Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Citrus Season

The first Christmas Charlie and I spent together, we went to his parents house for dinner since my family always celebrated on Christmas Eve. His mother served the meal buffet style and as I made my way down the table she had a dish of fruit cocktail out. Always the fruit lover, I took a scoop and when I sat down to eat it I was blown away. 
It was the simplest combination of fresh grapefruit, navel oranges, red seedless grapes and maraschino cherries but I had never had anything like it before. It was delicious. It was one of those times when I walk away from a meal determined to recreate it as soon as possible.
Fifteen years later, I've tired of our trusty old "fruit cup" (as we nicknamed it) but I still crave citrus all winter long. Just slicing a grapefruit or peeling an orange always satisfies but I have found myself looking for other ways to make the most of citrus season.
When I found the recipe for Mason Shaker's Mid Winter Margarita I didn't hesitate to whip up a batch and since then they have been on constant repeat. Shortly after I found a recipe for fish tacos with Grapefruit Pico de Gallo in the December issue of Self magazine. We only make fish tacos in this house so I prepared the fish my usual way then topped them with the Grapefruit Pico de Gallo. It was the perfect combination! "A party in your mouth" as the saying goes. And just in time to keep incorporating citrus into our diet this winter.
I figure the healthy grapefruit pico negates too many grapefruit margaritas, right?

Grapefruit Pico de Gallo
adapted from Self magazine

2 pink grapefruit (I used 4 because I was feeding a crowd), supremed (which is just segmenting it from the pith and membrane - a grapefruit knife works wonders and saves the peeling step)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I was out of cilantro so I subbed parsley and everyone still loved it)
1 tsp seeded and minced jalapeƱos  (I used two whole jalapeƱos because I felt like it)
Combine in a bowl and set aside.
Put on top of everything because it is THAT delicious.
You'll thank me later.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I've been "pinning" long before there was a website dedicates to storing beautiful and inspiring images. I have over a dozen binders chock full of ideas, photos, recipes, design etc. etc. that I have lovingly torn from magazines and books since the early 90's. I keep a 4ft section over my desk filled with a collage of the things that I am drawn to and that are inspiring my creativity each season. I need to see the pretty without logging into an app and staring at a screen.
While I have become paperless in so many aspects of my life, I will always need to have the tangible pretty close at hand.
My apologies to the trees.

Does Pinterest satisfy your creative needs or do you still need to flip pages to be completely inspired?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

House Hunters: A Log Cabin In Tennessee

Next up is a listing that my father in law actually found and sent to my husband. It's a log cabin and truthfully, I am not sure how I feel about them. Of course men love log cabins for all the obvious reasons, mainly the overwhelming abundance of wood. That is exactly why I am not sure how I feel about them. Too much wood. For a second home/vacation home I think a log cabin would be amazing. I mean, we love love love his parents cabin with a passion but for full time living I am not quite sold on the idea. I like a little sheetrock in my everyday life.
However, this cabin is truly a stunner and I would never say never without properly exploring the options. So here's some background on this listing:
Located on Cagle Mountain, this property sits on 22.7 wooded acres about 2 hours southwest of Knoxville and 45 miles northwest of Chattanooga. Further west than our ideal location but it is Tennessee after all and you know I love me that volunteer state. The house is part of the Forest Greenbelt which I am not 100% what that exactly means except low taxes. After being a NJ homeowner for the past 20 years with some of the highest property taxes in the country that is like music to my ears.
The house is 2672 square feet, has a fenced garden and 1250 feet of Long Creek running through the property. Sounds like a vacation home, right? let's take a look:

I was not blown away by the front to be honest

In fact, I think the back is more impressive

Detached garage and workshop for Charlie is a huge bonus. Would give me extra storage for the shop's merchandise and my hoard of entertaining apparatus

I can totally appreciate this stacked stone wall. Insert heart eyed emoji {here}

Charming but a lot of wood

Again, a lot of wood and that countertop and backsplash? No thanks.

