Boutique Spotlight: Elle Studio in Hollywood, FL

Elle Mawardi of Elle Studio in Hollywood FL

Quay sunglasses at fashion boutique Elle Studio in Hollywood FL

Fashion boutique in Hollywood FL Elle Studio

Fashion boutique in Hollywood FL Elle Studio Opening a clothing boutique is not an easy job, but Elle Mawardi sure makes it look like it is. The recent college grad decided she wanted to open a women’s clothing boutique, and three weeks later doors were open. During that time period she completely redid and redecorated her space, curated and secured a collection of clothing and accessories, created social media accounts and websites for the store, organized a grand opening event – and probably did a million other behind-the-scenes things that just come with the territory of opening a business. She even developed a business plan to make her boutique unique – like offering a jet setter program for traveling girls looking to pack their suitcases, a rental program for formalwear, and a bar cart for guests to help themselves to coffee or drinks. A corner of the boutique is even designated as a photo booth – a fun spot complete with lighting, props and a full-length mirror.

You might expect a store pulled together in such a quick time period to look sloppy or unfinished, but Elle Studio is not. The racks are neatly organized and divided by style and mood – one wall is dedicated to formalwear, which can be purchased or loaned through the boutique’s rental program – super convenient for a wedding or bridal shower that you’ll only wear a dress to once. Another wall showcases sophisticated, neutral separates – black, white and gray pieces sourced from Paris, Los Angeles and New York. Another rack holds chic but comfy pieces – baggy solid-color tops made from the softest material in the world. Yet another rack pops with colorful, printed bohemian pieces. Another rack holds swimwear and Turkish beach towels.

For me, the hard thing about shopping at boutiques is that I want everything – but most of the time even buying one thing would be a splurge. One that I’d feel guilty about for days. But Elle Studio is different in that the clothing is high quality but prices are pretty affordable, ranging from $30 to $150. I was surprised to find that a black, snakeskin-print pencil skirt I was eyeing was only $40.

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8 South Florida-inspired Summer Cocktails

  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Grey Goose melon
    GREY GOOSE® Le Melon “Melon Mule”

      1½ parts GREY GOOSE® Le Melon
    3 parts ginger beer
    3 lime wedges

    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add GREY GOOSE Le Melon and the juice from three lime wedges. Shake well and strain into a copper mug filled with crushed ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Rekorderlig
    Rekorderlig’s “Beautifully Swedish”

    1 1/2 ounces Rekorderlig pear cider
    1 ounce of Absolut pear vodka
    1/2 ounce of framboise liquor
    1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
    4 strawberries

    Muddle strawberries, vodka, framboise and lemon juice. Top with crushed ice, shake and pour over Rekorderlig pear cider. Garnish with apple slices.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    NYY Steak’s “Yankeetini”


    2 ounces Absolut Citron
    1/2 ounce curacao
    1 ounce cranberry juice
    1/4 ounce fresh lime juice

    Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Pour into a chilled glass.
  • Refreshing Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Sweet Nectar Restaurant’s “Grandpa’s Apple Pie Cocktail”

    1 1/2 ounces Michter’s Rye Whiskey
    1 1/2 ounces Ole Smoky’s Apple Pie Moonshine
    1/2 ounce Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb orange liquor
    4 dashes aeromatic bitters
    Fresh muddled orange

    Muddle orange in a shaker. Add ice and ingredients. Shake and serve. Don’t strain. Garnish with orange or mint leaf.
  • Tsukuro restaurant's Lavender Bergamot Shooter (pictured in front)1 TeaForte lavender citrus infuser3 oz vodka
Orange wedge Place infuser in glass. Pour vodka over infuser and steep 2-3 minutes. Add infused vodka into a shaker with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into 2 shot glasses. To drink, take the shot and follow with a bite into the orange wedge.
    Tsukuro restaurant’s Lavender Bergamot Shooter (pictured in front)

    1 TeaForte lavender citrus infuser
    3 oz vodka
    Orange wedge

    Place infuser in glass. Pour vodka over infuser and steep 2-3 minutes. Add infused vodka into a shaker with ice, shake vigorously. Strain into 2 shot glasses. To drink, take the shot and follow with a bite into the orange wedge.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes Grey Goose melon
    GREY GOOSE® Le Melon “Melon Royale”

     1½ parts GREY GOOSE® Le Melon
    3 parts lemon-lime soda

     Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add GREY GOOSE Le Melon and top with lemon-lime soda. Present with a melon slice.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Max’s Harvest’s “Watermelon Patch”

    2 ounces fresh watermelon juice
    2 ounces Crop cucumber vodka
    1/2 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liquor

    Fill 16-ounce shaker glass with ice and ingredients. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into chilled martini glass.
  • Refreshing South Florida Summer Cocktail Recipes
    Naked Turtle Rum’s “Dark & Beachy”

    1 1/2 ounces Naked Turtle Rum
    3 1/2 ounces ginger beer
    Lime slice for garnish

    Combine Naked Turtle Rum and ginger into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with lime slice. 

