Transitioning the Living Room

livingroominspo copy The living room seems like it would be the most fun to decorate in the entire house, but for me it’s been a bit of a challenge. I think there is a lot of pressure on the living room. It’s one of the first big rooms you see in our house and I feel like it tells your design story more than any other room.  When we were finishing our basement we purchased the couch below and I really like it because it’s  pretty transitional, which is what I was looking for. I wanted a classic silhouette that would stand the test of time and something on the lighter side since we already have a pair of brown leather couches. (Trust me we have scotch -guarded them 10x over.) My living room is painted Accessible Beige so I had been looking for light and bright living room pinspiration, but also images that had some edge.

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Right now, our current living room set up is pictured below, it gets the job done but just doesn’t have the design element I feel represents us. It’s about half way there. I’ve been scowering the internet and have come up with a few small changes that I really think will shift the look of the room, giving it a much more dramatic impact.

Untitled-2 copy 1. Changing out the lampshade-I think that the lampshades get lost in all the neutral that is this room. I think buy changing out a white lampshade with a black one, it’s really going to give the eye somewhere to go.

2. Adding a darker throw-will continue to add a pop of color.

3. Non-symmetrical lighting-I’m over symmetry. I use to think it would bother me and my OCD to not have proper balance, but I’m realizing more and more that adding in a little depth to a room does wonders. I’m going to toss one of the end tables for a floor lamp. The Ikea pendant we got for Oliver’s play area is just too good, so I’d like to purchase the same model type floor lamp upstairs in our living room.

4. Mix and Match Pillows-I really do like the Paisley pillows (that must be the southern part of me coming out) and so instead of trying to find another place for them, I’m going to incorporate these great purple velvet pillows to give the couch so varying color. The material of the pillows gives it a modern edge that is somewhat dramatic without being super heavy.

5. Adding texture-By swapping out the end table we have had forever with something like this tribal drum accent table, I think it will not only give the room a more current vibe, but also give the room some much needed texture.

6. Bringing in trendy elements-It’s been hard not to jump on all the major design trends right now when it comes to furniture. I don’t have the time or money to be consistently updating our decor in the house and so I’m trying to build a strong foundation where we can easily swap out smaller items that allow us to feel like we are giving homeage to whatever trend is currently taking place.

7 & 8. Bringing in the nature!-There is something about house plants that just instantly pick up a room. Buy adding in some apothecary jars, terrariums and more plants, of varying heights, I think the room will immediately come to life!

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Life Lately

Is it just me or is this year already whizzing by. I’m conflicted because a part of me absolutely wants the freezing temps to lift, the snow to melt and to frolic in the awesomeness of summer, but I also need time to slow down. Oliver turned two yesterday and I felt like I practically blinked and he aged a year. With so much on our calendar these days it seems like more and more we talk in terms of months (even years!) than in weeks or days. Funny how that happens when you get older right? I took a few pictures of our basement progress over the weekend…but it was overcast and they didn’t turn out very well. I’m excited to say that it’s definitely safe for the entire family to be down there now and we are basically living in our basement. I promise to try again soon and toss an update your way. For now, here is just a few snapshots from my iphone of life lately. Hope you enjoy your week!

1 Tulips are back in the grocery stores! That my friends is a $9 bouquet of happiness.

2 Horsing around at the Maple Grove community center!

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Having the hardest time dialing in some edge to our living room…more on this progression soon!

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Had friends and their littles over to the house to celebrate Oliver turning 2!

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He’s 2…how did this happen?!?

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Ladies brunch where the food was good but the drinks (and prices!) were better :)

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Guest Talk: Special Day Cooking

/METRO Today I wanted to write about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, Special Education.

Children with special needs struggle with social and language skills, making friends, teamwork, staying on task, focusing and self-esteem. Beverly Palomba, a veteran special needs educator and author of the one-of-a-kind cookbook, Special Day Cooking: A Life Skills Cookbook, has graciously agreed to be interviewed for the blog to share a little bit about her new venture.

Upon moving to San Francisco roughly 26 years ago, Beverly has been a teacher for the past twenty years, working exclusively in Special Education. She created a life skills cooking class at the local high school geared to the needs and abilities of her students. From this class curriculum her book was born. We discussed her book as well as her passion for writing it. I hope you enjoy!

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Claire: As a first of its kind, what inspired you to write a cookbook for people with developmental challenges?
Beverly: My intention when I started teaching cooking to special needs children was that they would become independent in the kitchen. When I realized that there wasn’t a cookbook out there for them to use that met the criteria they needed to be successful, I decided to take the recipes from our classroom lessons and publish a cookbook.

