A One-Day Vacay at Langdon Hall

14 Apr wpe_cambridge_1

What a weekend. I’ve mentioned here that I was escaping for an evening in a faraway land (read: Canada) for a break from reality, and that’s just what I did. It was a quick break from reality with a bit of a smack-in-the-face return, but sometimes, that’s life.

In the moment, during the roughly three-hour drives to and from Detroit, and the deliciously lazy evening and morning at Langdon Hall, I enjoyed every piece of it, including the amazing spring temperatures. I didn’t snap too many photos, unfortunately, which meant that I didn’t capture our quaint guestroom with working fireplace and soaking tub… but trust me when I tell you it was perfect. That is, if what you’re looking for is quiet, calm and cozy.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff…

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Dining on mussels in blush cream sauce al fresco at London’s
Covent Garden Market, Waldo’s Bistro on King

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Cambridge’s architecture, which sits against the (literally: rushing) river
is a mix of very old and very new

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Langdon Hall in all its early spring, pre-sprouting glory

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Eight o’clock dinner reservations at Langdon; good wine, great food

Adding a Pop of Color at Home

11 Apr wpe_color_1

Throwing the windows open and letting in some fresh air has me giddy over some simple home updates. The easiest trick to spice up my neutral decor is to throw in a pop of unexpected color – in the form of bright pillows, a lacquer tray or a pop of peonies.

What’s your hue du jour? Minty greens and robin’s egg blues are popping up everywhere this spring, but I’ve also continued to see a steady stream of tried-and-true magenta and mossy green among the mix. (Especially in investment pieces like sofas and wooden furniture.)

Naturally, I’ve pulled some ideas from the grand ol’ internet that are sure to inspire you…

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via (who wouldn’t want the “get it girl” pillow, right?)

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via (those turquoise shutters are everything)

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via (the minty green of those stools feels perfect for a kitchen)

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via (magenta goes sophisticate with brass accents)

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via (polka dots, zebra and mossy green? i can’t.)

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via (well, hey, that’s a clever idea if I’ve ever seen it)

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via (for the not-so-daring among us… the equivalent of animal-print undies)

An Overnight Getaway

10 Apr

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Sometimes, the best medicine for mental fatigue is to get the hell out of Dodge.

After a few exhausting weeks of juggling an uncommon amount of career and family-related situations, I am so ready for a mini-vacation. I’ve marked myself out of office on Friday and will be promptly picking up and heading north, er, northeast, toward Canada’s Langdon Hall (hotel summer photo above). A boutique property that was once a 25,000-square-foot “summer residence,” today’s hotel and spa is a dreamy throwback – with fireplaces in every room (swoon) – that’s a painless three-hour drive from Detroit.

My plans for the overnight escapade? Well, they involve sunglasses, THE best road-tripping playlist, plenty of wine, a leisurely dinner and lots of general not-caring-ness. (Is that a word? It should be.) Oh, and my passport. CANNOT forget to pack the passport.

I hope that your weekend plans excite you equally – whether you’ll be strolling the farmer’s market, making it a movie night or off jetsetting. Enjoy!

April Planner: Refresh + Refuel

3 Apr

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Here’s an idea. Just as the earth starts to peel back the brownish layers of late winter and give way to spring, let’s use the month of April to refresh our own lives a bit.

Nobody likes a long list of to-dos, so here are a few “take ‘em or leave ‘em suggestions” that you can use to balance playfulness – and priorities – in your life.

  • April 2: A windowsill herb garden is even more fun when the end result can be used as the basis for a sweet, spring swig. Try mint, lavender or basil, which are easy additions to a cool cocktail.
  • April 5: Lug out your seasonal furniture or choose a new bistro set before they’re picked over in the stores. On the first beautiful day, you’ll be kicking yourself if your patio isn’t ready for use.
  • April 7: Commit to reading at least one “book with benefits” this month. Choose either a business or self-help option; I obviously love the title of this new release, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.
  • April 16: Tax day was yesterday, so now’s the time to take all of those papers (and digital materials) and neatly file them away. Keep a folder at home for hard copies, and save them on a data drive as well.
  • April 18: Prep for Easter celebrations with a citrusy sweet like lemon sugar cookies. I drizzle mine with a frosting made of 2 tbs. lemon  juice, 1 tbs. lemon peel and 1 cup confectioner’s sugar.
  • April 22: Celebrate Earth Day by doing something good and green. Visit a restaurant that sources locally, light some candles rather than using lights in the evening, or plant a sapling in the backyard.
  • April 26: Pull on your favorite sunnies and live in layers with a soft, floral scarf. Pair it with a cardigan and distressed denim or simply tie it onto your spring tote.
  • April 27: Don’t leave all the fun to your closet. Dress up your home with some brightly colored and textured throw pillows to instantly liven your living space.
  • April 30: Wrap up the month with a DIY manicure in a brilliant shade of cool blue or minty green. Slather a sugar and olive oil paste onto cuticles and rinse before stepping outside of your comfort zone with sparkles or stripes to create statement-making nails.

