First Home? Where to start…

First Home? Where to start…

A friend of mine recently secured her first apartment where she will be living completely on her own.  She is super excited and can’t wait to have a space where everything is chosen by her alone with no outside influence.  For years, she has been dreaming about this moment…collecting ideas, figuring out her style (what she likes and doesn’t like), scouring Wayfair, and pinning too many pictures to count.

The other day over lunch we were talking about all of the things she will need for her new digs, on a budget of course.  She told me that I needed to write a blog post, or three, of where to start when someone is starting new.  Now I’m not a designer, but I do know what I like, and I also know what I have learned along the way when I was in her same situation.  So here are my tips for anyone who is starting fresh in a new place and is on a budget.

1. Don’t purchase everything at once (or before you move in).

I am a HUGE believer in living in a space for a while before pulling the trigger on pricier items.  If your grandmother’s old kitchen set will do before buying one of your preference, do it.  Live in the space to get a feeling for the flow of life.

2. Scour places like flea markets, thrift stores, and online sources like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

I can’t say enough about this one.  There are soooooo many pieces out there that are dying to be brought back to life.  I found two Broyhill Brasilia dressers (one with a mirror) at a thrift store a few years back.  I bought both immediately.  The one is in my bedroom and the other is a credenza for the TV.  If you search them up on eBay, they are going for hundreds more that I paid for them.  They are such good, solid pieces of Mid Century Modern furniture.  Here is a photo of my exact piece taken from the site:

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These end tables were a Craigslist find.  I loved the storage they had available and the textured front. I sanded them down, painted them white and added cool knobs for our family room.

This table is from my mom’s Aunt Helen.  It is ancient, but I still love the lines.  Now that I look at it, I need to change out those knobs!

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My glass coffee table was a thrift store find.  A little gold spray paint brought it to life and it has served as a perfect anchor for many wine glasses!  I especially love the bottom shelf for books!

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3.  Buy a tool box with a few tools and a picture hanging kit.

I don’t need to say too much about this one, except mine are pink and I use them all of time.

4.  Floor coverings – Do I need area rugs?

I’ve done really well getting area rugs at Home Goods and Target, as well as the online site Rugsusa.com.

5. Go neutral with the basics.

Neutral pieces are so versatile.  Whether its a soft tan sectional or glossy black dining chairs, the idea of a neutral base allows for endless decorating possibilities.  I especially love changing out pillows and throws depending on the time of year.

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6. DIY a few items to personalize.

I love to DIY furniture when I have the time, especially in the summer.  My favorite DIY ever was the reupholstering of two chairs I found while running.  The lines were perfect, but the rest was not.  So, I stripped them down, painted them a glossy black, and added a fun leopard pattern to the seat.  To this day, I LOVE them!  Leopard is a neutral, after all, and they will be going with me forever.

7. Splurge Some | Save Some.

I am a big proponent of high/low design and fashion.  I carry a designer bag, but have no issue donning a pair of shoes from Target.  Same goes for the home.  I was lusting after the replica Wegner wishbone chairs for my dining room a few years back.  To offset their cost, I went with a more affordable dining table from Ashley’s Furniture and ordered the chairs to satisfy my craving.  I still love them today.  Maybe you want the comfiest couch out there? Do it, but downsize or go less in another area of the home.

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8. Don’t forget organizing necessities.

Whether you need a few good clothing racks or closet bins, leave room in your budget for these items.

9. Good lighting is a must.

So maybe it took me a few years to get a chandelier in the dining room, but I still stick with my theory that proper lighting is key to a space.  J’s family room used to be very dark- dark walls, dark furniture and very few lights.  We all agreed that it felt like a cave.  When it was time to design the new layout, I brightened up the walls and furniture and added 4 new lamps spread throughout!

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10.  Purchase these MUST HAVE household items.

It might sound strange to suggest a foldable card table and chairs, but I have used mine way more times than I can count.  The chairs serve for extra seating, the table has served as a dessert table, a bar or even an extra dining space.  My aunt gave me a folding step ladder when I moved into my first condo and I still have it and use it all of the time.  Finally, things like brooms, a vacuum and cleaning supplies are not fun to spend money on, but such is life.

