How to Create the Perfect Tablescape For Your Next Dinner Party

Throwing a dinner party is an art form all on its own. It’s an act of creation that can fill the hearts of your guests with warmth and memories for years to come. This kind of hosting takes finesse, taste and generosity.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

In fact, if you’re at ease and comfortable during the party, your guests will also be relaxed. A few simple touches create a beautiful space that you and your guests can enjoy together. This kind of artistry promotes conversation and makes your delectable meal taste even better. 

The Lighting

The time and the season should greatly influence your dinner plans. If you’re throwing your get-together during the summer, there should be an abundance of natural lighting you can use to your advantage. If you’re inside, keep the curtains open and let the light pour in to reflect off the elements on the table. Consider using shimmering glassware or perhaps deeper, colored glass like cobalt blue or lemon yellow.

Have candles nearby that you can light when the sunlight fades to create an atmosphere of intimacy.

If your party is during colder months, adjust your lighting to suit the mood your striving for. You can use lower lighting from electrical sources and light candles, or keep the chandelier cheerfully blazing. 

For Starters: Food That Decorates

When your guests begin to gather, consider having a platter with fruit and cheese available while they wait for the rest of the guests or for dinner to be served. 

Nothing creates a more lovely tablescape than dusky grapes spilling over themselves, surrounded by pears, apples and berries. Leave the cheese in wedges with small knives so guests can cut their own portions. Small plates your guests can hold while mingling with each other is a necessity!

Even if it’s nothing more than water, make sure to have drinks available for thirsty guests. 

Linens

For Boho chic and charm, mix and match our hand block print linen tablecloths and napkins. You can achieve a softer, more subdued table with colors like pewter or sparrow, or use one of our more neutral tablecloths to mix with any of our napkins in more vivid colors.

A festive, vibrant look is easily achieved with a “Here Comes the Sun” tablecloth in cardinal red or tanager yellow. Match with napkins in a complementary color

Decorative Touches

Heaps of blossoms or an interesting arrangement of greenery is a lovely focal point. Think less centerpiece and more of a natural touch to bring out the beauty of your table. If you’re using the fruit platter as the decor idea, you can leave that front and center with a few blossoms tucked here and there for contrast. 

However, if the appetizer proved popular and was decimated by your hungry guests, remove the platter.

A runner of flowers or greenery that curves down the center of the table is a lovely style. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve this look. You can also use accents from the seasons like pine, mini pumpkins, or small eucalyptus branches interwoven with simple white blooms. 

The benefit of a runner is you can easily place food around the decoration, or arrange the runners around serving dishes, and no one’s view is blocked from anyone they want to talk to—which is a common problem with tall centerpieces.

The Art of the Dinner Party

As life gets busier and we tend to be more isolated from each other, throwing a dinner party is an act of love. In addition to your beautiful tablescape, have some soft music playing that doesn’t interfere with the conversation but does promote a mood of friendship and serenity. 

Consider choosing a menu that can be made in advance as much as possible. This way you can mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome and relaxed. 

Be sure to find out any food allergies your guests may have or any expectations. They may think you know they’re vegan. They may be wrong.

Nothing spoils a dinner faster than not being able to serve one or more guests, so be prepared. If people can’t eat, the tablescape won’t make up the difference, no matter how elegant or charming. 

Best wishes for a fabulous party!

Seeing the Goodness

 

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Shutterstock is offering free backgrounds for your virtual calls!

How are you doing?  I can imagine your days are filled with highs and lows, anxiety, coupled with feelings of joy, love, fear and worry, perhaps with moments of boredom in the mix, as you adapt to a new and different normal.

Uncertainty is stressful.  The world is facing an economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic is the deadliest threat to ordinary life that we have experienced in modern history.  BUT we are experiencing this adversity collectively. We cannot let fear consume us.  We will get through this.  We will beat the virus.  The economy will bounce back.  We need to shift our fear into hope, faith and courage.

