December 6, 2013
Guess what I'm going to do with these goodies? I don't know either. I have somehow fallen behind on my Christmas decorating this year. I don't have much more to do, but besides getting a jump on putting up the outdoor lights, I have not yet put together my greens, decorated my little shed, or finished unpacking a few ornaments. What? It's only December 6th? Sorry, but that's late for me and I'm starting to feel the pinch. This is why I was so inspired by the following posts this week.
Get through the holidays with a little help from Elvis, Martha and a Notepad.
Do you need to finish a little holiday shopping? Try this gift guide, or for the book lover, this gift guide, or for everyone, this gift guide and this one.
One thing I did get early this year was my box of Christmas Crackers. It's tradition in this house to wear a ridiculous hat while eating your figgy pudding. (And I have the video to prove that you don't necessarily need alcohol to play a whistle off key—you know who you are.)
Crafty? Then head on over to Brooklyn Limestone and make a Santa Sack. I'm putting it on my list for next year. (Hint: Don't overwhelm yourself with more things to do when you are already behind.)
Let us all Unwrap Holiday Stress.
And because I have been teaching a class all week, and I'm really, really tired, I probably won't get to half the things on my list....but I will end up vegging out in front of the television watching another Hallmark movie.
The great Christmas tree debate...what do you use, a tree skirt or something else? I fall into the something else category. My many trees are topped with stars, angels, snowflakes, and even birds, but the bottoms are skirtless. In my bedroom tree, I wrap garland around the bottom to hide the stand. In my den, I use a cranberry crate and then fill that with pine cones to hide not only the stand but part of the trunk that shows because it sits on top of a table and not on the floor. Smaller trees, like my jingle bell tree in my kitchen, are potted in an urn. And in my family room, the only live tree in the house, I use a couple of artificial wreaths (cut on one side) to wrap around the base. Is your skirt showing? I'd love to hear what you use.
December 5, 2013
Want to go glam this year without going over the top? Then check out these finds over at Domain Home where actress Jessica Biel and the DH staff created this oh, so divine mix of elegance and cozy, with a touch of drama thrown into the mix.
If it's time to cull your book collection, think twice before getting rid of those hefty coffee table books and create a coffee table instead. Whether you choose a piece of salvaged stone as they did here, or a piece of glass or wood, you'll be left with a signature piece that everyone will talk about. Black and white always looks right, but it doesn't have to be boring. Add a touch of color, but keep to one or two analogous (colors that sit side by side on the color wheel) hues and you'll instantly warm up the room. Oh—and those rugs! Kilim rugs work perfectly as wall coverings/art and bring in the decorator's trifecta—pattern, color, and texture. Divine indeed.
By now you should know how I feel about using natural elements in your home, and I'm a huge fan of mixing both real and faux together, as long as it's good quality. This table filled with silvery shimmer also gets a touch of gold to once again warm up the display. Yes, you can mix silver and gold together, even if only in tiny amounts. Fill glass hurricanes with mercury balls or get out that can of mercury glass paint and have fun reinventing all sorts of finds.
Go check out the Domain web site and find even more inspiration.
December 3, 2013
Books at the local bookshop—check. A scoop of lavender and a cake of creamy soap—check. Candle, decorative matchbox—check. These are just some of the things I've purchased here in town. Bowerbird and Friends is a group shop that caters to all tastes. Decked out for the holidays, the evolving décor is perfect for those of you who like to find the unique, but purposeful gift. I fell in love with the feather trees and a Dash & Albert rugs on this particular trip, but sadly left them behind. Owls seem to be all the rage these days and I spotted these candle holders as well as a couple of glass necklaces. And speaking of jewelry, you can find both new and vintage finds that will suit all age groups for a very nice price indeed. Check them out on your next visit to our town. (Perhaps after you've attended a workshop.)
Sweet Paul magazine available here, too!
December 2, 2013
Christmas 2013 is in full swing. My daughter came home from college and we all enjoyed some time off celebrating Thanksgiving, watching movies, and of course, decorating for Christmas. I had the bright idea of hanging our outdoor lights weeks ago when it was still warm, but they didn't get plugged in until Friday. I still have a few more things to do, but it's off to class I go. In the meantime, check out these photos on my facebook page and I'll be back tomorrow with more ideas and inspiration.
