Saturday, August 30, 2008


not as in, I'm going to "entitle this post such and such", but entitled as in, "I feel entitled to a perfectly ordered, stylish, and happy home--ahora. Is that really too much to ask?" This is a frequent struggle of mine. Don't worry, I'm not planning on using this blog as a regular confessional, but because this particular struggle seems hopelessly tied up with my decorating impulses-- and because so many friends are currently in a similar phase of setting up new homes in new cities with little kids, little help, and/or little resources--I'm going to expound.

When I set out on a project I usually think that I'm doing it for a greater good. Like, if I just repaint this terribly depressing 3 tone beige/brown room, rip out these awkwardly placed shelves, re-cover this eyesore sofa, rearrange these mirrors and those pictures, sand and re-stain this bench, then our home will be simple, airy, and light and all inhabiting it or stopping in for a visit will feel at peace.

In my perfect world that may be true, but the reality is that peace (for anyone in our home) is rarely in the process, especially when I start all my projects all at once, flying from one room to another in a creative/chaotic frenzy...which is what happened this week. It left us all exhausted, and since the projects were scattered throughout the house, instead of concentrated in one room, I didn't feel the satisfaction that I expected after investing a lot of time and energy on improving our living space.

Then I stumbled upon a few timely words of design wisdom that struck a chord with my impatient side. I hope they will be as big of a help to you.

1) Not every single piece of furniture or piece of art in a room needs to be a wow piece. Start out by investing in one exceptional piece that you really love, and let it set the tone or feel of a room. Then build around it. -Nicole, my lovely sister and source of inspiration (she's also happened to have an exceptionally beautiful room/home for as long as I can remember. i always take her advice:))

2)Don't think that you need to decorate in one go. Decorating a house takes a while and it always looks better when it has evolved over time. You will also be able to afford much nicer things if you do this. -Rita Konig of Domino via frolic

3)Start with one room. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to makeover the whole house all at once. -Melissa @ The Inspired Room

4) Nothing in the home can be thought of as a linear process with a start and a finish. Nearly all home projects and tasks are cyclical. A bed should be made, but it won't stay made forever. Grimy little feet will scamper across a freshly mopped floor. You have to take pride in the process and expect that the result will be at best temporary. -paraphrased Kathie Hunt

5) keep track of your muses. If you spy something that strikes you in a magazine or in real life--a wall color, a picture arrangement, an awesome piece of furniture--cut it out or take a picture of it, and stick it in a file for future inspiration. By looking through all the pictures you've collected, you'll get a good sense of your own style preferences. I didn't realize how much I was drawn to calm color palettes until I began to flip through my inspiration binder and noticed the recurring theme--sayonara red dining room....

in case you were wondering, no, the pics are not of our home (but maybe you figured that out from the 1500 hangers dangling from the ceiling above) ... we're not cool enough to go that bohemian in the day to day. They're from a recent trip to anthropologie, that mecca of mass retail style

Thursday, August 28, 2008

chic chef

could this apron be any cuter?
hardly, but just to make sure the makers of the "adorable apron" at blissful living studio decided to make it reversible so that you can enjoy double the culinary cuteness. Here's the other side
They also have it in different fabric as well as more in other fun styles. Check them out at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Balsamic Chicken with Pears and Feta

inspiration: the gorgeous pears at the farmer's market

result: Balsamic Chicken with Pears and Feta
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp chardonnay
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar (or splenda)
2 pears (not over-ripe), sliced
3 Tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
sprigs of rosemary (optional for garnish)
-combine 1/2 cup chardonnay, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, dash of salt, dash of pepper, 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium bowl, then add chicken and turn to coat
-in a another small bowl combine remaining balsamic vinegar, remaining chardonnay, chicken broth, and sugar, set aside
-let chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, then discard marinade
-heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in large pan over medium heat and add chicken, turning once and cooking until juices run clear (about 8-10 minutes)
-remove chicken to a plate and saute sliced pears in the same pan for 1 minute
-re-add the chicken to the pan, and pour the mixture from the small bowl over both the chicken and the pears, cook for 3-minutes until liquid begins to bubble
-remove the chicken to plates, top evenly with pears and crumbled feta
-let pan sauce boil for one minute and then drizzle over the chicken
-garnish with rosemary if using and serve immediately
this is a little more work than most of my summer meals. It took about 45 minutes including the time to marinate the chicken, but it was well worth it. It has a subtle, sweet flavor that's nicely balanced by the strong feta.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

something blue

from our recent antique outings

if you're looking for a creative use for an old chair...

