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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.

 

 

Embracing Happiness and Melancholy

Alina de Albergaria

Change is cathartic even when we don’t like it.

For the most part I have been flying high ever since we returned to our beloved Santa Barbara in 2016. Two weeks ago we took the children to Spain and Greece, an experience replete with ups and downs, the latter, I assume due to modern day society in which families ostensibly live separate lives under the same roof.

As a child, I spent most of my free time riding bikes, jumping rope and playing jacks, later spending it with friends and absorbing new cultures for I had lived in three continents by the time I was sixteen. Television was enjoyed alongside my siblings or as a family, and on Sundays my father would usher us into the living room to share new discoveries from the Encyclopedia Britannica. For better or worse, human interaction was the norm as my life unfolded.

Cut to the Computer Age.

Never in the history of humankind has man experienced such rapid change. Gone are the days of continuous sibling interaction, spontaneous bike rides, jump rope and jacks. Instead parents carpool their children all over Timbuktu for exercise and social interaction. Now that our teen twins and their friends drive, that lifestyle continues to keep them entertained, though more often than not, the interaction between a half dozen kids in the same room is usurped by their iphones. We strive to follow weekend brunches with board games which our youngest has wittily dubbed “bored games,” her fingers itching to tap, type, and scroll. We encourage the children to sit with us in the library to read, but I find myself getting irritated with their inability to stay focussed and end up insisting that they place their phones in the kitchen. Our three television sets take a back seat to laptops which lure them away from us and each other with infinite on-demand entertainment choices. Sunday family movie nights have become increasingly challenging as we all struggle to agree on what to watch. My husband and I are no exception. Hard-wired with “Encyclopedia Sundays”, I desperately seek educational or inspirational content from which the children might learn while my husband wants them to simply have fun. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is the first to get outvoted.) In an effort to keep the peace our Sunday movie nights have dwindled down to bi-monthly movie nights, and even then the five of us are not always present.

Our aforementioned trip presented its share of challenges. Being together in tight spaces (airplanes, taxis, hotel rooms) with intermittent internet access meant that we were obligated to interact with one another continuously, something that modern life does not foster. (George Orwell, you were so clairvoyant.) Furthermore we were scheduled to visit friends and family in Barcelona, including my elderly mother who is in an assisted living facility. Less freedom of choice was tantamount to conflict. Images of my childhood and adolescence surfaced leading me to crave a roadmap for present day child rearing. But all I could think of was: “We are the guinea pigs of digital age parents,” while trying to remember that so too are our children.

 
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I am infinitely grateful for the sometimes arduous trajectory which brought me to the present, life overflowing with love and abundance. Notwithstanding, excessive scrutiny of modern day parenting coupled with the fascinating book I am reading, Sapiens, led to a myriad feelings which may have been responsible for my melancholic mood today, lending credence to the aphorism “ignorance is bliss.”

On my way home from dropping our daughter off to her city college class, I decided to take the beach route home for some respite. Listening to I Know by the Gypsy Kings, the Spanish band which saw me through my thirties, with the morning sun and palm trees in view, I was disappointed to discover that my somber mood did not ameliorate, quite the contrary it deepened. Rather than fighting the feeling I decided to embrace it, parked the car and set foot on the ground of my beloved Santa Barbara, owning my melancholic mood.

 
 

Feeling calm with a renewed perspective, I returned home and reached out to our tween daughter with whom I had experienced the most friction on our trip. I encouraged her to come to my room, where the Gypsy Kings belted out a tune, and we ended up dancing to my music and hers (Billy Eilish) to our heart’s content.

The true value of introspection is clarity. It is important to slow down, to step away from questioning and judging ourselves, especially in today’s inattentive world. My job as a parent is critical, and while my parenting skills (and those of my husband) are far from perfect, I am certain that we are doing our absolute best. That should be, and is, good enough.

Today’s events left me with the realization that I may have been confusing melancholy with nostalgia, a desire to revive, not my own past, but that of mankind, despite knowing that I am happier today than ever before. And because the present cannot be fully appreciated without the past, I will continue to exhibit deference to all the feelings (melancholic or not) that life brings, cognizant of the fact that the ability to feel is life’s greatest gift.

