April 16, 2014

Spring Color Inspiration

I'm usually not a fan of subtle colors, but when I saw this inspiration board featured in Veranda magazine, it spoke to me. Soothing, serene, yet still infused with some intensity, it inspired me to find these paint colors.

Color Inspiration
BM 808 Sapphire Ice, BM 2069-40 Violet Stone, BM 537 Shades of Spring,
BM 1270 Tara, BM 2067-30 Twilight

The Paris Journal

I've been a fan of Little Brown Pen (now Obvious State) for a while now. Nichole Robertson's photographs are just lovely, but so are her stories. She and her husband Evan have come up with a very ingenious idea by combining Nichole's photographs with fictitious journal entries in their new collaboration, The Paris Journal, Book One. Check out their blog to win a copy and don't forget to sign up for their mailing list for an extended sneak peek.

April 15, 2014

Boston Strong

Today we remember the lives that were changed forever one year ago today. Boston is where I was born, went to college, worked, and lived for many years. My sister-in-law, a seasoned marathon runner, was helping with the race, her son, my nephew, had just crossed the finish line. Two other nephews were watching. They were okay. Years ago, we would have had at least fifteen family members camped along the streets cheering the runners on. For months afterward you could still not access parts of Boylston Street. All I could think of was the fact that my daughter would be there next year...just down the road. Another piece of innocence was lost.

I've never been more proud of the Bostonians and New Englanders that rallied together on that day and the days that followed. They shut down the whole city! Do you know how unbelievable that is? Everyone did what they were told and put up with the inconveniences and let good triumph over evil. The one thing the nation, the world learned that day...you don't mess around with Boston!

I will be saying a special prayer tonight.

April 11, 2014

Polar Plunge Doggie Style

Even though there is still some snow on the ground, spring is finally here. So yesterday afternoon, my husband asked if I wanted to take the dogs for a walk at the state park. I'm ashamed to say that I've been so cold this winter that our doggie walks dwindled considerably this year. My family is getting enough exercise, but I realized my dogs weren't. I've vowed to whip them back into shape even if I have to drag Cooper around on his leash. And he hates his leash. 

My daughters and their friends have been participating in a Polar Plunge. It's even made the papers due to the dangers of jumping into freezing water. Luckily, all of their friends have been smart about the plungemaking sure there are enough people on hand to help anyone who can't make it out, and staying away from strong currents. After I shot a bunch of pictures and video of the dogs yesterday, I thought it looked like they had participated in their own version. Dante (the husky) loves the water. Cooper does not. Dante is trying to coax him across the flooded grassy area just before you reach the beach. 

Cooper was hooked. He did it again and again. 

This was our walk to and from the beach. The sun hasn't gotten rid of all of the snow just yet and they couldn't pass up the chance to roll around in it again and again.

A few links for dog lovers...

Cooper and Dante's kennel stays are over. We finally have a dog-sitter! If you're looking to give your dog/pet a taste of home while you're away, check out DogVacay.

I could use these tips. I hate lugging around my good camera all the time, so my iPhone has been filling in. Check out these 10 tips for photographing your dog like I plan to.

Dogs welcoming soldiers home. Tissues might be a good idea.

Woman's best friend.

Marley and Me is one of the best dog movies you can see. (And the book is good, too.)

Have a great weekend!

April 9, 2014

How Do I Pick the Right Lamp?

