Faux real?

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is upon us. Have you already bought your tree? 

I was flipping through the October issue of Styleathome magazine and an article about holiday decorating caught my eye. Styleathome is a Canadian shelter magazine. I receive it as a bonus for subscribing to House and Home. At some point I’ll get cut off, but I’m enjoying my free subscription while it lasts.

Speaking of getting cut off, an entire page is dedicated to buying an artificial tree. “Say goodbye to cold-weather chopping (or shopping), hail-storm hauling, set up struggling and shedded needle sweeping. Faux has never felt so appealing!” Say what?

I can't stand faux (aka fake) greenery of any kind, including trees, garlands, plants and flowers. I especially despise silk floral arrangements. This is my personal opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Tasteful dried arrangements and wreaths are just fine in my book.

So what do I like? Let’s start with boxwood. Whether planted in your garden, in pots on a doorstep, in a garland or wreath, boxwood is one classy evergreen. Unfortunately, boxwood both real and fake is not cheap. And neither is my go-to garden shop -- Boxwoods. The greenhouse at Boxwoods is packed with living plants to choose from. My fave are the live plant compositions. You can bring your own container or select one from an impressive array in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures. They will line it, fill it with plants and surround it with moss. The outcome is always lovely. Tell them what you want, and they’ll give you a few options at different price points.

Upside: Boxwood’s compositions and topiaries can last for months with some TLC. I’ve managed to keep a few topiaries presentable for over a year. Downside: the shop is in Buckhead.

I’ve seen some good-looking wreaths and garlands made with boxwood, magnolia leaves, bay leaf, herbs and berries online at Wisteria, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. I bought this rosemary, bay wreath three years ago and it still looks and smells good.

Sur La Table $49.95

Gotta go faux? Check out Ballard Designs selection of "forever greenery," including a boxwood wreath that is made of fabric leaves for $89. It looks faux real.

If you haven’t bought your tree yet, please consider shopping Tradition Trees. The Toco Hills shopping center is the closest location. For each tree sold with the below voucher, Tradition Trees will donate $5 to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. You can print this page or email me at maureen@berhold.com for a full-size copy.

Temporary insanity

Home again with sick child. I'm definitely not in the running for mother of the year this year. Poor guy has pneumonia and I made him go to swim team practice last night. As you can imagine, I'm feeling pretty darn guilty.

This is an oldie but goodie for all future and current parents alike. It looks long, but it's well worth the read. Promise.

11 Step Program for those thinking of having kids by Amy Lawrence

Lesson 1

1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the paper.
5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2

Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.
Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3

A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)

Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.

Lesson 4

Can you stand the mess children make? To find out...
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5

Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.

Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6

Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7

Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8

1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.

You are now ready to feed a nine-month-old baby.

Lesson 9

Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street, Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10

Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!

Manners makeover

In a digital world, do manners need a makeover? I say yes.

I don't claim to be an etiquette expert, but here are a few of my pet peeves and what the experts have to say about them.

Let's start with tech etiquette. I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this, but I abhor the use of electronics -- whether it be a cell phone, smart phone or BlackBerry -- during social gatherings or in public places within earshot of others. In my book, there are some exceptions. These include, but are not limited to: calling 911, checking on the welfare of a loved one, or receiving good news from a loved one -- like “it’s a boy,” responding to time-sensitive work issues or notifying someone if you’re going to be late or have to cancel an engagement. 

"The most important manner to remember when it comes to technology is this: be aware of how your use of technology impacts those around you," says manners maven Emily Post. Simply stated, be polite. Now in its 18th edition Emily Post's Etiquette covers how to use your cell phone or smart phone politely, with special tips on texting and emailing. She also covers tattoos and technology in the work place. Can you show your tats and piercings at work? I have the book and would be happy to provide you with her answer if you ask for it in the comments section.

Most of you already know that I am social media shy. Again, I know I’m in the minority here, but it’s just not cool to post photos on a Facebook page -- or a blog for that matter -- without getting permission. “Do ask before you post pictures from a party whether anyone minds having them on Facebook,” advises Henry Alford in his book Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? A Modern Guide to Manners.

Here are a few of his other tips for restoring civility in the age of constant connectivity along with my commentary:
  • Don’t answer a telephone call with an e-mail. Or an e-mail with a text message. Or a text with a Facebook message. In the communication hierarchy, you generally want to match the level of intimacy or move up the hierarchy -- a move down can look like you’re avoiding the person.
Good to know. My communication hierarchy needs a re org.
  • Don’t text -- or forget to turn off your ringer -- at the movie theater no matter how strong the urge to LOL. If you’re perpetually rattled by the glowing phone screens of others texting during movies, do bring a tiny penlight to shine on them. It’s more discreet than shushing but still delivers a wallop of social shame.
I'm a moviegoer -- love this tip! And, I can think of many other situations when I could use the shine of shame. I'm getting one.

