Friday, May 28, 2010

Instant Garden!

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

So you don't have room for a kitchen garden. Gardening doesn't have to be limited by picket fences and yards and yards of freshly turned earth!
Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Beautiful planters filled with herbs, veggies and lovely flora can be a garden unto themselves.

 Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Window boxes with luscious trailing vines and petunias...

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

...concrete garden urns filled with rosemary, lavender and lemon balm...
 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens

...terra cotta pots housing marigolds, tomatoes and pepper plants...

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens

...whatever your heart desires, a planter garden can provide nature where there simply is no room for it.

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens

Nothing says "Welcome Friends!" like two lovely pots beckoning to guests to come inside!

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens

So as friends and neighbors toil laboriously in their large garden plots...

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens can sip your iced tea as you gently water your containers and know...
 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes And Gardens

...that bigger isn't always better!

Happy Gardening!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I have a jealous streak.  What am I jealous of?

Friends who have lovely porches, especially when those porches have white rocking chairs, red geraniums and a view. 

Girlfriends with 'spa' bathrooms.  Just look at that chandelier!

Friends with guest bedrooms.  Especially if they sleep two...

or more.

Friends with kitchens that can fit dining tables and a comfy lounge chair.  (Believe me, there are many of these in my neighborhood.)

Girlfriends with their own study.  And this one comes with its own reading chair and fireplace!  (Again, common in master suites on Chicago's North Shore.)

And landscaped gardens...

with outdoor rooms for a large group of friends turn me green with envy.

But this week my jealousy had nothing to do with big house envy and fabulous living spaces.  Instead, I learned a neighbor's husband just landed a job after more than a year of searching.  I am thrilled for her and her family, but I could not stop envy from oozing out of every pore in my body.  I am so green at this point I doubt I will ever look my normal shade of pale with freckles again!


Friday, May 21, 2010

The Laundry Monster

My Mudroom Post got me thinking about laundry.  The dreaded laundry!  It is a perpetual evil in my house that I can never seem to overcome.  

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

It is difficult enough to force myself to wash and fold never-ending piles of clothes, but even more so when my laundry area isn't clean and organized.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

I must admit, my designated laundry area in my mudroom isn't a beautiful site.  It will not be gracing the cover of any decorator's magazine in the near future!  But it does get the job done and I try to keep my supplies organized and aesthetically pleasing.  

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

My favorite part of organizing is using what I have on hand!  I try not to rush to the store and spend a fortune on plastic bins and containers for my latest cleaning whim, but by utilizing jars, dishes and baskets that I already own I create a beautiful environment and stay frugal.

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

For years I had no utility area.  Mops and brooms and cleaning supplies were stored in the kitchen and laundry was done in the garage.  So I learned to make the best of things by putting down rugs and using creative shelving to make what could be an ugly area, pretty!

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

So for those who are waiting for the Laundry Room of their dreams to enrich their lives, just use your noodle to brainstorm a fun and whimsical way to make your own laundry area!

 Photo Courtesy of Home Decorators Collection
There are so many great products like hampers and baskets out there on the market now that you could turn any corner by your washer and dryer into your own little washing paradise!
  Photo Courtesy of Home Decorators Collection

You don't have to break your budget to do it, either.  Just some simple forethought and good shopping skills will help you find just the hamper you need!
 Photo Courtesy of Home Decorators Collection

You may even find a piece of unused furniture that you already own that can be turned into your laundry station.

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

It is amazing what we can do if we look at old objects in a new light. 

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Got a spare closet?  Consider turning it into a home for a stackable washer and dryer combo! 

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Or take down the clothes rail and make your own utility room where one didn't exist before.

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Rosie the Riveter says "We can do it!" Squeeze those supplies into an organization space that would make any homeowner of a larger-sized home jealous of your laundry karma!

 Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

And for a fun project to do on a rainy day, why not try your hand at making your own laundry detergent!  An eco-friendly and budget saving tip that will look cute as a button in a jar or glass container in your new spic and span laundry room!
3 bars all-natural or organic soap. 
Non-synthetic with no animal by-products.  Get the smell good kind!  It's worth it!
I use Castile or Pink Zote bar soaps.
The Pink Zote is my favorite because it smells so good! 

4 Lbs Borax

4 Lbs Baking Soda
4 Lbs Washing Soda
Mix and store in an airtight container.

Off to fold clothes now!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Casual Cocktail Party

We are hosting a Casual Cocktail party this weekend!  I am so looking forward to spending some much needed time with friends.  While entertaining in our small home can certainly have it's challenges, I love to entertain and try to do it as often as possible.

