Art Party

• 30 January 2013

If you've ever taken a peek at the birthday parties I've planned for my kiddos, you'd notice a few subtle (and perhaps not-so-subtle) similarities:

1. Back-to-back winter birthdays (December, January, February).  What can I say?  Springtime is often a magical time of year!

2.  We always have themes that celebrate something in which my child is interested (i.e, boatsouter space), or that means a lot to them (matryoshka dolls from her cousin, Paris).  They choose their own themes, with me chiming in with a few suggestions only if they are stumped on ideas.  Some are more challenging to pull off than others (this year my youngest daughter asked for a Hello Kitty party...yikes!), but they are all fun in their own way.  

3.  The party budget maximum is $125 (usually hovering around $100) and includes food, drinks, treats, decor, favors, activities, invitations, etc.  We will not go broke over our children's birthdays and the dollar aisle is our friend!  I reuse a simple, white tablecloth over and over, which makes for a neutral palette and less expense.  Sometimes I spend more on special details (Babar party), and then spend less in other areas.  I do my best to put to use what I already have on hand (which is why you sometimes see repeats in some of the basic details like dishes, glassware, etc.).  Somehow it all evens out!

Most recently, my oldest daughter asked for an Art Party.  She is very creative and enjoys making all sorts of things when she can tear herself away from reading :)  This has been the case her entire life thus far, and we were happy to celebrate this part of her personality.  The art history major in me was secretly thrilled, I confess.   

I'll never forget a particular morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts about 9 years ago.  I took my daughter, then 2, to Harvard's Fogg Museum.  I strolled her through the galleries, pausing every now and again to admire a certain piece.  I remember being wrapped up in a particular work momentarily, only to be interrupted by my toddler shouting "van Gogh, van Gogh!".  Astonished, I looked in the direction she was pointing and saw one of Vincent van Gogh's self portraits two rooms down.  I beamed (remember the art history gig?!) as all first-time mothers do when their child surprises them with a tidbit of knowledge.  Who knew that bargain book from Barnes and Noble sitting on the coffee table resonated?  

Since her birthday is only a week and a half into the new year, I find it always catches me off guard (didn't I just take down the Christmas decorations?).  There have been years when I planned ahead, but this was not one of them.  I had just a week to plan her Art Party, so everything else sort of went on the back burner while I worked on the details.  One thing I've learned about planning kids' birthday parties on a reasonable budget is that spending less means more work for the party planner.  But it's fun work, to be sure, and very satisfying as well.  We had a great time planning the details together along the way; although I did leave a few things as a surprise until the end, which was really fun!    

Invitations had to be simple, but special. I purchased pre-cut, flat cards and envelopes at Paper Source; as well as a paint brush stamp at a local rubber stamp shop in Seattle.  I am not a computer whizz in any sense, but I somehow managed to pull something together in Word; which means anyone can do this :)  In my dreams I navigate Illustrator and Photoshop smoothly; it's probably time for one of Alma's classes...

My daughter is officially a "tween" now (I need a support group for this!), which is an interesting time for all of us.  She is still a child, but also wants to spread her wings and feel grownup.  I am not sure if she will continue letting me plan these parties for her, so I am savoring the moments while I can.

This year, I knew that she and her friends would appreciate a nice lunch, so I served them one of my daughter's favorite soups (a hearty corn chowder), some crusty bread and lemonade; with lemon pudding cakes as appetizers.  One could say we reinvented the four food groups that morning--dessert 1, dessert 2, carbs and sugary drinks (we certainly set the day apart!).  With Taylor Swift on Pandora in the background, the girls giggled and chatted throughout the meal.

Afterwards, my friend Sarah, who is also a professional painter, was kind enough to give the girls a basic art lesson with some beautiful oil pastels, gifted to my daughter.  It was fun to watch some of them really dig in and take the experience seriously.  When it became clear that some had lost interest, we switched things up and moved into singing, cupcakes, macarons and the opening of gifts (made silly by her father's antics).  Before we knew it, time was up and we still hadn't finished so we frantically made phone calls and texts to parents asking for a slightly later pick up time.  I learned that this is the age they can handle the excitement of a party more than an hour and a half long (new territory for us).  Two hours for tweens seemed perfect.

