This past weekend we hosted a small dinner party among friends and the goal of the night was to keep it simple and easy. Usually when I am entertaining, I tend to stress myself out with making everything from scratch…the appetizers, the desserts, all of it. But this time, I wanted to eliminate those steps and enjoy myself among good company without feeling frazzled or tired from all of the prep work.
We decided to throw steaks on the grill, so that in itself was a headache taken off of my plate. Anything grill related is passed over to J since he is the grillmaster of the house. My friends were bringing a pasta salad, so I didn’t need to fuss too much over sides, but wanted to add a fresh green salad to the mix. What was left? Apps and dessert. Here was the menu:
To start, I made an easy Whipped Ricotta dip and served it with a fresh baguette and I sliced some imported meats and chesses and piled them on a board with crackers. Then I pulled together a green salad with toasted almonds, green onions and a delicious, herb-packed Green Goddess Dressing to serve with the main course.
Finally, the dessert. I bought (yes, bought) a chocolate cake, propped it on a pretty pedestal, and surrounded it with greens cut from my yard. So easy! The cake then served as a pretty centerpiece on the island with the appetizers.
Note: Place the plastic cake top over the cake on the pedestal to keep it fresh and cut the greens ahead of time and place them aside in water until ready to assemble.
The table was super simple, as well. Brown jute placemats, black and white striped napkins, white dinner plates, fresh flowers from the grocery store, and my grandmother’s water glasses. That’s it!
With a few simple tasks to prep beforehand, my dinner turned out just as planned. Good food, yummy wine, and fun company!
I’m not sure about you, but one of the busiest spots in the house is the kitchen pantry. Whether it’s me who needs to access items while cooking dinner, or the kids wanting their snacks eight times a day, this spot is a high traffic area. After coming home from the beach with leftover snacks and condiments that needed to be incorporated into the madness of an already full cabinet, I felt the need to completely purge and reestablish a new place for everything.
I started by pulling everything out and looking at dates. All expired items went into the trash. Food that was soon-to-be expired went on the dining room table because my plan is to get creative and use all of them in upcoming dinners. Finally, the items that were going back into the cabinet were left on the island to sort and organize.
As I was looking at all of the food, jars and boxes that needed a spot in the drawers, I made notes on how to best organize them to be most efficient for every day use. I wanted to place things in bins to separate food staples and in containers to maximize freshness. To do this, I made a list of what I thought I needed in terms of plastic storage vessels, measured my shelves vertically for maximum height, and headed off to Home Goods to see what I could find.
My trip was definitley succesful. Not only did I run into a friend and help her choose new pillows and a lamp for her updated living room (BONUS!), I came home with a plethora of items to use for my little project. My thought is that I could always take back what I didn’t use.
After some time and thoughtfulness, the end game came together. Can goods and nut butters on the low top shelf, Whole30 staples and other necessity items in the middle, and kid snacks on the bottom tier. Now the kiddos have a specific spot to grab their snacks without the need to stand in front of an open cabinet for several minutes at a clip.
In addition, I placed our cashews, pecans and chocolate chips in handy, stay-fresh containers for easy access. J and I are constantly reaching for handfuls of raw cashews and now they are readily available.
Now that the pantry is picture perfect, the real challenge is going to be keeping it that way! 😉
Last week my family rented a home in Sandbridge, which is technically a part of Virginia Beach. Sandbridge is a sandy peninsula that juts southward, just below the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach itself. It’s quiet, and you can choose to have minimal, to no contact with anyone else, which was perfect for us during COVID. Essentially, Sandbridge is the Outer Banks without the extra-long drive.
Our days were filled with divided time between the pool at the house and the ocean. And our nights were filled with happy hours, word games on the iPads, family bingo, word search contests, ice cream sundae making, and basketball. Here’s a few random images in black & white that I captured during the trip…
We all know how much work it takes to earn that piece of paper that either hides away in a drawer somewhere or hangs in a tired frame that doesn’t do it justice. Four years of blood, sweat, and tears usually go into earning a degree, so why not show the world your accomplishment? I surprised J a few weeks ago and had both of our college diplomas framed in a more up-to-date, modern style that fits better with our new office decor.
