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?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bringing Fall Home

There are a few things that Fall always brings to mind for me. Camping, chili, football, just spending time taking in the changing leaves... There were so many traditions tied up in the changing seasons for us as kids and now every year I start to ache for those things.

Unfortunately without being able to travel this weekend, I'm going to have to bring fall to Phoenix.  So here is the group I came up with, obviously the leather chair is a splurge, but I think I could manage one or two of the other elements.

Bring Fall Home

This definitely has a masculine undertone, but I think there's some whimsy to the gilt deer head or some elegance to the patterned pillow that keep it from going too far in that direction. I'd definitely be curious to hear your thoughts: do you change decor with the seasons?  Do you find yourself craving elements inside that remind you of the season outdoors?

And speaking of fall traditions, if you're looking for an amazing chili recipe, look no farther. I was a little intimidated initially to add wine to my chili base, but this works incredibly well. It provides a slightly different, richer taste that I really enjoy.

Anyway, hope you have an amazing weekend and get to enjoy the beautiful start to Fall!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Street Style

I have a confession: left on my own, I'm not a terribly stylish person.  I just seem to lack that creative spark that allows some people to combine pieces is new and totally amazing ways.  So...instead I look to other people, store mannequins, ads, etc, for my inspiration.  And luckily since I try to use pieces from my own closet to recreate the looks, I get a unique interpretation.

So: enter this picture, a street style shot taken during New York Fashion Week: 

This, to me, is a perfect place to start for inspiration.  She looks polished, but with an edgy twist.  And it has two major benefits: 1) she constructed the outfit with basics that most of us have in our closets and 2) this would easily work in many offices/businesses. Also I'm loving that faux peplum she created with the tie--very clever!

And just in case you're in the market, here are a few pieces I found to help recreate the look. They would easily mix and match into other outfits as well.  Le sigh...I'm craving those beautiful shoes. 

Street Style

So let me know: where do you find inspiration?  Or are you one of those amazing few who can put together a killer outfit on the fly?  PS: Teach me! :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Date Night

Do you still go on dates with your fiancee or husband?  To me it feels so fun to get out of the house and do something we used to when we were first dating. Dinner and a movie, ice skating, walking around--whatever it is, just spending time together.  And I feel like it's almost more fun when you've planned it and set aside time in advance.  It gives me something super fun to look forward to all Friday!

We've been trying to save some money for house renovations and the wedding, so our "going out" fund has been cut back a bit. That's why I'm so excited I scored some free movie tickets. We're going to go out for our first dinner in a while and then see a movie--the perfect Friday date night!

Tomorrow I'm really hoping we can convince ourselves to get up early for the farmer's market. I lived in Ohio and went to the amazing North Market in Columbus every Saturday. I'm not sure what to expect here...probably more of the "real deal" in terms of people setting up stalls and selling their wears. Anyway--super excited to try cooking something new with fresh, organic ingredients!

So what are your weekend plans? Fun dates, relaxing? Any farmer's market junkies? Whatever it is, I hope you have a great one!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Spaces

Do you ever find yourself getting antsy waiting to start your next project?  I stumble upon a gorgeous bathroom or kitchen photo and just like that I'm ready to go!

As if the room isn't amazing enough--check out that ocean view! Can you imagine?

Now I know once I actually get to work, I might get a bit burned out. I know I'll be surprised by costs I didn't see coming, etc, but for right now the inspiration is going strong and all I can think about is making my bathroom/kitchen into everything it currently isn't: chic, fun, contemporary.

Beautiful black and white inspiration! I love how the floor adds color and character.
We bought the house knowing that it needed some updating, and it is definitely fun to leave your mark on a place. Plus nothing beats the feeling of walking into your new room the day after you finished and enjoying that hard work.  The peace, happiness, and just plain rightness of the new space is striking.

This has a more traditional feel, and I love the character and classiness that it provides.

So tell me: do you get antsy waiting to start on a project, home or otherwise? Has that energy carried through the project for you? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wedding Hair

I've been thinking on and off about how I'd like to wear my hair for our wedding.  There are sooo many options, and I love that today's versatility lets brides be more themselves.

While I love the look of long, Hollywood-style waves, my hair is about shoulder-length so even if I let it grow for the next seven months, that unfortunately won't be an option for me.  I talked things over with my hairdresser and she also gave me a thought: updo's take a bit to get into place, but they'll stay that way. Your look will be pretty consistent throughout the night since it has structure to hold it in place. And gobs of hairspray. :)  Plus it's less susceptible to humidity/frizziness or losing its volume.

