Monday, June 29, 2009

10 New Reasons to Love Switzerland Now

I mentioned in an earlier(June 1 post) post about taking a long awaited trip once the adoption of baby Daniel has finalized. Well, I'm already researching our next stop and the article below from the latest July/August Departures magazine has inspired me to visit Switzerland.

From Zurich to Geneva to Bern—and places in between—Departures goes in search of the new Swiss cool.

Let’s face it, Switzerland isn’t exactly famous for its vibrant, ferociously modern energy. It’s picturesque, of course, but it’s all just so, well, neutral. Today, however, those who know where to look will find that the country can provide as many exciting, of-the-moment pleasures as anywhere else in Europe. And with the Swiss franc offering a better exchange rate than the euro, it does so for less money, too.

1 Avant Architecture

The country clearly has an appetite for contemporary design. Basel native Peter Zumthor won this year’s Pritzker prize—the Pulitzer of architecture—and almost every big-name architect working today has a seminal building here. Among the newest is Daniel Libeskind’s Westside Shopping Center, which opened just outside Bern last October. Yes, it’s a shopping mall and—aside from the Bernaqua Adventure Pool & Spa—not a particularly exciting one at that. But the building itself, with the razor-sharp angles of its locust-wood exterior, has quickly become an iconic city landmark and a pilgrimage site for architecture buffs. At 100 Riedbachstrasse, Bern;

2 High-Altitude Cuisine

Restaurants in the top Swiss ski resorts have been redefining Alpine dining, marrying contemporary design and gastronomy with updates on local cuisine and architecture. It began in 2004 in Gstaad, where Alain Ducasse created the modern French menu at Chlösterli (dinner, $100; 3783 Grund Bei; The cuisine has since been taken over by Michelin-starred chef Martin Dalsass, who added Mediterranean influences to the restaurant, which is housed in a 300-year-old chalet redone by French designer Patrick Jouin. More recently architect Norman Foster did the sleek Post Haus (dinner, $120; 3 Via dal Vout; in St. Moritz, which riffs in a very modern way on classic seafood dishes. And at Heimberg (dinner, $115; 84 Bahnhofstrasse; in Zermatt, local artist Heinz Julen transformed a rustic all-wood space, doing it up with contemporary touches like a chandelier made of forks and wineglasses. Here, chef Klaus Schlachter reinvents old recipes inspired by the Alpine terroir to create combinations like marinated summer deer carpaccio with truffled ricotta and beetroot gazpacho.

3 Insider Access

For five years Zurich’s Mehrwert Services has been doing concierge duty for clients of Swiss banks, securing, say, a high-season reservation at an impossible-to-book modernist chalet in Gstaad. Now Mehrwert has also teamed up with the Swiss tourist board to create Premium Switzerland. Like a Switzerland-specific Quintessentially—but without the membership requirement—the collaboration extends the company’s Rolodex to visitors, providing customized travel itineraries and facilitating last-minute ticket requests to the likes of Art Basel, the Lucerne Festival, and the Montreux Jazz Festival.

4 No Nip/No Tuck

Luxe Swiss spas like La Prairie are known for their noninvasive antiaging treatments—therapies that favor enzymes and vitamins over the scalpel. The newest will be Verbier’s Solmaï, which opens in December as a collaboration between the ski resort’s Chalet Solmaï and the self-proclaimed “skin architect” Jo Robbins. It will be the only spa in Switzerland to use the Brit’s “cosmoceuticals” product line, so named because it combines cosmetics with pharmaceuticals that are usually only employed after surgery. Many of the services, the Timeless Body Rejuvenator, for example, aim to improve the skin by promoting tissue regeneration, increasing collagen density, and correcting discoloration. At 51 Route de Station Verbier;

5 Art for Sale

Basel may be the country’s star contemporary art world attraction, but from August 21 to 30, Swiss and international galleries will come to St. Moritz, displaying work in the resort’s public areas and top hotels for the second annual St. Moritz Art Masters Festival ( Last year orchestras from Vienna and St. Petersburg were flown in for the occasion, and one could buy a David LaChapelle photograph at the Protestant French Church in town or an Ugo Rondinone sculpture from Zurich’s Eva Presenhuber Gallery at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. For those who can’t make it to the festival, there are always the country’s best galleries: Geneva’s cutting-edge collective Quartier des Bains (, with works by French painter Pierre Dunoyer and fashion designer-cum-photographer Kris Van Assche, and Galerie Gmurzynska (, which specializes in modern and 20th-century Russian avant-garde works and has showrooms in Zurich, St. Moritz, and Zug.

