Seven Ways to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

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Some spend New Year’s Day packing up ornaments. I’d rather sleep in and go to brunch. I’m in the league of defiant revelers that leave their holiday lights up through the first week of January. Why? Because we’re trying to stave off the impending doom of a long, cold winter. In fact, many believe that all the hoopla surrounding Christmas is just a way to distract us from the misery gaining steam outdoors.

Here’s how to keep your spirits up after the holidays:

A Little Twinkle

We’re all a little taken aback at how stark a room looks when stripped of holiday accoutrements. Hold on to a strand of white lights, and wrap them around an indoor tree, or gather them into an oversized glass vase, to keep a bit of sparkle in your home.

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Getting Fresh

Don’t toss those candy canes! Swirl them as swizzle sticks in your hot cocoa or mocha. Smash them to pieces and lay them in an empty Altoids tin to use as mints on the go. And if it really feels like you’re going cold turkey after the holidays, here’s a little-known fact: You can get peppermint mochas at Starbucks year-round, though they don’t advertise it.

Get Moving

It’s no secret that working out is good for your heart, but the endorphins improve your mood and the exertion results in a great night’s sleep. Besides, when you peel off your sweater this Spring, how nice would it be to find a strong, lean body beneath it?

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Busted court aside, my favorite ways to blow off steam are tennis, yoga and dancing

Get the Party Started

Plan a small party! It’s so much easier to corral your loved ones in January than it is at the height of the holiday season. Plus, everyone needs something to look forward to. My go-to this year will be an Oscar party! Since it’s a weeknight and the show runs late, it will be a pajama party. People will be cozy, well-fed and filled with Prosecco. Go LaLa Land!

Green is Golden

If you can’t spend ample time outdoors, bring the outdoors in. Buy a palm and place it by a sunny window.

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Add whimsy to plants you bring indoors, with funny planters and conversation pieces

Doors to Enlightenment

So your holiday wreath is down. It doesn’t mean your home should go unadorned. Have something beautiful waiting for you every day when you return. There are plenty of gorgeous wreaths you can use year-round. You can even create one.

Think Spring

Spring may be a few months away, but now is a perfect time to imagine how you’d like to use the green space outdoors. Whether planning a vegetable patch or a fire pit, enjoy researching the best place to plant, the best deals on materials and read reviews if thinking of buying plants or seed online. My son is obsessed with blueberries, and I’m a fan of raspberries. When Spring arrives, I won’t be making a mad dash to plant these bushes before the heat of summer sets in.

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We added this pergola to our home to accommodate our Concord grapes – Max not included

…and then before you know it, the holidays will be back.

Happy 2017!

 

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The Ultimate Eighties Care Package

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After a recent family tragedy, friends and family surprised me with support I didn’t know I had coming. There were bouquets of sunflowers, roses and  pink carnations, homemade batches of chocolate chip cookies from three different families. There was an Edible Arrangement so large, we popped off and froze pieces of fruit for smoothies, else they went to waste. I was overwhelmed by kindness, but not as overwhelmed as I was  last week, when I came home to a large box from New York City.

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Every surface of the box was Hodge Podged with symbols from the happiest era on record.

Beneath layers of bubble wrap, I uncovered The Ultimate 80s Care Package. The painstaking amount of time my friend dedicated to the project still makes me feel unworthy.

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homemade chocolate chip cookies

I should have expected no less from my friend Amber. She used to live in the duplex below me in L.A. and her apartment was a Pee Wee’s Playhouse for girls obsessed with pop culture. The walls were lined with art and memorabilia, there was a karaoke machine, candy, a library of romantic comedies, and mud masks galore.