November 27, 2013
Thank you for sharing another week with me. I think this quote says it all. As you share your day with family and friends tomorrow, take the time to capture the moment. Take lots of photos including a group shot, leave out a guestbook for people to sign, write down the days events in your journal, and don't forget to take some video—even quick little recordings of conversations and laughter. I always wish I had taken more video. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!
Here are a few things that inspired me this week...
How to be a good (not perfect) guest.
A Thanksgiving playlist to set the mood. There are some lovely songs on here by Jim Brickman, Josh Groban, and Bing Crosby.
What do you do with all of those leftovers? Here's some ideas.
I hope the spirit of the season will inspire you to try your own 10 Little Things.
What do you make for your holiday breakfast? Because I concentrate on the main meal, breakfast is always something simple—cinnamon rolls, scones. If you're wondering what to make, let Simply Breakfast inspire you.
Image snapped from Country Living magazine
November 26, 2013
Today I am making pumpkin bread and an apple pie. The kitchen table is covered with papers and study supplies, not my Thanksgiving centerpiece or serving bowls. I have a class next week and I'm trying to get everything over to the studio before daughter #1 makes it home from college. I don't think I'm going to make it. My youngest daughter has been home all week helping at the food pantry where she was needed much more than around here. I'm taking a deep breath as I write this. I know it will all get done, it always does.
This cookbook was a gift from my great Aunt Eleanor who is still with us. The drawing is courtesy of my son who on that particular day was helping me cook. At least he was working with autumnal colors.
November 25, 2013
Grab a wooden box, bowl, or basket (any shape will do) and fill it with pillar candles (Just $1 at Job Lot), mini pumpkins from the grocery store, and assorted organics like leaves, vines, and/or berries. Stagger your arrangement so it's not lined up. If your vessel is very deep, use bags of dried beans to fill it up so you can show off your design. Once Thanksgiving is over, replace the pumpkins with greenery, cranberries, and/or ornaments.
Image via tumblr.com
November 22, 2013
I've been reading through a few interesting posts this week and I came across this article about 10 Little Things We Can Do To Make Life Easier For One Another. I thought I'd make a similar list, but put my own spin on it. I think it's a wonderful way to usher in Thanksgiving.
1. Say thank you.
I don't care what you're doing or how busy you are, take the time to say thank you....when someone brings you something, opens the door for you, offers you help, pays you a compliment, or just because you appreciate what they're doing.
2. Pay more compliments.
People need to hear that they are appreciated. Sometimes the things we do are payment enough, but it makes it that much sweeter when a person notices. Compliment someone when they look good, when they do a good deed, when they help someone out, when they help you out. There is never a shortage of reasons why you can't compliment someone. And it's never too late. Thank your parents or grandparents for all those little things you should have said so long ago.
3. Send more letters and gifts.
I love technology too, and being able to communicate with my children at any time is an invaluable gift, but we need to put our thoughts down on paper and pass it along. Cards are lovely, but nothing compares to a letter. Even if it's just a quick note, send it along. I know buying someone a gift can be expensive, but the best gifts are given from the heart, so even if it's just a pencil or bookmark you know they'd absolutely love, why not wrap it up and give it to them (with a nice little letter of course).
4. Help people.
There is nothing more valuable (or precious) than time, but when we give it away, something remarkable happens. I recently wrote about our angel of a neighbor; he is the ultimate helper. My own dear husband would give you the shirt off his back and is one of the kindest people I know. We may talk about helping more, but we have to start doing it. Just one little thing every now and then will make a huge difference to someone else.
5. Be kind.
I tell my children all the time, "I don't care what you do in this life, just do it well and with integrity." My father use to tell me I was just as good as anyone else and I took that to heart. I worked in an industry where I was surrounded by wealthy, influential, and important people. I never once wavered (okay, I got a little giddy when I was helping Kathleen Turner), but I never felt like I didn't belong somewhere no matter what my role was. Be kind to the people who take out your trash, do your taxes, or invite you to a state dinner—to me they are all the same.
