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It is my favorite day of the week – Little Luxuries and today we get to hear from Mariah of Quite Continental – a blogger after my own heart. She has style and inspiration for miles and as always on today, she will be presenting you with her most valued Little Luxuries!

When I hear the term “little luxuries,” I immediately think of darling things that add luxury to my daily life without breaking my precious piggy bank.  Living in Manhattan is expensive, chèrie, everyone knows that, but the nice thing about luxury is that it is truly a state of mind.  Luxury is that delicious feeling that washes over you when you take time to indulge your senses and your spirit.  Luxury is an essential!

1) Fancy it up: When moving through my day-to-day routine, I can’t always take extra time for luxury — having to make a mad dash for the subway to get to work on time, will get in the way of any girl’s leisurely morning stroll.  That said, there are millions of ways to add a bit of indulgence about the edges.  In other words, fancy it up.

At home, I always make a point to drink sparkling water out of a wine glass.  Ma chère, I will admit that this came about because for a very brief time at one point in my life, the only glasses   owned were wine glasses.  How very Holly Golightly of me, non? The way you hold a wine glass is just — different — it feels more special than any old glass.  That feeling of “special” is luxury, hiding in your water glass.

I also want to point out that I did this almost subconsciously, for when a gentleman asked me once why I served myself in this manner, the first thing I blurted out was “…because it feels fancy!” and that was completely true.

If you’d like to start fancying up your water glass, I would recommend the Carson Wine Glass by CB2.  The Carson is sturdy, classic in shape and only $3.95.

2) Sweets for the sweet:  I am a bit of an odd bird when it comes to sweets.  I’ve never been one to go completely crazy for chocolate and I could really care less when Girl Scout cookie time arrives.  But there are still times when I find myself wanting a little sugar in my bowl, just like Nina said.  At those times, the perfect sweet is the ultimate indulgence.

I have strong connections to specific sweets from specific places, and so my perfect sweet hails from my hometown.  Born and raised in California, I grew up with See’s Candies, wonderful fruit for pies and cobblers, and the lovely flavors of Mexican desserts such as flan and the churro.  But what has emerged as the ultimate sweet of sweets for me, ma chère, is the Sprinkles Cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcake-only bakery before there was a craze, was opened in 2005 in Beverly Hills.  At the time, I worked just down the street from the tiny sliver of a bakery with the extra-long line that always snaked out of the door and down the street.  I regularly stood in that blessed line — even when doing Atkins with the best of them.  Since moving to New York, I’ve tried to make do with what’s available here, but found it truly lacking.  Imagine my delight when I found out that New York will be receiving their own Sprinkles this May, on Lexington between 60th and 61st!

Of course, my favorite is the classic Red Velvet.  You can tell it’s also everyone else’s favorite because the Red Velvet is the only flavor to also be offered in gluten free and vegan form.  A cupcake from Sprinkles will only set you back $3.50, but that $3.50 transports you to a land of confectionary delights!

3.  Bossa nova bliss:  There is one kind of music that immediately puts me sumptuous state of mind.  Bossa nova, closely related to samba music, but much more languorous and without the accompanying dance steps of samba, is the kind of music that will make you feel like you have somehow slipped down a rabbit hole and ended up on a secret location.

The best place to start when exploring bossa nova music is with the first family of the genre – the Gilbertos: João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Bebel Gilberto.  Astrud’s voice is quite possibly my most favorite sound in the entire world.  Her voice is breathy, light and sensuous as it floats over João’s music – it sounds almost like a lazy, tropical river.  She is the most famous for “The Girl From Ipanema,” but you must explore her catalog a bit deeper than that, d’accord! The bossa nova sound is all class, sometimes sung in English and sometimes in Portuguese.  I completely prefer the older recordings, but Bebel, Astrud’s stepdaughter and João’s daughter, a contemporary artist whose trademark is electronic bossa nova, is also worth a listen.

For your first album, I recommend Astrud Gilberto’s Finest Hour.  Only $10.76 on Amazon, and that “Hour” can be played whenever you need to be transported to a sun-drenched, sumptuous place.

