August 29, 2014

Happy Friday

End of summer fun. David, Amanda, and her friend Nick took our jumping off the Jaws bridge on Martha's Vineyard to the next level. This bridge happens to be an abandoned train bridge situated between a pond and a lake. The views were beautiful, and up until this past week, they were all ready to do it againuntil they learned that someone had gotten bit by a water snake. That's good enough for me. I'll stick to salt seems safer!

What end of summer plans do you have?

Here are some links I've read this past week that might interest you.

Fall hair trends - there's something for everyone. I rocked the (wavy) lob through high school.

Did you know that if you shop on Amazon, you can support a cause through their Smile program?

I can't believe I missed National Dog Day! Kate found this video that made me laugh.

8 things I've learned about marriage. After 22 years... I can tell you this is still a great list.

Next week I start to decorate my home for fall and turn this blog into a total fall fest. Until then, get a jumpstart on how Joanna's decorating for fall over on Magnolia Home's blog.

15 grilling recipes for your Labor Day cookout.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend!

Tags: happy weekend, fun links

August 28, 2014

Visiting Aquinnah

The Aquinnah cliffs are known for their natural beauty. Formerly known as Gay Head, the town of Aquinnah was one of the first whaling sites settled by English colonists in 1669 and first inhabited by the Wampanoag, a Native American people related to the larger Algonquin Nation of Southern New England.

The brightly-colored clay cliffs, carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, have been photographed and painted for hundreds of years by people and artists all over the world. The cliffs are ecologically protected, so pay attention to signs. You can take a hike on the upper trails to the top of the cliffs to catch a glimpse of Gay Head Light and nearby Elizabeth Islands. You can also enjoy the gorgeous beach belowin the buff if you'd like. Moshup Beach is one of the few nude beaches left in the US. However, clothing is optional, so you can visit, as I did, and not see a single person enjoying the soft white sand and turquoise waters without a suit. (I was told that the beach is no longer considered an official nude beach, but nudists still visit.)

The spectacular view I had was at the top of another rise near the shops. I think you'd agree that the colors and light are simply breathtaking. Imagine actually seeing it in person.

Have you been? If not, you need to add Aquinnah to your list of places to visit.

You might also enjoy...
New England Clambake
New England Clambake (How to)

Photo: Aquinnah, MA
Tags: Travel, New England, Martha's Vineyard

August 27, 2014

Corn on the Cob

I had my first taste of local corn a few weeks back. Is there anything better? If your Labor Day plans include hosting a BBQ, take your corn up a notch with these yummy toppings.

BBQ - Sprinkle hot, buttered corn with Old Bay seasoning or your favorite BBQ rub.

Peppery-Basil - Soften butter and add chopped fresh basil and black pepper to taste.

Shrimp Salt - Sprinkle hot, buttered corn with this homemade shrimp salt recipe.

Rinse shrimp shells, legs and all, and dry them with a paper towel. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and very brittle, about 15 minutes. Grind shells in a spice grinder until fine, then add an equal amount of salt and grind again to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Pesto - Purchase ready-made or try this recipe.

Classic - Simply buttered for the purist.

Other toppings to consider... red pepper flakes, lemon thyme, garlic powder, or onion salt.

Photo: Delish

August 26, 2014

Staying Fit

Getting in shape was very hard, but now I'm finding that staying in shape is almost as challenging. Amanda and David completed their 3rd triathlon in record time this past July. Swimming, biking, running, or hiking are so much easier to do when a) water and bike paths are within walking distance, and b) everyone is doing something. To say I need some motivation would be stating the obvious.

So next week, I'm jump-starting a new routine. I'll climb back on my bike (Actually, I'm doing that today according to Amanda. My girls and I are going for one last family bike ride before school starts.), I'll try these new ab exercises minus the crunch, and a hybrid push-up my physical therapist brother-in-law showed me how to do. I have never been able to do an actual push-uponly the girly kind. Marc taught me to start with baby steps.

