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Designs by Alina:  Handcrafted jewelry fabricated with gold, pave diamonds, and choice pearls for the sophisticated modern-classic woman. Beauty and inspiration forever entwined. Lifestyle blog on design, travel, fashion, family.

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Designs by Alina Lifestyle Magazine

Blog, Travel, family, interior design, jewelry design and fashion.

 

 

The Bygone Beauty of Venezuela

Alina de Albergaria

 
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Today I share a piece of my heart.

To many, Venezuela is just another poverty stricken country. To me, however, it is the place in which, for the first time in my life, I had extended family. It is the birthplace of my mother and is where I met my beloved uncle/godfather, the most gentle, kind, loving, loyal human being I have ever known, the one who would later walk me down the aisle and cradle our newborn children.

 
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Venezuela hosted our family on virginal beaches with gaitas, salsa, and merengue, where fisherman asked what we wanted for lunch, bringing it to us minutes later from the sea.

It also hosted us in the Andes where my fondest memories of New Year's celebrations live. I can still see the sparks we made on the pavement those nights alongside children unbeknownst to us who, too poor to own skates like we did, partook nonetheless on improvised carretas made with ball bearings and wood, our joint laughter painting the streets with year-end mementos, devoid of social barriers. 

I witnessed vast differences in the way people lived: some with heartfelt smiles showcasing brown, rotting teeth, and others who spent their weekends shopping in Miami. Nonetheless, friendly demeanors hinted at how Venezuelans, from all walks of life, seemed grateful to live in such a majestic country. The years I lived there, in conjunction with those spent in the United States and England, helped shaped my worldview, and I am grateful for the grit, determination and compassion with which those experiences have armed me for adulthood. 

But Venezuela today is a far cry from the land I once knew, the wealthiest in all of Latin America. Venezuelans have collectively lost twenty-five percent of their body weight due to food shortages, while ninety percent live in poverty (Reuters). Civil unrest, hyperinflation and crime have sadly become synonymous with Venezuela since the turn of this century. To date, three million people have fled, including members of my own family, most leaving behind a country deeply loved.  

Today, however, I celebrate the nation’s beauty, stand by its people, and wish for healing and peace in the years to come.

Today I celebrate the nation’s beauty, stand by its people, and wish for healing and peace in the years to come.

Honing your Christmas Decor

Alina de Albergaria

 
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As a designer obsessed with creating beauty, the aftermath of ribbons, needles, flour, paper, tinsel, tape, and all the trimmings of the season can easily become a source of mayhem.

Still, year after year, with a prevailing scent of Thanksgiving still floating through the air, we pile into the family car in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Dusty boxes which haven't seen the light of day for eleven months emerge while the children argue about who gets to put the angel on the tree, apple cider simmering in the distance.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Note to self: Next year it’s our son’s turn.

Changing up the decor from year to year can definitely spark an interesting conversation, but I love items that can stand up to the test of time, not to mention the joy that unfolds as we open an old box and unravel the tissue paper within to reveal seasonal treasures.

 
 

This year our youngest pleaded for us to buy Christmas stockings, a tradition our family hadn't embraced as my husband and I grew up without them in our childhood homes. One look at her beaming smile as I pondered the idea was all it took for me to welcome her proposal.

Both Fig and Dove and One Kings Lane, trusted sources of mine, had several options but neither convinced me that they should author our newest gem. Neiman Marcus and Sferra Linens offered a few contenders which paired together well, though they fell short of the quintet our family required. 

And then a lightbulb went off.

If year after year Anthropologie manages to pull off the perfect Christmas window, surely they would have a stocking (or five) that I’d like. Voilá!

 
North Pole Stocking  from Anthropologie

North Pole Stocking from Anthropologie

 

I couldn’t locate enough coordinating stockings to round out the lot so I headed over to my local craft store in search of accessories to personalize them, my favorite being small rounds of birchwood onto which I hand-wrote initials with a calligraphy pen.

 
 

It’s late…the Christmas trail I left behind in my studio can wait until morning, but the smile I saw on my daughter’s face when I pondered her idea? Hmmm, if I sign off now, I just might get another one of those!

And to all a good night!

 
CHRISTMAS DECOR DESIGNS BY ALINA
 

Sixteen years of motherhood: what have I learned?

