Where do you go if you really really need a little dose of Springtime in New York during the month of February? The Conservatory of the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx, of course. My husband and I met in Phoenix so I think the cacti and succulent garden in the Conservatory is my favorite part. For this post J. McLaughlin supplied all the clothing and the tote. I love the Rale Cashmere Poncho from J. McLaughlin, I’ll be wearing this all spring and on cool evenings at the beach this summer. They come in every color. The black pants are the Felicity pant which are great for everyday and wonderful for travel. The perfect pant to get you from Winter to Spring. The Everywhere Tote is so well made and strong enough to carry my laptop and camera and everything else I need without looking overpacked.
It’s pretty quiet this time of year, but still a lovely place to visit. The restaurants and the beautiful gift shop are open. I can’t wait for May when this walkway is lined with peonies! Thank you J. McLaughlin for the beautiful clothes!
I’ve teamed up with Minted for a savory little Valentine gift from the kitchen. My sister actually gave me the idea to make pickled red onions. It’s the ultimate topping for almost anything from burgers to tacos or a sandwich. We used to go to a wonderful French restaurant on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica when we lived in Southern California. What I remember most (besides sitting and enjoying a long lunch on the patio in February) is that they served pickled onions and carrots along side a delicious sandwich. And since they are a beautiful pink, I thought this would make the perfect little gift for my friends for Valentine’s day. To package them up, I used jars that I always save for projects like this and then painted the lids with chalkboard paint. I ordered Minted Skinnywrap Address Labels and customized them to use just for this purpose. I’m thrilled with the results and they make a jar of picked red onions look like a happy little gift.
Peel the onions outer layers off and slice into thin rings. Or use a mandolin and leave the onion whole after peeling the outer layers off and slice thin rings. If using a mandolin, be super careful. I use a knife glove just to be safe.
In a large stockpot, add the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices and bring to a boil. Once it has reached boiling, add the onions and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Once cooled, use tongs to transfer the onions to jars. A few of the allspice berries and cloves will get mixed in with the onions. Strain the remaining liquid and then add to each jar. Refrigerate and use within a few weeks.
Paint your walls black – I’m seeing a lot of very dark walls all over Pinterest and it seems it’s a trend. I’ve been been embracing it for a while. I must admit, I started in our previous home with just a partial wall painted black in our dining room. For years everyone has been talking me out of painting walls black. Paint is the answer to every design dilemma. If you don’t like something, paint it white, (our stone fireplace), or if you’re feeling bold, go dark, like we did.
Our current home was built in 1900 and the garage was added probably during the 1970’s. It’s actually in our backyard which means it needs to look good. I had all kinds of big ideas which involved new barn like vertical siding, a new door and adding a window so it would look more like a guest house than a garage. But then one weekend we said, “What if we just painted it black?” So an afternoon and $100 in paint and it looks so much better. It even improves our view from the kitchen.
Painting a chalkboard wall is the easiest thing you can do to add a little black paint. If you don’t want an entire wall, you could paint an end cabinet or a narrow wall. It’s great for lists and birthday messages. When I get tired of looking at the messy eraser marks, I just give it a quick fresh coat of chalkboard paint and we start all over again.
We used Benjamin Moore Graphite in the master bedroom, our son’s room and a tiny powder bathroom. The walls, moulding and doors are all painted in graphite. Our black and white photographs by Surf photographer Tom Servais have never looked better. In California, we had them on white walls, but they look so much more dramatic on black.
Sue De Chiara’s blog, The Zhush was one of the very first I ever read back when I didn’t even know what a blog was. At the time, Sue and her family resided in Westchester County just over the boarder of Connecticut and we were living in Dana Point, California renovating a beach house. During endless on line searches I somehow came across Sue’s blog, The Zhush. I loved Sue’s writing, her style and of course her attention to detail. I was surprised when she asked if I would like to be featured in her “Blogger Home Series.” I’m in good (like really good) company with other bloggers that I’ve “known” from the beginning of blogs, Tina, from The Enchanted Home and Elizabeth from Pretty Pink Tulips. Sue and I and now live in the same small Connecticut town and only met recently in real life at a book signing hosted by Elizabeth for Eddie Ross’s new book Modern Mix. It really is a small world! Thanks Sue, for featuring our little house on The Zhush today. You can see it right here.
