Thursday, June 30, 2011

Front to Back

Never hesitate to make a hell of a statement when you get the chance to make a first impression. This is true for clean white teeth, choice of wardrobe (unfortunately for me, I'm really having a hard time giving up my schlub-fest gear), clean noses, and of course your living space.

Entryways, foyers, and "drop zones" have the unique ability of making a statement.
Contain the clutter, designate spaces, and add something dramatic - whether it's something that has contagious color or a whimsical piece of "jewelry" like a vintage lamp or flouncy mirror. Add a table with a tad o' storage, or tuck a storage ottoman under the table and definitely don't to be too serious about it -- unless, you want to send the message to your guests that you're "boring and don't want anyone to touch anything."
Oh: and make sure there are hooks or hall tree.

I love entryways.
They are easily one of the most inexpensive transformations and antidepressants out there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do It Yer Self Design

You'd think in the era of HGTV, home design magazines out the wahzoo, Bravo, information found aaaalllll over Google and so on, people would choose to highlight their homestead in the best possible light as not only a reflection of themselves but also of the vintage and location of the home. But some do not.

Of course, interior design can be incredibly extravagant so perhaps one may be hesitant to broach that subject or perhaps one feels defeated from the start and chooses not to cross that line in to what they may perceive as 'snobby design land.' Perhaps they choose to place all the chatchkas from yesteryear and the ones they are given at Christmas around in a form of guilted kindness.

Well, as an interior designer, myself I can tell you spending a crack ton of money on something may not necessarily get you style or panache -- actually, some of the most expensive things, frankly, are just garish and ridiculous. And if there are items in your home that you hate to look at but are there staring you down because someone gave it to you, get rid of it. Give it away - it's freeing. It's your house, you live in it. And there's my touch of snobbery for you.

So here's a quick lesson on getting what you want out of your house:
1. Pour yourself a cocktail or any relaxing beverage of choice.

2. Sit down in the space you wish to design in a far corner or appropriate vantage point - maybe on the floor even. My mother taught me this.

3. Drink up and think about how lucky you are to be in this world. Think about who you are in your core. Think about what you like about you. Think about how you like to dress, or how you would dress yourself if you could wear anything. Think about what mood you want to feel in a room.

4. Finish your drink. Walk away. Think about this for 3-7 days.

5. Search the internet with key words of how you want this room to function, feel and look like, and get some ideas.

6. Now, paint that room - remember it will look different after you load the furniture back in, so don't get too scared. Maybe the paint color comes from a color you like in a dress, a magazine, a hat, a flower. Just make sure it's not a sharp, violent color. Yes, color (just like lighting), can feel violent. My mother also taught me this.

7. Make yourself a realistic budget. Whether it's a hundred bucks to do a little sprucing up, or $1000 to really go all out.

8. Shopping: ok, yes, this has all the possibilities of being expensive but if your willing to do some leg work and stick to your budget, it can be one of the cheapest adventures you can go on. For example look on craigslist, ebay, etsy, yard sale it up!, consignment stores are great, non-mall home stores (gaaawd, how I loathe the mall), big trash day in your neighborhood (or someone else's), other room's in your house, your parent's house, other people that like to give things away. Hell, send an email to your peeps and tell them what you are looking for - they may just have it and not want it anymore, so lucky you!
My friend Katy just got an amazing little mail-slot-shelf-thingy from her hair salon! The thrill of the hunt and its successes can be addictive, so be careful.

9. Always remember the lighting. There should at least be three light sources in a triangle around the room. And depending on what your doing, remember wattage on those bulbs says everything.

10. Place the furniture first, then layer in your lighting and finds. Remember: like things go together and should be put in pairs or odd sets like three's, five's, et cetera and art is hung at eye level. But don't go overboard; simple is clear and lovely. Hey -- ta da! Enjoy your space!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Recipe for Success

When we were invited to our friend's crabfest, I offered to bring a side of some sort. I anticipated bringing a tried and true standard like French Potato Salad or my mother's (now slightly modified) recipe for macaroni salad. When our little family arrived home two days before the party from an unplanned mini vacation, we were surprised to see our garden had come to bear fruit in the few unexpected days we had been away!