Undoubtedly, the favorite detail was the macaron paint palette.  The girls kept commenting on it the throughout the party (what are macarons?  what flavor is that?  when can we eat them?  I call the pink one!).  This focal point was put together by propping a wooden paint palette (purchased from a local artists supply shop for $6) atop a ceramic pedastal from an old cake stand of mine.  I adhered the macarons to the palette with a dollop of cupcake frosting, to avoid a slip 'n' slide effect.

In order to achieve the look of a true paint palette, I knew it needed different shades.  With my youngest daughter in tow, we visited two bakeries in Seattle that carry macarons--one that consistenly creates pastel macarons and one that typically makes more intensely-colored macarons.  Together they made a great combination.  My friend Jenny, also a professional painter, lent me a paint brush from her studio, to accompany the "paints".  She also allowed me to use one of her retired paint palettes, which ended up as a tray for the cupcakes.  I raised it up a little from the table by using a large ramekin.  Clearly we were all about improvisation!

The party favors at E's Art Party were quite simple--small, pillow boxes adorned with vintage Mary Cassatt postage stamps.  Inside we placed modeling clay in hues that matched those on Jenny's paint palette.  I found the hues from Cernit more preferable, but the name "Sculpey" awfully endearing :)

I picked up these loose cards and envelopes at a major discount at a local stationer's sale I found out about through paper guru, Lyndsey.  I think the set was only a dollar or two; which meant there was a little left over for vintage art-related stamps on ebay (Calder and Albers--a snazzy duo, yes?).  Together they created the perfect thank-you notes for my daughter's art party.  In order to make sure I remembered this last detail to give thanks, I assembled these ahead of time so my daughter could easily mail them out after the party.

My daughter had a great time at her Art Party and is already mulling over next year's theme.  I am simply grateful she is interested in another homespun party!  These parties end up being such a fun memory for us both and I am excited to create more with all of my children.  Until next time...

all images by Stephanie Brubaker for stephmodo


A Get Well Quick Kit

• 29 January 2013

Is it me, or does everyone seem to be coming down with something lately?  I feel like the words "flu", "virus", and "cough" are becoming as commonplace as "rain" and "overcast" around here.  Is it the same where you live, I wonder?  Well, I say this situation calls for some intervention in the form of a "get well quick kit".  All you need are the following cheerful and useful supplies:

magazine   |   tissues   |  herbal tea bags   |   mug   |   half a lemon   |   vitamins   |   handwritten note

Choose a magazine you think they would enjoy (Real Simple, Living, People, etc.).  It could be one you purchase, or one you receive with your regular subscription.  When it comes to bagged herbal tea, I really like Stash--a company based out of Portland (Mango Passionfruit and Licorice Spice are my favorites); but honestly, anything yummy you have in your cupboard will be great!  Mugs can be procured from your kitchen cupboard, Target, a thrift store, or wherever else.  Keep in mind this kit is not meant to be spendy, but rather, thoughtful.  

Travel size packages of facial tissue come in handy too---I like these new designs from Kleenex.  A few vitamins can't hurt either (around here Vitamin D is the supplement of choice).  A handwritten note is also a heartwarming addition to the kit--even if it you write on the back of your grocery list!  Truly, it's the thought that counts.  After you've assembled your kit, package it up in a simple, kraft brown gift bag and place it on your friend's porch.  Being remembered is a wonderful pick-me-up and surely you will make his/her day.  

To all of you who aren't well right now, I hope you "get well quick"!  Hang in there~

image by me


Links to Love

• 23 January 2013

So much to share, so little time.  Why wait until Friday?  Here are some links to help you get through the day with a smile on your face, a warm feeling in your heart and a few things in that shopping bag :)

Reading the ad-free magazine, "Seeing the Everyday" always sheds a more positive, rose-colored tint onto the parts of life that seem mundane on surface level.  I appreciate how they elevate the everyday, by encouraging us through stories written by people like you and me.  I am particularly impressed with this month's theme focusing on disabilities--both in children and adults--one that I think many of you will appreciate.  View more here.

