Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is such a wonderfully magical time. Even though I'm far too old to believe in Santa, I still do cherish Christmas time and Christmas spirit. I love readying the house for the holidays, baking Christmas cookies, planning seasonal gatherings, and watching as many Christmas specials as humanly possible.

This time of year really does bring out the best in people. People are friendlier, more considerate, and more forgiving. As you progress through the holidays this year, be present in every moment and truly savor it. This special time comes only once a year - it's not worth wasting it with worried thoughts and stress.

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Cailen A. Poles

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Ever since childhood, we are told by friends, family, and the media that there are "good" foods and "bad" foods. We're told "don't eat that...that's bad for you!" But unfortunately, everyone's good intentions turn us into a food-fearing culture. Diets put food in strict categories: healthy, unhealthy, good, bad, fatty, low-cal, light, fat-free, diet...the list goes on and on. But, as you may have realized by now, life is never that black and white. That's why it's so important to cultivate a healthy relationship with ALL foods. Yes, that's right....All foods.

Labeling food is dangerous because it puts too many restrictions on living. As you may have realized, when you have too many rules for yourself and consistently deprive your body, you usually wind up overeating and therefore feeling fat, ugly, and like a failure (not a great place to be when you're trying to maintain a balanced, healthy life). But cookies, cake, chocolate, cheese, cocktails, and carbs (and all other "bad" foods) can be incorporated into even the healthiest of nutrition regimens. The key is moderation. If you allow yourself small indulgences, you're much less likely to go completely overboard because you've limited yourself too much.

If you work towards listening to your authentic stomach hunger (not irrational cravings) and feed yourself what you truly desire, you're much less likely to feel like the victim of a strict, unrealistic diet. Depriving yourself sets you up for failure. It's human nature to crave what you "cannot" have. So, if you decide that you're going to give up sweets in an attempt to be "healthier", you'll probably find that you begin to crave sweets even more!

With the New Year approaching, many people are probably brainstorming what resolutions they wish to make for 2009. Instead of making your resolution to "lose 20 pounds" or "drop 2 dress sizes", consider striving for a healthier relationship with food and your body. If you attempt to cultivate an understanding of your body and its needs, instead of restricting and punishing it, your quality of life will greatly increase, and I can almost guarantee your pants size will decrease!
Happy New Year!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Spotlight

This week, December 15th through December 21st, my design work will be featured on the homepage of, "the world's first stop for interior design". My work was selected by the Ava Living design team to be showcased in the homepage slide show entitled "Ava's Choice". Check it out! While you're there, take the time to visit my Ava Living portfolio (, and why not browse the work of some of the other Ava Living designers as well.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Friday, December 12, 2008

There's No Place Like Home...

There really is no place like home. Did you ever notice that? Home is the one place in the world where we can completely be ourselves, relax, and find comfort. At least is should be that way. That is why it's essential to create an environment that nurtures and complements your lifestyle.

If your home is in sync with your needs, wants, and behaviors, it generates an atmosphere of harmony and peace. Often, though, it's difficult to tell if your home is out-of-line with your lifestyle. If you need some help deciding whether or not your home needs a makeover to better suit your needs, reflect upon the following questions.

1. Do you commonly feel stressed out when you're in your home?

2. Do you often misplace things or feel disorganized?

3. Do you find it hard to relax and unwind?

4. Do daily activities (such as exercising, cooking, reading, or doing work) seem difficult or unnecessarily stressful?

5. Do you ever find yourself wanting to go out to "escape" the mess, work, environment, etc.?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, there's a good chance that your home (or certain elements in your home) is in need of a makeover. Look at the question(s) you answered "yes" to and think about why you feel that way and what you could possibly do to alleviate the problem. Oftentimes, solutions are easier than you would initially think. For example, if you find it hard to relax and go to sleep at night, maybe you need to take your laptop computer out of your bedroom and develop a work area in the public spaces of your home. Or, if you find yourself running all over the kitchen when cooking dinner, think about what items you use most frequently and reorganize your cabinets to suit your needs. If you're observant and creative, you can easily align your home with your lifestyle and make everything run smoothly!

Remember, there's no place like home.......

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Changing for the Better

Did you ever hear the saying "if you wanna keep on getting what you're getting, keep on doing what you doing"? Though it's not the most poetic of quotations, it makes a whole lot of sense! Think about it - if you don't make a change (such as working out more, eating healthier, or stopping negative self-talk) there's no feasible or logical way for your current reality to shift for the better.

You're never going to lose weight simply by dwelling on it, no matter how much you criticize yourself. The only way to get fitter and feel better is to get physical, move your body, and commit to change.

