Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Inspiration | Southampton Cottage

Last week when I was at the library with Charlie, I picked up a stack of old House Beautiful magazines and stumbled on this charming Southampton cottage featured in the April 2014 issue (designed by Justine Cushing).  I have always loved Colefax and Fowler's Bowood chintz (it was a contender when we re-did our bedroom a few years ago).   The entire cottage is covered in this fabric along with what look like gray painted walls (actually source says they are Ben Moore Linen White),  layers of white linen on windows and pretty touches of blue and white throughout.  Throw in a beautiful collection of antiques, a little rattan here and there and you've got yourself a perfect little getaway.

It was great timing to find this gem since I'm in the midst of creating a decorating plan for Jimmy's office.  It has been on my house project to-do list for several years.  I think I've held back on finishing it because it needs new carpet and the thought of clearing out the 3 closets in there and temporarily relocating the furniture is just too tempting to put off and that's exactly what I've done.  The other issue is committing to textiles.  I have about 3, maybe 4, different scenarios for this space.  To wallpaper or not? Patterned fabric covered lampshades (a current obsession of mine.  more on that soon) or not?  Slipcovers for chairs? Roman shade fabric or bamboo?  Since it is the last room in our home for me to "finish" I can't help but consider so many options (Sister Parish top to bottom, Lee Jofa Althea paired with classic ticking, or now I'm reconsidering Bowood). Beautiful textiles are my weakness and often (almost always) my starting point when decorating for clients.  Since this will be it for me for some time when it comes to designing a fabric scheme from scratch for a room of my own, I'm savoring it.    Jimmy's office is connected to our master bedroom (which is all green, white and blue) but I work in it often as well.   I know it isn't very manly for an office to have florals, but it connects with our bedroom and it's a place I use in equal measure, so I think a little floral is ok.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Charlie's 7th Birthday Celebration

This post is only 3 months late... By the time we finally had Charlie's party it was more than a month after his actual birthday (rescheduled due to illness), by that time the blogging community was in full holiday posting mode and it just didn't feel right to share the details of his celebration.  Now that we are at the start of a new year, one that is filled with birthdays and graduations and weddings and whatever other special occasions might be on your horizon, I wanted to share a little about the help I received making C's party extra special this year...

The picture on the left is on his real birthday, with the chocolate cake I always make.  I had suspicions there was something brewing, which is why he is blowing out candles on a slice of cake rather than the whole thing.  Smart move on my part because the rest of us were spared his virus, which was in full effect by 2:00 AM the next morning... poor kiddo.

So, the situation I find myself in every year is one many of you probably do too - birthday's get to be a bit of an exhausting affair.  There is the celebration on the actual birthday for our family, with homemade cake and festive balloons and decorations in the house and then shortly there after is the party with friends. (more cake, more decorations, entertainment, treat bags, themes)  I'm always looking for ways to keep things simple, yet still special. The last couple years we've rented an off site location so that Charlie can invite more friends than a party at our house would allow.  While this makes party hosting a whole lot easier, these locations typically come with windowless, charmless, party rooms.  Making me miss the quaint at home parties I've had in year's past, like here and here.   I know kids really don't care, that having a great time with their friends is all they will really remember, but I get so much joy (even when it's tiring) of trying to personalize and make things look special.  This year was a breeze though, since most of the creative work was done, not by me, but my dear friend Jen, who is one of the co-owners of Charming Touch Parties (CTP).  Jen and her good friend, Val, run CTP, an event planning business with an etsy store that creates personalized paper party goods.  Jen was one of my very best friends and roommates in college - she always gave the most beautifully wrapped gifts and had the best decorated room.  That same thoughtfulness and attention to detail now goes into the products they create for every occasion you can imagine.  When she offered to help with C's party, I was so excited to see what she would do!  Their items are all handmade and can be tailored to your specific theme or event - such a fun mail day when they arrive!

Charlie's party was held at the University of Cincinnati Recreation Center. C is a HUGE Bearcats fan so all the party supplies were created in the red and black school colors.  The party included rock climbing and swimming.  I envisioned old school pennants which Jen created for the table with a chalkboard font.   And there were lots of C's for Cincinnati (but also Charlie!).  The straws with the flags and the gift tags for the party favors were my two favorites things.  Oh and the cake topper - I LOVED the cake topper, maybe that was my favorite...  When Charlie walked in the party room he had the biggest smile on his face - JUST LOVED IT!  Maybe they do appreciate all the decorations and extras more than I give them credit for - he noticed everything. :)

The room was in the pool area and impossible to photograph because it was super dark.  I had about 15 minutes to set it all up before the party started so I didn't have a ton of time to take pics, hopefully this gives you a little glimpse though.    I can't believe I forgot to take pics of the tables, half were lined with chalkboard paper as a runner (from Target) and the other with Kraft paper runners (also Target).  We served pizza for dinner and the cake was made by Servatii's.  

Such fun memories!  Many thanks to Jen and CTP for all their help (even from all the way in Geneva, IL) with this party.  It wouldn't have been the same without all your creations! xx

Friday, January 29, 2016

Recipe | Leek + Sausage Soup

January has been a cccccold one and on the heels of a mild December I seem to have gone into baking and cooking over drive.  Making up for my lack of culinary motivation in December, this month has been a steady stream of fresh homemade breads, warm cinnamon and sugar soft pretzels, and lots of fudge brownies coming from my kitchen.  And since we can't survive on baked goods alone, there's been plenty of stews, soups and hearty pasta dinners too.  I've also spent more hours than I probably should curled up in front of the fire reading too. (house is a mess! behind on emails!)  But there are few pleasures I love more in the winter than getting lost in a good story!  If you are on instagram my book review hashtag is #NSHbookclub.  I always like to hear about what others are reading and love a good recommendation (hint, hint...).  I just finished another one today that I really enjoyed, The Nightingale from Kristen Hannah.

Back to food though... I made this soup for dinner this week thanks to a recommendation from a friend (thanks Lisa! ;)) and tweaked the recipe ever so slightly (more veggies!).  I've had a bit of a cold and wasn't feeling the greatest so this soup brought me back to life.  Spicy, hearty and so comforting for chilly winter lunches or dinner. I ate it for lunch and dinner two days in a row.  It's been so long since I shared a new recipe, this one is a keeper...

Recipe | Leek and Sausage Soup
(adapted from Michael Romano's Secret Ingredient Soup)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
1 cup well-washed thinly sliced leeks
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you want spicier)
8 ounces bulk sweet Italian sausage (I used Fresh Market)
2 tablespoons medium-grind cornmeal (polenta)
5 cups Chicken stock
2 generous handfuls of coarsely chopped arugula
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, leeks, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion becomes translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Drain off the excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Stir in the cornmeal. Add the stock, stirring, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the greens and cook for 15 minutes more, or until tender.