6. Make more friends.
Easier said than done sometimes, but what I really mean is don't be afraid to put yourself out there. For years I hid away and avoided social gatherings because I was ashamed of my weight. I now realized that I missed out on a lot of life and that's just nonsense. When someone asks me to go someplace new or to get together now, I say yes. And I'm always looking for new ways to connect. What I still have to master is reconnecting. Once you have friends you need to nourish that relationship too. Even if it's just over the phone.
7. Practice patience.
Oh the energy I've wasted on this very subject is mind boggling. I can still remember driving into the high school parking lot anxiously waiting for my girls to jump in the car so I could beat the bus line and "get back to work". And if I didn't make it, the hand thumping on the steering wheel would start and my heart began to race. Seriously? I don't like to wait and I don't let people wait for me....however, I need to just chill. If I have to wait in line, wait my turn, or just plain wait, I distract myself. If there's a possibility I'll be there a while, I have a book with me, if not my iPhone. If it's just a short wait, I start to hum a happy tune—sometimes aloud. It works.
8. Say "I love you".
As many times as you can. I can remember a turning point in my childhood when my dad's mother died. The relationship wasn't great, but they loved each other very much. As soon as she died, my dad started to tell us he loved us every day he left the house or got off the phone. (The other phrase I heard and repeat is "drive safely".). There isn't a day that goes by that these words don't leave my mouth a least a half dozen times. And my parents will not get off the phone without repeating the same sentiment I heard throughout my childhood.
9. Give it away.
I'm a firm believer in what goes around, come around. If someone—friend or stranger—asks for help or advice, give it away if you can. I tell my students all the time that no matter what they do in their careers, they can't be me and vice versa. I'm willing to share all I know so they can succeed, even if they come to me long after class is over. I am genuinely grateful when I find answers to something I need to figure out on the internet and someone has actually taken the time to share shortcuts. Just the other day, my friend sent me a link to some html copy that I would need to fix a bug on my blog because she was having trouble and knew that I would have the same trouble. I love that. (And thank you, Wendy.)
10. Be honest—just be yourself.
Why is this so hard to do? Most of my life people would judge me on my behavior. In high school, I heard the words "stuck up" and "too good" from the people who didn't know me. I was/am an introvert. I was painfully shy when I was in elementary school and I kept to myself most of the time. As I finally grew into myself, I was comfortable with who I was/am. I listen before I speak. I observe and notice. I'm thoughtful and introspective. But that doesn't mean I'm not a lot of other things too. Funny thing is when you do get me to open up; you can't get me to shut up. Give people a chance to show you who they are and let people get to know you—the real you. Don't be someone you're not.
And here are a few other things that inspired me this week...
On a much lighter note, check out Joanna's NYC apartment makeover. I especially liked her bedroom.
Be inspired and create this festive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.
Want to try a new stuffing recipe? How about Waffle, Maple & Sausage Stuffing?
A funny way to give thanks.
I crack up every time I listen to this song.
Enjoy your weekend!
Image via Tumblr
November 21, 2013
I am over the moon about over-the-knee socks. I just LOVE them. My favorites so far are made from an angora blend by Urania, an Italian brand that you can find at TJ Maxx, but you'll have to hurry because they go fast! Hue is also a good choice and Haute Look has several varieties to choose from including the lovelies you see below. They make great stocking stuffers....no pun intended.
November 20, 2013
When I teach a class, I can usually tell by the end of that class which students have that special touch. They go out and start to create and make something out of nothing, and turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. This just happens to be the case with this talented lady. Jill has been happily decorating and staging homes for nearly nine years and her clients are thrilled with her work. She just sent me photos of her (not yet finished) family room and I just had to share. I've been in this room. I remember floral sofas, a large honeyed wood armoire, and a wall full of platters and pictures. Now she is surrounded by comforting color (BM Squire Hill Buff), tones of silver, gray, and gold, a Moroccan-inspired patterned rug, and beautiful paisleys.
She has incorporated the old with the new, as all talented decorators should. The room has evolved over time, and as she was refining her own style, she found her way to the look you see here—relaxed yet elegant, comfortable and inviting.
