Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Designing with my Daddy

I'm sure we all remember the age old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?". Well I was the child that liked to dance to the beat of my own drum and I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing. Pretty much every woman in my family is or was a teacher so obviously I was not going down that path. My father is an architect and I was not the most artistic child so that was also out of the running. When I arrived at my freshmen orientation for the University of Tennessee, I went to the shortest line because I was trying to get to dance team practice. The line happened to be for the College of Communications and I later found out that my Public Relations major required the least amount of math, so I was all set! It wasn't until I met Chris and began working for HGTV that I realized my passion for design. I always enjoyed decorating and would take a lot of time covering the details. This was my way of making where ever I was living feel like home since I moved around quite a bit after college. I chalked it up to me being OCD about living in clutter and liking all my stuff to have a place. Now looking back, it was because I had an eye for design and loved putting the pieces of each room together. It would have been nice to realize this when I was trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I guess better late than never!

I remember when I was younger asking my father if he would design a house for me one day. He always laughed and said 'Only if the price is right!' Growing up I watched my father design homes and renovate spaces, including our home. He has so many amazing ideas and I was able to see the best go into our home over the past 30 years. My parents bought their house when I was born and have slowly renovated every room. There was a period of time where I lived with my grandmother while my room was being renovated into a guest room with a walk in closet. Side note-I am an only child and yes I got a walk in closet. :) The carpenters, Bobby and Ronnie, are part of our family and there are definitely photos of me growing up with them at our house during some point of every year.
Finally, this summer my dad finished the outdoor space and with only a few pieces left to fine tune, I think the house will finally be finished. Although, I did hear my mother planning her master bath remodel so I guess the cycle will begin again. I always swore I would not live in a construction zone since that's what I grew up with, but seeing my parents house now, it was totally worth it and inspires me to have a home that my family can grow into. I now understand why it took my father so long, because he wanted it to be perfect and he didn't skip out on any detail. I'm quickly learning just how many options there are and how many decisions have to be made. Time should definitely be taken to ensure you will be happy with the final product.

When Chris and I got married and I moved to Cape Cod, we began our life together in his home that he bought from his father right before we were engaged. It is a beautiful, traditional Cape Cod summer house that was built in the late 1800's. We later found out it was a catalog home by Sears and Roebuck. Chris's parents added a beautiful kitchen and covered porch to the home when they bought it. When we became the owners, we knew it would need some updating to suit our needs and the needs of our future family. So I sat down with my dad and we began the design process.

Over the course of two years....yes we have been planning a LONG time.....we went through plans for a renovation that would begin with lifting our existing house and digging out a full basement. The original house was built right on the sand with very little supporting underneath. It has stood through blizzards and hurricanes so clearly they were doing something right back in the day. However, the house was sinking in the sand and we could roll a marble across the floor with the tilt that was going on. It wasn't insulated since it was originally built as a summer cottage and wasn't used in the winter. There was a lot we needed to do to bring the house up to code and into this century! We wanted a master bedroom, bathroom and closet upstairs, so that was planned to be the addition on the back while just gutting the front and updating the interior. Pretty basic, right? Well, fast forward to present day and the old house is completely gone. Yup, you read correctly! We tore the entire house down and we are starting from scratch, sort of. After planning and talking and meeting with builders it came to our attention that it would be more cost and time effective to just tear down and start over. You never know what you are going to find when you open walls that were built in the 1800's and I didn't want to take the risk. We loved the design of the house and wanted to keep the integrity of the Cape Cod style, so while we are tearing down and building new, the design is actually staying the same as it would have with a renovation. The biggest difference will be that building new will allow us to have higher ceilings for my tall husband and his very tall family. We will now have peace of mind in knowing every detail that is going into the foundation, framing and insulation. This will be better for the long run and I am so happy with our decision. My hope is that our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to enjoy this home one day so we need it to be done correctly the first time around!

This has been so much fun to do with my dad and it really makes the house so much more special for us. I will always remember this process and I will appreciate the little things in our new home that my dad came up with that I never would have thought about. He is a details man! I'm very lucky to have his expertise and help through this process. There are so many horror stories about construction, but I feel confident that we have the best of the best working for us and this is going to be a fun and very enjoyable process. Stay tuned as we build and design....lots of pictures and details to come!

Here is the before shot......