turn it into a planter. I think it would look prettier with some impatients, pansies, or begonias though. Several shops on this street have adopted the idea. There's something about it that's kind of charming and witty at the same time.

It's hard to go wrong with a blue and yellow combination. I love the stripes!

doesn't this southwestern cobalt looks awesome againt the rust walls?

another cobalt blue but with the pale, airy yellow this entryway reads as soft, victorian, and serene.

Monday, August 25, 2008

boho-chic beds without bases

Aside from finally unpacking the million boxes that have been parked in our bedroom for the last couple months, we've done little to improve the space's aesthics lately. One potentially awesome exposed brick wall remains a disturbing purplely maroon, and the other 3 take you back to the early 90s with their pinkish purple pastel hue and blush trim--yuck. However I did stumble across a couple of consoling photos that made me feel very fashionable about our failure to find a base for our mattress which remains (stylishly) on the floor.

This one's a Twig Hutchinson that I found on

and this one is artist Alexander Vethers's bedroom featured in New York Spaces earlier this summer

so restful and inviting.....and just a little too accessible for 2 toddlers looking for a good trampoline.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Whenever we go downtown, I'm awed but how blessed we are to live in a city filled with amazing FREE art exhibits. What struck me most today was the incredible architecture and the richness of the materials used to house the fabulous works of art. The girls and I spent most of our time in the West Wing of the National Gallery. It was designed by architect neoclassicist John Russell Pope and completed 1941. Nearly every inch of it is carved out of pink Tennesse marble. It's so striking.

The mall entrance
The Pantheon-like dome in the West Wing

one of two symetrical indoor gallery gardens
yes, even the water fountains are gorgeous

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's Girl with a Shell
central west wing fountain
a day well spent....
Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

End of Summer Italian Chicken Salad

Inspiration: Summer! And because I'm nostalgic for college and love photos from the good old days, I'll credit my sophmore semester in Italy too

(thanks to my classmate Mandy Lagarde for the pics)

The result: End of Summer Italian Chicken Salad

4 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium-large tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
a bunch of fresh basil
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
3 Tbsp. pinenuts
3 Tbsp Olive Oil

-heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
-sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to skillet, stirring occassionally until cooked through (about 5 minutes)
-arrange tomoato slices on a plate, top with mozzarella, chicken, and basil.
-drizzle with remaining olive oil, sprinkle with pinenuts and a couple couple dashes of salt and pepper

you might notice a theme to my summer meals, quick and easy. Tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella is my favorite classic italian combination. It can't be beat in terms of flavor, and it's impossible to mess up. Adding the chicken makes for a heartier meal. This can be served as a main course or as a salad for all to share.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Thankfully, our weeks of vacation were as wonderfully relaxing and fun as we had hoped, and we're all ready to re-enter real life. The hardest part about vacation for me is allowing our family to actually rest. I like projects--especially ones that involve some creativity--and I usually go about them rather manically, trying to geteverythingdoneallatonce. Sadly, patience has never been one of my strong points, and I usually think of weekends and vacations as good times to do all the house projects that I've been dreaming of doing. Well, to the relief of my husband, this vacation was different. We did not do any house projects. We just had fun.

However, now that we're all refreshed, I'm gearing up for some home design fun. The hardest part is trying to decide what styles will blend cohesively and fit into the spaces we have in our home (and into our budget...sigh). Here are some of my inspirations

I'm really drawn to the restful, Swedish palette of this home, owned by Loi Thai, a designer and store-owner in Bethesda, MD. It was featured in Traditional Home this summer.

Also, having just come from the beach, beach houses are on my mind. I love how fresh and laid back the colors are. I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by them all year long. Here are a few I love.

