As the thermostat keeps going lower and lower, and it keeps getting colder outside, it is hard not to dream about a warm sunny beach, and tropical temperatures! But how can you bring the beach to you during this chilly time of year, even if a beach vacation isn't in your budget?
Why not decorate your Christmas tree with seashells and starfish to bring the beach to you?! Wouldn't a Christmas tree look beautiful with seashells, starfish, and glowing white lights?
Just look at this beautiful white, gold, and nautical inspired tree!
Or this one from Wisteria's 2009 Holiday Catalog...
If you have any starfish or seashells lying around from your last trip to the beach, all you need is a drill and some ribbon to make these beautiful beach inspired ornaments...
I just love the contrast of the seashells and starfish against the beautiful evergreen tree. And doesn't it make you feel warmer already just looking at it?These also would look great painted in silver or gold, or drizzled in glitter!And if you don't have any starfish or seashells on hand from your last trip to the beach, you can check out your local Christmas Tree Shop or Jamali Garden...two of my favorite resources for nautical accessories!It may still be snowing on Christmas morning, but with a tree like this you get the best of both worlds...beauty, the beach, and a warm holiday at home with family and friends, no matter how cold it is outside!
Do you remember the movie The Holiday? It's a great concept...two woman, one in LA and one in England, both unlucky in love and in need of a vacation, agree to swap homes for their holiday vacation. And as the plot thickens, both women end up finding love on their house exchange...while also staying free of charge in one another's beautiful homes! Now as seamless as the house exchange process seems in this movie, who hasn't watched this film and thought...well this is a great idea, but how does a home exchange actually work in real life?! Could it really be that easy to travel around the world virtually free of charge? I must admit that I was skeptical when I first heard of the "home exchange" concept...
But recently I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends, LH, who has enjoyed great success using the house exchange program HomeLink.
In fact my friend was so positive about her experience with HomeLink
, that I felt compelled to share her amazing story of traveling around the world with you today! Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation...
LL4L: When did you first join HomeLink, and what was your first experience with the program?
LH: We joined HomeLink in 1999 and made our first exchange that year to Ireland. It was absolutely a dream trip - we made lifelong friends with our exchange partners and spent 3 weeks in a beautiful country with our daughter, who was a toddler at the time. It was so great to stay in a home (with a crib, changing table, toys, VCR), go out to museums, parks, etc. during the day and then come home to make dinner and set our 18 month old up with toys and a Tellytubby video while we drank wine in the garden and planned the next day's adventures! Once or twice the grandmother of the family who we swapped homes with even babysat our daughter so we could go out to dinner in Dublin. It really was terrific in every way and launched us as passionate home exchangers.
LL4L: Wow it sounds like you had an amazing first trip with HomeLink. What are the benefits to exchanging homes through a company, and how does HomeLink assist you with the process?
LH: HomeLink is an organization which provides guidance and a website and a format to post a listing. They also offer advice and contract forms but they do not screen candidates, arrange exchanges, or police the participants. That said, they claim that problems are extremely rare and judging from our 6 exchanges we endorse that claim. Membership costs about $125 a year and allows complete access to the listings.
LL4L: This sounds so easy! But how do you and your house exchange partner get in touch with one another?
LH: Here's how it works...you can browse listings (let's say you want to go to Ft. Lauderdale in March - you can search for those listings specifically) or you can wait to receive offers. Living in New York City, we get offers all the time. In the past week we've had people from Australia, Venice, and Florence approach us for an exchange. If you find a listing you like, you can click "Contact Member" and make your request. No emails are revealed; the request goes through the website. There are also shortcut responses like, "Send a no thank you message," that you can just click if the offer isn't for you.
LL4L: I would love to travel somewhere new and exotic, while also staying in the comfort of a home instead of a hotel, but I am nervous about someone else staying in my home without me there! How do you feel about this?