To get Jill's lovely autumn look, simply spray paint or silver leaf pumpkins or buy similar here or here. Find similar area rugs here. Find similar lamp here.
Or better yet, contact Jill at Hosking Interiors and she'll take care of it all!
November 19, 2013
A city girl in the country—a country girl in the city. I guess I'll never quite shake my dueling personalities. A couple of weeks before Halloween, my family and I strolled through our town like a group of tourists. We visited our favorite restaurant for breakfast, poked in and out of shops, and took a walk through one of its many parks. The weather was a bit crisp, but it was a beautiful day. I managed to capture some leaves still turning color.
This particular park runs along the Nubanusit River, which runs into the Contoocook River—one of the few rivers that actually flows north instead of south. It also happens to be the river located just outside my studio. We have seen many changes since moving here so many years ago. And the changes continue. We're anxiously awaiting the opening of a new bakery/café being built across from this very park.
The park is also home to one of several waterfalls. I love the sound of the rushing water. We'll frequently bike into town and grab a treat while listening to river run underneath the road. If you can see way off into the distance, there is actually another fall in the background. Sadly this has been inoperable for several years. I actually took a photo of it years ago and it's prominently placed in my studio. (You can see a picture of it here.)
A couple of weeks later, we were in Boston to watch the Red Sox parade and pick up our oldest daughter for the weekend. The girls know the city pretty well, but when we were trying to move from our (very lucky) parking spot after we were done watching the parade, the city was tough to navigate. We were headed across town to have lunch when we got re-routed and spotted the South Street Diner. Years ago when my husband and I worked in Boston, it was called the Blue Diner. The girls were game....who doesn't want breakfast at two in the afternoon? Some place new for them and a dose of nostalgia for us. It hadn't changed a bit. Open 24/7, it has the usual diner fare. In other words, no dieters allowed.
I love that you can find bits of small town charm in a big city.
November 14, 2013
I gave my daughters a copy of the book Thanks & Giving by Marlo Thomas back in 2005 when it was first published. Having grown up in a religious family and then marrying into a religious family (my father-in-law is a retired minister), I was taught it is far better to give than to receive. Believe me, there is a lot of room for improvement in this area of my life, but I do the best that I can and always strive to do better. The one thing I have continually tried to do is to teach my children the lessons I was taught so they appreciate all that they have. It's not easy in a world of gimme, gimme, gimme. So along with saying our prayers at night, serving food at our church's community suppers, and picking out Christmas presents for the Salvation Army, this book became go-to reading this time of year to reinforce some of those lessons.
Those days seem so long ago. With my son married and living out of state, my oldest daughter away at college, my youngest daughter's crazy schedule, and having precious little together time, I hold onto family traditions very tightly indeed. One of the traditions my daughter's actually started a few years back was to give away our money jar savings. My husband and I would empty our change into a jar to use for school lunches and other miscellaneous must-haves. But now we fill the jar knowing that we will donate whatever we have to a local charity. As we sit around our Thanksgiving table, we will pull out photos of years past and share stories and memories, and then we decide where the money will go.
But there's one thing money can't buy and that's time. We had a guardian angel move into our wooded neighborhood and he has been a true blessing. During the ice storm of 2008, he grabbed my husband and went around to all of the neighbors to check on them. He found generators for some, water for others. He has helped us with countless projects and we couldn't have survived here without him. So whenever we have time, we try to give as good as we get. Pet sitting, yard work, snow removal....lots of apple pies.
As I continue to give thanks this holiday season, I wanted to share a few links that have inspired me this week.
Blessing Bags—for your community, the troops, and whoever needs a little pick-me-up.
I'm thankful when people give away knowledge for free. Visit Sew Many Ways and learn how to add a Pinterest image hover Pin-it button to your site. I just added one to mine.
Be inspired. Start a gratitude journal/happiness journal (or contribute to this online journal over on I am Thankful), and start a thankful tree.
I like to shop at stores that give something back. Did you know that November 2nd was National Family Pajama Night. Me neither. Now until December 2nd, The Company Store will donate $1 to the Ronald McDonald House for every pair of PJs sold. (I love PJs!)