Be present.  Dig Deep.  Make choices with love, practice kindness, to yourself and others.  Be grateful.  We owe so much to the healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, truck drivers, grocery store clerks and everyone on the front lines who are working on our behalf.

This global pandemic is shifting us, shifting our daily lives, shifting our priorities and shifting the way we work, live and interact.  This is an unprecedented time for us globally.  Focus on your health, both physical and mental.  If you are experiencing anxiety, address it.  Self-care is essential during this time. Everything is upside down with most of the world forced to stay home.

These are dark days indeed, but I am seeing the goodness that is rising up around us.  We may be forced to be apart but we are coming together as one in so many new ways.

When the school systems closed down, their first concern was to make sure the children that relied on school lunches for food did not go hungry. (If you are able, consider making a gift to #nokidhungry.)  Only after local school systems figured out how to bag breakfasts and lunches and disseminate them safely did they focus on the learning.  Once they did, they offered chrome books for loan to the families that did not have computers at home, and internet providers were offering free wifi.

I worked for a decade trying to make change in the education system with the ArtScience Prize and it’s difficult.  We did a lot of good but shifting schools and systems to make big changes is very, very hard.  Yet in a matter of weeks, across the globe, education systems quickly shifted to remote learning almost overnight.  This will no doubt help us conceive new ways to educate equitably going forward.

Across the US people of all ages are banding together to make face masks for our doctors, nurses, emergency care workers, truck drivers and grocery store workers.  People are gathering together in new ways both virtually and in person.  There are online social cocktail hours.  There are gatherings of neighborhoods from their balconies, windows and driveways in order to interact.

In Arlington, MA the community has launched 6 Feet at 6PM to connect as a community, visually and virtually, each evening at 6pm.  They are asking everyone to come out of their homes or look out their windows to wave to neighbors in an effort to check in with each other at a safe distance to make sure “we are all OK as a community.” #Arlington6At6

In Italy people are coming together for song from their windows and balconies, here is one hauntingly beautiful video.  One of the people who sang wrote “Imagine the whole world singing like this from their houses. No hate, no nothing. Just unified for once. Love this so much,”

Remember during this time filled with anxiety, it’s important to move your body, practice self care and eat healthy.   Yogaworks is offering free virtual yoga classes with teachers from across the US.  This morning I took a virtual class from an instructor in Atlanta and had others participating from India, Norway, Sweden, Texas and more.  86 people turned on their computers and practiced yoga at the same time.  Amazing.  You should try it.  If you are new to yoga, it’s ok there are classes for everyone.

This is also a time to try something new, alone or with your family.  Faer is painting every day and taking online piano lessons.  Ellie has taken up embroidery  and is creating beautiful things.  Alexander is learning new skateboard tricks.

Get creative.  Grab a book and read.  Listen to music.  Pull out your mixer and bake something.  Embrace this time with your immediate family and friends, whoever you are with during this time.  Connections are important.  Conversations are important, especially with our children to help them process this historic time with all of the ambiguity and unknowns.

It’s also important to get out in nature if you can safely do this.  Look at the clouds.  Watch the wind in the trees. Take a deep breath.  Listen to the birds.  Be happy that you are alive.

I’ll close with the same words the yoga instructor said this morning as she ended class:

May you be happy.  May you be healthy.  May you prosper in ways that bring you joy.  May we all be free.  I love you. Namaste.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Reboot, Refresh

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Green juices by Nadia Damaso

 

It’s been a minute since you’ve heard from me, for which I am very sorry; however, I made a conscious decision in late November to unplug over the holidays and spend quality time with the family.  We had a fun family vacation in Vermont, and amazing meals  rich with connections and conversations throughout the holiday season with loved ones from Vermont to Virginia, and many tables and cities in between.

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Photo by Jess Ann Kirby

 

The holidays quickly turned into 2020 and here we are in March already!  During February Krister and I participated in the NY Now Winter Show, our first ever trade show and I am delighted to share that our linens are now sold in boutiques across the US in 15 states.