LH: I feel fine! After all, I'm in their home at the same time. For each exchange I have felt like friends with the exchange partner by the time the swap happens. Imagine that you are inviting a friend to come stay in your home while you are away. You would probably feel proud and excited and eager to show your friend a good time - that's how we always feel. I usually start working on a swap about 4-6 months in advance so that's a lot of time to email and get to know each other.
LL4L: Wow, it sounds like you usually become friends with your house exchange partners, do you ever meet one another during the process?
LH: Many times we do. Perhaps they'll arrive the same afternoon we leave, especially if we are going to Europe. Or we'll meet up at another time. A year after our Amsterdam exchange our partners were in NY and we met for dinner at the Mermaid Inn. We almost always meet relatives or close friends of the exchange partners. We've been picked up at the airport and taken out to dinner and given free babysitting more times than we can count! And people always leave food or wine, usually local specialties.
LL4L: Well it sounds like you feel at home in your new destination right away! How do you prepare your home for your guests?
LH: I put away things that might get broken or misplaced. I also lock our file cabinet with all our documents, etc. I also put together a binder with instructions for the appliances, neighbors and friends to contact, local sights, take out menus, useful numbers. It takes a bit of work to put this all together the first time but then it is very easy to maintain and update.
LL4L: And do you worry about anything happening to your things while you are gone?
LH:No! What are they going to do...fly 3000 miles to steal my TV? If you have really expensive jewelry or other valuable that makes you nervous to leave out, store it with a friend. We've never had a problem. It's typical that a glass may get broken or something is put away in the wrong place and I can't find it for a few days, but that's it.
A Photo from LH's Trip to Hawaii this Summer
LL4L: Well it sounds like there are many perks to this program, but what is your absolute favorite part of traveling this way?LH:
Basically I'm just a huge fan of traveling this way because it eliminates hotel costs (so we can go somewhere for a longer time) and really encourages us to be travelers rather than tourists. There is something about living in a home that makes me feel like I am getting an authentic and meaningful experience of another place. Don't get me wrong - I love a 5 star hotel and will never turn down a long weekend at the Four Seasons Miami. But long term stays at the Ritz are not in the cards for us and we have found this to be such a fun and adventurous alternative.Thank you LH for taking the time to share your home exchange experience with Living Luxe for Less! It not only is a great way to see the world for less, but it sounds like there are many other perks to this form of travel. You truly have opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world, and traveling luxe for less!What is next on your must see list? Now that you now about HomeLink, would you consider doing a home exchange to make your next dream vacation a reality?
Thank you to everyone who commented on my first giveaway that I posted yesterday, sponsored by KB Wales earrings! And if you haven't had a chance to check it out, please see yesterday's post and leave a comment so that you can be eligible to win a pair of these adorable silk knot earrings. The winner will be drawn on Wednesday, September 22.
This week has flown by, but I still have had one of those weeks where I keep hearing snippets of great sales and deals in NYC, and outside of the city. So today I have rounded up a few of this week's sales that I plan on taking advantage of, and I think you should too!
1. Land's End Sale on Selected Fall Styles
Do you remember when I posted this adorable quilted coat last Tuesday? Many of you commented that you loved this coat, and one of my readers was kind enough to point out to me that this coat and other selected fall styles are currently on sale at Land's End. This coat is the perfect light weight layer for the first months of fall. If you want to take advantage of this deal act fast! The sale ends tonight at 11:595pm. Here is the information you need at check out...
2. Bloomingdales Contemporary Denim Sale
We all know that the right pair of jeans can turn a bad day into a great one, or turn a sad outfit into a fabulous one. The only problem is that sometimes the "right" pair of jeans can be a little "too fabulous" for your budget, and because designer denim never goes out of style, it rarely goes on sale! But starting today, September 16, and going through Sunday September 19, Bloomingdales is having a sale on almost all contemporary denim. They are offering 15% off when you buy one regular-price pair of denim, or 25% off when you buy two pairs. So if you have a pair of Jbrand or Joes Jeans on your wish list, now is the time to splurge! This sale will be valid in stores and online.
