House Tour Part Two

I took you on a tour of the first floor of our townhouse in this post a week or so ago, and it’s time to take a tour of the upstairs. Our home has three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, as well as a laundry closet in the hallway – hooray for not having to climb stairs to do wash! Without further adieu, let’s start the second part of this tour, shall we?

The stairs to the second floor are across from our dining room sort of in the middle of our home. I love having a split staircase with an oversized window to brighten up the upstairs hallway. Isn’t it a pretty window? It’s one of the things I loved about this house when we first looked at it.

StairsWhen you reach the top of the stairs our master bedroom is directly on your right, the office is on the left, and the laundry closet, guest bedroom and guest bathroom are straight ahead down the hall. The washer and dryer are hidden behind bi-fold doors. I think the laundry closet has a lot more potential to be super functional and even kind of cute, so that’s a project I want to tackle this winter. I’m thinking some fun paint could really make this small space pop.

Hall and Laundry Closet

Just before the laundry closet at the top of the stairs is our master bedroom. A walk-in closet and a master bath round out our master suite. It’s a really great space for us and we think it’s pretty large for a townhouse.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom 2

Bed Pillows

Night Stand
My night stand.

Vanity

The door to our master bathroom is just beyond the TV across from my vanity.

Master Bathroom

Master Bathroom 2

Across the hall from our master bedroom is our office. This space sort of doubles as Mike’s ‘man cave,’ too. We have some of his favorite knick knacks, bobble heads and awards/plaques as well as our college degrees on display in here. Mike uses the big desktop Mac to edit his vlogs and I hang out on the wingback chair when I’m working on the blog. There’s a huge window in this room so it’s really bright in there during the day. We love it!

Office

Keepsake Collage

Wingback Chair

Book Shelf

Book Shelf Close Up

Our guest bedroom is just down the hall from the office. We’re excited to finally have a place for guests to come and stay the night, and it’s already gotten quite a bit of use! I think it’s a pretty cozy space if I do say so myself.

Guest Bedroom

Dresser Top

Bureau

The last room in our upstairs is the guest bathroom. This is one of the only rooms in the house with colorful walls – they’re mint green. I paired the soft mint green walls with tangerine to help make the white tile and grey tub and toilet pop. We used the art in our bedroom in the old apartment and it happened to work perfectly in here. Score!

Guest Bathroom

Guest Shower

There you have it – our upstairs! We have a lot left to do up here, like upgrading the bathrooms and finishing some painting projects, and I’ll be sure to capture any upgrades on the blog as we go.

Pickle Martinis

Last Saturday night was an increasingly rare chance for us to let loose and have fun in the city. We love heading to Philly to have dinner at some of the great restaurants, but we’ve left the bar scene behind us for the most part – except for when Luke Elliot and His Band are playing. Yup, that’s the name of my good friend Dan’s band. He’s the drummer, and he also happens to be one of Mike’s good friends. Oh, and did I mention Mike and I introduced him to one of my best friends Brittany and they’ve been together for a few years now? Yup, we can add matchmaker to our long list of talents. ūüėČ But anyway, about that pickle martini I tried Saturday night for the first time…

Pickle Martini

While the band was rocking the house, Britt suggested we order pickle martinis to try something new in the spirit of a fun night out. Of course I was game! It was like no other drink I’ve tried. I swear it tasted just like a Wawa Italian hoagie, and immediately knew I wanted to recreate it at home. After researching a variety of recipes, I landed on one that I thought would have a little less ‘hoagie’ taste. The straight-from-the-deli version I tried on Saturday was fun as a novelty drink, but it wasn’t really something I’d make a staple in my repertoire.

Below is the recipe I came up with. Note, this recipe is for two martinis, and these are the ingredients/glassware I used to make my martinis.

Pickle Martini Ingredients

Pickle Martini

Ingredients

  • 5 oz gin
  • 2 oz pickle juice
  • 1 oz vermouth
  • 2 small pickles (for garnish)

Process

Pour gin, pickle juice and vermouth into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about a minute. Skewer a small dill pickle on a swizzle stick and place one in each martini glass. Pour half of cocktail mixture into each glass. Voila, it’s that simple!

