Green for Spring and the Perfect Mother’s Day Gift for Expectant Moms



New local boutiques, businesses and brands you may not know — but should.


Alicia Blas’ two teenaged sons are skaters.

“One day, a fireman stopped by my house and said, ‘You’ve always got a gaggle of boys skateboarding outside your house, and you can’t see your address.’ That got me thinking,” says Blas.

The master gardener in two states headed to Home Depot and bought a load of AstroTurf.  “I laid it out in my living room and realized, ‘I can make everything out of this stuff.’ ”

So she started with her now-coveted (by Rachael Ray, among others) maintenance-free house numbers and named her business Firmly Planted.

Blas, who grew up in Farmington Hills and is a Hillel Day School, Kingswood-Cranbrook and Harrison High School graduate, went to art school at Chicago’s Columbia College and launched her career working as a photo stylist for big-name stores and magazines, including Blooming-dales, Macy’s and Target.

Hired to style the set design for a Sears shoot featuring garage doors, aluminum siding and paint, someone else on the shoot pointed out to her that she was missing her calling. “She said, ‘You should be doing gardens,’ ’’ Blas recalls.

Realizing the stranger was right, Blas, 50, studied to become a master gardener in Florida, where she had moved with her husband before moving on to California, where she had to study again to become a master gardener of that state’s specific zones.

“I love working with plants and flowers,” says Blas, who wanted to know all she could about their names, origins and very best applications. “But I’m a designer, too, so I like to try to put everything together. My goal is to be a ‘gardenologist’ — I want to help people create a whole out of the inside and the outside.”

To that end, she has been studying feng shui (as well as Kabbalah), an ancient Chinese system of improving one’s energy by living in harmony with one’s surroundings. And in 2010, she founded Firmly Planted, a collection of boldly hued, playfully designed and eco-friendly indoor-outdoor pillows (backed in vibrant all-weather Sunbrella fabrics), clocks and, of course, numbers, plus custom designs — all intended for indoor-outdoor use and all manipulating the soft-to-the-touch grassy faux greenery.

After posting some pictures of her pillows on Facebook last year, she got a call from an old friend who loved them. Judy Solway Jennings, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills and whose parents were friends of Blas’ parents, told Solway she worked for Frontgate, a high-end home furnishings and accessories website and catalogue, and a deal was sealed: The pair became business partners, and together they sold more than 300 pillows last year alone. They recently counted Britney Spears as one of their Facebook and Twitter followers.

“I’m an outdoors guru, with a bit of spirituality mixed in,” says Blas. “I want to create a lifestyle. I want to connect people with Mother Nature with all the comfort and style of the modern age.”

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Just in time to share with all the moms-to-be for Mother’s Day this month, Melissa Schweiger and Annette Rubin have paired to author Belli Beautiful: The Essential Guide to the Safest Health and Beauty Products for Pregnancy, Mom and Baby (DeCapo; $16.99), which landed on bookshelves in April.

Schweiger, a beauty and style aficionado, grew up in Ann Arbor but headed to New York City for a writing career (Seventeen, Marie Claire and InStyle magazines), eventually becoming the beauty editor at Sephora and writing their book Sephora: The Ultimate Guide to Makeup, Skin and Hair from the Beauty Authority (HarperCollins; 2008).

While pregnant with the first of her two boys in 2008, her attention naturally turned to the beauty and skincare products best for pregnant women and the babies within. So she teamed with Annette Rubin, founder of Belli Skincare, the No. 1 pregnancy- and baby-safe beauty brand recommended by ob-gyns, to help pregnant women go beyond the usual warnings from their doctors about which foods and medications to avoid and to educate them about which beauty and skincare ingredients can be potentially harmful to their unborn child through topical absorption.

“Many of the ingredients used in beauty products are normally safe, but when applied during pregnancy are actually linked to birth defects and miscarriage,” says Schweiger.

Carefully screening hundreds of beauty products and vetting their ingredients for links to birth defects and hormone disruption, Schweiger and Rubin explain which ingredients to avoid — and which to get the most of — and recommend a boatload of pregnancy and baby products they love, plus share plenty of their own wonderful and varying adventures in motherhood.

Available at local bookstores and

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