How to Curate a Collection

One of my favorite aspects of designing and working in a creative field is determining the direction of the piece or the collection. I love curating. I've been an active user of Pinterest and Tumblr for ages just because I find it fun! So let's talk about curated collections.

A curated collection can be anything: a Pinterest board, a mood board (physical or digital), a collage, a new swimwear collection, a photo gallery on a wall, an Instagram account, an interior design board for a room makeover, a stack of books, anything that needs to be cohesive, have direction, and inspire a feeling.

It can seem overwhelming when you first start out. Everything is gorgeous! All the colors rock! This vibe makes you feel just as much as that vibe! Slowww down.

My first tip is to start either with a color, or a texture, or a single photo. Think about what's been sticking in your mind lately. Do you keep buying things in the same color blue? What's similar about the last 20 pictures you liked in Instagram? What location are you obsessed with vacationing next? Look at your recent clothing purchases, is there a trend you can identify?

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Once you've picked something, start gathering everything that either has similar colors, or makes you feel the same way. We're talking about intuition and gut feeling. 

I loved this photo (right) as soon as I saw it, and knew that was the direction I wanted to take my next collection of swimwear. But how do you get from one photo to a collection of bikinis? 

Like likes like. I started paying attention to things that felt similar and realized I was dreaming of a French getaway that was more rustic than chic. Here's what else felt right.

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I was obsessed with Jamie Beck's Ann Street Studio Instagram account documenting her artistic exploration in France. I had just finished reading Driving Over Lemons, a story based in Andalusia. And neutral colors were calling out to me, especially that dusty rose color and a sagey green. So I started browsing Spoonflower for swatches that felt the way these images made me feel and found the perfect Orange Blossom print. From there I created a few custom colors, fell in love with a muted floral pattern, and picked up some more black fabric that just fit. Here's what resulted:

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This method can be applied to all kinds of curating. Let's review.

1. Pick a color, or one central image.
2. Gather everything that feels or looks similar.
3. Begin to pair things off or group them, identify uniting themes.
4. Remove ruthlessly anything that doesn't fit.
5. Take the next step with your project!

It's that simple, and I wish you luck with your next curation project! Share them with me here or on Instagram!

Ps. Shop the new collection colors by shopping on Etsy or send me a DM on Instagram.

Tropical Tuna Bowl

I was a little bit inspired by a seared ahi tuna sushi bowl by PaleOMG to create this. I didn't have sushi grade tuna and some of the other ingredients she uses, but I did have regular tuna and some of those small yellow mangos (which are the best btw, don't buy the big ones). They only come into season for a short time and I buy as many as we'll eat while they're around. So, here we have a tropical tuna bowl, which is high protein, low carb, and super tasty.

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Ingredients for two servings

1. 2 frozen tuna steaks, the pink ones in the bag in the freezer
2. 1 avocado
3. 1 small yellow mango
4. 1 head of cauliflower, riced
5. Your favorite green salsa
6. 2 scallions
7. Cilantro
8. 1 lime
9. Sriracha, Franks, or your fave hot sauce
10. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne

Directions

1. Rice your cauliflower in a food processor, put it in a microwave safe bowl to steam while you do some other things.
2. Heat a pan to medium-high heat with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil
3. Take your frozen tuna steaks out of the packaging, rinse them, and season liberally with the spices.
4. When your pan is hot, put the tuna steaks on and let them sizzle on one side while you...
5. Chop your mango, avocado, scallions, and cilantro. The yellow mangos are easier to cut than the green ones, and all you have to do is stand the mango up, and slice close to the middle down one side of the mango. Take that piece and cut it into narrow strips, maybe 1/2 inch wide, then cut across that slice but not through the skin to make cubes. Now run your knife between the skin and the flesh. Repeat for the other side of the mango and the remove any remaining skin and trim or eat what you can from the pit. 
6. After a couple minutes, flip the steaks and turn the heat down a little. I like my mine medium rare, so if they're frozen, a few minutes on each side so they're browned on the outside makes them perfect.
7. When all your things are ready, spoon cauliflower rice into two bowls, top with the tuna steak, and all your toppings to your liking.
8. And DO NOT FORGET the squeeze of lime! A little lime zest would be amazing too! I always forget the lime until we're halfway through with our bowls. 

Enjoy!

