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It Takes a Gingerbread Village to Fight Abuse and Homelessness

GBH Village  1288GBH Cat Detail  1287GBH Judging  1290GBH Details  1291Builders, chefs, and community members teamed up today to start the “Home Sweet Gingerbread Home” competitions at NorthPark Center. Lifestylist® Suzanne chaired the event which looks like it will become an annual favorite.Chef and cookbook author Karel Ann Tieszen teamed up with Shared Housing board member Mona Lincoln and TX State Fair Celebri-chef Peter Clarac (he was a winner in the Oprah cook-off) to decide which of the houses would be awarded the coveted blue ribbon. Pastry Chef Instructor at the Art Institute of Dallas Nina Hunter amazed the judges with her beautiful victorian home complete with playful penguins enjoying the pool in the backyard and was awarded first place.

Thursday the “Builders and Bakers” competition will be taking place from 12pm to 4pm also at NorthPark. Teams comprised of members from the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas will be creating homes on-site with celebrity chefs from Stephan Pyles, Sambuca, Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan, DC’s Catering and The Cupcakery. They will then be judged and awarded various prizes in different categories.

The competitions will benefit two great organizations - Shared Housing Center and HomeAid / Homebuilders Care, both which break the cycle of homelessness and abuse in the Dallas area.

It Makes Scents

ScentsyA friend of mine introduced me to a great new product (at least new to me) - Scentsy Candle Warmers. They are perfect for homes with pets or kids -the wax is heated by a bulb that is part of the warmer so you don't have to worry about fires and the soot that can come from burning candles. With over 80 fragrances you can change the scent you use to suit your mood!

Take a look at Susan Taylor's website where you can view the huge assortment of what is available and you can even place an order right there on her page. I can't wait to get my order so I can have my home smelling as fantastic as the show house did!

Suite Dreams

Biloxi BedroomI just got back from a great week in New York City where I was able to shadow Chef Joanne Bondy as she prepared for her amazing James Beard Dinner. We did a lot of walking, shopping and of course eating. The weather was cold and rainy, but nothing could dampen our spirits as we prepared for the big day. As a splurge we decided to stay at a very trendy boutique hotel - one that was nicer (and more expensive) than any other hotel I've ever stayed in. Obviously I had high expectations, and the lobby was spectacular, but when we got to our room, the bubble burst. For the rest of the week we referred to our rooms as "the closet" but sadly my closet is bigger than the room was.

That was even OK - I know space is at a premium in New York and I didn't plan on spending much time in my room. But was the real deal breaker was that the beds / mattresses were horrible. I'll put up with a lot, but this Lifestylist gets very grouchy when I don't get a good night's sleep. Most hotels - especially the Hilton and Westin Hotels with their heavenly beds have realized that their guests want and expect decent beds to that point that many hotels even market their beds and accessories - if you love them when you stay with them you can purchase that suite and enjoy it in your own bedroom suite at home. My sister is so sold on the Westin Heavenly beds she won't stay at any other hotels.

When you are planning your master suite, think about how important a good night's sleep is to you, and what can help you achieve that. Soothing colors, sheets and bedding that you can get lost in, and especially the right mattress can make all of the difference in the world.

I almost met Oprah at the Texas State Fair

Oprah at Fair 6Oprah at Fair 10Fair Ribbons 11Fair Ribbons 5Today was a very exciting day. One of the ways as a Lifestylist I search out trends and try to understand what today's buyer is looking for is by being a part of the Great State Fair of Texas. Some years I enter the Creative Arts contests - especially cooking. You'd be amazed how much you can learn about people and their lifestyles by sitting with them and chatting while we wait for the judging to be over and those coveted ribbons to be handed out. This was a great day - my second red ribbon and a blue! I love giving back and sharing, so when my competitions are over I share my remaining goodies with the parking lot attendants, ticket takers and fair workers. Ribbon or not, they are always very appreciative of what I make.

This year has been more exciting than most because Oprah is taping at the State Fair and they have been doing a lot of taping in the Creative Arts Building which is where we hang out. We saw a lot of people walking around with crew passes today and I asked someone if I could take a photo of theirs - they actually let me hold it! Why was that important to me? I have so much respect and admiration for Oprah - I can't think of anyone who gives back as much as she does, and we have the connection of rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina - I worked on over 2,500 Katrina Cottages and she made a huge personal investment of getting people back into homes after the storms. If you have spent any time there you know how important that work still is.

So as we were walking out of the building getting ready to pass out my remaining entries who should be in front of us but Oprah and Company! It was so exciting, and I ran up to her car to try to get a better look - she looks AMAZING in person by the way - I saw someone in her car so asked if I could give her my blue ribbon. They said that was very sweet but I should keep it, but I gave them some of my caramels. I believe in sharing with everyone. I was honored that they were so excited about my goodies, and now can't wait to see the show after they tape it. I didn't get to meet her, but you just never know what tomorrow might bring.

