Justin Hackworth Exhibit: 30 Strangers

• 29 June 2009

Come experience art and activism this Thursday, July 2nd at a downtown Provo gallery. Featuring the work of Justin Hackworth, the “30 Strangers II: Portraits of Mothers & Daughters” exhibit will raise funds for the Center for Women & Children in Crisis.

During the project, Justin shot portraits of 30 sets of mothers and daughters (some spanning four generations) over 30 days. In lieu of a sitting fee, each donated $25 to the Center. Hackworth is offering the same arrangement during the show opening, which starts at 6pm at the Knight-Block Building at the corner of University Avenue and Center Street. What a wonderful opportunity to do a little good and to also receive a unique documentary-style portrait!


From the Pages of...

Loving these fashion spreads from the latest issue of Eliza (I'm making note of a few new-to-me designers). They are feminine, modest, and totally gorgeous.


Chocolate Scented Postal Stamps

Leave it to the French to come up with chocolate-scented postal stamps...I just may have to send off a postcard or two just to catch a whiff of these delicious-looking stamps.

found via Serious Eats via girlhacker (thanks Dave!)


Paper Castle

• 26 June 2009

I mentioned in a previous post about a craft kit I made for my daughter during her little sojourn in France with her papa. Well, what you see right here is one of the many fruits of that kit. She made it for the owner of the castle next door (part of the castle is available for tour and part of it habited) after she allowed our daughter free entrance one day. I share it because I think it's one of her most endearing creations...the draw-bridge she created takes the cake.


When Life Hands You Lemons

Fairly recently I was asked to organize the quarterly events for the women's organization in my local congregation. While nervous about it initially, I can honestly say that I'm excited to continue to plan these special evenings. Last week my committee and I carried out an event themed around the well-known mantra, "when life hands you lemons...make lemonade". It was a wonderful way to celebrate the blessings we do have and to not dwell on some of the negative aspects of our current situations in life.

Being incredibly inspired by this tabletop design and these sandwich papers, we centered the decor around these details. First, we hung about 40 pom poms--what a beautiful effect they created (we recycled a few of them for the couples shower I mentioned here). Second, we used flowers--from a garden and Costco--of the same hue and then placed them in small bud vases and mason jars. The sandwich papers doubled as placemats and added vital visual interest. For party favors we printed out Paula Deen's Lemonade recipe and placed them in cellophane bags tied with ribbon.

I'm kicking myself now for not taking a picture of the finished product, but we also put to use this fantastic idea from Brooke over at inchmark. Instead of Valentine-themed papers we wrapped up the little boxes in lemon yellow paper and filled them with lemon Jelly Belly candies. After wrapping them in raffia and a lemon cut-out tag we passed them out to each woman in the congregation on the Sunday prior to our event as a little reminder. Given our attendance that evening we think our efforts paid off :)

Upon sitting down, each guest received her own picnic dinner placed inside a gable box. What she found when she opened it was Chicken Salad on a Croissant, a fresh fruit cup and a Lemon Cupcake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting. One lucky gal also found a fresh flower inside her dinner and as a door prize we offered her a box of homemade cupcakes to take home to her family. For beverage options we served lemonade and ice water--simple but delicious complements to the picnic dinner.

Recipe notes: the ingredients for the chicken salad are spot on, but I find the measurements to be off a little; I like it best with about half as much tarragon, a little more chicken and a touch more mayonnaise. Combined these make for a flavorful, moist chicken salad. If you make the lemon cupcake, use 4 whole eggs instead of the 2 egg/3 yolk combo; also consider using more zest for a tangier cupcake.

P.S. If anyone has great tips on planning a dinner + program for 75/80 people, do share! Thanks...


More Kitchen Improvements

• 25 June 2009

When we first viewed La Maisonnette du Coteau with an agent last August, we noted the obvious lack of "staging". Meaning, unlike many homes on the market in America, this home was not presented as a clean, uncluttered, ready-to-move-in kind of home. In fact, the owner's last read was still open on the kitchen table, there wasn't a made bed in sight, and the kitchen lacked any appeal. Although we were surprised by the lack of effort put into presentation, we were able to overlook the temporary imperfections and see beyond what our eyes saw at the moment. I'm thankful for the vision and how it's coming to fruition. Gone are the tchotchkes, the dated lights, the old, dingy kitchen and the soiled stone. Hello clean walls, new kitchen, and new lights (and lots of them!). We can't wait to see how it all comes together over the next 5 weeks as we conclude the project.

