Fancy Friday: Mint to Be

Welcome to my first ever Fancy Friday post! One of the things that makes me happiest is finding ways to elevate an everyday situation to feel truly special. Yes, some of my friends have called me extra as a result, but who cares. Paying attention to the details has always been my thing, and it helps amp up my ability to entertain. I’ll be sharing simple and attainable tips and tricks for making things feel fancy without much added effort on the blog (hopefully) each week.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen the incredibly awesome tiered planter that made a debut on my patio this season. It was a very thoughtful birthday gift from my best friends Joe & Laura last year. They gave it to me in May 2016 and it promptly sat in the box. All. Freaking. Summer. Mike and I were both swamped with work and traveling and we just didn’t have the time to dedicate to gardening the right way, so I resigned myself to being a complete gardening failure last year. Isn’t it nuts how our own negative thoughts can be the worst criticism? Ugh…

But when spring finally came again we both made a commitment to finally putting the planter to good use. (Read: we were prepping for my annual Cinco de Brieo birthday party when he suggested we finally put it together and I lost my mind because we had so much else to do excitedly agreed and jumped right in.) Needless to say, I was thrilled we finally made use of it early in the season to start a small veggie & herb garden.

I had no idea what I was doing. This is the first year I’ve really tried my hand at cultivating edible plants. So we chose a few of our favorite herbs and picked up three different types of tomato plants and two types of peppers and with a little sweat equity we were off to the races. My biggest piece of advice? Invest in a drip irrigation line! It’s a major time saver and it snaked easily through the tiers of the planter box. Mike handled this part of the project and once I saw it come together it was way less intimidating than it sounded. And all the necessary materials are available at your local home improvement store.

So, what has been the all star of my container garden so far? M-I-N-T! Mint. Mint. Mint. I’ve developed an obsession for this fragrant, hardy and fast-growing plant. After a juice cleanse and a whole hearted attempt at doing the Whole 30 (more to come on that) since the summer started, I was looking for no-calorie ways to amp up food and drinks, and mint was it.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use mint to make life a bit fancier:

Sweet Potato Toast with Almond Butter, Smashed Blueberries & Mint (Whole 30 compliant)

Take a sweet potato and slice it into several thin slices. You want them to be thin enough to crisp up in a toaster by not so small to fall through the grates. I don’t have exact measurements, so I recommend experimenting to see what’s best for you. Put two slices in the toaster on the highest setting. You’ll need to put it back in two or three times to get the right level of crispiness/warmth. I liked mine when it was warmed all the way through and slightly blackened on the outside. Once toasted, smear a tablespoon of almond butter on each piece. Smash a few tablespoons of blueberries in a bowl and spread on top of almond butter. Then top with julienned mint. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not on Whole 30, adding a bit of honey or agave to the blueberries would sweeten it up a bit, but it’s not necessary.

Coconut Mojito Mocktail (Whole 30 compliant)

Cutting out fun stuff like alcohol, cheese and desserts was hard during my Whole 30 program. When I stumbled on this recipe for a Coconut Mojito Mocktail I knew I had to try it. I’m pretty sure I used too much fresh lime juice (hello, sour citrus) but it was still delicious. For looking fancy, it came together quickly and was super easy.

“Spa Water” with Lemon, Cucumber and Mint

Summer is a great time to try and increase your water intake. Drinking “fancy” water (either sparkling or flat) with lemon wedges, slices of cucumber and muddled mint was a way for me to treat myself and help change my habits during Whole 30, and it’s something I’ve continued because I love it so much. I keep all the ingredients prepped and ready in the fridge and it’s become a fun ritual in the morning to make my spa water for the day. I use a stainless steel tumbler so all I need to do is keep adding water throughout the day. It’s the perfect way to stay hydrated while feeling like you’re doing something special for yourself.

What are your favorite ways to feel fanciful? What have you been harvesting from your home grown garden?

 

 

Living Room Refresh

The “house tour” section of my blog is woefully out of date. It’s so funny to scroll through those photos and realize how far my house has come in the last few years. Old photos help me appreciate all the time and energy I’ve spent turning my house into a home since we moved here in March 2013 (shortly after we married). We were lucky enough to score a short sale at a bargain price and scrape enough money together for a very small down payment. And my favorite DIY project to date began as we started transforming the house room by room.

Here’s the living room soon after we moved in.

Not the worst room I’ve ever seen, but looking back at that photo makes me cringe so hard.

Fast forward through four years, three couches, two area rugs and countless gallery wall attempts and the living room reflects my personal style now more than ever. It’s as close to feeling finished as ever. Part bohemian and part elegant with a dash of cozy and a hint of quirky is the best way to describe my style. I’m instantly drawn to anything with a tribal print like kilim or ikat — especially if it features an array of saturated hues. I’m a sucker for color, but a steady foundation of greige (a neutral shade of trendy gray mixed with *gasp* traditional beige) is the common thread keeping it all feel grounded.