Baby step #1: Using a counter, support your arms while keeping your feet together and most of your weight on your toes while extending your legs at a 45 degree angle. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps and see how you feel. Listen to your body.

Baby step #2: Using almost the same method, support your arms against a sofa arm instead of a counter, or in my case, my breakfast bar. The reason this exercise is more challenging is because it provides more resistance. You're getting closer to doing an actual push-up on the floor which is your goal. Start with the same sets.

Increase by 5 reps once you're comfortable and the exercise becomes easy. You can even just add a set or increase your reps by 2. The idea is that you never ever strain yourself. The minute an exercise starts to hurt, stop. A sign that you're getting close to that point is when your body starts to burn or shake. You've reached your limit at this point. Once there, you'll start to lose your form which causes pain and possible injury.

Sound easy enough? Let's get started!

Photos: Brewster, MA

August 25, 2014

Modern Farmhouse

Farmhouse style has been around for a while now, but the twist here is to mix modern elements with rustic surroundings. If you've been looking through your furniture catalogs, you already know that stores like Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware are putting their own twist on this popular look. So what does Modern Farmhouse look like? Check out this photo from C&B. White, creams, light greys...blendable neutral colors can be found on the walls, floors are covered in light to dark woods (even tile), textures vary from a wide range of woods, metals, and touchable fabrics with even more texture and in a myriad of patterns that break the rules. Go ahead a feel free to combine geometric prints with plaid and everything in between.

I watched the transformation of a run-down country home yesterday on the HGTV series Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Homes transformed this dated house into a true modern farmhouse. The black granite-topped island and cabinets give a sleek, functional look to the painted cabinetry, yet still look appropriate in a more rustic setting. They didn't replace the cabinets due to the couple's small budget, but they did reface, paint, and add new hardware. They even brought in the island and made it look as though it had been there all along. Light fixtures can range from traditional (with simple lines) to ultra-modern. The key to the whole look is simplicity. Then you can have fun with the accessories...vintage-inspired mirrors, glass hurricanes, metal bowls, organics of every kind. You'll definitely want to bring nature indoors.

Walls came down to open up the space and barn doors were added to provide privacy between the two rooms. Reclaimed wood was used to make cubed coffee tables and the dining table (not pictured), even as window valances you see in the kitchen and throughout the home. The key to a remodel is determining which design elements should stay and which should go. This living room fireplace was surrounded by stained wood cabinets (that were painted out white) and a dated fireplace surround (you can paint outdated shiny brass black with the proper paint and preparation), but the stone and mantle remained the same. Paint is cheap...refacing, replacing, or removing is not.

Add a bit of Modern Farmhouse to your kitchen. This C&B marble-topped island is made from Carrara marble, cast steel, and aluminum, but you could certainly copy this beauty to bring a modern, yet classic, piece of furniture into your own farmhouse.

P.S. Don't miss Joanna's blog filled with all kinds of ideas and inspiration.

Photos: Crate & Barrel and HGTV

August 22, 2014

Back to School

My girls are getting ready to hit the books again. My summer daughter has already left for her freshmen year at the University of Arizona. If her snapchats are any indication, Allie is having a wonderful time already. Kate returns for her sophomore year at Wheelock, and Amanda (my baby) is going to be a senior in high school(!). College visits will continue this weekend, although we're pretty sure she'll end up somewhere in New England, you never know. So that's what I'm up to these next few visits, lots of laundry, and packing.

I need a dose of laughter, so here are some links you might find funny too.

You can't help but be in a good mood when you listen to this song. (And if you're not a T.S. fan, you may like this instead.)

Joanna picked out some of her favorite honest slogans. They'll make you laugh out loud.

These kids might be better than the actors they're portraying.

I saw the movie Chef while on vacation. If you can't find it in a theatre, watch it on video when it comes out.

Just another reason why I love John Krasinski.

This article didn't exactly make me laugh, but it did make me happy.