Moving on. 'Tis the season for gift giving, which leads me to my next peeve – regifting. In case you’re not familiar with the concept:
Regifting or regiving is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, sometimes in the guise of a new gift. -- Wickipedia
Interesting side note: The concept became popularized by a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine calls Dr. Tim Whatley a “regifter” after he gives Jerry a label-maker that was originally given to Whatley by Elaine. Anyone remember this episode?

Is regifting rude or resourceful? I say rude. But, let’s see what some etiquette experts have to say on the matter: 
Kim Izzo, etiquette columnist: Well I hate to say it, but, yes, it is rude. It seems like a twisted form of recycling. You can absolutely pass it on, but be open about it. Do it in the moment. Don't reroute it! I would just never pretend that I bought something. 

Ceri Marsh, etiquette columnist: It's not just rude, it's kind of tacky! I would rather see you give it to charity because then you're actually doing some good, not taking credit for having done something that you didn't. But really, just don't do it. It doesn't honor the thought behind the gift. 

E. Jean Carroll, Elle magazine advice columnist: I love the concept of regifting -- I think we should do it with our men! When we get tired of our boyfriend, give him to a girlfriend. Don't let a good man go to waste! (Love this!)

Other experts -- including Emily -- give a nod to regifting depending on the circumstance. 

I have many other peeves, but I’ll stop here. What are your etiquette peeves? Just for fun, please answer my anonymous "regifting" poll on the top right of this blog page. You must click onto the blog site to enter or post a comment. You can not do it from the e-mail text.

An eye for an eye, a shoe for a shoe

So I know TOMS shoes have gone way beyond the tipping point because I'm seeing them on everyone -- young and old alike -- everywhere I go. Not being a seasoned retail shopper, I rely on catalogs to stay abreast of current trends. While I was sorting and recycling my stack the other day, the TOMS "Give Joy" holiday catalog caught my eye. I knew by the way it felt that it was made of recycled paper. You already know about my paper fetish. I'm also a recycling enthusiast. Intrigued, I decided to give TOMS a look.

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS in 2006. He is the Chief Shoe Giver (love that title!), and the mastermind behind One for One (OFO), which has turned into a global movement. For every pair of TOMS shoes sold, the company gives a pair to a child in need – over 2 million pairs in 50 countries worldwide to date. Last year, the company expanded the program to include eyewear, providing visually impaired people with the gift of site.

How it Works infographic
an eye for an eye
While supplies last, TOMS is giving Blake's book Start Something That Matters with all orders during this holiday season. Enjoy free shipping too until December 31. 

If you own a pair of TOMS, did you know that a child in a far-away land is wearing a pair because of you? I'm buying some this weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm thankful that we're staying put this Thanksgiving. I will be cooking the bird. I love to cook, but I've never cooked a turkey. I'm not really psyched about removing the gunk from inside the cavity. Maybe my kids will do it if I double dare them to. Wish me luck.

The main meal will be served at my house and we will progress over to my sister's for dessert. She and her family live on our street. Seriously, how lucky is that.

One of our family traditions is to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. By the way, it airs tonight and tomorrow night on ABC at 8:00. We watch Charlie Brown most holidays. It adds some lighthearted humor to ease the discomfort of any looming or lingering family drama. The coast is clear for us this year. And, I am very thankful for that. If you anticipate drama at your house, here are 10 tips to survive holiday family gatherings.

Moving on. My Thanksgiving take away from the Peanuts gang:
Peppermint Patty: What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is this? Where's the turkey, Chuck? Don't you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners? Where's the mashed potatoes? Where's the cranberry sauce? Where's the pumpkin? 
 Marcie: Don't feel bad, Chuck. Peppermint Patty didn't mean all those things she said. Actually, she really likes you.
Charlie Brown: I don't feel bad for myself, I just feel bad because I've ruined everyone's Thanksgiving. 
Marcie: Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by 'Thanksgiving,' Charlie Brown.
Hoping that I don't ruin everyone's Thanksgiving. That said, this is for all of you fellow cooks out there: 
May your stuffing be tasty, May your turkey be plump, May your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump. May your yams be delicious and your pies take the prize, and may your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs!
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Million Dollar Decorators episode 1 recap

Million Dollar Decorators

Who watched MDD last Tuesday? Of course I did. The episode focused primarily on Mary and Martin. Mary worked on Margie Perenchio's -- artist and LA Art House gallery owner -- Bel Air guest house redo. Margie used her privilege -- at exorbitant expense --  to change her mind during the installation process. There were some hilarious scenes during which Margie allowed her "freaky" rescue dog Monty to weigh in on last-minute decisions. You had to watch to appreciate the humor.

