This Week's "Links to Love"

• 31 August 2011

On the docket this week is a little business and pleasure in Salt Lake City.  We've only been here one day but already enjoying the close proximity of the mountains, the dry heat, the beautiful skies and meeting our new niece, Claire.  Holding a newborn makes me feel like Baby Gray is so big...and I guess he is in a way as he turns one this week (!!).

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts and links I thought I'd pass your way:

You must know I'm having so much fun preparing images for this week's Real Life Home...or shall I say "Real Life Tower".  Yup, this family of 4 lives in a tower...like Rapunzel as my kids say. 

Did you see the gorgeous images from Kate Moss' English countryside wedding?  What a refreshing change from the typical over-the-top celebrity wedding.  The details were simple but stunning.  You can read more about it and see more images in Vogue

This recipe makes me want to attempt a galette.  Two words: "rhubarb" and "creme fraiche" and that's really all I need to know. 

We recently became hooked on "green drinks" in the morning...even my kids love them, which I admit I didn't expect.  I've got these drink recipes, as well as a few others from Twitter friends, at the top of my list.  What's your favorite?

Do you ever peek at the Design Public Outlet?  There are amazing deals to be had on modern furnishings and linens and it's quite full at the moment. 

I know it feels like Summer is ending for many for you, but in Seattle it feels like it's only the beginning!  We are banking on an Indian Summer so I still have sandals on my brain.  I spotted a lovely woman wearing yellow Saltwater sandals recently and she looked fabulous.  I realized these are not only for the little ones ladies!  I found the best price online here.

This watermelon salad/pizza thing on new-to-me food blog Lottie + Doof is so pretty...would you eat it?  I think it would look lovely on a buffet and would certainly be a topic of conversation.  

image by Mario Testino


Kinfolk Magazine

• 26 August 2011

This week I had the pleasure of running into a couple of contributors to newly-created Kinfolk Magazine--a lovely publication about the art of small gatherings and the like.  You'll find beautiful photography, artful layouts, thoughtful articles--all fairly short--and tips on entertaining well.  The folks over at Kinfolk sold out of their first run of print magazines (yay for the birth of another fabulous print mag!), but it is available for your online viewing pleasure here.

I enjoyed the ditty about entertaining at home and how often we don't invite people over because we have insecurities about sharing our lives up close and personal...isn't that so true?  I also loved the blogger meet up report (I have very mixed feelings about these) and the seemingly-delicious brunch menu created by Nikole and Tara.  That creme fraiche vinaigrette is now at the top of my to-make list! 

image 1 - Lily Stockman / image 2 - Michael Severloh  / image 3 - Jen Causey


Must-Eats in Montreal

• 25 August 2011

Sugar City Lynne recently vacationed in Montreal with her sisters and upon discovering this I started thinking about how much I love that town.  Ever been to Montreal? If not, you should add it to your travel wish list.  It's a small taste of Europe right here in North America and a city our family loved to visit when we lived in Boston (and had family living in Montreal too).  Cobblestone streets, patisseries, markets, history and lots of culture--it's wonderful!  My favorite past-time on vacation is eating and Montreal is no exception.  A couple of favorites stand out: 

1. Bilboquet - named after the old-fashioned French cup and ball game, there is not a more clever name for an ice cream shop and long lines prove it's more than just a name.  I think their fancy schmancy sorbet sundaes are the best and are ideal to share.  The original Outremont location is where you'll want to go!

2. L'Express Bistro - if you're in a French-speaking city it's très à apropos to dine at a French bistro complete with an authentic zinc bar.  The only time I've truly enjoyed lamb was at this restaurant, but really everything is good.  The Latin Quarter location and late hours are also appealing.

There is so much to eat in Montreal and you can easily fill in the blanks by perusing these Montreal foodie blogs.  I sadly discovered them after our time in Montreal, but hope to put them to use someday again!

Endless Banquet (love the "best of part 1" and "best of part 2" food guides--priceless!)

Les Gourmandes de Montreal (where I learned about a new patisserie called Rhubarbe--dying to go there just to have a chance at that pretty li'l tarte citron!