I usually cook a few extra veggies as a side for this dish because it is low cal. Recently we've been loving parsnip fries. Just peel and chop a few parsnips into strips, toss with oil and fresh herbs (parsley, chives, and sage or thyme are my faves), salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake at 405 till they're browned while you're cooking the rest of your meal. I like to throw more fresh herbs and a drizzle of oil on when they're done baking for extra flavor. So good!

Craving a Getaway

Seems like everyone has already or is planning on embarking on a marvelous vacation. And we don't have any scheduled. Which to me is terrifying. We always take a spring vacation, and things are just so unsettled right now that we haven't planned anything really.

I love the feeling of anticipating a trip. And I love even more feeling like I'm far far away from my home. Being in a foreign place, surrounded by languages you don't understand, feeling free and wild and inspired is beyond satisfying or relaxing, it's life-giving. 

Recently a friend mentioned that another friend was thinking about planning a group trip to Mallorca. Friend B is a professional tour guide and had been stationed in Italy prior to attending business school where my husband goes. My ears really perked up when I heard Mallorca; I recently read The Rocks, which is set in Mallorca, and I loved it, it's now one of my faves. It was a great read and it gave me quite a desire to visit Mallorca. Then one of my best friends vacationed there, and now I'm really worked up about it.

So, let's have a look at Mallorca and pretend that it's on the calendar:

Cala D'Or, Mallorca, Spain

Cala D'Or, Mallorca, Spain

Sa Calobra Beach, Mallorca, Spain

Sa Calobra Beach, Mallorca, Spain

Valdemossa, Mallorca, Spain

Valdemossa, Mallorca, Spain

Illeta, Camp de Mar, Mallorca, Spain

Illeta, Camp de Mar, Mallorca, Spain

The Market in Santanyi, Mallorca, Spain

The Market in Santanyi, Mallorca, Spain

Oranges and a pool, Mallorca, Spain

Oranges and a pool, Mallorca, Spain

See what I mean? Enchanting. Impossibly enchanting. Also you must read The Rocks because he does a fantastic job of transporting you to these locales.

So, who wants to come along? What destinations are making your heart flutter? And what's on your calendar?

Reaching Your Goals

The call of quick-fix crash diets and crazy juice cleanses was loud and alluring. A siren song after a season of bodily tumult. It's March. Are you still on the bandwagon? I'm not. Oops. But since it's mid-March, I'm feeling the pressure to go into health overdrive. Gotta get dem abs back. Gotta join the latest greatest fastest workout program and recipe guide! Right?

Well, let's burst that bubble a little bit. One day of a juice cleanse, one week of clean eating, or 13/30 days of the latest 30-day shred workout isn’t going to make any lasting impact on the softness that cropped up sometime between Nov. 24 and Jan. 1. Not to mention that recent weekend you spent with friends eating candy and cheese and too much alcohol in the mountains. Just me? Ok. 

Well, I'm getting back on the wagon and I want something that will give me results. Don't you? Blitzes aren't going to do it.

You know what will?

Consistency.

Patience.

Consistency.

Intent to actually improve your health.

Consistency.

Real food.

Hard workouts.

What does that mean though? It’s different for every person. Which means it’s up to you to determine how you can achieve consistency in the life you lead. Maybe that means getting in 3, 30 minute workouts a week. Maybe it’s 5. Maybe it means eating one less meal out per week. Or picking one day to plan and grocery shop and one day to prep. Maybe it means asking your significant other or family to help you, like really help you – assist with grocery shopping or planning meals, joining you for a family workout, or simply do more active things together.

Your first task: Think about your day to day, week to week schedule. How many 30-60 minute workouts could you reasonably fit in? Do you have time to meal prep (is there anything you can stop doing to allow this practice to fit in?)? Write. It. Down. Put it on your calendar. Tell your family or roommate your plans. You can’t jump into a 30-day shred program, thinking you’ll workout every day, if it really won’t fit in with your schedule. Be REASONABLE. This is the KEY to consistency.

What does it look like?

~In my experience, meal planning takes 1-2 hours, depending on how many new recipes I want to find.

~Grocery shopping can easily take 2+ hours.

~Meal prepping can take 1-4 hours depending on how crazy you get.

*I’m going to share some easy meals that you can prep that will be on the low end of this in a forthcoming blog post.

~You’ll need some food storage containers.

~Workouts should be 30-60 minutes, not including driving time, but sometimes 15 minute workouts in your socks and pjs are just fine.