What are some of your thanks and giving moments?
Image via Ruffled Sunshine
November 13, 2013
Every Thanksgiving, I make the same menu with a few tweaks here and there. It's tradition after all. The only big change we've made these past couple of years is that we now buy our turkey from a local turkey farm instead of the grocery store. There's no telling what size we'll end up with since all of the turkeys are certified organic—that means no growth hormones and no picking the perfect size. I cooked a 30 pounder last year and luckily my roaster was able to handle it. I'm not much of a measurer. My grandmother and my mother both poured seasonings into their hands instead of measuring spoons and I do the same, so forgive my lack of detail.
I've included everything that gets set out on the big day. I hope you enjoy a few of these recipes.
I first coat the turkey generously with olive oil and kosher salt. I use lots of sage and thyme tucked into the bird, placed under the skin, and sprinkled on top. Once this is done it goes into a 350 degree oven uncovered. Generally, you'll want to cook the turkey 20 minutes per pound, but my oven must be on steroids because it never takes that long. The 30 pounder I mentioned was done in 4 hours. Rely on a meat thermometer instead. (I use about 4-5 whole sage leaves inside the cavity and 3-4 under the skin. I also use 2-3 shredded or torn over the top. I sprinkle generous amounts of thyme on top as well. I use herbs from my garden that have been dried. the rule is to use more fresh herbs than dried.)
I don't over baste my turkey, but I do end up with a good amount of drippings regardless. While the turkey is cooking, I chop up some celery, carrots, and onions (I use 2 stalks of celery and 2 medium carrots roughly chopped. I use about a 1/2 pound of white boiling onions and 16 oz. of broth.) tossed into a pot of organic turkey broth. I have also used chicken broth in a pinch. I don't season anything until it all comes together. Once the turkey is done and resting, I then slowly add the broth to my drippings and put the pot on simmer while I add my spices. I use garlic powder and onion salt to taste. Once I'm happy with the amounts, I add a bit of watered down flour the consistency of pancake batter straight to the pan and stir vigorously so it doesn't clump. The grease from the drippings works in place of creating a roux.
Sage and Onion Stuffing
I first sauté finely chopped onions and a bit of celery in some olive oil then set them aside when they're done. I use dried white bread (about 1 loaf of French bread—any favorite will do), Bell's seasoning to taste—I use a lot, and more turkey broth to season and moisten the bread. I'll add small bits of torn sage as well but I don't overdo it because Bell's seasoning has a lot of sage in it. I add the sautéed vegetables to the bread and mix well. My stuffing goes straight into the turkey.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sorry, nothing terribly exciting here. I open up packages of frozen squash and add about 1-2 teaspoons of pure maple syrup to each.
Roasted Green Beans
Toss 1-1/2 pounds of trimmed green beans in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and coat with about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes stirring once. You can add shallots, dried cranberries, or nuts to this recipe as well.
Boiled Onions (See above.)
Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
November 12, 2013
Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday of the month this year, so we now have extra time to plan our table settings and our menu. As a book lover, I fell in love with this photo. I use books all the time to decorate and a dining room table or sideboard is no exception. Select books with autumnal-colored spines or choose a theme and set out books with relevant topics. Use them as pedestals for all kinds of decorations.
A wooden bowl or trug (basket) can hold a variety of things, but I think these persimmons are especially pleasing as a centerpiece. Their vibrant orange color works well when you mix in other goodies. Using everyday objects to decorate your holiday table is as easy as filling a teapot with a small bouquet of mums. Fruits and nuts not only make lovely decorations, they can also become part of the meal. Pass around the cheese platter after dinner and enjoy. Pumpkins are always welcomed on Thanksgiving, but who says they have to be orange? Paint or gilt (gold or silver) a collection of sugar pumpkins and then wrap them in bittersweet.
More Thanksgiving inspiration: Thanksgiving Table Settings, Vintage: Bringing Back the Relish Tray, Cranberries, Thanks and Giving, and My Thanksgiving Menu. Enjoy!
Images via marthastewart.com, Confessions of a Plate Addict, potterybarn.com, interiorsbystudio.com