The biggest compliment my friend could tell me was that she is finally seeing things (design-wise) the way I do.  This is a huge and exciting time in her life, and I can’t wait to help her!  Having a space to call your own is the greatest feeling in the world.  Fill it with all things that you love and make it the perfect place you deserve.  xo

 

 

Our Faux Mud Room

Our Faux Mud Room

Ok — so it’s only taken a year, but I FINALLY had the chance to finish this space.  Everything came together after I had my friend (Trish) take some headshot of the kids.  When we did the family room makeover last December, I also had J’s rockstar uncle install board and batten molding to the area just inside the garage.  This is area is a huge traffic zone, as most people enter and exit the house through this door.  That said, I wanted to make sure everything about the area was functional and durable.

My inspiration for this area came from Shanty Chic’s post found here.  I love the way she used the finials for knobs, but for me, I went with more of a clean look.  I also went a little more decorative with the molding since I wanted a second level of hooks for the book bags.

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For the floor, I chose the LLBean Everyplace Recycled Waterdog runner in camel.  It has a similar look and feel to sisal, but way more durable.  Plus, it takes up the entire hallway and doesn’t move an inch.  Win-win.  Every once in a while LLBean runs a sale, so be sure to watch out for that one if you need a rug like this.

I can’t remember exactly, but I am pretty sure the hooks are from Amazon and the frames are from Wayfair.

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Just so you know….I prettied up the space so you could see the details, but with five kids total, this wall is usually covered with coats, sweatshirts and backpacks.  It definitely is used tremendously and well worth the time to create it.

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I am a firm believer that even the tiniest of spaces can be transformed into something useful.  See the evidence above!  Also, to check out more of Trish’s work, you can visit her website at: Jack and Noodle Photography. She’s amazing!

DIY: Etched Wine Glasses

DIY: Etched Wine Glasses

A week or so ago I posted about a friend’s birthday celebration and I mentioned that I created DIY etched wineglasses with each guest’s initial.  Well, they were a definite hit!  Not only did I have enough glasses for everyone, each glass served as the favor for them to take home.

A former student’s parent was gracious enough to use her Cricut machine to make the stencils for me.  (THANK YOU, Kelly!) She gave me both the stencil and the transfer paper.  I also bought wine glasses at the dollar store to use for this project.

For the process, I followed Jennifer Maker’s YouTube tutorial.  Watch this whole video until the end because she really does a great job explaining the process in a simple way.

Jennifer Maker – DIY Etched Wine Glasses

The product she recommended was Armour Etch, which was available on Amazon.  I am sure local craft stores have it as well.  Note: make sure to use disposable gloves too!

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Here’s the process in pictures, but as I said, I strongly recommend watching Jennifer’s video for all of the details.

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For me, the trickiest part of the whole process was getting the stencil to lay flat around the letter.  Jennifer gives a few tips for this part in the video.

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I added organza ribbon to the bottom of the glasses to jazz them up a bit.  They also served as indicators since we did have multiples of the same letter.

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Super easy and much loved by my friends! xo

15th birthday celebration

15th birthday celebration

Last weekend we had a little birthday dinner for my girl – who turned 15 yesterday!  How can that be??  She will be eligible for her driver’s license in less than a year, and that scares the living day light out of me.  While mom is worried, she is super excited for what lies ahead.  I guess that’s life….

Anyway, she is a pink and gold girl, just like her mom…so I went on that theme with the table decor.  It was very simple, yet elegant. Take a look…

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One of her favorite snacks is cheese on a Ritz cracker with a dollop of jelly, so that was one of the apps.

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And this past summer, I made this dish in a pinch…Ricotta Pasta with Lemon, Peas and Corn.  The kids went crazy, so that’s what she wanted as her dish.  So easy and yummy.  I just added some grilled chicken on top for some protein.

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Finally, she always asks for a classic dirt cake with cool whip, pudding and Oreos.  I layered mine in a trifle dish and added these birthday flags and some fresh flowers to fit in with the theme.  The flags were from Old Navy from a few years back.

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The birthday girl! xoxo

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DIY: gold sprayed hydrangeas for the holidays

DIY: gold sprayed hydrangeas for the holidays

Last December when we were in New York, I happened upon a cute little stand in Washington Square Park that was selling Christmas greens.  This was the same place that I purchased the magnolia leaves that I carried all over the city just to bring home and add to my porch planters.

It was at that same stand where I saw dried hydrangea flowers that were sprayed gold and added to wreaths, garlands and greenery.  I knew right then and there that I was going to file away the idea for this year.