Pickle Martini with Vermouth

I thought this could be an unusual, savory drink to serve at a holiday get together. What neat drink recipes have you stumbled upon lately? Would you give pickle martinis a try?

Just Call Us the Griswolds

Can you tell by the theme of my posts this week that I’m in full holiday prep mode? If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know we may have gone overboard in our recent shopping trips for outdoor Christmas decorations for the new house…

Christmas Haul

We have enough lights, garland, ornaments and bows to decorate the entire block. Okay, well, maybe not. But we did go a little crazy. Mike and I both love the holiday season and we’re having a blast buying decorations for the new house. It’s a thrill to finally have a home to decorate! Our motto is, “divide the cost by all the years we’ll be putting these to good use.” Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Let’s take a closer look at what we bought to (hopefully) achieve the look we have planned for the outside of our house. I did a ton of searching (both online and in stores) for the perfect wreath to adorn both the front and side of our house. Our home is on a corner lot and exposed on three sides, so we’re planning to decorate more than just the front view. None of the wreaths that fit my budget were quite right, so I decided to buy unadorned, non-lit wreaths and style them myself (hello, future blog post). I can’t wait to get these babies put together to share the final product with you! Here’s the base wreaths that I purchased for around $15 a piece.

Wreaths

And after some more search and planning, these are the decorations I went with to decorate them.

Wreath Decorations

Notice the ‘G’ from my post last week? I told you I wanted to sneak it into my holiday decor! I played around with these decorations after we got home from shopping last night to give you an idea of what I’m envisioning.

Test Wreath

Like I said, the wreath above is no where near final, I just wanted to lay everything out to see if I liked how the pieces were all coming together. I’m hoping to hang the wreaths in the window with a spotlight shining on each one. I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

We also purchased a ton of lights and garland to adorn the outside of our home. One of my favorite things that Mike found were these red and green Edison bulb light strands. I’m obsessed with the festive, vintage feel these have and I can’t wait to see them go up. Mike really wanted some sort of colored bulbs out front and I was struggling to figure out a way to pull everything together – especially since traditional colored light strands include non-traditional colors like purple, yellow and orange. I think these lights will add color without looking too visually overwhelming. What a great find!

Edison Bulb Light Strand

Mike also wanted to wrap the three trees in our front/side yard with lights, so we picked up three 300-bulb packs of mini lights to wrap the trunks and we’ll hang these oversized red and green ornaments from the branches for an extra special touch.

Oversized Ornaments

Finally, we’ll give the look a finishing touch by putting these candles in the front and side windows of our home to give it a soft glow. We decided not to line the house in lights for safety reasons (neither of us are interested in climbing on a high ladder or a roof) so I think these candles will add some sparkle instead.

Window Candles

There you have it! A sneak peek of all the stuff we got in our two-night marathon of shopping trips in preparation for the big Christmas decoration bonanza that’ll be happening at our house during the weekend after Thanksgiving (if we can hold out that long). How are you guys planning for the upcoming holiday season? Any outdoor decorating tips to share before we get started?

DIY Christmas Tree Garland

Happy Monday! I had a pretty leisurely weekend catching up with friends and family, so I wanted to squeeze in some time to do a Christmas craft in preparation for our holiday decorating bonanza that will be happening over the next few weekends. I made a cute paper bunting as a decoration for our housewarming party, and I loved the look of it so much I left it up until a few weeks ago – well past the date of the party. I wanted to bring back the look of the bunting but give it a holiday flair, so I used the same technique to make this Christmas tree garland.

DIY Christmas Tree Garland

My first step was to search for a simple Christmas tree image to print out and use as a template. After a quick search I found this sweet, rounded Christmas tree that was meant to be a coloring page for kids. The simplicity was exactly what I was looking for, so I printed it and cut it out to get started. Though I loved the star on top, it just wasn’t practical for this craft so I had to cut it off.

Template

Next up was choosing the scrapbook paper to make the garland out of. I bought a book of Christmas-themed paper a few years ago so I just thumbed through it until I found the look I wanted. I chose four coordinating patterns to give the garland a little variety while keeping it easy on the eyes. It’s visually interesting without being too busy.

