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

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201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

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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!

 

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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

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:

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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

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

Touring Indochina

 

Adventure, yeah.

I guess that’s what you call it

when everybody comes back alive. 

Mercedes Lackey

 

Early at Angkor W(h)at?!

 

This week’s weather has officially done away with winter and please let’s not start complaining about the heat because this is nothing close to how summer gets in Asia. April and May are the warmest months in that region of simply ‘dry or wet’ seasons and ‘hot-hotter-hottest.’ So if you’re keen on heading that way this year, wait after the cooling monsoon rains blow off some of the heat.  And if you must travel solo, tours like National Geographic Adventures will make sure you’ll have the best time and never feel like you’re traveling alone.

Here’s a glimpse of the fun I had in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia with an active and erudite group of engineers, doctors and lawyers:

 

 Hue, Vietnam 

Stopping to hang with locals going about their day as we bike through town and rice paddies.  Whatever calories we expended was well rewarded with great meals including  a very special private lunch at Tha Om, a century old garden house made from local timber that didn’t require the use of a single nail.

 

Indochina Sails, Ha Long Bay

Cruise Ha Long Bay on a traditional-style wooden junk boat. Kayak around karst formations, visit caves and local fishermen’s boathouses. Just to be on the safe side, I waited until our cruise was about to dock before attempting this Titanic themed shot.

So grateful to our petite yet fearless tour leader who was completely unflappable and generous with her loving kindness and Buddhist wisdom.

Waterfalls at Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is a World Heritage site chosen by an ancient king for the protection provided by its surrounding hills, rivers and mountains. It sits at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers.

We spent a day visiting some Buddhist shrines then joined a local family for a Buddhist Baci ceremony followed by dinner in their home.

Another day we hiked up a hill, stopping by the school of a Khmu village to play with the children and with its traditional houses, water buffalo and farm animals, the farmers and master blacksmiths dealing with their daily tasks.  We wound up at Ban Thapene, a village with a butterfly park founded by this courageous Dutch couple who seek to educate children on the importance of small bugs and insects in the world’s ecological balance.

 

I made an exception to my religion of waking up as late as possible and rose before the sun to catch the enchanting sight of hundreds of saffron-robed monks walking silently through town to collect offerings.  Even more impressive–since I’d rather not be in the kitchen–are those who have committed years of waking even earlier than these monks to cook hot food to offer them.

Ancient Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Explore one of the most ancient temple sites in the region: the Roluos Group. Bike around the countryside and make a stop at local house to enjoy snacks and meet the locals. My favorite temple is the ancient Ta Prohm Monastery, where humongous tree roots weave their way through the temple walls—hence the “Jungle Temple” nickname and more popularly “Tomb Raider temple” after Angelina Jolie’s movie.

Angkor Wat is  the Times Square of Cambodia and you’ll find yourself in traffic at 4:00 am in the morning as tourists hurry to snag a prime spot for catching the sunrise behind the temple. The vernal equinox on March 22 is THE DAY to see the sun rise exactly at the center point of the highest temple spire. Genius math for such ancient architecture!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what’s on your travel bucket list.

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:

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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

Best Family Ski Trip: Mont Tremblant

 

I do uphill skiing.

Downhill skiing

is for nerd amateurs.

Judah Friedlander

 

Mont Tremblant Village

It will probably take another lifetime for me to attempt skiing, but when that day comes, I know exactly where the experience is fun for the whole family in the Northeast. Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada has 96 trails from Green to Black Diamond where you have the option of watching your ski bunnies from your warm and toasty hotel room.

Save yourself the trouble of parking the car and schlepping everyone’s skis by staying at one of the ski-in ski-out hotels in Tremblant’s quaint pedestrian village. If not, between the bunny hill and gondola is a kiosk known as the Tremblant Ski Valet where you can keep your skis and poles at the base of the mountain.

The best hotels with the ski-in/ski-out advantage are:

Fairmont Mont Tremblant.   Sits overlooking all the action on Place St-Bernard, a hop to the best coffee shop in the village, Au Grain de Cafe, Centre Aventure (where you pick up your lift tickets and rentals), the tour-booking office, the gondola that takes you to the summit, a chair lift, and the bunny hill that’s converted for night tubing most nights from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The hotel has its own, free valet service on the terrace level where your skis were taken in, dried daily and packed up in your ski bag the day you check out.

Sommet Des Neiges. You’ll get very spoiled by the convenience of having your ski lockers right next to the gondola! All rooms are one bedroom suites with your own washer/dryer and kitchenette. Right below the window of your mountain view room is the bunny slope where there’s all day entertainment watching adorable ski “midgets” (3 to 12 year olds) and their ever patient instructors who help prop them up when they lay helpless toppled over. The $13 overnight parking fee must the best deal in the entire town.

Restaurant options within Tremblant’s village:

La Savoie Restaurant has excellent fondues and wine.

The Creperie (La Maison De La Crepe) has sweet and savory selections–delicious for most though not intended to be held up to the French standard.

The Pizzateria has a fun vibe, with a lovely terrace in summer.

Le Forge Bar et Grill for apres-ski pub far has delicious burgers and grilled salmon on a plank.

If you don’t mind a short drive:

La Petit Cachee (considered a must when in Tremblant) looks like a quaint ski lodge with fine dining and a kids’ menu. Try the grilled salmon with foie gras or their famous Normand’s braised ribs.

Seb L’Artisan for the more serious foodie–it even has its own published cookbook.

Le Cheval de Jade another very well-rated restaurant in a homey atmosphere.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your winter holiday favorites.

xoxox

 

Gondola and bunny hill right outside your Sommet Des Neiges window

Spoiled for choice with 96 Trails!

Top of Mont Tremblant

Cafe at the top of the mountain

Northern View from the top of the world

Looking out at the Fairmont Hotel across the slope

 

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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