So this past weekend after doing some yard work, I carefully cut my drying hydrangeas and put them aside.  My mom came up with the brilliant idea of sticking them in the ground and spraying them that way.  It was genius.  The paint covered all angles of the flowers and they dried perfectly in the breeze.  Now all I need to do is preserve them in my garage and pull them out when I do my front porch planters!  Take a look…

The before picture…

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And after…

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My inspiration:

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 Via: Martha Stewart Weddings

Now all I need is for Christmas to come soon!  Enjoy! xo

Birthday Party Shenanigans

Birthday Party Shenanigans

This past weekend I held a 50th birthday party/wine party for my friend, Amy.  It was a big birthday for her this year and she was adamant that she didn’t want any attention made to her.  Well.  That didn’t hold out.  Not only did our coworkers know, but we brought it to the attention of our 125 fourth graders!  In the end, I know for a fact that she had a great day!

Here are some peaks of the party shenanigans and the decor, complete with DIY initial wine glasses for all of the guests.  This tutorial will be coming to the blog this week!

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I printed out these cards courtesy of Etsy.  Since each guest brought a bottle of white and a bottle of red, we had plenty of wine to sample.  This little card gave them the opportunity to keep track of their tastings and what they thought of each.

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Besides wine, we had tons of snacks!

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Honey Drizzled Apples with Gouda and Bacon

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My girls!  Love.

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And thank you to this guy for helping me bring the night together!

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My team just couldn’t get it together for a photo!

A little blurry….but here’s the whole gang!!

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And here’s to wishing the birthday girl a wonderful, happy and healthy year ahead!  xoxo

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Recipe Recap: Homemade Limoncello

Recipe Recap: Homemade Limoncello

If you’re a limoncello lover, this post is for you.  Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that has a very intense lemon flavor.  It is usually served chilled and in a cordial glass with no ice.  When J and I were in Italy back in June, it was so fun to try all of the different versions of Limoncello from its homeland.  Often times, restaurants offered it for free at the end of a meal, or you could drop in a bar in the middle of the afternoon and get a glass to sip.

I have made limoncello before with my friends Mike and Vanessa, so when they asked to do it again, I jumped at the chance.  Especially since J has never experienced the process.

To start, we met way back in May to do phase one of the process.  Making this liqueur is a two-step process with a few months in between.  The longer the wait in the middle, the better it will taste.

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The first phase consisted of zesting the cleaned lemons and soaking them in a clear alcohol  (we used Everclear).  This part is the most time consuming of the whole process.

Tonight we got together to complete phase two: adding the simple syrup (i.e. sugar water) to the infused alcohol and putting it in bottles.

We knew ahead of time that we wanted to finish with a large batch, so we doubled what we thought we would need.  Below you can see what we used to yield thirty-four (375 ounce) bottles.

Phase One Ingredients:

40 lemons (washed and scrubbed clean)

2 handles of Everclear (1.75 liters each) – PA residents have to go to NJ to purchase this

2 large one-gallon jars with lids

Phase Two Ingredients:

26 cups of water

26 cups of sugar

Cheesecloth

Funnel

STEPS – PHASE ONE:

1. Fill each glass jar with a handle of alcohol.

2. With a sharp knife, zest the lemons.  Be sure to cut only the yellow part.  Scrape any white part off as it makes the limoncello bitter.  The cutting is trial and error since certain knives work better than others.  Have a few knives available to see which works best for you. I find that cutting both ends of the lemon off allows the lemon to stand straight while giving me a better grip when zesting.

3. Drop the peels into the alcohol, splitting them in half between the two jars.

4. Give them a quick stir and cover each jar with plastic wrap, followed by the lids.

5. Place in a dark place and stir once a week.

NOTE:  We waited almost six months to complete the final step, but you can bottle in two to three months if you want it faster.  The longer it sets, the better it tastes! 

STEPS – PHASE TWO:

1. Purchase your 375 ounce empty bottles and wash them thoroughly.  Make sure to get the lids too. If you are local to me, there is a small market in Bath called Wunderler’s.  They have a full selection of bottles, plus everything you need to make wine, etc.

2. Prepare the sugar water in advance to allow time to cool.  I know it sounds like a TON of sugar, but you need it.

3. Strain the liquid/zest mixture through a cheesecloth into a large pot.  Make sure there aren’t any floating particles.