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

We are fortunate the weather is turning warmer and most of our entertaining can be done outdoors.  While the party will begin inside with some cocktails and tapas, we plan to fling open the french doors and carry the party out on the back deck to enjoy the mild May evening.

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

We like to set up a little wet bar on a side table so guests don't have to run inside to refresh their drinks.  And of course we provide for those who don't imbibe in alcohol as well.  

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

I love the relaxed feeling that outdoor entertaining gives to guests and hosts.  There is no pressure to make things "perfect" or formal.  Everyone is at their ease. 

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

We serve one main cocktail drink at our events with plenty of appetizers and munchies!  No chips and dip here!  Casual tapas and delicacies spread the party fun to family and friends. 

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

I try to make up for our casual atmosphere by finding fun and whimsical ways to serve our drinks.  Big class containers for Appletini's or Mason Jars filled with champagne cocktails capped with lids and nestled in big buckets of ice are always a big hit!

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

We try to always have a fire whether it is a chilly evening or not.  And no one can turn down a freshly toasted marshmallow, so keep a bag on hand.
 Champagne Cocktail
1  sugar cube
1  teaspoon brandy
1/8  teaspoon bitters
2/3  cup chilled champagne
1  maraschino cherry

1. Place sugar cube in fluted champagne glass. Add brandy and bitters. Slowly add champagne. When bubbles settle, add cherry. Serve immediately. Makes 1 drink. 

I love easy entertaining.  It is so conducive to good conversation and good memories with good friends.  

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Beautiful Friend

Last week my beautiful friend Maureen died.  This has been a heart-wrenching loss.

Today, as I was on the verge of tears, I remembered Maureen when I saw a shower of pink petals falling from my neighbor's crab apple tree.  A wonderful aroma permeated the air and a light wind blew the flowers into a shaft of sunlight before they fell to the newly green grass creating a soft carpet of pale rose.  I thought, Maureen would love this moment.

We became friends over 20 years ago. She stepped into my life just after a bridesmaid in my wedding decided to break-off our friendship. To this day, I don't know why the first friendship came to an end, but thank God it did, because a friendship that would define my life was about to begin.

I marvel that in spite of knowing all my faults and 'sins', Maureen continued our friendship and wanted my company.  This will always be a miracle to me.

Maureen and I raised our children together, lived on the same block, took weekly walks with our dogs and were a four-some on dates with our husbands.  Still, there is no way to capture all the living that went on in our 20+ years together and my love for this remarkable woman. 

Instead, I'd like to share one of our favorite poems. It beautifully echoes Maureen's unerring belief that profound beauty and joy co-exist alongside bitter pain and disappointment.  It is up to us where we choose to focus.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -- 
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.      


Sunday, May 9, 2010

If I had the money...

There is a reason you have not seen photos of my bedroom, it needs to be completely redecorated.  And since today is Mother's Day, I woke up thinking, if I could have my perfect Mother's Day gift what would it be?  The answer, a new master bedroom.  

For years I have coveted the Valencia Sleigh bed from Pottery Barn.

Here it is without all the fixings.  Just perfect for my small bedroom!

Lamps like this on either side of the bed.

And a sleek armoire with a small sitting area.  Here are my two favorite choices, although I would not use the blue fabric in the second photo.

The palette would be calm and serene with white and cream colors.  I don't have a window seat in my bedroom, but that would be wonderful!

I'd love to hear the room in your house you would redecorate!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Organizing with Style

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

I love it when a room is both organized and stylish!  A house can be the most perfect looking house from outside, but decorating means nothing when you can't find your car keys or the kids' backpack.  

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

If I use an item daily, I normally leave it out or keep it somewhere within easy reach.  However, just because an item is a necessity doesn't mean it can't be cute and stylish!

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

My favorite thing to view in all my home magazines and idea circulars is to see everyday items made functional and lovely.  Look how these keys became a focal point with just a little creative organization.  Love that!

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

If something is interesting or pleasing to the eye, who says we can't leave it out on display?  I love the green color of this Kitchen Aid mixer.  Why not leave it out every day?

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Those of us living in small spaces know firsthand how important storage, organization and functionality are.  When considering organization versus style, try weeding out those items that are not necessarily used more than twice a week.  These items don't need to be left on display unless you love the way it looks.  

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

I love everyday objects made beautiful.  I'm a sucker for beautiful soap arrangements, luxurious towels artfully folded and toiletries left on display. 

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Confucius says  "Everything has beauty.