Some say guilty. I say guilt free!

I pinned this You Deserve It Canvas Giclee from the Make a Statement event at Joss and Main!

The other night I was doing a magazine purge and noticed this quote on the binding of an issue of Real Simple:

One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats. -- Iris Murdoch

And, on the top of a pile on my desk is a postcard from Boden that reads: Just one week to treat yourself.

This got me thinking about treats in general, and specifically about what I tend to treat myself to. Last year, Joni Webb of Cote de Texas wrote a post about guilty pleasures. Joni's guilty pleasure is having two dozen flowers delivered from her local grocery to her home each week. I left a comment on that post with a laundry list of my guilty pleasures. Fact is, I don't feel guilty about them. I deserve them. Don't you?

Here are 10 of my guilt-free pleasures:

Note: Ina Garten often uses the word "good" to describe ingredients in her recipes. Like the other day I made an orzo salad that called for "good" feta and "good" olive oil. Get the gist, right?
  1. Flowers.
  2. Sweets. I love candy, and cookies, and brownies too. I'm prone to candy binging after completing an especially tedious task, such as laundry. For us candy girls -- the more sugar, the better -- Easter is a very special time of year. I'm currently snacking on Starburst jelly beans. Yum! As far as cookies and brownies go, why waste calories on something meh when you can go for the gold? The Cookie Studio in town is my go-to bakery for cookies. The best brownie I've eaten lately was one I made from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. Per my friend Elizabeth, you must use "good" chocolate. The best I've bought was from the bakery at The General Muir. Do you hide sweet treats from your family? I do.
  3. Coffee. I'm the only coffee drinker in my house and I drink it black. That means the coffee itself has to be pretty darn "good" on its own. I buy a bag of fresh coffee at Dancing Goats every week just for moi.
  4. Shelter magazines (lots!).
  5. Pedicures. This is a year-round must have service for me. Bare feet in the pilates studio call for freshly pampered and polished toes. Natural Body is my go to for a "good" pedicure. I haven't been to any of the foot massage places yet. Do tell if know of a "good" one in town.
  6. Luxe linens. I like a nice crisp white cotton sheet. My favorite brand is Thomas Lee. I also like white bath towels, but have yet to find one of high quality that can be bleached. Anyone?
  7. Caldrea hand soaps and lotions. I included this item in my favorite things post. Basil Blue Sage is my fave.
  8. Lunch out with friends (w/out children) at least once a week. Happiness goddess Gretchen Rubin makes this part of her weekly routine. It does make me happy. 
  9. Stationery. Love it. That's why I have to stay away from the Paper Source. You have to admit that it's rare and special to receive a hand-written note these days.
  10. Blogging and reading blogs. 
Enough said.

What are your guilty/guilt-free pleasures whichever way you slice it?

Photo image: Pinterest

Bought some damn art

Blue painters tape has been on the wall above my living room fireplace for well over a year. Okay, maybe two. Every time someone walks in our front door they ask if I've found something to hang there. "No, I haven't."

Many designers say that it's better to have a blank wall than to hang something you don't love to fill the void. I agree. And, I tend to be a bit OCD about certain things. Once I get an idea in my head, I don't settle for anything less. I really didn't know what I wanted to begin with.

Browsing through the February issue of Style At Home, the abstract landscape in this photo caught my eye. The painting resides in a Surrey British Columbia condo designed by Kerrisdale Design. Canada, I know. The couple who own it asked the designers to give the place a Something's Gotta Give vibe. The Hampton's house in that movie is one of my faves. Actually, I adore all of the homes featured in Nancy Meyers films.

I quickly turned to the source guide. No mention of the artist. Darn.

Good things come to those who read a shit load of blogs. As luck would have it, this same photo appeared on House of Turquoise a month later. Erin at HOT loved the art too and shared the artist's name -- Nancy Jean Tobin who lives in New Jersey and has an Etsy shop. You know how much I love Etsy.

I quickly contacted Nancy and a custom painting was in the works. I asked for darker greens and a bit of red to blend in with my home's decor. After some back and forth, we agreed on the finished product. Note: I hope Nancy doesn't think I'm a nightmare client. Sometimes I have a hard time giving up creative control.

The box arrived last week. After unwrapping it, this little package appeared. Nancy and I must have similar taste, because I bought that same ribbon from another Etsy shop -- no lie -- a few years ago. Don't you love the spool and adorable hat pin?

And then, the painting was wrapped up like a giant present.

Here it is unwrapped, with painters tape still showing behind it. Hope to hang it this weekend.

