Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Favorites

It's snowing/sleeting in Boston, and like most of you- the gifts are bought, the fridge is full, and I've transitioned to cozy clothes, completely satisfied to not leave the house for a few days. Any other homebodies out there? I love this time of year. I don't often get a chance to catch up on blogs these days, but you're going to bet that I will be doing a ton of reading from books to online articles this weekend. I thought I would share my highlights of 2017 with you- from my favorite moments to my favorites podcasts and beauty finds. Merry Christmas, and see you in 2018!

Having our home featured on Homepolish Magazine:

Instead of buying bread, I  started making it from scratch every week , and haven't looked back since. This is the easiest recipe you will find. 

2017 Beauty Finds:

  • Caudalie Beauty Elixir- After raving about it to me for months, one of my friends bought this for me last Christmas, and I have been a faithful follower ever since. I put it on right after I moisturize and my face feels so fresh and amazing and ready for makeup.
  • Ok, so I didn't discover it this year, but it's still worthy of mention because it's made such a difference for me. This is my favorite body scrub during these dry frankincense. My skin is so soft after I use it.
  • NYX soft matte lip cream - this is my "lipstick on the go", it applies so smoothly. I'm not without the color Stockholm- it's my natural lip color, and makes me look polished in a pinch.
  • IT cosmetics CC cream foundation - This might be my favorite beauty buy from the whole year ( I use shade "light"). It's the only foundation I have ever used where I can see a notable difference in my makeup. I only dab a little on my (usually rosy) cheeks and a couple other spots, and then use my watered down beauty blender to keep it light and minimal. 
  • Glossier Cloud Paint- As one who naturally has rosy cheeks, I have steered clear of any form of blush until now. I love this stuff. It's easy to apply, and with my beauty blender it gives a "barely there" look. I like "beam" for summer and "dusk" for winter months.
  • Glossier Boy Brow- Not to jump on the Glossier band wagon or anything, but this is another product that I'm really loving. I love the subtle texture it adds (more realistic looking than any other brow product I've used) to my thinner brows, and the color is spot on. The Blonde color does not have any red in it thankfully which is always my issue with brow products.

New(er)-to-me Instagram accounts to follow:

I've really scaled back on the number of people I follow, but these are new(er)-to-me follows that made the cut: 
  • Mathilde Lacombe- This French lady is so chic, and does a lot of makeup tutorials in her IG stories. The catch? It's all in French. I like her because she has great taste, has a similar complexion to myself (helpful with makeup tutorials), and gives great tips like white eye liner on the lower lash line (genius!)
  • theannaedit- makes me laugh, her style sense if very similar to mine, and (I mention her later in this post) basically I want to be best friends with her.
  • Jessica Anteby - makes me laugh
  • Jessannkirby- love her take on New England style.
  • Gaby Burger - I love her mixture of edgy and classic styles. I think I may have been following her longer than a year? 

Podcasts I discovered this year:

  • "Off the Camera with Sam Jones" - interviews with actors/directors/people in the movie industry. Why do I love it? It's easy to see successful people and to make the assumption that their path didn't include failures or that they didn't second guess themselves. If you're a creative, you will love this podcast....and you will realize we are all in it together. Ps. I especially loved the episode with Jeff Daniels.
  • "The Simple Show"- All about slow living, simple pleasures, and what that looks like to different people.
  • "How I built This" - Popular for good reason, if you haven't checked it out already- you need to.
  • "The Shauna Niequist Podcast" - Interviews that will inspire and teach you something new.

Favorite Books from 2017

I kept to my goal of 12 books this year, I really tried to narrow it down (because I really loved them all!), but here are my favorites from the year:

  • "The Curated Closet" by Anuschka Rees- Helped me to not only purge from my closet, but also more clearly define my style. I can't say enough about this book.
  • "Chasing Slow" by Erin Loechner- Most interesting memoire, and so many good take aways.
  •  "I thought it was just me (but it wasn't)" by Brene Brown - I know everyone is jumping on the Brene Brown wagon these days, but I literally was taking notes and am still referring back to them. 
  • "The Four Tendencies" by Gretchen Rubin- Not the most grabby title, but this is such an interesting book on how different people are wired to respond to expectations. It's changed my outlook so much in how I see myself (and my failures and successes) as well as those close to me. Another one I want to keep around to refer back to. 