The first image shows what a portion of the main level looked like when we purchased the home. The arched doorway lead into a galley kitchen. The second image shows this same area after a major kitchen demolition (have you ever seen a countertop made of concrete, rebar and tile?) and sandblasting (both stone and beams). The wires you see in the image are new electrical wires they run between stones after taking out all the old mortar with a handheld tool. After running the wires they cover them up with a fresh batch of mortar for a clean finish. Seeing the great differences between the two images reminds me how gratifying and rewarding a renovation can be. I'm sure those of you who completed your own renovations will agree, right? Please tell me this is so :)


When Google Leads You Astray...

• 24 June 2009

Today we ended up here as we attempted to find our motel in Western Massachusetts. Every now and again we find ourselves in a comical situation as we utilize {the usually accurate} Google Maps. Once we hit the dirt road we knew a phone call to the motel was in order :) Since it's not often you find yourself in such lovely surroundings, I couldn't help but get out of the car and take a photograph. Aahhh...I love New England.

P.S. I'll be posting pictures from my youngest sister's wedding next week...the wedding takes place tomorrow!


French-Inspired Picnic

When I flew out to help the Husband with the renovations this month, we stopped by a store a friend recommended for home furnishings. It turns out the store is quite fantastic, especially when it comes to housewares. Although many temptations presented themselves, the wooden utensils were definitely my favorite. I bought two packages and mentally started planning a French-inspired picnic with some of my girlfriends. It sounds like a simple, summer-y way to celebrate the opportunity to share a meal outside.

1. Wood Utensils
2. Glass Milk Container
3. Striped Tea Towels


City Greek Express

If you are looking for an inexpensive eatery serving up fast-fresh food, give the newly established City Greek Express a try (in the old Les Madeleines location). You'll find great presentation for such a small price point and plenty of affordable meal options. I love the mini-Greek Salad for $3 complete with a homemade vinaigrette. On nice days I like to sit with my kids outside while they eat and wander in an enclosed dining area.


a Couples Baby Shower

• 23 June 2009

My partner in shower-hosting, Susan, and I threw a couples baby shower for our friends who are expecting their first child in just over a month. I've never participated in or hosted a co-ed baby shower before so I was a bit nervous. Luckily, Susan did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people so we felt like we {kind of} knew what we were doing.

Since men were invited we opted to grill the dinner that evening--it seemed like something that would put the men at ease given all the girly stuff we had goin' on that evening (favors, flowers, pom poms, etc.) We focused on green and yellow for colors, with tiny accents of strawberry pink. Again, we didn't want the guys to feel out-of-place. As far as I know, our plan worked and everyone seemed to enjoy just hanging out. We had a few games planned but the rain made them impossible. Honestly though, I'm sure the male guests were happy to do without them...but that stroller obstacle course looked awfully hilarious. Next time...

The evening's menu included:

Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard
Hearty Baked Beans (a la slow cooker)
Mixed Greens with Bacon, Chives & Radishes
Fresh fruit salad (melon, pineapple, raspberries)
Fresh-squeezed Lemonade
Lemon Yogurt Cake with homemade Whipped cream and Strawberries

Party Accoutrements:

Favor boxes: Martha Stewart Crafts (filled with Jelly Bellies in matching colors)
Straws: purchased in France (I'm toying with the idea of bringing some home to sell in my shop...would you like that?)
Invitations: card stock backings and Japanese paper from Paper Source
Pom Poms: see tutorial here. Make sure you use 10 sheets instead of 8 (many thanks to Jordan for sharing this idea last year on her blog).


Christina's Homemade Ice Cream

Do not consider a trip to Boston without hitting local hangout Christina's Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge. It's the most delicious homemade ice cream (although you must be strategic about what flavor you order) ever consumed-- my recent favorite being Carrot Cake. Oh the goodness...I had no idea ice cream could be so yummy. When we visited in Boston for the Marathon (our ecclesiastical leader qualified this year and we came to watch him live his dream) we ate dessert at Christina's 3 out of the 4 days we were there! That's how good it is.

Since the owners of Christina's also operate the herb and spice shop next door, you'll find the more exotic flavors most enjoyable (i.e. don't order the chocolate or vanilla). When they carry fresh mint, take advantage...it's been off the menu for several months and Christina's followers are anxiously awaiting it's return.


Ina's Coconut Cupcakes

• 22 June 2009

I pretty much can't get enough of these delicious cupcakes. I'm sure the fact that I am a huge coconut fan helps, but seriously, these are scrumptious. I love how many cupcakes this recipe makes too--enough to fulfill my cupcake fix and have plenty left to share.