3. Milly Cosmetics Bag at Bloomingdales with $25 Clinique Purchase
There are gift bags and then there are GIFT BAGS. In my opinion this free Milly cosmetics gift bag that Clinique is currently offering at Bloomingdales with any $25 purchase is a great deal! I ran out and got it the weekend it was available, and since then two of my friends have gone out to get it too. This designer cosmetics bag and its contents are valued at $75, and it contains a great selection of products and creams that I will actually use. Not to mention that it is an adorable print. I mean, what don't I like by Milly, really???
4. 30% off a Yearly Membership at Cocodot!Did you see my post on Monday about Cocodot?
This stylish greeting and invitation website is my go-to site for all of my online correspondence. This month Cocodot
is offering a free trial membership to all new users, and 30% off the yearly annual rate which you can take advantage of after your free trial month expires. Cocodot's regular yearly rate which includes 12 months of unlimited access to their wide selection of cards, invitations, and wedding correspondence, is usually $49. However, if you use the code: LillyStyle2010 you can get 30% off this membership, making it only $34.30.
What a deal!
5. Time Out New York's List of Free Museums in NYC
Leave it to Time Out New York
to create such a wonderful resource for those of us who want to take advantage of all the city has to offer, without breaking the bank in the process. Do you live in NYC and don't know what to do this weekend, or are you planning a trip to NYC soon? If so check out this list from Time Out New York
on all the museums that you can visit without even opening your wallet! Top on my list to check out first are The Museum at FIT, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Swiss Institute.
Do you know of any great deals for the week that I didn't list here? If so please comment below and fill me in on which sales you are going to take advantage of this week!
Happy Labor Day! Whether you stayed home or went away, I hope each of you was able to enjoy a little rest and relaxation on this long weekend before having to say goodbye to summer.
Summer is definitely one of my favorite times of the year. The warm weather, the long sunny days, the parties and trips with family and friends, who wouldn't be a little sad when summer finally has to come to a close? It makes me think of Emily Dickinson's poem about the mysterious allure of these warm months...
To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee.
So in honor of the poetic months that we are about to put behind us, I thought I would share a few of my favorite things that I did this summer that were inexpensive or free, but still have made some of my favorite memories from Summer 2010...
1. Putting my feet up and enjoying the view. Whether you live near a beach, in a bustling city, or in a rural area, it's so restorative to just sit back and take a few moments to relax, reflect, and just enjoy the moment!
2. Toasting our 1st Anniversary with 2 cold, and FREE beers on the beach! If it's your special day, don't be shy...tell people! You might just get a great, free surprise...
3. Putting on my sneakers and going out for a run. It is so rewarding to go out for a nice long run and come back sweaty and energized from your excursion. We were lucky enough to take a few trips this summer, and this was the only way I could keep up my exercise routine away from home. Now at first you may not WANT to go for a run, but I promise you that once you get outside and exercise you will feel calmer, and much happier with yourself than if you had stayed inside instead!
4. Taking the time to smell the roses...or in this case, the hydrangea! They are definitely one of my favorite flowers...so pretty!
5. Frozen yogurt from Butterfield Market.
I know, I know, I love Pinkberry too, but once you have this frozen yogurt there is really no comparison! Their standard flavors are plain and coffee, but this summer they added chocolate and peanut butter to their menu. One word for you: yum! This frozen treat is definitely worth a trip up to the Upper East Side the next time you are in NYC!
6. The kiddie pool. So simple, so cheap, and it provided my nieces with hours of giggling and easy entertainment this summer!
7. Meeting my friends for drinks...OK and maybe a little snack too...
8. Savoring every single bite of the delicious Magnolia cupcakes we had on my husband's birthday!
9. Spending time with our family. You know who you are, and we cherished every single second of the time we spent with you this summer. Whether it was sitting on the porch, husking corn, a walk on the beach, riding roller coasters, eating ice cream, playing board games, or trying to all get all of us and our luggage on a plane in one piece, you all made our summer.