I do love this open air hallway on the second floor. And there is sheetrock. Woot!

I can also totally appreciate these sinks built into vintage cabinets. That is a nice touch.

So there you have it. Not too shabby. Let's run through the pros and cons.

Here are the pros:
1. All that acreage. 22.7 acres is a nice piece of land. Listing says you can hunt and fish right on your own property. Charlie loves that idea.
2. There is a huge unfinished bonus room upstairs that could become either guest quarters or a nice storage space for me to keep all my shop and entertaining supplies. Then I would not have to infringe on the garage workshop space
3. The house is pretty isolated and the property is lovely. It is in an area that sounds like a pretty nice place to live. Middle school has only 700 students and the HS has only 600 students. Why the drop off I have no idea. I guess 100 students never make it to HS? A little confusing.
4. It is in Tennessee.

Here are the cons:
1. It is a log cabin. I don't know that I can do that for full time living.
2. The price. It is wayyyyy over what we want to spend and will again have to have a real mortgage but on the flip side you are getting a ton of land and a large beautiful house and outer buildings.
3. Schools are rated in the middle of the road. Not the best but also not the worst. And the drop off in student count between middle school and high school is weird to me.
4. It would be a 6 1/2 hour drive from my mom and 4 1/2 hours from his parents. That is pretty far and could never be a "let's jump in the car and go spend the day with them" kind of distance. I was hoping to be a little closer.
5. It is out of my target area of greater Knoxville which kind of blends with con number 4.
6. I don't care for the kitchen and at the price of the house I don't think I would be able to change it either. Too much wood is too much wood.

The cons definitely outweigh the pros on this one. I'm just not sure log cabin living is for me. And that price tag thing.

What do you think? Could you live full time in a log cabin or do you need a little sheetrock, crown moulding and baseboards in your life like me?

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Art of Self Restraint (Or Not)

I swore I wasn't going to thrift shop this past weekend. 
In fact, my inner monologue on Friday sounded something like this:
Me: "I should just take it easy this weekend and stay in the house."
 Me: "But what if there is something really good there?"
Me: "Maybe I could just hit one or two shops that are close to home really fast?"
Me: "No, I'm not missing out on anything. I need to relax and not run all over the place."
Me: "Yes, that's a good idea. It's been a long week."
And so it was settled. I was staying out of the thrift stores this weekend.

I sat down at the computer with my cup of coffee first thing Saturday morning and found myself on Anthropologie's website scrolling around because sometimes I just need to look at pretty things and their home section gets me every time. I was drooling over some of their dinnerware and with the extra 40% off sale they were running this weekend I started to drop things into my shopping cart. Click, click, click, click.
It's just so easy and shopping doesn't feel bad when you can just click away then pay by logging into your PayPal account instead of handing over cash money. Before I knew it I had loaded up with a butter dish, a spoon rest, a lampshade, a platter and a serving bowl. Somehow the voice of reason wiggled it's way into my brain and was like, "Why are you buying a butter dish, a spoon rest, a lampshade, platter and serving bowl? You need none of the above."
I sheepishly answered; "Because they are pretty."
Then the Voice of Reason reminded me that I could and would find some equally pretty things for considerably less at the thrift store. She reminded me about the gold flatware I fell in love with at Target that I knew I shouldn't drop $200 on just because I wanted it. As luck would have it, a few weeks after I restrained myself I found a pretty, vintage gold service for 6 for under $10 at a thrift store.
I knew she was right, but sometimes the Voice of Reason is a real bitch because she forgot that I swore I wasn't going to thrift shop this weekend. It was a shitty move because now I wanted to thrift shop more than ever.