An Oasis in California's Central Coast

Bernardo de Albergaria

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Chances are that if you don’t live in California, what first springs to mind are sandy beaches, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the Golden Gate Bridge. But farmland?

Absolutely!

Meet Marfarm, a chic new bed and breakfast located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the heart of Edna Valley’s wine country. The converted barn, which is attached to a working horse stable for a true farm stay experience, is set upon sixty luscious acres with a 360 degree view of rolling hills, each acre meticulously cultivated.

 
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We met the proprietors, Jill and Hamish Marshall, several years ago at a dinner party and became fast friends. Our better halves exchanged stories of life abroad while Jill and I bonded over our joie de vivre and love of design, in particular the use of juxtaposed textures, colors and design elements. In fact, it was Jill who inspired me to launch Designs by Alina back in 2014.

 
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Hamish’s “no worries mate” attitude coupled with Jill’s warmth, wit, and exceptional eye for design, make them the perfect gatekeepers of this secluded oasis. And while Edna Valley may not sound like the place a gifted designer and Aussie adventurer would call home, a simple glance at the haven they have created makes it clear that this is exactly where they need to be.

“Hamish was based here for development back in 1995,” explains Jill. “When I graduated from design school with a jewelry degree, I was persuaded to fall in love with him by my mother. I finally conceded and we’ve been very happily married in Edna Valley for 22 years.” The Marshall world has grown since then with two daughters, four dogs, a cat, a cow, a pig, sixteen horses, twenty-two chickens, a donkey, a new B&B and llamas on the way.

In deference to its roots, the barn interiors are accented in green to complement the original 1930’s dairy floor. Every detail from the Spanish chandelier pendant fabricated with recycled soda bottles and grasses, to the linen bedding, rugged Argentinian throws, and Moroccan tiles hinting at old Americana quilts, attest to Jill’s unrelenting attention to detail and superb design aesthetic.

While beauty and originality abound at every turn, the 9 hand carved wood horned bull heads are a sight to behold. Imported from Bali, these fascinating sculptures can be showcased with 1200 possible light scenarios, though the Marshalls have opted to greet their guests with warm shades of green and sunset rose.

 
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Marfarm’s refined rustic-meets-modern design, perfectly suitable for a wedding or weekend getaway, is an ongoing labor of love. A designer after my own heart, Jill espouses the idea that subtle details speak volumes: “Just being there, placing flowers, cutting fresh fruits, setting the dimmers just right, lighting French candles, making the bar look perfect with wines and fur beer cozies is like playing house, and all those little details offer our guests a visual explosion.”

 
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So next time you wish to discover a place less traveled and simply divine, look no further than Marfarm in San Luis Obispo, where beauty, serenity and joy await. www.marfarm.com

Photos credits: Marfarm and Alina de Albergaria

Springtime in Santa Barbara

Bernardo de Albergaria

I love words.

Having earned a living for the better part of two decades as a television producer, host, and writer, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. However, sometimes words are superfluous, detracting us from the point. So I will merely mention that following a seven year drought, Santa Barbara has finally taken her sweet revenge. Verdant hills and unfamiliar flora abound like the proteas I discovered in our garden yesterday.

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Yellow Protea Pincushion

Aren’t they stunning? In a state of sheer fascination, I fetched my camera to immortalize them and their many companions. Budding persimmons, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, apples and guavas lie in wait for summer, while avocados, lemons, oranges, grapefruit and tangerines are on the verge of being devoured. Ah, but the roses!

Each spring I feel increasingly grateful for life’s abundance.

And I am fairly certain that this year I am in good company.

Dedicated to Neri, whom our family misses dearly, and to our 🐩 🐩 who love the garden as much as we.

Beverly Hills through the lens of an ex-local

Alina de Albergaria

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Much like the flora and fauna, we have been programmed to anticipate and adapt to the changing seasons, virtually by instinct. This is especially true now that the sweet scent of orange blossoms permeates the air, hinting at heat around the bend.

