Tag Archives: sophisticated living

Another Year with Sophisticating Living

Fran Berger 2018 Welcome

What I’ve learned about sophisticated living – and how I’m taking it to the next level in 2018.

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “We only get one ticket to the big dance.  Make it count!”  I get that. I’m all for enjoying life. There are a lot of ways that you can live, why not do it while leading an exciting and flavorful life?

The big question is, “how?”

If you’ve been following my blog or my videos on YouTube, you know that this question is the very heart of what I call sophisticated living. There’s a very fine line between just living and living fabulously. – and I choose fabulously.  It’s certainly more than spending a ton of money – you definitely do not have to and just the spending does NOT make the difference. It’s an attitude – yes – but it’s also a state of mind. Why not live to the fullest? Why not draw out as much joy as you can wherever you can? And, what makes that life even more incredible is how you share it with family and friends.

This is where I come in.  I love to share tips – be they in the kitchen, recipes for easy and delicious dishes, tips on décor, travel, on being a fabulous host, tips for easy entertaining at home, and fun ways that can enhance your lifestyle. Not only am I in search of whatever makes life enjoyable, but I’m also looking for things that bring us together – all under one roof, happy, and thoroughly entertained.

When I share, I hope that people take these ideas and do more with them – put their own ‘spin’ on them.  Incorporate them into their own lives in their own way. Even things that seem insignificant to one person can be a huge deal to another. They’re conversation starters and idea makers. And, bravely incorporating them into your world is all part of what it means to live a sophisticated life.

Back to the question – how? How do we find those “small things” that can really make a difference? Come with me and I’ll share what I know works –  you just need to be open to the suggestion. And here’s another thing that decades of experience in the restaurant business has taught me: you don’t find “secrets of success” by being overly careful.  If you don’t ask or don’t try – the answer will always be ‘no’.

Part of the experience is trying many things in all sorts of situations. You’ll have some flops – things that don’t work no matter how hard you try.  But, part of the success is in the trying and it’s a great feeling when you find the one something that makes a room full of people happy. Go ahead, smile. It feels great, doesn’t it?

Here’s to 2018 and another year of sharing!

How about a New Years’ Day party?

Fran Berger - home decor

An excellent way to balance a great NYE party is an excellent NYD Open House.

New Year’s Eve is a great time to celebrate, don’t you think? What better time to party than to ring in the new year? And I have to say – it’s a lot of fun to host. I should know, I’ve done quite a few. Many of my New Years’ Eve parties have turned into big events with the house packed with 100-plus guests.  Most of the time for these New Years’ Eve parties the last guests are leaving way past 1am!

Sometimes with all the excitement of New Years’ Eve, we forget about New Years’ Day. In some ways, it’s an even better day to celebrate – with family and close friends. Even friends of mine who are not big football fans love to hang out together for a little NYD gathering.

Everyone who comes to my New Year’s Eve party knows that I also love to host an Open House on New Years’ Day. Yeah, I love it that much I have both NYE and NYD! They also know to be prepared for me to show up VERY CASUAL. No makeup, dressed down, and looking for a pleasant way to chill out. It’s the perfect way to have an Open House on New Year’s Day.

I start off the day before the first kickoff of the first Bowl Game with the Rose Parade. And usually, it’ll go on until the last minute of the last game of the day.

Here’s how I plan my Open House.

  • Set the timer on that large pot of coffee to start brewing first thing in the morning so it will be ready for YOU when you open your eyes.
  • People know that the parade starts early so if they’re coming to watch it then your day will start even earlier!
  • Get deli trays: bagels, smoked fish, capers, cheeses, and veggies. Make sure you have a variety of flavors – onion, cheese, pumpernickel, everything – even if your favorite is a plain water bagel. Make sure that you ask the deli to slice them.  That way you don’t have to AND if they aren’t all eaten you can put them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer!
  • Set the trays out with the coffee, cream, sugar, juice etc. to get everyone’s day started.
  • Decide on a great stew or chili for the afternoon. Make it a day ahead – that way you just have to put it on the stove and reheat.
  • Aside from the veggies on the deli tray, bring in a simple mixed green salad and some great crusty bread. This’ll go with the stew or chili, and you’ll have a meal that can stay warm on the stove for whenever your guests arrive and are ready to eat.
  • For plates – think about the cleanup. I recommend very sturdy paper (easy to dispose of) or any of the great plastic plates and bowls you can find from Yoshi. They have wonderfully designed plates, bowls, and strong plastic utensils (spoons, forks, and knives). Check out the really cute accessories they have that add to a light party atmosphere.

