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
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