~For the biggest impact, your meals should be plainly cooked protein, a heaping pile of green veggies, and a starchy veggie. You do need snacks, aim for high protein, low sugar, a little fat.

~Belief in your heart that putting your health first is what you want, and that steady, consistent effort will be the best for you in the long run. And maybe even by doing so, you’ll discover the body you’ve always wanted.

Let's Chat

Let's talk about bikinis! I want to continue making the best bikinis that make women feel amazing, and so I need YOUR input. Bikinis are great, wearing one means you're on the beach, at a pool, or on the lake, or heck, just basking in the sun! And that's pretty awesome, so we want the bikini to match the occasion. I can do that, I think, as long as you help me :)

Click one of the links below to start the survey.

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St. Barth's

So when we visited St. Martin, we took a little day trip to St. Barth's because, well, it's St. Barth's and if you don't go when you have the chance then you need to reevaluate your life choices.

We set off on the ferry from Oyster Pond in the morning, surrounded by the comforting obscurity of foreign languages. The ferry was fast and before we knew it we were amidst the private yachts and sailboats scattered in the bay at St. Barth's. It really felt like we were entering a different world, one in which we felt materially very poor. 

Tip: you need your passport to board both directions and you'll go through a mini "customs" at St. Barth's.

We decided to go on a Sunday, which was fine, but there were few shopping places open. We were able to rent a 4 wheeler, which along with scooters, are the easiest way to navigate the island. I do not remember which ATV rental we used, but there are only a few and probably all comparable. They were friendly, gave us a map and helmets, and told us not to worry about leaving things in the unlocked cargo bin on the back, just take the important things like passport and camera. 

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So, in a short time we were off motoring around this tiny, luxurious island. It was quiet, except for the sounds of scooters and ATVs, and when those were shut off, it was pretty much just the breeze and ocean, some distant music, and occasional voices. Our first goal was to find food. We drove across the island to Grand Cul-de-sac to La Gloriette, a recommendation by the ATV lady.  The food was very good, I had a beef carpaccio and Joe had a pizza I think. However, the service was a combination of slow island-time and snobby French attitude. It was a pleasant spot to sit and we actually beat the brunch crowd.

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The rest of our time on St. Barth's was spent hopping from one gorgeous beach to the next. The first beach was St. Jean, where the famed Eden Rock is located. It's beautiful and busy, and probably perfect for beachside cocktails, or trying to spot celebs.

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Then we moved on to Grande Saline. This beach was marvelous, giant, beautiful sand, beautiful water. The waves were a little more noticeable, there is no shade and no bathroom, and a little walk to get there, but it's so secluded there's even a totally nude portion of the beach.

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After Grande Saline, we moved on to Anse du Gouverneur, which was truly magnificent from above. This beach was smaller with more people, but it's well worth a visit because of the road and the views to get there. 

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gouverneur-beach-st-barths

By this time we've gotten a little burned while driving around the island and we're drawing closer to the time our ferry boards, so we headed back to Gustavia.

We really had the most fun driving around the island, it felt like being in a different country. It felt far away. Of course there are many more beaches on the island that would have been wonderful to visit, but we ran out of time! I particularly would have liked seeing Shell Beach and the Toiny Coast for the natural pools. 

Tips: Put sunscreen on right away, you still get sun driving around the island. Rent an ATV, the hills are steep and the scooters can be dangerous, we saw one couple who had just fallen while going uphill on a curve. Bring plenty of water with you. Beaches like Grande Saline have no facilities at all and it's a hike to and from them. Take all the little side roads you can and stop when you feel compelled to stop. It's all gorgeous.

Finally we headed back to St. Martin, a little crispy, very thirsty, and perfectly content. 

St. Maarten/Martin

Well, it seems to have completely slipped my mind that we took a vacation in May. I guess moving a few states south could facilitate that. So here we are, it's the end of July... er February, I'm going to recap our trip and give you some awesome recommendations for enjoying some time in the Caribbean.

First off, we stayed in a rental condo. We split it with friends who got a deal in a silent auction, then they couldn't make, so it was Joe and I in a two bedroom, two bathroom condo, with this view...

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There are many nice places to stay around the island, but I can't really mention any specifically since we did stay in a condo. I would recommend the Dutch side for an American style hotel, and the French side for a more boutique hotel. Grand Case seemed like a really nice place with lots of good restaurants and possibly some cute hotels.

Beaches!