10. Reminiscing about the fun we had in summers past. This time last year we were in Italy for our good friend's wedding. It was such an amazing trip, and the highlight was the three day wedding extravaganza that included the groom coming in on a white horse, the bride in multiple amazing outfit changes, delicious food and wine, visiting Rome and the Tuscan coast, and celebrating the wedding of one of the coolest couples we know! Happy early anniversary E and T!
What are your favorite summer memories?
Enjoy your last few hours of cooking out, relaxing, and warm weather fun!
Tomorrow it is back to school for me!
This past week I went on vacation to Walt Disney World with my husband and his family. During this trip we went on many rides, ate a lot of unhealthy food, and had our fair share of Disney character sightings!
One of the highlights from of our trip was our family excursion to Epcot Center
. There are many fun rides at Epcot, but there is also a section where you can visit different countries. Here you will find food, shopping, and architecture from a multitude of different cultures.
One thing I did not expect from this adventure was to be inspired by the design and architecture that I encountered while at Walt Disney World. However, the Moroccan portion of Epcot is so beautiful, it was hard not to be inspired! Here are a few pictures...
My husband and I in "Italy," and on our way to Restaurant Marrakesh in "Morocco" for dinner!
Entering Morocco and so excited to spot one of my favorite shapes...quatrefoils!
Another beautiful Moroccan inspired design...
I loved the clean lines and geometric shapes on the doors to the Restaurant Marrakesh. I also loved the contrast of red and blue...
The wall outside the restaurant...and more "Majorelle Blue," a very common color in Moroccan designs.
The ceiling at the Restaurant Marrakesh. I love the contrast of the intricately patterned tiles and the chevron stripes!
I was so inspired by these beautiful Moroccan designs that I left the restaurant wanting to bring a little bit of Marrakesh back to our apartment in New York City!
Here are a few affordable Moroccan inspired pieces to update your home...Enjoy!
Moroccan Ottoman Leather Yellow Poof
, $100White Metal Candle Lantern
, Scott's Gifts N Things
, $9.95Khandara Swoop Arm Chair Jewel
, $299.99Red Orange Lattice Pillow Cover
, DIY Pillows on Etsy
, $9.99Argonne Rug Brown
, Home Decorator's Collection
, $29-$599Votivo Moroccan Fig Candle
, $22.99Quatrefoil Mirror
, Ballard Designs
, Orig. $269, SALE $159.99Nurata Round Tablecloth
, Orig. $88, SALE $49.95Indra Tea Set
, $12-$38Andalusia Rug
, West Elm
, $39-$649Scarf-Print Trivet
, $14Brick Red and Brown Scroll Pillow Cover
, DIY Pillows on Etsy
, $9.99Made in Morocco (Cookbook)
, $21.37Contents Ikat Weekender Brown
, $24.79Straw and Leather 'Safari Chic' Tote
This week I am on my 2nd week of family vacation, and I am at Disney World in Orlando, Florida with my in-laws...all 18 of us! I never went to Disney World as a child, so this is a whole new experience for me.
Before coming to Disney I had a lot of questions about preparing for the trip, one of which being, what should I wear to Disney World?! After spending two days at Disney World, I can give you a few tips on what to pack if you plan on visiting an amusement park in August....
1. Wear light clothing because it will be hot!
2. Carry a bag that zips up so that you don't lose any of your belongings on the rides.
3. Wear a watch so you know when to meet up with your group if you split up.
4. Wear closed toe shoes if at all possible, as flip flops are not recommended for some of the rides.
Based on this criteria, here is a sample outfit that is both stylish and affordable for your next trip to Disney World or any other amusement park.
And as an update to these item notes, if you like these shorts they are now on sale at Land's End for $14.99, and the the turqoise clover necklace is an affordable way to accessorize for $30.75.
What do you like to wear when you go to your favorite amusement park?
