Sunday, December 10, 2017

Adorable Nursery Decor - Fiona Walker, England

Yes, the animal head trend has been in full force for some time now but I'm still not tired of them yet as I keep seeing more exotic animals and cooler twists on colors, prints, quirkiness, etc.  But Fiona Walker's animal heads are not the only adorable nursery decor she's got going on.  I love her collection of animal bookends, wall hangers but especially her other wall art.  She makes it all still feel very fresh, relevant and whimsical.  Here are some of my favorites:

Love the punchy color combo for a boy or a girl's room.

These castles are wall hangings! 

Dying over the headdress. 

That crown!!

And just because it's this not the most adorable little reindeer?!

Shop and source full collections here

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday Tip: Luxardo, baby!

About 2 weeks ago if you asked me if I even liked bourbon, much less drank it on the regular, I'd tell you emphatically "no way"!!  But then my husband came home with the most magical liquor called Luxardo and now I cannot get enough of his Manhattans.  I can't tell you how many times I've tasted his Manhattan and just cringed but this magical ingredient, Luxardo, has converted me and it will change your world as well! 

Luxardo liquor originated in Croatia in the early 1800's and was made from the maraschino cherry (see cherry commentary below) pits. The distillery was eventually moved to Italy in the early 1900's which is where many people mistakenly associate its origins.  Besides having a recipe that has stood the test of time, you'll still find fifth and sixth generation Luxardo family members running the distillery!  How's that for a family business?  You can get a longer history lesson here if you are interested. 

Cherry note: PLEASE do not confuse these marachino cherries with the jarred, food-dyed cherries you find in the grocery store now...marachino cherries came from a special type of cherry called the Marsaca cherry that isn't grown in the United States.  After these imported cherries became super popular in the United States, people began preserving their own cherries in things like almond extract and eventually the marachino cherry as we know it today evolved.  But, thankfully it is easy enough to get Luxardo cherries today (can we say Amazon?!) although you will find them to be much more expensive than the grocery store version.  But let me tell you, it is a) worth the splurge and b) they last a long time. 

Without futher adieu, here is my husband's version of a Manhattan:

The Jack Jones Manhattan
1.5 jiggers of bourbon
.5 jigger Luxardo
1 jigger Vermouth (use the good kind - it makes a difference)
dash of bitters
splash of Luxardo cherry juice and a Luxardo cherry (or two!)

Oh, and just one of these Manhattan's will do ya ;)


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Shopping Site for the Hard to Gift People in Your Life


Phew, things have been busy.  My husband still travels for work all week every week so I'm at home with a 3 year old and a 17 month old - I couldn't be happier but finding time to blog and do things for myself is a rare occurrence.  We are finally feeling a little more settled in our new house in Raleigh, NC and now that everyone is getting a little more sleep, the boxes are all unpacked and life has settled into a routine, I'm really starting to get my groove back.  I struggled for a while with the transition from working to stay at home mom, living in a new place and adjusting to life with a husband on the road and two VERY active children to care for.   But, in the end, I do think the big move was the right thing for our family.  I feel like my blood pressure has dropped significantly not having to fight traffic and rush hour every day and just having a slower, simpler pace of life.

I have so many things I want to blog about and so new ideas for things to come (if I can wrangle the time to get to it) but for now, I wanted to share a new-to-me website that I came across in case any of you are struggling for any hard-to-buy-for friends or family members. 

I am so, so, so, SO excited that the holiday season is upon us and as usual, it is flying by much too quickly!  I don't even know how Halloween and Thanksgiving are already over.  I usually pride myself on starting Christmas shopping VERY early so that I am mostly done come December.  I do have a head start this year but the difference is that I am not out and about shopping as much as I used to be since I always have at least one kid in tow.  So, like many of us who are busy working, watching kids, or just want to avoid crowded places and too many people, I have become an avid online shopper.  I truly can't imagine what life was like prior to Amazon Prime.  I digress. 

Anyway, I am feeling okay about my Christmas shopping so far but there are a couple of people on my shopping list (namely my husband) who are extremely difficult to buy for.  If you ask my husband what he wants, he'll just tell you a BestBuy gift card.  I mean, fine, but how BORING is that to open on Christmas morning.  Not to mention, I want him to be a little surprised.  I pride myself on not just buying gifts for people just out of obligatory Christmas duty - I truly love giving the perfect gift and being excited about watching the recipient open it up. 

I recently came across a foodie's paradise of a website, Food52.  As many of you know, my husband has become the chef around here these days and has really gotten into cooking.  But this site has so many beautiful and unique gifts that you don't need to be an avid food-lover to enjoy it.  Here are a few of my favorite picks:

Vintage French Decanters: So elegantly beautiful yet practical.  These would be lovely displayed empty or containing a tasty beverage.