So I've been looking to the red carpet and wedding sites for inspiration, here are three that I'm loving:

Jennifer Morrison's beautiful loose bun. Love the tendrils around her face!
Dianna Argon--always great for hair inspiration.
And this lovely bride featured on

Do you have a favorite? Or another inspiration picture you're loving? Or better yet: a picture of your own wedding hair? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shoe Obsession

Dear shoes: I have a mild obsession with you. Please join my closet. Thanks!

Your pal,

T-strap, pointy toed heels--hot! Thakoon NYFW Fall/Winter 2012 Collection
After taking a drill to the existing closet organizer to better accommodate my shoes, I was informed that I may have a shoe obsession.  Guilty as charged!

While (perhaps fortunately) my budget won't allow me to get every new pair I fall in love with, I do find myself collecting more shoes than I have in the past.  In college I was under a much tighter budget, and also had to contend with the practicality of my shoes. Well...sometimes. I'll admit I didn't always think through exactly how far I'd have to walk in a hot new pair. (I'm sure you've been there?) But I digress... :)  So now I've begun setting aside a bit of money for shoes and I've found that they tend to fall into one of two categories: stylish for work, or fun for going out/going to weddings.

Absolute classic!  Would LOVE to go to work in these.

I've also become a bit hooked on the flash sale sites like Gilt or Rue La La to enable my shoe collecting. Have you tried any? I guess why not get a discounted designer brand for just a bit more than I'd spend at the mall?  Nothing against the mall!  But I'd like to think the quality of some of the brands available on the flash sites is more than I could afford under standard circumstances. I could be wrong, but for now I'm enjoying splurging every once in a while on a more expensive pair.

In any event, my latest purchase is supposed to arrive today--some cute Cole Haan booties! And then I'll (try to) lay off for a while--promise!

Cole Haan Air Swan Booties
I'm so excited about these, especially for fall/winter.  Phoenix doesn't see snow, so I'll be able to wear the heels without worry while still giving a cool weather vibe to my outfit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on using flash sites verses making scores in person.  I've definitely had good luck both ways.  And if you have any favorite shoes for fall--do tell! :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kitchen Dreaming

Do you ever see a room that resonates with you, one that you’d love to walk into every day?  This kitchen does that for me—just strikes a chord. 

Our house has saltillo tile running through the family room and kitchen that we frankly weren’t sure what to do with.  Those red tones seemed daunting to style around, but we knew one thing: the tan textured walls that were there just weren’t doing it for us!  Enter this image: the beautiful blue-gray wall color and dark woods contrast nicely with the red tone of the brick floor.  It adds a lot of interest yet creates a soothing, well-thought-out environment.  

While we aren’t yet able to remodel our kitchen, we did put this color combination to work in our family room.  Because our tiles have a slightly bolder tone (and are more in the orange family) than the bricks shown, we chose darker wood to compensate.  Overall I love the effect!  And I think the before and after pictures really say it all.  The changes?  New paint on the walls (we used Behr’s Premium Plus in the eggshell finish and managed with one coat) followed by painting and installing baseboard (this time in a white semi-gloss).  We also pained the existing sconces bracketing the fireplace white to match the baseboard. There was a decent amount of sweat equity (more than I expected going in, honestly), but I think the end results are worthwhile.
Before: This is actually the listing photo from the previous owners. Super sweet older couple.
After: Gray walls and white baseboard.

There are still a few things I'd like to tweak, but I'd like to think the overall effect is cleaner and more inviting. Obviously, to each his own tastes, but it was a neat project.  From here? I'm thinking either a graphic rug or some graphic throw pillows to add interest. I'd also love to stain the mantle a dark brown to match the book cases.

So, any advice?  Yeeeah... before painting, go over your walls more thoroughly than we did.  The texturing on the walls disguised some problem areas that we should have fixed before painting. Instead we wound up having to go back afterward, and some parts still aren’t quite right.  Other thoughts?  I think the baseboard was a huge change for the better.  The old trim was plain and colored to match the walls, now we have extra detail and contrast that I think makes the room look more interesting.  Ok, biased opinion. :)  Big caveat: this was a lot of work.  I may post a tutorial later on how we (read: my fiancee) installed baseboard, but just know that you'll probably want to invest in some tools (the air compressor and nail gun were a life saver!) and some extra boards just in case. :)

Have you remodeled a room?  Did you use a picture as inspiration or did you create your own vision?  And the big one: did everything go as planned?  I hope so!  Either way, hopefully the end result was worth it.  I think more than anything it gave a feeling of making the house "ours".  Which is all I could've hoped for.