Enjoying Every Moment

The State Fair of Texas opened yesterday - one of my favorite times of the year. I was one of the first ones in the gate and immediately got started on eating my way through all of the new favorite fried items.

When I was on the midway I saw this woman playing the dart game, and doing better than I could I might add :) A great reminder that you are only as young as you feel and to enjoy every day!Dart Game

Is This a Manufactured Home?

Hobbs Spa Trop Overall AfterThe days of being able to tell if a home is manufactured or a site built are quickly coming to a close. Today's manufactured home can offer as many options as it's site built competition if not more. Technology and manufacturers have come a long way in what we can offer consumers today anywhere in the country.

I just got back from Hobbs, NM working with an amazing retailer - Young's Factory Built Homes. This isn't your "old school" retail center - even though they have been in business since 1958 nothing at this retail center is aged or dated. You can tell be the photos that the homes are well presented and would make anyone a proud homeowner. They asked me to come in and add some design trends to their interiors and I'm hoping to share what we accomplished in the next few months.

Making your house feel like a home doesn't have to cost a fortune - something as simple as adding color with colors in trendy colors and adding a few accessories can make all the difference. Pillows are another easy way to add warmth and softness to any interior - plus they are great to curl up with on a cold day!

If you have a chance stop by Young's and experience in person the trends we have shown. Tell them The Lifestylist® sent you!

Thrift Store Decors

Let’s face it – we are all worried about spending more than we need to now more than ever. Show homes are a great way to get exposure, but since they are open a limited amount of time we have to be sure that the investment pays off long term.

RMH TeamPartnership merchandising is always something that the Home Idea Factory has been very active in, and one of my favorite homes that I was able to work on was the Ronald McDonald Show House in Rochester, NY. The home was a partnership between @home Builders, The Ronald McDonald House and The Rochester HomeBuilders Association. All of the furniture, decor, and accessories used in the home were donated by the community to the Ronald McDonald House for their annual ABC Sale that is the major fundraiser for them. With myself in Dallas and the home and merchandise in Rochester, was it a challenge to be able to find the right items for the home? Absolutely, but that’s what made the home unique, and showed the over 25,000 visitors how they too could decorate their home with gently used items and have something they can be proud of.

It was a win for all parties involved – the builder saved money on his merchandising costs and didn’t have to worry about what to do with the model furnishings after the show (all was sold or auctioned off raising over $25,000 for Ronald McDonald House), Ronald McDonald House raised great awareness and funds, and consumers got excited about using what they had and attending the ABC sale.

To see what the home was all about we did a video of the home.

Vacations, Staycations, Daycations

Vacations - 35Vacations - 21Vacations - 36It's hard to believe that the end of summer is quickly coming our way, but one of the biggest trends right now is taking your vacation money and investing it in a vacation home or creating your own oasis at home.

Traveling, especially flying right now are just not the fun end exciting experience it used to be. My daughter and grandbabies just flew in to visit on Delta. Not only did Delta lose their luggage that of course they had to pay a fee to check, but when we got it their new bag had the handle ripped off of it and it was soaked. Delta claimed not their problem after I was on hold for 1 hour and have to drive back up to teh airport. Can you tell how much I love the airlines right now? Customer service is a thing of the past.

Instead of putting your valuable vacation time in the hands of an airline, think about doing a "Staycation" or "Daycation". Think of the improvements that you could have made to your own home that could be enjoyed for years to come instead of only enjoying for a few days. The cost for great items like outdoor heaters, spas, and even pools has dropped, and outdoor kitchens and fireplace components are available to consumers now as well as designers and builders.

Daycations are when you pack up the kids (or leave them at grandmas) and head to a local resort or destination for an overnight stay. The Gaylord Texan has had a calender full of fun events for families with their Summerfest program - fireworks, movies out by the pool, Jr. Chef Camp and room rates that make it a destination you can't afford not to take advantage of. My nephew and grandaughter are going to be taking part in the Jr Chef Camp on Saturday with Chef Joanne Bondy -check back for all of the details on the great time they'll be having. As a Lifestylist® it's really exciting to see how companies are starting to take into consideration more of what our lifestyles and needs are. Maybe some day the airlines will figure this out as well.

Referrals are Priceless

Nothing can hurt or help more than words and they are something that's truly priceless.