Regardless, now she also made me feel guilty so I removed the butter dish, the spoon rest and the lampshade. I did not however remove the platter and serving bowl because they were beautiful white stoneware with a thin black band and I thought: Classic. Timeless. Goes with everything. Also an extra 40% off. While I need another platter and serving bowl about as badly as Martha Stewart needs another "Good Thing", I thought of a bajillion few ways I would use them right off the bat. Justification. Take that Voice of Reason.
As I showered and dressed I decided I would go to the fish market and buy a piece of salmon. I had some sweet potatoes I needed to use up and mashed sweets with salmon sounded heavenly. I headed out the door and remembered that the closest fish market to us closes down in January and February so the owners can have some time off. I was going to have to go to another one that was a little farther away. 
Unfortunately, or fortunately - depends how you look at it, on the way to this other fish market I pass one of my favorite thrift stores. Without any inner debate, I whipped into the parking lot and ran inside for a quick "peek". Five seafoam green and white stripe vintage martini glasses and a chambray shirt later, I was back in the car to get my salmon. Once I was home, Charlie mentioned over lunch that he really wanted chili on Sunday because there was some big football game to watch. I decided I would just run out right then and there to the butcher instead of running around Sunday morning. 
There's another thrift store 2 doors down from my butcher.
Four vintage embroidered linens and a pretty bowl later I was back in the car and on my way to the liquor store because it dawned on me that salmon really needs a great bottle of wine to go with it. Six bottles of wine later (there was a sale), the Voice of Reason was no longer speaking to me and my gut was saying that there were more treasures to be had so I just said;
"Screw it. I'm going thrifting."
And off I went to one of my all time favorite thrift stores in the whole wide world where the heavens parted, the angels sang and the sun shone on my head as I filled a (mini)  shopping cart with a bevy of treasures including these stunning hand painted, glazed terra-cotta plates. They don't look unlike some of the things I was ogling on the Anthropologie website. It was like I was being rewarded for my superhuman restraint on their website with comparable items for much, much less. And all because I listened to my gut instead of the Voice of Reason.
And also because I have very little self control.

*While I fully intend to sell everything I found this weekend in the shop (except the handpainted plates - I'm not sure I can part with them) I have started to worry that our walk in attic might be getting so full that it will break through the floor and ruin our house. Seriously. Can that happen? I mean, I never saw it happen on hoarders. Once I saw an episode where the floor rotted from underneath the hoard because it was all garbage stacked on it, but what about neatly stacked plastic  totes and shelving units loaded with dinnerware? Can that fall through the ceiling? I think the Voice of Reason is seeking revenge on me by making me paranoid. I also think I need to add basement to the list of our house hunting requirements. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Entertaining: The Tools of Choice

An Entertaining Arsenal.
It paints a mental picture of Martha Stewart armed with a bazooka gun that is loaded up with the finest Egyptian cotton linens. Carolyn Roehm throwing fine china like chakrams. Ina Garten dressed like a ninja wielding dangerously sharp cutlery. Famed hostesses clutching their entertaining "weapons of choice". It definitely sounds silly, but if you entertain with frequency you know exactly what I am talking about. Those items that you reach for time and time again. Items you find absolutely critical to hosting a successful gathering.

When my ex husband and I split up after 1 year of marital bliss marriage, we were able to utilize a mediator instead of attorneys and very amicably split up our joint possessions. In fact, the only thing he requested aside from obviously wanting his personal effects was the set of fancy flatware we had received as a shower gift the year before. I thought it was so odd that he only wanted the flatware. There was luggage, Waterford crystal, a down comforter, china, a house, pots and pans, silver serving pieces, a son and a set of cutlery and all he wanted was the flatware. I figured his mom put him up to it. Or else he was planning to sell it. Either way, I was sad to see it go but not really because I got to keep everything else. Including the mortgage. #winningnotwinning
When I eventually sold the home (because who wants to pay the mortgage and split half the profits down the road?) and bought a new one with my current husband I started to miss that flatware. Mind you, I never once missed my ex. But the flatware, that was another story. I started thinking about all the entertaining I would be doing in this new phase of my life and how using our everyday silverware for a dinner party seemed so "meh". So one day on a whim, I bought an inexpensive service for 8 at Marshall's. It wasn't fancy. It was, in fact, super plain and simple. But it was going to be my entertaining set and that made it feel special.

