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January 30, 2019

Nantucket Original Custom Paintings

8x10 canvas in wide gold frame, 

Remember when I launched the Fresh Home Collection at the beginning of January and I remarked how I crave the sea this time of year?  Last week we had a snow day and I took the opportunity to do a little day dream painting.  I painted a misty, grey washed out view from the bluff walk in 'Sconset on Nantucket.  We visited there last summer (read post here) and fell in love with the feeling of being there - on the edge of the world, removed from everyone, surrounded by the ocean, misty salty air and sweet smelling roses.

This series of paintings will be created on an on demand bases.  Orders should be placed by February 1st for this Nantucket Series, other series to follow.  

Each painting will be custom painted, so natural variations will occur.

"...the scent of the roses and the blooming privet, the light, the salty breeze, and the overwhelming feeling of slowing down and being removed from the rest of the world was hard to capture.  It was breathtakingly beautiful in both a natural and manicured way.  Everything surface was either lushly green, blooming, or weathered wood, stone or shells.  The homes feel comfortable and well worn, removed from time and trends in the most lovely manner.  We loved it and will return soon."

Shop all options in the Fresh Home Collection >

You can see some of the texture of the paintings here.  I love using acrylic for seascapes because I love the glisten and shine it gives to ocean views.

January 28, 2019

Walking | Simple Pleasures

I'm going to start a new blog series on "simple pleasures."  It falls under my "everyday occasions" category, but it is also something different.  In our lives that seem to get bigger and busier, I try to keep a habit of lavishing in simple pleasures.  Good cups of coffee, getting up early, lighting candles, steamy showers, bubbly baths, slow Saturday mornings, nice pajamas, fresh sheets, and daily morning walks.  All of these things are simple, tiny and mostly easily attainable, but could be overlooked or forgotten in hectic schedules.  So this series here to remind all of us of the little moments that make big impacts.  The first in the series is absolutely essential for me everyday.  I would love to hear about your favorite little everyday moments.


Daily Morning Walks

I have walked (almost) everyday for 12 years.  Before that I did lots of various "workouts" from aerobics classes (that's what they were called 20 years ago...), yoga, running, etc.  Nothing really stuck for me or added anything to my life except to check the fitness box - not that I was even that 'fit.'

It all changed for me when I got Mr. Darcy.*  He was a puppy and he needed walks.  Lots of long walks. I found what started as a new daily chore has become my lifeline.  I have to walk everyday, no longer for Mr. Darcy, but for myself.

My walks are when I do my best thinking.  Almost instantly when I leave the house, I can feel how it opens my head, clears my mind and lifts my mood.  Literally, just steps outside of our drive I take that big deep breath and feel refreshed.  If I'm ever feeling at a creative impasse, or struggling with something (as simple as a new product idea, blog post or as complex as a tough relationship), I know I can always contemplate it most clearly on a walk.  I always come back from a walk full of energy, ideas and happiness.  My lungs are full of fresh air, my posture is improved, my body feels leaner and stronger and my head is clear.  Life can be so simple sometimes.

My favorite time of day to walk is early each morning as the sun comes up.  In the wintertime, our schedule is a little off as the sun is coming up at about 7:45.  Emma gets up at 7am and leaves for school by 8am, and I don't want to miss time with her in the morning, so my walks get pushed to 8am in the winter.  But soon, I'll be back on schedule, leaving the house at 6am and being back home by 7am, catching the sunrise at about 6:30.  Sunrise in the middle of the summer can be before 6am, and can be as late as 8am in the winter.  You know things like this when you are a morning walker.

This year, I've incorporated walking to my favorite coffee shop into my early morning walks.  They open at 6:30.  It takes me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 back, so being out of the house at 6am is always my goal so I can be back in time for Emma to wake up.  It is a 3 mile loop for me and I always come back warmed up from walking and coffee and it feels great.

To be up, outside before anyone else and to witness the sunrise on a daily basis is so special.  On most days, it is my motivation to get up and out early - to catch the sunrise.  In the warmer months, we often take sunset walks as a family.  I'm trying to pass on my love for walking to Emma, as it has been such a saving grace for me.

