Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Preparation

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving everyone! I'm so excited to report that going in with a plan for re-vamping our dining/living room area seems to have paid off. The room is now a nice medium shade of gray and I've hung some new curtains to replace the old.  Last night was spent recovering the dining room chairs to match, which I plan to give a tutorial on pretty soon.  I definitely think it was all money well spent--it gave the whole space a new feel. And I can't wait to christen it with a holiday centered around the dining room table!

Today's whirl-wind events include: shopping for Thanksgiving groceries, making floral arrangements (I'm excited to share those!), finishing the dining room chairs, and finalizing our table for tomorrow. It's a lot, but I'm looking forward to hosting my first holiday event so all that hard work is really going to pay off. We'll be having another couple over for the big day since our families weren't able to make it into town, and it's nice to be able to get together and share the cooking. What are your big plans for the day? Will you be traveling or hosting the event?

I imagine some of you are also looking ahead to Black Friday. I'm not sure if I'm going to brave it this year or not...that's usually a tradition spent with my sister. But I did put together a quick list of some of my favorite stores for you, hope it helps!

J.Crew: 25% off in stores or online through Sunday, code: color25.
Express: 50% off everything online and in stores until noon Friday.
Loft: 40% off everything, code: enjoy.  (For a limited time, but no date is provided).
Gap: Up to 60% off through Saturday online or Sunday in stores

Those are the ones I've seen previews for so far, I'm guessing we'll get more news tomorrow. Good luck! :) And let me know of any awesome scores!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Seeking Inspiration

For me, the renovation process goes something like this:  become frustrated with room -> begin tracking down inspiration -> get super excited and buy supplies -> begin renovation -> realize you don't have all the supplies and get more -> get bored/frustrated -> finally finish a few weeks later. Yeah. Guilty.

Admittedly I do feel extremely proud every time I enter that finished room.  And I do appreciate the huge change that even a coat of paint can make.

But this time I'm going to go in with a more concrete plan than usual and I'm on a deadline.  You see...I've decided that while my fiancee is away at class this weekend, I'm going to repaint our dining room. A week before Thanksgiving. :)  Keep your fingers crossed for me guys!

So we've already decided that we're going to continue the gray paint that we've used in our family room on in through the living and dining room rather than awkwardly trying to split it in one of the corners. Which, yes, could have looked neat, but we decided that we'd take the simple route and use furniture and accessories to make things more exciting.

Sorry for the picture quality...but I'm absolutely in love with those kelly green cushions and that geometric floor!

So...on to the inspiration. I've been Pinning a few gray living rooms and some of the trends I seem to be drawn to are long dark curtains, patterned carpets, and bold dining sets.  We did inherit a dining set from the previous owners, and while I like it, I do think it could use a bit of updating.  I think initially I'll just switch out the cushion fabric, but this picture has me reaching for some paint in a major way...

So in the meantime, I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Hopefully all goes well and my fiancee will come home to a nice surprise. Hopefully. :) I'll keep you posted.

So how about you...where do you look for inspiration? Any tips for the remodeling process?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Holiday Table

If you ever get the chance to attend an event at a local store or business: take it!  I had a really amazing time at an event hosted last week at our Anthropologie. I think their home goods are pretty adorable anyway, but the opportunity to put a cohesive holiday table together and to learn a bit about floral arranging was more than enough to get my RSVP.

Hors d'oeuvres at Anthropologie, I love that they tucked treats into the drawers!

The event was hosted and catered by Anthropologie, with Teresa Wilson of Camelback Flowershop presenting. She started by going over three general tablescapes:

Ladies' Tea

This tea is set with a variety of china and linens, imitating the blend of patterns that someone may have collected over the years. Teresa suggested using flowers in a similar color--yellow and green in this case--to anchor the variety of colors in your collections and make things look cohesive.

Bohemian Thanksgiving.

This table was all about texture.  Teresa mentioned using large soft flower clusters to counter-balance the roughness of the "bark" on the candles. She used bright pops of color with rich dark tones so the flowers can stand up to the color presented in the table setting. Woven placemats with linen napkins farther the idea of a variety of textures.  While I love the idea, I think I might have chosen to play with texture and keep the colors a bit more cohesive. You'd lose that carefree Bohemian vibe, but I think the organizer in me is just itching to to bring it together though some unifying pieces or colors.

Frosted Holiday

This was hands-down my favorite of the tablescapes... an elegant frosted gray. For this, the floral arrangements were kept very simple: garden roses in a teacup and lambs tongue in another. The idea here was to have the florals look like items you'd brought in from your garden--which is a big trend right now. To keep things natural and not over-worked.  The pieces on the table itself were mostly gray and white with some "milk glass" candles that are pretty clever.

Overall I just loved the message of primarily using pieces you have on hand to make an elegant table setting for the holidays.  You can always add a few new accents to give a little pop without breaking the bank.

The demo table: Ladies' Tea in front with Bohemian Thanksgiving behind.