Oh the beaches! Wow! These are world class beaches my friends, crystal clear turquoise water, white sand, and ran the gamut from totally secluded to full of amenities. Beach hopping is really easy here, the island is small, and it's totally worth it to try a new beach every day. My order of preference:

Simpson Bay Beach. This is a long stretch of beach with the prettiest water I've ever seen, ever. There are a couple places to rent out a lounge chair, which is really nice. Allows you access to the place's restrooms and pina coladas... Swim in the water and take a run from one end of the beach to the other.

Mullet Bay/Le Galion. This is a tiny little beach with few amenities, but if you bring enough water and some of your own snacks, this is THE PERFECT place to just float in the shallow clear water. It's so warm and other worldly.

Orient Bay Beach. This is a long stretch of beach and there's plenty to do. Topless sunbathing is pretty common, but you kind of get used to it. This is a great spot to rent some beach chairs and do some water sports.

Anse Marcel Beach. This is a gorgeous bay, small with cliffs on either side. This would have been my top pick but the beach area is really built up with a resort and there was a party going on that kind of ruined the vibe. 

Of course, I highly recommend driving down any little road that heads towards the beach, you never know what you might find. Bring a TON of water (it's really expensive if you have to buy a bottle), sunscreen, a hat, and baby powder (I always forget the baby powder). 

What We Ate

We ate a lot of seafood. It was plentiful and delicious. But be forewarned, the prices are steep almost everywhere you go. We ate out for nearly every meal except a few breakfasts, and rarely revisited a restaurant. I'll share my top picks, because some of the places we went to weren't like amazing. And I must admit that service was lacking. Maybe we just weren't used to the European style of dining, but it seemed like asking for our check was rude, or even getting the waiter to attend to us was silly.

Dutch Side

Mr. Busby's Beach Bar, Canoa, Big Fish at Dawn Beach. All right next to each other, very good, similarly priced. I'd recommend Mr. Busby's for a regular dinner, Canoa for a nice dinner, and Big fish for dessert and drinks.

Lazy Lizard Beach Bar and Grill in Phillipsburg. One of our favorite meals of the trip. The boardwalk area was very quiet and very dark, few places were open. Some locals were hanging at the bar here having a good time. And we had a very delicious meal.

Karakter on Simpson Bay. We parked here, ate a tasty lunch, and rented two lawn chairs on one of the finest beaches with the prettiest water I've ever seen. This is right next to the landing runway of the airport, so you can watch planes come in, but it is a little noisy. Great pina coladas. 

Sunset Beach Bar. This is overlooking Maho Bay where you can watch the planes come in, but we just had burgers, and most of the places around there will be similar.

French Side

Quai Ouest in Oyster Pond. The best. Ambience was divine, the server was perfectly French, and the food was great. I had the special which was stingray, and it was wonderful. Must try. I would go back to the island just for this restaurant. 

Paradise View in Quartier D'Orleans. We had a late lunch here, which wasn't very satisfactory (probably better for someone without a gluten problem), but their breakfast is supposed to be great. And they really did have an amazing view. It was breezy and relaxing.

Some tips for comfortable dining: Make sure you tip 15-20%. Most places close at about 2, so don't wait to have lunch if you feel you might be getting hungry, or plan ahead and bring snacks. Try to relax and go with the leisurely pace of the servers, but don't be afraid to hurry them along if you need to. Try some new dishes, and if you're gluten free, don't be afraid to ask, they pretty much know what that means and how to help you out. Dining here is expensive, budget accordingly, I was very surprised. We had terrible service aka no one even bothered to get us menus or take our drink orders at Captain Oliver's and Dinghy Dock Bar. There are a ton of restaurants on the island. There are some are great beachside lunch spots in Orient Bay and I think Grand Case would have been a great place to try some restaurants and even stay.

What We Did

We mostly just beach hopped. We went towards the end of the busy season so we did have a little difficulty finding things that were open.

We hiked to the highest point on St. Martin, Pic Paradis, from Loterie Farms. This was a strenuous 2 hr hike that led to some good views. It was a little confusing at the end, but a great physical diversion. Loterie Farms looked like a ton of fun, and I would recommend spending some time there as well.

We took a boat charter to St. Barth's, which was lovely and exciting, and I'll give you more details on our St. Barth's trip in the next blog post so this one doesn't get too long. 

We found a really cute artist's studio in Grand Case. Wish we would have spent more time here. Seemed like a fun town.