The answer was clear for my addition to Saturday's party menu: sharply seasoned homemade pickles and a garden salad from all the vegetable's we came home to find.

For the salad, I put everything from that early harvest that I had cut and plucked from the ground:
Spinach, carrot greens, beet greens, sliced-funky-shaped-baby carrots, green bell pepper, paper thin Candy Cane Beets and Kirby Cucumbers.
And after some inspirational munching-as-I-made-it-salad, it felt like the slight bitterness of the greens called for a creamier, if not sweetishlike dressing. And I wanted to use some of my herbs too, of course.
So I made a dressing.
A rather good one too, if I do say so. Unctuous, even.
It was a hit.
I was even kindly asked for the recipe! But I didn't have one.
I've never been one to write down my recipes (or even follow one) so I thought this might be a good opportunity to try something new. So, without further ado...

Orangeya' Glad It's Sorta Like Green Goddess & Pesto? Vinagrette

*2 Quality Oranges zested and halved
*1 Fragrant Lemon zested and halved
*1-2 Cloves of Freshly Peeled Garlic (jarred is gross FYI)
*1/2 Cup Natural Raw Almonds
*2 Tablespoons of dijon (I used Trader Joe's dijon 'cuz I just really love how hot it is)
*2 Big Fistfuls of fresh basil (dried is not even an option here, kids)
*8-12 Sprigs of Thyme (sans the woody stems - soft green stems are just fine)
*1 Half sprig of fresh Rosemary, chopped (like maybe a 1-2" piece)
*Kosher Salt to taste; about 1/2 Teaspoon+
*Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste; about 1/2 teaspoon+
*1/2 Cup of Olive Oil (I happened to use half "good finishing oil" + half run of the mill extra virgin)
Yes, this is gonna smell as radaroni as it tastes.

Ok, now,
1. PULSE the garlic, orange & lemon zest and some of the salt together to get things going
2. ADD the almonds & dijon mustard PULSE a few times
3. ADD the juice from both oranges, half the juice of the lemon & all the herbs. PULSE once or twice & then turn ON the machine with the fill lid removed on the top of the machine
4. STREAM in the oil through the fill chute while the blade is running until everything turns pale green and gets thickish but not mayo-ie. If that happens, the mayo thing I'm saying, then add the other half of lemon's juice.
5. ADD more Salt & Pepper until it tastes perfect for you.
6. Eat (with salad, bread, or any edible vehicle).
7. Drink something.
8. Be happy.

Thanks to A&A for the great party and all those Old Bay crabs, too!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Set the Sun to Thought

In the unexpected glory of a sunset it gives me a moment or two to reflect upon the happy (or tragic) moments of the day.
It is in those few minutes that I can pause to feel pensive and appreciative of what I have done, have had or lacked and what is to come.
I can think vicariously of others lives and what their expectations of happiness are.
We can choose to live hard or live quietly or meander between them both on any given day or hour. In a sunset, we (and I) can feel and reflect. If we want to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Honestly, there's something catchy about 'chilaxin'

I really didn't know what it meant to truly relax until I really had stress.
Real stress.
The kind of stress that feels like a frog in your throat and gives you a 1/4 of an anxiety attack every day.
The stress that comes from being a first time mom with a two-and-a-half-year-old with a dynamic personality (and an inherent defiance) bigger than the universe can hold.
The stress that comes from wanting a bigger and better existence for your child, your partner, your family, your house, your career, your accomplishments, your wallet, your vices, your figure and your quality of self.

In my youth, what I thought was "stress" was caused by some greasy-haired boy not reciprocating my admiration, or not having an extra twenty bucks to go to see some band. Perhaps I thought stress was from not being able to juggle my social calendar. Right.

So it was an unexpected treat today to go and visit my chosen family - a.k.a. my mom's bestest friends - with my Ma too, at their beach house. They entertained my lil' trio with ease and admiration for all we have become. Undoubtedly it felt good to be surrounded by waves, cocktails, snickety and love, but surprisingly it was more fulfilling deep down.
Even though we were hours from our house, it felt like home.
That's relaxation.

I even got a run in while I was there too!
Check on the figure front.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

My own father died and had been dead for sometime before I was made aware of it in seventh grade. For years he had been absent, living off of rum and making other children after my mother gave him what had been their sailboat and a divorce.