We have been having a great week on Cape Cod so far, and everywhere I go I am trying to find clever ways to have fun for less on a beach vacation!
When you visit your local beach or go on vacation do you have to pay for parking to go to the beach? I'm sure that beach parking fees can vary depending on the location, but paying for multiple beach permit passes can sometimes be expensive and inconvenient. At the beach in Westport, CT you have to pay $30 just to park for one day at the beach! In Chatham, MA if you want to go to Lighthouse Beach, you can park for free, but there is a 30 minute parking limit...and who only goes to the beach for 30 minutes?!
Because we have a lot of people in my family, we usually need more than one car to get everyone to the beach. This means buying more than one beach pass...and this can start to add up!
However on Sunday when it took us longer than usual to get ready for our afternoon trip to the beach, we realized that there wasn't anyone checking beach permits when we arrived. It turns out that parking at the beaches in Orleans, MA is free after 4:30pm!
So if you don't want to spend money for multiple car passes to park at the beach every day, and if you are only planning on going for a few hours, you might want to check and see if your beach has any free parking hours later in the day.
Now going to the beach at 4:30pm may seem late to you, and you may think, what about the sun, and what about my tan?? But the early evening is one of my absolute favorite times of day to go to the shore. If you go to the beach around 4:30pm or 5:00pm you will find that it is much less crowded, not as hot, and there is a peacefulness that is almost unparalleled. Here are a few pictures from our early evening trips to the beach this week...
Entering the beach...see...no other cars there!
It's the perfect time of day to go for a cool walk on the beach.
And if you decide to be brave like me you may even venture into the water! Just be careful and make sure to check if the lifeguards are still on duty. A little cold water never hurt anyone!
I also think a picnic dinner at dusk on the beach would be so pleasant, and also cost effective! If you pack a nice bottle of wine, delicious sandwiches, and a fresh cold salad you have a gourmet meal with a beautiful backdrop for a fraction of the price of eating out!
But if you don't feel like packing dinner, you could always visit the local snack shack and buy some fresh fried seafood for your beach picnic dinner. Liam's at Nauset Beach is open until 8:00pm and I hear they have the best onion rings in town! Here's a photo of their menu...
Another beach vacation cost that can add up is eating out, and splurging on a delicious lobster dinner. No matter where you go
a lobster entree will always be more than $20, and usually it's somewhere between $25-$30. And if you go out for dinner you will have to include the cost of gratuity, and you may have to include the cost of a few cocktails! If you want to treat yourself to lobster on your next trip but you don't want to pay over $100 for your meal, getting a lobster roll for lunch is a great way to get your lobster at a reasonable price.
Today we went to Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar
in Eastham, MA and I had the best lobster roll sandwich that I have ever tasted. The lobster was so fresh, and it was the perfect amount of meat and mayo! Not to mention that I didn't have to struggle to get out any of the meat from the lobster! The lobster roll meal at Arnolds includes french fries and cole slaw, and it is $15.99. This is the kind of place you order at the register and pick up the food when your number is called, but it has a clean and nice atmosphere, and we all agreed that they have the freshest lobster any of us can remember tasting in a long time! Here is a picture from lunch...yum!
But what about dessert???
Finishing dinner with a bowl of delicious ice cream has got to be one of my favorite parts of a family vacation to the beach! I especially love going out for ice cream when we come to Orleans because the local ice cream shop, Sundae School
, is the only place that I have found my favorite flavor...coffee oreo!
On Sunday night a few of us took orders for the whole family, and we went to Sundae School to get cups of ice cream for everyone. It's always fun to go out for ice cream when you are on vacation, but ordering individual cups of ice cream can be costly, and you may have to wait in a line a long time to place your order!
Yesterday we went to Sundae School
during the day and there was no line, and we bought two quarts of prepacked ice cream for the family. This was a third of the price of ordering individual cups, there was no driving or waiting in line, and the ice cream has even lasted us more than one night!
What's your favorite way to enjoy a beach vacation, but save money at the same time?