With the new year fast approaching, everyone is thinking about what resolutions to make this year. Though it's convenient and a tradition to make resolutions at the start of each new year, I firmly believe that positive change can begin any month of the year, any day of the week. The only thing necessary is your commitment to yourself.

Don't feel like you have to shoot for the moon and set difficult, super-challenging goals (that may set you up for failure). Start small. If you want to begin an exercise regimen, start with setting aside just five minutes a day, Monday through Friday. This may sound silly, but it gets you in the habit of setting aside time for yourself (which a lot of people are not in the habit of doing). Each week, add a few minutes and before you know it, you'll be accustomed to setting aside a 1/2 hour for your workout!

Remember any day can be the first day of a positive, life-altering change!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Each holiday season, we find ourselves taking part in traditions - perhaps it's the way you decorate the tree, certain Christmas movies you "have to" watch, or a certain type of cookie you bake. Traditions sometimes become so ingrained in the routine of the holidays that we may not even remember why we're taking part in them, but they really are important. Traditions connect us to family and friends and also with the past, by giving a sense of continuity from year to year and even between generations. They also provide stability, for no matter what may happen or change from year to year, traditions remain constant. Lastly, traditions provide a sense of identity or uniqueness, because no two family's are exactly the same.

Traditions create memories and generate stories that are treasured by all who partake. With that said, it's also important that not everything your family does around the holidays becomes a tradition because that will leave you completely overwhelmed and your calendar full. So, how should you determine what to preserve and what to toss? Here are some guidelines to help you streamline your holiday traditions and capitalize on the best ones that are truly special.

1. Realize that traditions should never be forced. If you feel obligated or begrudgingly go about it, think about revising or eliminating it from your holiday schedule. It's not worth hanging on to if you don't find value in it.

2. Choose activities that are helpful. Serving others at the holidays is a great way to remember the reason for the season and have valuable family time. Your local community center or church will be able to provide you with a number of worthwhile volunteer opportunities, especially around the holidays.

3. Select traditions that are fun! This is key. If traditions don't provide enjoyment and ease stress, they're bound to feel like an obligation. Think about what you and your family truly enjoy and make sure your activities align with your preferences.

4. Keep it simple. Think about the traditions that meant the most to you during your childhood. Was it reading "The Night Before Christmas"? Carolling? Or baking cookies? All these activities are uncomplicated and easily reproducible year to year. Traditions need not be elaborate to be treasured.

5. Include Everyone! For a tradition to be truly special, it should include everyone and be valued by everyone as well. If one person begrudgingly goes to "The Nutcracker Ballet" every year, maybe think about making it optional or an every-other-year activity.

Are you looking for some new ideas to get in the holiday spirit? Here are some of my favorite holiday traditions for December:

-Watching Christmas specials - "Charlie Brown Christmas" & "Garfield's Christmas" are both great!

-Christmas Ride - pack the family into the car and take a drive around to look at holiday decorations.

- Baking Christmas cookies - this is a great way to get the kids involved and also make gifts for friends and relatives.

- Reading Christmas stories - it just wouldn't be Christmas without a retelling of the "The Night Before Christmas".

-Christmas Movies - let everyone in the family select one or two that they like best and make a point to watch a few each weekend before Christmas. (Some oldies but goodies are "Christmas in Connecticut", "It's a Wonderful Life", "White Christmas", and "The Bishop's Wife".)

- Carolling - Singing carols is a great way to celebrate the holidays and spread Christmas spirit. Whether you bundle up and carol door-to-door or invite friends and family over for some piano-side singing, it's bound to leave you feeling very "Christmasy".

Traditions give a sense of importance to our holidays. It's so easy to get caught up in holiday stress with shopping and decorating and hosting parties. But traditions are a great way to remember the real reason for the holiday season by creating a sense of continuity, comfort, and security for everyone.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Surviving Holiday Buffets

Holiday parties are wonderful. You get to visit with friends and family and celebrate this joyous time of year. However, they can take a toll on your waistline. With this in mind, I've compiled a list of party menu items that will not leave you with a belly that shakes like a bowl-full of jelly!

1. Bruschetta and Salsa - both these toppings are filled with fresh tomatoes and herbs. They are filling, delicious, and low in calories.

2. Veggie Platter - this may seem like a given, but filling up on veggies will prevent you from overeating later. They're rich in fiber and nutrients that will leave you satisfied and feeling good. If you fill your plate with 3/4 veggies, your plate will look visually full, and you'll have plenty to nosh on without expanding your waistline. (Having a dollop of dip, because of its fat-content, actually aids in nutrient absorption!)