Alina de Albergaria

 
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My favorite sound in the world is a child’s laughter, something I feel lucky to experience on a daily basis in our home. 

This weekend, however, the harrowing noise emanating from above was anything but cheerful, amplifying itself as though our home existed for that sole purpose. I remember being driven to rage myself at her age and decided to let her find respite in her chilling wails while I found mine by way of a keyboard.

Is it any wonder that there is no manual for the most critical, fulfilling and difficult job in the world? How could there be when every family’s circumstance is different, each parent bringing a diverse set of values, experiences and unique skill set to the table? Most of us who take the job seriously are on an endless quest to improve upon our own upbringing by embracing what worked and discarding what didn’t. We must rethink, remold, reshape, and repurpose ideas for every stage of a child’s life as he or she morphs in perpetuity.

 
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Our son has self imposed boundaries making it easy for us to be laxed with him. Our daughters, on the other hand, move to a different tempo. I remember how terrified I was the first time I saw our eldest, at the age of five, handling a bee. A whisperer of sorts, she reached for a fallen one gently placing it in the palm of her hand until it flew away. It took some time for her to convince me that she knew what she was doing, but calmly observing and listening to her enabled me to shed my fear and embrace her determination and self confidence. She must have handled several dozen bees that spring and was never stung. Around the same time, she mounted her first horse taking to equestrian life like a hummingbird to nectar. Again, while I felt apprehensive, I knew that what she stood to gain emotionally and physically far outweighed my fears.

 
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Empowering a child, among other factors, requires striking a balance between yielding to their wants and disallowing them. Thankfully, many years of Montessori followed by public and private schools have been invaluable in showcasing a variety of approaches and perspectives, collectively inspiring us to guide, observe, listen and evaluate, a practice we have followed (or attempted to follow) a thousand times over. For the most part this has enabled us to trust our children thus empowering them in the pursuit of a productive, stimulating, and fulfilling life.

As aware as I am of my parenting strengths, I am even more so of my weaknesses, the largest one being my inability, at times, to commit to a decision. (See Dear Ebba and Roberto for more on commitment phobia.) The constant wavering between a desire to please and listening to one’s own heart is confusing for a child, not to mention frustrating, which brings me back to my daughter’s disappointment earlier today.

An athletic fiend, or as my dear cousin would say “a life fiend,” our youngest approaches life with remarkable passion and determination, excelling at virtually every academic, creative, and athletic pursuit she tackles. Her love of slime, for example, led to the launch of her online shop while still in elementary school, earning her more spending money than she ever dreamed possible, but more importantly, it is teaching her invaluable lessons in entrepreneurship and responsibility.

Last summer, much like an alpine swallow in continuous flight, our daughter did not stop moving her body. Daily somersaults became the norm transforming our abode into a mobile gym with round-the-clock cartwheels, handstands, and flips until her body nagged for more.

 
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I embraced it.

Until I didn't.

She was relentless, soon becoming obsessed with the idea of enrolling in a formal gymnastics class which spawned the feeling I had years ago when her sister mounted that first horse or held that first bee. It wasn’t so much that she had already committed herself four months prior to her favorite sport, tennis, or that she was already stretched with lessons, clinics, her shop, friends and homework. Even in the best scenario, a small injury could easily keep her away from the court for weeks. But what worried me the most is that knowing how passionate she is about every pursuit, she would never have approached the sport from a recreational standpoint which elevated my fears. Furthermore, our friend, a spinal surgeon, told us that following four successful years of gymnastics, he forbade his own daughter from continuing because of the tragic spinal injuries he had seen. The harmony in our home was being threatened by my inability to take a stand, choosing instead to waver between wanting to support her (and my husband who was less apprehensive than I was) and listening to my own reasoning. Weeks of stonewalling and backpedaling came to a stand still when my husband finally told me that I could count on his support but only if I stood firm on my decision.

And so it was that we informed our child that we were no longer on board with gymnastics outside of our home. Feeling betrayed, she chose to let off the vehement steam I described earlier, avoiding me for the rest of the day. Later that evening, still melancholic but no longer angry, she asked me to snuggle up with her to watch an episode of I Love Lucy. Different from most, that embrace felt as though she somehow understood the difficult choice I faced, and dare I say it was as though she appreciated it.