Teresa did a great job of providing tips for choosing florals, structuring and arranging them, and keeping them healthy longer. It was amazing information and I definitely want to share that as a series of DIY's to help us through the holidays.

Have you ever visited an event like this?  What was it like?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Whirlwind Chicago

Chicago is definitely my favorite city to visit.  There are so many things to do and the people are so friendly. We just missed the peak of their fall season, but the weather more than made up for it: low sixties and sunny!  (Except for the day I took pictures...oops.)

Breakfast stop, perfect for lattes and a quick sandwich.

We spent a whole day doing the Magnificent Mile, just hitting all of the shops and sipping on coffees.  I also finally found a red lipstick that works with my skin tone (more on that later), which I never thought would happen! Mostly we began the Christmas shopping a bit early, it's too hard to pass up that kind of store selection.

You can just see the Crate & Barrel within walking distance from our  hotel room... :)

We also saw a bride getting prepared to be married just off the Mile, and I'm absolutely kicking myself for not snapping a quick picture. I'm amazed, though, now that I've started my own journey at how just the sight of a bride gives me the warm fuzzies.  So my belated congratulations to her--I wish her all the best!

As a sometimes visitor to Chicago my final thoughts are to visit the Shedd Aquarium and the Navy Pier (depending on the season of your trip). Those are my favorites, and it was so neat to see the aquarium again and compare it to my 13 year old memories of the place. It's so amazing how your perceptions change in that time!

Bacon-wrapped scallops at Joe's Seafood. Heaven.

As far as food goes? I would highly recommend Joe's Seafood.  You'll probably want to make a reservation, it was pretty popular even in pouring rain (and well worth braving the weather!).  I had the bacon wrapped scallops--they were crisp on the outside and melted in your mouth. Absolute perfection. And my mom couldn't get enough of the Parmesan halibut.  Whatever you room for dessert. Specifically the Havana Dream Pie.  It is a dream...that's all I'm saying. Enjoy! :)

Moving Forward

For the first time in many years, I finally chose a New Years resolution that I've been proud of.  It hasn't always been easy to keep, but that's part of what makes the choice worthwhile.  The truth is I sometimes find myself mired in depression.  If we're being really honest I was actually treated for it in college, so it's definitely something that hits hard for me.  Because of that, my resolution this year was to really try and find the bright side of situations, or at least to look through them to see bright spots ahead.

Why am I bringing this up? Partly as an explanation for my absence recently.  I hit a bit of a rough patch and lets face it: I dropped the ball on this blog.  But rather than focus on that, what I want to look at is this: moving forward. I want to think about some neat posts I have coming up. I'm thinking about the fact that I've learned how critical planning is (write posts early! and have a little cache of whole posts or at least ideas to draw from). So: mistakes happen, take the lessons you can from them and move on. Keep your head up.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beautiful Invitations

As the wedding gets closer, I find myself really drawn to images of beautiful stationery.  Lets face it: these are going to be the fanciest pieces of mail I ever send and I'd love to be able to make an impression with the recipients.

I've decided to make the set myself, with the help of my future sister-in-law who is an amazing graphic designer. She asked for ideas and I think I've delivered:

It looks like I'm drawn to ornate, calligraphy-style fonts, string wrapped around envelopes, and light font on dark envelopes.

I just love how you can get a feel for the type of wedding and the style of the bride and groom just by looking at their invitations. They're so personal!  And despite so much communication switching to more modern means, I love the feel of rich cardstock and the excitement that comes with opening an invitation that someone has obviously spent so much thought and time putting together.

So tell me: which are your favorites? Or do you like a more modern vibe for your invitations? I'll admit I slant more toward the traditional personally, but I absolutely love seeing the bold new ideas coming out of graphic designers!

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

So. Much. Cooking!  That's pretty much what my weekend consisted of...and the inevitable cleaning of dishes that follows that much cooking.  And you know what?  It was wonderful--absolutely wonderful!  I've been trying to eat healthier foods so it's been a long time since I've baked a sweet treat, and that's definitely the category these little guys fall into.

I'm impressed at how moist the cake is, but the icing is what really steals the show:  a cream cheese buttercream frosting--oh holy cow!  And they really didn't take long to whip up.  I got about two dozen when I adapted the following recipe into cupcake form: Sigrid's Carrot Cake by The Pioneer Woman.

The only changes I made were to swap the all purpose flour for unbleached whole wheat flour (I had it on hand).  I haven't tried the originals, but I imagine it would lend a bit more texture to the cupcakes. I also used 1/3 less fat cream cheese in the frosting, again because I had it.  They're so sweet and decadent, though, that no one noticed. :)  And it wasn't mentioned in the recipe...but I cheated and threw pecan halves in the blender for the frosting--worked like a charm. Actually people at work thought I'd sprinkled brown sugar on the top!

So I'd say the recipe is a sure bet if you want to impress someone. Plus it makes the house smell amazing for fall! Is there anything better than baking with cinnamon?  And tell me--what are your favorite go-to recipes for sweet treats?