3. Hummus - this popular dip is made from chickpeas which are high in protein and will leave you feeling full much longer than fatty or sugary snacks. Bonus: hummus is low in fat and calories, too!

4. Salmon and Shrimp - smoked salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which promote heart health and have recently been shown to reduce belly fat. Shrimp are high in protein and low in fat and calories, plus they're can't beat that!

5. Fruit and Cheese - cheese is high in calcium and pretty much a staple at any holiday party. Be wary, though, it's also high in fat and calories. Allow yourself a modest serving, about the size of your index finger, which typically runs about 100 calories. Fruit is rich in nutrients and a great alternative to crackers.

6. Chicken - it's a great source of lean protein and a 1 oz serving delivers 9 grams of essential protein. But, pass it by if it's double-deep fried (or at least avoid eating the skin)!

7. Mixed Nuts - a small handful of nuts (about 20-25) is loaded with fiber and protein. The fat, fiber and protein will leave you feeling full longer which will come in handy when the desserts are rolled out! Stay away if they look honey-roasted (a.k.a. covered with sugar).

8. Red Wine - red wine is filled with polyphenols which lower blood pressure and encourage overall heart health. To cut calories even further, make it a spritzer - 1/2 wine and 1/2 seltzer.

9. Dessert - there is really no "best" option here, unless there's a fruit salad. But honestly, who wants to eat fruit salad for dessert at a holiday party?! My advice is to survey all the desserts available and decide on 1 or maybe 2 that you want to try. Take a small sliver and really taste and enjoy it. If you still feel like you want more, have a cup of coffee, tea, or even water, then check back in to see if you're truly hungry for more.

If you enjoy these foods at the holiday parties you attend this year, you'll be able to celebrate the season without having to shop for a new wardrobe afterwards!

Happy, healthy holiday!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Designer Show House Update

I've been working on my storyboard for the Bucks County Designer Show House bedroom. It's so much fun pulling together images that inspire me and will guide my ultimate design. Here are some rooms that evoke the glamorous 1940s feel that I want to achieve in my finished room.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deck the Halls

Decking the halls takes first priority in the beginning of December. Here are some simple, easy, and inexpensive ideas to make your home look festive in time for the the holidays!

1) Deck the Doors. If you get a real Christmas tree, door swags are a great way to make use of those extra branches you removed from your tree. Bundle 3-4 larger branches or 5-8 smaller branches at their base and secure with florist wire (use the ends of the wire to create a loop by which to hang the swag). Cover the wire with a tied ribbon or bow. Fasten pine cones, cranberries, holly, juniper, or small fruit or nuts to the branches with hot glue or wire.

2) Seasonal Scents. Making orange pomanders is quick and easy project that looks wonderful and fills your home with the refreshing smells of orange and clove. This is a great project to do with children and a fantastic way to make use of over-ripe, hardened oranges, tangerines, and clementines. Pierce the orange with the cloves to create a decorative pattern. Make enough pomanders to fill a bowl and display on your coffee table or use as your dining table centerpiece.

3) Simple Centerpieces. Seasonal arrangements are another easy way to decorate for the holiday season. Use pine branches or gather tree branches from your yard and spray paint them gold, silver, or wintry white. Fill vases with the pine boughs and other branches and fill in spaces with holly, juniper, pine cones, or branches of berries. If the branches are sturdy enough in the vase, add small ornaments to really impress!
4) Get Glowing! When you really want to set the mood and create a cozy, inviting atmosphere, there's no better way than using candles. They're inexpensive and really add a lot of character to a space. Choose red and green pillars for a traditional look or silver and gold for an elegant twist.

5) Festive Florals. Another easy way to create instant "festiveness" is by using poinsettias. Poinsettias have long been associated with Christmas time and are a quick way to give your home a holiday look. They come in an array of beautiful colors from rich reds to soft creamy whites to blush pinks. If you don't have much time to get creative about decorating this year, adding potted poinsettias with transform your house into a holiday home.

Keep these suggestions in mind while you're gearing up for the holiday season. They're simple, affordable, and will make your home look wonderful and welcoming.

Deck the Halls!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stress-less Holidays

Getting ready for the holidays takes a lot of time and effort (often a lot more than we anticipated). With this in mind, I've compiled some helpful tips to make your home look great while you maintain your sanity!

