Friday, February 15, 2019

Winter Survival- for the home

Truth be told, I would rather be cold than hot on any given day ( I've come to believe that my core temperature is naturally a solid 10 degrees warmer than most peoples). So while everyone else is groaning about February's freezing temperatures , I secretly prefer it to the humidity of August. And while I love my fair share of exploring, for everyday life I'm a homebody at heart and have embraced everything surrounding the Scandinavian idea of "hygge". As defined by the dictionary, hygge is " a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.". When I think of bringing hygge into my home during these winter months, I think of it in terms of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). This is how I'm infusing hygge into my everyday life:

Nothing beats the smell of homemade bread that's just come out of the oven. Though I took a break from baking my weekly bread towards the end of my pregnancy, I'm anxious to get back into the weekly ritual. Soups and stews make the whole house smell amazing and make snow days more cozy.  This recipe is still a family favorite.

Since the girls are stuck indoors a lot more these days, I went ahead and bought some fairy lights for their room. It's an easy way to make it more fun to stay indoors when the days are shorter.  I used to feel wasteful lighting candles for everyday living, but this year I changed my mind. While I could easily put candles under the "smell" category, the sight of a flame coming from a candle instantly ups the cozy factor. Since we don't have a fireplace, this is the next best thing. When the days were really short in December, I would light a candle when it started to get dark (at 3:45 here in Boston!), and rather than feeling depressed about the short days, it felt cozy being inside.
Nothing says cozy to me more than a hot cup of coffee. I'm a creature of habit, and drink out of my favorite mug every morning, and every morning it makes me so happy. Though it's not exclusive to winter, there's something about a favorite mug that makes me enjoy the experience of being indoors sipping my coffee. Saturday mornings with flapjacks and maple syrup in another winter treat my family enjoys, and pretty ceramics only add to the experience. 

There is something about a record player that is very nostalgic for me, years ago I splurged on the u-turn audio record player and I haven't looked back. I use it every day, and during winter months I love an old jazz record, like Ella Firzgerald.

Soft (fur) throw blankets and sleeping bags (for the girls) for movie nights are a must in my house, the thicker the better.

1. Fairy Lights
2. My current favorite candle
3. Farmhouse Pottery Maple Syrup Pitcher
4. Ella Fitzgerald record
5. Dutch Oven
6. Record Player
7. Fur throw
8. Tea Kettle
9. Farmhouse Pottery Mug

Friday, January 18, 2019

Organizational Tips that are saving my life

Like everyone else, I've been in high organization mode this past month (and Marie Kondo's new show is only helping). The only problem is that I do not have a ton of time to devote to organization these days, plus I'd rather be snuggling my newborn. But, I do believe that small changes over time make a huge impact. If you're like me and don't have the time to do a complete organizational overhaul, here are small improvements/tweaks, that have been "saving my life":

1. One category or room at a time , one drawer at a time:
Because I very rarely have an entire day to dedicate to organization, I have started giving myself a week per room. Then each day I divide it into a small manageable task, such as one drawer. Sometimes I will also do it the Marie Kondo way- by category. For example, I will tackle all the books in the house. Set a thirty minute timer on your phone, and just give it thirty minutes a day. You will be surprised by how much you can accomplish when it's focused on one small, specific, achievable goal.

2. A tie rack for necklaces to hang (inside the closet)
Jewelry has been a hard thing for me to organize ever since we had kids. My girls are prone to get into my jewelry, even if it means climbing furniture to get to it. While thankfully, there's less climbing these days- I still find that keeping it out of sight is less tempting for them. That is why I hung a tie rack (high enough for me to have to reach up, and out of site for them) for my necklaces to hang inside my closet. It's not the most beautiful jewelry storage solution, but it's inside my closet so I don't mind.

3. A basket for the in-between clothes.
Both Connor and I will often have clothes that aren't quite dirty enough to be put in the dirty clothes, but they aren't clean enough to be put back in our drawers. We tend to lay them on the floor or bed in a haphazard pile and it is a constant source of angst. Our room is small, so it makes a big difference when clothes are lying about. So I decided to have a basket for the "in-between dirty and clean" clothes. That way it's neat and tidy looking while we are living life.

4. Organization rule: If there's too much stuff for a cabinet, it's time to purge not get a bigger cabinet. The nice thing about having a small house is that it forces you to reassess your things and purge regularly. I subscribe to the rule: if it doesn't fit in the cabinet anymore, don't buy more storage.....get rid of things until it fits in the cabinet. After Christmas when you have received new items is a good time to look at what you have and make sure you aren't accumulating more than you can manage.