So when I was told of his passing, it was a mixed bag of feelings to say the least.
The dreaming of going to college near him in Florida to reunite and ignite the relationship that stalled during my toddlerhood with him - the nanosecond I graduated high school - was over.
The intrigue of his existence and wonderment of a future with him, died with the news of his death.
And sadly that, that loss of a dream, was really the most crushing part.
I even felt ashamed for not crying more.
I struggled to feel the pain of losing someone I loved.
But I've never loved someone I didn't know (then or now).

So for the next coupla' years I struggled with my Daddy issues and puberty and middle school.
And I took it all out on my poor mother. Daily. For years.
O! The mouth on me.
I worked really hard at thinking of the meanest things I could say when I didn't get my way.
I seriously don't know how she had the self control not to throw me against the wall and run away.

And on this Father's Day 2011, I just want to thank my dear mother, Diane, for being there when I cursed and huffed and puffed and looked at her with eyes of fury. But more seriously, I want to applaud her for being the mother who nurtured and supported me no matter how lame or insurmountable my endeavors may have been and for being the ballsy, outspoken, admirable, persistent, authentic, beacon-of-strength-'father' that I never really had.
Happy Father's Day, Ma.

Oh - and I gotta give a giaganto shout out to my partner in crime of 9! years, Ken:
your the bestest freakin' Dad in the whole universe.
Hands down.
A real man.
A real dad.
The best.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pass It On

I went to an estate sale the other day and it was a goldmine!
Housed in a turn of the century barn were four floors of picking glory: furniture, glassware, china, dolls, fabrics, architectural elements, tools, luggage, antique lumber, clothes, haberdashery. We even picked up the last 68 bricks we had been needing to finish our garden project.

It was a frenzy and it was cheap.
There were people everywhere.
Honestly, it was pretty fun to be part of the hunt.

Yet, it was not until my third visit inside, (my husband and I had been tag teaming a bit back and forth between the truck and the property and the barn to prevent our toddler from breaking things or falling on rusty nails), that a set of different feelings washed over me.
On that last trip in, I had walked in with purpose right up to the forth floor figuring I'd work my way down the levels.

I started in the walkin-in plywood clothes closet. The door half closed behind me. I went through the hangers quickly before I realized I was standing on eight inches of cast-offs, dry cleaning plastic and costumes. I started picking it up as if someone would catch me stepping on their things. But, they were no longer someone's things. When it all seemed like it was too much to pick up - and it was - I went down stairs to the next level and started over, avoiding feeling sad about the woman who just died and her husband selling off all the property that they clearly spent a lifetime building.

It was not until I got home and started washing all the pretty little cocktail plates and wares I scored did I start thinking about whose things I was touching once again. While I rinsed and scrubbed every piece I imagined how happy these things must have made the original owner and how proud she must have been to have had them to use during holidays or swanky soirees.

I chose not to digress in to the feelings of mourning I began to feel although they were creeping up. Instead, I chose to think that the woman who used to own these little luxuries would be glad to know that the woman who owns them now is just as proud and grateful to have and use and them in the happy moments she'll use them for.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And a cherry on top...

The best and simplest days of Summer require very little:
-Watery things(from buckets full of it to more sophisticated devices).
-Icy drinks
-Hot concrete
-Damp Bathing Suits
-Old towels longing desperately to be cut up and used as rags
-Things growing around you (may it be kids, weeds or tomatoes...)

Anything beyond that is either a luxury or comical fodder.
Happy Sunday.
Enjoy it no matter what.
Do something yummish.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Glide Away

I walked up my stairs yet again and awed at the Eames rocker in my daughters room before me.
I love the lines.
I love that it's timeless.
I love that I'll have it forever.
I love that I nursed and rocked my little girl in it.
I love that my husband gave it to me.
And I look forward to putting in our Master Bedroom one day!

My friends who have recently had kids have forgone the whole ickish glider trend too. Instead, they have opted for weathered hand-me-down pieces that they have left in their used glory or upcycled in some way. They've chosen pieces that reflect their personalities rather than choose something conventional from a big box store that everyone else has.
Making a person and therefore having a baby does not require eliminating your style from their room.
I mean, you've gotta be in that room and look at it too.

