Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cannot Get Enough of Caitlin McGauley's Whimsical Art

For a while now I've been following Caitlin McGauley on my Insta feed.  It just gives me a burst of happiness when I scroll through and see her work.  And the more that I see, the more obsessed I have become.  I love watercolor in general because it reminds me of my mom.  She always painted in watercolor in a fun and whimsical way.  Caitlin has these amazing way of making very traditional things feel fresh and modern at the same time.  I adore her use of colors and style.

She's got original paintings for sale (although my most favorites have all quickly sold!):

She also sells prints:

And she does illustration for huge clients like Domino Magazine, Kate Spade and Tiffany and Co. to name a few!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thoughtful and easy Christmas gift for teachers, neighbors, friends, etc.

My son has multiple preschool teachers and caregivers that I wanted to give a little gift for the holidays to show our appreciation.  I wanted to give something that is practical and useful but just a plain old gift card sometimes seems a little thoughtless to me.  But, at the end of the day, they are all working hard and sometimes a gift card so they can purchase exactly what they want is a nice gesture. 

This year, we got them a Starbuck's gift card (they have the cutest cards this year in the shape of ornaments!). 

In order to make the gift a little more thoughtful, I got these mugs from Anthropologie with their first initial, filled them with some sweet treats and affixed the gift card to the gift as the tag.  They were a big hit!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday Tip: Wrangling your Paperwhites

I love bulbs in the winter.  It's fresh flowers for your house in the cold months that will last much longer than cut flowers.  Paperwhites and amaryllis are the two most popular that you will find.  I love the scent of paperwhites.  I also love watching them grow because it happens pretty quickly.  This year the kids have had so much fun watching the green stems come out of the bulbs and get higher and higher each morning when they wake up.  Paperwhites are also neat because you can grow them in a variety of ways - in water, in soil and in rocks to name a few.  I got a big bag of paperwhite bulbs from Home Depot this year and put them in a variety of different planters.  This year I did all of mine in soil but you don't need to bury the bulbs down deep.  In just a couple of weeks, you'll have fragrant white flowers that will last until the holidays are well over.

One issue I've always had is that the higher they get, the more unruly their stems become and they frequently topple over.  The OCD person in me has trouble with that natural, unruly look.  My mom always tied them up with some string but I think a nice ribbon does the trick and looks a little prettier too!  A red ribbon adds a festive touch during the holidays:

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 Christmastime...is 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

#food52 #holidaygiftideas #foodiegiftideas #christmasshopping

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!!
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