5. When possible, make items smaller for storing.
An example of this is buying drinking glasses that stack. (We recently swapped our old ones out for these to make more space in our small kitchen.) Sometimes we keep the boxes that come with purchases (shoe boxes are an example of this) to stay organized, when in fact they are taking up needed space. If they are detracting from your organization- recycle them. Another idea (that I'm hoping to try this year)is using linen bath towels. They take up way less room to store,  are beautiful, and apparently they dry very fast.

Friday, January 4, 2019

How to Purge: 8 questions I ask myself

 About three or four times a year I get into this crazy mode where I want to pull everything out of our closets and drawers to organize and reassess whether we should keep or donate items.  For me, when things aren't organized, my stress level goes up. The biggest inhibitor to organization is owning too much stuff, and the biggest inhibitor to getting rid of said stuff is the games we play in our minds. Very rarely have I regretted donating an item, but it's still a struggle sometimes. These are some questions/tactics I use to help myself get over the hurdle of whether or not to purge:

1. Would you be willing to buy this item if you saw it in a store today, and if so - how much would you be willing to pay?
Basically, how much value would you assign this item if it was not yours? Studies show that we place a higher value on things that we own simply because we own them. This question helps me to be more objective when deciding between keeping or giving away.

2, How does the item make you feel?
I can't tell you how many things I have kept over the years that I hated because "there's nothing wrong with it". If you don't love an item, whether it be clothing or a gift you were given (and you feel guilty not keeping it)....find a home for it where it will be appreciated.

3. Put the item out of sight for a period of time- did you miss it?
I do this regularly with papers and crafts my kids bring home from church/school. First I leave it out on the counter for a couple days so they know that I appreciate their hard work, then I move them to the top of the fridge for a few days. If the girls ask about it, I can bring it down and show them.  Inevitably, they forget about it and the item goes in the trash (unless it was a special piece that I want to keep in their memory box). We enjoyed what they made for a time, and then it's done. This same principle can work for things that I'm having a hard time parting with but dont use/wear. Put it in a special box for a few months to a year, and if you didn't open the box- give it away!

4. Do you need this many
How many times has the thought "but I might need it someday" kept you from getting rid of something? This is a mindset that plagues me when trying to get rid of something....often things that   I have too many of, because in a future hypothetical situation,  "I might need 3 picnic blankets" etc. (That may or may not have been a real life example.) When we first married, I registered for a ton of bath towels......I think I had close to 20. When we bought our current house, I got rid of half.....because in 12 years I have never hosted 20 people, and that many guests would not even fit in our house. We also do not have a ton of storage space. Another example is the wooden place setting holders I was given (leftovers from a friend's wedding). After holding on to them for years, I realized the likelihood of me hosting a sit down dinner party for 25+ friends was slim. If that hypothetical future thing even happened, whose to say that I would still like them. Meanwhile, these were taking up space in my home and life.

5. Is it damaged in any way, and if so-is it worth fixing?  
Whether it's a stained piece of clothing or furniture that's broken- if you have been storing it "to fix it someday", decide to do it this month or give it away if it's not worth it to you. Also under this category is expired spices and medicine (get rid of them).

6. Is this item simply a "filler" item or do you actually love it? 
So many times we fill our homes with cheap pieces until we find the right piece. There are a few times we have to do this out of necessity ("we need a kitchen table right now and this is all we can afford"), but even those times I think shopping vintage/used is a good answer. I would suggest getting rid of the filler items and having an empty space that's ready for the right piece. Empty rooms are fine!

7. Have I used the item in the past year?  While sometimes there are exceptions (looking at you, pregnancy), generally speaking if the item you are considering keeping/giving away has not been used in a year then it's probably collecting dust somewhere and should be given away. 

8. Is it beautiful or useful (preferably both)?  
This can vary from person to person. What is useful to me is not to someone else- but take note of what you aren't using (kitchen utensils are a good example), and consider if it should be taking up a spot in your home.

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Favorites

Hey friends, it's been a while. While I've been working on the new website, I've been putting this blogging gig on hold. But I've decided to attempt to do both, and hope to share the new site with you soon. Until then, I wouldn't dream of missing the yearly wrap of all my favorite things from 2018. It was so cathartic last year, that I'm officially making it "a thing".
I would be remiss to not start with my favorite design work of 2018. While most of my projects are in the "halfway there" stage, I did finish my in-laws sunroom this summer (which I'm realizing now I never officially shared on the blog, I'll blame it on the pregnancy for now).