4.  Spoil your skin:  One thing my mother instilled in me at a very young age was that it was essential to take care of your skin – leaving aside her love of sun-tanning, of course.  (We’ve since smartened up and we all slather on the SPF, don’t you worry your pretty little head!)  A quick way to feel (and look) lackluster is to under-nourish your skin.  Truly, when was the last time you looked at a raisin and thought of opulence?

As I’ve gotten older, my skin has changed, and it has been necessary to change my skin care regimen accordingly.  Recently, I discovered a fabulous face moisturizer at Kiehl’s: Rosa Arctica.  While Rosa Arctica is an anti-aging and anti-wrinkle cream – which I definitely do not require just yet, d’accord! – it simply is one of the best moisturizer I have ever used.  Rich without being heavy and deeply moisturizing, I felt a difference in my skin in less than a week’s use.

I definitely recommend Rosa Arctica if you are in search of skin as soft as the finest velvet.  While priced at $60, this is the most expensive item on this little list.  If you feel the initial investment is a bit too steep for a product you’ve never tried before, remember that Kiehl’s is wonderful about giving free samples.  I’ll bet you $60 that you go back after giving it a go.  Small price to pay for a lovely bit of luxe!

Isn’t she so wonderful? Be sure to check out QC here!

Friends, meet Annie from the wonderful blog, Poetic and Chic. She is creative, well spoken and just plain great. I hope you take a moment to check out her blog as well her other endeavours and of course  her thoughts on what are her “Little Luxuries”.

Poetic and Chic: I used to work in luxury fashion, so my basic instincts always seem to have the most expensive price tags. A set of richly-woven sheets, or the mere whiff of a pair of Italian-made leather shoes sends me into paroxysms of delight! During these leaner times however, I have had to keep a tight reign on my natural desires for the finer things.

But where is it written that luxury has to be expensive? Rare, of course, but it doesn’t need to be pricey. I’ve had a smooth, velvety goat cheese from a farmer’s stall on market day in Chartres, France that was far better than anything they serve at Gary Danko. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch but at least I remember eating the Chartres cheese more than any fancy meal I’ve had.

Therein lies the point: luxury is simplicity – of design, craftsmanship, quality – as long as it’s always the finest, then there’s really no hoo-hah to worry about.

The same philosophy goes for little luxuries too. As long as something is well-made and makes you feel good, it doesn’t need to break the bank. It is the little luxuries that make us appreciate the finer, more expensive ones too. The grace and beauty of a humble thing that we enjoy privately will always make us smile, regardless if we’re wearing red-soled shoes for everyone else. It is the little luxuries we can enjoy every day too, not just on special occasions when we dress up, want to impress, or want to celebrate. Why not celebrate life all the time by taking the time to enjoy the small, but good?

So, here are a few of my little luxuries…

Great coffee. When you live in San Francisco (and have even the slightest bit of gourmand in your blood), there’s absolutely no excuse to drink mega-brand coffee. Four Barrel, Ritual, and Blue Bottle, and even Peet’s offer amazing roasts at very affordable prices. I take mine black, from a classic stove-top Bialetti coffee maker. (I don’t have an electric coffee maker nor a microwave. I must say, NOT having a lot of electric junk on the countertop is a luxury in itself!) Just one cup of this, and it’s a little morning trip to a happy wake-up place.

Hot baths. Is there anything better than a hot bath? I’ve heard stories of people who don’t have bathtubs where they live; for me this fate is more tragic than being without a dishwasher. While a hot shower has its merits, there’s nothing like a hot bath after a long day of drudgery. It always makes you feel relaxed, content, and it even makes you sleep better. I usually like a little Molton Brown bubble bath, but the $30-plus price tag makes me pause. Luckily, Target now sells the amazing brand Boots from the UK. Their classic bubble bath is fragrant, foamy, and costs under $12 for a vintage-looking glass bottle-full. Cannot complain.