Self Soothing

To make myself feel better about all the junk that hangs about during a massive renovation, I took some pretty pictures of the house...

...and the amazing views from the house...

...and my little girl heading down the path to introduce me to a new friend she made...a little dog that hangs out at the local art gallery :)

To read more about the story behind La Maisonnette du Coteau and how this whole project came about click here.


The Un-glamorous Side of a Renovation in France

I realize that the idea of renovating a French cottage sounds very glamorous...but when you are in the midst of a full renovation (as in we gutted the place) it doesn't feel very "ooh la la". I know the end result will be lovely, comfortable, and quite unique, but after taking the above pictures, it doesn't feel very glamorous at all :)

What you see in image 2 here are some sheet rocking leftovers and mostly supplies used by the mason as he takes out all the old mortar (by hand mind you) and then reapplies a new batch. I can't wait to get a great snapshot of the newly enhanced stone walls. Oh he did such a great job! The first image is a reflection of my labors during the week. I cleared out the clutter stored in the back of the house and took out a weed patch/rose garden in lieu of a patch of grass. I'm hoping that when we return in a week to wrap things up I see little sprouts of green. Fingers crossed...

To read other posts about La Maisonnette posts go here...for the story behind it all go here.


What He Really Wants for Father's Day

• 19 June 2009

While I indulge in a nice steak maybe twice a year, the Husband could eat a good ribeye or filet far more often. I think most men are of this same opinion :)

Since it is Father's Day in just two days--and a delicious dinner he will truly enjoy is in order--I can't let the day pass without sharing with you our favorite method of preparation. It's easy, requires few ingredients, and creates a killer steak experience. Promise. We love the garlic and rosemary option.

In case you didn't have a chance to order from the yummy Robinsons Prime Reserve, hit Costco--they typically offer a great ribeye or filet.

image 1: steamy kitchen; image 2: robinson's prime reserve; image 3: from our kitchen


Vera Wang Flowers

Happy to have discovered Vera Wang's stunning line of floral arrangements on FTD this week. Sometimes sending flowers via an online resource is logistically necessary and it's nice to know where to find something other than a carnation bouquet inside a teddy bear mug.


For Sale: Pottery Barn Teen Swoop Lamp - SOLD

I fell in love with this arc lamp back in January...decided to order it...only to find it was on backorder for 4 months. I guess I wasn't the only person who loved it? Anyway, it arrived, and it is truly gorgeous. The only problem is that it is just too large for my living space. I'm curious if any of you locals would love it in your space. Just think...no four month wait, no assembly required (it's all set up!) and no paying tax and shipping. Email me (stephmodo@gmail.com) if you're interested in striking a deal...I'm ready to make one :)

Per Casa Sugar, loves it too:

If you're on the hunt for a classic, arched floor lamp, PBteen has you covered with its Swoop Lamp ($199, reduced from $269), a sweeping arc, height-adjustable floor lamp that'll bring overhead lighting to any space. This design is clearly inspired by the Arco Floor Lamp ($2,696), which is part of MoMA's permanent collection, but its linen/cotton shade and simple base makes it appropriate for more traditional homes. CB2 also sells an Arco-inspired floor lamp, but its glossy shade makes it more suited for a modernist.


Patriotic Craft

• 18 June 2009

If I were to choose one craft to make for July 4th, I'd make this one. The little boxes don't appear to require a lot of random supplies or a vast amount of skill--awesome.. You could re-create the idea for other occasions (shower, wedding, birthday, etc.) with different patterned paper and ribbon.

Find it here.


Soon We Shall Have a Kitchen

Deliveries began this past week, boxes were disassembled, and the measuring, drilling, and installing began. Sounds pretty similar to what a renovation in the US would sound like, right? Well, if you take out the fact that three different trucks backed down a stone path a few hundred feet then you're right, it's just the same :)

One poor truck--the one that delivered the components for the kitchen--couldn't get past the corner of the castle wall (due to the truck's size and the narrowness of the path) and was forced to stop in the middle of the path, blocking anyone from passing. E. and I ducked under the truck's mud flaps to get past so we could take pictures and document this crazy situation! In this neck of the woods they do not hold school on Wednesdays so we were able to have a fun day together while Daddy worked on the cottage.


Koo de Ker COUPON

A little giftie from new sponsor Koo de Ker...

Simply print it out, bring it in, and enjoy a wonderful shopping experience at a locally-owned boutique. It's such a fun place to shop.