In the past, I’ve seen MANY bloggers post about their experiences with Framebridge and I never took the plunge and ordered from them. For this project, I knew I wanted somewhat of a unique frame and I loved the look of the Williams Sonoma burl wood version. With that in mind, I did a little research and found Framebridge to be my best option.
Although framing these was not a low budget item, I felt the whole process was seamless from start to finish. I have to admit that I was a little nervous to send them BOTH of our diplomas, but based on my experience, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was fast, and they alerted me every step of the way. The day they arrived in the mail, both frames were well-packaged and wrapped so nothing got damaged. Plus, they were so pretty!
Once I had my mind set on the frame, picking the matting was easy. His diploma is a creamy color, where mine is more white. Because of the difference, I thought black was my best bet. Plus, black just popped with the frames.
I am also loving how the frames were specifically made to the sizes of the diplomas. Mine is vertical and a little larger in scale compared to his smaller, horizontal version. The way that the varying sizes complement each other while hanging on the wall really makes that space extra special and interesting.
It was a win-win for us! I loved them and J was totally surpised to see his diploma in a new, stylish frame. Best part, they look great against the blue walls in our space.
Note: This post was not sponsored by any means. I’m just a girl passing along a positive experience to you.
There’s this spot on the other side of the office that remains unfinished because I was having trouble coming up with something that flowed in the room. I did have my vintage MCM Broyhill Brasilia dresser on that wall, but I wasn’t quite sure what else I wanted. Since J and I spend so much time in this room, the kids are often found perched off to the side, just hanging out or talking to us, so I thought a pair of chairs might be a good idea.
Side note about the dresser: That particular piece I picked up over five years ago at a thrift shop because I LOVED the details. However, I was unaware of how coveted this line really was until I started searching on eBay. Currently, this exact dresser is being sold for $1,000+ and I can see why. The lines on it are amazing! Here’s the wall in question….plus the dresser and a cute little dog on the side (who looks half asleep)! Also note the Christmas stockings – I am getting a head start with having Samson’s stocking personalized with his name on it because I want to make sure it’s done in time for the holidays. 🙂
Surfing FB Marketplace is a very addicting habit of mine and I’m always on the lookout for unique pieces of furniture, cool mirrors, vintage art, etc. I’m also currently into the floral patterns that are making a comeback, the ones that some may call “granny chic,” and I wanted to try and experiment a little with this trend in the office. So, when I spotted these “like new” vintage MCM club chairs, I was drawn to them. At first, I wasn’t sure of the color or pattern, but the more I looked at them, the more I loved them. The woman was selling them locally, so I decided to make the short drive to take a look.
I know what you are most likely thinking. What in the heck are those? I am pretty sure that J and my mom were thinking the same exact thing when I sent them the pictures. But bear with me here…
I have always been in love with the colors of this room by Alisa. The blue walls matched with the gold/chartreuse curtains really make a wow statement and it drew me in. The wood tones and touches of brass took it even above and beyond.
So after spotting those chairs, I realized that I subconsciously matched them in my office based on my love for her room. I didn’t put two and two together at the time but finally made the connection a few days after getting them.
The only thing I want to change about the chairs is the painted wood. Someone made the very unwise decision to paint the wood this odd grey color. After a little research, I am going to use chalk paint to very carefully paint the wood either black or white. I think. I started testing the white as seen below. Also, notice the perfect fabric. There’s not a stain or tear to be seen.
Here’s a current view of the office so you can get a feel for the way they look right now. I have a feeling that once they are finished, they will be a hit. Or at least, I think so….
There’s been this space in our downstairs bathroom that has remained vacant because I just couldn’t find the right piece of art. Granted, our bathroom has been complete for a year now and I never did post it on here. And until I get decent photos of it (shooting small bathrooms in dim lighting with black walls is so hard!!), I’ll wait to post that reveal in the future.