6 A Sweet Suite

Norman Foster’s complete renovation and expansion of Zurich’s 110-year-old Dolder Grand hotel has two very different sides. On the one hand, there are the refurbished Belle Epoque spaces in the original castlelike building; on the other, there’s the glass and aluminum minimalism of the new golf and spa wings. Somehow it all works together—albeit for a price. Take the $7,000-a-night Carezza Suite, for example, which falls cleanly into the latter category. The two-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot space emulates the curvilinear Alberto Giacometti sculpture for which it’s named, with wavy plaster-covered walls gently uplit by floor lights. The two bathrooms have whirlpool baths and steam showers, with a sauna in one, and in the screening room a large flat-panel television is hidden behind custom-built walnut-wood cabinetry. In the living room floor-to-ceiling windows give out onto Zurich and the Alps beyond—views that can also be enjoyed from the wrap-around terrace. Standard rooms, from $770. At 65 Kurhausstrasse;

7 The Sounds of Music

The Swiss cultural calendar offers musical events of every kind, with the summer’s annual Lucerne Festival as the highlight. The focus is definitely on the classical, but what makes it more modern are the premières of new works and artists. This year’s program, held August 12 through September 19, includes 11 world-debut compositions plus 22-year-old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang performing with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and its cofounder, Claudio Abbado, on August 12, 14, and 15. Tickets, from $30; 41-41/226-4400;

8 Alpine Idyll

Snow can be hard to guarantee at many ski resorts in Switzerland. Not so at Adelboden-Frutigen, however, a downhill destination just east of Lausanne. Its location 4,400 feet above sea level and newly expanded snowmaking system ensure plentiful powder December through April. The Solis Cambrian (rooms, from $220; 7 Dorfstrasse; is the hotel of choice here, and the racecourses on the Chuenisbärgli run have made the area a regular host of the Ski World Cup. During this past season’s competition, a tented VIP Sky Lounge opened, providing great views, plus food and drink, from its position 60 feet over the races. (Tickets can be reserved by calling Kathrin Hager at 41-33/673-8084; only about 200 are available.) Last winter the resort also launched an on-mountain concierge “care team” to provide dining recommendations and direct skiers to the best slopes. Full-day lift tickets, $50; 41-33/673-8080;

9 The Titan of Tennis

Roger Federer, the 27-year-old Basel-born tennis star, epitomizes Swiss calm and precision. Patrick McEnroe described him as “Baryshnikov in sneakers,” and fellow champion Tracy Austin called him “a symphony in tennis whites.” Currently ranked no. 2 in the world, he was no. 1 from February 2004 until last summer. In July he lost a nearly five-hour Wimbledon finals match to Rafael Nadal but in August won gold in men’s doubles at the Beijing Olympics, and the autumn saw him secure Switzerland’s promotion to the Davis Cup World Group for 2009. (The country didn’t make it the year before.) This fall, from October 31 through November 8, he’s playing on his home turf, at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors tournament in Basel (tickets, from $25;

10 Zurich by Design

Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse is the city’s Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue, lined with international labels like Chanel, Dior, and Tiffany. For shopping that’s edgier and on-trend, the stylish head across town to the Langstrasse neighborhood. Here, in the revamped red-light district, a selection of one-of-a-kind boutiques stocks homegrown designs. The atelier and gallery Making Things (20 Grüngasse; mounts exhibitions by local artists, illustrators, and photographers and sells its own handprinted line of wearable silkscreened men’s, women’s, and baby designs. Around the corner is Tran Hin Phu (32 Birmensdorferstrasse;, named for its Chinese Vietnamese fashion designer who specializes in airy graphic-print silk blouses and figure-conscious silk jersey, cotton, and linen dresses in a neutral palette. And at Zwei 25 (25 Zweierstrasse;, owner Nathalie Schweizer does “demure” dresses, which she sells in addition to her husband’s modular steel furniture.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Leaving Behind A Labor Of Love

A neighbor directly across our park's home is on the market. This is one of my favorite homes in the neighborhood. I just love it's storybook charm curb appeal.

Beautiful built-ins

You could easily see that the homeowners put a lot of hard work and love into the home.

Hopefully, the new homeowners will appreciate their efforts and continue to maintain its updated yet classic beauty. I'm always sad to see a good neighbor that appreciates their home leave. You just never know what the new owners may do with the property. A bad outcome can affect the value of your nearby property.

A dream kitchen....

The kitchen was my first inspiration for wanting white cabinets.

The backyard is a manicured outdoor oasis.

A romantic master bedroom with a fireplace

A nice size walk in closet

And a luxurious master bath that beautifully blends in with the old charm of the home built in 1927.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson's Death: The Talent and the Tragedy

As someone that grew up with Michael Jackson and his brothers music, this is indeed a great shock and loss for me. My thoughts are with his family and friends and those of us that were inspired by his legacy.

