taste                             fresh mint for garnish

In a glass bowl, lightly toss the berries with 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and lemon juice to coat. Set aside.

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt and pulse briefly. Scatter the butter on top of the flour mixture and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas. Drizzle the water over the mixture and pulse until it comes together. (You may need to stop and adjust the dough periodically.)

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With floured hands, remove the dough from the food processor, place on a well-floured surface, and form it into a symmetrical log. Cut the dough in half and use only one portion. 

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Form the portion you are using into a ball. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to form a 13-inch diameter circle.

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Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

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Spoon the berry filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border around the entire edge. Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

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Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully transfer (I use a wooden pizza spatula) the galette to a wooden cutting board or other surface to cool further. Cut into wedges. I like to sprinkle it with confectioners sugar and/or top with vanilla ice cream for serving. Add fresh mint for garnish if desired (I love fresh mint with berries!) 

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