But for now, I want to show you how I took an old piece of thrift store art and repurposed it to create a modern abstract that’s perfect for our space. ***Bonus: total cost = $9.00 total for paint and brushes!!
For the record, this old piece of art was literally IN the donation pile at Goodwill when I turned around and gave it one last look. The frame was in great shape and the size was perfect. Plus, I knew that there was already texture on the canvas from the existing paint. All of these factors were done for me and all I needed was some paint, paint tape and brushes to complete what I wanted. Why not grab it back and try my hand at painting?
I’ve been on the lookout for a good black and white abstract for a while now and coudln’t find what I wanted. Real acrylic paintings by artists can be sooooo expensive, while I also didn’t want just a print. I wanted something that would stand out, that was in a cool gold gilded frame, and had texture. So here we are, a win-win all around.
I am sure there are many ways to create something out of nothing, but here’s my way!
Said piece of art that had reached it’s expiration with me:
Paint and brushes that I used.
Make sure to tape the edges around the frame to prevent unwanted paint marks.
Give the art a base by painting it white. Side note: I started painting the background with the white acrylic paint, but I wasn’t gettting the coverage I wanted. I switched over to some leftover sample paint that I had on hand from our foyer and it worked perfectly. I did a double coat just to make sure it was fully white with no leftover remants of the old picture.
Before starting with the black paint, I did some research on Pinterest and minted.com to get an idea of how I wanted the lines to look. I’m no artist, so going about the painting with no plan could have been a disaster. Then, simply go to town and be creative. I kept having to tell myself that it didn’t need to be perfect.
Finally, I used a little gold Rub ‘N Buff to take out any imperfections on the frame. So easy!
In the end, I LOVE how it turned out and I was quite impressed with myself…lol.
There’s nothing like a meal in the summer that’s made with fresh veggies straight from the garden. Extra bonus points if it’s a meal that can be made ahead and served on the go!!
Panzanella is a classic Tuscan salad that is a staple in Italian households during the summer months. It can be made in a variety of ways, but mainly consists of chunks of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions tossed in a vinaigrette. At first, my crew was a little skeptical when they first eyed it up, but after one bite, they added it to our list of dishes to make again!
This is a dish that can be prepared in many ways, but below you can find my way!
CLASSIC PANZANELLA SALAD
2 cartons of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 teaspoons kosher salt, more for seasoning
1 English cucumber, cubed
1 loaf of ciabatta bread (or other rustic bread like sourdough) cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup olive oil plus 3 T; divided (more if needed at the end to moisten)
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned or cut into pieces
**Preheat over to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Halve your cherry tomatoes and place them in a colander over a bowl to catch the drained juice. Salt with Kosher salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread out on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until bread becomes toasted, but not brown. Remove and let cool.
In a large bowl, pour any juice taken from the tomatoes, as well as the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk together to blend.
Add the toasted bread and all of the veggies and toss. Stir in the fresh herbs at the end.
Add more olive oil to moisten, if needed.
Let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow all of the flavors to meld together. Toss occasionally.
Serve at room temperature.
Note: I bought a rotisserie chicken at the store to have with this meal for some added protein! Enjoy! xo
Last night my friend texted me asking for tips on starting the Whole30 program, and I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to help her begin a successful journey of her own. You see, I did two rounds of this “way of eating” to reset my system..one before my foot surgery in December 2018 and another this past May. Yes, I did lose weight each time, and yes, I felt totally amazing during the process. In reality, this “diet” has been the only thing that has really worked for me. I’ve tried low carb, high protein diets. I’ve also tried the “eating too few calories” way of living, too. Combined with a daily exercise routine, nothing worked like Whole30, and I truly believe in the process.
What exactly is Whole30?