Here’s a view from a similar angle of what the room looks like today.

So. Much. Better. Psst… see my little pup hiding behind the coffee table? His fur matches my color palette, but I swear that was a happy accident. 🙂

Here’s a more straight on view. This is what you see at the back of the house when you walk in through the front door, so it’s the first impression visitors get when they walk in.

Loloi’s gorgeous new Javari rug in Berry/Sunrise is the foundation of this room. It was certainly a splurge but I’m at a place where I’m ready to start investing in key pieces and this rug was love at first sight. I’m so happy I pulled the trigger and I’m thrilled with the quality and softness of this rug. Two thumbs WAY up!

The light gray fabric of the Paidge sofa (fabric: performance velvet; color: stone) and rich brown of the Henry power recliner (fabric: top-grain leather; color: tobacco) are similar tones to the rug and I love the way they all came together. Both are from West Elm and, like the rug, were investment pieces — so I went with neutral, durable fabrics that will have longevity. Did I mention this is my third couch in four years? It needs to stick around for a while.

Rounding out the seating area are two modern slipper chairs. The size and scale allow them to float in a high traffic area without making it feel too crowded. These are from Target’s budget-friendly Threshold line and at $129 each they helped balance the cost of the pricier pieces without sacrificing style. The color is called pepper and they throw a navy hue (not black) in person which adds a nice hint of color without competing with the rug.

Three cheers for finally seeing this room come together. It’s such a good feeling! What home-related projects have you tackled lately that make you take a deep, soothing breath when you look at them? What rooms are next on your to do list?

 

Is this thing on?

Whew, it’s been a while (ahem… more than two years) since I’ve updated here. I started this blog for a few different reasons. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback in my personal life and on social media about my home decor and party planning posts — and I wanted to expand on those social snippets to tell a bigger story. With a background in PR, marketing and social media I also had the know how to start a blog (for the most part). The one thing I didn’t have in 2013 was the confidence to truly put myself out there with the potential for negative feedback. For people to criticize me as anonymous followers often do. For someone to think I’m… *gasp* not perfect.

I’ve strived for perfection my entire life. That inner drive is what lead me to accomplish some amazing things at the ripe old age of 29, and it also made me terribly critical of myself (probably more so than any anonymous follower ever could be). But with 30 just around the corner it’s time to shake things up. It’s time to own my opinions and have courage to be who I am. It’s time to take risks and truly chase my dreams. It’s time to realize what I thought my life would become may not be how it ends up, and that’s okay. It’s time to stop trying to be perfect and start being real (and hopefully help inspire others to do the same along the way).

I’m blogging again. But this time my goals are different. I don’t have unrealistic expectations of what “should” be. The word “should” always gets in the way for me. The thought of what I “should” do or how perfection “could” look if only I work hard enough isn’t going to stop me from trying anymore. This blog is going to evolve with me, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s perfect.

 

Christmas Card Fail

It has rained every weekend since Thanksgiving so we haven’t been able to get a Christmas tree yet. We wanted to get it last weekend — rain. Tried again this weekend — even more rain. Ugh!

Last year, it happened to snow early in the season. We already had our colorful Christmas lights up along the fence so we ran outside, grabbed them and snapped this cute photo for our card. It’s one of my favorite shots of us. Can you believe we took this ourselves — selfie style?

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So this year the pressure is on to snap an even better photo. Ideally I’d like to get a shot of us at the garden center picking out our Christmas tree. The evergreens would make an awesome background on a holiday card.

I’m anxious to get our cards ordered so I decided to try and take a photo inside before we ventured out into the rain (and humidity struck) on Saturday.

It didn’t work. First the olive print was half in the background. And it just looked too busy.

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I took the print down to snap a shot with our plain tan wall in the background, but I didn’t like how these photos were clearly a poor attempt at a selfie.

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Then things just got silly…

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Wish us luck on snapping a more charming photo for our Christmas card this year. 🙂

Fa la la la Living Room

I’m continuing this week’s tour of Christmas decor in my house with a peek at the living room where I’ve decked the halls with red, green and silver accents.
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I mixed some of my old favorites with a few new pieces this year to make the room feel extra festive.
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I splurged on a pair of green and white houndstooth pillows that coordinate with my table runner in the dining room. The couch is the first thing that draws your eye in when you walk through the front door so I focused my attention there this year. A trio of new pillows, glittery garland and DIY holiday-themed art transformed this spot for Christmas. My couch and rug are so neutral that it’s easy to change the look of the room by switching up a few accent pieces and swapping out the yellow pillows for green. My strategy for decorating the living room was to take away yellow and replace it with green which complemented my existing red accents nicely.