All images courtesy of the restaurants and liquor companies who supplied the recipes.

The best part about summer in South Florida? Outdoor entertaining. Barbecues, pool parties, dinner parties at twilight – I can’t get enough.

I asked some local restaurants and liquor companies to share some of their most refreshing summer drink recipes, and they definitely delivered. Use your arrows to scroll through the recipes, and click on the images for more info. Cheers!

Wanderlust Wednesday: the World’s Largest Underground Trampoline

World's largest underground trampoline – Bounce Below in Wales

Here in South Florida, trampoline parks have become quite trendy over the last year or so. It seems a new one is listed locally on Groupon every week. I went to one for the first time last fall – Off the Wall in Coconut Creek. After hours playing laser tag with a bunch of teenagers and bouncing on the giant trampolines until I was out of breath, I wondered why I wasn’t indulging in this awesomeness every weekend. Then my boyfriend slipped one of the trampolines and sprained his ankle, and we decided maybe we’d had enough of the trampoline parks for a little while.

But I’d jump at the chance to go to Bounce Below, a trampoline park inside a cavern in Wales that opened this past weekend. Bounce Below has transformed the nostalgic trampolining from your childhood into a sport for the truly adventurous. Guests are transported to the cavern by an old mining train and they must wear a protective helmet and cotton overalls to participate.

The trampoline nets are spread across two huge chambers at varying levels and are linked together by walkways and and slides that are up to 60 feet long. A technicoloured light display illuminates the cavern so guests can admire the geology. If you go, dress in comfortable but warm clothing, as the temperature in the cavern is about 46 degrees F.

Admission is £15/person (about $25) – not a bad price for such a one-of-a-kind experience, if you ask me.

World's largest underground trampoline – Bounce Below in Wales (images via)

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Chic Travel Accessory: Designer Backpacks

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Stella McCartney Falabella faux-suede backpack | Balenciaga Classic Zip Traveler Backpack | MICHAEL MICHAEL KORS Jet Set Leather Large Backpack | Stella McCartney Bicolor Faux-Leather Rucksack, Black/White | 3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Backpack | Moschino quilted Napa leather backpack | The Row leather backpack | Tory Burch Marion Quilted Leather Backpack, Pink | ZAC Zac Posen Eartha Backpack | VINCE CAMUTO Janet Leather Backpack | Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Mariska Backpack  

When I was about 10, mini backpacks were the “it” handbag. I remember being so excited when I got a black faux leather mini backpack for my 11th birthday. I stashed inside my GigaPets, wallet, planner and lip gloss, and proudly took it everywhere.

Over the weekend, I was at Macy’s in Town Center at Boca Raton and spotted an entire wall lined with Michael Kors backpacks that my 10-year-old self would’ve freaked out over. In fact, I’ve been seeing backpacks everywhere lately. It seems every designer has gotten in on the trend, from Chanel to Stella to Vince Camuto.

These pieces provide quite the upgrade to your standard JanSport backpack. They’re the perfect no-fuss, stylish travel companion. Because if you’re running through the airport or train station to catch your ride, why would you want to deal with a giant handbag?

Travel Guide: The North Carolina Mountains

IMG_4336 One of my favorite places in the world is North Carolina. I’ve been traveling to Beech Mountain, a little town in the northwestern region of the state, since I was 9 years old. My family used to take us there on week-long summer getaways when I was in grade school. With each trip, that first breath of mountain air always signified the start of an escape from the real world – it meant wearing sweaters even in the summertime and doing things I never could in Florida, like exploring dark, cold caverns, hiking to loud, powerful waterfalls, and taking winding, scenic drives through the mountains.

I fell so deeply in love with the state. When you add up all of my trips there, I’ve probably spent less than two months of my life in the state, but there is something about traveling there that feels like home to me.