Taken from their website, “Whole30 is designed to change your life in 30 days—but it’s not a diet, a detox, or a weight loss program. Think of it as a short-term reset, created to help you curb your cravings and bad habits, boost your metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and calm your immune system.” Basically, sticking to a Whole30 diet means you are eating real, whole food for 30 days.
Before I talk about what worked for me, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, health care professional or anything else like that. So what I am sharing below has worked for me, twice. And really…eating healthy, whole foods can’t be bad for you, right?
Where to begin?
Before beginning any lifestyle change, I recommend reading about what you want to accomplish. I spent a few days doing some research on what I needed to do. This included familiarizing myself with the do’s and don’ts list – what foods I can and can’t have. I already knew that alcohol, chocolate and cheese were no-no’s, so I had to mentally prepare myself to get ready to eliminate them from my daily life.
Once you are familiar with the program, research recipes and make your shopping list. There are so many print-outs that you can find online that will help you manage your venture. I will give you a bunch of my go-to recipes at the bottom of this post, but meal prepping is the key to success with this program.
Some of the items I recommend buying: ghee, nutritional yeast, almond flour, arrowroot flour (a great thickener for stews), raw almonds or cashews, cans of coconut milk (no sugar added), cartons of chicken bone broth (no added sugars), coconut aminos (like soy sauce, but not – found near soy sauces or in the organic aisle), and coconut oil. You will begin to see these ingredients in many of the recipes on Pinterest so it’s nice to already have them on hand. To be honest, about 80% of the time I still cook Whole30 recipes, casseroles, and crockpot meals and my family has no idea. And, I still use the above ingredients in my cooking because they are all healthier alternatives to the mainstream versions and I feel good about that.
Meal prep like crazy! Below, I attached a few of my favorite recipes that were on repeat, but there are many more on my Pinterest page under the Whole30 board. I would make several recipes a few times a week and eat the leftovers for lunches. I also made baked sweet and white potatoes to have on hand and trays of roasted veggies to throw on salads or eat as a side dish. Finally, the crockot or Instapot is your friend. I can’t tell you how much I would use the slow cooker to prepare meals.
What were the hardest parts?
The hardest parts for me were cutting out wine and chocolate. Period. But on the flip side, I knew that I only had to get through 30 days without them, and then I could reintroduce them back into my diet slowly. It really helps to have someone who is supportive of your efforts. J was a HUGE supporter and was kind enough to not drink wine in my presence. He ate all of my meals (minus the green vegetables) and didn’t complain one bit!
Going out to eat was also tricky because you never know if there could be hidden sugars in things like chicken marinades or salad dressings. If I did go out, I would always order a salad with olive oil and lemon slices and grilled chicken with spices only.
Sausage links: I hate eggs (which is counterproductive with this diet) so breakfast was a challenge. To skirt around that issue, I would buy packages of compliant chicken sausage and cut them into coins. Then I would brown them in a pan and put them in a container for future eating. To go with my breakfast, I would grab a handful of the sausage and heat it with my favorite breakfast casserole. I felt the sausage offered some added protein to my meal and helped me stay fuller longer. Note: add another egg if making this casserole. It didn’t really make a difference in the taste outcome.
Potatoes: Grains are not permitted on the program, but potatoes are! While I was prepping each week, I would clean and wrap both types of potatoes individually in foil and bake them. Once soft, I would take them out of the oven and let them cool. Do not remove the foil. Once cooled, I would place them in large gallon bags and store them in the fridge. When ready to eat, all I had to do was peel away the foil and heat. I love the sweet potatoes with a little coconut oil and pepper and the white potatoes with either ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil.
Getting my chocolate fix: Technically you are not supposed to take compliant food items and combine them to create something that resembles a baked good. But, I really needed something to take care of my chocolate cravings. These clean chocolate cupcakes were my thing and I can’t tell you how many times I made this recipe! They were a game-changer for me and totally got me through the 30 days both times. To make them stretch, I would bake them in the mini cupcake pans and freeze half the batch. Whenever I needed something sweet, I would grab one or two and not feel guilty. Do not overbake!