Blogs I started following in 2017

  • The Anna Edit- Ok. My friend introduced me to her blog about a year ago, and I have been unapologetically obsessed since. I love her makeup tutorials, any and all of her product recommendations, her sense of humor and personality, and her capsule wardrobe. My only regret is that we can't be best friends in real life.
  • The Vault Files - I love Gaby's effortless everyday style as well as workout looks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Homemade hot chocolate and Marshmallows

In Decembers past, I have quickly burnt out over too much on the calendar, too much on my list, and too much sugar. This year I tried a different approach: I made a conscious list of the "memory making essentials" that were really important to me and my family. This includes a few activities and foods that I don't want to miss out on. Everything else can go. This has really helped me to not feel bad about having to say no- whether it's to activities or events we are invited to, or rich foods that aren't on my list. At the very top of that list though, is our December first tradition. We started the tradition of decorating the tree and house on December first years ago when Connor and I were newlyweds, and about five years ago we added in homemade hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows to the mix and have not looked back. The hot chocolate is good, but the real winner is the combination of the two, with the homemade marshmallows melting inside. If I'm going to give myself one pass on sugar, this would be it.....not just because it's amazing (I have only had one hot chocolate from a gourmet chocolate shop that rivals it), but because of the memories surrounding it.
 Ps. This tastes best with board games or a christmas movie.

Creamy Hot Cocoa
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 pinch salt
-1/3 cup boiling water
- 3 1/2 cups of milk
-3/4 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 cup half & half (only if you are omitting the marshmallows)

*Combine cocoa, sugar, & salt. Blend in boiling water. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring. Simmer for 2 min (still stirring). Stir in milk until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into 4 mugs. (add cream if not using marshmallows)

Homemade Marshmallows  (via Smitten Kitchen)
- 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 TBLSp. + 2 1/2 tsp)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
-2 cups sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp. salt
-2 large egg whites
-1Tblsp. vanilla (or mint/almond extract, but I prefer vanilla)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar

* Oil Bottom of a 13x9 pan and dust with powdered sugar. In a large saucepan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup of cold water, & salt over low heat (stirring) until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil mixture (stirring) until candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F (takes about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and pour over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Beat the mixture on high until white & thick and has tripled in volume (6 minutes for a standing mixer and 10 minutes for a hand held). In a operate bowl (with clean beaters), beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined. Pour into the baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup of powdered sugar on top. Chill until firm (3hrs- 1 day). Use cookie cutters for shapes, or cut into 1 in. cubes. Last up to 1 week in cool room temp.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Advent Calendar

Until this year, I haven't officially done an advent calendar with my family. Fall is a busy time for my us with lots of visitors, and there's something about going from  halloween costumes, to menu planning for Thanksgiving, to birthday planning for my daughter, to getting ready for Christmas. By the time December rolls around, I'm just tired and this is one of those things that usually slips through the cracks. This year I decided to do an "activity" advent (in the loosest sense). I've filled it with simple things like "reading the Christmas story" and "watching 'White Christmas' ", and a few bigger activities that we are already planning on doing. There's something about having it written down that is fun and exciting for the girls. In an effort to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this season,  I also reserve the right to rearrange and substitute as necessary. Feeling exhausted? Maybe today's activity is to watch a "Elf" instead of going ice skating.  Here are some of the things we are doing:

1. decorate the tree & house
2. drink hot chocolate & play board games
3. watch White Christmas
4. make cookies for the neighbors
5. go to the Nutcracker ballet (a favorite tradition every year)
6. watch Elf
7. pick out a toy to donate to a child
8. decorate christmas cookies with friends (already on the calendar)
9. read The Nutcracker
10. make christmas ornaments
11. leave something special in the mailboxfor the mailman
12. watch Miracle on 34th Street
13. make gingerbread houses
14. eat santa pancakes
15. make a gift box for a child in need
16. make gingersnap cookies
17. make paper snowflakes
18. choose nonperishable items for a food drive
19. go to the christmas tree lighting downtown
20. go ice skating
21. visit NYC and see the Christmas tree and lights (we are already doing this)
22.make paper chains (my girls were obsessed with this last year)
23. watch A Charlie Brown Christmas
24. Read The Christmas Story

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

With Thanksgiving around the corner

If you're like me, you had the sudden realization that Thanksgiving is next week (and you're hosting!).  I've compiled a few things to get you in the holiday mood, whether you are up for a project or prefer to keep things simple.

DIY paint splattered napkins OR these are adorable (link):

DIY wooden chargers OR these are pretty:

Love these DIY place cards OR these are darling:


5 simple table design tips for the person who would rather be meal planning
I made this homemade stuffing last year and had requests for it again
12 tips to help you be a good host over the holidays
Not this year, but I'm dying for some matte black dishes
9 healthy holiday eating strategies
Along those lines- apple chutney & brie puff pastry pockets

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Painted Trim

My feelings on this subject have made such a dramatic change in the past year. While I blame my previous dislike for painted trim on design choices I witnessed first hand as a kid growing up in the 80s (red trim anyone?), I can credit my newfound love for it from some of the below gorgeous images. It's understated and elegant, and I'm all about it.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Wrap around Built-in bookcases