The Story Behind Attending School in France

• 17 June 2009

One of the downsides to renovating a home in another country (versus near one's permanent residence) is the logistical nightmare it creates! While we are grateful for this opportunity and have always felt good about doing it, the renovation does not come without its challenges. For one, you pretty much have to be here to make sure anything happens. That being the case, you have to figure out a way to come over here for periods of time to work and make sure they work too. This can be very tricky with work situations, even if you work for yourself as the Husband currently does. Trips end up being planned last minute as work projects allow, making us all feel like we're flying by the seat of our pants.

During the last six months, the Husband and I have been apart on 3 different occasions for a few weeks at a time--one being in the wish-it-were-more-peaceful-but-often-ends-up-being-chaotic month of December. Although necessary for the completion of the renovation, it's very difficult to be apart from the one you love for weeks at a time, especially during the holidays. At the end of the day I've a new appreciation for single mothers. It's a tough, tough job.

This last trip over to France needed to be an extremely productive trip. Many things were happening all at once and subsequently a month-long trip was planned. The Husband didn't want to leave me again with all 3 little ones for so long so he volunteered to bring our oldest daughter with him. I consented knowing it would be good for her and good for him. We pulled her out of school here in SLC and off she went on an adventure with her daddy--something we hope she'll remember all her life. She was both nervous and excited at once.

To save money, they camped at the town's little campground in a little mini-trailer. In the morning when it was time for school, they consumed a simple breakfast before readying themselves in the public bathrooms at the campground...and then off she went to school. I can still hardly believe it. What a good sport! We are incredibly proud of her for 1. being willing and 2. genuinely trying to enjoy it and learn from the experience.

School let out at 4:30 and then our daughter accompanied the Husband up to La Maisonnette so that he could continue working through the evening. Our daughter amused herself with a craft box I created prior to her departure and with other creative projects she came up with on her own. When she tired of those things she set off to selling off all the odds and ends that came with the house we bought (dishes, pots, pitchers, etc.). She basically held her own "brocante" or "vide grenier". Given that I used to sell baked goods at my parents' tag sales, I'd consider that a hereditary trait :)

The Husband and I knew we didn't want to be apart for such a long period of time, but didn't exactly know a way around the situation. One night when expressing my feelings to my sister Cherilee, she volunteered to help out. What that ended up translating into was a drive down from Seattle with her 3 kids in tow, just so she could tend my two youngest while I skipped town to help out the Husband and child. What a sister! (Is there a sister-of-the-year award out there?) I packed up my grubby work clothes (the idea of looking remotely chic tossed out the window), work shoes, gardening tools (stuff like that is so expensive in France), Hefty cinch sacks and off I went. Eighteen hours later I arrived in the beautiful village that we fell in love with just under a year ago, but this time if felt so different as so much has changed in the past 10 months.

So there you have it...more than I ever intended to write but I guess a few hours at a hotel by
yourself makes for a rather prolific post :)

One of my daughter's craft projects using extra supplies from one of the contractors; not a bad place to hang out, eh?

Reading Charlotte's Web near the gate to the house



Thank you all for participating in last week's Week of Giveaways! It was so lovely to be approached by such fantastic sponsors who wanted to give you a little taste of what they are all about. I hope you enjoyed the introductions!

Without further adieu, here are the winners according to random.org. Congratulations! (note: if you are one of the listed winners, please contact me).

Urbanity Studios Stationery

Designer Diva who said, "What great ideas...my kids love bubbles!"


Sparks Restaurant + Lounge

Amanda Jane who said, "Here is hoping - who can resist the thought of such an outing!"


Koo de Ker Boutique

Stacey who said, "Um......me please?!! i have had my eye on a few things for some time now and this could be just the excuse i am looking for!!!"


Christine Olson Photography

Brittons of Provo who said, " This is beautiful work. I would be super excited to win. Keep up the beautiful art!"


Thrift Books

Mir who said, "I will be needing lots of books to read this summer. It is great."



Playroom Still Lifes

• 16 June 2009

Playroom organization was becoming a bit of a problem around here due to the young ages of my last two children. When it came time to play the "clean up game a la Barney" they wee ones didn't know what that meant exactly. So, they basically just shoved the toys in any available bin, basket, drawer, closet, corner, etc. The results? a larger mess than before we started :)

I decided to try something I'd read years ago in a magazine (forgive me...I have no recollection which title it was) about taking pictures of toys with a Polaroid and then adhering them to the storage tote (gone is my Polaroid sadly, but I do have a camera still). This was sheer brilliance to me and perfect for anyone who has a child that doesn't read quite yet. It seems to make my kids feel more confident when they are presented with a simple way to accomplish something.