These are the spots that are musts for me:

WATERFALLS:

1. Elk River Falls
Located just near the northern Tennessee-North Carolina border, getting to the waterfall is a very easy, .25-mile hike. For such a non-challenging hike, the reward is high – spectators can get pretty close to the green-blue falls. People can often be spotted jumping into the plunge pool below the 50-foot waterfall. Most who know the area would advise against this, though – many people have drowned after getting caught in the powerful current at the base of the falls. Plus, the water is freezing.

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2. Crabtree Falls

This 60-foot cascade is just beautiful, and you can get so close to it. Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway (at milepost 339.5), the hike is about a 2.5-mile roundtrip and is of moderate intensity. I don’t recommend wandering off the beaten path to try to get another view of the falls – my dad and brother tried that years ago, stepping out onto a log to get a closer photo. They stepped on a bee hive and ended up with about 13 stings each. But you don’t really need to get any closer anyway, if you ask me – the view is already spectacular.

crabtree falls north carolina travel guide

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Jellyfish Lake

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Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Jellyfish Lake in Palau

(images via)

I have never been stung by a jellyfish – knock on wood. But growing up 15 minutes away from South Florida’s beaches, almost everyone else I know has been. I’m sure my day will come, and that day is one of my worst fears. So why, then, is snorkeling in this jellyfish-filled lake on my travel bucket list?

Jellyfish Lake is a 12,000-year old, saltwater lake in in Palau, Micronesia. It is home to more than 10 million golden jellyfish. The amazing thing about this species of jellyfish? Not harmful to humans. Over the centuries, the climate of the lake caused the golden jellyfish to evolve and their stingers to weaken – allowing humans to snorkel right alongside the beautiful creatures as they migrate from one side to the other of the 1,500-foot-by-525-foot lake.

Travelers need a $35 pass in order to snorkel in the lake. Many touring companies in Palau can take visitors to the lake, which is located on the mostly uninhabited Eil Malk island. Getting to the lake requires hiking over a steep, limestone path, so visitors are advised to wear protective clothing and waterproof shoes.

Sadly for me, Jellyfish Lake might remain just a dream for the moment – tickets from South Florida to Palau run upward of $2,000, and the flight can range anywhere from 27 to 40 hours, depending on the airline. But I look forward to the day I can see a jellyfish and not swim frantically in the other direction.

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Cosmetics Bag: the 10 Best Lip Crayons

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1. Clinique Chubby Stick in Richer Raisin; $17; clinique.com 2. Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Gloss Stick in Plum Jam; $16; soapandglory.com 3. tarte LipSurgence power pigments in True Love; $24; tartecosmetics.com 4. NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Timanfaya; $25; narscosmetics.com 5. BITE Beauty High Pigment Pencil in Chablis; $24; bitebeauty.com 6. NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Jardin de Plantes; $25; narscosmetics.com 7. Lipstick Queen Chinatown Glossy Pencil in Catalina; $22; lipstickqueen.com 8. tarte LipSurgence power pigments in Tipsy; $24; tartecosmetics.com 9. Sisley Phyto-Lip Twist No. 1 Nude; $50; sisley.com 10. NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Biscayne Park; $25; narscosmetics.com

The only thing I love more than a good lipstick is a good, no-fuss lipstick. Enter lip crayons. I tried Clinique’s Chubby Sticks a couple years ago when they first came out and was instantly hooked. They are so easy to use – no lip brush, lip liner or mirror required, and you can just pop them in your purse or carry-on for easy touch-ups on-the-go.

A few months ago, I went on a quest to find the best lip crayons for an issue of our magazines and I sampled tons in all shapes, brands and colors. The ones pictured here came out on top for me based on the shades, the staying power and the ease of use. NARS makes my personal favorite – creamy and vibrant and in an amazing array of colors, and the color lasts hours. (Try Timanfaya – an amazing orange shade that is super trendy right now.) BITE Beauty and tarte are wonderful natural options, and Lipstick Queen and Sisley are perfect for those who like a luxe formula. A lip crayon, for me, is the cherry on top of a carefree but still chic summer wardrobe.

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For foodies: 9 of the best restaurants in Delray Beach

Cocktail at Deck 84 – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Cocktail at Deck 84

If I could live anywhere in South Florida, it would be Delray. Full of art, food and charm, downtown Delray and Atlantic Avenue are totally enchanting. Between the beach and the amazing restaurants, this is a city I’m proud to show out-of-towners.