Enjoy your weekend. xo

Photo: K, A, & A

August 21, 2014

First Aid Beauty

I found out about First Aid Beauty from my oldest daughter when she returned home from college. Kate also has sensitive skin, but I have a touch of rosacea, so I'm skeptical about trying anything new. The product I was using was very expensive, which meant that I wasn't really using it like I should, so I gave it a try. After three weeks, I'm in love with their Ultra Repair Cream. It doesn't irritate my skin, it hydrates everywhere, and there's no annoying clinical scent that you might get when using fragrance-free products designed for sensitive skin. (Their products are never tested on animals. They have no parabens, harsh chemicals, or colorants.)
I can't wait to try their cleanser. I use Cetaphil right now, but I'm told this is even better. The price point is a bit high, but not compared to some other skin care lines. You can purchase FAB right from their site, from Amazon, and it's also available at Sephora.
Try it!
Photo: FAB

August 20, 2014


I think I may have mentioned the amount of sugar I consumed while I was on the Cape. Thanks in part to the delicious goodies found at two of my favorite places to treat myself, I was able to keep myself from a sugar coma only by a slim margin. A trip to the Chatham Candy Manor is a must. These hand-made chocolates are the best that I've found on the lower Cape. I prefer milk chocolate bark with pecans, David likes their peanut butter cups and the chocolate-covered cookie dough bites (so does Amanda), and Kate indulges in mini M&M chocolate-covered pretzels. We were barely out the door before we broke into our own signature pink boxes.

Next stop, Hot Chocolate Sparrow. Actually, this was probably one of our first stops. Within 48 hours, we're either at Sparrow or Cobies for some ice cream. I've tasted a few things over the years, but I get a frozen hot chocolate every time I go. And I would choose this over ice cream any day!

The head chefs from Serendipity in NYC shared their secret Frozen Hot Chocolate recipe, so I thought I'd share it with you. I've never tried it. I'm willing to wait for June to roll around again and savor my first sip.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

1 cup of milk
3 cups of ice
1/3 cup of evaporated instant dry milk
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
4 tablespoons of a variety of the finest cocoas of your choice

1. Mix dry ingredients together
2. In a blender (in this order) add milk, dry mix and ice
3. Blend for 20-30 seconds until you achieve a smooth daiquiri-like texture
4. Pour into a large glass, top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate (optional)


Photos: Chatham and Orleans, MA

August 19, 2014

My Favorite Piece of Furniture

If there is one piece of furniture that I'd say almost every room in the house could benefit from is a tablemore specifically, a bureau. Bureau is a term used in the Northeast (New England especially) for a chest of drawers or a commode (The French equivalent) like this one located in artist, Sally King-Benedict's home. Read her full story here.

Let me take you room by room...

The Kitchen - Opt for banks of drawers versus cabinets when you can. Drawers allow you to see things and get at them more easily than digging around in a dark cabinet. I use the large drawers in my kitchen for cutlery, gadgets, linens, and storage for bags and other various containers and wraps. If you don't already have this feature, use a free-standing piece instead. Place it along a wall, or consider reconfiguring it into an island. Add casters (wheels) or replace legs altogether to make it taller. Place a pre-cut piece of granite or butcher block on top. (Paint the back with chalkboard paint.)

The Living Room - It's the perfect TV or stereo stand. Fill the drawers with DVDs and CDs. Use it as a bar for entertaining and have all of your entertaining supplies on hand...napkins, dishes, candles, coasters...the list is endless. Use it to store games and blankets, then decorate the top with collectibles and art like you see above. You can also use it to store magazines and books you'd like to keep but don't necessarily want on display.

The Bathroom - If it fits, it can stand in for a linen closet and house towels, sheets, and beauty supplieseven toilet paper.

The Bedroom - Of course you can use it for clothes, but what about extra linens, pillows, a guest room basket filled with essentials, lingerie, and more beauty supplies. The master bedroom is usually a dumping ground for all those extra things you just can't seem to store anywhere else. Consider using a chest of drawers to hold miscellaneous items like photo albums, baby books, keepsakes like your child's works of art, letters and concert programs.