Lamps are pretty, but they're also supposed to be functional.
  • In the Bedroom: Lamps are not only used to add light, they're used for reading so the lamp height is important. On a bedside table, a lamp the stands 26"-30" should work, but make sure the bottom of the shade reaches the bottom of your nose. (This is true for any reading lampfloor or desk style.) Also, Hansen or swing-arm lamps are excellent reading-in-bed lamps and can be positioned to maximize light wherever you lay in bed.
  • On a Desk: Bright is the key here. Following the rules above, make sure the lamp is placed in the actual work area and not just on the corner of the desk. Use the brightest bulb you can and stay away from dark shades.
  • On an End Table: Your lamps don't need to match in order for them to work. Simply choose similar heights (within 2" of each other) and styles and you're good to go.
  • In a Dining Room: Like you see in the photo above, bigger is better. Remember the size and height of the table and the room the lamp is being placed in makes a difference. This lamp will be able to show off what's on the buffet as well as add to the overall light in the room.
  • In the Living Room: All the above applies, but let's discuss floor lamps. They're perfect if space is at a premiumyou don't need a table. Height needs vary depending on the person, but the average floor lamp should stand between 60"-62" high. I love to us telescoping, architect, or pharmacy style lamps so height isn't an issue.
Choosing the right size shade is just as important. Here's how to choose the right size for a new or old lamp. (Replacing a shade is a great way to update the look of a lamp.)
  • Measure for Size: The shade should be about a third to half the height of the base. The taller and thinner the lamp is the smaller the shade should be. The larger the table and/or room the larger the base and shade should be.
  • Shape: Mimic the shape of the base with the shaderound with round, square with square, etc. Think a little differently and contrast those shapes for a distinct look. Drum shades always work for modern spaces. Clean lines work with every décor.
  • Texture and Color: Texture is in. Update your plain-Jane shade with a waffle-weave or jute-wrapped shade. Just remember the purpose of the lamp. The heavier the material the less light you will have. Only use a colored shade if you have sufficient lighting and lamps in other areas of the room. A dark shade concentrates the light directly beneath it only.
  • Details: You should never see the mechanics (the harp or switch) when you look at a lamp. If you can, the shade is too short. Add details to the lamp if appropriatetassels, fringe, pom poms. All of these can be very attractive if you have the right setting. You can hang a tassel from a switch on a lamp in a living room. Save the beaded fringe for the bedroom.
Be Inspired

Image via dominomag.com

April 8, 2014

Easter Eggs

Easter is just around the corner. I don't decorate very elaborately for the holiday, but I do make sure the table looks pretty and there are plenty of eggs all around. My speckled eggs (below right) make an appearance as soon as I decorate for spring, but my colorful Easter eggs are saved for the holiday.

I can remember buying dozens of white eggs and vegetable dye when my children were younger in preparation for the Easter Bunny. I knew we'd all have green/blue/purple hands by the end of the day, but that was part of the fun. We'd boil our eggs, dip and color, and then fill bowls and platters to set on the kitchen table. As they grew older, we decided to take our egg decorating up a notch. The eggs you see above are between 8 and 15 years old. I can't believe they've lasted this long, but I do make sure to tuck them away safely every year. In order to make these colorful eggs all you need is some paper toweling, acrylic paints, and white eggs.

Because I wanted them to last, I blew out the eggs before the kids got to color them. If you've never done it, it's a pretty simple process. First (gently) pierce a hole at either end of the egg using a pin. Carefully enlarge the hole by swirling the pin around in circles. Once you've done this, stick the pin in as far as it can go and swirl some more to help break up the yolk. Then carefully blow through one end. It takes a little time to get it started, but the egg should start to come out the other end. Let them dry completely before decorating.

Fill paper toweling with drops of paint. Start sparingly, you can always add more. Carefully roll the egg around the paper towel in circles until you reach the desired look. You can use more than one color by lining up different towels with paint or add multiple colors to one towel. Let dry between applications. Remember, the less paint you use the better. You can even wrap the egg in the paper towel for more coverage. The texture of the towel helps set the design.

If you'd like to create a more organic looking egg, then natural dyes are a good idea. Linda from r house has created these beautiful silk-dyed eggs (directions below), and these are my speckled eggs created by using brown acrylic paint. Simply apply paint to a toothbrush and run your thumb along the bristles and over the egg. Use more paint for larger spots and less paint for smaller ones. You can even use a paintbrush. The closer you get, the more paint will be applied. You can test your technique on a paper towel first. Let one side dry first and rest them in an egg crate. Repeat for the other side.