This was also featured in Traditional home awhile ago. I'm not sure the white palette would be up for hosting a puppy and 2 toddlers day after day, but it's lovely nonetheless.

I just spotted this on a favorite blog, It's of a beach house designed by Jane Coslick of Savannah, Georgia.

It's hard to find pictures of small beautiful bathrooms (and now I can't remember where I found this one, I think Better Homes and Gardens) but it's the inspiration for our main floor bathroom. We're not using the same color, but I love the basic feel.

This is from the home of another favorite blogging mom, She is so creative and her whole home seems like a living piece of art. We are going to do something similar with some family pictures in our dining room.

This nautical room helped inspire the palette for my husband's office. His office is more masculine, but the color scheme is similar. I think it's from Better homes and Gardens, but they didn't list a designer.

Unfortunately, our camera has gone a missing, so I can't post any pictures of my own at the moment. Hopefully by the time I find it all these wonderful inspirations will have translated into good ideas for a beautiful Moss home.

Friday, August 8, 2008

summer retreat

For another week, we're in retreat mode, which means there won't be a lot of time spent on the computer. We're off to soak in summer.....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Citrus Calamari Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

The inspiration:
We spent a blissful Sunday at the beach, so seafood is on the brain. Also, we're beat, so another 15 minute dish is just what the (calamari) captain ordered.

The result:
Citrus Calamari Couscous with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

1 cup uncooked whole grain couscous (or substitute a box of Near East Pine Nut coucous)
1/3 pound frozen calamari rings*
1 medium tomato, diced (or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1/4 cup pine nuts
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
bed of greens
fresh basil (optional)
-take 2 saucepans, add a cup of water to each, and bring both to a boil
-stir in couscous to one pan, then cover and remove from heat and let let sit for 5 minutes
-in the other pan, add frozen calamari and cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain
-drizzle half the lemon juice and a dash of salt to the couscous and fluff with a fork
-add the other half of the lemon juice and a dash of salt to the calamari, and mix until coated
-mix the calamari, tomatoes, and olive oil into the couscous, and salt to taste
-spoon over beds of greens, sprinkle with pine nuts, and garnish with basil if using
*virtually any kind seafood can be used for this dish. We get our calamari at Trader Joes because they always have good deals on their frozen seafood. We've also tried canned clams, frozen bay scallops, and shrimp. Experiment!
This can be served hot or cold, as a salad or as a side (without the greens). It's very versatile. We are citrus lovers in our family, so I always serve with extra wedges of lemon.

Friday, August 1, 2008

summer ceviche

This was going to be part of our picnic dinner last night when we went to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven's 9th Symphony under the stars...but given the state of our stomachs this week we went with frozen lemonade smoothies instead. Beethoven sounded just as sweet without the ceviche, however, tonight we're giving it another shot.

Ceviche has many forms, but nearly all involve citrus-marinated seafood. In traditional recipes, marinating the seafood in the citrus actually cooks it. You can use basically any type of fresh fish, but this is a take on my mother-in-law's famous Ecuadorian style ceviche de camoron.

Summer Ceviche

1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings
1 large tomato, cored and diced
1 medium avocado, diced
1 lb. cooked shrimp, tails removed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (you can substitute parley for the cilantro if you prefer the taste)
1/4 cup lemon-lime seltzer (my mother-in-law uses Sprite instead)
juice from 1 medium orange
juice from 4 limes
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup of ketchup (or vegetable cocktail, like V8)
splash of Tabasco sauce (optional)

-place thinly sliced onions in a bowl, toss with enough salt to cover the onions completely, and chill for a minimum of 20 minutes
-combine ketchup/V8, seltzer, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, and tabasco (if using)
-when onions have been chilled rinse off all the salt and add to the liquid mixture
-add the rest of the ingredients, stir lightly, and let chill (20 minutes will do, but the longer the better to let the flavors really blend)
-serve cold

Don't be intimidated by the odd mix of ingredients. All the strong flavors blend beautifully for a perfectly refreshing summer dish. It has been a hit everytime we've served it.
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