Her package included pampering…

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It encouraged us to have fun…

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And most importantly for me, it provided escape…

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Even the inner lid of the care package was plastered with images from a happier time…

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I would be remiss to not show off each side of the box…

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She even wrote individual cards to my husband and I…

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We followed this advice and watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High that very night…

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This would describe my friend Amber…

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The Museum Behind Everyone’s Profile Photo

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Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room

Even from 3,000 miles away, I couldn’t resist the lure of L.A.’s Broad Museum. My friends’ Instagram accounts blew up with images from the ethereal Infinity Mirrored Room, which also became everyone’s Facebook profile photo. Overnight. Newly-opened and with a minimum two month waiting list, (even longer for select exhibits), attendance seems to delineate who’s who in the art world of LA. Which does exist, for all you naysayers. Most of the people who say L.A. has no culture simply repeat it because they heard other people say it. They also have an identical eye-roll when someone mentions “the valley.” Sheep.

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The curators at The Broad (pronounced “Brode”- I know) prove that a taste for captivating art is alive and well in the City of Angels. Work from local artists and brooding up-and-comers are mingled with stars of modern art, such as Jeff Koons, along with pop art icons Lichtenstein and Warhol.

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For those of you who are still on the waiting list and hoping for a sneak peek, here’s a smattering of what you’ll see. For everyone else, it’s simply here for you to enjoy.

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Unusual piece by Andy Warhol, featuring Jacqueline Kennedy at JFK’s funeral.

 

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Takashi Murakami

 

The two pieces below by Jeff Koons are always tempting to touch.

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The three pieces below are from my new favorite modern artist, John Currin. He captures the hope and humiliation in our everyday lives in a way that’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes embarrassing, but always provocative.IMG_4464 IMG_4463 IMG_4461

Hollywood Noir

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There are two versions of Old Hollywood. One is the rat pack at the Coconut Grove, Clark Gable driving his Deusenberg down Hollywood Boulevard and all things Liz Taylor.

The other Old Hollywood is a bit darker. It’s the Black Dahlia and zoot suit riots. It’s the debauchery of silent film stars in the roaring twenties, lasciviously described in Hollywood Babylon. This version was the theme of our recent rental in Los Angeles, and it created an atmosphere around our trip. The built-in bar was red, as were the leather bar stools. It was eclectic and full of secrets. A stolen street sign from Hollywood’s famous Cherokee Avenue loomed over the bar. There was a old pay phone (a relic; no dial tone), neon signs and vintage bar mirrors.

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If these walls could talk…

Instead of running around town to see old friends, they came to us. They took refuge in the dark recesses of the place. Huddling at the bar, rifling through the book collection and gathering by fire pit out back, where cotoyes howled all around us.

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At the base of the Hollywood Hills, this is where it all began. Looming over landmarks such as The Knickerbocker and Capitol Records, this home was built back when Pacific Palisades was “out in the country.” If walls could talk, there’d be tales of wannabe starlets who didn’t make it, hippies who had chance encounters with the Manson family and screenwriters working their way up at RKO.

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If you want to be surrounded by Mexixan kitsch, pin-up girls and a print of Krampus, this Airbnb rental will give your entire trip a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. To rent this place, click here.

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A house full of friends

Airbnb has truly saved us. We spend good money to travel someplace new, only to end up in a hotel that could be in any city.  You’re remote, with just a bird’s-eye view of the place you really want to be. The only place where giant hotels give you a feel for the town, is Las Vegas.

The other option used to be just bed and breakfasts. While they emote a local feel, the breakfast is always served too early and you’re forced to make pre-coffee conversation with strangers.

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Like many homes at the base of the Hollywood Hills, the yard is sloped and lush from mountain run-off

Thank goodness Airbnb swept in, with  rentals that range from log cabins in Colorado to five-star yurts in Nigeria, designed with tlc by the locals who own it. They fluff your nest with their old silverware and mix-matched dish sets. You use the towels from their old color scheme. Even if you never meet them, they were all around you. And if you pick carefully, it feels kind of great.

