An Evening Al Fresco

Just before the weather turned we enjoyed a beautiful evening outside with friends.

Little know fact about me: I applied, got accepted and made it thru the open house of the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago … then chickened out. As a newlywed I wasn’t sure if it was the right lifestyle for me, but I did know that I was passionate about food and entertaining and it has stuck with me over the years.

Entertaining and treating family & friends to home cooked (or store bought) meals is something we do often. It doesn’t always have to be fancy or a lot of work. (Sometimes it’s Domino’s on paper plates in your lap!) It’s more about being together.

There are lots of shortcuts to take and I’ve learned a beautiful table can go a long way!

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A peak at the table just before we began our meal.

Here’s how it came together…

I used my go-to drop cloth as the table cover, added a couple of white pumpkins to my existing floral arrangement and flanked it with a set of lanterns (available thru my shop at Cotswold Marketplace) .

Easy and festive.

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To set the table I used woven placemats and melamine plates (both from Target) and dressed it up a bit with Natural Stripe Napkins and Pompom Napkin Rings available through my shop at Cotswold Marketplace.

Add in wine and water glasses and we’re good to go.

I always keep a carafe of water at the table when entertaining. (This one is my favorite from Crate & Barrel.) Hydration is super important, after all … wink, wink.

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Now, on to the food.

Start simple by adding a nice loaf of bread (mine is store bought). I gussied it up a bit by serving it on a wooden breadboard, draped in a natural stripe tea towel and fancy butter paired with a horn handle butter knife (all available thru my shop at Cotswold Marketplace).

And when I say fancy butter, here’s what I mean … regular unsalted butter, sprinkled with fresh thyme and flaky sea salt. Our favorite is Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

So easy, but looks impressive.

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Salads are so easy to throw together and look really beautiful when served on a flat white platter.

Of course there are times when a bowl is a necessity, but for a small gathering like ours this round glazed terra cotta platter was perfect. A nice pair of serves helps, too. These wood and gold servers (and the round platter) are both available through my shop at Cotswold Marketplace.

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The thing I love most about salads is that they are more about composing than cooking. This salad was a super simple combination of arugula, sliced apples and blue cheese crumbles. Served with a lemon/thyme vinaigrette.

I’m a big fan of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are easy to make and always good.

I used her standard vinaigrette recipe and added thyme to better coordinate with the rest of the dishes.

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Moving on to the side dish.

Truthfully, I had intended to make roasted carrots but when I discovered that I didn’t have quite enough carrots to feed four, I had to get creative. That’s how I came up with lemon orzo and wilted arugula topped with thyme roasted carrots and potatoes. A little unconventional, but it worked.

Plus, I served it in a beautiful scalloped, white footed bowl that has a real vintage flair. Add in the gold servers and it looks good enough to eat. Ha!

The bowl and servers are available from (you guessed it!) Cotswold Marketplace.

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The final piece to the meal was an herb marinated grilled pork tenderloin with apple chutney, curtesy of my fave, Barefoot Contessa.

Served on another lovely white scalloped terra cotta platter (from Cotswold Marketplace, shocker!) - can you tell I favor white platters for food?!?! White serveware highlights the food and allows it to be the star of the show. As it should be.

When creating this meal, I wanted it to feel very Autumnal and cohesive. Repeating the flavors of apple, thyme and lemon helped me to make it happen.

In the end, a wonderful meal was had by all and it really wasn’t that much work. But it sure did look good!

Hope you enjoyed!

until next time…

A Fall Porch Moment

The weather has finally turned and with it ALL the Fall feels have begun.

Bring on the plaid & sweaters, bonfires, changing leaves and all things pumpkin spice. Well, not really … that’s a bit much for this girl.

Let’s just start with the front porch.

Time to get rid of the dead from heat exhaustion plants and bring on the Fall feels.

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That’s better. I’m definitely feeling the Fall goodness.

But, lets’s be real.

This didn’t just happen over night … there’s a process to everything.

I’ll let you in on mine. You might be surprised.

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First, I started with the planters. I layered in tall grasses and cabbages, all from Home Depot. I love the play on textures as well as the slight purple hue. Very Fall.

Then I added in an oversized lantern (available thru Cotswold Marketplace) all under the careful watch of our dog, Annie. Can you see her in the window???

At this point, I wanted to go with the “less is more” option but that’s not really my style. I’m more of a “more is more” kinda girl. Shocking, I know!

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Looking for inspiration, I went to the farmers market and came across some lovely purple hued mums and one beautifully quirky white pumpkin.

Of course, the little white pumpkins were a last minute add-on for the planters. Totally worth it because they are adorable!