Speaking of Mary, One Kings Lane featured a Mary Mcdonald Tastemaker's Tag Sale on Saturday. Did anyone shop it?

Meanwhile, Martin was in the Big Apple working on a sexy 70's dining room makeover (hated it, especially the black patent leather curtains) for Tamara Mellon -- the former Chief Creative Officer and co-founder of Jimmy Choo -- and a hip teen bedroom for daughter Minty. Martin ran into a few snags installing a 3,000 lb. custom marble table he had commissioned for the room. The table itself was $50K. On top of that, he had to get NYC permits -- not an easy task -- to block off city streets, and hire a crane service for $10K to hoist the crated table up and over Tamara's balcony. I guess the cost was a drop in the bucket for Tamara who received a $135 million payout when she ditched Jimmy Choo last year. Much of Martin's highly affected dialogue was beeped over during the ordeal. Tamara and Minty returned home giddy with excitement when they saw the transformation. All's well that ends well for a million dollar decorator.

You can see the before and after photos of both projects on Bravo.

Jeffrey and Ross made a cameo appearance drinking wine in their cellar. As did Kathryn and her brazen and hysterical housekeeper Jacqueline wine tasting in the Ojai Valley. Jacqueline has become my favorite character.

Be sure to tune in tonight for more antics at 10:00 on Bravo.

Design 101: my faves

For those of you who know me well, interior design has become somewhat of a hobby for me. I started reading design blogs when we renovated our house three years ago and have been hooked ever since. I don’t claim to be a designer, decorator or stylist. I just happen to love it.

I’m sharing this laundry list should you have some down time (aka locking yourself in a room or fleeing on foot or by car to get away from your loving family) during the Thanksgiving holiday break.

Two things before I begin. First, I’ve decided to use the word “fave” instead of “fav” as an abbreviation for “favorite” in my blog posts herein after. I’ve seen it spelled both ways so I looked it up in the urban dictionary. Both words are acceptable, but “fav” also stands for “forever a virgin.” Enough said. Second, I am partial to traditional decor -- sometimes transitional. If you enjoy a similar style, read on. If you are a modernist and crave contemporary design, move on.

Let’s start with design television. Sarah Richardson is hands down my favorite interior design TV personality. She is a Toronto-based designer who started her career as a prop stylist. Sarah has produced several shows on HGTV: Sarah's House, Sarah's Cottage, Design Inc. and the latest, Sarah 101 (my new fave). HGTV is currently airing the new season of Sarah 101 on Monday mornings at 8:30. Check it out.

 Tommy and Sarah via HGTV.

Sarah offers a practical and inspiring approach to interior design. She often features makeovers for clients on a shoe-string budget. You’ll see her shopping IKEA with her adorable sidekick Tommy Smythe. In addition to being a talented designer, she is one polished lady. From head to toe she is always impeccably coiffed, accessorized and dressed. Watch her shows and you’ll see what I mean.

Speaking of Canada, my current favorite shelter magazine is Canadian House and Home. I can’t really pinpoint why. It’s just better than most of the shelter magazines here in the states. H&H occasionally features Sarah and Tommy’s design projects, including some their own homes. If you don't feel the urge to subscribe, you might find the magazine at Barnes & Noble – the only existing chain bookstore left on the face of earth. So sad.

I’ve already posted about my favorite online shelter mag Matchbook. Lonny is another fave.

If you’re in the market for a design book to help spruce up your nest -- The Perfectly Imperfect Home by Deborah Needleman -- would be my first choice. Deborah was the founding editor of the now defunct Domino Magazine. I loved that magazine. Why do they always do away with the best ones? In her book, Deborah offers practical advice on creating a relaxed, stylish and comfortable home. Virginia Johnson’s original watercolor illustrations make it a joy to look at too. Put this book on your holiday wish list. You will not be disappointed.

If you have not visited Phoebe Howard's Atlanta stores Mrs. Howard and Max and Company, you are in for a real treat. These two retail interiors stores are my absolute faves. To say that they are stunning is an understatement. Mr. Howard -- Jim -- is responsible for the stores' architectural design. His attention to architectural detail is simply brilliant. I go there often for inspiration. After crossing the threshold, you’ll transcend into a sanctuary of atmospheric ecstasy. No exaggeration. Plan to spend at least an hour there to take it all in. And, leave your cameras at home -- no photography permitted. The only down side: you’ll likely go home feeling like you live in a dump. It is so worth it, though! 