{Bath Foam}

Scented candles. Yes, these can be expensive, I’m not going to lie. Believe me, when I get going in the Dyptique shop it’s hard for me to stop! I want one of every single fragrance to try, but the one I ALWAYS come back to is the sweet & subtle Figuier. So lovely! For a spicier scent, I’ve always loved Williams-Sonoma Home’s Safari or Jonathan Adler’s Big Sur. The DL & Co, are nice too, but I received a Ciré Trudon “Ernesto” candle for Christmas this year and it is pure heaven! Leathery, smoky…I think it’s meant to evoke the smell of Cuban cigars, but to me it smells like a 6’2” Chilean polo player. I’m not going to name names.

{Diptyque}

Many thanks Annie, xoxoxo

Friends, guess what?! I have rounded up some blogger friends to participate in a blogger series called “Little Luxuries” and I am so excited to see their answers. In this feature, we will be discussing the splurges in life whether it be tasty treats, expensive shoes, lavish vacations, movie night,…get the idea? I thought it would be fun to start the series with what I consider my little luxuries…so now onto the good stuff!

{Number 1} and most favorite purchase usually is a Swatch watch. They are so cute + unique. Just perfect for me and any outfit.

{Number two} on list is my surroundings. My home is my sanctuary and I must surround myself with inspiration and a comfortable environment.

{Number 3} Ahhh, my latest luxury purchase which is not yet purchased but I am saving up for a Mac Book Air!! So excited to have a new gadget.

{Number 4} Zuni Cafe!!! Have you been? It is in my top 5 favorite restaurants in SF. They have the best burger, caesar salad, fries and Bloody Mary!

{Number 5} My major weakness aside from ice cream is shopping. I can’t help myself from buying new clothes sometimes..it is a bad habit that I am trying to work on..But now I shop with a new attitude – “If she can’t afford it, she won’t buy it. If it doesn’t fit (or make her feel good, or flaunt what she’s got), she won’t wear it. If she can’t find it, she won’t compromise. If she loves it, she won’t toss it. She reuses it, rethinks it, lets it age.

O.M.G. I have fallen in love with this house. It is so incredibly detailed and eclectic. The birds hanging on the wall? And the incredibly dark wood? Acid green carpet (which I love and am dying to have in my home) are extremely interesting parts of the home alone but together make something really amazing. The home is so great to look at – I find that I am noticing a new and unique detail every time I look at these photos.

For further information check out the designer’s website, Kate Hume.

Friends, meet Antler&Co. They have been climbing through thick and thin to bring you the coolest housewares made of all natural materials. All Antler&Co products come members of the deer family as they shed their antlers every year. Anlter&Co then collect these ‘sheds’ from various sources throughout the great United States. These products are very cool. I love the natural look and that each item is unique – no two alike. I can see my books stacked atop the Dewey Decimal shelf!

I couldn’t help but share this little feline with you…The Ashera cat was born by breeding an African Serval, an Asian Leopard and a domestic cat. Wow, she is so cute but yet so very scary but I think I wouldn’t mind having one.

The hitch – she will cost you more than $20,000!!

While cruising the internet last night I came across french interior designer, Teo Jasmin! Teo Jasmin got their start specializing in digital printings on wall canvas but later on expanded their range of products with cushions and classic furniture, still using the same digital process on them.

Luckily for us Teo Jasmin utilizes their expertise in printing to bring all of us beautiful home decor which are launched twice a year. The 2010 collection features pop culture images like Coca Cola and famous Doggy ridder.

I came across this adorable hunting cabin turned Victorian Oasis in the Catskills and just had to share it with you all. Owner/designer, Sandra Foster, flipped this 9-by-14-foot cottage herself. The cost of renovating was just $3,000. Foster scoured salvage shops to create her dream house.

{I love the chandelier in the sleeping loft}

After last week’s post about the itty bitty home in Brooklyn, I sought out to find something similar for the California lifestyle and I did in Dwell Magazine. It is very small and very California and has landed in North Berkeley.

“First came the idea. Then came the late nights of Craigslist searching. And then it happened quickly: a trip to a derelict horse ranch in the Salinas Valley, an exchange of cash in an old barn, and a harrowing towing adventure up Highway 101 netted me my current abode—a 1959 Airstream travel trailer.”

There is only a 150 sq feet to create this bite sized home.

Which did you all like better – east or west ?

Berkeley McDreamy anyone?

I found this home while flipping through books at the MOMA in New York.

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