4. Add it to the cooled simple syrup mixture and stir.

5. Use a funnel and ladle it into jars.  Make sure to leave a little room at the top for the cork.

6. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the outside of the bottles and cork.

7. Serve icy cold and enjoy! I like to keep a bottle or two in the freezer to ensure a  premium tasting experience.

That’s it.  I know it sounds like a long time to wait, but something like this a nice thing to do with friends.  Plus, it gives you an excuse to get together again!  xo

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Recipe Recreation: Cacio e Pepe

Recipe Recreation: Cacio e Pepe

Warning: This dish is not recognized by any diet on the planet.

When J and I visited Italy this past June, one of our favorite meals in Rome was Cacio e Pepe, translated “Cheese and Pepper”.  It got to the point where one of us would order the dish at every meal just to taste that specific restaurant’s version.  Cacio e Pepe is simple.  The ingredients are pasta, various cheeses, butter, olive oil and black pepper. That’s it!

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CACIO E PEPE

2 T butter, divided

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Ground black pepper

1/2 pound linguini

3/4 cup grated pecorino

3/4 cup grated parmesan

1 cup reserved pasta water

1. Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta (el dente) according to the directions.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.

2. In a skillet, melt 1 T of butter with 1 T of oil.  Add a generous amount of ground black pepper and simmer for a minute until fragrant.  You can always add more pepper later.

3. Whisk in the other tablespoon of butter and about 1/3 cup of the water.  Blend well.  Add drained pasta and toss.

4. Mix in the cheeses and additional pasta water if needed.  Toss and taste.  Add more pepper to taste or more pasta water to thin.  Enjoy! 

Approximate time: 25 minutes

NOTE:  This isn’t necessarily a spicy meal, so heat isn’t what you are going for. Enjoy!

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My black and white powder room update: Lighting, Faucet and a sneak peak

My black and white powder room update: Lighting, Faucet and a sneak peak

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally see the powder room coming together.  After two stabs at vision boards using wallpaper, I finally came to the conclusion of what I wanted it to look like.  In case you missed it a few weeks back, here is the vision board I put together a while ago using the bold floral print I picked up from Home Goods.

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Black walls with picture frame molding, the print, gold faucet and accessories, similar white mirror, and some other fun art.

Here is one picture I used for inspiration for the molding.  I love the moodiness of the room.

Donna Dotan Photography Inc.
Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

I also added some white crown molding around the ceiling.  The ceiling itself will be painted in thick black and white stripes for added drama.  Being that it’s a nine foot ceiling, we could afford to make it a little more interesting without having a cave-like feeling.

Inspiration for the ceiling:

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Source: Hudson Valley Lighting

Besides the crown molding, all of the other molding and the door will be painted in the same black paint as the rest of the room.  I chose Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black for the walls.  It’s a nice, saturated black with a touch of grey and I think it will be gorgeous when done.

 

Accessories:

Light

Faucet

Towel Ring and Toilet Paper Holder

I’m crossing my fingers that all of the “golds” blend together.  If not, I have a few other options up my sleeve but I will wait until they all come in to decide what works (or what doesn’t).

Finally….a sneak peak.  I have a feeling that I’m going to be in love!

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I’m a Coffee Table Book Addict

I’m a Coffee Table Book Addict

I admit it.  I’m a big sucker for a good coffee table book.  The more unusual the cover or size, the better.  I love books that are beautifully adorned with abstract art, textiles, paintings, or prints.  I also love spines that have titles spelled out in a beautifully written font or in big, bold letters.  Most people have some type of collection.  I guess you could say that I collect pretty books.

One day I would love a bookshelf that lines an entire wall of a room or study.  One that has many shelves to showcase all of the books I’ve collected over the years.  That way, my entire collection could come together in a spot that highlights their uniqueness all in one place.

I took a few snapshots around the house to show you how and where I style them.  Some are older pictures, and some are current.  I often use books to give height to other objects.  Sometimes they are on their own as a design piece, and sometimes they are used to hide unsightly wires on the mantle or a book shelf.

Take a look…

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Tip:  Sometimes I wrap books in pretty wrapping paper to jazz them up a bit.  I just use the “old school” book covering technique I used back in middle school.

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The other day I picked up this (prefect condition) Elizabeth Taylor book at the thrift store.  Tip: I like to take off the book jacket because I love the linen texture that lies underneath.

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So what are your thoughts?  Do you collect anything?  xoxo