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August Table at NY Now Winter Show 2020

 

But what’s this reboot, refresh about any way?  During the holidays I spent a lot of time journaling and creating vision books to help me get crystal clear on what I want for myself, for my family, for August Table and how I want to engage with you.

Ultimately, this blog is about passion with the intention of bringing more joy, more love and more laughter to you, my friends. You will find posts about mindfulness, healthy eating, my favorite recipes, food photography, paintings, design, coffee shops and more.  I will also be curating more content from friends and inspiring things that catch my eye, which can be on any topic.

What would you like to see?  Do you want to share a story or a passion? Truly anything goes so please reach out or drop a comment below.

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Maple Broccolini Salad with Cashew Cream by Thyme & Emerald

 

So let’s refresh.

Today you cannot go anywhere without hearing about the coronavirus, the flu and germs.  I think this is a great time for everyone to think about what’s on your plate, what are you putting in your bodies, as well as making sure you wash your hands as much as possible.  For most people, 55% of daily calories come from processed foods.  This is not healthy – the more calories that come from processed foods high in salt, preservatives, sugar and saturated fats the worse it is for your body.  Try to substitute processed foods for more fresh fruit and veggies.  Please.  It’s good for you.

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Green Smoothie by My Berry Forest

 

One way to do this is to make smoothies and juices as well as adding in more greens to each meal.  The more nutrition you put in your body the stronger your immune system will be to help you fight off viruses and germs.  I’ve pulled a few favorite recipes and photos to inspire you here.

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Kale and Pink Beet Salad with Turmeric Tahini Recipe by Thyme and Emerald

 

Over the last few months I have been talking about the benefits of drinking celery juice to just about everyone who will listen.  We start our mornings with 16 oz of freshly juiced celery juice on an empty stomach – before coffee, I know…  The results have been transformative! Why not give it a try?  Celery juice helps clean out toxins, viruses and heavy metals from your body.

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The Medical Medium on the Virtues of Celery Juice by Anthony William on Goop

 

In addition to the celery juice I’ve focused on what’s on our plates, trying to ensure we have as many colors as possible on the plate and that our meals are loaded with nutrition.  One of my favorite go to any time meals is eggs with greens – not to be confused with green eggs and ham.  The recipe below of Turkish fried eggs coupled with garlicky greens and avocado is delish.

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Turkish Eggs with chile butter and whipped feta by Half Baked Harvest

 

I hear you – sometimes it feels like a lot of work to pull together a healthy meal.  I know what it feels like after a long day when you want to put your feet up and relax but have hungry faces looking at you.  The more you plan your weekly meals out and shop on the weekends the easier it is.  Also you need to simplify.  And guess what, if you get the rest of the house to help you prep it becomes a fun activity.   I look for things to have on hand that put a delicious meal on the table in less than 30 minutes, like the Saucy Garlic Butter Shrimp with Coconut and Rice Noodles below from Half Baked Harvest.

 

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Saucy garlic butter shrimp w/ coconut milk and rice noodles recipe

 

On the weekends I like to make big pots of soups, chilis and stews and put extra in the freezer to pull out on those extra hectic nights.  I’d love to hear what you have on your table.

Stay healthy and be well.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Autumn Ballad

Undoubtedly Autumn is one of my favorite times of year.  The air is cooler and crisp, the lighting stirs something inside me and then there are the colors… the magical golden hues of the leaves everywhere you turn.  Pulling on more layers before heading out for a walk, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the smell of wood burning in the air as folks start their nightly fires to warm the body and soul, pumpkins, cider, apples – just a few things  I love about Autumn.  During the fall I also find that I tend to look inward and crave mental stimulation with books, poetry and learning.  I thought it would be fun to share a few poems about Autumn here for you too.  Enjoy!