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Before I die: The Grand Bal

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Marlene Deitrich at the Waldorf-Astoria’s annual “April in Paris” ball in 1951 – Paris’ 2000-year birthday

Much ado has been made of the world’s response to our dear City of Light being terrorized. Support has poured in worldwide, but some question why our response to Paris being attacked is so emotional, when things like that happen in other parts of the world all the time. These critics are right, but one must acknowledge that the world has always had a love affair with Paris.

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The Imperial Grand Bal in St. Petersburg, 1903

The French brought us lingerie, croissants, Coco Chanel, the ballet and much more. Even in Paris’ darkest hour since World War II, nothing can vanquish the City of Light. I’d like to bring attention to one of the many things that makes Paris so brilliant – Le Grand Bal.

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An Asian-inspired theme – the food and costumes must have been to die for

What is a Grand Bal?

It’s the party of a lifetime. It’s an event you tell your grandchildren about. While it’s always black tie, the best ones are costumed or masquerade balls. It started centuries ago when Louis XIV held a Grand Bal at Versailles to demonstrate his power. Noblemen and dignitaries far and wide gathered to pass messages and spread influence.

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Louis XIV’s Grand Bal costume

Czars in Russia did it, and during the gilded age in New York, Caroline Astor hosted them. The tradition may have jumped from royalty to socialites hosting charities, but the goal is the same: establishing social and political power. Truman Capote held a black and white ball and these were so influential, that uninvited couples left New York for the weekend, so to appear unavailable for the invite. Famous hostess Elsa Maxwell (who lived in the Waldof-Astoria for free) hosted the annual April in Paris Grand Bal on-site. It was the place to see and be seen.

One day I’ll throw one as well. Costumes, Champagne fountain and other Gatsby-esque frivolities. My theme will be the roaring 20s.

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Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball

Carpe Autumn.

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Autumn was a little dramatic this year. There was no “jacket weather.” A frosty night jumped out at us after a summer’s day. Acorns and walnuts are falling from trees four stories tall, pelting our cars with a metallic ting. Every time you look up, leaves are spinning in mid-air.

A year ago, I blogged about how autumn had snuck up on me. It was halfway over before I stopped to smell the pumpkin spice everything. I had just had a baby, and autumn is a very short-lived party.

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playing in a giant pit of corn kernels

Last year I was determined to enjoy autumn despite having a kid. Now I’m enjoying it because I have a kid.

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I started last weekend. We hosted a bonfire in our backyard. Like us adults, Hamilton was mesmerized by the fire, clutching his Curious George doll with eyes as wide as saucers. We sipped sarsaparilla whiskey and shared old stories.

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Other things you can do:

It may be tempting to pick up a pumpkin at the grocery store while shopping, but take a day to slow down and visit an old-fashioned pumpkin patch. Enjoy the hayride, sip on some cider and let the child run free in the fields.

Even if your toddler is too young to go trick-or-treating, it doesn’t mean you can’t dress up! Put together a clever costume (extra points if it’s not store-bought) get a great shot and share it on social media.  Get into the spirit!

Jump into leaf piles.

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at a pumpkin-carving party with fellow Pinterest-obsessed girlfriends

Toddlers are just beginning to learn color, but you can make it fun by taking walks and hunting for special leaves. Especially beautiful ones can be used to decorate their rooms or be tacked onto their mobile.

Carve a pumpkin and toast the seeds with different spices. It teaches the child to be industrious, and less wasteful. You and the family can enjoy the treat while doing an official lighting ceremony for your new jack-0-lantern.

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comfort foods like imported Danish kringles, quiche and cookies helped us stay in “the zone” while crafting

Succumb to the shameless marketing and grab a pumpkin spice latte. A sip or two won’t hurt your little one.

Carpe Autumn!

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Party tip: A dash of spicy ginger beer takes apple cider to a whole other level

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Uncovering a Jackie O. Hideaway

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Growing up outside of Washington D.C., I’d pass the mysterious iron gates guarding Dumbarton Oaks, but the ornate black and gold facade hadn’t yet piqued my curiosity.