I also finished the girls' room, and did a collaboration with Stencilit to create a stencil for the girls' wall. This is still one of my favorite rooms!

Last, but not least- I designed Eleni's nursery! Official post with all the details coming soon- I promise.

And now for my other favorites from the year:

Beauty Finds

-This mineral water for removing make-up. I'm still using the same bottle I bought in April and it gets EVERYTHING off.
-The Ordinary Caffeine Solution - I put it around my eyes at night, and it has drastically made an improvement on my puffy eye syndrome. It's also under $7 a bottle!
-The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid- This might be my favorite product of the year. It does wonders for keeping my skin hydrated during the day. I put it on after my cleanser and before my cream, and you can't beat the price point.
-Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer- Between this and the caffeine solution, it keeps my face from looking as tired as I feel. Seriously though- this is the best concealer I have found to date. Love this stuff.
- Mac Mineralize Skinfinish- I love how light this powder is, while I definitely want my face to have the hydrated dewy look- I also don't want to look like I just finished a workout. This does that perfectly.
- L' Occitane Almond Shower oil - Last winter, my skin was uncomfortably dry and I could not stop itching. After some hesitation (because it is expensive) I purchased this and loved it. It smells absolutely amazing, and just like oil cleansing my face leaves me feeling hydrated, this does wonders for my dry and itchy arms/legs. This is a great yearly stocking stuffer (a tad late on that suggestion, I know).

Thanks to pregnancy insomnia, 2018 was a big year for me in the books department. I read 20 books, which I realize is a small number for a lot of people, but for the girl who was not reading at all a couple years ago- I was very excited about this. (I also started a book club this year, which has been super fun.)  Here are my top favorites:

-Defending Jacob- I could not put this book down. Absolutely loved this one.
-Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine- I wasn't sure about this one in the beginning, but within a couple chapters I completely fell in love with the main character and could not put this one down either.

Self Help (ps. I hate the title of this category)
--Big Magic - Anyone who considers themselves a creative (really everyone , because you are even if you don't consider yourself one) should read this, and then reread this.
-Essentialism- This book might have had the biggest impact on me. It's like minimalism for your life- cutting out what does not align with who you want to be/ or what you want to accomplish with your life. I checked this out at the library, and after reading it decided that I needed one for my shelf.

Child Whisperer- I was initially turned off by the awful cover (it really is horrible), and some of the wording. It categorizes (which I was initially unsure of) kids/people into one of four "energies" and gives helpful tips on how to reach them as the individuals that they are and what they uniquely need from you as a parent. It quickly won a place on my shelf  because it was shockingly spot on with both of my girls.

I have to say, I haven't been as into podcasts this year. I'm extremely picky when it comes t podcasts.....and mostly I enjoy certain episodes without being a subscriber to entire podcasts. That said, here are my favorites from this year:

The Style Matters Podcast- designer interviews which I really enjoyed. This is probably the big one of 2018 for me.
The Second Life- Hillary Kerr interviews business women who have made career changes, and I find it completely interesting.

I'm also still loving these from last year: How I built this, the Simple Show, and Happier with Gretchun Rubin, the Bible Binge (when I need a laugh).

Well, that's a wrap! As always, thanks for following along on here in 2018, I am so grateful for all of you. I have a lot of exciting plans for my website and business for 2019, and look forward to sharing more with you all! Happy New Year!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Dark & Moody Vibes

I like to think of this little corner of the internet as my good understanding friend. Though I never intended to take an extended break from the blog, its comforting to know that at the end of the day, it's still here to pick up where I left off. And while it may seem as though I got pregnant and dropped off the face of the earth design-wise, I have actually been working more (and harder) than ever on projects for clients, personal projects, workshops, and re-branding (coming soon!). I had hoped to have a big project to share with you or a new site by the time this blog post rolled around, but as the saying goes- "some things take time".  I thought instead I would share with you one space that I am especially excited to share in the coming months.

It's a moody den in this gorgeous Victorian house north of Boston. The client's of this home have exceptional taste and are willing to make some risks that the average client on a tight budget is not. Lucky for me, I am working on the whole house. It's fun and exciting, and is going to be a show stopper.  Here is the moodboard for the room:

While there are elements we have changed in this room out of necessity (ceiling height, availability, etc.), this is still the general style direction. My goal is to keep/enhance the Victorian charm while adding modern pieces for an eclectic "old library" feel. Here are some pictures that have served as inspiration for the project:

Ps. It's good to be back.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Favorite Summer Recipe: Fresh Corn Salad

I don't know about you, but I like to keep my summer entertaining simple, with a menu that usually revolves around grilling something or other. I discovered this recipe last year, and it has been a huge hit every time I serve it. This corn salad encompasses everything I love about summer eating; fresh ingredients (with basil from our herb garden), it's simple, and can be served warm or cold (we prefer warm).  It's basically summer in a dish, and we have been eating it on repeat about once a week because Connor and I simply cannot get enough of this stuff.

