Tuesday, December 20, 2011

all I want for Christmas...

Dear Santa,

I've been very good this year. Swear. So if you could just drop off this white leather Chesterfield sectional, I'd be forever grateful. It's only $11,400. That's not too much, right? It IS leather.

However, if you don't agree that I've been $11,400-good, you'll definitely agree that I've been $4,500-good so this pink velvet sectional would be equally welcome. I'll even repaint my walls without complaint so it doesn't look too Miami in there.

Much love,


Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday and Sunday in California

Saturday was GORGEOUS. Perfect temperature, sunny sunny skies.

We got a late start and started off at Mumm. They had a few options for tastings and we went with the patio, snagging a table all the way in the back, which meant we had an uninterrupted view of the mountains. You're going to get sick of me saying how gorgeous Napa is, but it really cannot be said too much.

Karin & Lori are master negotiators and managed to talk our server into one free tasting if we bought the two most expensive ones. So we got two of the most expensive and one of the next cheapest. And man, were these good sparkling wines. Prices weren't too crazy either - my favorite was $55 and that was from the most expensive tasting option.

Next up was Flora Springs, where Karin had a hook-up. She had made a reservation for a tasting & tour (free!) that ended up being with a foursome who also had a hook-up. Pair all of that with a kickass employee, Travis, heading all of this and we ended up spending almost 2 hours at the winery. Travis let us taste every wine available and gave seconds whenever someone asked. He also let us have the leftovers from some business lunch so we also got some free sandwiches and cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. It was so much fun.

But we spent so long at Flora that the rest of our day was a little cramped. We managed to squeeze in tastings at two other wineries - V. Sattui and Frank Family but it was the end of their days so we didn't get the personalized treatment the way we did at Mumm and Flora, even though Karin had hook-ups at both places. Oh well. The wine at Frank Family was really good - I'd like to go back when I wouldn't be so rushed. Plus they have these picnic tables set up outside their tasting room which would be great for lunch, though the trees were awesomely moody at dusk.

By this time, all of the tasting rooms were closed and we were all exhausted from running around all day. Time for dinner. Lori wanted Italian so we went to Don Giovanni where we sat outside. It had gotten chilly with the dark, but they had lots of heat lamps. And it was nice to be able to still be outside. We had some awesome homemade pasta, went home and watched a movie. This was why it was so great to have a cottage instead of a hotel room - Karin crashed first and Lori & I were able to stay up without disturbing her.

Sunday was another gorgeous day and our last in California. So sad. We took our time getting ready and closing up the house so I had a few minutes to read out on the front porch. Loved that they had grape vines lining the front path!

We went to Boon Fly Cafe for brunch. There was a bit of a wait, but they had free coffee out on the porch and we were able to walk over to the hotel's store that had all sorts of gourmet food and cute little gift items. As well as a large wine selection, natch.

To start, we got a half dozen of their signature donuts. Little two-bite cuties covered in cinnamon sugar and served piping hot. They were so good I almost forgot to take a picture. But I caught myself before they completely disappeared.

After brunch, we had a little bit of time before we had to get to the airport. We debated which cute little town to visit. We had already wandered around Napa on Saturday and drove through St. Helena so we decided on Yountville.

Unfortunately, Yountville didn't have a whole lot going on. A few shops, but nothing to write home about, at least not that we were able to find during the short time we had available. So then we walked up the street to look at the outside of the French Laundry

and saw their gardens across the street. A perfect way to waste some time. We wandered through the rows looking at all of the cool fruits and vegetables they had growing. Things we had never heard of or had only seen once or twice.

And then we went to see the chickens. Towards the back, they had a coop with maybe 10 chickens, all different types. They were so freaking cute with fluffy feet. Do all chickens have fluffy feet or just these? In this picture, there are three different colors going on, all with fluffy feet.

They were super friendly and came running over to us when we approached. We fed them pieces of grass and talked to them. Could've stayed for hours. I can so see why backyard chickens have become so popular.

But finally we noticed the time and headed out to the airport. Our quick little weekend was over and we were sad to see it go, but so happy that we went!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday in California

We woke up Friday to clouds and rain. Not a heavy rain, but an off-and-on spitting type of rain. My least favorite type. But we didn't let that dissuade us from our plans for the day!