Claire: What would be your advice on how a family with a special needs child goes about starting to cook from your cookbook?
Beverly: First, I would take a tour of the kitchen with your child. Check to be sure that equipment such as; mixing bowls, mixing spoons, measuring spoons, toaster, cutting boards, etc. can be easily reached. Then, show your child where the ingredients such as, spices, oil, dry ingredients are stored and that they can be easily reached as well.

Doing this with your child lets them know you are working as a team, that they are a part of the process, and their input is important. Be excited! If they see excitement in your eyes and hear it in your voice, they will feel excited too.

Then, pick out a recipe together. Choose a very simple recipe. Not just a few ingredients but a few directions as well. I always recommend doing a recipe a few times until the child feels comfortable with the layout of the recipe and the process. You want them to become independent cooks and you want to feel comfortable when they want to try something on their own.

My recipe to success when teaching cooking to special needs children; consistency, repetition, patience and a large dash of humor.

Claire: What do you think are some fundamental skills a child should have before being able to use your cookbook?
Beverly: It’s hard to say what age or level a child should be at to start cooking, especially with special needs children.  It all depends on the individual child’s development. As in learning any life skill, the earlier the better, so it becomes second nature to them.

Claire: What makes “Special Day Cooking” different from other children cookbooks that are on the market?
Beverly: Special Day Cooking is different from other cookbooks (children’s or adult’s) in the layout. The recipes in my cookbook are designed to teach new cooks the process of cooking and each recipe is consistent in design. Special Day Cooking is also designed to grow with the child as they learn to cook. Special Day Cooking has very simple recipes to start with and more challenging recipes once the cooking process is learned.

Claire: In what ways do you think learning to cook would enrich the life of a child with special needs?
Beverly: Wow! Cooking has soooo many benefits!! When we are cooking there is so much going on. It just doesn’t teach an invaluable life skill of cooking a meal independently but it also it can teach how to follow directions, develop language, build social skills, self-esteem and confidence. It can give a child a sense of belonging, foters teamwork and prepares for independent adult living.

“Special Day Cooking” is available on Amazon or through Beverly’s website www.specialdaycooking.com

Photo courtesy of Contra Costa Times

 

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Giving your wall some clothes.

4ffa9e2f8dbfdd0a1597476a333a3180 Sometimes I wonder if a gallery wall will ever be the equivalent of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster…or chevron (we all jumped on that train didn’t we? guilty!) But then I think, how can something so magical as a gallery wall ever become tiresome? Especially when there are SO many variations. I’m officially claiming 2015 as the year of the gallery walls (in our home at least). The walls in our house have been super neglected (so naked!) and I think having some pieces hung would add instant warmth to our overall luke warm spaces. Everything in my house feels about half finished to me, so I think I’m going to bite the bullet and get to hanging and see if that helps!

Getting started on a gallery wall is so not easy in my book. It’s one of the reasons we have bare walls in the first place. You have to nail down (pun intended) which configuration you want to hang the photographs, then there is the buying of the frames (which ain’t cheap am I right?) and then pinpointing which family photographs (free, yay!) you want to print (there’s that ugly price tag again if it’s large) or what kind of art to buy which can almost depend on the other pieces in the gallery. Complicated right?

I am a devote follower of the blog, Chris loves Julia, because I think she is down to earth, does realistic projects, and I love her aesthetic. She recently posted about just starting a gallery wall and to get going! It gave me the motivation I need, because like her I think having family photographs around the house is pure joy, especially when Oliver changes at lightening speed. Unlike her I won’t be hanging them one by one, ONLY because that might drive me completely nuts but I do think I will start pulling the trigger on some art, blowing up some family photos and keeping my eye on frames on sale. These Ribba frames from Ikea are an amazing deal!

There are a few areas in the house in which I would like to have a gallery wall of photos. One is behind our TV console in our living room (which is where I’d like to start), one is in the dining room and a few hallways could use some love too. Here are some inspiration images I’ve been honing in on… 5f01c8554864d3cd1cf1086905be6bc3 af63879bd381e033107c9f8c58b452c9 56acac538a980629d9a5e528b80e7c65 fc5c3f6f8a06d150e3f1c12dce987222 721a616ee7eff7ffd6a0ec6b3a395c7a b1d47affcea48931daa5f9d5209a8831 I really like a mix of both family photos and art, and lately I’m loving the mixing of material in frames. It makes things far more visually interesting to have a few tones throughout and easier too eh? It just feels more curated and natural. It comes off as warm and less monochromatic. a208acd1e9dcd1cb46f1c1a62fd5766d There is a huge blank space over our living room couch (well scratch that, there was until we purchased a HUGE iron clock that I do love) but I’m digging the large scale art over a couch lately. Like, really digging. To the point that the clock may have to find a new home so shortly after moving in, but thankfully its a very transitional decor piece. Maybe it will stay, maybe it will move, but it will def. always have a home on one of our walls. 6c5e308d672482ee3257f7b2306997fb 7d653e36b98d8fd321bd493b3e2ca897 So that’s a little of the direction I’m heading. I think we could tackle four gallery walls this year, so stay tuned for those project updates-Here’s to printing memories! Images borrowed: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9