A pop-up orchestra in Spain that gave me chills, it was so beautiful!

I am intrigued by my friend Christine's new book, Minimalist Parenting.  Based on how much I like her and the title of the book alone, I am thinking this will be a good read (book club anyone?).  Here is the fun trailer (great job Karen Walrond!). Do any of those images look familiar to you?

I've been trying to get the last of our pictures up on the walls this week...it's taken awhile since we have less space.  But it cannot be dragged out any longer!  And did you know that these are the best nails for hanging frames/art on the wall?  You can also find them at Michaels and your local framer.

Melissa asked me to share a kitchen tip over on her blog, Lulu the Baker. You should see my countertops this week...laden with crazy amounts of fruit.

If you live near a Crewcuts store, you may want to pop in for a visit.  All sale items are an additional 50% off, which makes their clothing actually affordable!

Many thanks if you contributed to making our Houzz Tour of La Maisonnette du Coteau the 18th most bookmarked on the site.  Merci beaucoup!  Such an honor.


Seven Rules of Life

• 22 January 2013

In case you haven't seen "The 7 Rules of Life" floating around on Facebook...

These are fantastic reminders and I simply couldn't resist sharing here.  I've outlined them below, with a few personal notes added in parentheses.  I personally believe that #1 is the most difficult.  What do you guys think?

1.  Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

2.  What others think of you is none of your business (and may I add, 'not worth your precious mental energy').

3.  Time heals almost everything.  Give it time.

4.  Don't compare your life to others and don't judge them.  You have no idea what their journey is all about (more on this here).

5.  Stop thinking too much.  It's alright to not know the answers.  They will come to you when you least expect it (most likely when meditating/praying, on a walk, in the shower, or driving your car).

6.  No one is in charge of your happiness, except you (this is a tough one as the "victim trap" is ever so tantalizing...but alas this rule is true I believe!).

7.  Smile.  You don't own all the problems in the world :)

If anyone knows the source, please share. I have not been able to locate an original source; image by me, Stephanie Brubaker 


Red Lips

• 20 January 2013

Almost five years ago, I began reading Stephanie Nielsen's blog.  What I remember most about my first impression is how glamorous she made stay-at-home-motherhood look.  I found Steph's writing and images very honest, genuine and refreshing, so I came back for more.  I started noticing her ever present red lips and pretty, vintage dresses.  Since I usually hang around home in my pajamas (awesome bed head included), I remember being fascinated with her look and thinking, "I could never get away with red lipstick...but she sure looks fantastic!".

Fast forward about 4 years...I am attending Mighty Summit.  My lovely roommate was Christine Koh (another genuine, fantastic, down-to-earth kind of gal), who also donned red lips during most of the summit.  Since I'd spent the last few years warming up to the idea of red lips (I have a history of being a late adopter...surprised?), I had to ask.  "May I try on your red lipstick?".  Of course, Christine replied, "of course" and I bravely spread her Chanel stick across my lips.  And that, my friends, was the beginning of my new love affair with red lipstick.

Since red lips are more of a statement than your average, nude lipstick, I highly recommend bringing a friend along while you scope the makeup counters at your local Sephora or department store.  It's hard to feel like any store associate will truly be honest with you.  Be sure to not put anything on your lips that day, besides a clear gloss for moisture (more tips about wearing red lipstick here).

If you are looking for a red lipstick with warm undertones, I was guided to the following:

Laura Mercier - Red Amour - considered a moisture-rich, "classic, neutral red".

Nars - Red Square - a warm, orange-red with a matte finish.  Rumor has it that it was also recommended by Jenna Lyons.

Bobbi Brown - Old Hollywood - one site recommended this color for those with warm skin undertones and light-colored hair.  Bobbi calls it a "bright, cherry red".  Made the Top 5 Red Lipstick lineup here.

You may also be interested in reading this basic tutorial about "how to wear red lipstick".  It's perfect for red lipstick virgins like myself and offers great tips.  And one other note, if you want to wear red lipstick into public, but are feeling a little unsure about doing so, try wearing it around the house first (or during an evening when you are staying in).  Sometimes it just takes a little time to get used to new things, even if it's something you are actively pursuing.