1. Plan of action. A lot of holiday stress comes from leaving too much to the last minute. We underestimate the time it takes to get everything accomplished, and we're left feeling exhausted and frustrated. Make a list and then prioritize (Monday - get Christmas tree, Tuesday - lights on tree and wreaths on doors, Wednesday - fill out Christmas cards, Thursday - decorate tree, Friday - mail cards and shop, etc.) Make a commitment to do just one or two things a day and by the end of the week you'll have accomplished a lot just by consistently chipping away at it.

2. To give or not to give. Buying holiday gifts for everyone often turns into a full-time job. Remember, it truly is the thought that counts. Let loved ones know you're thinking of them with a thoughtful card or some homemade cookies. Don't waste your time or money buying unnecessary gifts for everyone you know. Or, suggest that your family, friends, or co-workers set up a Secret Santa instead of buying gifts for everyone.

3. Recruit help. Don't feel like you have to do everything yourself. Recruit your kids to help with holiday baking and decorating the house. They may not do it exactly as you would have, but they'll love that they took a part in holiday preparations. Ask a friend to help you decorate your tree in exchange for helping her with a holiday project of her own. Or, organize a cookie exchange to get all your holiday goodies taken care of in one shot!

4. Potluck parties. If you host holiday parties think of making it a potluck instead of cooking all the food yourself. If you want, you could even create a menu and have guests sign up for the dish they would like to bring to give them some guidance. A potluck will save you so much time, and your guests will be pleased that they were able to help out!

5. Remember the reason for the season. Lastly, remember that the holidays are about reconnecting with family and friends, reliving traditions, and having fun, festive times! So what if you didn't decorate your home floor-to-ceiling like you did last year...I guarantee no one will know but you! Also, don't feel like you have to attend every holiday party you're invited to. Pick and choose the celebrations you really want to go to and don't worry about trying to make it to the rest.

Happy (stress-less) Holidays!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Pants, New Outlook

For the past few years, I have made the effort to workout each morning, Monday through Friday. I have come to really enjoy (and dare I say even look forward to) my morning routine, but lately I've been feeling a little "blah" about it all. I felt I wasn't feeling and seeing the same results from my workouts and consequently wasn't feeling as "pumped" and positive about my workouts and myself.

Whenever I feel that I'm hitting a self-esteem plateau, I've realized that what works best for me is trying something new and being especially kind to myself in my thoughts, words, and actions. For my birthday, I received a kettle-bell (a ball-shaped weight with a handle used for aerobic strength training) and a few pairs of very cute yoga pants. This past Monday I used my kettle-bell for the first time. It was challenging, and I broke a sweat in the first 5 minutes! I felt so great afterwards. I had tried something new, challenged myself, and re-energized my enthusiasm for my workouts.

Today, I sported one of my new pairs of yoga pants during my workout. They fit me much better than my old sweats, and I actually felt cute instead of slightly frumpy. This small, cosmetic change really affected how I felt during and after my workout. Really, it did.

If you are feeling tired of your workout routine or are trying to start one up, think about things that challenge you, sound like fun, and make you feel good. Never go into it thinking "I have to do this to lose weight" - that takes all the fun out of it and makes you feel like a prisoner of your exercise routine. Make a list of all the physical activities you enjoy (even if they're atypical, like gardening or window shopping). Anything is better than nothing! Lastly, take the time to nurture yourself. Buy new sneakers, sign up for a dance-aerobics class, or take a few minutes out of your day for a peaceful walk. It'll make a world of difference.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fountain of Youth

I was watching Oprah today, and they were discussing "blue zones" - areas in the world where people are living longer, happier, healthier lives than is common. The four areas highlighted were Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California and lastly Japan. Though each area had unique elements that promoted happiness or wellness and therefore a long life, there were many commonalities that we all could learn from and incorporate into our lives.

1. Exercise! One thing all these communities had in common was regular exercise. Whether it was the result of their rigorous daily activities (such as gardening, cleaning or cooking), going for a brisk walk, or heading the the gym, all the elderly (yet thriving) people interviewed made time for movement.

2. Gather social support! All the areas studied had particularly high levels of family and community involvement with the aged members of society. Spending time with people you love, laughing, and having a sense of belonging all promote happiness and longevity.

3. Eat local! The communities shown were mostly small towns whose economies revolve around farming. Their diets were rich in natural, healthy, local foods. Eating fresh, organic foods that are produced locally is both eco-friendly and body-friendly. Local foods have fewer preservatives to maintain freshness than foods that have to travel to your table.

4. Seek purpose! Lastly, all the individuals on the show who were thriving in their 80s, 90s or even after age 100, felt they had a purpose and something to contribute. They filled their days with things and activities that they enjoy. They all had a self-identified reason to keep striving for health and wellness.

