New & Improved

Now is when we all make major alterations to improve our physical, emotional and professional well-being. Unfortunately, no matter how well-intended we are, we set the bar too high and soon fall back on old habits. So, in the spirit of coming up with achievable goals, here are twenty-five small changes that can impact your every day in a significant way.
Do them all or just do a few. Maybe one of these is just what you need to encourage steady visits to the gym.

01 Get a free library card.

02 Rearrange your furniture.

03 Call your BFF.

04 Subscribe to a newspaper.

05 Clean out your makeup drawer.

06 Practice yoga.

07 Visit a museum.

08 Take mom out for coffee.

09 Make a snowman.

10 Cook a new recipe.

11 Give up sugar.

12 Take naps.

13 Adopt a rescue dog.

14 Test-drive a sports car.

15 Read a novel.

17 Make it a point to always say thank-you.

18 Play a classic board game.

19 Sing in the shower.

20 Indulge in a new fragrance.

21 Take a long walk in a park.

22 Listen to NPR while you commute to work.

23 Ask for a raise.

24 Shop locally.

25 Turn off the TV.

Carving a Niche

Above: Lara Spencer and Mark DeVito – Photographs courtesy of flea market flip/HGTV

When MARK DEVITO was a boy, he would hang around Raphael’s Furniture, the Stamford workshop his father, Ralph, ran since he opened it in 1952. A former craftsman at the mill yard of the closed Danersk Furniture, Ralph DeVito, along with former workmates from the furniture factory, mentored his son in everything from wood turning, inlay, and veneer to finishing, upholstery and cabinetry. “I would be there after school,” says DeVito. “I didn’t yet see the artistic side of it.” That came later, when DeVito turned sixteen and joined his father’s business, which was later renamed Raphael’s Furniture Restoration.

Mark DeVito on the set of Flea Market Flip
Mark DeVito on the set of Flea Market Flip

Thanks to all the tutelage, and years of practicing his craft, DeVito is now known as the go-to furniture artisan in the area. But don’t just take our word for it. Greenwich’s Lara Spencer of Good Morning America also thinks so; she recruited him to be Furniture Guru on her HGTV show Flea Market Flip. “I’d worked with Lara for years and didn’t know who she was,” he says, laughing. Now in season five, FMF shows a team of experts scouring fairs for deals to be transformed. “At first I thought I’d advise,” says DeVito. “I didn’t know I’d be in the show!” Check for listings.



The Entertainer

Entertaining expert Annie Falk has been party hopping of sorts lately. She recently visited Fairfield County to sign copies of her recent release, Hamptons Entertaining: Creating Occasions to Remember. At Terrain, in nearby Westport, she also hosted a cocktail hour at Terrain’s café to share drinks and a dinner inspired from recipes in the book and prepared with café chef Alissa Svorka. At Juliska, the luxury home goods boutique in Stamford, the afternoon event included summer cocktails and light bites.

At her stops she shared her favorite dos and don’ts for making any gathering into the event of the season. Hosts, listen up, here’s golden advice from an entertaining pro:

What are your must-haves for any outdoor gathering?

“Your guests’ comfort is key to any successful gathering. When entertaining outdoors, the weather, location and time of day will determine what is needed to create a relaxed atmosphere. You may want to provide sun hats, sunscreen and insect repellant or perhaps warm wraps. Providing these simple comforts tells your guests you care and want them to be at ease.”
The Entertainer

What are your secret tools for entertaining?

“There are so many wonderful and informative tips and tricks in Hamptons Entertaining; ideas collected from some of America’s most accomplished hosts to help create a warm, welcoming atmosphere without the hassle. For instance, hostess Margarita Allinson suggests, “setting your table the night before the party, cover it with a light blanket and add the flowers just before guests arrive.” I love this suggestion as it allows a busy hostess to craft a tablescape in a leisurely manner, and lets the hostess enjoy her event more and have fun!”

The Entertainer

 What are you favorite color palates for the season?

“Hydrangea blue and white. The unofficial flower of the Hamptons, hydrangeas appear in hues of purple and deep blue. In either shade, I love paring them with white flowers then adding a bit of drama with red, orange, yellow or green blooms to create an inviting palate on the table, then I carry the color theme through in my linens and dishware. These colors work as well in early summer as they do in high season and early fall.”
The Entertainer

What should any hostess splurge on and save on?

“Splurge on good food. Source your menu items from local growers, using seasonal produce and fresh-from-the-water seafood. Save on flowers by cutting from your own garden or using supermarket finds. Save on table linens. One of my favorite tips comes from hostess Kara Ross; she uses fabric remnants as tablecloths. It’s an inexpensive way to add color, texture and glamour to any table.”
The Entertainer

What should a hostess avoid?

“Don’t ever make a guest feel uncomfortable. If they have a food preference or allergy and you weren’t aware, do your best to create something nourishing and satisfying with what you have on hand. If they don’t drink and everyone is having a cocktail, offer them a sparkling beverage in the same tumbler the rest of the guests are drinking from.”
The Entertainer

What are the little things that make all the difference?

“Watching that glasses are filled, offering seconds, spending a little time with each of your guests and making them feel completely at home, and most importantly, connecting friends.”

The Entertainer

Photographs: Jerry Rabinowitz, from Hamptons Entertaining


Summer Social

Make time for this exquisite affair coming up Wednesday, July 15 at Juliska, the luxury tabletop and home goods boutique in Stamford, where, beginning at 11 a.m., entertaining experts Annie Falk and Victoria Amory will pair up and share their summer entertaining secrets.

Annie Falk
Annie Falk
Victoria Amory
Victoria Amory

Annie will also sign copies of her recently released Hamptons Entertaining, a compilation of beautifully described seasonal festivities in estates around the region. Victoria, a blogger and creator of her VA gourmet condiment collection, is among the eighteen hostesses featured in the book. Lucky attendees will have the chance to learn how she pulled off the perfect autumn evening soiree in her Southhampton home.

Victoria will also offer tastings of her condiments while you enjoy the raffles, goodie bag, summer cocktails and more that is in store.


Take It Cheesy

Whether you like your cheese as a sharp appetizer or a savory dessert, here is a chance to head back to Cheese School at the Greenwich Cheese Company, which opened in Cos Cob last December. You will learn from a delicious lesson plan designed by owners Laura Downey and Chris Palumbo, certified cheese professionals by the American Cheese Society and founders of the six-year-old Fairfield Cheese Company. Laura and Chris plan to lead three spring classes that are bound to train your palate to distinguish between the earthy, the fruity and the nutty.

First, begin with Goat-a-Palooza on May 7, a way to celebrate what Laura and Chris like to call “goat season.” You will taste a range of selections, from fresh chevre to washed rind, firm and blue. “This is a personal favorite,” says Laura. “This one reflects the seasonality of artisan cheese. Small-batch farm-made goat cheese are at their most delicious in spring.”

Follow that two weeks later with Springtime in Paris: The Great Cheese of France, where you will delight in a variety of regional greats, washed down, bien sûr, with the appropriate French wine. “This is our way to bring the diversity of French cheese here,” says Laura.

Which leads us to June 11 for Perfect Pairings: Cheese & Wine, during which Laura and Chris will cover the basics, including flavor profiles of each and how to detect the complementary notes.

Sign up soon, advises Laura. Classes sell out quickly. But if you miss your chance, not to worry. Laura and Chris are currently putting their final touches on a summer cheese school schedule that will have you saying cheese in no time.