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When I Am Among The Trees

Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”

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Fall, Leaves, Fall

Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

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To Autumn

John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

 Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Getting back into the Groove…

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You may find that after the slow, lazy days of summer it’s hard to get back into the fall groove of schedules, routines, meal planning, earlier bedtimes, homework and more.  With all of the transition, stress can sometimes creep in and you may feel like there is no extra time, especially for a fun, healthy meal around the dinner table.

I have a few tips here to help you move past stress and allow space for you and your loved ones.

First, it really helps to write everything down on your calendar or planner for weekly events, practices, appointments, meals and more. My friend Mia created a gorgeous planner called FLOW planner and I love it. (You should check it out!)  The Flow planner has sections for you to map out your daily events, work, weekly meals as well as special quiet time for you and fun times with the family.

With all the busyness it’s really important that you take care of yourself.  If you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others or be fully present and live the life of your dreams. I often speak of mindfulness – I’m constantly striving to be more mindful in each moment myself.  Remember to pause and respond with intention when you are in a given moment – often our minds react to something in the present which raises our stress levels.  If you pause and take a deep breath and picture something you love, it will raise your vibration and push the stress away.

To help you get back into your routine and ward off stress you should schedule time for yourself each week to unplug, exercise, drink loads of water, meditate and make good choices around snack time.  And of course, connect with loved ones as much as you can.

Sending you love and light during this fall transition.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A love letter to Kyoto

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Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)

Kyoto, a place like no other, holds a special place in my heart with its many Buddhist temples, traditional wooden houses, imperial palaces, gardens and delightful food, but most of all for it’s beauty, history and peaceful quietness that allows space for reflection.

I first wrote about Kyoto on this blog three years ago after a visit where I stayed at a Buddhist temple for a weekend in order take a meditation class, and over the course of the few days found many unexpected surprises, met new friends, walked through a bamboo forest and hiked to the top of a mountain to see the monkeys.

This week I was fortunate to visit Kyoto again with some of my colleagues for a day of fun and exploration before we kicked off our work in Osaka with a corporate partner.

Yet today my heart is heavy that just a few days after our visit Kyoto saw an atrocious act of arson with a fire that caused so much harm and lost so many lives.  I share photos from our visit on Monday with reverence and respect to Kyoto and my heart goes out to the families of those lost.

Monday, July 15th, a day of exploration…

We were staying in Osaka so we got up early and took the train to Kyoto and immediately made our way to the bike rental company.   Once on our bikes, Kris and Kristin navigated us through the city to the bike path along the river so we could make our way north to the Philosopher’s Path.

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As we rode through the streets, crooked and small, and along the path, I felt exuberant and so free.  We were lucky in that it was not too hot; the day was cloudy, which kept us out of the sun, yet it did not rain.   The wind was on my face and rushed through my hair.  As we made our way the scents of the city filled my nostrils: wafts of fragrant flowers, bursts of incense seeping from the shrines and temples, and delicious smells of delicacies flowing out of the myriad of restaurants.

The Philosopher’s Path is a stone path lined with cherry trees that follows a little canal where one of Japan’s famous philosophers was said to have meditated during his daily walk to Kyoto University.

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After walking our bikes along the path, we stopped at Omen for lunch to have some of their famous udon noodles and experience local fare.

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After lunch we mounted our bikes again and made our way back to the banks of the Kamo River.

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We stopped for a minute so that we could walk across the stone path…

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The Kamo River stepping stones include large turtles crossing the river.

Our final destination was across the city again to The Golden Pavilion, dazzling architectural beauty surrounded by water and zen gardens.

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The Golden Pavilion

Before heading back to the train station we made sure to enjoy the refreshing green tea ice cream.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Our Climate Crisis and a Sustainability Journey

Yesterday hundreds of thousands of students from 1,600 cities around the globe walked out of school to protest the climate crisis.