Since we had skipped the good dinner option the day before, today we were determined to do better. For lunch, we headed over to somewhere for a food truck rally. We were a little concerned about the rain, but they had it under an overpass and even had a few tables set out. Score!

I went with a sandwich from the Bacon Bacon truck.

LGBT - lettuce, goat cheese, bacon and tomato. Mmmmmm.

 this picture is from Bacon Bacon, but mine looked exactly the same

Washed that down with a Mexican Coke made with real sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. And I could really taste the difference. Even having it in a glass bottle made it that much better. It was delicious.

All that eating made us hungry so we headed over to the Mission for Tartine. We grabbed some coffee and assorted pastries for our trip up to Napa.

I went with a lemon tart, though I did wait until we were at our cottage to eat it since I was the driver. I wanted to savor the lemony goodness. It was well worth the wait. The coffee was fantastic as well (that I did drink on the way).

We hit some traffic, but still, the drive was super easy. Living outside of DC, I always feel lucky that I'm just 2-3 hours from the beach, but man, if I were only an hour outside of Napa? I'd definitely be the luckiest girl in the world.

Hotels in Napa Valley aren't well suited for three women. There are lots of bed and breakfasts, all with just one bed per room, and a few regular hotels that have double or queen beds. But we picked a weekend that was not only a holiday weekend, but also the Napa Film Festival. So we were out of luck when it came to hotels.

On to rentals. I checked out VRBO and VRConnection and the latter had an adorable little cottage on Cross Street that was available our weekend. Two bedrooms, a stocked kitchen, grill out back and a short walk to downtown Napa. All for less than what a hotel would be. Score!

As soon as we go to the house, Karin & Lori went off to find a winery before their tasting rooms closed while I took a nap. Then we went to Mustards for dinner and had a really delicious steak and root vegetable gratin and drank a bottle of this ridiculously awesome wine Karin & Lori had bought from Miner where they also got a coupon for free corkage at Mustards. Score again!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thursday in California

Hi, I'm Debbie and I'm a bad blogger. And the only pictures I have are the ones I took on my phone.

But I wanted to jot down the places I went in San Francisco and Napa before I forget and in case anyone reading this is heading out there. Because really, I had a fantastic weekend. Mimicking my weekend exactly would not be a bad thing at all. We did a heck of a lot so I'm going to split this up by day.

Here's Thursday:

Lori and I flew out from Dulles together. Our flight left Dulles at 5am and arrived in San Francisco at 10am. Only benefit was seeing the sunrise through the clouds.

this was after the best colors had already faded, but it took me a while to realize I could take pictures while my phone was in airplane mode

Took the BART to the Hotel Nikko and dropped our bags off after talking ourselves into upgrading to a suite for a reduced price (three mid-30's girls + city-sized hotel rooms = bad news). Walked down Market St. to the Ferry Building, stopping to get our eyebrows threaded on the way. Pored over every stall before sliding up to the bar at the San Francisco Fish Company with a view of the Bay Bridge. Totally did not suck and neither did the Thai-style mussels that I had. Totally ridic.

And the artichoke we shared as an appetizer was also so good I forgot to take a picture until it was almost gone

Needing coffee + something sweet + a long walk, we headed up to North Beach. Walked and walked and walked and walked and finally found Caffe Roma. Cute, not crowded, working bathrooms. Had a slice of super dense cheesecake and a large coffee, which was such a perfect combination. And they had brown sugar to put in the coffee. Not Sugar in the Raw, but straight up light brown sugar. It was a fun combination.

Then we walked and walked and walked and walked through Chinatown trying to find a place that did scalp massages. Doesn't that sound like a dream after a cross-country flight & walking for hours? No luck on the scalp massage, but we saw some ridiculous vegetables while dodging the masses doing their daily shopping and walked down some interesting little alleys and side streets. And walked some more. Eventually we ended up about 6 blocks from our hotel and at Stages, an Aveda concept salon. They had 30 minute head, neck & shoulder massages available for $60. About twice what we were expecting to pay, but by this time our bodies ached even more so we were willing to pay. And our masseuse, Eric, was phenomenal. Like Lori wished she hadn't already named her first born son Eli so she could name him after Eric. Plus they were all just super nice and friendly and didn't care that we just walked in off the street.