I was checking my LinkedIn page today and saw that a few people had given me recommendations including Sam Weidner Jr who was the VP of Patriot Homes and who had written the following:

"I have had the honor and the privilege to see a true artist at work. I hired Suzanne Felber to help Patriot Homes take a new, innovative, and aggressive role in helping redefine manufactured homes as people knew them. Without question she tackled that task with enthusiasm, and a creative vigor unlike anyone had seen in our industry at the time. Suzanne has a brilliant mind for knowing design trends and how to present her designs in a way that attracts buyers from all walks of life. With her help Patriot was able to win over 9 housing design awards including an award for best marketing campaign awarded by the NAHB. If you want your products to look the best the hire the best, Suzanne Felber."
Service Category: Professional Lifestylist
Year first hired: 2002
Top Qualities: Great Results, Good Value, Creative

It's one thing when you think that you have given a job your all, but when you receive something like this out of the blue it makes you want to go out and work that much harder, and give that client a big hug!

I'm honored to have worked with Sam and his company, and I'm looking forward to working with him even more in the future!

Greatness is Personal

Norman BrinkerToday many of us gathered to say goodbye to a great man - Norman Brinker. Most people know of Norman as the mind who started and refined the trend of casual dining and the founder of Brinker International, but to me Norman will always be a horse lover, polo player and wonderful father first.

In my horse days I had a barn behind Norman's equestrian center - Willowbend Polo Club. We would ride back and forth between barns and most of my horses came from owners at Willowbend that owned horses that were too much for them and wanted to unload them. Those were wonderful days and how fortunate we all were to be able to watch Norman streak across the polo field doing what he loved. Norman had an uncanny knack of knowing and remembering everyone's names from the grooms to the owners and he treated everyone equally.

When I had two very young children I decided to work as a waitress at Steak and Ale - a concept that Brinker owned and was fairly new at that time. I helped open the Plano location and Norman spent an amazing amount of time with us learning what worked and what didn't. He also wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs inside and out and we did a lot of wine tastings to learn about what we were serving. That was my first exposure to wine and it's an experience that I still enjoy. His passion about the company made us passionate about what we were doing, and we took our jobs personally and wanted to make Norman proud of us.

Our lives continued to intertwine - my sister was married at Willowbend and went on to work at the corporate offices at Brinker International. Being a "Brinkerhead" she loved being a part of that culture and was always amazed when she would visit a Chili's and Norman would be there often by himself just enjoying a burger. He always remembered my sister and made her feel special.

What Norman and many great self-made leaders understand is that to succeed it has to be personal. Your own integrity, how you treat people and love of what you do  is not a small part of why these people have succeeded and why so many people people love and respect them in return. I wish I had taken a pen and notepad to the service because the wisdom and stories that were shared were incredible. Ross Perot and Mr. Brinker were good friends for many years and I can understand why - they are a lot alike, and both have a great, dry sense of humor that I love. Mr. Perot spoke and he was able to capture what made Norman so special. Even though he had been in a coma and had health issues from a polo incident and had other obstacles, nothing was going to keep Norman down and no matter what he did it was always with an amazing positive attitude and a love for life and everyone around him. Thanks to those special moments at Willowbend, Steak and Ale and our love of horses I have lifelong friends and memories for which I'll always be grateful.

We'll miss you Norman, but know that you are happily playing polo on the most heavenly fields any of us have ever dreamed of.

Counting the Days Until Savor Dallas

I was looking thru some of my photographs the other day trying yet again to organize them and came across the amazing photos that Lisa Stewart Photography shot during the 5 years of Savor Dallas. It is such a fun event, and I swear I go into Savor withdrawal during the 51 weeks until the event.

Jim and Vicki White do such an amazing job orchestrating the event and bring some of the finest wine and spirit makers and restaurants to Dallas. The education that I get every year is amazing and it gives me a year’s worth of new wines and restaurants to try out until the next event. Plus the Savor Dallas website features tasting notes that are a tremendous resource that can be used year round.

The Whites also believe in giving back and supporting our community. HomeAid is a very special group that is very close to my heart - I’m involved in the chapter that is part of the Dallas Home Builders Association. HomeAid raises money and support to help build housing for abused children and families - it would be a dream if this type of housing wasn’t needed, but unfortunately it seems we can’t build housing fast enough to help this escalating part of our population. When I asked Jim if Savor Dallas could donate an auction item for our upcoming event he didn’t even hesitate but immediately offered whatever we needed. I know bidding is going to be fierce on this item, and if you would like to try and outbid the others on this item, please contact me and I’d be happy to add your bid.

Please also take a look at the Savor Dallas website and help me to thank Jim and Vicki for all that they do. And also be sure to mark the dates for Savor Dallas 2010 on your calendar - we’ll see you there!

Landscaping Good Enough to Eat

With grocery costs going thru the roof and concerns about the safety of the food that is available, this is the perfect time to think about incorporating edible plants into your landscaping.