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A few silver accents go a long way to make this space feel Christmas-y, too. I found this wreath made of silver, vintage-looking ornaments that I placed on a tray on the coffee table as a statement piece. When we put the tree up it will make my large silver ornaments really pop.

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Silver also makes a statement atop my entertainment center where a bevy of glass Christmas trees in a variety of sizes add interest to this side of the room. I treat my entertainment center as if it were my fireplace mantel (because I’ve always wanted one). It’s one of my favorite decorations in the whole house and I love how it turned out.

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Last but certainly not least is the stairway where I draped the same glittery garland down the banister and secured it with some red and green striped ribbon. I like the fact that you can see the ribbon holding up the garland and I think it gives the banister added character.

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And with that, the tour of our indoor Christmas decorations is complete. Next up I’ll share with you my Christmas tree and our display of lights outside. Also, look out for a new vlog with a video tour of our Christmas decorations which will give you a better feel for the layout of the space!

Red, green and… Copper?

When it comes to Christmas decor I don’t play favorites. Red, green, white, silver and gold all have a place in my home for the holidays. This year I added a small splash of a new metallic tone to the mix — copper.
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My husband’s favorite holiday drink is the Moscow Mule which is traditionally served in frigid copper mugs. The bright hue was the inspiration for my dining room sideboard this Christmas season. It makes a bold statement and a little goes a long way so I paired it with some rose gold pieces, deep reds and classic greens for a playful holiday look.

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Take a closer look at my DIY Noel sign.

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I used the cover art from another pretty notebook as the background with a metal “Noel” ornament (both from Target) on top for a custom piece that goes perfectly with my color scheme. I nabbed that rose gold Nicole Miller frame and Earth & Vine cocktail mixer at Marshall’s a few weeks ago.

Here’s a closer look at the rest of the dining room:

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I’m really excited about how the dining room turned out this year. Have I mentioned how much I love that preserved boxwood wreath? Vern Yip’s go-to decoration for December in HGTV Magazine was preserved boxwoods because they look like real/living plants and are maintenance free. I got the wreath from Target last year but I spotted it in the store again this season along with a smaller version.

More photos of my living room are in the works and I still have to trim the tree, so more to come!

DIY Target Felt Wreath Hack

I’d like to start this post by saying my husband is both a genius and a saint. A genius because he suggested we take off of work from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday and a saint because he agreed to sit home with me for three straight days while we decorated the entire exterior and interior of our home for Christmas — save for the tree.
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If you know my husband Mike you know he suffers from something my Mommom likes to call “gas ass” (I do too in all fairness) and our social calendar is eternally full. But we spent most of the ENTIRE weekend at home and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house.

With no time constraints holding me back I had a great time DIYing three felt wreaths for my kitchen and powder room. I bought the wreaths at Target a few weeks ago with the thought that I’d cut them apart into separate pieces and use two of them on my kitchen cabinets. This is what I started with:

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First I snipped the burlap holding the wreaths together to separate them.

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Then I snipped these glitter pinecones off of the tri-pick they came in (also from Target.)

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Then I hot glued the pine cones to the wreath, followed by a few white berries.

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I knew I wanted to hang the wreaths from my kitchen cabinets so I hot glued a piece of ribbon to each one. In the meantime I had hung command strips on the inside of the cabinets upside down where I would hang the wreaths from for a clean look.

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Ta da! Here’s the finished product. Very festive! My kitchen is the first room you see when you walk in the front door so I wanted it to feel just as Christmas-y as the rest of the house.

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I hung the paper banner I made last year over the window and weaved a garland through the wrought iron swirls of my vintage ice cream parlor table to give the whole kitchen a festive feel.

With two of the wreaths in the kitchen, I figured the third would be perfect in the powder room across the hall. I added the same pine cones and white berries but wanted to give it some extra oomph. I bought some gorgeous notebooks (also at Target) a few months ago because I loved the cover art but never found a place to put them. Something in my brained clicked and I thought — custom art and paper flowers!

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I just cut out a square piece of the notebook cover to fit my existing frame and cut out the remaining flowers to hot glue onto the wreath. How cute?!

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Here’s how the rest of the powder room turned out:

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I love how both rooms feel holiday ready without screaming red and green! As excited as I am at how the kitchen and powder room turned out — I’m even more excited about the dining room. Stay tuned for more Christmas decorating fun coming this week!

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you’re enjoying your family, friends, loved ones and pets today.

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Yup, that’s me many Thanksgivings ago. I feel so blessed the word thankful doesn’t feel like enough. As someone in the later half of my 20s I’m amazed by how much I learn and grow year over year. It becomes easier to understand what makes my family tick, why I am the way I am and why the people in my life (both near and far) are so important to me.