Mrs. Howard.
By now, you all know that my absolute fave design blog is Cote de Texas. Check out Joni's Top 10 Design Elements that create a beautiful room. So far, these include linen, slipcovers, seagrass, curtains, light fixtures and wall d├ęcor. Use the site's search engine to find them. While you’re at, you can read her post on Phoebe Howard and her recently published book The Joy of Decorating – another feast for the eyes. Subscribe. You will not be sorry. 

Of course I have all of the publications mentioned in this post. If you'd like to look before you buy, you may ask to borrow them in the comments section below.

That’s all folks. What are your faves?

Cakes & Ale Bakery giveaway winner!

My favorite bakery!
Drum role please. The winner of the Cakes & Ale Bakery holiday cookie basket and coffee goes to lucky number 3: my friend Elizabeth F.

Thanks for visiting the bakery and for all of your nice comments. Elizabeth and some other friends joined me for lunch there yesterday. Just in case you're curious, Elizabeth's fave are the mandarin chocolate cookies. I bought one yesterday. Yum!

And many thanks to Kristin for donating the prize for my first-ever giveaway.

Don' forget to contact the bakery to pre-order your Thanksgiving desserts.

True Random Number Generator  3Powered by RANDOM.ORG

What's in a box?

My favorite box!

Last week I got a cryptic email message from my friend Elizabeth: "Do you know about birchbox?? I just got in!" No, I don't. How could that be possible when I read so many blogs?

Of course I was curious and decided to give it a looksy. Turns out Birchbox is a monthly service that delivers hand-picked beauty and lifestyle products to your door for $10 a month plus free shipping -- all in a nifty box. The service allows you to sample high-end brand products before you take the plunge and buy. Birchbox also offers expert advice and awards points with every purchase.

Here’s the rub. After you request an invite, it can take up to four weeks for women to "get in." The wait is shorter for men, but I guess that's only fair because they have to pay $20 a pop. After creating my account, I received an email confirmation. The wait begins.  

Hand-picked beauty and lifestyle samples, delivered to your door for $10/month.

Try before you buy makes subscribing appealing as does the sheer element of surprise.  
Olive Box is a monthly subscription service for paper lovers. That would be me. Inside an olive box you can expect a "beautifully curated selection of paper and lifestyle products" delivered to your door in a delightful box. Subscription options are available. Buy month-to-month and pay $25 plus shipping. Three-, six- and twelve-month subscriptions are incrementally cheaper with free shipping, but must be prepaid. I already have enough stationery. And, I have a self-imposed moratorium on visiting PaperSource. Who cares? I'm going to treat myself to a surprise for one month. I'll let you know if it's worth it.

Geography is certainly not getting in the way of enterprising interior designers. Let's start with Arkansas-based designer Tobi Fairley. Reading her blog exhausts me. She is the Oprah so to speak of the design world. I guess that's what makes her so successful. She recently posted a new list of inspirational quotes and resolutions --  all 14 of them. I'll be back come January 1 to steal some, but for now I should probably heed this advice:
Back on topic. Tobi's InBox Interiors is a do-it-yourself option for interior design. Investment (aka pricing) is based on which room/s you are looking to transform. I encourage you to view the interactive look book. It's pretty cool.
Another high-end option is Windsor Smith's Room In A Box. Windsor is a California-based, award-winning designer and her prices reflect it. On her site you will find a step-by-step process complete with videos to walk you through the experience. If you're looking for something at a lower price point per room, check out Decorator in a Box.  
Have you ever subscribed to a service or surprise in box? Do tell.

Positively purple

Several weeks ago my friend Jill (you know, the bookworm) organized an outing at the Margaret Mitchell House to hear Gretchen Rubin talk about her new book Happier at Home.

One of her 13 tips for being happy in your new home: Every room should include something purple. Interesting. 

Curious, I skimmed through Jill’s copy to find out why. Nada. But, I did hone in on this:
My happiness depended a great deal on my inner attitudes (the inward-reflection, rather than the shelter-magazine, brand of interior design).
Gasp! Call me shallow, but much of my happiness comes from reading and flipping through shelter magazines. I’ve got stacks and stacks to prove it. Not surprisingly, the purple tip was the most controversial on the Happiness Project Blog. I won't bore you with the details, but most commenters -- like me -- just didn't get it. They no doubt read shelter magazines too.

After many more Google searches bingo! Gretchen admits during a speaking engagement that she was "just being whimsical.” Gretchen, you are such a nut. Okay, glad I solved that mystery.

Still curious, I researched color psychology for interiors. Briefly:
Purple is the color of creativity, and off-the-beaten track thinking. It is associated culturally with wealth, and royalty, with an exotic connection. It denotes active imaginations, deep thoughts, and high ideals.
I wear purple a lot, especially when I'm feeling regal. Admittedly, I have no purple in my home. But I’d consider adding just a touch.
via Design Sponge.
Does purple make you happy?
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