Also, if you head up to Quebec City I recommend staying at the Hotel Dominion 1912, lunching at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts after perusing its lovely galleries and finally, eating at Toast for dinner.  You won't be disappointed!

image via Les Gourmandes de Montreal


Talbots Under $20

Lots of great basics on sale at Talbots right now...everything pictured here is under $20 if you can believe it!  Here are links to everything above plus a few other great pieces under twenty:

poet blouse / khaki skinny pants / gray ankle jeans / satin puff sleeve / dark skinny jeans


Homemade Freezer Jam for Beginners

• 23 August 2011

Prior to my extensive jam making this Summer, I researched all sorts of methods, types of pectin, etc.  Today over at Zupas I am sharing a few things I learned about making a fabulous batch of freezer jam.  I invite all novices and seasoned jam makers to weigh in!

Find my freezer jam tips here.

images by Stephanie Brubaker for stephmodo


Daily Dose of "Pretty"

• 22 August 2011

...because sometimes you just need a little shot of gorgeousness to inspire your day :)

I have some pretty things to share with you this morning...a lovely, original {and affordable!} watercolor by Jenny Vorwaller that instantly reminded me of some cupcakes I made with edible flowers...Pantone postcards in their prettiest 100 hues (oh the possibilities!)...a pretty gold cuff that's on sale right now--cuffs are my favorite...and another peek at Sara Hicks Malone's home.  Her kitchen is one of the few non-all-white-kitchens that I adore. 

Here are links to all the above:

gold split cuff - $27 / "Blooms" original watercolor -$35 / Pantone postcards (Chronicle Books - $20 / Amazon $13.50)

Sara Hicks Malone home / vanilla cupcakes with flowers


Sandhill on Nantucket: Inside and Out

• 19 August 2011

If I could build and decorate my dream home, this beach house on Nantucket would be at the top of the list.  And might I add it proves that not all beach houses have to be "beachy"!  Anyway, it's gorgeous on the inside and out and I love how soothing the space feels.  It's clean, but not spare.  Neutral, but not boring.  The rooms are very textural too, which is essential when decorating in neutral tones.  Notice the touch of green in every room...(note to self: head to local nursery pronto!).

Love the pops of yellow and green everywhere...isn't it interesting how a cheerful, bright bowl can bring a room alive?  Never underestimate the power of an accessory!  Again, revisiting open shelving.  Still on the fence myself...you? 

Seeing the pretty, white walls makes me so happy we painted the inside of La Maisonnette white.  It feels so restful to me when I'm there and this home emanates soothing tones as well. What's your favorite "white"?  When it comes to a creamy white, we love the Restoration Hardware "Mediterranean White".  It's a nice balance between true white and ivory and has a warm undertone.  Isn't it crazy how many different whites there are out there?  Who knew. 

And this bathtub.  Be still my heart.  I do believe I might convert from being a gal who prefers showers over baths if this lovely piece of art rested in my salle de bain.  Gorgeous!  You can read the full story about Sandhill here.  I can't believe the timing and how it all worked out (it was years in the making!). It just goes to show that the best things in life require patience!

p.s. I love it when homes have names.  I really do.

images scanned from Elle Decor no. 177


End of Summer Berry Picking

• 18 August 2011

With school beginning next week for many children and all this talk about Fall fashion, it's challenging to remember that we do in fact have over a month until it's officially Autumn.  And despite the fact I am trying to prepare for Christmas already (when your kids are singing Christmas songs in July it's hard not to!), I generally don't like feeling rushed through life and hurried along to the next stage.  Appreciating and enjoying each season for what it is, and living in the present is far more fulfilling.  Enjoying every last drop of warmth of summer, even after school begins, sounds so good to me...