Scrapbook Paper¬†With the paper chosen it was time to trace my template onto the back of each page. I traced three Christmas trees on each page for a total of twelve trees. The finished garland came out to be about two feet long, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing how many trees to cut out.

Tracing

When all your trees are cut out it’s time to punch a small hole in the top where you’ll thread the twine through. I recommend punching a few test holes into the template tree first so you don’t ruin one of your hard-earned trees with a poorly placed hole punch.

Hole Punch

One of the added benefits of a craft project like this is the confetti that results from punching holes into cute craft paper. Check it out! I’m saving this as I go because I can definitely see this looking adorable in a confetti balloon or strewn across a table at a party. This is about three projects worth of confetti so it will be a while before I have enough to use for a party – but you could always make your own by punching wholes throughout a few pieces of scrapbook paper. I don’t think it’d take you very long, either.

Confetti

Anyway, back to the garland. We’re almost done! Now it’s time to string the trees onto your twine. I recommend threading the twin trough the back of the whole twice so the twin wraps around each side of the hole giving it more stability. If you only thread it through once your tree will turn more to one side and your garland won’t look very good from straight on. This is a pretty tedious step too, but once you have your twine threading down pat it moves more quickly.

Twine

The beauty of this project is that the twine holds the Christmas trees in place so you don’t have to go through the extra step and added cost of adhering them (though you can if you want). To hang the garland, I simply wrap the ends of the twine around a thumb tack and push it into the wall. I’m eventually planning to hang this over my mirror in the dining room so you won’t be able to see the thumb tacks at all, but it doesn’t photograph well so I pinned it up on the half wall leading into my kitchen to give you an idea of what it looks like hanging.

There you have it! DIY Christmas tree garland that’s as easy to make as it is on your budget. I actually had all these materials on hand, so this custom garland project only cost me $0. I’m hoping to do some more Christmas crafts on the blog leading up to the holiday. What about you? Have you gotten crafty with your holiday preparations? Do you have a traditional holiday craft that you make every year?

Romantic Dinner

If you caught my post yesterday, you know it’s been a trying week in the Genovese household. To top it off, Mike had to head to his company’s North Jersey office on just a few hours sleep (we’re always up late working) so Thursday was a long day. I was working from home yesterday, so when the clock struck 5 I shut down my laptop and took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to commute home by putting together a nice little surprise for Mikey to come home to. I figured a special weeknight dinner would be just the thing we needed to relax after a long week.

Romantic Dinner

I started with a special table setting using some of the flowers that were still going strong from Laura’s birthday dinner. I put together a few candles and threw in a sparkly ‘G’ that I got a few months ago from Michael’s to round out the centerpiece (I’m hoping to incorporate the ‘G’ into our holiday decor). I added some Tahari napkins I purchased on clearance at T.J. Maxx¬†to tie in with the color of the ‘G’ for an extra special touch, and aerated some of our favorite wine in a decanter to go with dinner. Here’s a closer look.

Table Setting

Napkins

Centerpiece

And here it is with the candles lit. The ‘G’ was shedding glitter all over the table. I didn’t mind. You’ll notice some similarities to my last dinner party, but this setup was much more simple.

Candle Light

I’ve been on a ‘let’s use up everything in the freezer and pantry’ kick to save a little money on our grocery bill, and I didn’t have time to go to the store – so I got resourceful with the menu. After taking a quick inventory of the meat we had in the freezer (we were running a little low) I decided to go all-in and make oven slow roasted ribs. We had purchased them over the summer on a really good sale and never used them, so I figured why not? I knew Mike would love it and it’d be a special treat since we rarely have ribs. I had just enough time (2 hours) before he’d be home to get them roasted to perfection. Pumpkin cornbread muffins and creamed spinach rounded out the meal.

I followed this recipe for the ribs, and they came out amazing! Two hours of slow roasting with a brown sugar chili rub and a quick basting with BBQ sauce followed by a few minutes under the broiler to crisp them up – and these babies turned out perfectly. This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried for ribs, so I definitely recommend it. Check out a close up of the finished product.