The “School Strike for Climate” movement was started by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who, at 15, started her strike last August in Stockholm outside of the country’s Parliament.   Greta’s passion and singular action has sparked an international climate movement.  Yesterday’s strike was the most recent organized event following on the heels of a strike on March 15th which brought over 1.6 million folks out to demonstrate from 133 countries around the world.  It is expected that yesterday’s turnout surpassed those numbers…

In light of this, I thought today was a good day to share a recent conversation and interview I had with Charlie Szoradi, someone who has committed his entire life to sustainability.  His passion and interest in sustainability was first sparked in 1979 at 13 when he waited in the gas lines to fuel their family car, and he started thinking about alternative transportation. For his science fair project that year, Charlie, with two of his friends, built Omega Boat of the Future and won the Science Fair Popular Prize, which set him on the path that fueled his passion for a career in sustainability.

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Charlie is an architect, inventor, author, entrepreneur and CEO of independence LED Lighting.  He is committed to energy-saving solutions and global cost-effective sustainability.  Charlie’s book “Learn From Looking – how observation Inspires Innovation” was published in 2017 and it covers over 20 years of travel insights and drawings from around the world on 400 pages with 200 sketches.  The book focuses on actionable intelligence for innovation, sustainable design and critical thinking.  The drawings herewith are Charlie’s, taken from the book.  Charlie studied architecture at the University of Virginia where he first became friends with Krister over 30 years ago.   This is the first of several posts that I will share about Charlie and his work that focus on the ecosystem of sustainability.

I share snippets of our conversation below.

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CA: My blog August Ardor is about passion and sharing stories about people’s passions to inspire others.  I often encourage people in my writing to slow down and pursue things they love, to reflect on what’s important, and live in the moment.  I love how in your book “Learn from Looking – how observation Inspires Innovation” you talk about taking an “observational pause” – the change in tempo lets us look closer at certain things that we may otherwise take for granted and this can inspire innovation and learning.

 Is Sustainability your main passion and are your initiatives outgrowths of this – the book, founding the LED lighting company, Future Food films, the online resource Green and Save….?

CS: Yes, sustainability in the purest sense is to think beyond the immediate element that you might be impacting.  If you buy a water bottle from the vending machine you need to think about where the bottle will end up.  Thinking in this way impacts everything –  lighting, air conditioning, algorithms and architecture – how you design your home.  Thinking about the purchases you make is a vote – you vote with your dollars.  If your purchase can be functional for you and have an aesthetic that you like, but also fit into the context of the community, not just you personally, you can make the greatest impact.

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 CA: Can you tell me more about your passion for sustainability, what you do and why?

CS: Voltaire wrote in Candid (1759) that, “we must take care of our garden.” I am passionate about improving the world through micro actions that lead to macro change. You can lead by example in the decisions that you make to cultivate your own “garden,” and others will see those actions and perhaps emulate some aspect of them. I live in a solar house, ride my bike wherever possible, work for a company that focuses on energy-saving lighting, travel the world to continually learn more, and share insights on sustainability from my work and travels with anyone that may care to listen and engage.

 

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CA: How do you define “sustainability”?

CS: For me, sustainability is the concept of stewardship with an understanding of the actions and reactions that are part of an integrated eco-system. I don’t see sustainability as an obligation but as an opportunity to explore lifecycle costs and find lifecycle benefits. Sustainability is a wholistic approach to long-term thinking focused on the most cost-effective means to use resources and clean technology to achieve desirable results for the individual and the collective.

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CA: Who inspires you with their work in sustainability?

CS:  Two architects inspire me. Kinya Maruyama is a Japanese architect, who was one of my Master’s degree professors at the University of Pennsylvania. Kinya hired me to work with him in his Tokyo studio and served as my mentor. William McDonough is an American designer, advisor, author, and thought leader. Both of them have dedicated their careers to sustainability.

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CA: The term “sustainability” is being used more and more in the market place and investment community.  Any thoughts on this?

CS: The market has started to catch the “green” wave, and in many cases, corporations have increased their attention on sustainability initiatives. The positive eco-trend increases demand for cost-effective solutions, which in turn attract investment dollars and opportunities. The key to sustainability success is to look at the bottom line with ROI and clean-tech job growth as bookends to a myriad of performance metrics.