One of my favorite memories this Summer is berry picking with my children and then coming home and making jam.  I'll never forget Baby Gray's berry stained face and clothes, how Gray ate blueberries out of a vintage wagon (see pic after the jump), or the excitement on my older kids' faces when seeing with their own eyes where berries come (when you only see berries in small, plastic containers, it's pretty enlightening!).  Also, typically the u-pick berry farms are out in the country so it's a pleasant change to enjoy the small-town atmosphere.  I can't get enough of the little diners, produce stands, and the slower pace.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking but I'd love to keep summer alive, even after the school year starts, and continue our day trips and sun-chasing up until the very end (officially the solstice begins on 9.23). If we don't have berries to pick, we will pick peaches, or apples or whatever!  Around here it's all about soaking in as much Vitamin D as possible to sustain us through the Winter.  Ha!  You can find out what is available to pick in your neck of the woods at the Pick Your Own website.  Crops are operating on a later-than-usual schedule it seems so you'll be surprised at how much is ready and waiting!

{click on "read more" below to view more fun pictures from our berry-picking excursions--I have so many to share!}


Links to Love

• 17 August 2011

Ready for a mid-week blast of tips, information and of course, inspiration?  Here are some links I love you'll love...enjoy the variety!

Remind me why I don't check out the Crate and Barrel Outlet more often?  In my wildest (and most organized) dreams I have a pantry full of these gorgeous, simple (and on sale!) Italian glass jars (via Kelli of Delightful, who also wrote a great lunchbox roundup).  

Every now and again I like to pop onto the ":mnmlist" blog--it's all about...you guessed it...being minimal.  It's definitely on one end of the spectrum and a bit extreme, but it does present some interesting ideas, which I do appreciate. 

Rachel came up with a shortlist of 5 great workout songs, including one of our family favorites "Fire in Your New Shoes".  What else would be great to add to this list?

Love this paint chip mobile craft a la Liz.  Totally adorable, totally versatile and totally cost-effective.  

One of my favorite museums in Paris, the Musée National Picasso, is undergoing renovations at the moment and has lent out much of it's collection for a traveling art exhibition.  If you live in the Bay Area you must go visit the De Young!

I like this gal's sense of humor and practical ideas about doing what we all long to do--create more time :)  Great tips.

Feeling inspired to create thoughtful, little displays after spotting this vignette.  Easier said than done :)

image 1 - Liz Stanley for Kirtsy / image 2 - Crate and Barrel / image 3 - Bodie and Fou


Spiced Apricot + Pistachio Crisp

• 16 August 2011

I recently updated one of my favorite summertime recipes after getting my hands on the prettiest, rosiest apricots at a roadside stand.  Since I prefer apricots in jam or baked, I decided an apricot crisp was in order; this time updated with the French-inspired addition of pistachios (many an apricot tart is garnished with pistachios in France).  They suited the fruit perfectly and added just the right amount of playful contrast.  I think I have a new favorite here folks. 

I'm sharing the recipe over at Zupas today.  Bon appetit!


A Conversation with a Dairy Farmer + Finding Inspiration

Sometimes when feeling uninspired, the best solution is to simply do something different.  or go someplace different.  or read something different.  and most importantly, turn off the computer and/or your phone.  Last week when I was feeling a little ancy and craving a new type of experience I decided to pick up a Berklee College of Music alumni magazine while my daughter took her piano lesson.  Had there been optional reading material and had I remembered to bring my phone I likely would've used my time differently.  However, my mind truly appreciated the change and I felt immediately lifted just by learning about people and things with which I was previously unfamiliar. 

I also went blueberry picking with a friend for the first time (so fun! pictures forthcoming!) and participated in the most interesting conversation with a dairy farmer in Central Washington.  Two of my friends (Danyelle and Tamara), were also there with me and the 4 of us had some great laughs while learning a few things from this wise farm owner.  Alan shared his thoughts on animal rotation, crop rotation, organic products, sound business practices, trust (their store operates completely on the honor system), resourcefulness and God's hand in it all.  Did you know he even makes his own butter everyday by simply placing cream in a jar inside his saddlebag?  Apparently all that galloping churns the butter just right.  I can't imagine the joy of fresh butter everyday!  When we left the farm my daughter pointed out his seemingly adorable wife's license plate--"Mrs. Moo" it read.  'Of course it does', I thought :)  The bottom line is that getting out and doing (or reading) something out-of-the-box every now and again creates interesting and inspiring experiences.

What do you do when you're feeling uninspired and in the need of change?

p.s. if you live anywhere near Granger, WA, you should stop by and try the Pride and Joy Dairy's raw milk, grass-fed beef or fresh eggs.  Product is top-notch and reasonably priced. 