These tips may seem somewhat logical, but even so, many of us do not live by them. Think about small changes you can make to your routine to give you happiness and health; and perhaps make a vow to yourself to make some positive changes starting now!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Ideas for the Designer Show House

Ever since this past Friday when I visited the May 2009 Designer Show House in which I'll be designing a bedroom, my head's been reeling with ideas. I've been going through endless magazines, catalogues, and websites looking for images and ideas that inspire me.
So far, I know that I want to go for (what I would call) a 1940s glamour look. In order to achieve this, I'll be sticking to a fairly monochromatic color scheme of ivory, cream, soft silvers, brushed golds, mellow metallics, and steely gray-blues...perhaps with touches of rich chocolate brown or even black for added drama. This color palette will infuse the room with an air of subtle sophistication. In the finishes, I'm leaning towards high-gloss, as well as many mirrored and metallic surfaces to reflect light and make the room sparkle like a piece of fine jewelry. Finally, I'll turn to silks, satins, taffeta, and even some velvets to enhance the luxuriousness of the room.

The sketch to the right shows some of my preliminary ideas for the layout of one corner of the bedroom. A small loveseat offers seating beside which a small side table stands with a lamp atop. Above the loveseat, a honeycomb mirror hangs and in front a tray-top table offers a spot to place a book or cup of tea. To the left, a small window seat is nestled between two built-in closets and offers additional seating. The whole idea behind modern glamour is sumptuous comfort paired with understated opulence - perfect for a relaxing bedroom haven.
For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All Things in Moderation

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I figured it would be an appropriate time to discuss how to survive the Thanksgiving feast. The holidays, though wonderful in so many ways, often get a bad rap when it comes to waistlines. With Thanksgiving ushering in the start of the holiday season, it's a great time to think about some new holiday mealtime guidelines.

1. All things in moderation. Deprivation is never the way to go...especially at the holidays. Denying yourself the apple pie you have been waiting all year to sample is not going to solve anyone's problems. (I guarantee, you'll find yourself at post-dessert clean-up scarfing down 1/4 of the pie while standing in the kitchen.)

2. Try your best to listen to true stomach hunger. So what if your Grandma just walked in with her famous cheese-covered appetizer, if you're not hungry (or especially if you're already full) don't have any. There will be plenty of others to compliment her on her extraordinary dish. If you really love it, make a small plate for later when you are truly hungry.

3. Make sure to stay hydrated. Not only are holiday beverages high in calories, but wine, punch, cocktails and sugary sodas don't replenish your body the way water does. Believe it or not, we oftentimes mistake thirst for hunger! Make a promise to yourself to have at least four to six 8 oz. glasses of water a day. It will stave off unnecessary hunger pangs and (bonus) help prevent dry skin!

4. Eat consciously. Holiday menus are the highlight of the year's eating, so take the time and make the effort to really taste your food. Eat slowly (putting your utensils down between bites really helps), chew consciously, and really appreciate every bite. Pacing yourself at meals will help eliminate excessive overeating, because when you eat consciously, you're more likely to feel the subtle "satisfaction signal" that lets you know when you've had enough. (Try not to let pants-unbuttoning full be your cue to stop!)

5. Make time for family time. Lastly, remember that the heart of any holiday celebration should be centered on reconnecting with family and friends, not over-indulging in your aunt's famous pumpkin cheesecake. Focus on visiting with relatives you haven't seen in a while, watching the football game (or Thanksgiving Day Parade), and enjoying a day that won't come again for another year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bucks County Designer Show House

A very exciting opportunity has presented itself to me. I'm going to be able to design a bedroom for the May 2009 Bucks County Designer Show House. I've toured the past designer homes and have always coveted a room of my own to decorate. On a whim, I contacted the chairwoman of the designer house. As a very fortunate and unexpected turn-of-events, I was asked to design a room for this upcoming year.

I visited the home yesterday. It's a grand old Victorian with over-sized rooms and wonderfully high ceilings. It has a lot of character and charm, but there is a lot of work to be done. The room I chose is an upstairs bedroom (12 ft by 17 ft) with 2 built-in closets that flank a low window seat. On the far wall is a large window that reaches down the irregular, wide-plank floor boards. The room has infinite potential, and I'm so excited to have this opportunity to remake it.

I'll be blogging about the entire process. First, I have to create a storyboard and solidify my design plan, then we'll be measuring the room in January and collecting all the necessary materials for finishing and decorating the space. The design installation begins in March and continues through April and the house opens in May. It's certainly going to a fabulous opportunity to showcase my work, network with fellow designers and artisans, and learn a lot about renovating an old home! These before pictures of the room will give you a sense of the scope of the project.