Silk-Dyed Eggs

You'll need eggs, string, rubber bands, or twist ties, and 100% silk fabric such as a scarf, tie, old blouse, boxer shorts, etc., and 100% cotton fabric from a t-shirt or pillowcase.
  • Cut pieces of silk and cotton fabric into 5x5 squares for each egg.
  • Lightly dampen silk fabric and place one egg in the center printed side up.
  • Gather eggs tightly in fabric and tie with a piece of string, twist tie, or rubber band.
  • Place the silk-tied egg into the center of a piece of cotton and tie securely as well.
  • Place eggs in a single layer in a non-reactive pot and add enough water to cover eggs plus 2".
  • Add 4 tablespoons of white vinegar, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
Note: If you choose to blow out the eggs instead, place a colander or upside down steamer basket in the pot to keep the eggs under water.
  • Remove eggs with tongs and let them cool, about 20 minutes. Unwrap and enjoy your designs!
Thanks Linda!

For more inspiration, check out this Pinterest board filled with ideas. Need Easter menu and table setting ideas? You can find some here.

April 4, 2014

(Children's) Books

My goal was to read all seven Harry Potter books over the winter. I'm almost done with book #4. I read the first book of the series when it first came out because the book club I belonged to at the time decided we needed something "light" to read, so I didsort of. I couldn't get into it even though my son was utterly fascinated. (A lesson in giving books a second chance.) He couldn't read through the series fast enough, and when he had to wait until they were published he was not happy. Once book #7 came out he pretty much locked himself in a room until he was finished. I can still remember taking him to the first movie...we we're absolutely enchanted by then.

Then it was the girls turn. As soon as they started to read them, they were dedicated fans. In fact, all of my children have read through them at least twice. Now it was my turn. Because we had two copies of each book in the house, my daughters were kind enough (if not entirely willing) to let me borrow one. We're all very particular about our books, so I decided it was time I had my own set.

After a day of prom dress shopping, my youngest daughter and I went into the bookstore and I asked her where would I find them. She replied fantasy, so off I went. I came up empty-handed and then went to one of the computers to help me out. To my (silly) surprise, I found out they were housed in the children's section. Of course I knew these books were children's books, kind of, but it never occurred to me that they hadn't graduated somehow to the fiction section.

Harry Potter is much more than a children's book. J.K. Rowling is a brilliant writer who captured a world that anyone would want to return to again and again. Lurking behind the narrative of witches, wizards, and quidditch, lies a story of friendship, family, bravery, love, and hope. READ THEM.

I've already started purchasing books for my granddaughter. I bought her Guess How Much I Love You and The Very Hungry Caterpillar for starters. I know my son will make sure she has her very own set of Harry Potter books before I can say "expelliarmus".

Do you have favorites from your childhood? Here are some links you might enjoy...

As a young girl, my oldest daughter liked the Madeline series. She's very much into dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent today. My youngest daughter liked the book The Very Noisy Night when she was little. She was a fan of the Dairy Queen series and now, The Summer I Turned Pretty Series. My son also loves/loved Brian Jacques.

We're huge fans of the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss! I have boxes and boxes packed away for each of my children.

I read We're Going on a Bear Hunt again and again and againand again. (As well as the above.)

You can get a whole list of children's book recommendations here.

Once you're finished with the books, you MUST see the movies. (I adore Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith.) We hold a Harry Potter marathon every New Year. ABC Family also runs Harry Potter weekends, so check it out.

Have a wonderful weekend!

April 3, 2014

April Mood Board

Lush greens on the wall, in the yard, are calling to me. I just purchased a baby fern to add to my dining table centerpiece. The spring bulbs are starting to bloom and the promise of bushes full of heavenly-scented peonies are just around the corner. Herbs, vegetables, flowers...soon they'll all be in abundance. It's time to go for a bike ride and pair a spring-weighted sweater with a pair of shorts.
Color Inspiration
1. BM CSP-475 Wild Mulberry. 2. Ralph Lauren ML15 Sea Grass. 3. Valspar 6009-9 Lovely Green.
4. Farrow & Ball Minister Green. 5. BM 2031-40 Spring Meadow Green. 6. SW 0074 Radiant Lilac.
7. BM 2073-20 Autumn Purple
Images via houzz.com and tumblr.com