How to Make Steel Cut Oats

• 14 August 2011

Buying grains, cereals, nuts and dried fruit in the bulk section means savings and if you're operating on a budget of some sort (or are simply limited in space and don't want bulky containers in your cupboards) then this aisle is a great resource.  I'll never forget the time I purchased 27 cents of curry powder at a co-op in Cambridge, MA when my husband was in graduate school.  When you're operating on a $40/week food budget the bulk section becomes your best friend :)  Anyway, back to how to make steel cut oats...my favorite hearty and healthy breakfast.  You've most likely spotted them in the bulk section if you've ever perused that aisle.  But you may wonder how you're supposed to cook them since there are obviously no instructions included.  Here's how:

1. Using a liquid measuring cup, pour 4 cups of water into a medium saucepan.

2. Drop a pinch of coarse sea salt into the water and bring to a boil.

3. Pour in 1 cup of steel cut oats.  Reduce heat to medium.

4. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.

5. Turn off heat and place a lid on the saucepan.  Allow steel cut oats to sit for 5 minutes.

6. Add a dollop of brown sugar, blueberries, pecans or strawberries + pistachios like I did here--this is my favorite combination in the Summer.   

images by Stephanie Brubaker for stephmodo


John Robshaw Textiles

• 13 August 2011

I love discovering new fabric sources...good ones can be so difficult to find.  I've learned that it's more gratifying in the long run to buy nicer fabric and have a pillow constructed for a reasonable price (on etsy or Craigslist you can almost always find a taker).  It ends up costing the same as one from a nice home furnishings chain, yet you enjoy it so much more because it's "you" and carefully reflective of your living space.  These beautiful textiles and patterns from John Robshaw Textiles are stunning and ideal in small, vibrant doses.  Never underestimate the power of a gorgeous pattern...talk about good vibes and positive energy!

 images via John Robshaw


Baguette Vending Machine...Oui ou Non?

• 11 August 2011

I'm trying to figure out what to make of this new baguette vending machine phenomenon sweeping Paris thanks to boulanger Jean-Louise Hecht.  When in France, we generally relish in the experience of waking up early to snag a freshly-made baguette at our favorite boulangerie.  However, there have been a few times we've tried to enjoy a late lunch only to find all the boulangeries closed (in France most boulangeries and patisseries close from noon until 2 p.m. for a long lunch).  Very inconvenient if you have hungry children in tow...so perhaps a baguette vending machine would come in handy?  But since not all French bread is created equal, I admit I'm skeptical about the quality. 

What do you think?  Oui ou non?

p.s. if you can't wrap your head around a baguette from a vending machine, give my favorite boulangerie near the Eiffel Tower a go.  It's called Le Champ and we've enjoyed their sandwiches and patisserie for years--they are consistently good and the always-present line out the door proves that.

via Time


Cute Boy's Bedroom

Like boy clothes, it's so tough to find stylish boy's bedroom ideas.  Putting together a room that's not cookie-cutter can be an immense challenge; this I've learned by experience over the years as I have two boys myself.  I'm very impressed with this "real life" boy's bedroom decorated by my friend Beverly (same gale who introduced me to this fantastic shopping street).  She combined different styles, textiles, materials and colors to create a deliberate, masculine space that's not only beautiful, but fun and comfortable for its little inhabitants too :)   


Tolix Chairs

When we lived in France and I was constantly thinking about renovating, decorating and furnishing La Maisonnette, I talked about Tolix furnishings a lot on my blog...you may even had more information than you would've liked :)  It's no secret that I cannot hide my affection for these retro-styled French industrial pieces.

Here in the US we have an amazing resource for both new and vintage Tolix chairs, the latter being tough to find (even in France)...especially in multiples! Antiquaire is a fantastic resource for fellow Tolix lovers--owner Melissa Edelman has all sorts of fun, exclusive colors and styles in stock (magenta bar stool anyone?). I, for one, am in absolute love with these robin egg blue vintage Tolix chairs. Gorgeous.

images via Antiquaire


Backyard Scrabble

• 10 August 2011

My husband and I are big Scrabble fans; in fact, I'd say it's our favorite game to play together. When we play we are usually within a few points of each other so it makes for an exciting, close game. Woudn't you love to build this backyard version and add it to your collection as well?  If you're feeling ambitious, Sunset offers a great step-by-step guide to this innovative outdoor project.

