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 décor 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.

August 8, 2014

Weekend Plans?

Do you have fun plans this weekend? I don't...not something fun anyway. Last night the girls and I went to the One Direction concert at Gillette. We didn't get home until 1:30 this morning, so I am dragging myself around trying to get work done and the house in order. You would think after being home almost a week that all of the things I left behindmowing, weeding, cleaning, would all be in good shape. Well, the grass continues to grow even if it's cut and the house continued to get dirty because dust and dog hair have no boundaries. We're just going to take our time finishing up what needs finishing and relax a bit.

You can still catch 1D tomorrow night as there are new seats available. My husband drove us (thank you again, honey), but there were plenty of parents who just dropped their children off and waited. I'm so thankful my girls wanted me to go with them. I had fun because they had fun.

Here are some interesting (and fun) links for you to check out.

5 cool kid's beds. My oldest daughter would love Cinderella's carriage.

Why do some people need less sleep? Clearly, I'm not one of them.

Have you ever been to a Festival of Fireworks?

Are you looking for a way to clean up your blog photos? Make your own backdrop.

It's almost that time again...although we've already bought dorm décor, here are some ideas for your teens dorm room. (We bought college bedding for my senior while on vacation. I could have cried right there in the store.)

I love this glass message board.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Photo: 1D at Gillette Stadium

August 7, 2014

The Grey Barn

During our day on Martha's Vineyard, my niece drove us around to parts of the island that would take too long to travel by bike. One of those places was a visit to The Grey Barn farm. Although the ocean is the focal point of island life, Martha's Vineyard has a rich agricultural history. And since I'm always on the lookout for certified organic foods, I was especially pleased to know that if we ever land on MV, we'll be okay.

This beautiful farm raises heritage pigs that forage in the oak woods, humanely raised chickens, grass-fed cattle, and dairy cows used to make their delicious artisanal cheeses and raw milk. You can purchase beef, pork, milk, cheese, and eggs right at their Chilmark location (not too far from Edgartown) and also from the West Tisbury Farmers' Market from mid-June on.

Of course, there are trade-offs when you decide to eat organic foods. Cost is definitely an issue. I used to buy the best meats I could at the grocery store so I don't pay too much more a pound. My Thanksgiving turkey is certainly a lot more money, and there are no 'buy a chicken, get a chicken for half off' deals, but because I've cut other foods out of our diet (junk, processed), I'm still spending the same amount per week for groceries. I'm fortunate to have an organic grocery store right here in Peterborough. The Green Grocer offers almost everything I need.

When we're down on the Cape, it's another matter. Some local shops are now carrying some of the products we use, but it's been difficult finding everything we need. Luckily, Whole Foods opened in Hyannis this summer which is only 30 minutes from where we stay. Since it was my first experience shopping there, I talked extensively to the meat department manager about their rating scale. Although Whole Foods is a chain store, they do carry local products and both the Hyannis and the new Nashua store (opening August 19th and coming to Portsmouth and BedfordNew Hampshire's first three locations) are committed to bringing even more local suppliers on board.

Why pay $6.50 a dozen for organic eggs? *You get 5 times more vitamin D, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than regular store bought eggs. *The Grey Barn

Photos: Chilmark, MA

August 6, 2014

A Change in Routine

While I was away, I kept active, but in a different way. It still amazes me that after all this time, I can still fall back into old routines. My daughters and I enjoyed a yoga class at Lighthouse Beach in Chatham during our stay. It was a beautiful morning, and if you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it. As the sun was coming up, you could hear the seagulls hunting for their breakfast and the waves crash onto shore. The class was both energizing and relaxing, but it was the only one we went to. My best intentions weren't enough to get me out of bed by 6:30.

I biked more than 127 miles in 5 weeks and walked everywhere, but I didn't do one single core or strength training exercise. I ate salads, chicken, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, but I also ate a lot of ice cream. My legs look great, my stomach...not so much.

A change in routine can be good, as long as you remember that too much of a good thing (or bad) is just thattoo much. I certainly got enough cardio, but my core suffered. I revved up my body with heart-pumping exercises and sugar, but I didn't calm my body with stretching and toning. So although I didn't gain or lose a pound, my body shape shifted just enough to teach me a valuable lesson.