Sparkling water in a wine glass: As I said before, not enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day was rough at times. So to trick myself into thinking that I was having something a little fancy, I would enjoy a glass or two of sparkling water in a wine glass. No, it wasn’t the real thing, but at least I felt my evening beverage was elevated and all it took was a stemmed glass.
Fruits: The program says to limit fruits, but I still ate fruit with each meal, including one banana a day! A favorite snack was a banana cut into slices with almond butter.
Coffee or tea? As you are probably guessing, creamer is a no-go on this program. I tried so many times to drink my coffee black and just couldn’t do it, so I resorted to green tea with nothing else in it. I know, another hard thing to give up for some, but worth it in the end! Note: the second time around I did cheat with this creamer. It is dairy free and has a whole list of good things, so when adding it to my coffee I didn’t feel like I was breaking my progress too much. I found it in the organic aisle of Giant, but it’s also available online.
Snacks: Often I would grab a handful of raw almonds or cashews as a snack, but there are some Larabars that are compliant. I am not a huge fan of them, but found they are good to have when on the go. Compliant Larabars include: Apple Pie, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie among others.
Condiments: Whole30 compliant condiments are out there, but can be pricy. Primal Kitchen products are the best. Some can be found in the organic aisle of the supermarket, while many are available on Amazon. I did order a few jars (avocado oil mayo, ketchup, and ranch dressing) early in the 30 days to have on hand for recipes. Again, J and the kids had no idea I was using these products since most were that good!
My Favorite Recipes!
There are soooooo many recipes out there in Pinterestland that are delicious and I did experiement a ton. I have to say, most were excellent and received rave reviews from my crew, but below are some of the favorites (in additon to the recipes I already mentioned above).
Big Mac Casserole – The kids LOVED this!! I mean, a whole 9×13 pan was demolished in a matter of minutes. I did make my own special sauce since I didn’t have the jarred kind on hand.
I have so many more recipes, but like I said, these were on repeat. Make a chili with no beans, or a veggie soup using the compliant broth. Also, rotisserie chicken from the store is a good protein source. Just make sure it’s plain and not seasoned or sauced up.
That about wraps it up. I know this may all sound so overwhelming, and I was a little stressed too when I started. But it works. I will forever be a Whole30 fan and can see myself wavering back to it when I feel my body needs a reset. I have also done mini-Whole30 stints at times. In the end, all the planning and prepping is worth it and I hope you think so too! 🙂 xo
As I continue to pull together the whole living room/foyer situation over here, it seems like I am continually changing things to get it just right. This past spring, I bought a dresser off of FB Marketplace to use in this area, but for some reason, I wasn’t feeling it once I got it home. The dresser is completely fine….right size, burl wood front drawers, etc, but it just needed “something” else and I couldn’t pinpoint what that was. As I did some more research, I started to see images of skirted tables and I was drawn to them. While purchasing one that is custom is pretty pricey on sites like Etsy and Ballard, I found some DIY versions on Pinterest that were perfect for what I wanted to do. Best of all, the final project was done in under $40.
To create my skirted table, I used this DIY No Sew Tutorial for my project, but there are many out there to check out. However the thing I loved about this particular one is the idea of no sewing while using fabric glue to pull it all together.
I chose to do a traditional white duck canvas fabric with black trim, but I think I may want try a pattern come fall. In my pictures, you can see how easily accessible the drawers are. Just flip up the flaps and you are golden!
Items I needed: Fabric, trim, fabric glue, wood top cut to size, fabric scissors, iron, ironing board, yard stick, pencil
Tips: You can go to your local Lowes or Home Depot and ask them to cut the piece of plywood needed for the table top to your exact measurements. They make the cuts right there! Also, purchase 2 bottles of fabric glue so you have enough. Fabric scissors are a great item to have on hand. I use mine for cutting ribbon all of the time!
Why add a skirted table to a room?