By this time, Karin's flight from Chicago had arrived so we all met up in the hotel lobby. Our suite was quite swanky with a TV in the bathroom and everything.

Yup, I watched Jeopardy while curling my hair.

We scoured the internet looking for a place for dinner. Karin & Lori didn't feel like taking a cab so we didn't go to the pop-up restaurant and instead went to Trace in the W Hotel. Okay, this is one place where you should veer from my plan. I wasn't impressed. The food was very good and our waitress rocked, but it just had that whole hotel-restaurant vibe going on. Very posh combined with a whiff of sterile. We left kicking ourselves for not going to the pop-up. Oh well, next time. And there will definitely be a next time.

None of us could imagine being awake for a second more at this point (and Lori & I had been up since 3am Eastern) so we hopped in a cab and went straight to the hotel.

Side note - if you upgrade to a suite, you can convince the front desk to send up a cot for free. So everyone can have her own bed. Man, we are getting old.

More adventures to come!

Monday, November 14, 2011

California's been good to me...

Just got back from a long weekend in California - one night in San Francisco and two in Napa. You'd think that flying 3,000 miles for just three nights would be a bit ridiculous, but it's not. I've now done this trip four times and always feel the long flight is 100% worth it.

I'll have more details on my actual trip once I collect the very few pictures from our various cameras (I went with two girlfriends) and look up the actual names of the various places we went (while "the coffee shop in North Beach with the coffee roaster in the front window" worked for a native San Franciscan, I'm assuming the rest of you would like to have at least the street name if not the name of the cafe itself).

In the meantime, I thought I'd give you some of the music that was in my head all weekend. The main one was Tom Petty's "California" (hence the title of this post), but I couldn't find it online. So here's "Walls," also from the "She's The One" soundtrack (all Petty and fan-freaking-tastic) and was also in "Larry Crowne," which I watched on the flight home. Here's a link to the official video http://www.tompetty.com/video and then here's another lovely version with lyrics:

Monday, October 31, 2011

wanted: buffet lamps

I was out in Annapolis the other day, meeting a friend for lunch. She was running a few minutes late so I popped into a couple of home stores, natch. And I saw some buffet lamps. They were very much like these from Circa Lighting:

Of course, they're also $378 each. At the store (whose name I cannot remember), they were $310. Cheaper, but still not exactly in my price range. But wouldn't they be pretty flanking my TV? I've long wanted sconces, but am moving away from that idea because it would involve hard wiring and considering I keep putting off even switching out the stupid automatic light switches the previous owner installed in the kitchen & bedroom, well, I don't see this happening anytime soon. I have looked for ones that you can just plug in, but they're either ugly or swing-arm. And for my location, neither is a good option.

I had thought about buffet lamps, but in my head they're always these dainty, spindly things. I'm not a dainty person and neither is my decorating style. But these lamps? They are quite substantial while not being overpowering. They'll add plenty of light to that side of the room but not be oppressive.

So what do you think the likelihood is of me finding $600 on the sidewalk? I'd say "when I win the lottery," but as the ads say, you can't win if you don't play.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Room for Color outtakes

Hopefully you've already voted for me in Apartment Therapy's Room for Color contest. But maybe you're still wavering. Or maybe you just want to see more of the faaaaabulous photos my brother-in-law took of my living room. I've talked about the various pieces of my living room a lot so in this post I'm going to highlight the newer pieces.

I'll start with my throw pillows and am finally, FINALLY, done with shopping for throw pillows. I bought them from etsy seller labdesigns. She did some fantastic work on these pillows - even the color of the zippers are coordinated. How awesome is that? 

This peacock pillow isn't from labdesigns, it's from Target. But it plays nicely with the designer fabrics while keeping things from being too matchy.