My youngest daughter has already gotten back to her usual workouts and ice cream is now just an occasional least for me. It's time to get the rest of the family on board and for me to cut back on the cardio and fill the void with squats and planks.

A well-rounded diet deserves a well-rounded exercise routine. It's okay to change things up, cheat (a little) every now and then, but be sure to get back to basics. Try out new exercises if you're bored, in fact, it's a great way to train new muscles and give the others a rest. I've added a few new pins to my Good Health Pinterest board that may inspire all of us.

Other post that might interest you:
Rain or Shine

Photo: Chatham Lighthouse Beach

August 5, 2014

Design on the Cape

Every time I go to the Cape, I can't help but check out the architecture and browse through the home décor stores. Once a decorator, always a decorator. So I thought I'd share a few photos of some decorating ideas that caught my eye. The first is a staircase that leads you to the second floor of Edgartown Books on Martha's Vineyard. We hadn't been there in years so we decided a day trip was in order so we boarded the ferry with our bikes and explored the island some more. I'm sure you've seen many stair riser murals before, but I loved the mix of colors, fonts, and overall design of this particular one.

The stairs are made of pumpkin pine flooring and feature a beautiful dark-stained curved banister that contrasts nicely with the light pine. The dark grey walls (try Benjamin Moore 2124-30 Deep Silver)were covered in graphic food prints that invited you to explore every nook and cranny. Once you've grabbed your book and a cup of coffee, you can enjoy it on the oversized branch-fenced porch. (Be inspired by these vegetable prints from Etsy artisans.)

In this home décor shop, the merchandise was teeming with coastal charm. As you can plainly see, shells, rough-hewn and distressed woods, and wicker and rattan led the way...and the colors of the ocean are always in style. In one shop, I found the exact rope-wrapped candle holders that I scored at Target for a third of the price. (Sorry, I think I found the last two in existence. You can find something similar here.)

While we were in Chatham, we strolled through Jack Wills. I was more interested in the décor than I was the clothes, though they were nice too. Again more books lining the stairs, this time for real. The wall art is very Englishmore is more. Although I do like my home a bit more tidy, I can't help but favor this look.

Photos: Edgartown and Chatham, MA

August 4, 2014

10 Things to do in August

August already... This last month of summer is the time to take advantage of the warm weather and the outdoors with gusto. Although my summer vacation is officially over, I won't let the clock keep me from enjoying those last sweet days of summer.

1. Watch the sunset. If you haven't done so already, now is the time. As the days grow shorter (hard to believe) the sunset seems to sneak up on you. Find a favorite spot and enjoy a late night supper or simply sit back and enjoy the show.

2. Go night swimming. The waters have warmed up enough that enjoying a dip after twilight feels so good. Believe it or not, as the temperature drops the water actually feels warmer. Just have a towel and dry clothes ready when you get out!

3. Challenge yourself. This month is full of all kinds of sporting events from sprint or Olympic triathlons to bike races, and for my nephew... an iron man!

4. Enjoy a movie night. Summer storms can put a damper on nighttime plans, but you can always watch a movie. Better yet, watch one outdoors when the weather does cooperate. Set up your porch or patio with a big screen (a big white sheet will do) and rent a projector. Pop some popcorn, pull out the sleeping bags, comfy chairs, and lots of pillows and enjoy. (Learn how to build your own movie screen.)

5. Transition your wardrobe. Warm days and cools nights mean pulling out a sweater and a pair of jeans. Dressing in between seasons can be a challenge, but take a good look at your wardrobe and see what you can stretch into the fall before you spend a dime. Sleeveless tops looks great under cardigans, shorts skirts can look equally flirty on top of a pair of tights or leggings... and don't forget to stock up on next year's essentials like tanks and tees while they're on sale.

6. Supper on the beach. When spending the day at the beach is no longer an option, pack a picnic supper and enjoy the water a while longer. My girls and I do this even in the height of summer. Most of the beaches on the Cape require a sticker, but if you wait until 5:00, anyone can go. We pile chairs, drinks, and other essentials into the car then pick up sandwiches at a local shop. It's become a tradition. No beach? A park will do just fine.

