July 24, 2014

Pink and Purple Princess Party Planning

Wells turns four this week.  FOUR.  I asked her a few weeks ago if there was anything special she'd like to have at her party.  Her response?  Pink and Purple and Princess and Girls Things and No Boys Allowed and Cupcakes and Pretzels and My Girls and Sprinkles and Babies and A Cake and More Princess Stuff And Some Boys But only Nice Ones Like Tagg and Daddy and My Friends And Popcorn.  Buuuuuut,  I'm not really into talking about the details right now, so I'm still thinking about that part. Well ma'am, why I don't I just order you a real live unicorn too.

Thankfully I've always relied on a solid color scheme to get me through party planning.  I think it's fun to have just one spot really decked out with the theme colors and then just chill out on the rest.  Picking too narrow of a theme or too large of a decorating area is a good way to spend a whole lot of money on things no one will even notice.  I buy all the food and keep it really super simple.  Basically, I provide what I normally would for a play date.  Too many choices adds up quickly.

I also set up early, that's not just so I can drag it out on the blog.  I like to see what I'm working with ahead of time so there are no surprises or buying double.  It also allows me to enjoy the process of getting ready and my last minute prep can truly just be setting out the food.  It's also been really fun to have a big party countdown with Wells this week and let her enjoy her pretty party table.  I realize this wouldn't work with all kids.  She's built a club house down below and swiped some of the plates and napkins down there so it keeps her and Tagg from messing with what's on top.

I'll try to do a more detailed post on what worked or didn't work after the party if anyone is interested in details like that.  I'm no party planner but I do have some things I've found have worked for my mom and her sisters over the years and I use them.

July 23, 2014

A Really Simple Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe

I am very quick to call myself a work in-progress in the kitchen.  As I've mentioned before, my husband is an amazing cook with the ability to whip things up from scratch.  I, however, subscribe to the semi-homemade method for almost everything.  I've realized that adding unnecessary steps into dinner is how I get overwhelmed and give up so I give myself every opportunity to succeed.  One new step? I've been keeping a few jars of gourmet tomato sauce around for really quick dinners that taste drastically better with the pop of a top.

My new favorite dinner to make is Spinach Stuffed Shells with ooma tesoro's sauce.  And no, this is not a sponsored post.  I just love the simple sauce and love a good success story.  The owners/creators are a husband and wife team who both lost their jobs a few years ago (sounds familiar) and started making large batches of a secret-family recipe marinara sauce to sell at Farmers Markets so they could keep their home in the northeast.  They've since expanded big time and I can taste why!

Spinach Stuffed Shells
2 cups of Ricotta Cheese
1 cup of Italian Blend Cheese
1 small package of thawed frozen (drained)  spinach
Stir together in a bowl
Cook 1 package of large shells and let cool
Fill the shells with the mixture above and place in a baking dish
Top with Marinara Sauce and more cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes 

*sorry for leaving that last bit off yesterday.  I posted in the morning and was gone all day and couldn't make the change from my phone.  I tried to keep everyone who commented in the loop but I offer a big giant OOOPS just in case your family ate cold pasta last night for dinner.  Although, my recipe contains no raw egg so feel free to try this cold.  I think Wells would probably enjoy it that way as she likes everything to be room temperature.

July 22, 2014

Kids Art Display | How to Display Kids Art (New House Playroom Update)

We're starting to get a stock pile of art around here and I'm trying to find more ways to display it.  As a creative myself, I think it's really important to foster that imaginative side in my children.  I've never struggled with being artistic, but I have battled with anxiety in showing my work.  I get really snippy and judgmental on myself, my own worse critic.  I hope that by showcasing all of their art, even their "unfinished" pieces, my children will learn to appreciate art for art's sake and not the final perfect product.

And while I'm really drawn to bright colors, I also have a strong need for white and neutral in my surroundings.  In a house with two little kids, I'm learning to embrace both.  The sunroom/playroom in our new house really is the perfect spot to let this side run loose.  You may remember a few weeks ago when I showed you some major updates we had made in the space.  I am still really happy with how the front section, visible from the dining room, turned out .  The blue sofa and loveseat are so cozy and functional for reading or hanging out and always look really nice from the passing view.  I  was still working on getting the second half of the room, the toy section shaped up.

I hung a long piece of twine against the whole back wall secured with a nail at each end and one in the middle for support.  Clothespins allow for a really functional and colorful art display.  Last fall I framed two of my favorite pieces Wells painted and I've moved them to the narrow strip of wall above the white sofa.  Those are more permanent creations while the art strung on the clothesline is meant to be seasonal with new art rotated in constantly.