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Once back home, I planted the mums in my existing terra cotta pots, but the orange really stood out making the whole scheme seem unbalanced.

Back to the farmers market I went to get an orange pumpkin to tie in the planters and a green pumpkin to tie in the grasses and cabbages from the planters.

Now we’re starting to get somewhere.

One final touch, because I can’t leave well enough alone, a pair of brass lanterns (also available thru Cotswold Marketplace ).

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More is more, after all!

Like I said, it’s a process.

For all of us.

Now, I’m really happy with our little gathering of Fall goodies.

I know it will be short lived as the Halloween decorations and kids carved pumpkins will soon take over, but it’s nice to enjoy our Fall porch moment for a little while.

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to share all the kids Halloween craziness. Our caul-de-sac is hosting the annual neighborhood Halloween party this year, the pressure is on to make sure our decorations are on point!

Until next time…

A Porch Addition

So so so HOT here in Charlotte…it’s all anyone is talking about. All day, every day.

But, the word on the street is cooler temps are headed our way this weekend. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they do because we recently added a couple new additions to our porch to gear up for Fall porch season.

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For YEARS we’ve been talking about adding something to the far end of our porch. Partially for privacy, partially to keep debris and leaves from coming in and partially because we wanted the porch to feel more like a room.

Well, we finally made a decision, took advantage of a massive sale and purchase four panels of Sunbrella soft white curtains. And we could not be happier. I mean, look how cozy!

Despite the sale, the panels were still a splurge for us so we decided on a little DIY to create an affordable outdoor curtain rod made from galvanized piping. Click HERE to check out the tutorial we used.

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As if that wasn’t enough, we also added a pair of lamps to the space.

Ambience overload!!!!

At night, it really does feel like a new little room of the house.

These are not outdoor lamps, so hopefully they will be ok. I figure a new shade every once in awhile won’t break the bank. Has anyone else used non-outdoor lamps successfully in this climate?

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A couple other small changes have happened since I last shared this space - new fuzzy throws perfect for those cooler mornings. Or so I hear.

Loving the grey buffalo check.

We also added a new coffee table that I sourced when shopping for my boutique at Cotswold Marketplace … it was just too good to sell on. The pics do NOT do it justice - it’s an antique gate with beautiful texture and patina. Lots and lots of love for it. Plus it’s so much more functional than the ottoman we had previously.

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In case you were curious where the mate to the swirl lamp went…and I KNOW you were … it ended up over here near the dining table. The little bit of extra light helps extend those leisurely meals we have with the kids. Ha. Who has a leisurely meal with kids…no one, ever.

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Speaking of kids, they really did a number on this table with their summer of slime making. Maybe you saw the slime-a-palooza on my Instagram account (follow along HERE) ??? If not, it was epic. The table has not recovered.

Now I just cover it with an inexpensive canvas drop cloth that looks surprisingly like linen. Super easy to care for, too.

And when in doubt, stick a massive floral arrangement on the table and it’ll distract from pretty much anything!

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Also, the view from the table thru the curtains at night is pretty good! I could sit there for hours enjoying it, if only the weather would cooperate.

I see you, Fall. And I’m comin for ya!

Until next time…

A Retail Update

A little over a year ago I took a leap into the great unknown, the unknown world of RETAIL.

It’s kind of a long story - but we've got nothing but time here, right?

Let’s start from the beginning … in addition to working on design projects with a variety of lovely clients, I also started working one day a week at a wonderful multi-vendor design studio called Cotswold Marketplace. (this was almost 3 years ago, btw) I loved AND still do love connecting with the customers, helping them find unique pieces to bring their space and vision to life - BUT I also loved playing around in the vendor spaces, creating little vignettes and checking out all their new finds. Me and my new retail sales associate life seemed to be a great match…

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone so in the Spring of 2018, I was having lunch with a colleague and decided (out of the blue) that I, too, wanted to be a vendor with a small space of my own at Cotswold Marketplace. I mean, why not? Design business, sales associate and vendor…no problem.

Side note: I make my best decisions this way, honestly. It’s how the blog even came to be WAY back when.

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A couple of short weeks later, I found myself the proud new vendor in a little corner spot at Cotswold Marketplace.

Here we are opening weekend - honestly, I thought I was going to explode with excitement! Of course I was hoping everyone would love it and I’d sell out in one weekend. Obviously, that’s not how it went. But, I did eventually find my niche and before I knew it I was committing to a slightly bigger space by taking on the additional wall in my little alcove.

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Opening weekend, take 2. Just a little more space to spread out and expand my wings - or so they say.

At this point, I remember having a conversation with the owner of the store about taking on this space - I was nervous, but excited and she said to me, “ you just never know where you’ll be in 6 months from now”. I kind of giggled to myself and though there is no way I am taking on more - this is enough for me!