Fast forward fifteen years and I cannot tell you how many times I have been so thankful for that plain, old set of flatware. Perfectly lined up in a spare drawer, they are always clean and the whole service is ready to go at a moments notice. No stressing over whether someone ran the dishwasher so there will be enough forks. No fear that someone didn't rinse the dishes properly and they have bits of food encrusted to them. If you have kids and/or a husband you know exactly what I mean. I consider having a spare set of silverware part of my "entertaining arsenal". They don't have to be fancy or valuable. They are just the items that I could not live without with all the frequent gatherings we have here.

*Speaking of fancy, right after the holidays this year, I donated the trusty old set to a thrift store. A knife had gone missing which bugged the hell out of me. I had also recently found 2 antique sets of flatware that are remarkably stunning on their own or, when mixed and matched together they create a full service for 12. I cannot bear to sell them in the shop. But I am also trying not to be a hoarder and keep all the things. So adios old flatware and hello vintage beauties!

Friday, January 9, 2015

House Hunters

I've mentioned before how we have been seeking a way to abandon our lives as we know them and relocate our little family to eastern Tennessee. While we work on sorting out the details behind the scenes, we are both actively seeking properties we may be interested in online. We are always checking out real estate apps/sites looking for our dream home.
There are 3 few important factors to our house hunt:
1. Schools must be well rated. Ryan just started middle school this year and it can be very challenging to find well rated schools in very rural locations. This is definitely proving to be an obstacle. I would not be opposed to home schooling however if I did not have to work outside the home.
2. The property must have at least 5+ acres. Charlie would buy 100 acres if I let him but he forgets that we might need to maintain more of it than is physically possible. He also forgets that we have to pay for this property and more acreage could = more $$$$.
3. Speaking of paying for our dream home, I want it to be a situation where we buy outright or it is so cheap that we maintain virtually no overhead. I would be fine with buying a horrendous dump for chump change and fix it up. Charlie isn't so sure about that. Regardless, we are on the same page about a mortgage. I view this tactic as part of our retirement plan. Also, minimal overhead may mean that I will not have to work outside the home which could possibly help factor number 1.

So now that you have a little idea of where our heads are, I thought it would be fun to share our house hunt with you! I am going to feature listings that have caught our eye, share photos and the pros and cons and let you guys even put your two cents in through the comments. I know, I know, it's like Christmas all over again! 
The idea came to me when I posted this picture of a listing Charlie sent me on Instagram and it generated a bunch of comments. I think it's the perfect house to start with. Not only because you guys seemed to like it, but I really, really, REALLY like this one. Like A LOT. So does the entire family. But before I share anything else, let's take a peek, shall we?

Built in 1809, this show stopper is in Fountain Inn, SC. This puts it a mere 50 miles from Charlie's parents and the Cabin In The Woods. Fountain Inn had only 6000 some odd residents in the 2010 census, has well rated schools and the lowest crime rate in it's county.
The house has been completely remodeled and updated and even has a partial slate roof. It sits on 3.62 acres and comes with a barn.
Want to see more?

rear view

side view

front side view

view from upper balcony - look no neighbors!!!! woot!

 you all obviously know what this is

downstairs hallway
downstairs hallway to front door

front rooms

the kitchen - i wouldn't change a thing

 another kitchen view because really, i love it

and another because have i mentioned, i love it?

master bedroom - every.single.room.has.a.fireplace. i die.

 master bath

one of the 4 bedrooms

I mean, really. It's easy to see why this one has stolen my heart.
Because I am so in love here are the pros:

1. It was built in 1809 - I would prefer to buy something pre 1970's - I am all about character and quirks.
2. It has been completely updated. Other than changing some of the paint colors, it is move in ready. Our furnishing and decor would accentuate this home beautifully. This house is really "my style".
3. That kitchen. Wait. Let me say it again. THAT KITCHEN. That is all.
4. Schools are rated well and that crime rate thing.
5. It's rural - I mean, look at that balcony shot. No neighbors and I love that idea.
6. Fireplaces in every single room. Need I say more?
7. Have I mentioned that kitchen?
8. It's huge. Measuring in at 3800 square feet there is a ton of room for us and any guests we would have. 90% of guests would be traveling in excess of 12 hours by car.
9. It is only 50 miles from my in laws. Charlie and his dad are like BFF's and his folks are not getting any younger. 50 miles vs. a 12 hour drive is pretty good.
10. It is only 197 miles from my mom in NC. About a 3 hour drive. We are a 9 hour drive apart now. Much, much closer.

But nothing is ever perfect so here are the cons:

1. It is not in Tennessee. I repeat; it is not in Tennessee. I don't know if I can settle for that.
2. It's huge. Do we want something so large being that the kids are so much older?
3. The price. We can afford it for sure but not without a normal people mortgage. And I don't know if that amazing kitchen can trump that for me.
4. It's only on 3.62 acres. Again, I don't know about that with the dreams we have in our hearts for utilizing our land and growing our own food.
5. It is not in Tennessee. And I don't see any mountains in the distance.

So there you have it. 
10 pros and only 5 cons.
But the 5 cons are pretty big ones.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The One That Got Away

I made up for all my non partying on New Year's Eve  when we had two of our nearest and dearest friends over for dinner and a game of Cards Against Humanity this past Friday night. I could feel my voice starting to get hoarse as we sat up talking and laughing late into the night and I woke up on Saturday morning with full blown laryngitis. Well, after WebMD'ing my symptoms on Sunday I diagnosed myself with laryngitis and a visit to the doctor yesterday confirmed it. Regardless, now it's Tuesday, my voice is still pretty much shot and I end up with two bonus days off while all the rest of you had to head back to work.
Now before you go getting all jealous and stuff, keep in mind that these extra days off don't come for free. No sireee. It means I have to use precious paid time off days. And there are still 359 days left in which to divvy up the remainder. While I may be laughing today, the rest of you may be laughing when I am out of time come July.
Anyway, with all this extra time on my hands, I was looking through the cabinet where I store all of our photo albums searching for a particular picture when I came across this:

A picture of the formal living room in the house I grew up in.
This pictures makes me feel nostalgic. Possibly from all my childhood memories of growing up in that house but more likely because I was probably the one who vacuumed all of those nice lines in the old school, plush carpet. Vacuum lines gave me great satisfaction as a kid. I had issues.
Despite the pleasant walk down memory lane, this picture also makes me feel sad and remorseful. Not because my parents separated and ultimately divorced while we lived there. Not because the house was over 100 years old, haunted and some crazy, scary things happened there. And not because I moved out of there at 18 after fighting with my mom over something stupid.
No, none of those things make me sad or remorseful. They are all a part of life and we wouldn't be who we are today without living through our pasts.
You want to know what makes me upset about this picture?
That dresser.
Or chest. A Dorothy Draper Chest to be exact.
We owned one.
Notice the past tense and insert wailing emoji {here}
Over the years I have seen this chest pop up in shelter mags and have had my eyes well up with tears that it somehow got away. These images taunt me and torment me because I would trade my firstborn for one of these chests now.
Well, that's an exaggeration. I wouldn't actually trade Liam away. Besides, now he's a legal adult so I probably couldn't anyway.
It's so stunning it hurts my heart. I think of all the ways I would utilize it in my home and I just want to cry. Let's look for a second at how amazing the Dorothy Draper looks in homes today:

simple and stunning

understated glam - this is just beautiful

that wallpaper! that chest! those foo dogs! i die over this one.

that mirror. that rug. 