Four days have passed and while her sadness has abated, she continues to advocate for herself using every tool at her disposal, including a signed “contract” to convince us that she would never get hurt. I am proud of her resourcefulness and must admit that I nearly buckled twice. But remembering that I too had a lesson to learn, aided me in keeping the temptation at bay.

Did we do the right thing?

That million dollar question will likely never be answered. What I do know is that despite the fact that I have managed to stand firm on my decision, our daughter continues to hop onto our bed in search of the snuggles I am so eager to give.

And that is good enough for me.

 
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Street Style in Milano Part One

Alina de Albergaria

 
Fashion blogger
 

Having lived in five countries and three continents between us, my husband and I are happy to call Santa Barbara home. The ease of life, weather and relaxed sophistication of the American Riviera is unparalleled, and so long as I allow myself a city fix every now and then to further fuel my soul and creativity, there is nowhere else in the world I would dream of calling home.

I feel fortunate to have experienced Tokyo, London, New York, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Paris, Marrakech, Istanbul, and Vienna among other cities. This month, our annual honeymoon revival took us to Lake Como, by way of Milan, Zürich and Barcelona.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I am obsessed with travel and canonizing beauty via Instagram. But our return to Milan called for something more audacious, something that took me back to my television days, this time, however, I would be confined to only one side of the lens. And so it was that my stealthy camera visually eavesdropped its way around the Quadrilatero d'Oro immortalizing the city’s fashion pulse.

Milano’s sartorial world is now far more relaxed than I remember, evidence perhaps, that globalization has not left it unscathed. Notwithstanding, the style is vibrant and deliberate, still celebrating color with seemingly more zeal than its American counterparts. Much like in New York and other fashion meccas, athletic shoes rule, and whether a woman favors classic, casual, or the avant garde, ever present is the conscious manner in which she combines them with her wardrobe, hinting at the world behind the threads.

The bold style approach wielded by Milanese women encouraged me to be equally camera-bold, and knowing my subjects would be uncovered in the best of light, made my job that much easier.

In the evening we met up with our friend Deborah, a style icon in her own right, and her partner, Christian. Following a midnight tour of the city, we dined at Bistro da Giacomo to our heart’s content while learning more than we could possibly retain about pepper varieties and the Scoville Pepper Heat Scale from our enthusiastic waiter.

The next day we bid addio to Italy’s vestiary capital with many a moment etched in my heart. My city fix was further enhanced the following weekend by a Hollywood getaway, giving my soul plenty of fuel to last throughout the holidays. Or not.

Thanks to my groom for being my mostly-willing partner in crime, and for resisting the temptation to toss my furtive camera into the lake.

The Loire Valley's Secret Hideaway

Alina de Albergaria

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There is some exciting news for you! But let's rewind a bit...

As my husband and I begin to ponder our annual honeymoon revival, I am reminded of the memories we have accumulated over the years and feel an immense sense of gratitude for life's many blessings.

Years ago, our friend, Michael Corrigan, invited us along with six other couples to experience his beloved Loire Valley. We initially declined his generous invitation as our daughter was barely ten months old, and as much as France was calling, I couldn't bear to part from her. Ever a gracious host, Michael insisted that we bring her along and so it was that she became the seventeenth member of our coterie. 

Michael arranged for us to stay at his brother, Timothy Corrigan's, stunning Chateau du Grand Lucé. A simple glance at the estate explains why the renowned designer has been touted as one of the "world's top talents in architecture and interior design" by Architectural Digest. An unapologetic oasis, everything about it was majestic from exquisite antiques, to bold color play, to what seemed to be miles of taffeta flowing throughout palatial rooms.

If you haven't ventured into the Loire Valley, consider doing so, for there is much more to do and see than you might imagine. Our stay included visits to the Le Mans racetrack and the Cadre Noir French Military Riding School. Chartres Cathedral offered an abundance of the most magnificent stained glass stories I have ever seen (to call them simply “windows” would not do them justice). We also visited one of the many wineries in the region, the birthplace of Sancerre, my favorite white wine on the planet. Fabulous in of itself, our adventure would have not been complete without the equestrian visit our host arranged to Château de Chambord.

So here’s the news…

We just heard that this stunning chateau will open its doors to the public in 2019. So next time you make your way to France, consider discovering the beauty of the Loire Valley and keep an eye out for the Hotel Chateau du Grand Lucé.

Destination wedding anyone?