We watched the planes land at Maho Beach.

From Rotary Lookout Point we walked in shallow water to a small island. I definitely recommend water shoes that fasten on your feet, not flip flops. The rocks and shells are very, very sharp.

And we almost got bamboozled into a time share presentation by a couple of dudes who said we could get free drinks at the Dawn Beach Club. Not a club, just a time share thing.

We visited the small St. Maarten Zoo, which had a ton of different birds, and plenty of other interesting animals. Not like a typical American zoo, but you can interact with many of the birds, which I loved.

We also visited the Fort Amsterdam which had some interesting ruins, but mostly incredible views.

What we didn't do that would have also been fun - horseback riding on the beach, stand up paddleboarding, catamaran/sailboat sunset cruise, snorkeling, more hiking, Pinel Island and Tintamarre Island

Be adventurous. The roads kind of freaked me out a little at first, I wasn't sure if it would be safe to drive at night, but the island is so small and very safe, so it really isn't a big deal. Just know where you're going and have your map ready because navigating is really tricky.

Next up, St. Barth's

Dreaming of the Aegean

When the sun illuminates the distant hills and spills over their silvery edges, tumbles down and bounces glinting off the gentle ripples of the cerulean waters, comes sliding in through the sheer curtains hushed and whispering at the window, settling gently warm and orange on your eyelids, eyelashes flutter open, you awake, fully, lit from within, imbued with ancient light, energy, the day begins. A day begins that will rip you open, split you in pieces, leave little bits of yourself on the whitewashed stones walked by thousands of years of men and women, and your heart will grow bougainvillea, ring midday bells long after you've departed, smell spice and fish and saltwater where there is none. This is travel. A dismemberment of the small world carefully built inside you, a restructuring of the parameters with which you view the world. You can never undo it, you are forever changed.

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Summer Collection Is Here!

The 2016 RTW collection is finally available. Have you seen it yet? It's stunning, and the best part is that all styles and all fabrics are mix and match, and reversible, of course. A bikini-lover's dream come true! This is my signature collection. From now on, you'll see these styles available in the season's fabrics. I hope you love this collection as much as I do.

These bikinis also come in three coverage options - Brazilian, cheeky, and moderate; and sizes are from x-small to x-large, woohoo! If you haven't tried one of my bikinis yet, you're missing out on one of the best fitting and most flattering bikini options out there. And I'm really not overstating this. I've poured over my patterns and previous bikinis and have settled on styles that are universally flattering, comfortable, and secure. Personally, I've worn many bikinis that really sucked, even some of my own! And these ones, these take the cake. Nothing digs in. Depending on your cut preference, nothing rides up. I will always advocate for the cheeky style, it makes bums look phenomenal. Don't be scared. Check out the styles below, tell me your FAVE, and shop them on etsy.com/shop/maderasbeachco :*

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st-barths-maderasbeachco-new-bikini-collection

And, you can now support MBC and show off your #LIVEINTHESUNSHINE life by purchasing one my Sunset Tanks. They're super soft, long through the body, and just the right amount of sexy up top. Available at etsy.com/shop/maderasbeachco

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Updates!

It seems I've gotten a little behind on my blog here, huh. Well, to be fair, I've been a wee bit busy.

Let's just say preparing to sell your fixer-upper house is no small task... But now that an offer has been accepted, I can breathe again, and get back to building this business. 

So, what's new? The shop link now redirects to Etsy. I'll be selling product through Etsy, including some bomb-ass new tank tops with my fave motto - Live In The Sunshine, and bikinis! The summer collection is inching along (peeling wallpaper interrupted my progress), and IT IS GORGEOUS. For real. I'll be selling ready to wear bikinis in x-small through x-large. Stay tuned, I CANNOT WAIT for you to see them! I'll also be adding some other products going forward, like maybe a beach blanket and a bikini bag... 

What else... well we just got home from a week in St. Maarten/Martin so I'll be sharing photos from that trip soon, along with some tips for enjoying the island. In the meantime, enjoy the sneak peek photo on the home page. Special thanks to my husband for capturing that (maybe he has latent photography skills after all...).

In just a short amount of time, I'll be relocating to North Carolina, much closer to the beach and enjoying a saltwater pool at our new apartment. Expect cool things to come of that. 

I think that's all for now. Stay tuned for deets on traveling to the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten/Martin and St. Barth's. :)