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Then, like many people around the world, I became fascinated by the Kennedy family and discovered that Jackie O. and many other Washington socialites liked to relax at Dumbarton Oaks. Just a few blocks north of bustling Georgetown, it features 53 acres of serenity and was but walking distance from the Georgetown home Jackie moved into after JFK’s assassination, pictured below:

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The home was purchased in 1920 by Milded and Robert Bliss, and found the grounds rather neglected. They hired progressive landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the various terraces, gardens and more.

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I spent a summer day alone on the grounds, exploring and taking note of inspiring techniques which I will use on my own property. Every home needs a cutting garden as does mine. But this estate goes far beyond flowers. I’ve since installed fruit-bearing trees, a grapevine, ornamental trees and am on the hunt for a spooky, romantic weeping willow.

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Dumbarton Oaks was a place that provided much solace for a grieving Jackie O., and it most certainly gifted me with an exhilarating Sunday, free from the stress of daily life. It’s a must-see for all nature-lovers, gardeners and would-be Bunny Mellons!

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Backyard Pop-Up Wedding!

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A sweet chalkboard message and carport strung with white curains serves as a warm welcome.

Attorneys Marcus Lange and Zawadi Brown were already engaged, but when a San Francisco law firm offered Marcus a dream job, he and his fiancée decided to start this new venture as man and wife.

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the happy couple

We had two weeks to pull off one of the happiest days of their lives, and it was a success!

Sans Fancy Venue!

Everyone knows that a wedding date is at the mercy of the wedding venue. Since official venues were out, we chose our backyard! Since it’s the East Coast, we got a spacious white tent in case of rain.

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Sans Caterers!

Instead of locking down official caterers, the couple cherry-picked their favorite foods, and dishes that highlighted their heritage. The groom is German, which meant schnitzel and sauerkraut potato balls. The bride is from Trinidad with a Rastafarian and vegetarian family, which meant a mix of vegetable patties, jerk chicken and plantains. They also offered one of their favorite dishes: mutton biryani from India.  Guests are still raving about the All-Around-the-World menu!

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Sans Bakery Cake!

Instead of trying to score a last-minute wedding cake from a bakery, they called on food artist Carol Brown, known for her impeccable baking at Dixie Donuts and beyond. She outdid herself, with a homemade red velvet cake, chocolate brownies and a classic pound cake. For good measure, Marcus and Zawadi provided chocolate-covered strawberries as well.

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Sans Decorators!

Rather than hiring a decorator, Zawadi and friends, (including myself) created hand-made decorations in various shades of purple, the wedding color. Silver was the accent color. Billowy tissue paper balls were strung about, wisteria hung from the railings and the ceremony took place under a tree that was positively dripping with colored ribbons and strands of crystals. When the wind blew, it was ethereal.

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Sans Florist!

The couple skipped major florist fees by marrying outdoors, as our yard has a peach tree, fig free, Concord grape vines, a weeping cherry, daisies, hydrangea bushes and more. In fact, every flower from the purple hydrangea was snipped and placed on every table. Adding to the rustic theme were mason jars filled with sand and lit candles, lanterns hung from the trees and burlap runners featured ladylike polka dots.

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The ceremony was short, sweet and personalized with the couple’s own vows.

Sans Bartender!

Rather than hiring a bartender, the couple offered a conveniently pre-mixed signature drink, the Trinimeister. Combining both their heritages, it was a mix of Jaegermeister, coconut rum, pineapple juice and Sprite, which fit right in with the summer day. Beer and wine were also available, though as the party went on, more and more bottles of liquor filled the bar.
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Who needs a wedding planner when you have friends?

It was a day with zero humidity, sunshine and a cool breeze. It may well have been the prettiest day of summer. Mr. and Mrs. Lange were surrounded by love, with friends and family who all rallied together to make this day unforgettable.