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CA: Please elaborate on what you do to support your work and ideas in your book, Learn From Looking?

CS: I pause to observe and think carefully about the impact of each of my actions. In my daily life, I think of my environmental carbon “footprint” as if it were the footprint of everyone else. This approach extends from what I eat to how I can meaningfully share information with others.

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CA: Please tell us about other trends you are seeing in sustainability – like Microgreens…

CS: Microgreens are a great example of a new generation of eco-friendly smart food. Direct Current (DC) microgrids along with light-emitting diodes and energy-smart houses are other examples of trends that will become increasingly part of the fabric of our clean-technology landscape.

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CA: What do you see as the biggest challenges or barriers to the ‘field of’ sustainability?

CS: One of the sustainability challenges is the perception that “green” is a politically liberal cause that requires subsidies rather than an economic driver that can create jobs. Sustainability and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive.

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CA: What would you tell the next generation about the field of study of sustainability and its integration into actions?

CS: I speak at many schools in addition to conferences and other events, and I tell people young and old that we are individual spokes on a wheel. The wheel rolls on because of our interconnectivity to each other and to the living fauna and flora. The word eco-system has “system” in it, and we should not forget that we are part of a greater system.

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CA: If you would have us leave here today with one core idea and one actionable step for us to take related to it, what would that be?

CS:  Think of each purchase of a product or service, no matter how large or small, as an “eco-smart vote.” A cheeseburger requires over 600 gallons of water to produce, given the water needed to grow the food for the cow. The cap on a single use plastic water bottle may end up adding to the massive plastic waste in our oceans. You can think about the lifecycle impact of what you do and vote with your wallet to embrace environmental stewardship from a salad to a re-usable drinking container. One action to retain: Pause before you purchase.

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Charlie Szoradi is an architect, inventor, and the CEO of Independence LED Lighting. He is passionate about cost-effective sustainability and is a sought after speaker. As an entrepreneur, Charlie has pioneered groundbreaking new energy intelligent products and services. He graduated from the University of Virginia and earned his master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Charlie has authored numerous articles, op-eds and the biography of Leon Battista Alberti for the Encyclopedia of Architecture. He lives with his family in a solar home that he designed outside of Philadelphia.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Transitions

I love the cool, crisp Fall in New England.  The cooler days, the changing leaves, the dark evenings, all make me want to curl up around a fire and have meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones.  This season always makes me pause and think about the year ahead – as it feels like a beginning with the kids back to school, and I start planning out the festive holidays to come.

The fall has so much bounty that inspires me: gorgeous dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, leaves turning their golden hues, apples heavy on the limb – ready for picking, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes.

All of this quietly stirs up anticipation within in me… thinking about what is to come, what I can create and make, bringing friends together.

As the season quietly transitions from Summer to Fall with the days getting shorter and cooler, this site is also quietly transitioning.  August Ardor remains all about passion.  I still welcome guest posts, written by my insanely talented friends, whenever they feel moved to share anything about their passions; however, I want to bring some focus to my efforts, which can be wrapped up around a table.

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I have always loved gathering people together, planning delicious meals, flipping through cookbooks (another deep passion of mine) and setting a fun and inspiring table.  I know my love for this grew out of spending summers with my Grandmother Corinne Earle every summer in the country, down on the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County, Virginia.  She was the ultimate southern hostess and taught me to garden, make jam, set a table, make biscuits, steam crabs, plan a party and more.

Beautiful design, in every form from architecture, to interiors, to painting, to setting a table all inspire me.  I want to focus on these topics – entertaining tips and tricks, recipes, inspirational thoughts, mindfulness, healthy living, and beautiful design.  Krister will share his passions and architecture.

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Today as the blog takes it’s new focus, Krister and I are launching my long-time dream of August Table, an online store with handmade block print linens that we have designed and had made in India, along with curated products that we love –  to help inspire you to be the baker, the cook, the entertainer, the designer and the gardener.  All things that I am deeply passionate about.