Scrabble game sources for the less ambitious: You can find great deals and vintage editions on Ebay. If you're missing one or two letters (those darn pieces tend to get lost easily now don't they?), then try Etsy...this source makes custom Scrabble letters for a reasonable price.

via Sunset Magazine


Abbott Kinney

• 09 August 2011

Recently Baby Gray and I split Seattle and chased the sun down to Southern California. Aaah, it was glorious and I remembered why I enjoyed living in California so much (we lived in San Francisco several years ago). When you get past the whole every-home-is-at-least-a-million-dollars-or-more-issue it's really quite lovely :) The produce, the beach, the food, the arts...it's all amazing. While at first it catches you off guard, there is something uplifting about the warm, friendly attitudes you find in California--there's no "freeze" goin' on there!

My dear friend Beverly showed me all her favorite places, including a street in Venice called Abbott Kinney. It was amazing and definitely a must-visit if you're anywhere nearby (in SoCal that's 20 minutes right?). I could've explored there for hours, but we had limited time so we hit some favorites and split. It was a bit of a teaser you could say. I bought a little painting of the California coastline at Tumbleweed & Dandelion (nothing beats the PCH down by Big Sur!), swooned over linens and vases at Colcha, experienced major cake plate envy at Bountiful and bought a little something for my kids at Kid Firefly. And I cannot wait to go back!

If you've been, what have been your favorites?


Northwest Berry Pie

One of my favorite aspects of summer is the abundance of berries; and here in the Pacific Northwest we have just about every berry imaginable at our fingertips. It's amazing! I decided to make a pie incorporating some of my favorites--tayberries and red currants--and it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite pies. Isn't pie the perfect summertime dessert to enjoy after a casual barbeque with friends? (or for breakfast if you're like me...) Pie isn't fussy or pretentious...doesn't have to look perfect to taste good...and is absolutely delicious for at least a couple of days afterwards. What other dessert can boast such things?

Find the recipe for my Pacific Northwest Berry Pie (as well as my recommedation for a foolproof pie crust) over at Zupas today. Don't live in the Pacific NW? No worries, I've also linked to another version I created before we moved up here. I anticipate you'll love it just as much!

p.s. wedge pie kits like those shown above can be found in my etsy shop

images and recipes by Stephanie Brubaker


Menu of the Week

• 08 August 2011

Thank you for your patience when it's come to posting these weekly menus...I feel like I am finally coming up for air now that Baby Gray is sleeping through the night (never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep!) It feels good to be back in the kitchen a lot more and I promise to post our weekly menus more often as it's fun for me to share dinner ideas with you. Sometimes a little inspiration from another is all the prodding we need to get ourselves back to creating homemade, delicious food for our families.

I just looked at the calendar and realized we have just one month left of summer vacation...next week's menu needs to be grilling and more grilling!

Spice Rub Ribs w/BBQ sauce - add in some steamed broccoli rabe, cheese muffins, mashed potatoes and butter lettuce with dried cherries, bacon and blue cheese dressing as accompaniments and you have a company worthy meal to be sure. Try to eat outside if you can, particularly if kids are in the mix; ribs are messy for everyone, even adults! It wouldn't be a bad idea to keep some wet wipes, or even baby wipes, on hand during the meal.

Eggplant Parmesan - I love this recipe from GOOP, but prefer a breaded eggplant patty so I made a quick batch of homemade breadcrumbs and made my own patties. I decided not to tell my kids they were eating eggplant and could hardly keep from smiling as I watched them devour it and then ask for seconds. Ha! This is one of my all-time favorite vegetarian dinner ideas.