In the age of “busy” it’s not easy to stop and take a minute to tune out the digital distractions and tune into you and your family. Among all the holiday chaos today I hope you have the chance to enjoy whatever it is you’re thankful for.

Cheers to the good food, warm hugs and funny stories you’ll share today. I hope you’re able to relax and take it all in.

Autumn Dinner Party

You’re cordially (virtually) invited to my autumn dinner party…

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I hosted a small dinner party for six a few weeks ago to toast the season and informally celebrate my BFF Laura’s birthday. The table setting was one of my best so I decided it was too good not to share.

You probably won’t be surprised to see succulents gracing the table. I used some purple and cream echeveria cuttings paired with seeded eucalyptus and leafy foliage to create a natural centerpiece.

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And some smaller cream succulent rosettes graced the napkins.

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I spent an embarrassing amount of time cutting out some leaf place cards by hand.

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With only four guests (six including my husband and I) place cards weren’t necessary but they added a touch of whimsy to the table. I’ve read that giving your guests a reserved spot at the table eases the worry of where to sit and I think there’s something to be said for that.

We planned to have a fire outside after dinner so I used candles and ornamental kale to give the back yard a more festive fall feel.

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You can easily recreate the rustic candle holders with two terracotta pots, two cylindrical glass vases and some green preserved moss. I’ve had them on my table for the past few weeks through all sorts of weather and they still look great.

I even spruced up the powder room with two stems of succulent rosettes and some extra seeded eucalyptus in a clear vase. Small touches like this are easy and they help make your home feel extra special for your guests.

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On to the important part –the food! I served the meal in four courses to be a little fancy shmancy.

We had acorn squash soup.

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I didn’t use a recipe to make this and just sort of flew by the seat of my pants. I roasted the squash cut side down in a 400 degree oven (smothered in olive oil, sea salt and cinnamon) for an hour until it got nice and soft. I sautéed some garlic in a large Dutch oven and scooped the squash into after it had a chance to cool. Then I added some chicken broth, stirred and let it summer for about 30 minutes. After adding some salt, pepper and a little cream I puréed it with an immersion blender and it was ready to serve! For an added touch I topped it with a few springs of fried sage and roasted pumpkin seeds. Yum!

The second course was a delicious fall salad made with spring mix topped with dried cherries, pomegranate seeds, Gorgonzola, red onion and pumpkin seeds dressed with a lite Italian vinaigrette.

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Next was the main course — prosciutto sautéed Brussels sprouts and stuffed chicken breasts. I got both of these recipes from Skinnytaste. You can find them here and here.

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And to top it all off I made gingerbread tiramisu for dessert served with espresso. I used my friend Laura’s recipe because it’s AMAZING and the flavors scream fall (hello pumpkin pie spice and gingersnaps). You can get it here.

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I opted to serve the tiramisu in individual vintage punch glasses for an extra special touch. They took a little more prep before the party but were super easy to grab out of the fridge and go when it was time for dessert. Laura’s recipe made 10 of these little guys so I had some left over. I wasn’t mad about it.

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It was a very special night and we all decided we should have formal, fancy dinners more often. Maybe I’ll host another for the holidays? Or to combat the winter blues in January? Who knows, but I hope it’s soon!

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Just remember the most important thing is to make your guests feel welcome and relaxed so don’t try anything outside of your comfort zone for a dinner party setting. Rely on your favorite recipes and think of a way to elevate them — like serving dessert in punch cups instead of bowls. Little touches go a long way when you’re entertaining. Now go call your friends and invite them to dinner! 🙂

Sunday Football Baked Potato Bar

Sundays for me mean two things: football and good food. Today we’re hanging out at Mike’s Uncle’s house to watch the Eagles game.

When we get together at Uncle Brian’s we each bring something yummy and always else up having some sort of epic meal. Seafood lasagna, antipasto, steak, fresh caught perch and homemade meatballs to name a few.

Today, we’re having prime rib (!!!) so I decided to make a baked potato bar to go with it.

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For the potatoes, I simply scrubbed them, poked a ton of holes in the skin, rubbed them with almond oil to lend a nice nutty flavor and sprinkled the skin with course sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I put them right on the rack in a 350 degree oven for 75 minutes. They were done a bit early so I turned off the oven and left them in there for an additional 30 minutes and they got nice and soft inside and crispy outside without burning.

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I threw together a fixin’s bar using my glass chips-and-dip platter with sour cream, butter, chopped bacon, finely chopped chives and shredded cheddar cheese. Everything you could possibly want to top your spuds!

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Now it’s time to eat. I hope you get the chance to relax and enjoy your family today.

Go EAGLES!! 🙂