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Helping inspire others around the table is a passion project.  If you gather in the kitchen, around the table, on a picnic blanket, you are hopefully with people you love and care about and have healthy delicious food, which can be very simple and fresh – not a huge ordeal.  The main goal is to make connections.  Slow down.  Savor each moment and every bite. Relax and Enjoy.  A common thread I always talk about is slowing down and unplugging.  Perhaps it’s because I too get easily caught up in email, busy life, my wonderful job in corporate innovation, trying to pack in too much all the time.

I long for quiet days filled with beauty and slowness, which can take many forms.  Making time for creation, things that inspire me, including writing this blog, help me find my quiet days of beauty.

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I’ll close with this quote by author and poet Victoria Erickson:

If you inherently long for something, become it first.  If you want gardens, become the gardener.  If you want love, embody love.  If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation.  If you want peace, exude calmness.  If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint.  If you want to be valued, respect your own time.  If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself.

This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Connections…

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Today I have spent the better part of the day reflecting, reflecting on my family, my friends, my unconditional love for my children, my deep love for my husband (my soul mate and best friend), reflecting on nature, relationships, on stillness… on quiet…. and on connections.

As I slowed my mind down, attempting to transcend the clutter of my racing thoughts, I realized how beautiful the friendships I have are, and how we all must disconnect in order to fully connect with others.  Disconnect the cell phones, the emails, the screens and all the other daily inputs consuming our focus and thoughts.

Today I stood outside in the wilderness of Vermont, alone, and listened to the stillness.  At first I only heard quiet…but as my mind adjusted to this slower rhythm I started to hear the cadence and patter of the snow falling off the trees from last night’s dusting, the rustle of leaves in the soft breeze, a far off call of a bird.  I took many deep breaths and filled my lungs with the cold, crisp air and closed my eyes. I felt joy in being alive.

Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  Our busy lives and full schedules make it slip by even faster.  It’s too short to not slow down and find connections.  Connect with nature. Connect with your children. Connect with your family.  Connect as a family.  There is a difference there.

Connect with yourself. Think about what makes you happy.  What fills you with excitement and passion. What do you like?  Spend less time worrying and more time being grateful for those who love you and all of life’s goodness.  Look at what is right in front of you with fresh eyes as if you are seeing them for the first time.

So again…get off the devices.  Slow down and look your children, friends, loved ones in the eye and listen.  Ask them how their day was and really listen.  Nothing is more important and precious in life than loving and being loved.  Without connections life is hollow, lonely and empty.  Don’t waste what you have.  Choose to be happy, to be at peace.  If you look for the good, you’ll find it.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Carrie Allen – Carnivals, Cars and Chili

We are inherently social beings.  Our lives are shaped by our ability to cooperate and coexist with those around us. The power of community is our greatest saving grace in the face of meaninglessness and destruction. I have no words for the horrific events that took place in Las Vegas this week. My heart aches for the victims and their families.  With this post, I want to focus on communities and events that bring us together. For society to renew, individuals must constantly focus on self-renewal.

Self-renewal requires you to cultivate your capacity for renewal by doing new and different things. We can too easily become complacent with our lives and settle into a rigid structure of sameness.

As we mature we progressively narrow the scope and variety of our lives. Of all the interests we might pursue, we settle on a few. Of all the people with whom we might associate, we select a small number. We become caught in a web of fixed relationships. We develop set ways of doing things.

Doing new things shakes us out of our apathy. This is why when you travel you regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience. Use your weekends to explore and engage and try new things…even if you feel like staying home.  Push yourself.  It’s worth it. In the warmer months seek out things like carnivals, antique car shows and, yes, chili cook offs.

This summer my kids pushed me to go to the En Ka Street Fair in Winchester, MA.  I was at first resistant but I am so glad we went. There was something thrilling in being one amongst the crowd, everyone just relaxing and having fun.