Watch it come down...crazy how quickly this process is!

Now we are left with a blank slate......

I can't wait to see what this turns into!!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Cleaning-Fresh and Fun!!

The sun is finally shining and while I am thrilled to be able to go outside, I need to get the inside of the house organized. It's time to clean out the closets, get rid of unnecessary items, and put away those winter coats until next season. Today I will take you through my plan of action to get the house ready for summer and visitors.

Sometimes I have a hard time parting with clothing and especially shoes, but it's such a waste of space to hoard items that you haven't worn in years. My rule of thumb is if it wasn't worn during the previous season and it's still in the closet then it should go. So when I enter my summer section and find pieces that were never worn last summer, they will go to Goodwill. They deserve to find a home where they will be worn and loved, not stuck in a closet year after year.
For my larger items, like boots, sweaters and winter coats, I prefer to pack these away in plastic bins for safe keeping. If you have a basement or storage space tuck these items away until next winter. To keep them fresh add a cedar block or hang on cedar hangers. My parents are lucky enough to have a cedar closet in the basement and I hope to add this to my home one day. But until then, I will use a pack similar to the photo below. You can get these at Target, Container Store or Bed, Bath and Beyond for $10. Stick them in your storage bins or add them to your drawers. They will absorb moisture and repel insects.

Dust Removal
Before you turn on those ceiling fans, make sure you remove the dust from the top of the fan. An easy way to do this without buying a bunch of fancy dusters is by using old socks. My dryer is always eating socks and I am left with a handful of mismatched styles. Make a pile as you clean out the closet and use them to quickly wipe down the fan blades and blinds. Put one on each hand with some dusting spray and quickly wipe everything down.

Homemade Cleaners
In an attempt to get rid of clutter in my bathroom and under the kitchen sink, I am making my own multi-purpose cleaning spray this year. I am also trying to clear all the toxic mess out of our house so making your own allows you to know exactly what you are spraying in your home. Distilled vinegar has a high acidity so it is perfect for killing mold, bacteria and germs in every part of your home. There are many different recipes so choose what scent you prefer, but all are basic and easy to make.  My favorites are lemon, orange, grapefruit or lavender.

For an everyday spray, boil white distilled vinegar and pour over citrus peels in a canning jar. Allow to sit for a couple of weeks or speed up the process by soaking in a water bath as you would when canning vegetables. Leave it sealed overnight. Pour the vinegar through a strainer into a spray bottle and add water. Depending on the size of your bottle, I recommend 1 cup water to 2 cups vinegar. This is all natural and non toxic so safe for kids and animals to drink. Probably won't taste very good, but it won't hurt them. For harsher cleaning, use baking soda. This is great for clogged drains, disposals, refrigerators, microwaves, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines. Mixtures of baking soda and white vinegar can clear the cloudiness from your glassware, clean buildups from tea and coffee makers and polish brass.

Use just straight white vinegar for cleaning showers and toilets. You can also spray vinegar around door openings to repel ants or leave a bowl on the countertop to get rid of fruit flies. This stuff is amazing and we should all just be cleaning with white vinegar solutions instead of toxic cleaners that cost way more than a bottle of vinegar and box of baking soda. For more information and uses, go to  They have 1001 uses listed so I'm sure we can all benefit from the ideas there!!

Now I'm off to tackle the closet while my cleaning solution is marinating. Hope this will help to make your spring cleaning a bit more fun!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Make It Personal

I really can't believe that Christmas is right around the corner! The final countdown is on and the constant reminder of how many shopping days remain can give us all anxiety. Tis the season for giving and I love coming up with the perfect item that will make someone happy.  This year I decided to put together some gifts for friends with a personal touch by making them myself. 

It's no surprise that the weather is dry and freezing during the winter in New England. When I hosted a ladies holiday party last week, I wanted everyone to leave with something special. So I created a homemade peppermint sugar body scrub. It was super easy, inexpensive and smelled amazing!

Peppermint Sugar Body Scrub
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
3-4 drops peppermint extract
5-6 drops red food coloring 

I found cute canning jars at Christmas Tree Shops. This is a New England store but the same jars can be found at Home Goods, Target, Amazon....pretty much anywhere. I mixed the ingredients with my hands until the sugar was fluffy. For the candy cane effect, layer the white mixture and the red. Make sure you press down each layer with a spoon to pack in as much as possible. This will keep it from shaking around in the jar. I made half candy cane and half solid white and accessorized the jars with candy. The sugar and coconut oil leave your skin so silky! 