This year the season swooped in without warning, taking me to the City of Angels with my youngest in tow, while our teens spawned spring break plans of their own. We stayed in my old neighborhood, at the Peninsula where our daughter enjoyed one of my favorite rooftop pools in town, while I met with colleagues. Located in the heart of Beverly Hills just blocks from Rodeo Drive, the Peninsula caters to the discerning traveler with a penchant for understated elegance and stellar service. The tone of discreet beauty is evident from the moment a band of trees sneaks into view, encircling the classic Renaissance style hotel as though shielding it from bustling city streets. In similar fashion, the hotel retains a couple of chauffeurs so one might avoid the frustration that comes along with driving in Los Angeles. (Think William Foster in Falling Down).

 

Suite, patio and cabana photos: courtesy of the Peninsula Hotel. All others, property of Designs by Alina.

 

We reserved a car just once on the way back from dinner because we love to stroll, always choosing hotels that are on (or near) walking streets. Once you have seen the obligatory Rodeo Drive and Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where Pretty Woman was filmed) consider venturing south of Wilshire Boulevard, away from the tourists, to S. Beverly Drive, home to local boutiques and lively restaurants like Urth Caffe, where celebrity sightings are not uncommon. (I have spotted Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow among others, while enjoying my morning latte.) The pastries are hit or miss so I now opt for an omelette or French toast, and when I am craving a buttery, flakey pastry, Chaumont, one block north of Urth Caffe, is delicious.

LA quirkiness at its Hollywood best, anyone? Head on over to the Spadena House (aka the Witch’s House) four blocks north of the hotel on Walden Drive. This city landmark, known for its whimsical, intentionally decrepit style, was designed in 1922 by Harry Oliver, an Art Director who later influenced Storybook architecture.

 
The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

The Spadena House, Beverly Hills

 

Our hotel’s Belvedere restaurant offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired fare with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and wild-caught seafood. While the setting is lovely, lunch felt a little more tame than our mood, so we ventured out for the rest of our stay. Here are a few of my new and old favorites:

Brunch/lunch: Fred’s rooftop restaurant at Barneys has it all: farmers-market-fresh fare and a spectacular view of the Hollywood Hills. Another popular spot is The Farm (try the tuna three-ways). Then there is Sugarfish where your taste buds come to life with mouth watering sushi that will leave you clamoring for more. Be warned, however, not to ask for miso soup, cooked fish or dessert because, well, there is none. Sugarfish is all about simplicity stemming from exceptional ingredients. Ah, what I wouldn’t do for one of Chef Nozawa’s toro hand rolls right about now! Founded in 1983, The Ivy on Robertson is brimming with flowers, making you feel as though you are in a country cottage rather than the industry darling it continues to be. And while it is pricier than most restaurants in the neighborhood, you will not be disappointed from the moment you are greeted with a glass of chilled champagne.

Dinner: The places I used to frequent as a resident years ago, are more than just relevant today: Il Cielo (Italian cuisine) still tops my list for the most romantic garden setting. And like Il Cielo, Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant) has been around for decades and continues to be a front-runner. These restaurants are superb, though many would argue that West Hollywood is where the hottest new eateries are, and I tend to agree. My husband and I gauge our dining experiences a bit differently: he is a stickler for outstanding fare whereas I seek out beautiful design and a lively, unpretentious ambiance. That said, if you are up for a short drive to West Hollywood, we both recommend Catch, Eveleigh, or Lucques.

Last but not least, if you have a sweet craving at four o’clock in the morning or want to surprise your little one while you sleep in, the world’s first cupcake ATM Sprinkles on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Camden is available twenty-four hours a day.

 
Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

Sugarfish, Beverly Hills

 

Yes, my husband and I are foodies and our children don’t fall far from the tree, but the greatest gift this time around had little to do with my palate or business. Pounding the same streets I did for so many years as a young woman in television, with my daughter beside me was really some kind of wonderful. But to stand in front of my old Beverly Hills apartment with someone who might have only touched my heart back then by way of a wondrous dream? Well, that, was nothing short of surreal!

 
 

Whether you have sprung forward in a matter-of-course, or added a touch of nostalgia for good measure, we wish you and your loved ones a glorious season of bloom.

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.