I’ve had great luck with basil in my gardens, and when discussing with the lead gardener at Gaylord Texan what would be good choices for this years plantings she recommended going with plants that do well in my soil and light which amazingly enough are tomatoes, basil and mint. Even in my shady areas the mint seems to be happy as can be and is a welcome addition in my infamous Texas Tea and Mojitos.

Basil actually is beautiful when it blooms, and I’ve been known to give people bouquets of my blooming basil which are as fragrant as they are pretty.

My tomato plants get to be the size of a typical bush, and even the ones that don’t produce very good tomatoes contribute a great splash of green. Rosemary is another great addition that takes a while to get started, but gives green and scent all year long in my climate.

The Green Evolution

So you say you want an evolution... well it looks like the Green Evolution is here, and here to stay. No matter what industry you are in, everyone seems to be getting on “The Green Train”. But what does this really mean to you, and the world you live in? Defining Green is not an easy task, and the definition seems to be changing every day and mean different things to different people. It can be as simple as putting your trash in the appropriate container or as complex as an off-grid solar home. The important thing is that you do something and incorporate a green lifestyle into the way you live today and in the future. I heard an excellent example this week at the Manufactured Housing Conference where we were blessed to have Mark LaLiberte as a speaker. He used the example of a green builder in Connecticut who was bragging about the great granite he was able to get inexpensively in China. Being that New Hampshire - the granite state - borders Connecticut Mark asked why he didn’t source the product there. Sometimes we have to look at issues besides price - think about all of the energy that was wasted getting the product from China as well as the jobs locally he might have saved - and those employees that might have become customers - and to me it puts a different spin on how we forgo value for price many times. I see the greening of America as being an evolution instead of a revolution because it’s not going to happen overnight, but if everyone starts asking the question about what their choices are going to mean for ours and our families quality of life in the future hopefully we can start turning things around. As a Lifestylist I feel like it's my responsibility to do my part and make a difference. It's exciting to see how many ways we can get involved and stand up for what we believe in. Here's to the Evolution!

Vertical Living

man-west-1211Next week is going to be a really fun week - I’m off to Las Vegas to speak at the Manufactured Housing Congress and at the meeting for the Las Vegas High Rise and Condo Association. It’s really beginning to feel like the housing market has hot bottom and people are starting to think about buying their dream home again.

The Vegas market is amazing, and I love visiting the new high-rise communities and learning more about vertical living. There are so many advantages, and I’m excited to see the latest and greatest. They are fascinated with my Lifestylist brand, and I’ll also be sharing with them what the heck a Lifestylist is and how we approach the design and marketing process.

Seeing Green

plant1clarendon-backyard06lasvegas-012One of my favorite activities that keeps me sane is gardening, and every year I can’t wait for the weather to start warming up so I can get my gardens in. With our crazy economy and the new quastions about where our foods are coming from and how they are grown, vegetable gardening is a great activity. I’ve gotten much better about growing the thinsg that I love or my friends ask for, and I’ve also learned what grows better where. I had soil brought in for my raised garden, and it has produced beautifully.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and dill are my favorites, and I started a little too early this year - we got a frost after I planted my first few plants - but the last planting was timed perfectly and we got a week of rain shortly afterwards - something we hadn’t had yet this year.

I may live in the city, but by making the best use of all of the areas I have and buying plants that are designed for smaller areas my garden rivals many. I also love romantice, fragrant old-time flower gardens and my hollyhocks now come up every year with my sunflowers and daisies. They are just starting to green up - I’ll share photos when they start blooming.

The much needed rain also turned my yard into a sea of emerald green instead of the dreary brown that’s it’s been all winter - I think Spring may finally be here!

The Ultimate Fan

I have a favor to ask of all of you that really doesn't have anything to do with this blog but it does - my 10 year old nephew is learning an important lesson about marketing and the power of the internet.

Sam lives in Oklahoma City and is the ultimate sports fan - he is crazy about the OKC Thunders and goes dressed to show his support to almost every game. His parents have always been wise enough to let Sam find his own calling, so his enthusiasm (and his outfits) are all his idea. Because of this, Sam was nominated to be part of the Ultimate Fan Finale.

He is also a great well rounded child (and I am a proud aunt!),does very well in school and loves to cook with me - we entered the State Fair of Texas Cooking contests this year and Sam won two 2nd place ribbons!

If Sam wins this contest he gets to go to Boston and see his team play there as well as learn some valuable history lessons when he gets to tour the city.

Please help me encourage Sam to follow his dreams. The link for where to vote on the NBA site is here, and you can vote was many times as you would like. Most of the others that are up for this honor are adults so I'm even more proud of what he's accomplished. Please vote for Sam Davis and vote often!