My parents have a group of friends who they always exchange gifts with each year. I think it's pretty cool that they keep it up year after year so I wanted to start the same with our group of friends on Cape Cod. The gifts are always festive and usually involve food that can be enjoyed with family or when friends stop by during the holidays. Chris and I decided to make our own herb infused olive oil. It's a great item to have around the house with some bread, olives and cheese. 

 We started with a mixture of spices and crushed them with a mortar and pestle. This opens the herbs up and will allow the flavor to infuse in the oil. I really love the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's. If you have your own garden, it's great to use fresh rosemary with this as well.

Herb Mixture
21 Seasoning Salute
Sea Salt
Black Peppercorns
Red Pepper Flakes 

We put 1 jar of each spice in the mortar and pestle to crush up. Be modest with the red pepper flakes because not everyone likes it spicy. We only used half the jar in our recipe. Then using a funnel we added 4 tablespoons of herb mixture to each bottle before filling with a really good extra virgin olive oil. 

I found the bottles on Amazon and they are perfect because the cork top will keep the oil fresh. I plan to tie a wooden gift tag around the neck and they will be ready for delivery. If you are a baker, you could even bake some bread to go with the oil. I am putting that on my list of things to learn to do in 2014! 

Have a wonderful holiday season! I hope to share more of what's going on in our home and various projects I'm working on in 2014. Stay tuned!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday Treats

My apologies for taking so long to update my blog. I promise more excitement to come as I am working on a few fun projects that I can't wait to share! Today, I would like to share what's going on in our house during this holiday season. This is the time of year to enjoy friends and family. I love entertaining whether its a huge dinner party or a few friends for a glass of wine. In any situation, we are always in need of some snacks to go with that glass of wine or eggnog. I like to keep these items around during the season in case friends stop by without notice or in case I haven't had time to go to the store. It saves time and allows you to enjoy friends and family without worrying if you have something to serve. My grandmother always had bowls of various candy and treats so my inspiration comes from her. There was never any lack of food at her house!!

Spiced Oyster Crackers
These are super easy and only take about 30 minutes to make. You can prepare them in bulk and store in a large tupperware container. Then pour out in a small bowl as needed.

1 package Ranch Dressing Dry Mix ( I use Hidden Valley)
1/2 tbsp Dill Weed
1/2 tbsp Lemon Pepper
1/2 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes (leave out if you don't like spicy)
1/4 tbsp Garlic Powder
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
5 cups Oyster Crackers

Mix ingredients together and pour over crackers. Stir to coat and transfer to baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes.

People Puppy Chow
A sweet treat that will be a fan favorite for sure! I usually have to make this a couple of times since my husband loves it so much. It should be covered in a bit more powdered sugar than my photo. I ran out on the day I was taking photos.

1 package Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (I use Nestle Toll House)
3/4 package Peanut Butter Chips (I use Reece's)
1 stick Butter
1 box Rice Chex Cereal
1 box Powdered Sugar

Melt chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and butter together in microwave safe bowl or on stovetop. Pour over cereal and stir to coat. Pieces will clump together and this is okay. Using your hands to mix ensures all cereal pieces are covered. Place mixture in a large plastic bag and add powdered sugar. Shake to coat. I have used a trash bag for this or you can split recipe into 2 large ziplock bags and shake until contents are covered in white sugar. Store in a large tupperware container and serve in small bowls as needed.

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats
This is an oldie but goodie and takes no time! The peanut butter is a nice twist or you can always do the traditional plain marshmallow.

1 stick butter
1 package Mini Marshmallows
1 package Peanut Butter Chips
5 cups Rice Krispies

Melt butter, marshmallows and peanut butter chips together. Stir in Rice Krispies until all are coated. Pour into 9x12 pan. I usually spray with Pam to make sure the bottom doesn't stick. Allow to cool then slice into squares and serve.

Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fresh Juice-No Juicer

Yes, you read the title correctly! I successfully made my own juice without the use of an expensive juicer. I just returned from eating my way through Texas I knew it was time to get my diet back on track with some fresh juice. There are a ton of companies that offer really great delivery programs right to your door, but they are expensive! I wanted a way to have fresh juice as a regular source of vitamins and nutrients for my body, but I did not want to break the bank while trying to lead a more healthy lifestyle.

