The Unusual Selfie

 

The best advice I’ve received is

”No one else knows

what they’re doing either.”

Ricky Gervais

 

All our friends, family and Facebook’s facial recognition software already know what we look like so how about we give them something more interesting to see than just another selfie?

Here’s how I made these Unusual Selfies without needing a selfie stick:

Get a Folio Case for your smartphone. Coach.com has a fun selection in leather to hold your cash/cards as well as protect your phone’s glass surface. More importantly, it serves as a stand to angle and prop up your phone so you can use its timer (and AF lock) to compose the shot before you jump into the frame.

Google knows everything.  In researching my travel itinerary, I stumbled upon another mom’s blog which mentioned that Dubrovnik is a film site of HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones (GoT). My sons are great fans of this show so I thought it would be funny to impress them and sign myself up for a GoT themed city tour there.

Prep the prop. As inspiration for this GoT tour, I decided go as one of the show’s main characters, Daenerys, aka “The Mother of Dragons” who wears the best costumes among its lead cast.  I packed a fantastic 3D print replica of her Mother of Dragons necklace as well as three custom painted dragon eggs from Etsy.com.

Dubrovnik is King’s Landing in GoT, the capital of the story’s 7 Kingdoms. It has imposing medieval fort walls flooded with tourists. You’ll have a better chance of enjoying the place all to yourself if you visit in winter. Finding a quiet spot can be impossible so keep an eye out for locations  with relatively few passersby.  Be patient and wait for a lull in the crowd to get a clear background.  From the pier, for example, I walked along the base of the fort until I found an outcropping of rocks facing the sea that also happened to have an angle of the castle known as the Red Keep in the show.  I took time positioning the dragon eggs and iPhone until I got the shots I wanted to tell my story—an especially poignant one for a mother of three (dragons) who have all flown the nest. Rain clouds were perfect for the mood and a scarf billowing in the wind added the effect of dragon wings.

If someone offers to take your picture, all the better!  At the Iron Throne (GoT souvenir shop at Boshkoviceva 7 in the old town), my GoT tour guide impressed me with the filters on his Samsung even as he envied how my iPhone takes creamier pictures in daylight.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your best selfie trick without a stick.

Xoxox

 

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

Greece To Me

 

It’s nice to know that there are Greek gods out there,

because you have somebody to blame

when things go wrong.

Rick Riordan

 

To begin celebrating empty nest, let me take you along on a European adventure that I will feature over the next few months with glimpses of Croatia and Italy. First stop, Athens!

After seeing some ruins one moonlit night 1867, Mark Twain concluded “We have seen all there is to see,” and set sail for the islands. I have met a few travelers who share this attitude thus I have not hurried to visit. If there is truth to Athens’s reputation as ugly, dirty, even dangerous, that you should get in and get out as quickly as you can, then we can, at least, spend a day there. If you need to check off the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Agora, etc. off your list, arrive early in the day so you might spare yourself a long queue before the heat gets miserable. I feel sort of “been there, done that” after a well-traveled tour guide in Sicily assured me that the Greek ruins in Sicily are far better preserved than those in Greece so my brief stop in Athens will be about mingling among people, not stones.

Stay at the Hotel Grand Britagne (photo at top of page) if you’re a fancy old world Europhile. I like that its location straddles the Kolonaki and Plaka districts so you can walk either way. They have the best views from their rooftop restaurant and bar. The rooftop of the Electra Metropolis Hotel gives you an even better close up view of the Acropolis.

For the quiet romantics who prefer a boutique hotel experience, check out the quaint Palladian Home in the Plaka.

Check out the upscale Greek version of Eataly at Yoleni’s in the higher-end Kolonaki district where you will find a bit more foliage amidst the hilly streets of shops and restaurants. The Travel Porter blog lists where to dine and shop in this neighborhood.

In the shadow of the Acropolis, the Plaka is like a village within the city for those who don’t have time to island hop. It’s arguably the nicest commercial neighborhood in Athens without car traffic.  Even regular tourist shops have amazing postcards to make your friends wish they had traveled with you. I’m happy to breach my “no jewelry shopping as a tourist” rule to find a truly golden souvenir from Byzantino Jewelry store (120 Adrianou Street), an artist-owned shop that makes quality modern jewelry, as well as copies of ancient museum pieces. 