How do you display your kids art?  I know a few people who mentioned some cool frames at Target that let you easily slide a new picture in when you're ready for a change.  That would make such a pretty and organized display.  A friend of mine also hung long pieces of wood trim and secured clothes pins to that with a glue gun.  I love the merge between a grid and free-flowing.

Also, do you have a system for what stays, even short term, and what goes secretly into the trash?  At this age, I'm looking to keep things they bring home from school on display for about a year.  I'll probably only keep the things with their hand prints or extra special creations longer.  Anything seasonal gets stored away with the holiday decorations.  I think it's cool to bring out old art with each new holiday.  The daily scribbles or water colored pages last about a week around here.  What do you do?

July 21, 2014

Chicago Apartment Living Room

My cousin is moving to Chicago this week to start her first corporate job and she asked me to help her furniture plan.  She's lived in a dorm room for four years so she's completely starting off fresh.  I've channeled her inner east coast prep with the blue and green and pink color-scheme.  She's going to be living with two other girls so I think it's the perfect time to lean towards feminine. 

She wasn't really sure how to get started or exactly how to make a plan, but, then add things in slowly. 

I've selected everything above from Furbish Studio, Serena & Lily, Lulu & Georgia, CB2, Target, Design Darling Boutique, Homegoods, or Etsy.  Those are pretty much my go-to online shops because of the price point and wide selection of style.  I know she can go pick out her own favorite things from their curated collections.

But, I also love to support local and love the idea of her wondering around her cute little neighborhood or going for brunch with friends and walking into an amazing local shop.  Of course, I've never been to Chicago so I have no clue where to send her.  Anyone in Chicago have a list of must-visit local stores you can recommend?  Maybe a favorite brunch or happy hour spot?

July 19, 2014

The Best Striped Dress for Under $50

I can imagine this redundant post will get some side eye from those of y'all who wish I'd stick to interiors, but, I know others of you will be seriously excited to hear that my favorite new striped dress is on big time sale right now at Nordstrom.  The orginal price was really fair in my opinion, but knocked down to $45 it's just an outright no-brainer!  Plus free shipping and free returns make it super easy!

This dress also comes in a pink and white stripe and also as an a-line skirt in a few extra colorways.

Shop the look here:

July 18, 2014

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is LIVE TO THE PUBLIC!

The most exciting news in shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale?  My favorite striped dress (shown below) is steal of a fabulous deal at just $45!  You better believe I'll be wearing this all fall.  Packed with tights or a little cardigan, this baby carries me pretty much through to Christmas.  And the matching skirt of the same style and material is onsale for just $34.  I can't even imagine why you don't splurge on this one today.

If you're like me you, you had to wait until the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale went live to the public this morning to get a deal on the new fall preview.  It's no newsflash that Nordstrom is pretty much my favorite store so I thought it would be fun to share my top picks.  I've rounded up my favorites for you and it's no surprise you'll see lots of fit and flare dresses as the top pick.

Women's Anniversary Sale Picks for Fall:


And a few of my favorites for kids:

July 17, 2014


I've had a few readers email me spaces of their homes in the past asking advice about a specific update or simply showing off something pretty.  I love it!  In a world over-saturated with Pinterest perfect spaces, I think it's fun to highlight some real life rooms on the blog as well. 

Today I want to show you my sister's sitting room and living room.   You've already seen her powder room with the amazing wallpaper and her dining room with the gorgeous Qaudrille fabric.  so it's no surprise these living spaces are just as awesome.  I need to get her to take some pictures of the rest of her house for us.

 This is the space you actually walk into from their front door.  They don't have an actual entry but they do have this large sitting room complete with a gorgeous fireplace directly opposite the front door.  What a warm welcome! 

July 16, 2014

New House Progress: Kitchen Window Treatments

I bought some fabric yesterday for the kitchen.  I wasn't sure I wanted anything on the windows originally but lately the whole room has been feeling cold and I knew some well placed fabric could solve that.  I went to one of my favorite fabric stores in Richmond, Ufab, and walked out with Windsor Smith Riad in Seafoam.  I have loved this fabric since I first saw it a few years ago and feel certain I won't grow tired of it anytime soon.  It adds just the right amount of color without overpowering.  There is already a lot going in this small kitchen.

I'm lazy and like instant gratification so I immediately folded the fabric up and draped it over a tension rod so I could visualize.  I'm in LOVE!  We can probably take bets on how long it's going to stay that way.  Most likely until someone comes over and forces my hand at cutting this fabric up to distribute amongst the windows.  We still have a backsplash situation on our hands but it just doesn't make sense to add tile when we'd eventually like to upgrade the counter tops.  Cart before the horse and all.  So this is a pretty good way to get your eye off the back wall and up at the pretty.