The tragedy of Michael Jackson's death at age 50, reportedly from cardiac arrest, pales in comparison to the tragedy of his life. To understand all that Jackson had and lost requires wiping away three decades of plastic surgeries that deformed him, erratic behavior that made his name synonymous with the warping powers of fame, and a 2005 trial for sexually abusing a child that, even though he was spared of any finding of wrongdoing, made him a pariah to all but the most brainwashed of fans.

[Full Story]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

3 Degrees Of Decoration

Welcome to my tablescapes for Tablescape Thursday hosted by Susan of Between Naps On The Porch.

Below are 3 tablescapes I created over the weekend. Yes, I had way too much time on my hands this past weekend. However, I had a great time. All the florals, with the exception of the blue Hydrangeas, are artificial.

Tablescape #1 Tableau Rouge
Stemware-Waterford, Murano & Mikasa

Notes: I really love the pair of cobalt porcelain horses and how well they compliment the Noritake dinnerware. The Noritake pattern is Valhalla. I also like the dramatic blend of red,white and blue colors complimented with gold. For me, the deep rich colors evoke a masculine and regal setting.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Tablescape #2 Tableau Vert
Dinnerware-Lenox & T. Sevres Bavaria
Stemware-Waterford,Faberge & Arte Italica

Notes: I love the vintage dinner plates. The plates were manufactured by Lenox and decorated by the W.H. Tatler Company, the company that decorated the Lenox tableware before Lenox began developing their own in-house decorating department. This particular design was created in the early 1930s exclusively for a wealthy jeweler named Millard F. Davis who lived in Wilmington, Delaware. I also like the Thomas Sevres Bavaria(1908-1939) bread plates that I purchased from a good friend's lot at a local antique store. They compliment the dinner plates beautifully.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Tablescape #3 Tableau Bleu
Dinnerware-China Export Canton Blue
Stemware-Mikasa,William Sonoma (blue glasses)

Notes: I love everything about this setting. My initial intention was to create a "shabby chic" display. However, once I began setting the table, it evolved and took on a more formal note than I anticipated. It turned out to be my favorite of the three that is why I have additional photos of this tablescape. I couldn't decide if I like the plates better with or without the silver plated chargers. Also, the setting was like a natural born supermodel...almost every picture I captured came out beautifully making hard to decide which ones to post. Simply put, Blue,White and Silver with hints of green is just a spectacular color team that could never go wrong. It is a timeless combination.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Thank you for visiting my tablescapes. For more creative and unique table settings, visit Between Naps On The Porch.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Secret Of Self Control

In case you do not subscribe to The New Yorker magazine, the May 18th issue has a very informative article that I think parents should read. It's entitled "Don't" by Jonah Lehrer(left photo). The story is founded on a experiment involving young children in the late 1960s, a room, a bell and marshmallows, cookies and pretzel sticks. The children were left in the room with the treats and told that if they waited until the researcher returned to the room they could have two treats, but if they could not wait they were instructed to ring the bell and the researcher would return and the child would get one treat.
Now, more than 30 years later, those same test subjects have been re-visited and those who rang the bell quickly have more behavior problems, difficulty paying attention and maintaining relationships. Researchers continue to study what contributes to an individual's ability to delay gratification. According, to Lehrer, scientist have found a genetic link as well as an environmental link. To me, the good news is that if you believe your child has a propensity to be impatient, there are tactics you can teach him in order to improve his self control.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Month Of August...Over The Rainbow!!!

The last time my partner Dan and I took a trip outside the country was in the summer of 2007. It was a trip to Europe with Dan's parents. It was our gift to his mom for her 75th birthday. We had a fantastic time. Traveling with his parents is a lot of fun and educational. They are both history buffs who also love to travel. In November that same year, baby Daniel joined our family. He was born August 6 and spent the first three months of his life in a temporary Foster home pending placement with a Foster Adopt home. Good fortune matched Daniel with us and we became his Foster Adopt parents. He is a beautiful child with an infectious charm. We love him and our families,friends and neighbors love him.
Since he joined us, the furthest trip we've taken has been by car to nearby San Francisco to visit my family or Lake Tahoe to visit Dan's family. We have also gone on an occasional weekend to Napa Valley or Stinson Beach. Our travels have been restricted because we are forbidden to leave the country until the adoption process is final. Although it's been over a year and a half since the little guy has been with us, we only recently received great news that the day to finalize the adoption is near. By his 2nd birthday in August, our adoption will be complete. From there, we await the birth certificate with Daniel's new adopted name. Once we are in receipt of the birth certificate, we're off to our local Passport office for baby boy's first passport. Yes, I'm already researching and planning for our long awaited trip abroad! I just want to get on the first plane out. Stay tuned.