To keep kids of all ages occupied while you browse, send them to the nearby Children’s Museum, the Music Museum or for art lovers, the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Painting at 7 Monis Asteriou Street. The only museum of its kind in Greece, it houses a private collection of contemporary paintings and drawings as well as temporary exhibitions by Greek and European artists in two fully renovated neoclassical buildings of the 19th century.

Cafes may be pricier on the main roads (Kydatheneon and Adrianou) and around the squares, but they are worth the fun of people watching. Everyone who comes to Greece walks down these two streets, true crossroads of civilization.

Cine Paris is the best outdoor movie theater in Athens with a bar, featuring movies in English with Greek subtitles. The theater is on the roof with a view of the Acropolis so you can get lucky and witness the colors change during its sound and light show. This is also one of the best places to browse and find unique gifts for movie fans because their shop sells the Greek versions of movie posters from the 60’s to today.

For those who need their ouzo, stop by Brettos Liquor store. This was the oldest distillery in Athens. Admire the old barrels and the colored bottles that line the walls all the way up to the ceiling. It has a tiny bar where you can get drinks by the glass.

George Dolkas T-Shirt and Swatch Shop may be your best bet at finding those last Olympic Pins people fanatically collect and trade. He offers the more tasteful shirt collection in the Plaka. If you walk up Kekropis Street next to the T-shirt Shop, you will find the small workshop of Dimitris Koutelieris (14 Kekropis Street) on your left. Dimistris makes furniture and art out of recycled objects and materials. His creations include smaller pieces that you can carry home with you.

Anafiotika is the cluster of small houses built on the slopes of the Acropolis above the Plaka. The name Anafiotika is from its original inhabitants who were stone masons  from the island of Anafi who built Athens in the mid-19th century.   Anafiotika is as close as you can get to imagine wandering around the back streets of a Greek island like Mykonos without leaving the city.

I found the best picture of Anafiotika on this blog post with a cheeky title on Athens Insider: If Athens Were a Dating App, Which Way Would You Swipe?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Athens favorites. (All images on this page from Google.)

 

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable photo shoot for up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up The Vessel

 

Yes, of course, I’m athletic–

I surf

the internet everyday!

Anonymous

 

Though I don’t like walking without a destination that involves shopping or, at least, a snack, I firmly believe that all aerobic exercise should only be done outdoors, breathing fresh air.  Best scenario is when there’s a pretty view and luxury shopping to boot like at the newly opened “stairmaster” of New York City, The Vessel. Conceived by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, The Vessel is made of 154 flights of stairs in a fantastical shape, a welcome thrill for families to share and perfect enticement for anti-exercise heathens like me to be swept away by the adventure of exploring all levels even while wearing heels. When I meet Mr. Heatherwick, I’ll have to ask him if “The Pinecone” or “The Honeycomb” were runners-up in name selection for his creation because it looks to me like it’s waiting for a gigantic queen bee and her drones to arrive.  Humans crawling all over it look like mere ants!

Tickets to The Vessel are free but best reserved ahead (up to two weeks in advance) and since it’s the newest hot ticket in town, don’t be surprised if you find there can be such a thing as having to wait online before you physically wait in line.  Get there before The Vessel opens at 10:00 am if you’re not a fan of crowds and long queues, especially on weekends. Don’t bother hoping for a ride on its elevator–it’s only for the handicapped plus you’ll run out of patience waiting for your turn anyhow.

The Vessel sits in front of the Hudson Yards Mall leaving a sliver of a view of the Hudson River to only two restaurants:  Wild Ink and the second level of Estiatorio Milos.

New York did need an indoor mall for weather that’s wet, too cold or too hot.  But if you’ve heard the dig “The best thing about New Jersey is (it’s proximity to) New York?” Well, let’s just say whoever said that has not seen the elegance of space and light in the hallways of the Garden State Mall (also a Westfield property.) 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite fitness distraction.

xoxox

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a most memorable two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

 

 

 

 

The Classy Holiday Gift Guide

 

If men are God’s gift to women,

then God must really love

gag gifts.