If you have any lip color recs or other tips, please chime in!  I loved all your comments on this other makeup post.  Did you know I took you up on a few of your recommendations?

image of the red lipstick I ended up going with...


Look for Less

• 15 January 2013

This dress caught my eye the other day (of course...it's striped!), during a quick jaunt downtown after the kiddos were snug in their beds.  There is something about black and white right now...I find myself attracted to this classic color combination in all forms (this + this included).  I made a mental note to come back and try the dress on when there was more time.

Shortly after, I spotted this designer dress in an email Piperlime sent to the masses (I have a love/hate relationship with those) and I did a double take.  While the designer version certainly looks more quality (more details, a more custom cut, etc.), if you want to save a few hundred bucks, the budget version is certainly worth a look-see.  It could be fun to layer the budget version with a chunky cardigan, since it's more fitted overall.  Note that the budget version is more high-waisted than the designer version, but both have the potential to flatter.

budget version   |   designer version

p.s.  you can find the blouse version here.

p.p.s. other looks for less here:  1   +   2


Winter Water Factory GIVEAWAY (Organic Clothing for Kiddos)

• 13 January 2013

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, then you know that I love to share special finds with you.  Today, it's simple, stylish, organic children's clothing from Winter Water Factory.  I've been a big fan of their clothing for awhile (even blogged about their onesies here a couple years ago) and would happily take one of everything on the site.  In fact, as you peruse the site you'll find something interesting--the boys clothing is as cute as the girls clothing!  When is the last time that happened?  Also, you'll definitely want to take a peek at Joy's collection (from Oh Joy!).  She created a handful of lovely pieces for little girls.

Today, blog sponsor Winter Water Factory, would like to offer one of you a $100 gift card.  And given the great sale taking place right now (40% off everything!!), you'll get some great leverage.  Since Winter Water Factory does not host sales very often, things are moving quickly on the site; so, stock up while you can and snag the pieces you really love.  If you're a mama, auntie, godmother, grandma or just an excellent gift giver, this annual sale presents an ideal opportunity for you.  Coupon code for Winter Water Factory Sale: "NEWYEAR40".

New to Winter Water Factory or just curious about their latest?  Here are a few links to get you started:

baby (the high seas romper is my favorite)   |   girlies (the mushroom hoodie dress is precious)  

boys (fab graphic tees)   |   women's dresses + tunics   |   oh joy! collection  (the gold + gray dress...)

Good luck and Happy Hunting~

Giveaway Guidelines

- You have 5 days to enter this giveaway (closes Friday, January 18th at midnight).
- Make 1 comment on this post to enter.
- Anonymous comments will not be considered, so please make sure we know who you are.
- The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced this weekend at the top of this post.  So make sure you peek back and see if you're the lucky one.  Thank you!


Clutter + the Modern Family

• 10 January 2013

This week I've been examining the rooms in our little cottage and pondering what I can take away from each individual space.  Although it feels like I've already rid our household of so much extraneous clutter, there is still more that needs attention (apparently this is an ongoing process and not so much a one-time gig...).  To me, less stuff not only produces a sense of calm, but more room for fun as well.  It seems that when we have less stuff, we don't have an opportunity to feel burdened by it; as there is less to clean up, less to visually exhaust your mind and more time to enjoy life.  And while decluttering won't cure all of your problems, it will certainly clear your thoughts and provide a fresh outlook on this new year ahead.

I am fascinated with a book that came out about six months ago, called Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors.  Hear and there I've read excerpts (mostly about clutter and mostly in the NYTimes), and curiosity has officially set in.  I'm considering ordering it as a coffee table book / conversation starter for a future dinner party...(New Year's Resolution #4, "entertain more often...").

Here are a few interesting findings from this 5-year UCLA study that allowed anthropologists a peek into the homes of 32 California families:

1.  Too Much Stuff.

For starters, "The U.S. has 3.1% of the world's children," says Jeanne Arnold, one of the coauthors, "but buys 40% of the world's toys".

2.  Elevated Stress Levels.

Managing the volume of possessions seemed to raise mother's stress hormones.  Dads?  Not so much.
"Fathers tended not even to notice the clutter," Arnold says.  "They focused on the projects they'd done."