What I’m Reading

1 Apr

Image Isn’t there something delicious about settling into a cozy spot and poring over a feed full of juicy, new posts? Ever since the Google Reader tool was axed, I’ve used Feedly (specifically, its Chrome extension app) to categorize and keep track of my favorite blogs. Each day, whether I’m taking a 10-minute mental break at work or killing time in a grocery line, I can quickly scan stories for a dose of inspiration.

A fashion fix, a reality check on retirement planning, and a ruby-hued cocktail recipe. A great day of blogspiration is like the most amazing afternoon of scouring at Nordstrom Rack. Except free. Which as it turns out, is a much savvier way to kill time.

Which bloggers are you addicted to? Here, I’ve included a peek at my daily reads:

FASHION (Credit: Top row images, left to right)

  • Atlantic-Pacific I adore Blair’s preppy, east coast style. And even more, I love that her posts are pure photos… making Atlantic-Pacific the ideal destination when I need some strictly visual inspiration.
  • Dean Street Society Hilary’s eclectic style and bubbly personality are just as infectious as her #StyleMe wardrobe challenges. I’ve never actually completed one, but every month, I’m inspired to try at least a few of the trends.
  • The Classy Cubicle I love me a Vogue spread every now and then, but a girl’s gotta earn a paycheck. Mary’s wardrobe is a bit more professional than my full-time gig requires, but I totally appreciate her working girl mentality.
  • The Coveteur A sneak peek inside celeb and fashion influencer closets? Yes, please. Need I say more?

HOME + DESIGN (Credit: Second row images, left to right)

  • Centsational Girl Kate’s DIY approach is a welcome deviation from hours spent flipping through Elle Home and Architectural Digest. Her projects always turn out five times better than mine ever could, which is a good thing.
  • South Shore Decorating Each day, Stacy curates compilations of stunning home design and decor. So many times, I’ve spied images from the pages of a magazine that only catch my eye when she’s called them out.
  • Design Love Fest There’s something clean, calm and distinctively Scandinavian about Bri’s aesthetic. Through photos, workshops and graphic images, her posts infuse a dose of creativity into my day to day.
  • Young House Love Watching this family fix up their home one day at a time is fun and entirely practical, thanks to the in-depth tutorials they provide. Sweet shots of their daughter and dog are bonus material.

LIFESTYLE (Credit: Third row images, left to right)

  • A Cup of Jo I seem to always find a bevy of interesting links and thoughts on Jo’s blog. A little bit like a goodie bag, I wander over and am almost always pleasantly surprised at what I find – family stories, recipes, polls and more.
  • Cupcakes and Cashmere The day I stumbled across this blog, I remember telling every other girl I knew about it. And when Emily’s book was published, I snatched that up too. Her sensible, laid-back approach to life keeps things in check.
  • Dooce The first blog that I read and most likely, the only blog that I’ve ever scrolled through for hours at a time. I have cried from laughter and shared deep moments of empathy and reflection reading the story of Heather and her family.
  • Jenny Steffens Hobick A little bit of a young Martha Stewart, Jenny fills her home with warm colors and scrumptious foods. Her content always feels especially inviting to me during the fall and winter seasons.

MONEY + WORK (Credit: Fourth row images, left to right)

  • Blonde on a Budget She might live in Canada, but I appreciate Cait’s refreshingly frugal episodes. She’s past the start of her personal finance journey at this point, but she continues to chronicle her progress.
  • Get Rich Slowly When I was digging my way out of student loans and thousands in accumulated college debt, I read this no-gimmicks blog daily to keep me motivated. Today, with new and varied bloggers, it still helps to keep me on track financially.
  • More than Money J.D. Roth, who started Get Rich Slowly, now writes about managing money – and life – at More than Money. His musings on finance, travel and the power of yes are relevant at any age.
  • Penelope Trunk Talk about telling it like it is. With programs like “Networking for People Who Hate Networking,” Penelope is often inappropriate, slightly offensive, but insightful when it comes to women (or anyone) and careers.