Fritatta with leftover vegetables and cheese, tossed bibb lettuce with "house" vinaigrette, roasted herb potatoes (using this homemade Italian seasoning mix and piment d'espelette), seasonal fruit (around here that's berries & cherries :))

Grilled lemon pepper chicken with creamy mustard sauce (similar to the one in my Easy French Bistro dinner), steamed rice, garden salad - my children love rice so much I had to mix it up a bit and give 'em a little of what they really wanted. Plus, I love my rice cooker more than any other small appliance in my kitchen--using it is such a joy and alleviates a lot of stress. Making perfect rice any other way is tough to do I've found.

Gnocchi with Three Cheese Sauce, butter lettuce salad with sugar snap peas and carrots, ciabatta, fresh pineapple + red currant salad - found some yummy made-in-Italy gnocchi at Trader Joes the other day and since I had a little of this cheese and a little of that cheese, a 3-cheese sauce was in order. I'll share the pasta sauce recipe soon!

Like always, I leave one day per week for takeout/date night and one night for leftovers or brupper (breakfast for supper).

Still trying to figure out what to make for dinner? View my previous menu of the week posts for more ideas. Bon appetit!

images by Stephanie Brubaker for stephmodo


A France Fix in Just 3 Minutes

• 05 August 2011

I am having so much fun watching this little video Emily made...over and over and over. What a clever spin--2300 images in just 3 minutes. I need a France fix today and this is the perfect solution! She did an amazing job capturing the essence of Paris and of La Maisonnette...thank you Emily!

p.s. there is music so if you're at work...

via Emily McCall Photography


S'mores with a French Twist

• 04 August 2011

Our most recent camping trip inspired this gourmet version of the American treat that leaves everyone wanting some more; hence, the term "s'more". Read about this campfire dessert with a French twist over at the Cafe Zupas blog. Enjoy!

image by Stephanie Brubaker for stephmodo


Viewmaster Wedding Invitations

• 03 August 2011

Do you ever wish you could get married all over again just so you could plan another wedding? I do {to the same person :)}...especially when I see clever invitations like these from Etsy shop Melangerie NYC. Viewmaster wedding invitations are about as hip and happenin' as it gets in my book! In fact, this would be a great type of invitation for any special celebration...a 40th birthday, 50th wedding anniversary, or baby's 1st birthday even. Now this is an idea you could really have fun with, no?

You can also view one couple's version of a Viewmaster wedding invitation over at Offbeat Bride. They share step-by-step instructions, which would be super helpful if you're thinking of taking on this ambitious project yourself. I love them both!

To view more creative party and wedding ideas, click here.

via The Daily What / images via Melangerie NYC


Real Life Home No. 8: Sweet + Southern

It's not everyday you get to peek into the home of a genuine Southern miss, which is why I'm so happy to share with the home of boutique owner Kayce Hughes. Kayce is a mother of 7 children, daughter of an antique-loving mother, and the niece of Lilly Pulitzer--how's that for inspirational? Somehow, amidst the day-to-day craziness that comes with being a parent, Kayce somehow manages to find time to create classic clothing for children and women, and shop for vintage furnishings for new boutiques opening up throughout Tennessee.

It's such a delight to peek into her home--an ongoing project (so she says) that combines traditional styling and modern, clean lines. And now, "Real Life Home No. 8"...

For those of you just tuning in, this series showcases living spaces decorated by people who are not formally-trained interior designers; people who mix new finds with antiques and secondhand pieces from Craigslist (or the like). People who have figured out, on their own, what looks and feels good in their living space.

I want to begin this little tour with my favorite room in Kayce's home...that yellow is so bold and fun! Like the peeps over at Trading Spaces tell us, paint makes for huge impact, yet costs the least. I am so inspired by this element! Also, it's sheer brilliance to not only take a plain, IKEA console table and not only paint it bright yellow, but to use it over the bed in this way.

A short lesson in creating your own affordable art: Kayce created the art above the bed by painting the large navy swirl over a swath of book pages. In addition, the photograph series on the wall is also part of her studio arts repertoire (her fine arts degree really came to use here--who says liberal arts degrees are useless?!) and features her children holding different seashells. It's always nice when sentiment and practicality blend so nicely.