From this experience, I am reminded again that we are the primary creators of our destiny. If I had not contacted the chairwoman myself, I would have never had this chance to share my design work with 8,000 tour-goers! The opportunity was there, but I had to take the first step.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design, visit or email

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Improve Your Mood

Holidays, though meant to be a wonderful time spent with family and friends, often produce more stress than joy. To help you through the next few months, here are some simple tips to improve your mood instantly when the pressure of the holidays is getting to you.

1. Smile - You would be surprised how quickly a "fake" smile can turn into a genuine one.

2. Go for a walk - Remove yourself from the stressful situation. You'll find clarity and compassion when there's bit of distance between you and the source of your woes.

3. Laugh out loud - Laughing is an instant mood-booster. Recruit your favorite movie, TV show or youtube video for help!

4. Let it out - Sometimes we keep too much bottled up inside. Take some time for yourself away from everyone else and cry, scream or just breath. You'll feel better afterwards...I promise.

5. Breath deeply - Slowing your breath can make you feel so much more calm and grounded. Breath slowly in through your nose, hold the breath in your lungs briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. It works like a charm.

6. Read a good book - Reading is such a pleasurable activity and one that we often don't make time for. Giving yourself a few minutes each day to indulge in your favorite magazine, catch-up with the paper, or read a chapter in your current bedside book is a great way to recharge your batteries.

7. Meditate - You don't have to really meditate, but at least give yourself 10 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. You deserve it!

8. Take a power nap - The holidays unfortunately can take a lot out of us. When you're running on empty take a quick nap. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and replenished.

9. Listen to your favorite song - When you're feeling stressed or burnt out, turn to your favorite CD or song for some help. Whether you put on your favorite bluesy chill-out CD or your upbeat pop favorite to boost your mood, it's guaranteed to give you a few moments of "me-time".

10. Think happy thoughts - Make a mental list of all that you're truly grateful for, picture your favorite vacation spot, or envision a moment when you felt particularly happy. You can only hold one thought in your head at a time!

Lastly, make sure you take some time for yourself! During the holidays we give so much of ourselves to everyone else, be certain to make time for your needs as well. Take a bath, drink a cup of tea, or just take a moment to sit and relax.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Monday, November 17, 2008

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Fall is my favorite time of year. I just love when the weather turns colder, the leaves change to brilliant warm colors, and fires in the fireplace become a near necessity. Fall is such a wonderful time to enjoy your home and with Thanksgiving just over a week away, I thought I'd share some of my ideas for decorating and entertaining for one of my favorite holidays!

Table Centerpieces
1) Stack gourds - start with the largest one and stack with each successive gourd diminishing in size creating a "gourd snowman" of sorts. This is my centerpiece standby for Thanksgiving. Gourds come in so many interesting shapes and colors, you're bound to find one that works with with your table setting. I prefer canteen gourds and others with a flat, round shape because they're the best for stacking. Typically a stack of 2 or 3 works best.
2) Hollow out a pumpkin or gourd and fill it with flowers, branches of fall leaves, or even a potted plant such as a small mum. I, personally, love the look of a mix of dried hydrangea blossoms and tree branches with colorful leaves.
3) Make-shift cornucopia. A really simple, last-minute centerpiece can be as easy as a beautiful display of fruit. A decorative bowl piled high with apples, oranges, and sprinkled with leaves can give a cornucopia-like feel of bounty.
Table Settings
1) Use fall leaves as place cards. Collect leaves from your yard and use a permanent marker or metallic-ink marker pen to write the names of all your guests. It's simple and free and your guests will be so impressed by your creativity!
2) Mix and match. At Thanksgiving we often open our homes to family and friends - oftentimes more than the "service for 10" China can accommodate, so don't be afraid to mix and match. Choose pieces with fall colors, simple patterns, or neutral colors. The pieces don't have to "match" exactly, but they should coordinate and complement one another. Tip: lay them out on the table well ahead of time so you have time to play and rearrange to achieve the best look.
Making it Memorable
1) Cocktail concoctions. Last year for Thanksgiving, I created a recipe for a signature cocktail. It was a mix of apple cider, vodka, a twist of fresh orange, garnished with a cinnamon stick. Having a signature drink is a great way to impress your guests and really set the tone for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration. Tip: make sure you test the drink recipe before you serve it to your guests!
2) Keep it simple. Since the dinner menu often gets very complicated with everyone requesting their personal favorites, give yourself a break when it comes to appetizers and dessert. A bountiful cheese platter is a great way to greet guests - choose 2 to 5 of your favorite cheeses (depending on how many guests you're having) and fill the platter with crackers, crusty breads, olives, grapes and savory spreads. Your guests will love the variety, and you'll be done with all your appetizers in one fell-swoop. For dessert, why not pass the responsibility onto your guests. Guests always want to know what they can bring and suggesting a pie, plate of cookies, brownies, or even a personal family recipe is a great way to make them feel included and helpful. Or, turn to your favorite local bakery or farmer's market for assistance. If you really want to all the work yourself, keep in mind that pies and other desserts often freeze well and set aside time to make them in advance!
With these simple tips you can surely serve up a Thanksgiving celebration that everyone is bound to remember for years to come. And, keep in mind, the most important thing for creating a memorable occasion is to spend quality time with your guests, family, and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!
For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Creating the Senses of Home