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Bree Hall (pictured right) was a force during the wedding planning.

We wish Mr. and Mrs. Lange the best of luck with their new adventure in San Francisco!

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Hydrangeas popped on every table, and wedding toasts made guests laugh and cry.

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Silver accents complimented the purple and white decor.

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Gift bags were filled with homemade air freshener spray (created by the bride’s brother) and German beer.

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The couple’s friend Mark is also a taleted musician, who performed a warm, personal tribute.

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happy to open our home

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Top Five Ways to Spring into Spring!

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My son and I, soaking up spring in the South of France

Finally! Those deadly icicles have dropped from the roof. They stabbed the dirt. They fed the roots and bulbs biding their time below. Without the bleakness of winter, one cannot fully enjoy the excitement of spring. It’s more than the burst of colors pushing through the brown. It’s the promise of things to come; a summer filled with barbecues, beach outings, and the smell of coconut sun lotion.

Too many people are content to admire the warming weather from office windows. That will not do. Here are the top five things to help you spring into spring!

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weeping cherry tree

1) Buy a flowering tree or shrub, and plant it in the yard.

Studies have shown that when people literally get into the soil, they don’t just feel more in synch with the outdoors, but are happier and live longer. Year after year, this plant will be the first to bloom in April, a beautiful congratulations for surviving winter.

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The biggest challenge with a hammock is staying awake

2) Buy a hammock!

You don’t need two perfectly-spaced trees, or even a yard! Hammocks can be sold with a stand, and can even fit on balconies. The best part? A hammock forces you to look where you usually don’t: UP. You’ll slow down and notice the blue jays, passing clouds and gorgeous sunsets.

3) Make a fresh batch of sweet tea or lemonade.

Never underestimate the power of taste buds. A refreshing, warm-weather drink can transform your mood and offer something a little more interesting than ice water.

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I uncovered this mysterious gem while hiking the woods along the James River in Richmond, VA

4) Get moving!

Whether it’s a volleyball game or a hike along the river, enjoy the cool air before summer ushers in humidity or scorching heat. Not only will you feel great toning up your winter body, but you can work on your tan as well!

5) Do a mini-makeover in your home!

I would suggest spring cleaning, but cleaning is so awful! Instead, lighten up your home. Replace heavy draperies with sheer ones, lighten your bedding, switch out your jewel-toned throw pillows with pastel ones, which look great with a geometric pattern. If you have a backyard sitting area or balcony, spruce it up so it’s ready for last-minute company or a solo glass of wine.

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The Boathouse in RVA knows how to deck out their outdoor seating area!

Happy spring!

A Week in Provence

IMG_0314I’ve always been inspired by Peter Mayle’s  A Year in Provence. He drives around the Provencal countryside eating epic meals and describing the hilarious locals, many of whom are grumpy and backwards. But no matter how many holes are in their socks or much they hate Parisians, one mustn’t ever call them rednecks. Mais non! It’s the South of France, and they still have a nose for great wine, hunt for truffles and were farming organically before organic farming was cool.

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So we rented a villa in the hilly village of Mougins, outside of Nice. When hiking, it offered sweeping views of the Mediterranean. We had a local boulengerie and patisserie, and daily we’d grab cafe au lait, croissants and quiche. We explored surrounding villages and stopped in bigger towns, such as Cannes and Nice.

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But the focus of our trip was relaxation, and our villa gave the restorative feel we needed. The old stone house was shaded by giant olive trees. I uncovered a stone slab table in the yard – perfect for writing. There was a zipline, a hammock, avocado and lemon trees and a horse across the way. The semi-arid and sunny weather mirrored the paradise of Southern California. We didn’t want to leave.

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Until we return, and return we will, we can always read A Year in Provence, Encore Provence and Toujours Provence. Over and over. Readers, I warn you. Don’t even think of opening these books while hungry!

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