My daughter and I are big fans of Bluestone Coffee, known for their recognizable blue to-go cups that you see on the streets whenever you are within several blocks of one of their outposts. However it was only recently that we discovered their cafe on New York’s Upper East Side. It’s located across Fifth Avenue at the entrance to the reservoir at Central Park and also adjacent to the newly opened Cooper Hewitt Museum at 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. It is the most beautiful place I can think of to enjoy a cup of coffee. The cafe is within the Church of the Heavenly Rest. Seriously, it’s almost a religious experience just to sit and enjoy your coffee within the walls of this lovely cafe. It was freezing the day we went, but they have lots of outdoor seating for warmer days. You will almost want to enjoy one cup within the cafe to take in all the loveliness of the space and then maybe a cup or two outdoors where you can watch the cars and people go by on Fifth Avenue.
They have a large communal table in the middle and alcoves with cozy booths on one side and a bar with stools on the other side. And as you can see above, lots of outlets to charge up. Service was friendly if not impeccable.
I love cafes that have menus with things like toast. Who doesn’t love a nutty bread with a smear of butter, ricotta and little honey? We actually split an order with our chai and cappuccino. Next time you want to escape the city for an amazing cup of coffee and bite to eat, try Bluestone Lane’s upper East Side Cafe.
When it looks like this outside your door, you make Dutch Baby pancakes, obviously! My snow days as a mom with kids at home are numbered. I figure I have at least a few more with a junior in high school and one away at college. This is one tradition I’m happy to keep….for as long as possible. It takes only 20 minutes and most likely you have everything you need.
Dutch Baby Pancakes(serves one teenage boy)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar for serving
Melt one tablespoon butter in a heavy cast iron skillet in a 375º oven for 10 minutes. While that’s happening, mix together about 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons sugar. Add an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and whisk together until everything is combined and the batter is smooth and frothy. You can prepare this in a blender or food processor and mix for about 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven while it’s rising to check. Serve with a light heavy dusting of powdered sugar. Enjoy!
Our version of Shiplap Wall (DIY) in our c. 1900 home. When we purchased it 3 years ago we waited almost a year to remodel the kitchen. This little corner of the kitchen was the only part that we felt just wasn’t quite “done.” When we purchased the home there was a large built in desk where the table sits now. I had it removed before even seeing the house. I always need a place for our Saarinen table. I think it has been in six or seven homes since we bought it. The rest of the kitchen has white subway tile, chalkboard paint, original brick painted white and cabinets. This little corner had boring walls above the built-in bench. After seeing shiplap everywhere, we decided we needed to give it a try. I showed my husband the post from Jen at City Farmhouse and Studio McGee’s Guide to Shiplap Walls for inspiration. The project took just two days over the holiday break.
Measure the space to determine the number of linear feet of wood or MDF boards
We prefer natural wood, so we selected a high quality pine that was already primed. If you want to save money, using MDF would cut your material expenses in half. Since our space was small, we went with natural wood (pine).
We have a table saw, but you could have your builder’s store cut the wood to your specific lengths required. However our home was built in 1900 so from top to bottom the length of boards varied by almost an inch from top to bottom. Using primed wood or MDF makes painting a lot easier because you do not have to paint inside the nickel or double nickel gap.
To get started we found and marked the wood beams behind the drywall to know where to secure the wood to the wall.
We started at the top so that the odd size board is at the bottom and mostly out of sight.
If you don’t have a table saw, you’ll need to have them rip the last board to the proper width of the space at the bottom.
We used 2.5″ screws to secure the boards. We pre-drilled a hole the size of the head so that it would be recessed inside the board. Then we came back and filled each screw hole with painter’s spackle. After it dried, we sanded it smooth and flush with the board disappearing once you paint over it.
To space each board we placed 4 to 5 nickels across the board and pushed the board up flush against the nickels leaving a “nickel gap” and then secured it. Once all the boards were secured, we used a caulking gun with a tube of painters caulk and filled all the rough edges around the top and sides being careful not to let the caulk spread into the ‘nickel gaps.”
We used a jigsaw to cut around the light switch and light socket. Any imperfections will be hidden behind the covers.
Since the wood was primed, we painted two coats using a brush. We did not use a roller because it would have been harder to avoid filling in the “nickel gap” with paint.