Slow Roasted Ribs

I also loved the pumpkin cornbread muffin recipe. I got the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit based on what I had on hand. Here’s a look at the ingredients I used.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins Ingredients

Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, adapted from Nancy Creative. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ¬†1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal (using a whisk to blend these ingredients works well); after blending ingredients well, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then stir in the pumpkin puree, canola oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full of batter).

Bake CORNBREAD MUFFINS at 375 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not over-bake, or muffins will be too dry and may brown on the bottom).

I’m Thankful for a Warm Home

It’s been very chilly around here this week. And I’m not just talking about the 30 degree temperatures outside. I’m talking about getting home early on Tuesday night (which if you know anything about my daily commute, you know that’s a miracle) and finding out that our gas had been turned off. Night = ruined. No bueno.

Let me back up. As I explained in my post yesterday, Mike and I bought our house as a short sale back in March. Short sales are a great investment, but they’re also a lot of work. After we made an offer we had to RUSH to get our inspections done quickly. But there was one huge hurdle in our way – the utilities were turned off. Yes, we toured the cold, dark house with no electricity or gas.

This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone's flash.
This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone’s flash.

In order to protect our investment and ensure we weren’t buying a total money pit the utilities had to be reinstated for a proper inspection. I must be addicted to being crazy busy all the time, because we had a vacation to Florida planned for the exact same week we were doing inspections and finalizing the contract. I totally remember calling the utility companies from the airport making arrangements to get them turned back on. Talk about hectic.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. When I walked up to my door and saw the note from South Jersey Gas stuffed in it, my heart dropped. I immediately knew I had made a huge mistake. In that moment I realized we never received a gas bill – since March. Mike takes care of most of our bills, so I had always assumed he had it on auto pay like all the others. He thought I was taking care of it. Panic ensued, and it was cold in my house. The temperature had already dropped to 60. Crap.

I immediately dialed the number on the letter to right the situation. I figured I could just call, explain the mistake, and they could flip a switch and the gas would be flowing again. Oh, the naiveness of a new homeowner.

The gas company didn’t answer the phone. Yes, you read that right. No answer. Even more panic ensued. How could they not answer? How could their automated customer service line just hang up? I kept calling back and each time a robot woman said, “We apologize but we’re experiencing higher than average call volumes. Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back. Otherwise, try again later. Goodbye.”

I called back, pressed 1, and robot woman said, “To schedule a call back this evening, press 1.”

I pressed 1.

Robot woman said, “A call back this evening isn’t an option. To schedule a call back on Friday, November 15, press 1.”

FRIDAY?! It was Tuesday. “I can’t go without heat or hot water until FRIDAY,” I thought.

I kept calling.

You can image the level of panic in my house at this point. If you know my husband, you know he’s got a flair for the dramatic in a tense situation. The guy who has the air conditioning on when it’s 75 degrees was suddenly shivering in our 60 degree house. I was digging out my Uggs from the back of the closet and furiously robo-dialing the gas company. Chopping onions to make my veggie quiche all the while with my bluetooth in my ear. I wasn’t going to let my dinner get screwed up, too.

I finally got through to a customer service representative who told me it’d be two days until we got our gas back on. I didn’t believe her. The Taurus in me started coming out. I’m usually pretty good with these customer service reps. My PR job helps me be firm yet nice on the road to getting my way. I worked as a telemarketer in college so I always feel bad for people in customer service. It’s not their fault. But after making 10 calls and waiting on hold for more than 20 minutes before getting a live person on the phone, my patience was wearing very thin.

“It looks like someone else’s name is linked to your property’s account and they’ve been getting your bills,” she said. “You need to fax us your settlement sheet and photo ID. Then we can set you up with a new account and you can pay your past due balance in cash. And then we can turn your service back on.”

Fine. I was ready and willing to pay the balance and get this over with. But I knew it’d be a chilly night because it was already 7:30 and their customer service department closed at 8, and I don’t have a fax machine. Double crap.

Wednesday morning I rushed to FedEx Kinkos before work and faxed the proof of residence. The woman assured me if I faxed the documents first thing I’d be able to get my service restored in the same day, I just had to call back and let them know I had sent the fax. Easy as pie.