Brightening Up Your Workspace

28 Mar

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Anthropologie Gloriosa Mug ($12) | Ballard Designs antique gold Style Tacks ($19) | Russell and Hazel Lucite Stapler ($32) | Marc by Marc Jacobs iPhone Compact Mirror Case ($78) | Rebecca Minkoff Wallet Mason Continental in minty ($95)

Spring has sprung in some of the sunnier portions of the states. And while we’re still waiting for the mounds of snow to melt here in Michigan, there’s {at least} a breath of optimism in the air – a “we did it!” mentality that’s palpable even on the grayest days. We’re all hanging in there for that promised reward… blooming tulips, puffy, white clouds, and, well, you know the drill.

While we’re waiting for Mother Nature to do her thang outside, there’s no reason we can’t perk things up inside.

As you flip the calendar to April, consider adding some of spring’s pretty pastel hues to your physical desktop, and your virtual one, too. (Click here to download some lovely desktop patterns from Design Love Fest!)

With the addition of a slick lucite stapler and a few adorably antiqued push pins, you’re work space will be brighter in a matter of moments. Voila – spring has sprung! Well, nearly.

Accent Wall DIY: Painting vs. Paper

5 Mar

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Turns out, wallpaper is pretty expensive for being, well, paper.

When I set out to revamp an accent wall at home, I was shocked to find that all the geometric patterns I was eyeing were labeled “designer,” and fetched well over $100 per roll. Say what?

I’ve never hung my own wallpaper before, but I can tell you that if I dished out that much on the product alone, I probably wouldn’t have had the budget to hire a contractor to come do it for me.

Instead, I spent one very long evening researching online, and through Pinterest, stumbled on a site called Cutting Edge Stencils that sells a gazillion different paint-on patterns to add oomph to your walls. In what I’m sure was a wine-fueled shopping spree, I watched a dozen how-to videos and ordered one immediately. And the next day, I crossed my fingers and said a quick prayer that I’d be able to figure it out.

First, a “before” photo of the room (taken during my walk-through of the home, before it was purchased):

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And now, an awkwardly angled”after” shot:

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See that sexy pattern? It’s made using the Zamira Allover Stencil ($38). I love the mix of organic and geometric shapes in this stencil; it feels feminine, but it’s also not flowery or too delicate.

Okay, now a few details:

Continue reading

Life Lately

4 Mar

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Life has been a bit wobbly lately. Along with the frigid temperatures, the first few months of 2014 have thrown a few snowy curve balls at my family, which seem to have socked us all in the gut.

Rather than planning an escape to the tropics, it’s been nice, instead, to hole up at my nearby parents’ home with my siblings (and nieces and nephews) to simply spend some time together and appreciate the time that we’ve been given.

In between work and time with family, I’ve squeezed in some typical creature comforts (snapshots above!) that I’ve found especially necessary. Something healthy, and something decadent. Something cold, and something bright and blooming. Something thoughtful, and something inventive. And last of all, something trying her darndest to keep warm!

I hope that March is off to a inspiring start for you and yours! What little things are brightening your days while we await spring?

Chic Flats for 9 to 5

24 Feb

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How dare I call myself a shoe girl… I didn’t even know what the frequently used term d’Orsay meant until approximately 10 minutes ago when I googled it. Do you?

D’Orsay (pronounced door-say) is a style of shoe that reveals the arch of the foot. My nude Ted Baker pumps (that are seen in this photo - along with my cushioned inserts!) are considered a d’Orsay style, as are my favorite Vince ‘Claire’ pumps.

The style speaks to warmer weather, since you certainly wouldn’t want to be caught on a snowy sidewalk with a bare arch (the horror). But I see these sweet d’Orsay flats in darker shades as the perfect transitional piece for nearing spring.

Their deeper neutral tones, paired with a light and airy structure, are a blend of pretty – and practical. And who doesn’t love that?

Best of all, budget’s no matter. Above are eight fun finds that span the frugal to fabulous gamut.

Chinese Laundry ‘Easy Does It’ Flat ($60) |  BC Footwear ‘Up All Night’ d’Orsay Flat ($60) | Halogen ‘Kayla’ d’Orsay Flat ($80) | Jeffrey Campbell ‘Taken’ Flat ($130) | Ted Baker London ‘Cadeen Flat’ ($155) | Nina Originals ‘QT’ Snakeskni Flat ($145) | Tory Burch Leather Flat ($265) | Vince ‘Nina’ Flat ($325)

A Restoration Hardware Inspired DIY Ottoman

18 Feb

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Home furnishings can be tricky. Last year, when I purchased my home, I spent months brainstorming the ideal design aesthetic for the space, which would leverage the unique layout of the home as well as it complemented my current tastes. I wanted a chic – but comfortable – living area that reflected my personality.