The entire project took a weekend including a couple of trips for supplies.
Here’s a before and after of the same space today and from the real estate listing sheet.
Marie’s last name Kondo has become a verb. People are saying “I just Kondoed my entire house.” I may not have Kondoed my entryway closet (above), but I did organize it using a bin from Steele Canvas basket Company to store shoes and boots and a tote bag to keep hats and gloves. The basket on the shelf stores extra guest towels, soaps and candles for the bathroom which is to the left. We painted it black because even with the WC sign on the door, people would always open the closet door first and it just looks so much better in black.
Her first book really was life changing for many people. My sister and I both read it and all through the Christmas holiday we were organizing like crazy. We would talk on the phone and say “well if it doesn’t spark joy, out it goes.” She even sent me photos of things with the caption “no joy.”
Kondo’s approach to organizing is to keep only what you need (or those items that spark joy) and how best to organize so that it uses the least space. Kondo is a celebrity in Japan where her space-saving techniques are perfectly suited to tiny Japanese apartments. So why are people in the United States with big houses, basements and garages so attracted to this book? Kondo says it’s because decluttering your space is also decluttering your mind. So the whole time I thought I was wrong to have to clean and tidy up my entire house before I could even think about opening up my laptop to begin to work…I guess I may not be all the crazy. I simply cannot “work” if my surroundings are a mess. Mindfulness may be a a global trend but clearing your house and your mind makes a lot of sense.
I’ve always been pretty organized, but one thing that I learned from the first book is to let go of things. If I buy something and it turns out to be a mistake, I let it just sit in my closet because I feel too guilty to get rid of it, especially if it was expensive. But when I see it, I get upset. Chances are I’m not going to fall in love with it after not liking for a year or more, so if I allow myself let it go…I can rid myself of things and clear my mind a little at the same time.
Verizon is partnering with Marie Kondo to give their customers first access to digital copies of Spark Joy as part of their weekly “WhyNotWednesday” series. If you are a Verizon customer and would like to receive a digital copy, leave a comment and I’ll make sure that the first three people to leave a comment get a copy.
Back to organizing….those closets are not going to tidy themselves!
This contest is now closed. Winners have been notified. Thank you for reading!
Last week I received a box of Fiskars Large Easy Squeeze Punches. So naturally I made simple holiday gift tags for every gift. And it was super easy! You could even make these with your little ones. The first thing I did was paint water color stripes or lines on a piece of water color card stock. I painted sort of random stripes creating a plaid pattern. One with a mix of reds, the other in greens….it’s Christmas! Once dry, simply cut out using the large shape punches. I love that you can frame exactly what you want to cut out. I cut each miniature painting using the seal and hexagon punches. Simply use a small hole punch to add a piece of twine and add to a gift with fresh greenery or a small flower. I almost always use kraft paper in black or natural and twine that is available everywhere these days. Simple, homemade, done!
It’s easy to see exactly what you are cutting out with these punches. Here we are just framing the random stripes, but if you are using photographs or something with lettering, Fiskars punches makes it easy to frame your design.
A couple of months ago my dear friend Patrica van Essche invited me to a lunch and book signing for Eddie Ross and his new book Modern Mix. Coincidentally, at about the same time I was reading The Life-changing Magic of Tiding Up by Marie Kondo. Eddie is famous for collecting and using a combination of styles, patterns and mixing old and new. Kind of the more the better philosophy and while I was reading the Tidying Up Book I kept thinking…maybe I have too much stuff and maybe I need to get rid of some of it. Well, then I went to the book signing and Eddie was delightful of course. He spoke with passion about entertaining and using your stuff. Lots of it all mixed up together. Not just any old way, but beautifully and somehow together it all looks wonderful and chic. In the Tidying Up Book, the author speaks about Sparking Joy. If an item sparks joy then one should keep it. Seriously, page 210 of the index: “Joy, as standard for keeping.”
Eddie spoke with passion, and yes joy, about being a hoarder of all things beautiful. I adore his book for everything from inspiration to tips on acquiring, what to look for, where to find it and then how to restore it. If you would like a copy of Eddie Ross’ book Modern Mix, leave a comment and I will select one winner at random on December 17th. I leave you with my mixed up cabinet of old, new, collected over time pieces mixed in with holiday balls and greens. And yes, it sparks joy!