One of the "problem areas" of our new house was the living room. There was one average sized window in the center of the living room wall. I quickly fell in love with the idea of built in bookcases that wrapped around the window. Not only does it look more finished to me (than just having two bookcases on either side of the window), but it also fits really well with our old house. There will be a DIY coming to you soon, meanwhile here are some images that have been my inspiration:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

On trends

Whenever I'm feeling uninspired creatively, I take a step back and examine how much time I am spending looking at other designers or on instagram. Blogs and other forms of social media are a great platform to see design projects and designers I might not otherwise see, to share current projects, and even to grow a business. One of the downsides though is the rise in trends, they come in a flurry and then all of a sudden we all look the same and decorate the same. We lose what makes us unique (and in my opinion, interesting). I am not taking an anti-trend stance (just visit my house and you will see many trendy pieces), but rather I'm advocating to really be in tune with your personal style to where you would know whether or not a specific trend suits you. The best compliment I can get as a designer is for a client to tell me that their home feels like them. Here are a couple spaces where I breath out a sigh of relief and think to myself "I haven't seen that before":


Friday, September 22, 2017

Currently loving: Banquette Seating

Lately I have been stumbling across image after image of the most beautiful dining areas with banquette seating, and I can't get enough of it. Maybe it's because I'm using banquette seating in one of my client's spaces right now, or maybe it's because I'm considering it for my own house (hey space saving solution), but either way- I'm loving it. I think we are all used to the banquette seating that's been around for years......the kind that usually includes white built-ins (which I still love by the way). However, the banquette seating that's been catching my eye is fresh and unfussy. It's stream-lined, yet cozy. I love it all, I can't even choose a favorite: 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My 6 Tips for Small Space Living

Between working with clients living in tiny city condos (try a family of four in 600 sq ft.) and downsizing to our own house of 1300 sq. ft., I have been learning a lot about how to make the most of small spaces. If you are in the house hunting stage, my best advice for deciding on which small living space you should choose is to find a home with as much natural light as you can, high ceilings, and an open layout. These three things will go a LONG way when you are short on square footage. If you take two houses with the exact same square footage, you will feel like the one with high(er) ceilings and natural light is more spacious. I can't tell you how many houses we walked through that were bigger than our current house, but Connor had to duck in places, walk sideways up the stairs, or I could touch the ceiling if I stood on my toes.....and we are not large people. It felt very chlosterphobic. So that's my advice for those on "the small house hunt". If you have a small house and are wanting suggestions for making the most of what you have, these are some things that have made the world of difference in my own house and in my client's homes.
1. The Chair and a half.  Obviously, this would not work for the living room of a 600 sq. ft. house....BUT if you have just a little bit more space, I cannot say enough about this as a smart piece of furniture to own. Why? Because it's smaller than a love seat, but seats two people comfortably. We bought the West Elm Bliss chair in Indiana for our bedroom (back when our bedroom was the size of half our current house), and since then this chair has proven invaluable when we have company. Also, there are some situations, where the room is too small for two accent chairs, and you just have a corner to work with (such is in our last home).....the chair and a half just takes up one corner but seats two people. It's genius, really.
2. Change out your winter/summer clothes. If you have extra storage in a basement or attic, this is a simple thing that can make your closet not feel jam packed (that and actually getting rid of clothes).

3. Go vertical. Perhaps obvious, but worthy of mention. Go vertical with bookcases and decor. It will not only be helpful for storage, but it makes you look up and makes a room feel more spacious.

4. Acrylic or white furniture over dark. Not always, but sometimes dark furniture takes up a lot of visual space. It might be the exact dimensions of a white piece of furniture (or acrylic), but it will feel larger.

5. Low/lateral furniture.  This one has surprised me by how much of a difference it makes. Our bedroom furniture is pretty average in size, but when we moved to our "cozy cottage", the only thing that didn't make me feel like the walls were caving in on me were the nightstands. This was unfortunate because it was quite the ordeal to get those dressers up the narrow staircase and into our bedroom in the first place (thanks Connor). So, we exchanged our dressers for two pieces that were the exact width and similar depth for two that were about a foot shorter. Problem solved. I no longer feel like I'm sleeping in a cave, and we still have storage. Here is a low vintage piece I snagged on craigslist for $40.

6. Multi-use furniture.  This includes the obvious ( a day bed that can fold into two twin beds) and the less obvious (a low dresser that can also act as a bench).