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted her. 12 calls. I’m not exaggerating here. 12 calls and a 20 minute wait later and I finally had someone live to tell them about my fax. She had this bitchy, “It’s not my fault you’re the idiot that didn’t realize you weren’t getting a gas bill” attitude that made me feel 2 inches tall. I knew it was going to be a shitty day. If only I could just get the gas back on, it’d be worth it. I left the house with the dog wearing his winter coat. It was 58 when I left. Poor Cody.

We went through the usual rigamarole and I held on five more times before she told me I’d have to go to one of their payment centers in person by 2 PM to pay the past due balance in cash for any chance of having my service restored that day. I felt like I was a part of some sort of extortion ring. Thank god Mike’s office is only 10 minutes away from the nearest payment center. We could comply to their crazy demands – 30+ calls later.

So many calls.
So many calls.

The paperwork was faxed. The bill was paid. Heat had to be just around the corner, right? We were thinking of ‘Plan B’ just in case. Mike would shower at the gym and I would go old school and heat up water on the stove to pour in my bath tub to take a bath. Yeah, great ideas. But I was still holding out hope that we’d get the heat back on. Time to make another round of calls to the gas company. I finally got through, and got the news I was hoping not to hear. No one would be coming out to turn on the gas until Thursday. Nooooo…

At this point I was so down trodden that I just accepted it. Plan B it was. “How many pots of hot water would I need to fill the tub,” I thought. I shuddered just thinking about it. But Mike wasn’t taking no for an answer. He took to the company’s Facebook with a lengthy complaint about his shivering pup Cody and his worry that our pipes were going to freeze if we had to go another night without heat (I told you – flair for the dramatic). I was sure a company that couldn’t get their automated answering service right would ignore a complaint on Facebook, but it worked! Within a few minutes Mike got a call saying our house was put on the list to have service restored today. HUZZAH! He did it! I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have to make a pit stop for space heaters on the way home.

9 o’clock rolled around and there was no sign of the gas company worker. We thought we had been punked. That it was all a big joke and the gas company was going to call us and say, “SIKE, SUCKAS! NO HEAT FOR YOU!” I decided to make one last call to the gas company to check in. It was after hours so I assumed no one would answer, but someone did – and he said, “Actually, I think our guy is outside right now.” It couldn’t be! There he was in our driveway. VICTORY! Within a few minutes our gas was back on and the heat was flowing. What a sweet sound – the unusually-loud buzzing from our old heater coming from the utility closet. WE MADE IT THROUGH.

...and that doggy in the window
…and that doggy in the window

Needless to say, we’re having our 20+ year old heater serviced to make sure it will get us through the winter. In the end, I think this was a very important lesson for us both to learn. Both for our marriage and our life in general. We learned how much better life is when we work as a team, and we learned how easy it is to take something as simple as heat for granted. Mike and I live a pretty blessed life, and it’s important for us to remember that always. This year when we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table I know we’ll both be thanking our lucky stars for this beautiful life we’ve built together. I’m thankful that we have a home to heat, and I’m thankful that I have a husband who cares for our household so well that I assumed he was taking care of the bill without being asked. Sometimes life throws us these curveballs to say, “Hey, WAKE UP and appreciate what you have!” I’m listening, life, and I hear you loud and clear.

House Tour Part One

My husband Mike and I purchased our first home in March 2013, and we’ve been making it our own ever since. The house was a short sale and it definitely needed some TLC. We’ve painted nearly every square inch of wall, ceiling, trim and door in the place in addition to replacing the carpeting upstairs and ripping out dingy carpeting in the downstairs living room in favor of more dog-friendly laminate. We also took down a glitter-tastic popcorn ceiling that spanned the entire downstairs. I’m very proud of the updates we’ve made to our abode and I plan to blog from time to time about home decor (it’s a passion of mine) so I figured I’d give you a lay of the land. The first phase of our virtual home tour covers the downstairs floor of our two-story townhouse. Here we go!

Welcome to Casa Genovese (fondly known by many of our friends as ‘The G-Spot’ thanks to my husband’s wicked sense of humor). Here’s the view as soon as you walk in the front door. The kitchen is at the front of the house (to the left) with a door to a half bath and another to our pantry/garage to the right. You can see straight through to the living room from here.