April 2, 2014

The Home Office Grows Up

I don't like matching dining room tables and chairs and I don't like your typical office designhome or otherwise. Matching furniture just says "boring" to me. So when I saw this photo of Emily's all grown up office, I just had to share. Someday, maybe, when I add on to the other end of the house, I envision building a dining room/home office that would look similar to this. I love bookcases and they're perfect for storing not only books, but all of those office supplies that you need within reach but out of sight. (Can you see the bottom shelves? They're filled with baskets, boxes, and reference materials.)

I used to have a farm table just like this. I loved the large surface, but unlike Emily, I don't have a lot of storage space, so I moved my studio desk into my home office. I will say that it's a lot easier to be able to pull open a drawer that's right in front of you for tape, a stapler, and post-its, but I miss the larger table surface my farm table provided. Instead of shelves, my books are housed in an antique china cabinet and larger office supplies are tucked away in a chest of drawers. So although it's not exactly my dream office, it really doesn't look like much of an office at all.

Let me tell you what else I love about this room...
  • Painted bookcases. This is bright, airy room, but the smoky gray backs of the bookcase helps to ground the space and shows off books and collectibles. You can also take a lesson from how she arranged these books. when you have a lot of shelves, don't get too fussy with display. Keep it simple, but interesting.
  • A large light fixture. Actually there are two. I love the chandelier and the lamp. One thing I will point out is that a dark shade (like you see here) is going to concentrate the light on the table and the table only. However, the large chandelier is going to help illuminate the room and the area over the desk with a lot of light. If you don't have a second, brighter light source, the lamp must be more functional so say good-bye to the dark shade.
  • A comfy chair. Instead of the usual office swivel, an attractive upholstered chair is used instead. It's stylish, comfortable, and helps to soften the room. However, scooting that chair back and forth between the desk and the bookcase is going to be a challenge. Consider casters, or...consider it a part of your exercise routine and get up from the chair to get your things.
  • Pops of color. Notice the blue throughout the room? How about some orange? Even it's just a small amount, move it around the room. The room flows from one area to another.
And finally... Always, always, always decorate with the things you love. It doesn't matter what room you're decorating. Each room should have something personal displayed that makes you happy just to look at it. I'm sure Emily's room is filled with all kinds of treasures.

Update: Emily has reinvented the room a bit more. It's now an office/dining room. My favorite kind of dining room!

Academy Update

Is a career in decorating right for you? Join me for a FREE teleclass of the same name on Wednesday, April 9th at 12:00 ET.

If you've been asking yourself that very question for a very long time, then it's time to get some answers. People often get confused about where to begin, what a career in this field actually entails, and how they can carve out a niche for themselves. When I started as an interior decorator, I learned a lot while in the fieldmore than they ever taught me in design school, so when I began teaching classes, I took that into consideration. Just what does it take? What type of education do you really need? And how can you start a career without investing a lot of money? And so much more. I was able to incorporate some of my other skills and education into the mix when I began writing and teaching all about design. Who knew I could do all that?
Email me at beautifulliving@msn.com to register.

Request your copy of my eBook "Is a Career in Interior Decorating Right For You - Exploring the World of Decorating, Interior Redesign & Home Staging" upon registering.
Upcoming Classes:
Certified Decorating Professional ®
April 28th-30th (Business by Design & Staged to Sell May 1st & 2nd.)
June 9th-11th (Business by Design & Staged to Sell June 12th & 13th.)
The rest of the 2014 calendar will be posted soon.

April 1, 2014

10 Things to Do In April

It's April! It's my mum's birthday today (yesterday was my dad's), and on Thursday my oldest daughter turns 19! Then there's my sister-in-law, uncle, and whole group of people who share April as their birthday month.

We've had quite a bit of rain over the weekend and the rain finally gave way yesterday afternoon. March showers may have preceded April showers, but I'm sure they're on their way. Here are some fun and practical things to do to embrace April.