Of course, the very newest member of my household is my faux cowhide rug. But first I have to start with the coffee table. See, I've wanted a gold & glass coffee table for a while because the wood one was just too heavy and visually bulky. I searched all over the place at all sorts of price points for a version that also had a shelf underneath and couldn't find one anywhere. I had seen Bossy Color paint one from Ikea gold and it was quite pretty in her living room, but it was the same size as my wood one and I wanted smaller. Plus I was iffy about the floral pattern on the shelf. Would that be goofy in real life? More searching and the best I could come up with was a $1k version that was mirrored, not glass. So I caved. Bought the Ikea one and painted it gold. And I love it. I don't notice how big it is anymore and I use the shelf constantly so I don't have papers piled up on top, which means I can actually put decorative objects up there like my glass platter or some flowers. Or both!

But it was almost too airy now. I needed a rug to ground the space, but I didn't want a rectangle. I wanted to soften the angles of the room and my seating arrangement a bit and a rectangle would have cut off the dining area and the room's small enough as is. So I thought - oooh, cowhide! And then I found this fake one on Overstock for a great price. Done.

I love the mottled look through the glass on top. And somehow the flowers work so much better in gold.

Moving back over to my doorway now. It was still warm the day Karl took these pictures so instead of coats, I have my collection of LL Bean boat and tote bags hanging up. I still have them all here as they're perfect to grab before trips to the market or for bringing stuff into work, but they're covered up by coats.

But they're not new. What's new is over to the right. The doorknob to the powder room.

How freaking pretty is this? It's from Anthropologie, bought on sale, and I adore it. It's the perfect thing to bridge the turquoise of my living room with the green of my powder room. It makes me insanely happy.

All of these items also brought more patterns into the room, made it more of a collage, made it cozier, made it more me.

So if you haven't voted for me yet, what are you waiting for??!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

vote for me!

Every year, Apartment Therapy has a contest called Room for Color. I love it because, hello, I love color! All of the rooms are so inspiring and when I first learned of it, I knew I had to enter my living room. Last year something went wrong with my submission and it didn't go through, but this year I got the confirmation email right away and this morning my room was posted! Woo hoo!

So you have to vote for me. I mean, come on, you're reading my blog! Plus look at this room. Does it not just scream "COLOR!" All you have to do is go to this page and click on the big red button that says "Add to favorites." Easy.

This is the first round of voting and it's done by region. As I write this, there are only two entries in my region (East), but more will be added until the 11/8 and then this round of voting closes on 11/21. Then the top vote-getters in each region then compete against each other.

Ask all of your friends to vote for me as well. Ask all of your relatives and coworkers. Ask strangers on the street. Vote early, vote often. Ha - I kid with that last part. You can only vote for a room once.

Did you miss the link? Here it is again: http://community.apartmenttherapy.com/contests/color/2011/entries/3131


Friday, October 14, 2011

making decisions: my office at work

I brought in a couple of pillows from home that were about to end up in Pillow Purgatory (ie the spare room closet). I love the color they bring into my office, but in the sea of creams, browns, grays and secondhand furniture that is my office, they just seem a bit out of place. Instead of being bright and cheerful, they're a bit pathetic. Which just means I need to add a bit more life into the rest of my office, right?

My brother-in-law is a photographer and took the most beautiful pictures this summer when he and my sister were in Vermont. I mentioned to him that he should make some of them into posters, but then kinda forgot about them. But then I was thinking about what I could add to my walls and immediately thought of these picture. They're just so green, they'd be perfect.

I already have a large poster of Grand Central Station and my first thought was to add 3 photos to either side:

I went with vertical because I liked these shots better and I like the neatness of it. I have a scattered gallery wall at home and I love that, but at work I like more order.

But then I thought - hmmmm, what if I got rid of the poster? It's not like this poster has great meaning for me. I had a blank wall in college and this poster filled it up. It then moved with me to my DC apartment and lived perfectly in the foyer there for almost 8 years. When I moved to Greenbelt, this poster no longer had a home (and its purgatory space was under my bed). So I like having it in my office, but it's not mandatory.

If I took it out, I would add a lot more pictures and think I'd do a sort of modified grid:

And I like all the color it adds, but it just feels a bit messy to me. As a nod to work - there's no there there. No real focal point. Plus looking at the first grid, I can see how the light from Karl's pictures mimic the light coming into GCS - it's all coming from the left. It works, right?

