Sumptuous Essentials 

The Art of Presentation

Posted on July 18, 2015

Eschewing the local Starbucks, I recently met a group of friends seaside for coffee.  The scenery was spectacular but on the large rocks, it required some effort to find a spot where you could sit comfortably without rolling into the ocean.  Each of us had brought a snack to share and it was at this moment that I was reminded of the art of presentation.  One friend pulled out four corduroy seat cushions to share. Her cheese was wrapped in tactile brown paper tied with rough string, the cheese knives were unrolled from a leather satchel and the wine (who needs coffee?) was drawn from a tall carrying case that also stored small glasses.   Instant upscale picnic.

For some people, their use of beautiful things is not an affectation, an elaborate put-on as a means to show off, they are simply aesthetically gifted.  In the same way that Average Joe combs his hair in the morning instead of going out with bedhead, the A.G. person has a higher bar for the concept of "presentable."   There is nothing in the above description to suggest that the wine was rare or the cheese expensive. This was no rarefied Harrods Hamper but it was thoughtfully organized and artfully presented. 

Whenever I meet someone like this friend, it ups my game. I am reminded to appreciate the beauty and order in everything, especially the little things. 


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Two Duvets for One Bed

Posted on July 04, 2015

I wrote recently about my desire to exchange our king-sized bed for two doubles.  As unromantic as it sounds, I take my sleep quality seriously.  I like my bedding to form a little cocoon around me: no tug of wars, no popsicle feet (actually, those are mine...) and no elbows to the head in the middle of my Liam Neeson dream.  Short of the separate beds scenario, another option hails from Europe.  It's the two duvets/one bed alternative.

Apparently, two twin-sized duvets are folded in half lengthwise and laid side by side on a queen bed. A coverlet can be laid over top to give it a unified look.  While I can see the sleeping advantages, the aesthetics are a little troubling.  It conjures up images of bumpy bedding that sags in the middle.  Would a big crease down the center of the bed not beg the question, "Why not just have two twin beds?" 

And we're back to square one.  I have to say there appears to be an undeserved stigma on the twin beds option.  Are relationships assumed to fail because people sleep in separate beds or do people sleep in separate beds because their relationships failed?   I will leave that eternal question to the sages.  

I was once treated to a house tour where, upon reaching the master bedroom, I saw two queen sized beds pushed together.  The new owners noted the quizzical looks and explained that the unconventional arrangement was entitled "The Marriage Saver 2000."   Amen.


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How important is food to dining?

Posted on June 20, 2015

Sound crazy?  I recently read an article promoting healthy eating via pre-planning. The premise was that if a healthy food was conveniently placed and appealing, it would become a habit.  It went on to encourage readers to move the focus at meals away from the food.  As odd as this sounds, the gist is that the taste of the food is only one part of the meal enjoyment.  The rest is atmosphere.

Instead of viewing a full plate as a silent signal to begin demolition, there's a degree of ritual to eating.  First, set a nice table, even if it's just for yourself.  A nice placemat, a dinner plate on a charger, properly set cutlery and a water goblet.  Yes, goblet.   Have a centerpiece in front of your place setting, light a candle, sit down and actually relax.  Hold yourself to the rule that the fork doesn't touch the food until what's already in your mouth is swallowed. Sound obvious? You'd be amazed how hard it is. We are fully accustomed to allowing our loaded fork to hover outside our mouths, reducing wait times. Even harder, put down your fork during the meal and engage in conversation, free from the dangers of  chew-and-show. 

The goal is to slow people down which is a big ask in a fast-paced world.  Appreciating the atmosphere of dining is upscale:  a little more evolved.  After all, we don't have to gobble up our dinner for fear that a larger predator will steal it from us.  That precaution only applies during dessert. 




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The Couple's Dilemma: what size of bed?

Posted on June 06, 2015

photo courtesy of The Linen Works


I love beds.  Aside from their restorative powers, they are a beauty to behold. They are also a conundrum for couples.  As unique as snowflakes, individual sleeping preferences include mattress firmness, sheets tucked in or free-flowing, windows open or closed, duvets or blankets, one pillow or two, and on and on. It's no easy feat to satisfy two independent minds with one choice.  

In my parents' generation, two single beds were common place. Even as a child, I thought it strange that I had as much sleeping space as they did.  Over time, there was a move toward the queen-sized bed and eventually the king.  Despite the roomy proportions, I remain dissatisfied.  Simply put, I want my own bed.  At 39 x 80", the twin XL mattress actually gives me marginally more personal space than my half of our 76 x 80 king bed.   It would allow me to customize my own mattress and bedding but despite this knowledge, it's an unappealing option. Putting aside the dogma that a happy couple must sleep in the same bed, somewhere in my brain full of rules, a twin bed is a kid's bed.

Perhaps more important is that I already have something else in mind.  At a Marriott hotel in London, we were once upgraded into the "Ambassador Suite" which featured a phenomenal master bed with stunning chandelier, huge armoires and a round table that seated twelve.  (Ambassadors apparently can't afford conference rooms.)   But in the adjoining room, there were two double beds.  I realize this isn't groundbreaking in a hotel, but they were "small doubles" which, size-wise, put them somewhere in-between a twin and a double bed.   Side by side, beautifully done up in luxurious linens, I was bewitched.  They looked as if they were designed for a pampered king and queen who couldn't bear to have their own rooms.

For the life of me, I don't know why it hasn't caught on here in North America.  The small double is luxurious, customized and if a room is large enough to accommodate a pair, a couple's perfect solution.   Whether or not it becomes the next big thing, I'm definitely heading that way.  Right after we build an addition on our master to fit them...



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Why More is Not Better

Posted on May 27, 2015

North Americans are often criticized for their rampant consumerism, though I hardly think the tendency is exclusive to this side of the Atlantic.  

The "more is more" perspective is an ironic one.  Very few people have unlimited budgets and thus, the more we buy, the lower price point each item must have.  Bargains often result in the scenario where people tour their walk-in closets and find nothing to wear because most of it in uninspired. 

What's the point of saving the good dishes for fear that one will be dropped or chipped?  Replacing an occasional plate is less expensive than purchasing a whole set of cheap ones.  The great thing about having fewer possessions and using them wholeheartedly until they wear out, is that for the die-hard shopper, you get to replace them.  If you're shopping for clothes, wear your favorite outfit to the store and don't buy anything unless if looks at least as good as what you already have.  

Buy a few great looking basics, whether that's clothing, kitchen linens or accessories, use them for their lifespan and then start over.  The less is more philosophy is not a moratorium on shopping, just on indiscriminate buying.  It avoids closets or drawers full of items that you bought ten years ago and it's great for the environment. 

Inspired to downsize?  There's a great article on purging your closets you might like to check out on "House for Five."  Good common sense!




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