The worst part of it is, is that it was moved into my bedroom while I was in high school and I used it as a dresser.
Yes, someone thought it was a good idea to entrust someone who looked like this:

with a fine piece of furniture that nowadays costs upwards of thousands of dollars. See it over there to the left of the photo? It was given to a kid who thought it was a good idea to shave half of her head, dye it an absurd orange red (and what was with those sideburns??), decorate her room with shadeless lamps and religious statues on the floor (look to the right) and take selfies back in the old manual camera days. This was the kid who got to have a Dorothy Draper Chest in her bedroom.
I'm looking at you Mom.
What were you thinking???

I feel worse about this than people feel when they have let the one true love of their life get away. Maybe that is a little dramatic. But I sometimes find myself imagining the life I could have had with that chest in it. Oh, the endless possibilities!
 Regret is a powerful emotion and I will never get over having once owned an original Dorothy Draper Chest and letting it get away. Or even having realized what it was. Especially since that crazy looking girl would turn out to be the child who is keeper of all of our family heirlooms. The one who cherishes the history and cares more about the memories than any book value.
If only she had known the value in the old, black lacquer chest.

sidenote: The only consolation when I see the old photo of our living room is that the antique mantel clock currently resides in my formal living room where I lovingly wind it each week. And also that I have much better hair and design sense.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Put A Frame On It

I have this new obsession with empty vintage frames. 
A few months ago I was part of the planning process for a work event. I offered to create a Photo Booth so the people attending the meeting could have fun in between sessions taking silly photos of themselves and their co workers. I decided I would use an array of different sized vintage frames and spent the weeks leading up to the event seeking out a set at my favorite thrift shops that worked well together. When the install finally rolled around I suspended them from the ceiling, created a backdrop behind them and used stanchions to square the whole thing off. I set up a table of assorted props that people could wear/use adjacent to the area. It was a huge hit. Everyone loved it, especially my boss and I was all like "I am so #winning". 
I paid for all of the frames out of pocket because, well, I have hoarder like tendencies for vintage and also because I liked the ones I selected way too much and spent way too much energy hunting for them to have to part with them after the event took place. However, since then, they have been sitting in a corner of my hoarding room office collecting dust because I really had no use for them.
Long story short, I have this really great European bread board turned chalkboard that I found at Anthropologie back when we were giving the kitchen it's facelift. I love it hanging on the kitchen wall but it looked so blah. The wall needed something else, but what? I thought about adding a variety of additional bread boards around it but the space is kind of narrow between the wall and the kitchen barstools. Since my husband has a habit of wrecking/breaking things he comes in bodily contact with I ultimately decided that it would be a recipe for disaster. 
Then I thought about adding shelves higher on the wall to either side of the breadboard/chalkboard. High enough where he wouldn't rub against them or knock into them every time he walked by. I bought a set that worked well with the wood tones in the room and the moment I held the first one up next to the breadboard I knew it was not right for the space. So back to the store they went.
I had all but given up hope of making the wall look better when I remembered the vintage frames. There was a large black one that would look perfect around a chalkboard so I excitedly dragged it into the kitchen and slapped it around the breadboard.
But it didn't fit. The opening was too small to fit around it.
Don't you worry...I didn't throw the towel in. I'm no quitter! I could see the potential behind my idea and the next chance I got I was back, stalking the thrift stores for a bigger, black frame. Since thrift stores will always provide exactly what you are looking for, (and sometimes very quickly) it was no surprise that I found the perfect sized frame within a week or two. Right before Christmas I channeled my inner Bob Vila and slapped that sucker up.

I liked it so much that I decided I would keep this little trick in my back pocket.
Remember I still have all those original frames sitting around.

I decided I love having the bar cart in the dining room this holiday season, so I swapped it with my wrought iron conservatory after we took the tree down this week. But now the wall space looks so void around it.
Put a frame on it!

Then suddenly the wall around one of my favorite oil paintings felt big and blank.
Put a frame on it!

I reigned myself in after adding these two, which are both in my dining room. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing. And besides, I now only have two small gold, gilded frames left sitting in the corner of the hoarding room office.
My work here is done.