Design magazines always encourage adding a little pink here and there, and I admire those courageous enough to do so. My favorite piece in this room is that sleek Parsons coffee table. Its presence modernizes the space instantly and creates a beautiful focal point. Also notable is the original art collection over the sofa. Kayce found the large pastel at a thrift store for just $158, including the frame. Wow. It turns out this was the 4th painting by local artist Gay Petach in their collection--apparently she is the overwhelming favorite in the Hughes household!

Her little ladies are very lucky to call this beautiful, feminine space their room...their respite. It's sweet, cozy and again a lovely mix of traditional and modern furnishings. The children created the artwork above the love seat on their own, which adds yet another great idea to our ongoing discussion of how to preserve our children's art.

I encourage you to view the other 7 homes featured in the "Real Life Home" series and figure out what speaks to you! They are all very different from each other so there is something for everyone.

More beautiful spaces designed by non-designers:

Real Life Home No. 7
- Sara (colorful + eclectic)
Real Life Home No. 6 - Amy (calming neutrals)
Real Life Home No. 5 - Lynne (whimsy + details)
Real Life Home No. 4 - Emily (whites + woods)
Real Life Home No. 3 - Kirsten (clean + textural)
Real Life Home No. 2 - Maria (white kitchen love)
Real Life Home No. 1 - Cherilee (mid-century modern)

all images by Kayce Hughes


Family Camping in Washington + Tin Foil Dinners

• 02 August 2011

Typically our family camps alone, but last weekend we joined up with a couple of other families to create a fantastic weekend of back-to-back fun. The campsite our friends chose was perfect for our large-ish group and allowed the kids the perfect amount of freedom (locals, feel free to email me for specifics). We divvied up the meals, which eased the burden of cooking outdoors tremendously, and guess what we chose? Tin Foil Dinners...our favorite camping dinner of all time (see a pictorial guide to making them here). I swear, nothing tastes better around a campfire at night!

Despite being a lot of work, camping is always worth it; although I admittedly prefer the 2-day/1 night scenario since it's difficult to sustain the movement on low-quality sleep (does anyone sleep well while camping?). Luckily we found a solution to the Baby-Gray-Conundrum (he likes to eat everything on the ground) and brought along his handy dandy high chair from IKEA. Some may scoff at the idea, but it really saved us this time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Also, you wouldn't believe what happened during the trip...my two friends and I discovered we all have a grandma with the same last name; and, upon further research realized we share a common relative. Yes, the three of us all share the same great-great-great-grandfather! Très bizarre, no? Perhaps that's why we were drawn together as friends :)


Antique European Maps

I love admiring all the beautiful antique European maps from etsy shop, banana strudel; I am especially keen on those with bold colors. Yum. Framed maps make the perfect wall art for anyone suffering from serious wanderlust (me! you?). You'll be pleased to know these maps are very reasonably priced, making them a fine choice when it comes to affordable art.

image via banana strudel


Christmas in July

• 01 August 2011

(...make that August. Where did July go?)

My sister and I have made a pact to complete our Christmas preparations before Halloween this year. We both want to make the most of the months of November and December and see preemptive action as the only way to accomplish this! Last year our holiday season was a bit of a disappointment (long story) and it's important to me to make sure that doesn't happen again this year. I truly want to enjoy every minute.

Each year I have good intentions to be done with the bulk of my holiday planning early, but rarely am I successful. However, because my sister and I are doing this together, I feel like 2011 is the year I'm going to make this happen (the buddy system...it works I tell ya!). I'm already daydreaming of having extra time on hand to make gingerbread cookies, ride a sleigh with the kids, bake treats for friends and neighbors, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

Here is the start-planning-Christmas-in-July (errr August) to-do list I'm currently tackling:

1. procure skinny-wrap return address labels from Minted or a classic label from Tiny Prints

2. plan out gift giving and begin buying and/or making gifts

3. snag extra letterpress Christmas cards for a song over at Crane or Vandalia St. Press

4. address envelopes with one of my favorite pens and adhere holiday stamps

5. make Christmas music mixes; wrap using kraft brown packaging from Muji.

6. buy holiday dresses and ties for my children

7. scope out classic pajamas for the kids--I love gifting these on Christmas Eve.

What do you do to prepare for Christmas in advance? I've got to be missing a few things...

image by the lovely "dottie angel"

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