7. Pamper yourself. Summer sun can leave skin and hair dry and brittle. Treat yourself to a few moisturizing treatments to extend your summer tan and tame your hair. Here is a link to some great homemade body recipes and information about what makes homemade safe. Try this hair moisturizer.

8. Go to a concert, an art exhibit, or a game. This week, the girls are headed back to Gillette for a concert, we're trying to squeeze in a Red Sox game before school starts, and my youngest daughter, and future scientist, is planning to attend the Body World exhibit at Faneuil Hall.

9. Develop vacation photos. I'm terrible at this. I just downloaded over 300 vacation photos from two cameras yesterday and that's where they'll probably sit. Although I use a lot of photos on the web, family photos are forever locked in my computer. I have several years of catch up! Don't be like me. Download them now and bring them to your local camera shop to get them printed and into albums. (Enjoy the process regardless. We all sat down to view the photos and videos and laughed out loud. It was a great way to reminisce while it was all still fresh in our minds.)

10. Get organized. As the month rolls along, cross off one more thing on your bucket list. (Eat one more s'more.) Go through your wardrobe and pack or give away things that you no longer wear. Make a list of the things you'll need for school and calmly cross them off your list. My youngest daughter and I are doing this today in fact. She's applying to colleges early so we've got a lot to get done in a short amount of time. My remedy to avoid lists clearly prioritized. Then take a trip to the beach!

Photo: Orleans, MA

July 1, 2014

10 Things to do in July

It's July! What's not to love about July? It's summer! The only month during the year that doesn't involve school books, when everyone seems to be on vacation, the month of red, white, and blue. Just relax and enjoy.

1. It's time for a parade. If your town doesn't have a 4th of July parade, you should find one. I still remember the parade the town I grew up in had each year. My family would set up lawn chairs along the parade route and kids would throw candy out into the street. Well...they still do that. We spend the 4th enjoying the Orleans parade. It's filled with marching bands, a collection of classic cars, bagpipers, veterans, more music, our favorite local baseball team, and kids throwing candy into the street.

2. Of course there can't be a parade without fireworks. When we delayed our vacation, we watched Atlas put on quite the show here in town, then we'd find at least a couple of towns down the Cape that hosted their own displays. We've even watched them from the beach where it seems everyone is exempt from the no fireworks permitted law, and again in August during the Festival of Fireworks. I even love to hear them go off all summer long as I'm drifting off to sleep.

3. Have a watermelon spitting contest. A potato sack race. Play kickball. Volleyball. Just some good old-fashioned fun that doesn't require anything electronic. Can you unplug for an entire day? How about a week? Try it.

4. Swim until you can't swim any more. If I'm lucky, I get to spend most of this month under water. In the ocean, in the doesn't matter to me as long as I'm thoroughly submerged.

5. Wear red, white, and blue. You don't have to look like an American flag, but you can combine all three if you're careful. And if it's just too much, then the combinations of red and white, blue and white, or blue and red work well too. Or decorate your rooms with touches of red, white, and blue. Get crafty with these ideas and don't forget to decorate the kid's bikes with lots of streamers!

6. Shuck some corn. Nothing tastes better than local produce, so if corn isn't your thing, take the time to find a farmers' market and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Don't bother cooking them. Snap some beans and eat them raw or slice up a big, juicy tomato and add a little salt or olive oil. Then dig in.

7. Go barefoot. Feel the grass and sand between your toes. Even if you're not keen on walking around barefoot, slip off your shoes when you picnic in the park or your backyard. Then pamper those feet with this wonderful homemade foot scrub.

8. Eat lots of ice cream. Did you know National Ice Cream Day is July 20th? Visit one or several of your favorite places this month or try out some of mine.

9. Enjoy all kinds of outdoor entertainment. From baseball games to concerts or movies in the part, to arts and crafts fairs, library book sales (that's entertainment to me), to yoga on the beach. These are simply things we can't do during the winter months and must be enjoyed if you have the opportunity to do so.

10. Camp under the stars. Pitch a tent in the backyard, find a national park or private campground and just marvel at nature. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the bullfrogs, the birds, and a the delightful smell of a campfire. Just because you're camping doesn't mean you can't enjoy the comforts of home. Pillows, blankets, books, food...bring all your favorite along. If you want to rough it, do so in style and with these tips.

Image: personal