Moral of the story: If you see something you like -- even if it's in a Canadian shelter magazine -- don't give up. I addition to Etsy, there are other online sources to shop for afordable, original art. Kate Singleton, founder of Buy Some Damn Art, features a new up-and-coming artist every Tuesday on her site for purchase. Check it out.

Next up: mantel styling.

Photo credit: 1

Spring into florals

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. Yay! If you haven't noticed, floral prints are making a fashion revival. The first sign I saw was on the Golden Globes red carpet. While some of you loved Lucy Lui's floral gown, I thought it looked like chintz drapes.

Before I cover current trends, I must show a few more vintage magazine covers. Love them!

I'm seeing the trend in spring and summer catalogs.

Petals and buds from Boden.

The Summer top 10 from @bodenclothing – the sartorial equivalent of a bowl of strawberries & cream…

The Summer top 10 from @bodenclothing – the sartorial equivalent of a bowl of strawberries & cream…

Liberty of London florals for J. Crew.

Liberty perfect shirt in Lodden paisley

Liberty floral scarf

Liberty quilted jacket in Chive floral

Everly Liberty Art Fabrics pumps

And high end fashion:

Gucci Resort 2013
Oscar de la Renta
Paul and Joe
Prada - cute bags, 2013 spring fashion, spring handbags

Where are you seeing the trend? Will you be donning florals this season?

Photo images: 1, 2, 3-67&8, 9-12,  13, 14, 15, 16, 17

Photo gallery for dummies

I recently read Nathan Turner's American Style. In it he says that framed photos always look better on a vertical, not horizontal, surface. That includes book shelves, which is pretty much where all of mine sit. The only way to display family photos, he says, is in uniform frames on one wall. BTW, I love Nathan Turner. Here he is looking cute with his adorable yellow lab "Daisy." For those of you who don't already know, I have a yellow lab named "Daisy."

This inspired me to collect the dozens of framed and loose photos scattered around the house and packed up in boxes to display on one of our many naked walls -- a project I've started and stopped for 3 years. Alas, I came across Change of Art. These eco-friendly frames make hanging art and photos easy peasy. Yes, pleasey. Let's take a look.

Each frame is already matted, includes its own template and hanging button. This means no more holes all over the wall -- something I've been known to do. An extra storage pocket for photos you want to swap out is placed behind the actual photo slot. Watch the demo video to see how it works.

My photo gallery project in three steps:

Step 1: Weed through this mess to select photos. Overwhelming I know.

and this..

Edit, edit, edit.  

Step 2: I arranged the framed photos on the floor first. After much back and forth, we affixed the templates to wall with painter's tape. I like that the mats come in various sizes -- visually mixes it up.

Step 3: Nail buttons in place and hang frames. Done! This wall is opposite the stair case, so I had to take these photos from an angle. Looks much better in person.

The frames are also great for kid's art. I used my handmade Mother's Day cards from last year on my wall. Note: the frames only come in 5x7 and 8x10 with additional sizes to come. They also come in white and cherry. I have already ordered more to add to this gallery and start a new wall. I'm hooked.

One more thing. Change of Art donates 50 cents for each frame you buy to your charity of choice.

Easy, good looking, eco-friendly and charitable. Sold?

Photo images:  1

Shaken, not stirred

Seasonal and signature cocktails have been all the rage for the past several years. I have yet to see them lose their luster. Haven't seen them on the New York Times One-Page Magazine's "Meh List." In fact, Mario Batali has a weekly spot "What I'm Drinking Now." Mario will be sipping a "Widow's Kiss" with a twist this week.

There are the classics -- martini, gimlet, sidecar, old fashioned, pimm's cup, Manhattan and the like. [Don't forget you can find these recipes in my favorite cocktail guide Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail.] Then there are the new trendy concoctions that contain as many as 8 ingredients. Some examples from a menu I borrowed recently: "Scofflaw," "Day That I Die," Jackie O," and "El Wormhole." How do they come up with these names? I imagine it's a similar brainstorming process that the nail polish industry goes through.

I'm finding myself frequenting restaurants where cocktails steal the show. The food pales in comparison. You know, the ones that have mixologists who look like mad scientists in their geek chic eye wear. I can totally picture J. Crew's Jenna Lyons behind the bar.

I personally credit Mad Men (my fave. show) with sparking the cocktail craze, as well as bar carts, which I'll feature in an upcoming post.  Mommies and daddies sure had it good back in the 50s and 60s. Don and Betty Draper probably sent daughter Sally to the Westchester County Bartending School.