Maya Angelou

 

December snuck up and caught me completely unawares this year! Fortunately, like Santa prancing with reindeers, we can skip traffic completely and let our fingers be the elves doing all the ordering, packing and delivery.  For gifts to impress or easy stocking stuffers, may you find something uncommon for everyone here:

A rich robe for her. Silk keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. This buttery soft robe is made from ethically and sustainably sourced silk and cashmere–easy on the conscience and likely to become your favorite at home while doubling as pajamas when you travel. Khimori silk cashmere, $175 at naadam.co.

Coffee, tea or (water in) me. Sleek, stainless steel, insulated bottles in fun colors that keep beverages warm or cold for at least 12 hours. Now all we need is for Starbucks to offer discounts to those who bring their own stylish recyclable. HAY George Snowden water bottles from $35, store.moma.org.

Sleek folio. Elegant leather pouches to protect your devices in colors that make you smile while impressing clients. Leather iPad case, from $75 at leatherology.com.

Luxe lunch bag.  This chic Insulated vegan leather bag just might be the inspiration we need to be kinder to the planet and pack our own lunch with reusable containers. The Luncher $149 at modernpicnic.com.

Game night with style.  Playing cards for those who appreciate handcrafted quality, $30 at SeasonsPlayingCards.com.

 

For the crafty. Measuring tape too pretty to sit in a dusty toolbox. Geometric wood tape measures, $36 at jaysonhome.com.

 

And, of course, books never fail!

For the Francophile foodie. This fun book on all things related to French food will make an excellent conversation starter on your coffee table. Let’s Eat France: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus (everything) you want to know about the food of France, $50 at workman.com.

Inspire wanderlust with wonder. This book transports you to the world’s most unusual and obscure places you may not find in popular guide books. I’d recommend this for the young gentlemen on your list: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, $35 hardcover at amazon.com. For an illustrated version for budding adventurers (age 8-12) The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, $20 at workman.com.

For the fiction reader who loves travel.  I’ll let the title tell you what this book is about. Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West. $16 hardcover at amazon.com. And an airplane ticket hidden amongst the book’s pages might be the surprise they’ll remember for a lifetime!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your uncommon and bright gift idea this year.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Why I’d Rather Not Halloween

 

Never put your faith in a Prince.

When you require a miracle,

trust a witch.

Catherynne M. Valente, In The Night Garden

 

 

There are more than a couple of reasons why I don’t like Halloween. For one, black is not a color in my rainbow and, more importantly, I don’t believe in encouraging ugly people to dress up looking worse. I love Halloween for one thing only: I adore pretty costumes and faith in the goodness of all mankind–an occasion to forget “stranger danger” paranoia, gamely opening our front door, offering treats to whoever rings the bell even when they look scary or wear masks.

Rita Rudner, a favorite standup comic, sums up this dilemma best:

Halloween was confusing. All my life my parents told me, ‘Never take candy from strangers.’ And then they dressed me up and said, ‘Go beg for it.’ I didn’t know what to do! I’d knock on people’s doors and go, ‘Trick or treat’ and when they offered me candy, I said, ‘No, thank you.’

And while you’re at it, please keep all skeletons where they belong: buried deep underground,  in biology labs for educational purposes only, or tucked away in the back of your proverbial closet. Trick or treat!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite costume.

xoxox

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people!

 

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Paris for Teens and Tweens

 

Airplane travel is nature’s way

of making you look

like your passport photo.
Al Gore

Though teens might consider getting their own car as the best gift of all, plane tickets with a plan for adventure that gets another stamp on their passport could be better for creating family legends from shared memories. I want my young adult wanna-bes to seek the stories that are different as well as familiar in people of other cultures and feel at ease in unfamiliar lands. How else will they truly know that the world has so much more to offer beyond their daily routines and virtual tech obsessions?

Paris being a favorite gateway to Europe, a lucky teen is going to see the best of the best with mom as tour director–thanks to my curated list of fun possibilities culled from previous visits and research. Keep this page handy for your family because it is only a matter of time when the travel winds will blow you through the City of Lights. I’ll be severely testing how far I can keep up my style using the “How to Pack Light tips for our extended trip!