1. Go puddle jumping. I love to do this during the summer months, but once the temperature gets above 50 degrees, dashing through the yard in search of puddles is a great way to wake up. Even better when you have a couple of dogs to help you out.

2. Open up the windows. Once the sun is shining, open up your windows even if it's only for 10 minutes to let fresh air in and the stale air out. Now go ahead and start cleaning those windows. I've started on the inside and once the snow recedes from the house a bit more, I'll get started on the outside. (My mother used vinegar and newspaper.)

3. Start to edit. I still have a few stray winter items lying about, but I've stored away the heavy blankets, and all snow/winter related accessories. Start to go through the closets and put away heavy boots, coats, and other clothing. Now is the time to check on your spring wardrobe to see what needs sprucing up and what needs replacing. Tops on my lista pair of tall puddle-jumping boots! Donate what you don't need.

4. Get outside! The cold temperatures this past winter had me walking on the treadmill, but no more. As of yesterday, the track is cleared for take off and I'll be there for the first time since November! Even if I know I'll be stuck in the house for hours on end, I'll pop on out to the porch and grab a bit of vitamin D. Soon the bikes will tuned up and ready for action! It's my new old favorite thing to do.

5. Force spring bulbs indoors until you can see the real thing outdoors. This is especially important in my neck of the woods because winters are long and my yard doesn't get full sun for quite a while. I have some leftover paperwhites from Christmas that are starting to bloom on my kitchen counter right now.

6. Clean up the yard. Oh boy, this is a biggie for me. I walk outside and see planks and pallets where the wood used to be and plenty of wood shavings just off to the side of my porch. We do a lot of raking when the snow is finally gone. And sometimes that's enough to get you through. Remove fallen branches, rake up leaves, and leave behind a nice clean yard.

7. Are you a gardener? Get a jump start on planting by gathering herb and/or vegetable seedlings on a windowsill. I'm never quite sure what's going to make it through the winter in my own herb garden, so it's off to the garden center for little peat pots of rosemary, thyme, sage, and mint.

8. Start planning outdoor activities. Since my oldest daughter is still in Boston until May when there are all kinds of outdoor activities planned at her school and around the city that we'll take advantage of. My youngest daughter has already started planning to register for bike races and this year's local triathlon.

9. Celebrate D.E.A.R all April long. Drop Everything and Read Day isn't just for kids, so grab your book, grab a blanket, and head outdoors.

10. Start a summer bucket list. What are some of the things you've been meaning to do, but didn't get a chance to last summer? Here are a few examples: Take a boat ride. White water river rafting. Camp under the stars. Go to the drive-in. Try out a few new BBQ recipes. Learn how to play croquet. Picnic in the park. Attend a movie or concert in the park. Ride a roller coaster. And here are a few more.

March 28, 2014

If You Could Do Anything...

What would you do? Keep it real. It has to be something you could really do in your lifetime, a job that could pay the bills, or a hobby that feeds your soul. You can't be Wonder Woman, a rock star (unless you truly have the talent), or a nuclear physicist (again, unless you truly have the talent). Where would you live? What would you do? Who would you be?

A long, long time ago, my high school yearbook read that I would be an opera singer in ten years. I loved to sing. Still do, but only when it suits me. Although it was a very big part of my life and I was in four choirs to boot, I lacked the drive and ambition to really make it in the world of entertaining. I was a singer, definitely not an entertainer. So I followed some of my other dreams and I am quite content with my decisions. But...if I could have a do over and could experience a few things at little differently, I would have to say that I wished I had experienced living in New York City, even if it was only for a few months. I'd like to think I could have lived there for a while, but I'm not so sure. I loved living in Boston, but quite honestly, I'm glad I live in the country. If I could re-live my twenties again, I think I could have made a go of it as a food truck chef. Although I've toyed with the whole restaurant idea, a food truck would have given me the freedom to play with food more, allowed me to change my location when I got bored, and interact with lots of people. Something my current position doesn't really allow me to do. (And I'd be writing a book about food of course.) What else? Maybe a character actor that played bit parts because again, I'm not really into the "look at me, here I am" part of entertaining, but when I watch a comedy I think to myself, "What a great way to make a living!". My husband would definitely be a ski instructor. He loves the outdoors, loves to ski, and loves the snow.