With spring right around the corner, I'm getting ready for martini/cosmo season by mixing up some infused simple syrups. So easy to make, they can make or break a cocktail. For a simple "how to," hop on over to the Shiksa's kitchen. The Shiksa also covers how to make infused Vodka. These cute bottles and labels are available at Love the Shiksa.

An Urban Cottage  shared the recipe for this grapefruit martini with rosemary infused simple syrup. I whipped up a batch and even Mr. Mophead -- not a grapefruit fan -- loved them. Delish!

One of my favorite cocktails these days is the "Moscow Mule." According to Drinkology, the Mule was the first vodka-based drink to really make a splash in the States. The drink calls for ginger beer, and is served in a copper cup. Fever-Tree ginger beer is an excellent, but pricey choice. I'm seeing ginger used a lot in cocktails. A good Margarita is made with white tequila, not gold. I'm always game for one done right. As far as cosmos go, I like Ina Garten's "Dukes" (Fool Proof  book) and pomegranate recipes.

So, are fancy cocktails still hot, not or just "meh?" What will you be drinking this spring?

Images: 1,  2, 3, 4

Do as I say, not as I do

Busy with the ski trip and home improvement projects, I forgot to mention that I gave up something for Lent. Gossiping. I was reminded of it when I saw this card at Sam Flax last week. (Tip: If you have a self-imposed moratorium on shopping at Paper Source, do not go to Sam Flax.)

Another example of my stellar photography skills. 

I got the idea last year after reading Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project. As part of her Happiness Project Challenge, she resolved to stop gossiping. If you have time, watch her "stop gossiping" video. Gossip and judgement go hand in hand. I'm certainly not in a position to judge, so I must cut this out.

According to Gretchen, women and men gossip the same amount, but both prefer to gossip to women because they make a better audience. Shocking I know.

Gretchen cites these 6 dodges for pretending you’re not gossiping when you really are:
  1. “I’m just concerned.”
  2. “I’m thoughtfully analyzing my friend’s character.”
  3. “I’m entitled to my opinion.”
  4. “I’m passing along information that a lot of people already know."
  5.  “I’m just relaying a conversation.”
  6.  “I’m not gossiping, you are.”
Sound familiar?

Gretchen herself admits that gossiping is fun. In that same vein:

"Gossip is what no one claims to like, but everybody enjoys."
--Joseph Conrad 

"Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip."
--Erma Bombeck

I have heard this many, many times, but never knew who coined the phrase:

“If you haven't got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
--Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Sidenote: Alice was a bit of a tramp back in her day and a self-proclaimed hedonist.

All of this said, I know gossiping is unkind. I will try to heed Gretchen's advice. If I wouldn’t want the person who’s the subject of the conversation to overhear what I’m saying, I shouldn’t be saying it.

If your ears are burning, I promise it's not me.

Garden shed project underway

I'm pleased to report that our garden shed project is finally underway. We had to overhaul our entire back yard during renovation. My dream was to create a parking space and turnaround in the back so we could enter the house through the mud room door. That meant leveling our 1920s garage. We never parked in it, but it housed all of our crap stuff. Gone. I desperately need a place to put our stuff, as well as a cooler for flowers (and adult beverages).

Our landscape architect drew an 8x10 shed into the plans with a blue stone walkway, plantings and a pergola. Cocktails will be served on the patio area under the pergola. I'm thinking it will be a girl's retreat. No boys allowed. Here it is.

I fell in love with this garden retreat that was inspired by Virginia Woolf's garden room at Monk's House. Based out of the UK, Scotts of Thrapston carries the kit for this shed along with many others. Why is it that the UK and Canada have better products than we do here in the States?

Reading room inspired by Virginia Woolf's garden room, National Trust

This Boarder Oak bespoke shed is adorable. Boarder Oak is an award-winning, family-run business in the UK, of course.

Other fab garden shed images I've been collecting. None are suitable for our space. But, who cares. I love them! 

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways

Love the Gothic windows. We do plan to use reclaimed doors and windows.

weathered garden shed

From a different angle. Amazing how light can alter the look of things.

Cutest little garden shed/studio made from all recycled doors, windows, trim.

white garden shed - I will have this in a bigger version by next year.  (Of course, mine will have a secret satellite dish that only I know about and can watch HGTV and the Weather  Channel all I want without interuption)

Do any of these speak to you? I will keep you posted on our progress.

Photo images 1, 2, pinterest.
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