The Office - Home offices don't need to look like one, use real furniture instead. I keep mail, printer paper, reference materials, and all of my student supplies like paint decks and manuals in a chest of drawers near my desk. On top sits a Grandmother clock, a topiary, and a decorative cache pot. Now my office looks like any other room in my home.

I'm all about function. If a piece of furniture doesn't serve a real purpose, there's no need to clutter the room. Think about how each room needs to function, then decide what pieces are going to provide storagea necessity in every room of the house.

This is why the bureau is my favorite piece of furniture.

Find more inspiration at Domino.

Photo: Domino Magazine

August 18, 2014

What do You Want to Know?

This past weekend, we had company and spent a lazy Sunday morning walking around town like a group of tourists. We popped into Bowerbird & Friends and their new doggie store, Good Treats. I'm usually approached at home d├ęcor stores simply because I start moving merchandise around to create new groupings. Of course they always think I work there, so they start asking me questions. That's when it occurred to me that I could do that for all of my readers here as well.

As I continue to update the blog (yes, more changes are still on their way) I'm going to start a new series this September called "What do You Want to Know?" Each month, I will answer one of your questions on any subject I write about. How can you participate? Simply subscribe to the blog, then send me an email (from the same email address you used to subscribe) along with your question.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Photo: Bowerbird & Friends, Peterborough, NH

August 15, 2014

Happy Puppies

Before we left on vacation, Cooper looked quite content sitting on the porch. Once the packing began, he wasn't so content. But Cape Cod loves doggies, too. We came across a number of doggie water stations, a dog park complete with doggie gym equipment, and even a snack station at Whole Foods in Hyannis.

The doggies will have to do without us for a while on Saturday. The Festival of Fireworks has returned to southern NH and my sister and brother-in-law are coming up for the fun. Thankfully the dogs won't hear any of the booms because the festival is now located far west of us. We will miss going to our usual spot just one town over, but we're going to give it a try.

Here are some links I found worth looking at.

Try these! English Jacket Potatoes.

DIY bag. So Stylish.

Kate found these healthy treats for Cooper and Dante. They currently eat P-Nutter and Liver"R" Crunch.

Don't neglect the dining room.

A sad farewell to a great talent.

Have a great weekend!

August 14, 2014

Art Inspired Color

Color inspiration is everywhere. "Fibonacci 238" by Jylian Gustlin is a 36 x 60 mixed media piece offered through the Eisenhauer Gallery. Inspired by the colors of this painting, I've come up with several paint colors that would coordinate well with this piece. Remember, paint color is important and if your art is taking center stage, choose paint last.
Color Inspiration
BM HC-156 Van Deusen Blue, BM HC-75 Maryville Brown, BM 2066-10 Blue
BM 1634 Santorini Blue, BM HC-34 Wilmington Tan 

Photo: Eisenhauer Gallery

August 13, 2014

Inside Out Caramel Apples

In anticipation of the upcoming apple season, Kate found (in her words) a genius idea for one of her favorite treats, caramel apples. Instead of coating the apple with caramel, you core out the inside (save this part for apple pie or tarts) and pour the caramel, and other goodies, inside.

This recipe happens to come from Domestic Fits, but I'm partial to the recipe listed below. Choose whichever one you prefer and enjoy!

Inside Out Apples

3 whole large Granny Smith apples
1 whole large lemon
2 cups caramel squares, unwrapped
2 tablespoons corn syrup
¼ cups chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Chocolate sauce (optional)

Cut your apples in half and use spoon (a melon baller will work too) to scoop out the insides, leaving the walls intact at about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thickness, then squeeze the juice from the lemon onto the apples and allow to set. (This will keep them from turning brown right away.)

To make the caramel sauce, melt the caramel squares in a sauce pan over low heat along with the corn syrup. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Using a paper towel, wipe your apples down to remove as much lemon juice as possible. (Important: if the inside of your apple is too wet, the caramel won’t stick.) Pour the caramel into the hollowed out apples until just below the top. Add any nuts before chilling.