My minimum temperature is about 15 degrees.  I bundle and even wear ski pants if necessary.  It is amazing how toasty you get after walking about 10 minutes outside in the cold.  I always come back sweating and red cheeked - perfect start to a winter day.

The other benefit of walking outside is getting to observe nature.  We don't live next to a great park or have any trails to walk on, so I rely on finding the prettiest natural spots I can in our neighborhood.  We walk along a creek that lines a golf course where we observe ducks and ducklings, and watch the water freeze, thaw and observe the life that happens around it.

In the next couple of months, I'll watch tiny buds appear on the trees and get excited to see their progress each day.  I'll notice as more birds appear each morning and their songs increase.  I'll rush home to share the quince and daffodil report to Mike and Emma in March when I see the first ones appear, or in September when I notice the first maple tree begin to turn.  Such simple things.  All things that are within our grasp each day if we take the time to look.

In preparation for this post, I did a little looking around for great walking quotes.  Here are some that resonated with me.
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.  -Friedrich Nietzsche
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.  -Henry D. Thoreau
The most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise.  -Carrie Later
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best.  -Thomas Jefferson
Thoughts come clearly while one walks.  -Thomas Mann

There is also so much data on how healthy a daily walk is - mental health and physical health.  Reading the results to these were so fascinating - like mood-lifting depressed patiences as much as medications can do, adding seven years to your life (!!) and curbing sweet cravings.  I'd include the stats (you can find them here), but I really wanted this to be more of my testament.  Also, when I try to motivate myself with longterm goals it doesn't really work for me.  I am more of an instant gratification person and that is what walking does for me - instantly I feel better for the entire day.  That's what keeps me getting up every morning because I know I will feel great immediately.

Do you walk?  I'd love to hear the benefits you get from walking.

January 24, 2019

Gold Leaf Frames, Mat Boards & Botanical Prints | Gallery Wall Favorites

Gold Frames, Botanicals & Photo Mats

I first located these frames when I created a botanical gallery wall in our guest room (tour here and photos below).  Since then, I've added them to almost every corner of our home.  Some have botanicals like those in our hearth room, and some have photos like the gallery wall going up our stairs.  I haven't always been confident in my wall hanging skills - trying to determine scale, mats and genre is an acquired skill on which I'm still working.  But I have managed to create a couple of corners in our home that just work and work because of the framed prints.

This corner in our living room is one of my favorites and this new look with the Antique Narrow Mats (meaning that they are oversized mats for our narrow small prints that mimic the proportion of the frame) and the tonal seaside coral prints.  It all just works with our neutral room.  The gold is the perfect bit of elegance to keep this room feeling special but not overly fussy.

The Frames, Mat Boards & Botanical Prints are all back in stock in my store.  

This gallery wall going up our stairs is a favorite.  This is where I pull in different types of frames (besides my beloved gold leaf) but they are all coordinating.  I update/rearrange seasonally (just a couple of them that are most dominant) to give this spot a new feel.  This was our arrangement for the Summer - beach photos, whales, and some paintings and sketches to make it feel more eclectic.  

Our hearth room framed collection has grown from four (two on each side of the fireplace) to eight (four on each side).  Just adding four more prints has completed this room - I love it. 

Forgive Christmas photos!  Taken last month when I added them : )

Before (and out of focus!)

Here is the Before with just two on each side.  Using the Wide Narrow Mats keeps the space from feeling cluttered and still gives it a nice fresh look, but completes the space.

Now feeling more complete and finished.

I recently found a new spot to display a botanical collection in our powder room.  These are 8x10" frames with 5x7" prints.  They were the perfect addition to the bathroom... even though it was very difficult to get a great shot of them.

Sometimes you need small prints and sometimes you need oversized prints like I used here in the Guest Room.