By the way, if you opt for paper plates and bowls, the emphasis is on “very sturdy”. Nothing worse than flimsy paper plates and bowls that spill on laps and couches while people are gawking at games! A friend of mine had a party a while back and gave everyone small serving trays. Worked pretty well as a way of catching spills, but also offers guests an easy way to plate appetizers and rest their utensils and such. You can find stylish rectangle plastic trays from Yoshi as well.

Last word. In many Asian cultures, New Year’s Day is actually one of the most important days of the year. Who you talk with and what you do will set the tone for the entire year. Talk about commitment! But it is a nice thought – what better way to ring in 2018 than hanging out with friends and family?

A Handy Tipping Guide for the Holidays

Handy tipping guide

The easy “how-to” for tipping during the holidays.

We all have service people that help us throughout the year, but sometimes it’s confusing on how much to tip or even whether you should tip at all during the holidays. I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than twenty years, and sometimes it’s a little confusing even for me! Tipping is easy enough in a restaurant – not so easy in other settings.

I have a simple guideline for who to tip during the holidays. It comes from my uncle who said, “At the end of the year, think of the people who have helped you. If you’ve been helped, it never hurts to tip.”

So, I think about the places where I’m a ‘regular’ – at least once a month, weekly, or semi-weekly. I also especially think of businesses that know me well, and where I’m always satisfied. For instance, the hairdresser, barber, or manicurist. Maybe the dog walker or the groomer.

As for how much should you tip, that depends on the price you typically pay for one visit. If a typical visit is $50, then your tip should be $50. If you’re only an occasional client, then the holiday tip can range from $10 to $25.

For the person who babysits for you, the tipping guide could be one day’s earnings. If you have a full-time nanny, then consider giving out a holiday gift or ‘bonus’ that’s equivalent of one or two weeks of salary – depending on how long they have worked for you.  Remember the person who comes to clean your home – the tip amount could be equal what they receive for a day’s wages.

I don’t forget individual cases like the mail carrier. Even if you live in a high rise and don’t know them at all – it’s important to remember them. You’re at their mercy when it comes to getting your mail that might not have your apartment number on it.  Federal law prohibits a USPS worker from receiving anything higher than $20, so make your tip anywhere from $5 to $20. I think this rule applies to other anonymous delivery people (consider newspaper and laundry).

Speaking of apartment and condo living – I also think of the staff who are there for me 24/7/365. How much to tip each person varies significantly depending on if you rely on that person daily or perhaps rarely ever see them. Gratuity can be anywhere from $50 to $200 per person depending on their job and how much you actually interact with them during the year.

Proper tipping etiquette says that when you tip with cash, give it directly to the person whom it is intended. However, giving cash is not always the right thing to do for everyone.  If you are tipping professionals like physicians or teachers and day-care providers, then a thoughtful gift or gift certificate is the appropriate tip for their service.

Unless you want to go completely anonymous, think of putting the tip (cash or gift card) in a personal card that’s addressed to the recipient. I use a seasonal greeting card, but some folks like to use a nice thank you card. The card accomplishes two things: first it puts a face to the tip; and second, it lets the person know why they’re appreciated.

Don’t forget –tipping is a ‘thank you’ for everything people have done for you during the entire year. It’s an indispensable part of what sophisticated living is all about.

What about those Meal Kit Delivery Services?

From Plated - a meal kit

Review of the top 5 meal kits – for pleasure, convenience, and flavor!

A friend of mine goes on frequent camping trips with her family. There’s one thing that she does before every trip – no matter if it’s a short weekend trip to the desert or a week-long stay out in the forest – she plans every meal, right down to the last 1-½ cup of flour and ¾ teaspoon of baking soda (pancakes, if anyone is counting). The day before the trip, she bags and boxes all the ingredients that she’ll need and even adds instructions.

“I make it so easy that even my youngest son can cook a meal,” she says. The most important part: it’s quick. She has four kids and a hungry partner – so maybe that’s what you do in that situation. Besides, who wants to bring measuring cups and spoons on a camping trip?