Vinnie Chair!

Modern Affordable? Really.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Time to Kill

It's hot.
Really hot.
Can't go outside til the evening - the news people said so.
And my kid is asleep on the couch.
I started doing the dishes (a.k.a. the chore that consumes my life).
I kept thinking about what else I could do inside that would make my happy and perhaps allow me to use my old brain for creativity today.

I didn't wanna paint and make a mess, so I went to my to my third floor to use a real office for once and hopefully get inspired.
I passed our teeny-weeny guest room on the way to the office that had been sitting neglected since February and 1/4 complete. So, I decided I could add a little charm to it with whatever I had rather than glaze over in front of the computer. I'd shop around my house. For, it was too hot to go out and shop, the meteorologists said so.

I moved a chair from the basement all the way up three flights of stairs. I added some vintage stuff on the wall I had previously put up for sale so I could actually keep it and admire it. I hung a little shelf that had been sitting in a closet under a mirror and added a couple pretty little jars with cotton balls and swabs.

It felt good to be that resourceful and productive in the hour and a half I had to myself. Now I need someone to sleep over.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Experience Necessary

Our plan for our mini vacation had remained simple from the beginning: get where we're going and wing it once we're there. That's how Ken and I had always traveled.
We'd drive or fly to our destination, throw all the junkola we brought in our room for the night and go grab a drink. Like many of the people close to us, we found extended solice in finding a local pub and getting the dirt on where to go or what not to do from a talkative local bartender and the patrons that were bellied up to the bar with us just a bit earlier than Kosher.

But this past trip was different: there was a 2 1/2-year-old with us who'd never been in our trucks for longer than 167 minutes at a time. WE had never traveled with a 2 1/2-year-old for longer than 167 minutes at a time either. There was no stopping for mid day cocktail to relieve crankiness. Oh no, just electronic games and too many viewings of Spaceballs (Vinnie's new favorite movie) on our irritatingly too quiet laptop.

And after much surprising success on our travels to not one but two remote locations in Ohio, in two days, we were finally on our third day of our adventure or "kay-cation" as my daughter would call it! The drive from Northern Ohio to Pittsburgh did not go unscathed and after three hours and fourteen minutes of turnpike time -- and tears -- and rotten sarcasm -- and corresponding forced kisses and apologies -- we had made it to the place we had been sooo waiting for.
We wound through the city as if it were the oasis we had been longing for before we pulled in front of our hotel. Silently, we stewed with the challenges of the drive and the promise of what was to come here at our new and final destination before heading home. You could feel the anticipation but the crankfest chose to linger in all of us. We ignored it.

We got up to our room to be surprised with a corner room over looking the Heinz field, the Phils playing the Pirates at PNC Park, 11 colorful bridges, the river, gleaming boats, architecture for days, drunks walking happily, decked out bikers and all the people that walked gingerly around them. And after four minutes, we nearly ignored the view too, hellbent on going 'out.'

'Out' was walking in thousands of people from the arts festival and game that had been going on in a thousand degrees with a thousand bad manners being displayed in every direction. Do dudes who spend 45 minutes gelling their hair and cologning-up really think their gonna pick up chicks when they hock loogies in public near the feet of grandmothers and toddlers? Is wedgie-picking really socially acceptable these days? What about profuse sweating? Am I to be subject to a wipe down of someone else's slimy pale skin after they walked three blocks and sweated out enough liquid to feed a remote village? Shouldn't they have the decency to walk in the street and away from those they have the potential to slime? And F, I was getting blisters from flip flops I bought on clearance.

Although Ken and I tried, our day in Pittsburgh was beginning to crumble fast and we went back to our room to regroup before things between us got any dicer than the heat and chaos had already made it.

When we got back in the room, I put my daughter in the tub where she can always find happiness and Ken and I stared out our respective windows. The more we looked the happier we got. The view from afar in our gorgeous room was much more satisfying. Being together, just the three of us was all we really needed. We had been walking outside with everybody searching for a place to go when all along we had it in front of us for us to see.

I got in the tub with my kid and we watched Sesame Street in the bathroom while Ken (donned in the brown retro robe the hotel had supplied in our closet) took photos of the vista outside our room. We made a drink and ordered room service and all was right with the world again.