It would be easy to get lost on the Avenue all day, hopping from bar to restaurant to after-dinner coffee spot, and ending with a walk down to the beach. My guide to every meal on the Avenue:

Lunch break
Find the perfect mid-day escape at The Office (201 E. Atlantic Ave.). Rustic meets refined at the trendy gastropub serving up prime burgers and craft beer, plus comfort food like truffled devil eggs, fried green tomatoes and creamy mac and cheese. Guests will appreciate the running office-theme, with Water Cooler Martinis, an Office Supplies menu section and the cheeky, butt-imprinted chairs.

Frisee salad at The Office – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Frisee salad at The Office

Drinks
One of the most happening spots when the sun goes down is Union (8 E. Atlantic Ave.). Creative cocktails like Grape Roundhouse (Monster, Svedka black-grape vodka, vodka-infused gummy bears) and the Peanut Butter & Jelly shot (NutLiquor, Chambord, peanut butter and chopped peanut rim) are complemented by the Candyfish sushi menu.

Dinner date
32 East (32 E. Atlantic Ave.) has been open 18 years and is the ultimate special-occasion dinner spot. The menu by Chef Nick Morfogen (named one of Food & Wine’s top chefs) changes daily, and everything is homemade and fresh, from the fish to the ice cream. It’s a must on every foodie’s bucket list. For divine, upscale Italian and homemade pasta, walk farther east down the Avenue to Tramonti (119 E. Atlantic Ave.).

Coffee break
Bring a laptop, a book you can’t put down, and your imagination to Spot Coffee (44 E. Atlantic Ave.), which offers coffee brewed from 100 percent arabica beans, plenty of couches and free Wi-Fi.

On the water
The work of restaurateur Burt Rapoport, Deck 84 (840 E. Atlantic Ave.) is great for “Sunday Funday.” Enjoy fresh seafood and watch the boats pass on the water. Try the crispy fish tacos or the jumbo crab cake.

Crispy fish tacos at Deck 84 – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Crispy fish tacos at Deck 84

Mango habanero maragarita at Deck 84 – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Mango habanero maragarita at Deck 84

Crab cake at Deck 84 – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Crab cake at Deck 84

Just off the Ave.:

Walk to the east end of Atlantic Avenue and you’ll meet A1A and the ocean. Here, you’ll find Chef Blake Malatesta’s Sunday brunch at 50 Ocean (50 S. Ocean Blvd.). It’s unforgettable. Indulge in a build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar with 30+ ingredients, shrimp pot pie, PB&J waffle and the best sticky bun I’ve ever tried.

The Breakfast All Day Burger and Red Velvet Shake at BurgerFi (6 S. Ocean Blvd.) are a guilty pleasure when I decide I don’t care about looking good in a bikini anymore.

Onion rings at Burger-Fi – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Jumbo onion rings at BurgerFi

Burger at BurgerFi – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Burger at BurgerFi

Red velvet milkshake at BurgerFi – Best Delray Beach restaurants

Red velvet milkshake at BurgerFi

Swinton Avenue is full of charm, and the historical Sundy House (106 S. Swinton Ave.) restaurant, inn and botanical garden – open since 1902 – is my top recommendation to visiting guests looking for a place to stay.

This excerpt first appeared in an April 2014 article I wrote for Gold Coast magazine on the best foodie streets in South Florida.

Lord & Taylor Friends & Family Sale

TRINA TURK Avalon Sandals GENIE BY EUGENIA KIM Cecily Striped Sun Hat | KATE SPADE NEW YORK Francis Holly Street Tote | SAM EDELMAN Multi-Stone Raffia Collar Necklace | YVES SAINT LAURENT Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain | ZAC ZAC POSEN Loren Patent Leather Crossbody Bag | KATE SPADE NEW YORK Ciao iPhone Case | BOTKIER Honore Leather Colorblock Crossbody Bag MICHAEL MICHAEL KORS Hamilton Large Leather Tote Bag | MARC BY MARC JACOBS Bow Accented Flats | KATE SPADE NEW YORK Ladies’ Gramercy Gold-Tone Bracelet Watch | RAY-BAN Aviator Sunglasses

I went shopping with my mom over the weekend in Boca and stopped by the new(ish) Lord & Taylor. The sale they have going on now is amazing – an additional 25 percent off almost the entire store – much of which is already on sale – and online using code FRIENDS. There are very few brand exclusions, and even the cosmetics are at 10 percent off.