EntryThis is our kitchen. It’s the most colorful room in the house. I chose to paint it a vibrant red/coral color that plays really well with the cabinets. The bright color works in here because of the floor length windows that bathe the room in sunlight. Eventually we’d like to install a backsplash to kick it up a notch, but this kitchen has come a long way from what it looked like when we bought it. Two words: wallpaper border. Ugh! Thank goodness it’s gone.

Bay Windows

Fridge

Cabinets

SinkA downstairs half bath is one of three bathrooms in our house. I chose to amp up the small space with a fun striped wall. We installed the new vanity a few months ago, and I handled the plumbing!

New Vanity

Hall Bath

Striped Wall

 

Just past the kitchen and bathroom is the dining room. One of our most impactful updates in the dining room was replacing the old ‘boob light’ fixture with this new chandelier. The dining set is very special to us, too. The table was Mike’s grandmom’s that was used for years and years to make big batches of gnocchi for family holidays, and the chairs were handed down to me from my Nana (who has a flair for decorating).

Dining Room

View to Living Room

Our living room is a wide room that spans the entire width of the house. We replaced old carpeting with this new laminate to match the existing hardwood in the dining room and entry. Eventually, we’d like to give the windows a more custom, high-end look by installing built-in bookcases and a window seat. How awesome would that be?!

CouchEntertainment Unit

Finally, our living room opens onto a patio in our back yard. The back yard is one of the reasons we loved this townhouse because it gives our dog Cody a place run free. We haven’t done much out here other than purchasing a grill (which we use ALL the time) and a chimnea to give the patio a little ambience. We’re hoping to purchase some new patio furniture and build out a deck over the old, cracked concrete patio in the spring. The fence will be getting a fresh coat of paint, too!

Patio

 

I can’t wait to show you the second story in a post next week, and I’ll be sure to share any DIY projects as we continue to update our place. Are you working on any renovations right now? What DIY projects got your home looking like new?

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Christmas Stockings

I’m still having trouble grasping that the holiday season is upon us again. Christmas is one of Mike and my favorite holidays – and we’re even more excited to celebrate this year since it will be our first Christmas in the new house. We’ve been searching for, pinning and discussing our holiday decorating strategy for weeks now (I know, we’re nerdy like that) and it has us excited to break out the decorations while the Thanksgiving leftovers are still warm. That is, if we had any holiday decorations…

Christmas Stocking Roundup

When we were in our old apartment we had one bookshelf and a coffee table to decorate. I’m not kidding. That was about all the ‘open space’ we could free up in our little one bedroom place to both decorate and later store holiday decor. We’d get a real tree each year (because we like the fragrance, and also because we could recycle it at the end of the season – no storage required). And yes, we fit a 6′ live tree in Mike’s Scion xD each year. Here’s proof. Needless to say, it’s time to invest in some beautiful, quality, grown-up holiday decorations this year. And I’m excited to shop for them!

One of the things I’m most excited to get this year is a pair of Christmas stockings for us that I’m hoping to hang from our banister (since we don’t have a mantel). I’m totally torn though on what style I like, so I decided to show you guys a round up of the my favorites. Also, it’s a crime that I’ve spent so much time searching for these stockings, so I figured I’d share the love with you in case you’re in the market for some too. As you can probably tell from my top picks, I’m feeling a rustic and vintage vibe with a hint of glam – if that makes any sense at all. We’ll see where I end up when it’s all said and done. Here goes…

Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham - $34
Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham – $34

 

Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm - $24
Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm – $24
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy's - $20
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy’s – $20
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm - $19
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm – $19

What do you guys think? Let me know your favorite pick in a comment below! What holiday decorations are you most excited about? Do you have an overall holiday decor theme this year?

 

 

How to Plan a Birthday Dinner Party

I have a passion for planning events. From small get togethers to big parties and even our wedding, I live for planning every little DIY detail. If a party is coming up on the calendar, you better believe I’m spending my free time on Pinterest looking for decor inspiration, printables, menu ideas, and more.