There's more to the style and feel of a home than just its decor. To create a real sense of home, you have to think about all the senses - sight, touch, smell, sound and even taste. Have you ever attended a party in a lovely home but felt something was lacking? You probably couldn't even put your finger on what it was. Well, in all likelihood, that home wasn't appealing to enough of your senses.

Sight - This is the sense that most people think about when decorating a room. In general, this is the most immediate sense addressed in houses. The colors of the room, the style of the furnishings, the placement of items and the overall layout all speak to one's sense of sight. However, to create a greater sense of harmony and cohesion, one must travel beyond merely the sense of sight and appeal to other senses as well.

Touch - Maybe this doesn't necessarily come to the forefront of one's mind when creating a livable environment, but you definitely work with it whether you realize it or not. If you want to create a casual space, you pick soft, comfortable fabrics such as woven cotton. If you want to convey a sense of elegance you choose smooth, shiny surfaces such as mirrors, silks, glass and metallic objects. If you're decorating a summer residence by the beach you would probably choose durable fabrics for the furnishings and light linens for the windows, and if you want to create a cozy environment you would turn to plush pieces in luxurious fabrics like velvet. Never underestimate the power of touch - you may have the most beautiful sofa in the world, but if it's uncomfortable and has a fabric with a rough, wiry texture, no one will ever sit on it!

Smell - In addition to interior design, my company, Cailen Ascher Design, also offers home staging services. As a final step when attempting to create a welcoming, inviting environment, I always use a homey smell, such as fresh baked cookies or mulled apple cider to welcome potential buyers. Our sense of smell is the most powerful sense for memory recall. More so than any other, our sense of smell brings us back to happy times, fond memories and wonderful occasions. Especially when entertaining, use the sense of smell to your advantage. In the summer, decorate with vases of fresh flowers to cast a soft fragrance. In addition, open doors and windows to air-out your home with a wonderfully fresh smell. In the fall, fires in fireplaces can cast a homey smell as does hot cider or even scented candles. (Use candles sparingly because some scents can be overwhelming and never place near food!) In the winter and around the holidays fresh baked cookies, spice breads or other baked goods are always a wonderful way to greet guests and fragrance your home.

Sound - Have you ever been to a restaurant where there was no background music? It often feels ever-so-slightly uncomfortable because you're acutely aware of silence as well as other people's conversations. Think about this in your own home when entertaining. Music can really set the tone for your party whether it's an intimate dinner party or a large gathering. Music fills up the empty spaces and puts guests at ease if there's ever a gap in conversation.

Taste - Though not always essential, a home that serves up great food in addition to wonderful atmosphere really takes the cake. Food doesn't have to be complicated and varied to be delicious. When hosting a party, stick to a simple menu that you're comfortable with and know you can do well, and you're assured to have success!

If you aim to appeal to many (if not all) of the senses in your house and when you entertain, you're bound to impress all who visit your home!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts, ideas, goals and aspirations down on paper. Whether you're writing about things you want to accomplish with regard to your house or yourself, putting things into writing is a great way to clear out your head and record important items you wish to remember.

Keeping a "home journal" is a fantastic way to prioritize what needs to be done around your home and record how you wish it to look and feel in the future. Record special times that were spent in your home and make sure to include photos. Also, include images from magazines of elements you would like to try to incorporate into your home to inspire you in the future.

I am also a strong proponent of keeping a personal journal. Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can give you really great insight into who you are as a person. It is also a great way to celebrate your feelings and vent your frustrations that might weigh on your mind. If you're feeling particularly good, record it as a way of preserving that emotion, and when you're having a rough day, return to your journal for both inspiration and guidance. Also, write down your favorite quotes and memories that may motivate you, inspire you or put a smile on your face.