I have a trip to Curaçao coming up, so I was in the market for some good beachwear and travel accessories. I was majorly crushing on these Badgley Mischka cover-ups (so gorgeous!), this Kate Spade New York tote  (the perfect beach tote or personal item!) and basically everything by Trina Turk. I confess I may have bought a few things… And you should, too! After all, it’s not every day you find Marc Jacobs shoes for less than $100. Act fast, though – the sale ends tomorrow.

Fort Lauderdale Must-Try Restaurant: Italio

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Italio is one of those restaurants you don’t know you’re missing until you try it. And then you do, and you wonder – where has this restaurant been all my life?

If there is one category of food that’s oversaturated in South Florida, it’s Italian. Good Italian. In Fort Lauderdale alone, there’s Casa D’Angelo, Valentino, Cafe Martorano, Kitchenetta – the list of high-end, award-winning spots goes on. But what South Florida has been missing is the casual – but quality – Italian experience.  A place to grab take-out during a lunch break, or a place to go on a Saturday night when you just don’t feel like wearing heels. A place that’s fast, but not quite fast food. A place you don’t have to feel as guilty about eating at, because you know the ingredients are fresh and the kitchen is clean.

South Florida has this for Mexican food – think Zona Fresca or the Whole Enchilada. It has this for American food – try Shula Burger or PDQ. So why haven’t South Floridians had this for Italian before? Seriously, let them eat pasta!

Italio finally makes it possible for pasta junkies to have Italian everyday. The chain, which currently has four locations across the country, offers a fully customizable Italian experience. Guests instruct the chefs on what to add to their dish, and it’s assembled and cooked right in front of them. For guests who feel overwhelmed by the challenge of composing their own pasta, salad or wrap, there’s a chef’s menu with recommended concoctions.

After hearing rave reviews about the brand from friends, I finally tried Italio last week and loved it. A quick run down of the menu:

The Piadas:

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These Italian wraps are what Italio specializes in. Packed with fresh veggies and protein, it’s the pastas and sauces that take these wraps to another level. I tried two from the chef’s menu. The grilled chicken Piada – with romaine lettuce, bruschetta, Piada croutons, aged Parmesan cheese and Italian dressing – is kind of like a chicken caesar wrap, but the Italian dressing and bruschetta make it uber-flavoral. The Piada croutons add crunch and almost remind me of airy, bubbly fried crackers. The Italian sausage Piada – with pasta, sauteed peppers and onions, black olives, Mozzarella cheese and Spicy Prima Rosa sauce – was also good.

The pasta:

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I tried two different types of pasta. The meatball pasta, with basil chiffonade, bruschetta, black olives, Mozzarella cheese, and Basil Pomodoro sauce, is from the chef’s menu. It was also by far my favorite dish. Just a perfect combination of flavors – the fresh, housemade bruschetta, the olives, the basil. So good. The second pasta was a spicy chicken parmesan the manager recommended for me. The dish was simple, but well done, and the spicy red sauce distinguished it from your normal-run-of-the-mill chicken parm.

The salads:

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I tried the grilled chicken salad from the chef’s menu – bruschetta, roasted garlic, Piada croutons and aged Parmesan cheese. It’s normally served with Italian dressing but I subbed it for caesar to distinguish it from the grilled chicken Piada I’d tried. It was good – and in fact, when I crave Italio now, I think about two things: this dish and my favorite meatball pasta. I also tried a creation the manager dreamt up for me – baby spinach, shrimp, cucumbers, black olives and a lemon herb vinaigrette – that was light and refreshing.

Dessert and drinks:

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Italio currently offers one type of dessert, but it stands out. The cannoli chips come in a brown paper bag and are served with a sweet cream and chocolate chip dipping sauce. The chips are super light and not overly filling like so many desserts can be. The amount of dipping sauce provided gives the perfect chip-to-sauce ratio – I finished my cannoli chips and sauce at the same time.

The restaurant also offers a selection of beer and wine, and the manager told me that the alcoholic beverages are hugely popular. Which got me thinking – not only is Italio a great takeout spot, but it would make for a perfect, relaxing dinner for a date night, too.

The ambience:

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The restaurant’s setting is rustic and modern. Industrial benches line sleek, large wooden tables and windows offer plenty of natural lighting. I was told no two Italios look the same, which can only mean one thing – I’ll just have to check out the Boca location next.