Do you have fabric on your kitchen windows?  It's such a cheap way to add in something nice.  I plan on making mine faux shades so it's really minimal yardage.

I told y'all I was being extra productive with just one kid in the mornings this week.  I feel like a whole new person.  Imagine what life will be like with two kids in school two days a week and one going four. 

July 15, 2014

Striped Skirt

My most favorite striped jacquard dress is also available in a skirt version of the same material.  On sale now for $35.00 + free shipping.  I can't even believe it.  I'm going to order the pink stripe I think.  It also comes in solid black and a circle pattern as well but y'all know I'm partial to stripes. 

I realize that clothing items are not exactly newsworthy, but this awesome skirt at 40% kind of breaks that rule.

And bonus, you don't need to be a Nordstrom card holder to access the sale.

DIY Dip-Dyed Stool | A Serena & Lily Hack

I know I haven't done a DIY in forever but I've been itching to get something done.  With Wells in bible school this week, I thought it was the perfect chance to get some things crossed off my list.  It's no secret that I'm obsessed with these dip-dyed stools from Serena and Lily so when I spotted something similar while cleaning out our garage in Pawleys a few weeks ago I knew a DIY was in order.  I'm pretty excited that I was able to get the exact same look as the inspiration. 

Here is what I started with.  An old tri-pod stool in need of a little love.  I almost threw this stool away at least five times in the last few years but I'm so thankful I never did.  I actually love that this stool is roughed up a bit so I decided to leave that well-loved patina. This would have been fun to do a reverse dip and leave the exposed wood on the feet but that would have involved sanding and another bucket.

It's really such a simple DIY and I know you've already seen it a million times round the internets so I won't bore you with instructions.  Basically, I took some leftover Shell Paint (a really pale pink) from Wells' room and poured it into a disposable cup. Then, I literally dipped each foot into the cup, held it up to let the runoff paint drip back into the can, and then let it dry.  So easy right!

I love that the dipped looks gives it a really smooth and thick coat that I could never have achieved with a paint brush.  I also think the rounded and organic edges are more in line with my inspiration piece than would have been achieved by taping off and spray painting. 

I love my sweet little helper.  And I agree, the pink duck makes the picture.  We're a long way off from gutting this lovely 1970's bathroom but I'm slowly starting to tweak it to make the pink tile less offensive.  I've noticed by bringing in more pink tones it actually tricks the eye into reading more neutral.

Have you done any simple DIY's lately?  Saved yourself the time and ordered the stool you really wanted?  Learned to love your old and ugly bathroom?  I'm working big time on that last one.

July 14, 2014

Work Style

I haven't really given an update about going back to work because so far it's been a really smooth transition and I feel like it's insulting to working mothers to pretend I know something more than they do.  I'm really grateful that I've been able to start off part-time with a really light workload that can be achieved almost entirely from home.  My office time is really flexible and will gradually increase as the kids start school in the fall.  So far so good!

 After I lost my job in 2009 and then subsequently got pregnant and pregnant again and then again, all within two years and three moves, I pretty much gave away all of my work appropriate clothes.  The few things I kept don't fit well and feel outdated.  I think even before I left the workforce I was more interested in spending money on pillows than office attire.  I'll be honest, I feel like I need to look the part of the pulled-together business woman when I'm in the workplace to over shadow my stay-at-home mommy persona.  I can already see that it's easy to get carried away shopping for this new aspect of my life so I'm trying to make wise choices.  And while I may not be working part-time right now to directly pay our mortgage, the money I earn does go toward my family's expenses and isn't meant to morph into my clothing budget.  Yup, I'm not going back to work just to buy more clothes or to get more me time.  Shocking right.

When Nordstrom asked me to pick out the perfect day dress for work I immediately knew it would be hard to narrow down my favorite.  You may remember me talking about my favorite new striped dress a few weeks ago here.  Well I'm not going to pretend like I never said that and convince you that I have a new OMGFAVE.  But, I can tell you that this black and white stars dress by Maggy London might just be my new favorite work or Church dress.  I prefer it simple but sophisticated paired with my Caroline flats, but the color popping options are endless.

I like that the fabric is thick enough that it hangs smoothly and doesn't seem to wrinkle.  The length is flattering but appropriate.  I'm 5'9 so this is something that I have trouble with a lot.  The belt creates a nice waistline but is still comfortable for sitting down for long periods of time.  I like the unexpected detail in the star pattern.  And it's machine washable.  Done.