Friday, September 8, 2017

Lovely Attic Renovations

There are a couple projects highest on our priority list now that we are moved in. One of them is transforming the attic into a living space. The research I have done shows that attic renovations in the New England area are next to kitchen and bathroom renovations in the return profit. As long as the window is large enough (fire escape), then this is valuable square footage being added to the house (especially treasured in small New England houses).  While our attic is not a large space, I think there are so many possibilities. Mainly though, I envision it being a playroom and guest room. Here are some of the pictures I've been mulling over for inspiration:


Thursday, August 31, 2017

BackYard Dreaming

Now that we are all moved into our house, we are really enjoying spending a lot of our time outdoors.  There are also so many house projects that we want to work on (each of which is time and money), and it can feel a bit overwhelming. I thought I would start by sharing our big plans for each space starting with the backyard....and then as we tackle each individual project I will share more.

I always begin the design process with what I call the "dream phase"- this is where being practical and budgets are off of the table. In my experience, if you start with beautiful design, you can usually find cheaper ways to get there, and there will always be road blocks so you can just count on that. That said- most of the ideas here are very doable (Connor may argue that the playhouse may be a bit dreamy, but we'll see!). I love the idea of a Hansel & Gretel whimsical playhouse, and something like this would fit with our French cottage-like house. We already have the dining table (Connor made in Indiana) and dining chairs, we plan on making the pergola and doing a vine wall against the stucco garage wall. We have a fire pit that I would like to update down the road and add some cool chairs (these from World Market were sold out by the time I could get to them). Anyways, that's the plan for now- most of which we will start working on next Spring......

vine wall (pic)
pergola (pic)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Buying A Vintage Rug online & My favorite Sources

Not to be dramatic, but I equate buying a vintage rug online (with the words FINAL SALE running in the back of your mind) to be one of the most terrifying experiences. In the past I've found the majority of our vintage rugs on craigslist for cheap....$20 anyone? I don't have to think twice! I will find a space for it. Trust me. But there is something just terrifying about buying a not-so-cheap rug online that you cannot return. 

When we moved to our new house, I knew I wanted to move the shag rug into our bedroom and get a new vintage rug for our living room. The shag rug (turns out) is not the most kid friendly. Being somewhat of a clean freak, I didn't love that I would vacuum and then find crumbs that were hidden in the shag. While the small/odd sized vintage rugs are easier to spot at flea markets and craigslist for a steal, finding a large one (that you love) is virtually impossible on the cheap.

I started searching for a rug as soon as we moved in, and I was having a lot of trouble pulling the trigger on one. I rounded up my top five, but still nothing was giving me the feeling I wanted to have before I made a big purchase. (I now have much more empathy for my clients in case you're wondering). So, I emailed them all to my friend Brittany (as one does) and asked her opinion and "why was I having such a hard time?". She gave the soundest piece of advice which coincidentally I give all my clients, but sometimes forgot to follow myself. Her advice was to look at rooms that have the feel I'm going for, rather than only looking at the individual rugs. I realized I had been looking for a showstopper of a rug, but I liked rooms where the rug was not the statement of the room. It's more difficult looking for a rug that is not a showstopper, but equally beautiful. But I'm happy to report I found mine, and I love it. (The rug in this bedroom below by Amber Interiors was a huge inspiration).

The other advice she gave was to ask the shop/store owner to take a picture of the rug with indoor lighting if one is not provided. That way, you will not be surprised by the colors when the rug arrives. I'm sharing a few of my favorite etsy shops for finding vintage rugs at a "fair price". In my experience, you get more for your money when you buy from smaller shops. Another good thing to note: when you "favorite" a rug on etsy, a lot of owners will immediately email you a 10% off discount code which will at least cover shipping costs.

(left to right: 1. Ebrarshops 2.ColorReform 3.USRugGallery 4.VintageDecoRugs  5.OushakRugs 6.MedallionRug

Thursday, July 27, 2017

DIY Cement Planter

Ever since making that cement lamp earlier this year, I have been scheming of other things to make with my leftover bag of cement. If I had known how easy it is to work with (just add water!) , I would have been all over these projects a long time ago.  Between the lamp and the planter, there is hardly a dent in my $20 bag of cement, so prepare yourselves for a lot more DIY's coming your way. While it is messy, it's very simple to use. I'm starting to see things at the grocery store as molds for my cement rather than items for my pantry. (Send help!)

1. I used a large cottage cheese container as the larger mold, and then placed a yogurt container inside to create the "hole" for the plant. Plastic molds are fine, cardboard molds are better, and stay away from metal molds (such as cans).
2. Then you just mix cement and water- it doesn't have to be perfect, I promise. Just make a "soup-like" texture, and then pour in the space between the two containers.
3. Make sure that the yogurt container is not pushed all the way down, so that there will be a cement bottom to your planter, and at the same time make sure it doesn't slide up. After about 10-15 min. the cement will start to settle.
4. I left mine on a shelf overnight and then it was completely hardened. I kept mine simple by painting a simple gold line around it.