Vintage French Ice Buckets: And if liquors aren't your thing, these Vintage French Ice Buckets are just as beautiful as the decanters (above) and would be a great gift to anyone who entertains on the regular. 

Sculptural Throw Pillows: These handwoven pillows are so neutral so they are easy to give regardless of the color scheme the recipient may have.  The texture just works SO well.  And I love the shape which adds another element to spice up the neutrality of these. 

Plant and Flower Cookbooks: Part cookbook, part coffee table book.  Two beautiful gifts in one.  Even someone who doesn't love to cook can appreciate the beauty of these.  Oh and did I mention they are signed copies?  Something even more special. 

Morrocan Wine Glasses: A little masculine and again very practical - no stems to break off in the dishwasher and very comfortable to hold.  I love entertaining with this type of glass.  It's also versatile enough to serve water or another cocktail.  Looks great on many different styles of table settings and a range of seasons. 

Cast Iron Tomato Cocotte: Another practical and gorgeous gift.  This is a pot so beautiful that you can leave on your stove top year-round.  And what a stunner!

Gold Dipped Pink Pinch Bowls: Even non-cooks could find a practical purpose in these delicate little pinch bowls.  Would be perfect to hold jewelery or other trinkets as well as spices.  And if pink isn't your thing, there are some other beautiful colors available as well.

Animal Magnets and Card Holders: Super cute to hold up kids artwork or photos on the fridge but these also handily double as card holders for meal placecards, cheese trays or buffets.  And I'll bet the guests won't soon forget them!

Hope this might give you a little inspiration for those hard to gift people in your life.  Cheers! xo

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Before and After: The Front Yard Gets a Makeover

As usual its been a minute since I've had time to post but things are busy with two kids under three! We've been trying to make small changes to the house where we can but one of the biggest changes has been our new front yard!

The most important step for us was installing a wrap around fence in the front yard for the safety of our kiddos.  I can now say I actually live in a house with a white picket fence.  I love that it mirrors the fence in the backyard and that they were able to make the fence enclose the front porch.  We have already spent HOURS of fun out front.  I can rock or swing and the kids can play and there is no stress that they are going to run off.

The yard itself has had a big makeover as well.  Sure, spring makes everything better but we had a jungle of bushes and a lot of dirt with a few sprigs of grass before.  Here's a before shot of one corner of the yard which will give you an idea of how little grass we had.

We hired a landscaping company to help out because a) the job was bigger than we felt we could handle and b) seed really only takes in the fall so if we wanted grass for the spring and summer we had to sod.  But things had to get worse before they got better...

The landscapers showed up and started out by removing the boxwoods in the front beds and started installing what was supposed to be a little path from the front gate.  But they put it in and it looked AWFUL.  I absolutely hated it, texted pictures to my husband who also hated it and so in the end, I asked them to take it out and decided to just plant grass.  Not only did I feel like the path was ugly, I thought it ate in to too much of the grassy space for the kids to play in and also it would have been a pain to try to mow around.

It looks insane, doesn't it?!

After they dug up the path, they had to bring in truckloads of dirt so that the sod would be able to take.  And right after they got all the dirt down a surprise storm rolled in and it started POURING.  The poor guys had to take cover under our porch for about 20 minutes until the storm passed.  And then it was way too wet for them to start working again.  So, at the end of the first day when I expected to see beautiful lush grass in my front yard, this is what I was left with:

Hard to imagine that the very next day it would look like this:

It took a couple of weeks for the grass to stop looking like rolled out sod and for the bushes to grow in some but it is starting to take shape now.  The azaleas bloomed, the hostas grew up and the hydrangeas just now have a couple of blooms on them that I can't wait for.  I think as the plants in the front continue to grow and mature, it will really start looking nice.

Having this new yard has really transformed life for us.  We spent all kinds of time outside swinging on the porch swing, splashing around in the kiddie pool, running through the sprinkler and playing ball in the grass.  Having this yard space was such a big deal to us after moving from our house near DC with such a tiny little yard.  Now on to the next big project...the back yard!!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Antelope in our bedroom

I have had a long time love affair with Stark's Antelope Carpet.  You've seen it in all the design magazines especially on stairs and it is nothing short of stunning.  Seriously, years later I do not tire of it.

image via here

After a whole lot (and I mean a LOT) of convincing, I finally got it in my bedroom.  Not the Stark one, mind you, but Ballard Designs makes a pretty good copy cat version:

The price is still much better than the designer version but after I shared with you my new favorite rug resource a few weeks ago here, you can imagine that my husband pushed back at the price tag when I insisted we needed the largest one they made for our space.  In the end, it was a battle that was well worth fighting.  And, while I am not sure he would ever admit to me being right, I'm pretty sure deep down he agrees with me.  Really.  :)

It's a work in progress but it sure feels amazing to have a bedroom large enough to accommodate a king size bed and two full size side tables after coming from our tiny DC house.  Before we moved, my husband's bedside table was a tiny (and I mean TINY - like 6 inches x 6 inches) PLANT STAND as it was the only thing I could find to fit the space.  Baby steps...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Southwestern White Chicken Chili

This chicken chili is so easy and so tasty.  My husband is from New Mexico and so he is a huge fan of anything with green chiles in it.  I have really come to love the smoky, mild heat they give dishes and cook with them often now.  The weather has been in this wonky it is warm, wait - - just kidding, it's still winter phase and this dish fits the bill for even warmer weather because it is not too heavy.

What You'll Need:
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken (I used chicken breasts)
2 cans white beans (I used Great Northern but you can use any that you prefer)
1 can corn
large handful of cilantro, chopped
1 can (4 ounces) of green chiles
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
1 and 1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Mozzarella cheese (plus more for topping if desired)
1 Tbsp cornstarch for thickening (optional)

What You'll Do:
Cook your chicken.  You can either dice it and cook it in a little olive oil with salt and pepper.  I actually took another short cut because my husband was grilling a steak the night before so I just threw the chicken seasoned with salt and pepper onto the grill the night before so it was already cooked.

Add olive oil and butter and cook onions and garlic with chicken until tender.  Add green chiles, corn and beans and cumin and cayenne.  Cook for about 1 minute before adding the broth.  Add the broth and let everything simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Mix in about 1 Tbsp of cornstarch or flour mixed with a little water to thicken, if desired.  Add mozzarella cheese and fresh cilantro (saving a little for garnish).  Stir and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so.  Serve and top with extra cheese and cilantro.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Playroom Situation

Our house has a little breakfast room off of the back of our kitchen.  It is clear that its original intended purpose was for dining because of the old build in corner cabinets that I ah-dore.  Because the house already has a spacious dining room and because this little nook was easy to be closed off, I decided to make it a playroom for the kids.  In theory, my plan was nothing short of brilliant.  It was an adorable little nook of a space that the kids could make a mess in and visitors didn't see it right when they walked in.  I pictured myself making homemade dinners from scratch, dressed in an apron, while the children played quietly in the room together.  (Yes, I recognize that image is nothing short of delusional).  Anyway, the room has worked pretty well for us for a little while.

The room is one of my favorite spaces in the house - it is filled with light, an adorable rug, and lots of fun toys for my little ones.  Problem is, now that we have put the theory into practice, we have discovered it is a really, really small space for a playroom.  My two year old loves to dump out all of his toys and now my 8 month old has started crawling.  In about two seconds flat, there is no room for either of them to move.  And I had to put an adult chair in there for me so that I had somewhere other than the floor to sit and that just clogs the space up more.  So, what happens is that after just a few minutes of playing, the kids become overwhelmed by all the toys around them and are (I'm projecting my feelings here) most likely clausterphobic, and they want out.  And that is just with me and the two kids in there.  Forget about having friends over to play!

Here's the playroom as it is right now:

And when the kids inevitably evacuate the small playroom, where do they go?  Straight for the living room with my brand new custom upholstered furniture.  YIKES!  But I don't blame them for wanting to get out of there.

In between the living room and the kitchen is a large dining room.  When we moved in, I toyed with the idea (pun intended) of making the dining room a second living area/playroom but then ultimately decided I really wanted a dining room.  Three main problems: 1) We just aren't entertaining as much as we used to.  We are exhausted from running after the kids or my husband is travelling for work. 2) The house is just too small to have large formal dinner gatherings because we only have one living room to accommodate 5 or so people max comfortably (in my opinion).  3) We moved from an even smaller house in DC and have only a dining room table.  To furnish a large dining room the way I want to would mean a pretty substantial investment.  I just don't know how long we will be in this house and so I don't want to buy furniture to fit this space when I'm not sure what the needs/set up of the next house will be.

Sooooo, my plan is to turn the now dining room into the new and improved playroom and move the dining table to the breakfast room.  Not only will that offer the kids more space to play but it will be much easier for us to entertain more people with another place to hang out.  I'm mentally wrestling with this plan since I can't imagine not having a proper dining room.  I also really didn't want to succumb to having my kids toys so prominently displayed in our house but after a lot of thought, I just think it will be more comfortable for everyone.  This isn't a forever plan...this is just what I think will work for us right now.  Stayed tuned for the big switch.
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