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Traveling carnivals are fun to explore and are a good example of temporal experiences set up to bring people together.  The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was the catalyst for traveling carnivals, rides, food (maybe not fried dough back then…), games of chance, thrills and more.

Every May in Sandpoint, ID there is a Lost in 50’s Car Show and Street Party.  This past May was their 32nd annual event, which is impressive in and of itself.  Krister, my love, attended and took these luscious photos. The downtown streets were lined with beautiful vintage cars, musical acts, street dances and more.

People bring their antique cars from far and wide, even Canada, to participate.  You can feel the sense of pride in sharing their restorations, which sparks many conversations.

In June, stretched out across City Beach in Sandpoint, ID with a back drop of blue skies, big mountains and boats on Lake Pend Oreille, cooks from across the region set up their tents and chili with the hope of taking home the top prizes for their recipes and a chance to compete for the World Chili Cookoff in Nevada. (Who knew there was such a thing?) The community comes together for tasty chili while enjoying the camaraderie and competition.

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I have a robust commitment to hope.  Happiness is not something we find.  It’s something we make. We need each other. Friendship and love dissolve misunderstanding, force fresh perspectives, alter judgements and break down barriers.  Explore, try new things, connect with people. Be open to loving and being loved.  Magic is something you make.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Cry, heart, but do not break

To be human is to know pain.  During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst.  Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope.  I know, I’ve been there.  Yet to be human is also to be resilient.  We do heal.  Things get better.  It just takes time.   Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”

Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping.  For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things.  Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin.  The taste of a treat.  The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be.   Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.

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When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time.  In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.

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I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over.  My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal.   I spent many months with the painting.  I realized much later that my colors were skewed.  His vibrancy does not come through.  I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.

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Robbie’s birthday was July 29.  He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day.  His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.

The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him.  I close now by sharing it with you here.

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To Robbie, March 23, 2001

I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,

Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.

Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.

Love, Kathryn Dunnington

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Juan Gamez – Lost in wanderlust

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About four years ago on my way to Japan for the very first time I felt excited to start over from a life that wasn’t what I wanted for myself, to experience the unknown, and to make memories that will last a life time. I found myself sitting on my flight listening to music when the song The Nights, by Avicii, started playing on my iPhone. The words spoke to me instantly…. Avicii said “When I was sixteen my father said you could do anything you want with your life. You just have to be willing to work hard to get it. That’s when I decided that when I die I want to be remember for the life I lived, not the money I made.” It seems kind of crazy but my dad told me that exact same thing when I was a young boy living in Colombia. It felt like the song was made for me. I knew that I had to stay hungry for knowledge and adventure, that’s when I got lost in wanderlust.

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Traveling, exploring new cultures and getting lost in foreign cities is what gets me going.

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There is nothing more exciting than when you are trying to figure out where to go or what to order but the best part is you have no clue how to speak the language nor do you even know the basics… It’s funny and fascinating. So what do you do when you have no way to communicate through speaking? Point at what you want, smile and hope for the best!

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Open yourself up to new cultures, new foods and new people. Getting away for a while will help you learn a lot about yourself.

In one of my journeys around the world I had the chance to meet some school kids in a village in Bali, Indonesia. They wanted to learn about where my friends and I were from.  As we told the kids where we were from we realized it was four different countries! In our group we spoke three different languages and we all came from very different backgrounds, but we were united by one thing – we were consumed by wanderlust.

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You only have one life so find happiness by doing what you love. Do it for yourself and the ones you love. Don’t be afraid of trying something new, experiencing new cultures, and the most important thing is to have fun on your journey. Get consumed by wanderlust.

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Juan M Gamez is a United States Marine. He was born and raised in Columbia, South America and moved to Boston, Massachusetts in the United States when he was 15 years young.  He is fascinated by culture and art.  He loves traveling, photography and seeking adventure at all times.

You can follow his travels on Instagram @jgamez

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