Okay, decision made. I'm going with the first option. THIS is why I have a blog, to help me think through all of my decorating options as well as to chronicle them. My mind gets jumbled with all the possibilities, but when I see it in print, it suddenly becomes clear.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

did a bit of gardening today...

And I literally mean a bit. See - I'm not a gardener. Never have been. But one of the reasons I moved out to the suburbs is because I had been having Spring Fever like crazy for a few years and I thought this meant that I was finally ready to start gardening. Notsomuch.

Today I headed out to the yard to hack away with my needs-to-be-sharpened push mower (that came with the house - yay!).

I've dumped grass seed on the yard a couple times, but it's mostly just weeds and vines and moss, which is fine with me - less mowing!

Then I was doing my normal ripping out of the grasses along the edge that the mower doesn't reach and trimming the bushes so they don't poke a person's eye out and I kinda accidentally ripped out everything from one of the planters on the deck. No big loss - it was just a mess of lemon balm. But then I was left with a planter half full of dirt. Hmmmmmmm

I then grabbed my tools:

Liberty for London gardening gloves (they fit better than traditional gloves, it's not just that they're pretty!), clippers and this crazy scary trowel my mom gave me as a housewarming gift. It has sharp teeth on one edge, which is perfect for dividing plants, but just makes me think of Crocodile Dundee

Anyway, I went to the front yard and took a few pieces from this large dark green hosta by my front door and took a piece from the sedum that grows along (and over) my front path. Perfect, right? Two plants that definitely needed to be trimmed anyway.

Then I added them to the planter. Voila!

Another signal that I'm not a gardener? I wasn't able to save any of the leaves or flowers from the plants in the transfer. But it's the roots that count, right? And if it all fails, well, all I lost was about 10 minutes. It really was pretty easy. Maybe this gardening thing isn't scary after all. (emphasis on the maybe)

And I was able to save the sedum flowers to make a little nosegay!

Overall, it was a successful afternoon and I was so happy to spend one of the last 80 degree days in my yard.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

one of my favorite pictures

I was just reading an article on House Beautiful's website about designer secrets and came across this photo again:

I love it. I love the mix of lime green and purple. I love the grasscloth wallpaper. I love the bookcases flanking the fireplace. I love the simple mantle and the worn brick of the fireplace. I love the old brass andirons. I love the extra thick molding (BTW design world - in the US, we drop the U, just like we do with the word color). And I love the TV placement.

This picture is often used, as it is in the article I took it from, as an example of why you don't need to hide your TVs behind armoire doors anymore. And really - everyone still knew what was lurking behind that massive piece of furniture in the middle of the room. It's much better to hide it in plain sight, like on a bookcase filled with lots of books. Especially when it has a black frame, when it's turned off, it's just kind of a non-entity. You don't feel compelled to look at it like you did with the big box TVs.

In my house, I have my TV on a bookcase with an antique quilt behind it. That little vignette is so busy that the TV just blends in even though it has a silver frame.

Not the best picture due to the flash highlighting the screen, but trust me. Especially since I've since restlyed the bookcase and have branches on either side of the TV. But my camera is dead so no updated pictures.

Leigh & Leslie Keno had a show on PBS a few years ago and I remember the first question they would ask folks is "where's the TV?" because people would try so hard to hide it. But then how could you watch PBS and the Kenos' show! It really doesn't make sense. There's plenty of high-brow stuff on TV - saying you watch TV doesn't have to mean you watch hours and hours of Jerry Springer and The Jersey Shore.

Many people are lucky enough to have multiple living spaces so they can have a room for non-TV life and a room for TV life and that's great. But it's nice to know that if you only have one living space that your TV doesn't have to suck all the life out of it.

Modern technology and modern decorating ideas are great.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

some of my go-to recipes

The other day I brought dinner to a sick coworker. I debated on what to bring - apparently he's been getting a lot of pasta and also needs something hearty to help him regain weight. I also heard rumors that other folks in his household might be lactose-intolerant. To top it all off, I needed something that would reheat nicely since I needed to bring it into work with me. So what to make?