3.  No Easy Fixes.

Except quit buying--and maybe turn off HGTV.  "The standard of the tidy home as a measure of sucess and well-being is reinforced by what we see on remodeling shows," says coauthor Anthony Graesch.  "That standard in and of itself is causing us stress."

So, what do you think?  Are you surprised at all or do you think this sampling represents most families?

all images by me


Beverly Jacobs: Stylist to the Moms of LA + Beyond

My dear (and very stylish) friend Beverly started her second career as a personal stylist well before she began offering her services professionally.  A family loaded with sisters, along with friends in need (like myself!), made for the perfect clients after she left her teaching position to begin a family with her husband in California.  Three children later, she still exhibits impeccable style, whilst perfectly navigating the line between budget and designer pieces.  On her blog, she'll openly and proudly share her latest Target find before advising what classic, timeless, handbag is worth stashing cash for this year.

I am so grateful she started blogging last year, as I've been begging her to do so for some time.  I've long felt that there are fantastic budget fashion blogs and of course, beautiful haute couture fashion blogs as well; but not a blog that straddled both worlds.  So, if you're wondering what the latest trends are, what colors Pantone chose for Spring 2013, or how to wear high top sneakers (yup...they are back in style if you can believe it), without leaving the comfort of your sofa, peruse Beverly's blog periodically.  You'll feel more fashionably confident just reading it!  As an added bonus, she posts often and always shares her sources :)

Note: Beverly is LA-based, so if you need someone to help you purge and then replenish your closet for the new year, she's your girl.  If you live afar, Beverly is happy to create look books for you and help you with anything that can be done virtually.  Her rate is reasonable and she works hard to make every hour count.  You can get familiar with her services here.

images via Beverly Jacobs' Lookbooks


Macarons in Mexico

• 08 January 2013

I cannot stop thinking about this cheerful, yet sophisticated packaging created by creative agency, Anagrama, for the Mexican macaron boutique, Bonnard.  Totally gorgeous.  And now I'm sort of feeling like splashing rich color on all sorts of things (which is actually timely since my daughter's art party is this weekend!).

via designer, Joanna Waterfall of Waterfall Creative


Menu of the Week

• 06 January 2013

While I am always planning meals for our family (saves money and time!), I haven't been good about sharing my discoveries in the kitchen with you as of late.  To those of you who appreciate those posts, I apologize for that!  I am someone who is always on the hunt for good, healthy, cost-effective meals to feed my family and I hope that by sharing some of my discoveries here, you too find practical ways to feed your families too.

Below I outlined our meals for last week (found a few keepers!), adding recipe notes and general fyi's.  You'll notice there are only 5 meals listed, as I always leave room for 2 meals that are either leftovers, takeout (the obvious favorite!) or "brupper"...the family term for 'breakfast for supper').  Click on "Read More" to view the rest of the post (it's chock full of details and therefore lengthy).  Enjoy!



• 01 January 2013

Today was the day.  That blessed one in January when my Christmas decor is carefully tucked away for next year (interior only...the exterior lights remain!), and that renewed calm, which always comes with decluttering, is once again restored.  While not all of my brood is happy about the nutcrackers coming down off the mantle (more than one of them remarked how "boring" our house looks now), I couldn't be more at peace with it all.

In fact, as I type this post, I am sitting on my couch observing my living room and how new it feels, despite the fact that nothing in it, is in fact "new".  However, the simple act of moving out the holiday accouterments and swapping out just one piece of wall art made my space feel a bit sparkly.  Feeling the onset of a hankering to purge and rearrange (does January do this to everyone?), I am secretly excited about the prospect of renewing my space without spending a dime.

Until some of my children go back to school next week, I am likely not going to accomplish anything worth reporting :) So, in the meantime I'd like to share with you three topics that are on my mind this January--ones I am planning to revisit myself.

Organize a Closet + Feel True Happiness  |  Jump Starting Personal Creativity  |  3 Closet-Organizing Tips

image via Luciano Scherer  ( I love the way he arranged this wall...makes me want to be a bit more adventurous with a hammer and a nail!)

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