Also, when you have visitors over for a playdate and it's time to pick up, this method also makes it easy on the kids and their moms. I know that when I've been to others' homes and want to help pick up, I sometimes feel at a loss because I'm not sure how things are organized. I'd love a little picture to give me some clues.

We bought and IKEA bookcase, bolted it to the wall, and then purchased some grass baskets at IKEA as well. These were our second choice as they didn't have the ones we originally selected at our local store. We haven't filled up all the bins yet (we are somewhat slow at aquiring toys around here) so we have a few empty ones just waiting for Christmas to arrive. Grandparents seem to be good for that sort of thing :) If I had more of a certain toy than could fit in one basket, I used two baskets with two of the same labels. For example, we have a lot of teddy bears and girly dress ups for some reason; so I have two bins labeled with a dress up tag and two with a teddy bear tag.

To take the images I placed groupings of toys on a white table I found in the IKEA "As-Is" section. It's already in the playroom/living room so that made it easy on me! I took pictures with a digital camera of the groupings and then fiddled with them a little in Photoshop. Then, I uploaded them to an online photo processing site (I used Costco's) and selected the "wallet size" option for printing. I picked up the wallet size prints, went to FedEx/Kindos, and ran them through the self-use laminating machine using the heaviest weight plastic available. When they cooled I trimmed them to size using a basic paper cutter from a craft store. After punching a hold in the top of the label and running a little ribbon through it, they were ready to hang. While there are more than a few steps here, it wasn't a difficult process per se. All of the places I visited and supplies I used are readily available to just about anyone.

Here are a few examples to get those wheels turning...

1. my Little Ponies 2. tea sets 3. infant toys

4. cars + trucks 5. accessories for their "town" set up 6. trains + tracks

7. dress ups for girls 8. dress ups for dolls (many of which were mine as a child--thanks Mom for keeping those) 9. dress ups for boys (cowboy, pilot, fireman, etc.)

10. plush animals that aren't teddy bears 11. farm animals + those that could in theory eat those very farm animals :) 12. teddy bears of all shapes and sizes


La Maisonnette Update: Scott's Wall

You saw Scott jackhammering this wall here, and the almost-finished product there too. Let it be known that it looks quite easy on the video but in reality it actually took Scott over 5 hours to complete. Jackhammering over here is no small feat as the tools aren't exactly updated. Now that the mason filled in the gaps with new mortar, the wall is entirely completed. We are so happy with the way this wall looks and grateful to have found a willing and able friend, as well as a reliable and talented mason who is willing to put in more than the 35 hours mandated by the French government, because he understands that time is of the essence for us.

We actually hired this mason to redo the old stone walls that were already exposed as well, so the walls throughout the home matched perfectly (the aged mortar looks just that...aged and didn't match the new stuff going in). It took some extra time but we are focused on doing this once and doing this right. Now that all the walls are completed (as of just two days ago), the stone looks spectacular. Dry wall is just about completed, the roof fixed, the kitchen is slowly being installed, and we starting to feel like it actually might get done in 5 weeks :) Crossing our fingers...

More updates tomorrow!


No Tatertots Here Folks

• 15 June 2009

I was amazed, even shocked, when I caught a glimpse of what my child is consuming at her little French school each day. Keep in mind this is a public school and the lunches cost only 2.15 Euros daily (about $3 US). I asked my daughter if I could eat lunch with her...take a peek here and you'll see why.

A little translation...fillets of salmon, green beans, strawberries, apricots, creme brulee, zucchini flan, organic omelets, chocolate mousse...you get the idea :)

If you're interested in an explanation as to why she is attending school in France, and other details you may or may not want to know, check in with me tomorrow. I promise to fill you in...


Stylish Chairs under $100

An article published in Real Simple a few months ago hit the pages of my design binder in seconds flat. It's a wonderful resource to have on hand...it would take hours, even days to compile such useful information. I find that chairs are an inexpensive way to dramatically change the look of a room. Perhaps that is why I fell in love with this fantastic article.

Sadly, Real Simple does not link to it on their website so I decided to scan in the images for your viewing pleasure. I just know there is someone out there who is going to appreciate this because they are looking for the perfect chair :)


Window Boxes in Beynac

• 13 June 2009

Last week Leah asked me about window boxes in France and so today, I took pictures of 3 different displays I saw all while standing in the same place. I love how restaurants, residences, and even public areas participate in the display of boxes of flowers. It's a lovely tradition don't you think?

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