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!
Holiday cards have been filling our mailbox everyday this week reminding me that I need to address ours and drop them at the post office. This year I had a head start since we needed to take our Christmas card photo before Madeline left for France in August. Once again, I went with tiny prints because they are so beautiful and they have so many options. Letterpress, laser cut and even ornament cards. I chose Flourishing Peace in gold from the tinyprints Letterpress Cards.Tinyprints has lots of options for your return address including sticker labels, personalized stamps or custom printing. I went with Extending Thanks labels and have copied the ribbon at the bottom of each envelope similar to the one on the label using a a gold Sharpie pen. It takes few extra seconds, but I think it adds a little something special. Here’s a little video that Patrick willingly helped with yesterday. Now for the giveaway part: Tinyprints is offering one reader $50 towards anything on their site. Leave a comment here and I’ll choose one winner at 5pm est Saturday. Now…I must get back to my cards!
When we first bought our new (old) house, I was certain we would demo the fireplace before we even moved in. Not so fast…turns out this thing is here to stay. So, as with all design dilemmas, we decided to paint it white. We saved both time and money and we’ve never looked back. My favorite white paint is always Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White. It’s a white that looks great in any light. This paint covers well and it can easily be spot cleaned. We removed the existing mantel and replaced it with this one. (We opted to have a free floating look rather than use the brackets). To soften the look of all that stone I used our favorite cozy pillows from Pottery Barn. The pillows on the leather chairs are also from Pottery Barn and are a soft washed velvet. We found the mirror at a restaurant in Lewisburg, PA where our daughter attends Bucknell. I think this one would look great too! The grain sack Christmas stockings are new this year from an Etsy Shop. See below for an updated version of how we painted our stone fireplace.
Update on painting a stone fireplace and maintenance: When I first posted about painting our fireplace I indicated that I planned on re-painitng it every year. I did this at first because I thought it really needed it. However, this last time I used Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint. I used my favorite white paint color, Cloud White. It’s expensive, but I think it’s worth the price. You can easily spot clean and it touches up beautifully.
My original post on painting a stone or brick fireplace is my most viewed post and the one that I get the most emails about. A lot of people mentioned they were not crazy about the idea of re-painting every year. Please mark your paint cans…that may have been the problem. When I touched up the first time, I used a slightly different finish. Same color (white cloud), but different finish which meant I needed to re-paint the entire fireplace. So don’t be like me, mark that paint can!
If you are just starting this project, I asked the guys at my local Home Depot about a primer. They suggested Kilz. I would use a wire brush to loosen any debris and then if possible vacuum the entire surface getting in the crevices and corners. Put a couple of coats of primer and then a coat (or two) of the Aura paint. Use an old paint brush because it will ruin a good one. Everything is water-based so it’s pretty easy for clean-up. Good luck and I love seeing your before and after photos!
There’s a few things I do to get our front porch ready for winter and the holiday season. I like to keep it looking nice, but with snowy weather it takes a little planning and maintenance to keep it that way. The first thing I do is fill the pots with boxwoods and fresh greens that will look fresh all through winter. I keep the mat, but under it and all the way to the top step, I add a rug runner. The front porch gets extremely slick in the wet winter weather, but this keeps it safe and still looks fairly neat and tidy. I keep a galvanized bucket with a lid filled with ice-melt and a big scoop so that I can easily get the icy steps safe before anyone even takes one step outdoors. I also replace the Edison bulbs in the lanterns with a higher wattage since it gets dark so early. To keep the porch looking tidy I use a battery operated leaf blower to get rid of any left over dirt and and sand that’s tracked up from the street. This one is lightweight and and easy enough to use everyday. Everything gets dirty in the winter months, but this helps keep it out of the house and off the porch. I use Sprayway window cleaner and then use a water-based Sharpie to write messages on our front door and I found these pillows at H&M to dress up the front porch for the holidays. Oh and one more thing….IF I had a wood burning fireplace, this steel log holder would be hard to pass up to store wood and kindling on the front porch in a very stylish way. Winter officially begins in less than three weeks, so let’s do this!
When J.McLaughlin asked me to do a lifestyle post that would include a few beautiful pieces from their holiday line….well of course I said yes! I’ve always known about J.McLaughlin because they have a shop in my own town of New Canaan, Connecticut. They originally started in New York on the Upper East Side back in 1977. They have grown to over 100 stores and each has its own character which is often seen in the delightful sketches of my dear friend Patrica van Essche. I was invited to visit the beautiful Greenwich store. The Greenwich store is large and besides stocking almost every item that is also available on their website, the shop is stunning. Even the dressing rooms are beautiful with nice lighting and space that makes you feel as though you are in the comfort of your own home….except there’s someone right outside helping you with sizes and styles. I chose clothing with a holiday brunch at home in mind. My husband and I love to plan get togethers and part of the planning always includes a trip to the Union Square Green Market.
I’m wearing the Langley Vest and the Savannah Shirt in plaid. The shirt is tailored beautifully with a fitted shape so it’s flattering on its own or under a vest or sweater. I’ve worn it so many times. It barely even needs ironing. (In fact I usually wash it and hang it to dry and wear it the next day). The vest is comfortable and I love the pockets, especially at the market. I wear it on its own or under a sweater or coat for an extra layer.
I’m greeting my guests wearing the Ryann Cardigan Sweater in Camel. It’s the perfect combination of a structured piece, but still soft and comfortable. Under the cardigan I’m wearing the perfect white blouse. I love a white blouse and the Briar Shirt in Swiss Dot has enough detail to wear with a sweater or on its own. The Becca Leggings have become my go to pant for everyday and are perfect for travel.
#makingitmerry at brunch!
This post made possible in product trade with J.McLaughlin. All words and opinions are completely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Most Lovely Things!