Begin with a city bike tour with Paris Charms and Secretsorienting you through the essential and hidden corners of the city. Your guide will fill you in with interesting facts and tales that will keep you enchanted through 4 hours of pedaling or not–thanks to their electric bikes. Choose their afternoon tour because your guide will likely time your stop at the Eiffel to coincide with its 6:00 pm twinkle time.

A popular eerie attraction, the Catacombs are the city’s old mineshaft-turned-mass grave. The tunnels are lined with the bones of millions of citizens who were laid to rest here by King Louis XVI before getting his own head chopped off.

For movie and theater buffs, the Studio Harcourt gives you the starlet experience with a cinematic black-and-white portrait shoot to commemorate your Parisian adventure. Everyone from Brigitte Bardot to Marilyn Monroe has had their photo taken here.

If waiting in line for the towers of Notre Dame is not your idea of fun, tire your teens out with the impressive climb up some 300 stairs to the top of the Sacré Coeur. Six o’clock in the evening is Vespers when you might get lucky hearing the mystical voices of the Bénédictines Sisters at the church reeling you back in time to how life must have been like there in the 18th century as you view sunset over the city. Sigh!

For a swim in the city with local Parisians, Piscine Molitor is the prettiest old school swimming pool in Paris which was recently renovated. You can surprise your teen with a treatment at The Spa by Clarins or go for drinks and a salad on the rooftop. This is a members-only kind of place except if you get an Escale Molitor package at the spa (one-hour treatment +access to the pool, hammam, sauna, and gym). Book well in advance.

Curious to cook? I’m not, but as a mother, I’m a firm believer in the proper training of future husbands especially when you are in a country known for le gourmet. La Cuisine has a variety of cooking classes from macarons and baguettes to apertifs and entrees.

For treasure hunts to engage even those who are not art enthusiasts, see what fun and games THATMuse can plan for your museum of interest.

Then, of course, Versailles… A stay at the Trianon Palace, a Hilton Waldorf Astoria luxury property, is the closest thing to feeling like Marie Antoinette. If you can’t stay the night, you can book treatments at the Guerlain Spa and enjoy its beautiful pool, go for a walk in the royal garden, then have a spectacular Michelin Star lunch at the veranda of Gordon Ramsay au Trianon. Wear comfy shoes please.

If not Versailles, then at least the Opera Garnier in the heart of Paris for its version of the Hall of Mirrors and so much genius behind the architect’s choice of design and construction elements. Join a guided tour run by the opera house or an independent walking tour that covers its surrounding neighborhood.

As tourists, early birds get the worm and wait less in queues at popular attractions.  If you’re not into worms, wait for later in the day to go when the masses have been let in.

A note on museum tickets: All Kids under 18 enter free (or EU citizens under 26 with proof of age). For adults, get your entry tickets from the   Louvre website because they are they cheaper and allow you into a much faster security line than tickets bought elsewhere like getting a “Paris Museum Pass” from the Paris Tourist board which covers most monuments & museums (eg, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc) or through your hotel.  Note that tickets sold as ‘skip the line’ passes could have you standing in longer queues than the Louvre’s own e-ticket line.

With or without teens, eating will never go out of style where there’s a lot of walking and sightseeing involved. At the Trocadero, Monsieur Bleu’s terrace has one of the best views of the Eiffel tower with very good food. Note that on Saturdays and Sundays, Monsieur Bleu offers free babysitting services on the French floor (there’s also an American floor) with a disco for kids on Saturdays and other fun activities on Sundays. Dress well because shorts on a hot summer’s day may get you turned away despite having reservations.

A cross between Parisian and Japanese, Le Kong is a futuristic Japanese restaurant  with curved floor to ceiling windows decorated by Philippe Starck at the top of the Kenzo building. Perfect spot at sunset to be surrounded by Louis XV armchairs, plasma screens, a fluorescent staircase and a carpet of pebbles.

L’Oiseau Blanc (the White Bird) at the Peninsula Hotel is named for a French plane that crashed over the Atlantic in 1927 during a transatlantic flight attempt. The restaurant’s décor pays homage to the pilots, complete with a small-scale replica of the biplane that looks like it’s flying off the terrace. Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll appreciate the sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower.