 Scroll through to shop the look and my other favorite work-day options:

This post was brought to you by Nordstrom.  As always, opinions are all my own.

July 11, 2014

Bon Voyage

Today is a really bittersweet day for my family.  My baby brother is moving to Italy tomorrow.  We're sending him off properly tonight with a Bon Voyage party at my parents house.  My brother is in the seminary studying to become a priest and he'll finish out his studies at the Vatican.   So please say an extra prayer for him on his journey, both spiritual and physical.  Or maybe we should have him say a prayer for us? 

This is absolutely an incredible opportunity for him.  Can you imagine!  He spent the last two years studying in DC so this is going to be a huge change.  Because he is going on a student visa, he will be limited to how many times he can come home over the next several years.  He will be so missed!  His niece and nephews especially will miss his surprise visits.   I guess we'll just have to facetime our way through his adventure! 


And for all of you lucky ducks with Nordstrom cards (because that's like magic money, right) your early access to the anniversary sale has started.   I am so tempted to sign up just for the magic sales but I know Matthew reads this and will be texting me any minute to say NO.  I've already started taking advantage of the online shopping trick where you can pick-up your item an hour later.  Genius.

July 10, 2014

Wells and the raincoat

It's so fun watching Wells' personality come out stronger each day.  She is such a little momma.  She loves playing big sister or mama and toting around her babies.  It's so neat hearing her perspective on the world.  Most of her opinions feel clouded by things that she hears from us or the occasional direct quote from one of her shows.  So it's all the more cool to listen to her voice shine through.

"Mommy, I think I'm not going to be sad about rainy days anymore.  Because I think our 'vegables' and the trees and all the animals and those *dam deer are thirsty and God wants to give them a drink."

Melt my heart.

I love that she ran and grabbed her raincoat and boots and asked to go outside to investigate.  This little girl is going to be four soon and I am no longer sad she's not a baby.  I'm so excited to watch her grow.

*note to self, stop saying damn.
** note to deer: stop eating our damn vegetables

July 9, 2014

New House Progress | Major Playroom Update

Sunroom | Playroom

I feel like this room keeps reinventing itself along with the rest of our downstairs.  The blue sofa and loveseat from the former living room got moved to the playroom when we shuffled things around a few weeks ago.  At first I wasn't sure I was going to like it but I felt like it was the best size match for the space.  The white sofa and loveseat we brought back from Pawleys Island are huge so it made more sense for them to go to the family room which is a much larger room.  I'm also a little less nervous having all that white upholstery in a second family space and not the primary kid zone.

I was really happy with the way our playroom looked after completing a big overhaul here and then some big accessory tweaking hereYou can see the true before pictures here from just after we closed.  So throwing those blue sofas in there took a little getting used to for me.  I like how they create a large seating area but the small footprint doesn't overpower the room.   This is our favorite spot to read books or play spaceship.

I've been struggling with what colors I want to use in this room and have happily landed upon an accidental pink and blue scheme.  I'm a huge fan of pink and navy and this is the perfect preppy combination.  All of the sophisticated neutral I love got shuffled to the family room so I can now let this room loosen up a bit.  I've also gravitated toward pink accessories forever and I'm glad they are being used in the new house now instead of staying packed away.


And on to the second half of the room, where the toys are y'all.  Please don't mistake these next few pictures for lazy-ness.  I'm not too busy to clean up nicely before guests come over, including you.  I just think it's nice to see what things really look like now and again.  You know, really look like.  So in the pictures above nothing has been styled, it's just the view you see from the dining room and it's easy to keep things clean.  And the pictures below show where we are most every day.  I really want to mount a tv above the coral desk but right now it's a landing place for crap.  The skirted console table is mostly a storage for plastic toys and no matter how many times I put the dollhouse away it ends up looking like this five minutes later.  Our teepee needs some more permanent reinforcements after a really active play date several months ago.

You'll also notice my old pink sofa with the white slipcover is still in here.  The white has been pretty easy to keep clean because it's washable.  But the loose fabric would annoy the crap out of me in a more adult space.  It just never looks awesome like the custom slipcovers do.  The sofa faces into the room opposite the blue sofa.  It's overkill for seating.  It's taking up too much room. I know it needs to go.  I'm just having a really hard time letting this sofa go.  It was my first big purchase as a grown-up and I'm clearly sentimental about it.  I need to get over that.  The last thing we need is another sofa.  For real.  Do you hold onto stuff you no longer need just because you're not ready to let go yet?