Wouldn’t you know it, a short 7 months later we were having lunch and AGAIN I jumped at an opportunity to move into another even bigger space. Had I even thought about it prior to that lunch? Nope. But did I go for it? You know it.

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Opening day - take 3.

This time we went all in. We laid a new floor, added molding and painted all the walls. It was a crazy busy couple of days, with help from family and friends, we all worked hard and came away feeling super proud of our accomplishments!

I even partnered with a friend, City Stems, to add beautiful living floral arrangements to the space.

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There have been lots of changes over the last 7 months, with new inventory and new seasonal displays.

I’m including some of my favorites here to give you a feel for the overall style.

This was early Spring.

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Late Spring/ Early Summer

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Mid Summer

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Early Fall.

So there you have it - an update on my retail journey. Certainly, there have been ups and downs but overall I am really loving it. And so very appreciative of all the support I have received from family, friends, clients and shoppers. It truly takes a village and I’d be no where without you!

If you’re local, I’d love for you to come check it out.

If you’re not local, I’ve got a little something special for you … coming soon.

Like I said, I can never leave well enough alone.

Until next time.

Life Lately

Oh my, It’s been so long since I visited the blog - I almost forgot how to log in! Thank goodness for saved passwords, am I right? Where would we be without them…

Life lately has been full of changes - I haven’t really felt like getting behind the computer, so I apologize if I left any of you wondering where I went…if any of you are EVEN still out there, that is. But, life continues despite the lack of blogging, and I’ve been focusing on my new retail business - enjoying the challenges associated with a new business, as well as the ever changing retail market. My absolute favorite things are sourcing the unique finds to offer in my boutique and the happy look on customers faces when they fall in love with them, too. I’m really so grateful to be of the story.

But, today, I felt that all too familiar pull to the computer. I’m not sure why - I’m just going with it. So here we are…my first blog entry in almost a year. Yikes!

We have family coming to stay for the weekend - probably our first guests since March. Naturally, I started looking around the house to see what needed some attention before our guests arrived and I noticed quite a few things that could use a little TLC! With little to no budget to work with I started moving things around, made a couple little purchases and got excited to share them with you. Just like the old days. Here we go…

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It all started with this ottoman. I stumbled across it on a local resale website and couldn’t pass up the amazing price for such a unique and fun piece that obviously coordinated with my room so well. Side note: I love it, my family does not. Hmmm…

Moving on.

Sadly the chairs I had in this room previously didn’t work with the new ottoman. Fortunately, I was able to switch them around to another room. Badaboom, badabing - Bob’s your Uncle - it’s a whole new room. A quick stop by Homegoods to find the throw pillows that now tie the chairs into the space. I couldn’t be happier.

Moral of the story: if you work within a narrow color palette all your furniture plays well together and can easily be moved from room to room to create a whole new look.

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What happened to those chairs, you say? They moved into this room. And would you believe it, they are much better proportion for this room! AND they offer a much needed pop of interest to this space that just wasn’t there before. Both sets of chairs have been in their respective rooms for well over 3 years and I never EVEN thought they worked in the other space. Huh?!?!

Moral of this story: you never know until you try. Just try it.

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Honestly, those are really the only BIG changes I made. Sure I moved some art around and a couple of lamps, which really transformed the overall look of the room for me - but I won’t bore you with those details. You get the gist.

I WILL share the two other sets of throw pillows I randomly picked up from Homegoods. I swear, I just went in to get a rug pad ( oh yeah, I moved a runner into the kitchen too - see, I really WAS motivated!)

Anywho, these cute navy animal print pillows cozy up the front entry for Fall. Can one ever have too much animal print? I say no, but I’m sure others would disagree.

Moral of THIS story: do what you love. Who cares what other people think.

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Ok, one last thing and then I’ll let you get on with your day…

I’m super over the fabric on both of these chairs. Especially the chartreuse - I don’t think I EVER liked it, honestly, but with no to low budget in mind I just tossed an easy breezy throw pillow on it and somehow the chartreuse is so much more manageable to me now. Isn’t that funny? It’s the little things.

FINAL moral of todays stories: not all changes have to be huge. Boom, words to live by.

Phew, I did it. I finished my first blog post in almost a year.

Re-reading this I can really see why my little retail boutique is so fulfilling for me - it’s all about finding the unique finds, the diamonds in the rough than giving them new home to be appreciated in. Just like I do in my own home. And that my friends, concludes my deep thoughts of the day. You’re welcome.

Now, I must be off to finish cleaning the house and then pick up the kids for swim practice - two equally exciting activities! just kidding…

Until next time!