I ended up going with a bit of a Moroccan feast with a slow-cooker chicken tagine as my entree. I've made this recipe at least a half a dozen times and always have leftover so I know it's reheating capabilities. Bonus is that it's made with hearty chicken thighs and is pasta- and dairy-free. Of course, then I paired it with couscous (tiny pasta) and made a fig compote to go on top of ice cream (dairy) for dessert, but hey - at least the bulk of the meal was right! I also bought some hummos and pita for an appetizer. A three-course meal for a fabulous person going through a really tough time and it took me about 45 minutes on-hand time to make (prep + packaging it up for transport, actual cooking time was about 2 1/2 hours, but I was able to do other things during that time). Not too shabby. And unless he's lying to me, it was a hit.

So then I was thinking about it - what are some of my other go-to recipes? And why don't I share them with the world all in one post? I love recipes. I'll reread my cookbooks over and over again, imagining the possibilities. Some recipes I make so often I don't even need to reference the cookbook - or I've adapted them enough that they don't bear much resemblance to the original and thus referencing wouldn't do any good anyway. Others, like the tagine, I adapt slightly, but overall am pretty faithful to the recipe. And that's okay with me. I don't feel the need to muck around with a recipe if I trust the source. My creativity is expressed in what I pair with the dish and to whom and how I serve it.

I don't normally do jumps, but this is going to be a long one. So here are the recipes you'll find after the jump:

Chicken tagine in a slow-cooker
Spinach pie
Warm pasta salad
Salmon with tomato relish
World's Best brownies (my title, not my recipe)
Rosemary sweet potatoes
Red wine vinegar chicken sautee

Friday, September 9, 2011

Guestroom ideas: the ideal guestroom

What's the ideal guestroom? Well, I actually don't think there is One Perfect Guestroom. So much depends on the personality of the homeowner and of the house.

I do admit that I like it when a guestroom is a little different from the rest of the house. Like if the house is bright and colorful, the guestroom is soft and soothing.

If the house is all about neutrals, the guestroom could be floor-to-ceiling wallpaper.

Or shocking pink.

Or maybe you want the guestroom to be the showplace of the house, the place where you perfect the lovely combination of grays and creams you have going on in the rest of the place. Why not? It's your house. Just because I tell you to be different doesn't mean you have to be.

Guestrooms tucked into the eaves can be especially comforting. A room-as-quilt sort of thing. These always make me think of Anne of Green Gables and Anne getting so excited over Aunt Josephine's spare room. Why do you think I call MY guestroom the spare room?

Guestrooms are also the perfect place to try out that slightly scary design idea you saw on Apartment Therapy or Design*Sponge. Much like powder rooms, one doesn't spend a lot of time there so you can go a little crazy. Like painting the walls deepest navy or even black. It's very dramatic but also quite cozy.

Or be like Martha and paint all of the furniture in the room the same shade. I kinda really love this.

I'll always remember the spread where she painted all the furniture in her Turkey Hill guestroom black. And the result was surprisingly restful and cheery since everything else was light (also love the darker trim!). Bonus is that it all could be cheapo thrift store finds with the scratches sanded down and the not-so-great wood hidden under the paint. It doesn't look matchy-matchy because each piece is a different style.

And if you often have singles or kids staying over, why not have two twin beds instead of a queen or full? They can be pushed up against the walls since only one person has to get out of the bed and they can also share a single nightstand for more room. And you know, a couple can deal with not sleeping in the same bed for a night or two. They might even relish not having to share the blankets!

I know I've been lax about getting pictures of the spare room in my house on here. Seems like every time I get the room somewhat presentable, I go on a trip or start a project and that room becomes a glorified storeroom again. But it is a lovely little room with cucumber-green walls (I won't listen to anyone who calls them sage!), my childhood bed, a big bookcase full of books and the loveliest Northern light. It's very different from the rest of my house and makes me completely happy.

What's your guestroom like? Or what do you wish it were like?

All pictures (except Martha's) from Pinterest Are you following me there yet? You should. I pin some fantabulous stuff.