Every weekend between 4:00 and 6:00 pm at La Bauhinia bar of the Shangri-la Hotel, Pastry Chef Michaël Bartocetti celebrates a veritable French ritual and a moment dear to little ones and grown-ups alike: the Goûter!  A superb buffet of traditional French pastries to satisfy every sweet tooth. Reservations at +33 (0)1 53 67 19 91 or by email: labauhinia.slpr@shangri-la.com.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your Parisian favorites for the family to enjoy. Enjoy your summer adventures and try not to miss me too much. Bon voyage and a bientot!

Photos on this page courtesy of Google Images.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

How to Travel Light

 

When preparing to travel, lay out

all your clothes and all your money.

Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Susan Heller

Can you believe Summer is just around the corner? Whether you’ll be traveling with First or “cattle” class, nothing beats the pleasure of skipping airport luggage check-in and the mindless wait at baggage claim carousels. Assuming your hair and makeup tools don’t require an entire suitcase, here’s how you can prioritize and pack lightly with ingenuity:

Choose the right bags. Carry-on rolling cases with four wheels like Louis Vuitton’s Horizon are the best gift from the travel gods.  When choosing yours, consider the smaller measurements required for domestic flights so you can easily hop onto connecting flights after the international leg of your jaunt. For your large tote, choose wide straps, with a cross body strap when possible, so you can be kind to your shoulders and back. A backpack would be the kindest of all, but I’d rather suffer for the sake of style.

Multi-task everything. A stylish belt bag (at the top of the photo above) doubles as your wallet and evening purse while holding valuables under your shirt when sightseeing during the day. A fabric/synthetic foldable shoulder bag can hold your shopping treasures, water bottle, extra layers of clothing, and serve as a decoy for pickpockets.

Hallelujah for the iPhone that saves us the extra weight of a computer, books (thanks to the Kindle app), phone, camera, alarm clock, flashlight, GPS, diary, ad infinitum.

Bring an extra large shawl for use as a head/neck rest on the plane, blanket, beach wrap, scarf, towel, or picnic blanket.

Choose an accessory that makes a fun accent piece like a necklace that can double duty as a belt or as bracelet when wound several times around your wrist.

Consider clothing color and weight.  Start with a basic neutral palette of gray, black, blue, or beige for pants, leggings, jacket and sweater then add fun splashes of print or color with your tops and accessories. White needs extra care to keep clean when you’re on the road so it’s not my go-to.

Clever dual-purpose travel garments like pants that can be turned into shorts by zipping off the legs are not my style but are worth mentioning here. Jackets with many pockets can serve as a sly piece of “luggage” when you’re traveling with a super strict airline that actually weighs your carry-on luggage.

If traveling through wide swings of climate, the secret key is layering. One warm jacket and one medium weight sweater will serve you well with a change of layered shirts closest to your skin. For variety on photos for Instagram and Facebook posts,  accessorize with different color scarves.

Unless you’ll be sending out your laundry for cleaning, choose material that’s easy to wash and hang dry. For this, I am a huge fan of silk–it is chic, lightweight and can be easily layered, plus it keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool. Style wise, a mid-length dress can be worn short with a hip belt and leggings.

To roll or not to roll? I roll leggings and pants (above) and use them to flatten out the bottom of my case with other odd shaped items. On top of all these, I lay my selection of tops, a skirt and a dress minimally folded as shown with the ivory shirt below. Pull the shirt arms straight over and across the chest then fold the torso horizontally once (or twice for longer shirts and dresses.) Voila–fewer wrinkles when you unpack!

My silk robe doubles as pajamas.  Pack extra shoes in bags at the bottom of your carry-on and wear the heavier rubber sole shoes/sneakers/boots in flight. Open toe sandals can serve as slippers while lounging in your hotel room and also give your feet a breather on alternate days of much walking. Roll up socks and stuff them inside the pair of flats or stilettos you pack to save room while keeping your shoes in good shape.

Wear as much as you can. On the flight, wear your heaviest boots/sneakers, jacket, sweater with a couple layers of shirts.  You can easily take them off on board then layer them back on as necessary. What about undies, you ask?  Let’s just say this is the matter where I stand on the complete opposite end of wearing as much as you can. 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite secrets for traveling light.

xoxox

 

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

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