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Getting Our Play On!

So here I am, first post of 2015….on January 13th. Resolution to be a better blogger??…NAILED IT. (yea right) I feel that I have two great excuses for my tardiness, one was rolling into the new year with the flu (yea!) and the second was the painting and rewiring of the electrical in the basement, of course got off schedule because of it. But things are looking up! We have finished painting and finished putting in the recessed lighting. We have also replaced all the outlets and covers but still need to get to the door knobs. I always wrestle with showing pictures of a project before it’s done. I think it takes away from the before and after reveal, but like I’ve said before I’m trying to push myself to show more of the process. After all I appreciate that in other blogs I follow, so maybe you would to? So here is a little bit of Oliver’s new play area! IMG_9223 IMG_9224 Let’s talk about this light for a second… IMG_9216 I’m pretty much in love with it and I think the size of it fits the space perfectly. When Chris was putting the recessed lighting in the rest of the basement we refrained from adding it to Oliver’s play space. I knew I wanted some kind of drop down pendant and I wasn’t sure at the time which light we would use or if we would need recessed lighting. Now that we have this one in place I think we both feel another two recessed lights would work for the play area of the basement, and now that Chris has tackled it in the main area, two more should be no problem. So we still need to implement those. Next up is that Ikea map. (It still needs to be hung by the way) Also a special shout out to my SIL who helped put that bookshelf together when Chris was away…you rock! IMG_9212 I have always liked the look of this map but never really had a place to put it in the past. I thought it would be great here, covering a good bit of the wall and bringing in some other colors. I like the idea of teaching your kids that the world is a big place from the get go too. It’s important for them to know of different cultures and a little geography lesson early on doesn’t hurt either. Let me tell you though, I have a love/hate relationship with Ikea. You actually have to put this thing together. I curse you Ikea…but I’ll be back I’m sure. IMG_9215 IMG_9203 The table and chair set we have down there now is temporary. Chris still wants to build a nice wooden one that will be much larger and allow him to play with his train set that he got for Christmas. I’ve been looking around for kid chairs and right now these are my favorite from Overstock. But at least until the new table is built he can use the current set up to color or play cars. I also have to say that we are really happy with the color. It’s exactly how I pictured it in my head and I like how sometimes it looks blue and sometimes it looks grey. It’s Benjamin Moore Marina Gray but it’s lightened by 25%. So there you have it, this is where we are at. There is still a lot left to do, things to hang and that bookshelf needs some major love. I wish I could let him play down here but truth be told, we still have some work to do on the “other” side as well. It’s in a bit of shambles and down right dangerous at this point. Really the mess just needs to be cleaned up from our painting and electrical work and then the couches need to be put in place, along with a few other odds and ends that we have moved down here from the main living room. I’ll be focusing on finishing Oliver’s area this month and making it a safe place for him to play down in the basement. I’m sure we will utilize the other side but it may be a few more months before that is deemed “complete.” I still need to try and do some research on vintage posters and how we want to finish up the adult space. Still perusing…. IMG_9220 See? It’s a wreck. Ignore the mess and just look at the recessed lights!! This picture doesn’t show it but there is a method to the madness in terms of how the lights are positioned. I sware it’s all equal distance and when turned on there are no shadows in the lighting. This picture doesn’t do a good job at showing Chris’s hard work but it’s made the biggest difference. IMG_9209 Here is a picture of Ollie after waking up from his nap. I went to show him the progress we had made and he said, “wowwww” which kinda melted my heart and made all the man hours spent worth it. Plus, he’s looking so BIG, I can’t handle it!

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2014

IMG_5426 2014 was a good year. We were finally getting our bearings being parents (I think it takes about a year to feel a “new” normal), we purchased our first home and have had a really fun time making it our own. Spending the holidays in our house was really special for us and made the season that much greater. I’m a big fan of resolutions, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized it’s more important to have fewer, more substantial goals and it’s also more realistic. I have three this year: be more thoughtful, be a better blogger and to make more time for exercise. I hope you all have safe and happy New Year’s! To see 2013′s year end review, click here.