I wonder if that was the inspiration behind the meal kit? Everyone is so busy now, and the first thing that goes out the window when time is short is cooking dinner. But you and the family have to eat so what’s the alternative? Fast food, again? Seriously?

meal kits logo listEnter the various Meal Kit Delivery Services that have popped up. There are so many options in national brands now. Personally, I think it’s a great convenience if you want to cook and haven’t had the experience to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Even if you have expertise in the kitchen, the kits save you lots of time – no more going to the store, buying everything you need for the recipe and then measuring out all the items. It all comes in the kit – pre-measured, ready for you to cook.

My only note of caution – read the subscription rules carefully. Some are longer and more complicated than others. You can’t just call the day before an expected delivery and cancel a meal. That sort of thing.

A few of the top trending meal kits are: Terra’s Kitchen, Peach Dish, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Plated. Your real choice is how much you actually want to spend time prepping and cooking the meal – or would you rather have most of the ingredients come pre-made.  I’ve placed them in order of their convenience value. All of these kits produce high-quality meals.

Total Time Convenience: Terra’s Kitchen is very easy for people who are really pressed for time and/or want total convenience. These meals have the least amount of preparation time needed because things come pre-chopped, sauces already made, et cetera.

Cooking Ease: Here’s my ‘middle’ tier for easy meal prep that requires a few more steps than Terra’s Kitchen but not as many as others. If you don’t mind chopping some veggies, Peach Dish and HelloFresh will give you some cooking ease and very nice meal. All the ingredients are carefully measured out. The instructions are very clear.

Adventure and Experience: Blue Apron and Plated are for people who want a little more adventure in their cooking experience. The recipes are a bit more complicated and might require learning some new cooking skills but, the results show it.  You’ll be creating dishes you never thought you’d ever be able to make in your own kitchen.

The great thing about all of the kits: someone else is doing the shopping and the planning. You will learn about dishes you might not otherwise make. And, you might enjoy them so much you may keep some of the recipes and try them later on your own.

But the best thing? You’ll be spending time with your family and friends in the kitchen and at the table, creating memories over a meal that you cooked!  And, really, those memories are what it’s all about.

Enjoy!

What is “sophisticated living”?

Sophisticated Living: it’s not what you spend, but what you share.

I’m a big advocate for enjoying life.  We only get one ticket to the big dance so we should participate in life to the fullest extent that we can. No matter where I am, I find that there’s always a way to draw out enjoyment from even the smallest thing. It’s the start for living a sophisticated life.

Why? Because how you enjoy something only increases the chance that you’ll find a way to refine it and add some degree of elegance to it. When you’re having fun, you find it’s so easy.  It takes such surprisingly little effort to add just the right thing to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. It makes everyone smile, including you!

But where does the inspiration come from? How do you learn about that “little thing” that makes such a big difference?

With over twenty years owning restaurants, I’ve seen – up close and personal – individual interpretations of what it means to celebrate your adult life. I’ve made some great friendships with people who have been very successful in finding just the right balance between being happy with their life and leading others to be happy as well. I have seen for myself that an inspired approach to living is infectious – once you experience it, you can’t leave it alone.

We’ve all heard that who you love is as important as how you love. I’d like to take that one step further: how you enjoy life is as important as how much you are willing to share. You’ll quickly learn that sophisticated living has very little to do with how much money you spend living your lifestyle. It has everything to do with what you learn about yourself and the world around you and how you share that knowledge.

I think that a big secret to living a sophisticated lifestyle is being honest with yourself and the people around you. It also takes a bit of bravery because you may feel like you’re risking embarrassment. But, how can you expect to be “sophisticated” when you hide behind pretext telling someone else’s story and not yours? Shout it out! What are your true interests? What types of things are you into? Fashion? Travel? Food? Entertaining? Fearlessly put it all on display! Have fun with it. Be bold. Invite others to have fun with it too.

Living a sophisticated life encourages us to express our deepest dreams and ideas through everything that we do. We enjoy moments and scenes. We embrace our experiences and knowledge – unabashedly and with the greatest joy. And all the while we have our friends and family at our side enjoying every moment with us.

My goal has always been to express the lessons I’ve learned from my years owning my restaurants through parties and gatherings and how I view life; sharing my likes and loves, tips and observations. It’s how I’m living my sophisticated life – sharing my knowledge and enjoying the time I spend doing it.

Want to come along?