I started this adventure by researching different vegetable and fruit blends that would provide me with all the good stuff my body craves. My research lead me to This website has so many great recipes and also lists why each blend is beneficial. Really great information.....totally wish I came up with a site like that. So helpful!!

I did my shopping at Trader Joe's because they have incredibly fresh produce with even better prices. If you don't have a Trader Joe's, check out local farmer's markets or community gardens for inexpensive fresh produce. Or work on a garden of your own! I saved on the cucumber and parsley because I already have those items in my garden.

My Shopping List:
Green Apple
Red Apple

Now for the juice without a juicer! You will need a blender so I'm sorry if you thought you could do this without any appliances at all. A blender is useful for so many other reasons. You will get much more out of it than a juicer. I have a Vitamix and it is incredible! Highly recommend! I can make soup, smoothies, sauces, dips, spreads, juice, margaritas and a whole mess of other things with it. Totally worth every penny!

You will also need a strainer and/or a cheese cloth. I have found a two step process with both is more successful when it comes to removing the pulp so you are left with only liquid juice. I hate pulp so the two step process is necessary for me. It may not be for you so pick your poison.

Juice #1
2 Cups Kale
2 Cups Spinach
1 Cucumber Peeled
2 Stalks of Celery
Handful of Parsley
2-3 Large Chunks of Pineapple
1/2 Cup of Water

The great thing about the Vitamix is that you don't have to finely chop your vegetables. I literally threw everything into the blender in chunks and let the machine do the work. After everything is turned to a liquid form, it's time to strain the pulp out so you are left with only juice. My two step process is shown below with a strainer and then a cheese cloth. I started with the strainer then put what didn't drain through the strainer into the cheese cloth. Gently squeeze it to help all the juice to press out. You will be left with a very interesting green clump that can go directly into your compost. The cheese cloth can go in the compost too so clean up is super easy and you are making the most of everything by not putting the excess in the trash. Juicing and saving the planet all in a day's work!

Once I have all the juice squeezed out, I store it in mason jars for safe keeping in the fridge. It will be fresh for about 3 days. I like to drink it after it has been refrigerated for a couple of hours. Cold and refreshing!

Below are a couple more recipes I have tried and love. This has really made me feel so much better. Whether you want to do a juice cleanse or incorporate juices into your daily diet, I highly recommend!! Please share thoughts and any recipes you have in the comments section. 

Green Machine

4 Cups Kale
2 Stalks of Celery
1 Cucumber Peeled
3 Green Apples Cored
1/2 Piece of Ginger Peeled
1 Lemon Squeezed (Juice only in blender)
1/2 Cup of Water

Orange Monster
6 Cups Carrots
2 Lemons Squeezed (Juice only in blender)
1 Inch Piece of Ginger Peeled
1 Cup Water

3 Red Apples Cored
4 Beets Peeled
2 Cups Carrots
1 Cup Water

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Living North of the Mason Dixon Football Edition

Recently a lot of people have asked me 'How do you like living on Cape Cod?' It's funny because the tone always implies that I'm going to respond that I hate it. I live at the beach in a vacation could anyone not love it here?? The summer is amazing and I wish it was longer, but I feel like this is true with a lot of places. You take the bad weather with the good. When I lived in Dallas it was a billion degrees in the summer. Not exactly ideal but there are other times in the year that make it worth it. 

Now that we are seeing a glimpse of fall coming around it does make me miss the south quite a bit. It's Football Time in Tennessee and I do wish every Saturday that I was in Knoxville signing Rocky Top at the top of my lungs while moving my arms along to every routine I can remember from my dance team days. There is no better place in the world than Neyland Stadium on Saturdays!! The campus traditions of the Vol Walk, the parade with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, running through the 'T', the beauty of the orange and white checkerboard end-zone, V-O-L-S, and of course the Whooo in Rocky Top are more than enough to give you chills and cause your hair to stand on end. 