This is my favorite collection to use in bedrooms - they are very sweet.  Emma's room is the only one without and botanicals right now... but I'm thinking of adding a collection of 5x7 minis in her room in a set of nine this spring.  Shop Botanical Prints >

I wanted to take you back to the Living Room this summer to show how just changing the botanicals can take this spot to a completely different place.  What feels understated now with the tonal coral prints feels vibrant and fresh here during the summer.  But same gold frames : )

This our from Our Bedroom, and features Whale Prints - even though I put these up for the summer, I've kept these here all year long.  Love soft navy accents in our bedroom.

The School House can't escape the gold frames (I mean, do I have a problem?!?!).  Here is a big collection of botanicals above the sofa.  You can see more photos of the School House as it was set up for the Autumn Open house, here >

Shop the Frames & Botanical Prints Collection, here >

January 15, 2019

Chicken Piccata with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes & Angel Hair

Chicken Piccata with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes & Angel Hair

We have this for dinner probably about once a week - one of everyone's favorites.  It is one of my very favorites because it takes 20 minutes to make (seriously - I timed myself!) and everyone in our family loves it.  It is fairly healthy with lots of spinach, chicken and tomatoes and not too much pasta.  It also feels light, but still filling and very flavorful.  I love that I can stop by the store and have this on the table so quickly and everyone is excited about dinner.

I haven't done a new dinner recipe in a while - a really long time.  I think I've fallen into the same trap of most moms... feeding people every single day.  Emma's tastes are simpler than ours, and though she is a fairly good eater, she doesn't want to try something new every night and, frankly, neither do I.  We take comfort in our favorites - pasta, tacos, burgers, roasted chicken, soup, etc.  So, when I realized this "favorite" of ours wasn't on the blog, I thought it was a good one to add.

I've resolved not to cook quite as much this year - ha!  We eat at home probably 5-6 night a week, which is a lot.  And while I still love cooking, I find myself a burnt out when I have extra time to make something fun, because I've spent the entire week making basic simple kid-friendly dinners.  My goal is to do more like 4 nights a week at home, 1 night easy takeout (pizza, sushi...) and two nights out.  

I would say I'm also going to "resolve" to do more recipe posts, but no promises ; )   It is always my intention, but creating new products for the store has become my new job (instead of writing blog posts), and after working all day, I don't always want to share what we have for dinner.  Like you, I want to turn off "work" and just enjoy family time.  I do miss writing and sharing our days here.  I found it therapeutic, almost, to create this little utopia of living well.  Emma has become very interested in baking lately and has really started to experiment in the kitchen.  I'm not talking cake mixes and decorating cupcakes, but things like pate a choux and sponge cakes thanks to our new favorite show, The British Baking Show.  So, you can look forward to new inspiration from that : )

With all of that said, the store and the School House has become so much more streamlined than it has been in the past.  My helpers are so good at taking responsibility off of my shoulders that I'm finding myself with more free time, so I do hope to be here more often to share.     I also have big garden plans I'm already working on for this spring.  The best part of being a gardener is dreaming and planning in the winter!

Chicken Piccata with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes & Angel Hair

4 chicken breasts (about 1 medium per person)
Garlic Salt
2/3 pounds of angel hair pasta
Sea Salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of capers
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
5 oz box of baby spinach
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of cream

Start a pot of salted water to boil.  When water boils, add pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes, then strain and give a quick rinse with cold water.*

*We've all been taught to not rinse pasta lately and to put it directly into the sauce, so it can absorb the sauce and flavor.   However, I've learned that with this super light sauce, it seems to all disappear into the pasta and then there is nothing to enjoy with the chicken.  So, when I started rinsing with cold water, this recipe became so much better, but do what you want : )

Butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing them down the side, leaving the center intact.  Our grocery store does this for me.

Generously sprinkle garlic salt on one both sides of the chicken breasts.  In a saute pan, heat the olive oil.  After about 1 minute, add the chicken.  Cook on medium for about 6-8 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked all the way through.

Add the butter, cream and lemon juice the the saute pan.  Add the spinach, tomatoes and capers.

Toss everything together until the spinach cooks and wilts down - it can be easier to take the chicken out during this part if your pan is too full.  

Add the pasta and toss it all together, making sure the pasta gets reheated from the sauce.  Taste for seasoning - add more butter or lemon, if needed.

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