While I splurged on a couple of key items, I was determined to seriously scrimp on others by taking a DIY approach. For instance, I fell in love with this tufted coffee ottoman (in indigo vintage velvet) from Restoration Hardware. But the $1,500 price tag was not going to happen, so… I started tossing around the idea of making a similar version myself.

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Let me begin by saying: I’ve never upholstered a single thing in my life. My eagerness in tackling this project was entirely fueled by the fact that I had no idea how difficult it would actually be. In my mind, all that I needed was a wooden box base, a bit of fabric and a few hand tools. Easy, right? (Somewhere, stockholders of Jo-Ann Fabrics are evilly smiling and clasping their hands.)

I’ve got to be honest, this ottoman isn’t going to win any awards for precision, but it absolutely works for my needs. It’s comfortable enough to sit on or to rest your feet, and with a tray on top, it’s a perfect place for setting down drinks or snacks. Best of all, because it’s custom and all (cough – I mean, I made it myself – cough), the dimensions are spot on.

So, let’s walk through the process in case you’re interested in one-upping me with a fancier version of my DIY tufted ottoman.

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Step One: I started by picking up the longest length of navy “velvet” fabric I could find in the Jo-Ann Fabric clearance rack. It was a measly $18 for five yards (score!), but now, a year after I constructed the ottoman, I wish I would have chosen a much better quality fabric. Lesson numero uno.

Then, I cut a strip off of one end of the fabric to use for matching fabric buttons. Jo-Ann’s only had a couple of packages of these plastic one-inch buttons, but I found a few more metal button packs at Hobby Lobby for the same price. Based on the design I had in my  head, I’d need 24 buttons.

Then, I gathered the remaining materials. This included a wooden box that my sweet dad crafted for me using scrap plywood at his shop. Lesson numburo dos: the plywood used for my ottoman was much thicker than it needed to be. While this is definitely a sturdy piece of furniture, it’s insanely heavy, and was a little tough to work with, too.

In addition to the wooden “frame,” I bought enough high-density foam and batting to cover the entire ottoman, spray adhesive, upholstery thread and needle.

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Step Two: First, I measured and marked my “button holes,” which would be used for tufting. My version had far fewer than the Restoration Hardware version; tufting was the trickiest part, after all. After marking the entire box with pencil, I broke out a handheld drill to make quarter-inch holes at each mark. The toughest part was figuring out how I would handle the top corners. I wanted a soft look to the ottoman, so I decided to drill holes in each of the top corners so that the accent piece would have a rounded appearance.

Step Three: Next up was the high-density foam. This was the priciest material to purchase; I think that it came in around $80 for enough two-inch thick foam to cover the entire ottoman. I sprayed one piece and satisfactorily stuck it onto the ottoman before realizing that I’d have no clue where the button hole was located beneath it. So… I tore it off, eyed it up and marked it as closely as I could with a felt marker before re-sealing it. (Note: The spray adhesive wasn’t a perfect solution. Some of the foam didn’t seem to adhere too well, but I figured that once the tufting was in place, it would be secure.)

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And then, I used a variety of sharp objects (see photo above, and below) to try to cut through the foam so that the buttons would require less pressure, and create a deeper tuft, once pulled through. Lesson numero tres: This was a pain in the a**. But, I don’t have a better solution to offer up. That said, I’m positive that there is one.

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Step Four: Another soft spray of adhesive to the entire foam-covered piece, and then I laid batting atop and over the sides of the ottoman. For a cushier look, I doubled up and added a second layer of batting across of the top.

Step Five: Oooh, now’s the good part. You know, where it starts looking less like a complete disaster, and more like the lovely vision I had imagined. (I believe I poured myself a glass of wine at this point. You might note, by the way, the change in natural light in these photos. That’s because this thing took me about 8 hours to complete solo.)

I draped the fabric over the ottoman, and it just. barely. fit. So, I started at the top, in the center, using the upholstery thread to secure the buttons. First, to make sure that the fabric was pulled tightly enough, I used a staple gun and stapled right where I wanted the button to be. Then, after threading the button into place, I used the staple gun again to secure the thread to the inside of the wooden box.

After the top tufts were in place, I moved to the long sides, followed by the top corners, and capped off with the end tufts.

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Step Six: I used my favorite tool (read: staple gun) once more to secure all of the remaining fabric to the bottom and inside of the wooden box base. There wasn’t much to secure, since my cut of fabric was hardly generous. But, somehow, everything ended up covered. This was a small miracle.

The total cost? Roughly $200.

And viola, here is what the final result looked like that evening, after the floor had been vacuumed:

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And, here is how the ottoman looks today, a year of wear-and-tear later, with a much better-suited tray atop it:

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