For me, the number one reason for adding this look to my foyer is that I love how the fabric softened the area. Besides that, skirted tables can be easily switched out as the seasons change and they are great for hidden storage. I also love how trims and embellishments can completely change the look while coordinating with your current decor. Plus, this project only took me a few hours total once I got going.
Here are a few images of inspiration. Also, take a look at how versatile this concept is. It can be done on all types of tables with varying fabrics and trims. The possibilities are endless!
After I finished my version, I spotted this one from Ballard (which is no longer available). Looks a little similar?!?
Gosh, it’s been a hot minute since I last posted on here. I can’t pinpoint one reason or another why I haven’t written, but I just haven’t felt motivated or inspired. And I didn’t want to write any old thing just to have a post. That didn’t feel right either. So here I am, almost mid-summer, finally opening my blog and putting something out there.
Despite the lack of posts, a lot is happening on my end.
My house. First and foremost, I’m selling my house and permanently moving into J’s. This has been a year in the making, but s**t’s getting real over here and it’s coming to fruition. Combining two already full households into one (with five children and a puppy) is no small feat, and I am so glad that I have the time to do it before going back to work in the fall. Donations, yard sales, Marketplace exchanges are currently my daily grind and I’ll be happy when it’s over. However, in the end, it will be so nice to all be in one place with everything organized and settled.
Home office / front foyer renovation. This has been in the making for MONTHS (like, before COVID hit), and I can see the end in sight. I have a few final touches to make, Roman shades to arrive and hang, and possibly reupholstering my leopard chairs, and I will post the final reveal soon. This project has been my biggest to date, and I am so happy with how it’s come together!
Puppy. If you’ve seen any of my Facebook or Instagram posts, you most likely have seen our puppy, Samson. Words can’t express how much in love I am with him. Long story short, we went to meet the breeder on President’s Day to see the Cavapoo breed in action and Samson was there waiting to be adopted. At that time, he was almost four months so he was a little “older” than a puppy who needed to be weaned from his mama. The plan was to wait until summer to get a dog, but his little face changed our minds immediately. We knew we were having the office reno in the next few weeks, so the plan was to go back and get him two weeks later. I didn’t want him exposed to all the banging and noise at such a young and impressionable age. How bad could it be to get a puppy a few months earlier than expected? Well, it turned out to be the best decision ever because I worked one more week and then the world shut down due to COVID. I am a huge believer in timing and fate and what is meant to be will be, and I can honestly say that us getting Samson at that time was our destiny. He has been the best little guy and made the perfect addition to our family!
Design Class / Consultation Business Goal. This summer I am in the process of completing an interior design class through the New York Institute of Art and Design. It’s an online class that will earn me credentials in design and then I can take a test to become certified. Between the move and regular life, I am squeezing in the classwork among the chaos, but I’m excited to have some sort of certification under my belt. My goal is to complete this course and start an interior design consulting business on the side. I want to be able to help people do anything from choosing paint colors to reconfiguring a room to starting from scratch in a space and I’m so excited to get started!
My Summer Motivation. Finally, I’ll leave you with some summer design motivation that made my jaw drop to the floor. I love scouring other people’s projects and following along from start to finish, so here are a few of my favorites from the recent One Room Challenge reveals:
Kristin’s Foyer/Mudroom/Bathroom reveal. I mean, how brilliant of her to build her father’s bourbon closets into the wall? It makes me wish I had vintage cabinets like that! And the custom bookshelves using a very creative (and eye-pleasing) method are filed into the back on my head for future use. She knocked this area of her home out of the park. The best part? She used a lot of what she had on hand to pull it all together!
Alisa’s Bathroom Make-over. The before and after photos of this space are ridiculous. I’ve quickly developed a love for her style – traditional with modern twists and touches of brass, and her bathroom did not disappoint.
Cynthia’s Flower Shed. I’m a sucker for painting a shed black (I painted mine a few years ago), but her added magnolia swag and surrounding cutting garden are a gardener’s dream. Check out the before and after of this part of her home.
Happy 4th everyone! Stay safe and celebrate our amazing country! xo