- 5 ears of corn, shucked
-1/2 cup small diced red onion
- 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
-3Tblsp. olive oil
-1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

*In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until starchiness is gone. Drain and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. When cool, cut close to the cob and toss with onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. Add basil just before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature. Original recipe found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A year in Review of Small house living

We are nearing one year in this house......and I thought I would do a recap for you of the things we have loved about living in a smaller house (all 1300sq. ft. of it!) and the challenges we've faced. So many times on the web, it can feel like things are very black and white, amazing or awful, perfect or bad. Really though, most of life is in the in-between. 
(Where we love to entertain most days:)
First of all, I should start out saying- we LOVE our house. I still get the feeling of "I get to live here?!" whenever I drive home, and it's also the first home that I've told Connor "I don't want to ever leave". When we bought our first house in Indiana, it was purely mechanical- I did not love it (though I loved things about it), but it made a lot of sense, and Connor and I had peace that it was the right thing to do. After that, I never expected to have a different house buying experience (especially considering the prices in Boston and our smaller budget). So, I was completely taken aback by the blessing that is our current home. Does that mean it's perfect? No, but I am completely in love with it- imperfections and all.

So, let's start with the good. Because we have a small home, the outdoors has basically become a part of our living space. Weather providing, we are outside a ton. Thankfully, our yard has a ton of old trees which provide a lot of shade, so it's even comfortable outside on hot days. I love that our kids get to spend so much time outside in nature like I did as a kid. We also entertain outdoors a lot. It's a work in progress (lots of future plans), but my goal is to make our outdoor space as comfortable and fun as possible (for adults and kids) so that everyone wants to hang out there.

Other things I love about having a small home:
  1. It's easy to clean and keep up......I can almost vacuum each floor without having to move the plug to another electrical outlet.
  2. I'm less prone to make impulse purchases or shop out of boredom (because there's no space for things that we don't need)
  3. I'm surrounded by my favorite things (because there's not room for "filler" items), and having a small home has helped me distinguish what I love from what is simply popular/trendy.
  4. There is no wasted space. Everything must be practical and optimally serve more than one purpose- the practical and minimal side of me loves this.  
  5. Imaginative play for my kids has taken off. Because there's even less room for big entertaining toys in this house than our last one, I have watched my girls spend hours pretending and creating....and I love this!  
  6. House projects are less overwhelming. Sure I still get overwhelmed by the long list of things I want to do, but it's less overwhelming since I'm not working with a huge amount of square footage that I need to fill up with furniture and then transform. 
  7. Togetherness. I love my little family, and that we are all together all the time.
(Our "adorable" master closet:)
The challenges with having a small home:
  1.  Entertaining. This has been the number one challenge for me if I'm honest. I can get over the other hurdles fairly easily, but I've had to work harder to get through this one. Day to day, I love living in our smaller home, but when I want to invite friends over I can struggle. I'm the type of person that wants everyone to be having fun and for everyone to be comfortable, so I had to make a decision to not apologize about the size of our home when we entertain friends indoors. I also had to make the decision to not let the size of our home keep us from entertaining. 
  2. Just as a small house is easy to clean- it gets messy super fast. I vacuum almost daily, and have had to learn to let things go on days where the kids are having fun in the living room and therefore the entire house feels like a disaster.
  3. Closet space. In our last home near downtown Boston, we learned real quick to be fine with switching out our summer/winter clothes, and with Connor taking over the coat closet for his clothes. We have done this again, and store our coats in a makeshift closet in the unfinished basement. We also have plans for adding more shelving in our powder room and living room (more on those later), to help with storage.
  4. Togetherness. The flip side of this seemingly good coin is that there isn't really a quiet space to retreat to. If Connor or I are taking work calls at home, it can make things difficult........and I'm definitely planning on a sound machine for when the baby comes. 
To summarize, the love we have for our little home far outweighs any challenges we've had to figure out. It has really helped that little old houses are very much a part of the norm here in New England. Everyone seems to have a "no big deal, just make it work" mentality,  and I've really enjoyed being surrounded by that positive way of thinking.