An important element in Well-Designed Living is taking time to get to know yourself and then creating an environment that nurtures you. Keeping a journal is a great step toward getting in touch with your authentic self.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Friday, November 14, 2008

Finding Your Style

1) Look through design magazines. Observe the rooms you gravitate towards. What do you like about them? The style of the furnishings? The overall atmosphere? The neutral color scheme? Some of my personal favorites are Traditional Home, House Beautiful, New Old House, Domino, and Martha Stewart Living to name a few.

2) Browse through your closet. How would you define your personal style? What colors dominate your wardrobe?

3) Think about your favorite season. What do you like about it? Do you like the warm, earthy colors of fall? The cozy feeling of sitting next to a fireplace in winter? Or the soothing sounds and colors of a summer day at the beach?

4) Remember your favorite vacation spots. Where do you love to go? Do you love the fast-paced energy of a ski trip with snowy mountains and rustic lodges? Or would you prefer a relaxing Caribbean getaway with its casual relaxing atmosphere and cheerful colors? Or is your ideal trip a European destination with its old world charm and sense of history?

5) Don't forget your favorite color! Colors say a lot about people - blue is calm and subdued, red is vibrant and energetic, yellow is cheerful and happy....

6) Think about when you feel your best. What time of day do you like the most? The bright, white sunshine of morning? Or rather the warm, amber-colored light of late afternoon?

Here are some unexpected places to look for your design style inspiration: your favorite movie (is there a scene, home, or location you particularly like?), your regular Friday night restaurant (what do you like about the place? the atmosphere?), the stores you frequent (what appeals to you...besides the merchandise?)

After you take the time to review this list and define what you love, it will make it so much easier to decide what you want (and do not want) to incorporate into your home. Once you have some clarity about the direction you want to go in, I would suggest beginning with an "inspiration piece" to guide you throughout the design and keep you focused. It could be a gorgeous rug, your "centerpiece" sofa, or even your favorite piece of art.

Happy Designing!

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design visit or email

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beautiful or Functional?

"Homes really are no more than the people who live in them." -Nancy Reagan

At its most basic function, a home is meant to shelter you, keep you warm, and house your family. Keep this in mind as you glance around your house. How many unnecessary items do you have on your shelves, coffee table, desk, or bedside table? Clutter weighs you down and detracts from your quality of life.

In your home, you should have only things that you find either beautiful or functional...the rest is just cluttering your home (and your life). Pick one room in your home and take a garbage bag with you as you walk around and throw out (or recycle!) anything you don't need and/or don't use. Try to progress with an objective eye and attempt to see how others would view your space. What does it say about you? Do you like what your house is communicating to your friends, family, and to yourself?

We often get very attached to our "stuff", but too often we keep things because we don't know what to do with them or feel guilty about getting rid of them. It is important to realize that having something (or someone for that matter) in your life that doesn't contribute is not worth keeping. Cleanse. It will lift your spirits and leave your home looking and feeling much better.

Keep in mind that everything you eliminate from your home could potentially be put to good use in someone else's! Donate unwanted items or hold a yard sale for things that are in good condition.

*These photos show the before & after of a living room in need of some de-cluttering.

For more information about Cailen Ascher Design or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email me at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Designing the Home, Defining the Self

My name is Cailen, and I own an interior design business called Cailen Ascher Design. In addition to running my business, I am currently working on a book entitled Well-Designed Living - for the woman who wants to design her home and define herself. About a year back, I was struck with a thought. How can I design an environment for someone who is struggling with her current lifestyle? Homes are meant to be sanctuaries that reflect our passions, desires, style and personality; so how could I ever create a successful design for a client who is not comfortable with her current reality?

For years, I've had an interest in nutrition, fitness and all aspects of leading a healthy, harmonious life. So, it was a natural progression for me to combine my two passions: interior design and wellness. My book is meant to empower people, especially women, to not let another day go by wasted. My wish is that women come away from reading this with a desire to remake their lifestyle if they are dissatisfied with it and to create a home environment that nurtures them and encourages well-being.

The art of Well-Designed Living revolves around three key components:
1. Listening to and loving yourself, inside and out.
2. Allowing your authentic inner voice to be your guide in all that you do.
3. Making your home a reflection of the life you want.

Well-Designed Living is meant to show women how vital it is to take time for themselves in order to get to know their personal needs and wants and also in order to be a better mother, wife, daughter and friend.

"The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be. We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." - Oprah Winfrey

For more information about my interior design company, Cailen Ascher Design, or my upcoming book, Well-Designed Living, visit or email
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