Along with football comes the best tailgating in the world. Waking up to the sounds of Game Day and wondering through a sea of orange will wake you right up in the morning. It doesn't matter what time the game is as long as you are on campus first thing in the morning. The smell and view of amazing tailgate spreads like BBQ, chili frijto pie, Smokey dogs, and dips as far as the eye can see. My favorite part of tailgating is bouncing around from tent to tent having a taste of all the southern goodness that is homemade with love and usually cream cheese. YUM!! Then a little friendly game of cornhole will keep you going until its time to enter the stadium. 

While I do love where I live, I miss so much that comes with life south of the Mason Dixon line. College football, fried food, tailgating, and of course the most amazing accents on the planet. The best part about southern accents is that only we can differentiate between states. TN is very different from SC who is very different from AL and AR and GA. It's wonderful! But we are all part if the SEC which is the best! I think the funniest conversation Chris and I had was about our favorite teams. When I asked him who his football team was and he responded with the Patriots I about fell in the floor. He didn't have a college football team!!!! What a tragedy!!! All it took was a visit to Knoxville for the TN/Bama game for him to be a fan and to understand the deep love that southerners have for their college football teams. There is nothing better in the world!

It's Great To Be A Tennessee Vol!!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

If you organize and pack it....

I feel like we have been planning our house renovation for a decade so last week I decided that if I started packing and organizing the house then maybe it will finally happen. If I organize and pack it, they will come. 'They' referring to the team that is going to help us create our dream home. Cheesy play on Field of Dreams but if it worked for them maybe it will apply to our situation. Or I can just blog about this until it finally comes together!

The planning began about a year ago with a combined vision from Chris, myself and my dad. I may be the luckiest girl in the world because my father is one of the most talented architects on the planet. Chris and I wanted to update the home he bought from his father. It was built in 1900 as a summer cottage and needs some TLC to bring it up to date. My dad opened Pandoras Box by designing a compete work of art along with the necessary updates that will allow us to build a family and live here forever. Once I saw his plans, which were about 10 times more major than I had in my mind, I knew this was our home and we would have to go for it. I was so grateful that Chris purchased the home and we didn't have to search for a place to live after we got married, but the house was his parents and it has been difficult for me to live in their space. We need a space that is ours and a home that we can create together. That's exactly what we are going to get....hopefully sooner than later. 

Growing up with a father who is an architect came along with a house that was and still is under construction. It's beautiful, but a constant work in progress. I made it very clear to Chris that I did not want to live in a house that is constantly under construction. I'm a nester and I like organization where everything has its place. I hate clutter and that may be the biggest argument we have had. Chris puts things in piles around the house with no rhyme or reason. But he always knows what's in those piles. Blows my mind!!! Is this a man thing? My dad does the same thing. A year could go by and they still know exactly what pile that tiny piece of paper with a phone number is in.   

So the house is going to be a major project and will require us to move out, hence why I am packing and moving everything into storage. We will start by lifting the house and digging out a finished basement. The house currently sits right on the sand and is beginning to tilt like most old homes do. The basement will also be ideal for the day kids come along so we can send them down to play. This was an argument that was won by me after our friends brought their kids over during a football game. Chris quickly realized how necessary a basement will be. More necessary for me in the near future so Chris can have his own man cave where I won't complain about his video games. It's a win win!!

Once the house is lifted, we will insulate everything and add on a master bedroom where I will finally have a closet!!! Another problem with old closets. Such a mystery to me. Did they not have clothes or shoes back in the day?? Currently my clothes are on rolling racks in the corner of our bedroom. Not acceptable! :) Our master bedroom will come with a master bathroom where the toilet will have its own room with a door. I watched the Oprah episode about what goes in the air when you flush the toothbrush on the sink next to the toilet is not working out. So gross! 

So, this is going to be a big project, but I am so excited for the outcome. It has been a long road of approvals so far since we live in maybe the most historically preserved area ever!! I understand the need to keep everything historically correct and we want our house to be a Cape Cod style home, but man they are taking forever. My fingers and toes are crossed that the machines and work crew will show up shortly so I can start planning the interior details. So much fun to finally design something for myself!! The challenge is keeping it Cape Cod chic but not beach house overload since we live here year round. Until then, I will continue stalking Houzz, Pinterest and any design magazine that catches my eye. I have a notebook with tabs separating each room of the house and inspiration photos in plastic sheet protectors. I did say I like organization, right?!?!
Stay tuned for progress updates!! The house lifting should be pretty cool to see so I will share along the way.