Chill in the refrigerator until the caramel has set, about 20 minutes. Cut into slices and drizzle with chocolate sauce, if desired.

Photo: Domestic Fits

August 12, 2014

Senior Photos!

Yesterday evening, it was Amanda's turn to have her senior photos taken. It seems like just yesterday her big sister was having hers taken. This time, Kristen, of K. Lenox Photography came to us. Of course I used her again...she took fabulous shots of Kate!

My water girl had her photos taken by a river in Shieling Forest and at the pond. The girls have hiked through that forest since they were little. It abuts our property and is filled with rivers and streams, bridges and boulders that make you feel as though you're in another world. Although the river was low, we did manage to find a few spots where she could splash around.

I can't stress enough how wonderful it is to work with Kristen. She is energetic, warm (she makes anyone feel comfortable), a has a wonderful eye. I would recommend her again and again for any occasion. Check out her facebook page for a sneak peek at a couple of other photos, and please visit her website! 

Photos: Shieling Forest, Peterborough, NH

August 11, 2014

The Eisenhauer Gallery

Our visit to Martha's Vineyard included a trip to the Eisenhauer Gallery on North Water Street. We were greeted by this guya bronze sculpture titled “Pastoral Dreamer x2” by artist David Phelps. (There is also a tabletop version available as well.) I knew whatever was inside would be equally as engaging.

My niece, Justine, is the Assistant Director at this beautiful gallery. She showed us around several rooms filled with a unique collection of paintings and sculpture from both local and international artists. There was even an impressive collection of jewelry, including pieces by Echo of the Dreamer, Saundra Messinger who has been featured in Vogue, and Julie Rofman. Although mainly contemporary, there were some more traditional works available. "From realist marine paintings to bold expressionism, there is a diverse body of work that has been carefully selected by gallery owner Elizabeth Eisenhauer." And that's when I got to meet Elizabeth herself.

“Fibonacci 243” by Jylian Gustlin. 36 x 36 mixed media.

Last August, I wrote an article for Elizabeth's blog about arranging art, so we had already been in contact via email. It was a pleasure to finally put a face to a name. After talking with her about her collection, we started a conversation about the process of purchasing art. With her uniquely trained eye, she senses what her clients need. Justine has been schooled well and both have a wonderful rapport with their clientele. But the process of selecting art is just that, a process.

The fine balance of decorating a home can become a bit tricky once you get down to the details. Once a home is decorated, buying a piece of art, especially a large piece of art, becomes more difficult. Colors, patterns, and textures are already represented, and trying to coordinate art after the fact can be a bit like coordinating furniture colors after you've already painted the walls. When you invest in a piece of art, it's important to know what needs to be chosen first.

“Out Standing In The Field” by Cheri Christensen. 10 x 8 oil. “Last Light of the Evening” by Cheri Christensen. 36 x 36 oil on panel.

The size and shape of a piece of art is determined by the size and shape of the wall space available. Large pieces of furniture should be purchased first, however, I would also recommend that you shop for art during this process as well. If you fall in love with a particular piece, the colors and patterns should then be pulled into the room, not the other way around. The colors also affect your wall color choice, so always choose paint colors last if you can.

“Philbin” by Stephanie Danforth. 30 x 30 oil on panel.

Sound difficult? It's not, really. Shop online first to get a taste for what's available. Visit galleries and talk with the curators. See, feel, even touch. If you find something you love, trust me, you'll find a place for it. Purchasing art first can free you from other decorating decisions in an instant.

I was immediately smitten by Cheri Christensen's oil paintings after our visit to the Grey Barn. Traditional in style, contemporary in feel, the colors are truly amazing. Please visit Elizabeth and Justine, the gallery is a feast for the senses.

Photo: Eisenhauer Gallery, Edgartown, MA
Additional photos: Courtesy of the Eisenhauer Gallery.