And just for fun...

Maybe you'd prefer to own an ice cream truck. (This may be second on my husband's list.)

What would I serve on my food truck? Probably sandwiches, with a few salads and soup mixed in for good measure. Here's a cute idea for a menu.

Do you want to run a 5k, participate in a triathlon, or run a half marathon? You might want to check out these running shoes.

Ever dream about becoming a zoo keeper? Do you remember the contestant on Survivor who was a zoo keeper? We met her at the Naples Zoo and it looked like a pretty cool job.

If you love animals, but zoos aren't your thing, maybe you'd like to own a kennel like my oldest daughter dreams about.

My husband started college studying to be a pilot. Would you like to fly the friendly skies?

So many choices...

Have a fabulous weekend!

March 27, 2014

Cream Tea?

Don't mind if I do. But if you can't make it to The Crooked House of Windsor, then stop on over at Charlotte's blog to see how she spent her one night in Windsor. Then travel with her as she indulges all anglophiles through her other blog, The London Project.

Simply beautiful.

March 26, 2014


I can't seem to get enough avocado. I never even had an avocado until I traveled to Texas about 10 years ago and ate my first scoop of guacamole. Since then, I've made guacamole dozens of times, but when chips were no longer part of my diet, I started to use them in recipes and eat them all on their own. Although considered highly caloric, avocados are actually a very healthy food. They're filled with good fat like Omega-3 (for shiny hair and glowing skin), vitamin E (a free-radical that assists in slowing the aging process), vitamin C (an amazing antioxidant, anti-viral and anti-bacterial also good for your skin), vitamin B3 (which reduces cholesterol and prevents and treats arteriosclerosis), as has been known to help reduce the effects of depression and anxiety. So although I don't recommend eating an avocado a day, I do suggest adding it to your diet at least once a week.
A typical lunch for me would include certified organic turkey, a smashed avocado, and some almonds. On other days of the week, the avocado is replaced with a seasonal fruit or a side salad. But my favorite lunch, or even dinner, is my version of a BLT, except I've replaced the lettuce with baby spinach and add smashed avocado. My favorite brand of bacon is local and comes from North Country Smokehouse in Claremont. Check out this recipe for the BLT you see pictured above over on Pure Grace Farms.
You can sneak in bits of avocado in salads and sandwichesyou can even serve it for breakfast.
Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction
1 baguette, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place baguette slices onto prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place into oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
3. To make the balsamic reduction, add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a slight boil and reduce by half, about 6-8 minutes; set aside and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, avocado, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Top each baguette slice with tomato mixture, garnished with basil.
Serve immediately, drizzled with balsamic reduction.
Recipe via Damn Delicious

March 25, 2014

Think Spring

Regardless of the snow and chilly temperatures, I'm thinking spring! I'm lightening up the house and getting ready for the time when mingling the indoors with the out will be part of daily living. Goodbye winter greens, hello bright blooms.

I find the easiest way to make this transition is to simply start to edit. Store away heavy blankets and replace them with lighter colors and materials. Swap out pillows entirely or add just one new one like the green Greek key design you see below. It will instantly lighten up the feel of the room. Roll away area rugs or replace them with a simple design. Add a little something new like this garden stool. Now the real fun begins. Rotate collectibles and have fun accessorizing every surface. Fill glass jars, lanterns, or bowls with an array of organics like flowers, moss, stones, eggs, seed pods, and other plant lifereal or faux. Force spring bulbs in tall glass hurricanes. The simplest designs in various shades of green will certainly bring a touch of spring into your home.

Think more spring thoughts and be inspired by this post and this post.

Images via Driven by Décor, We Live the Given Life, Dream House Cammy, personal, tumblr