Birthday Dinner Party

 

When we decided to turn our weekly get together with the Vitales into a small birthday dinner party for Laura last week I was excited to give our dining room and kitchen a festive, celebratory feel – and I only had a few days to come up with a plan. My favorite way to decorate for a party is through personalized printables and crafts that make an event feel special and custom, so I decided to share my process for picking and choosing the perfect details for a dinner party that will pack a visual punch without breaking the bank.

Here are my tips for planning a simple-yet-chic birthday dinner party:

  1. Choose a color as a theme. I chose to pull everything together with pink, so I brought that color through several aspects of the party – from the paper straws to the printable birthday signs. Choosing a simple theme (like a color) helps the party feel a little more grown up and it helps ensure your decor is visually cohesive. If decor is too busy, the eye will be bouncing around from feature to feature and your space will start to feel cluttered.
  2. Keep the menu simple. You know your limits, and a birthday dinner party isn’t the best time to test them. Choose recipes that you’ve already tested at least once before to avoid disaster that is sure to occur when you ruin a dish 20 minutes before your guests are due to arrive. Delicious food will win out over a fancy dish that doesn’t turn out any day – so keep it simple!
  3. Bake a birthday cake from scratch. Keeping the menu simple allows the birthday cake to steal the show. Baking one from scratch just. tastes. better. Unless you’re shelling out some serious dough for a high-end bakery confection, skip the boxed and canned stuff. From lemon to chocolate to strawberry and beyond, find a cake recipe that your guest of honor will truly love. Your thoughtfulness won’t go unnoticed.
  4. Use real plates, cups and cutlery. Dinner parties traditionally have less guests than a full birthday party, so skip the paper and plastic in favor of finer glassware and cutlery to make your dinner feel extra special. I chose clear glass plates, cups and bowls and white china serving dishes when registering for wedding gifts because they go with any occasion so I can always use them no matter the holiday or theme. It really makes a difference!
  5. Add personal touches. Printables are a great way to make a party feel more personalized. One of the first things I do before choosing a theme is search for free printables on Pinterest. You’d be surprised how many awesome graphic designers and bloggers create free printables that are available for download, like the one in the picture above. Some printables like this one can even be customized with your own text and colors. This was originally part of a suite of printables for a baby shower, but after changing the text you’d never know. Keep an open mind when searching.

In my experience, following these five tips will help your dinner party flow smoothly and feel cohesive while making your guest of honor feel like a VIP. I used a ‘secret board’ on Pinterest to gather my thoughts and ideas throughout my two-day planning process so Laura wouldn’t see pins popping up in her feed and get a hint that I was up to something. Here’s an idea of what my Pinterest board looked like when I was finished planning:

Without further adieu, here’s how I translated my Pinspiration into a weeknight birthday dinner party for Laura!

Table Setting

Centerpiece Close Up

Centerpiece

 

Champagne Bar

Birthday Cake Happy Birthday, Laur! Here’s to many, many more!

 

Cheers to 5 Years

Five years ago today my husband Mike and I went out our first date. I feel like time has flown by since then, but at the same time I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished in such a seemingly short time. In the past five years I’ve graduated college, landed a dream job, gotten engaged, gotten married and purchased a home of our very own. I feel so blessed for everything I’ve accomplished in my 25 years, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my Mikey by my side.

Mike & Brie

Five years ago today we were headed to the Adventure Aquarium for a fun daytime date, followed by a lovely lunch at the pub across the street where I impressed my future husband by being brave enough to try calamari for the first time. Who knew my adventurous spirit would make such an impression on him. It goes to show you, if you truly want to find someone you’ll click with for the long haul you just have to be yourself. No holds barred. For better or worse. Because Lord knows it’s only a matter of time before you’re at your worst, and it’s nice to know that your husband will be by your side no matter what – because he’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he’s not going anywhere. Unconditional love is a beautiful thing.

Five years ago my life started to take a new direction. Mike gave me the confidence I needed at age 20 to start being truer to myself, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the words to express how much that means to me. I’m so thankful that five years ago today a bubbly, funny, playful, loving, supportive man came into my life. And he’s suck around. For better or worse. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because unconditional love is such a beautiful thing.

I love you, Mikey. Thanks for being you, and for loving me for the stubborn, driven, tenacious, strong, loyal woman that I am. Cheers to five years, and many, many more ahead.