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Our Christmas Traditions

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It’s Christmas week! I’m both excited and a little bummed. I love the holidays but they always seem to fly by so quickly. Chris’s mom is flying in tonight so we are very much looking forward to her visit. My sister in law Michelle will be staying over as well on Christmas eve and we will be making a roast.  Christmas morning we will make a huge breakfast for everyone and drink mimosas. Nobody needs to shower or even change out of their p.j.’s and “The Christmas Story” movie plays on repeat in the background for most of the day. This is how our holiday goes, whether there is 10 house guests or just us. With Oliver almost 2, traditions seem to be even more important than they were before. To say that we are all looking forward to his reaction on Christmas morning is an understatement. Last year he didn’t really know what was going on and this year, while he doesn’t quite get who Santa is, he will absolutely understand getting new toys to play with! I can only imagine it gets better and better the older they get.

I am really looking forward to the downtime and spending the next few days with my family.

What are some of your holiday traditions?! Are there any that we should adopt? :)

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Scary Basement Rehab

Hey! I hope all of your holiday seasons are going great! This year has flown by so fast and the month of December is no exception. I feel (just like everyone else) that Christmas came super quick after Thanksgiving this year. It took us to about now, but we finally have the house decorated (inside & out) Christmas presents purchased, holiday cards sent and now we can actually relax for the week that is left before the season ends. Oy! I use the term “relax” rather loosely though as we will be taking our house rehab efforts down to the basement over the time off. Right now it’s a space that we hardly use. It has a few of Ollie’s toys down there but generally we stay on the main level as there is nowhere to sit and it’s not an inviting area of the house. I don’t even think Ollie cares to be down there much. Ultimately we had been waiting till the end of the year to replace all the carpet upstairs, but Chris has convinced me that the money would be better spent on making the basement an area we can all hang out. I have to agree seeing as how it’s December in Minnesota and we still have many more months of entertaining ourselves inside. We need all the livable square feet we can get. Here’s a few pictures (of the right and left side), again from the MLS. It looks like this currently, minus all the furniture.

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It’s a pretty nice sized space and the carpet is in great condition. I wish we could demo the soffits on the ceiling but we really can’t since they are framing the duct work/HVAC system. All we really need to do is paint, swap out all the door knobs and replace the track lighting with recessed lighting, which is what we will be doing over the next two weeks. I haven’t picked a color yet but I’m thinking it will be something light and airy, since it’s a basement, I don’t want it to feel too dark. While it’s one large space there is definite sides (a  left side and a right side). Our plan is to make one side more of a media type space using our current living room set, maybe some built-ins we do ourselves or something purchased. Other than the photo below I haven’t seen too many images that get me inspired. While the picture below has dark colored walls, I do like the play on vintage sports décor. I’d like to either purchase some snow shoes like pictured or maybe some canoe paddles to place on the wall. I also love the vintage framed posters and pillows.

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I’ve been more focused on Oliver’s play area and have found much more exciting inspiration on that front. Chris is going to build him a small table that he can choose to play with his cars on or do art, but there are definite bookshelf plans and just a general space to “house” all of his toys, books, etc. Right now most of everything lives in his room or our living room in baskets. We want him to have a larger “play” area and so half the basement will definitely be his!

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So the overall goal is to make it a fun, functional family space where all of us like to hang out, Oliver can have play dates and the family has more room within the house to keep us from getting cabin fever! One of my goals in 2015 is to get around to taking the pictures of Oliver’s finished room as well as the progress on the dining room. It is not lost on me that I keep leaving you hanging with projects!

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My Favorite Cookbooks

cookbooktitle In the digital age that we live in now it’s easy to conjure up a recipe on your tablet or even mobile phone, but I feel a certain nostalgia for cookbooks. For one, I don’t feel as bad smudging the pages with messy fingers as much as I loathe trying to scroll down on my ipad with my elbow. But also they add a lived in and colorful ensemble, provide visually stunning food photography and remind me of the days when I use to watch my mother cook from some of the very editions I have in my kitchen today. Below is a list of some of my recent favorites!
producebible 1. The Produce Bible: Celebrating the explosion of interest in locally grown and hand-picked produce, this comprehensive volume features 200 recipes that bring out the special qualities of each ingredient, from tender spring peas to earthy autumnal tubers. In addition, the book is filled with practical advice on how to choose, store, and prepare fresh produce, as well as basic cooking techniques, nutritional information, and suggestions for companion foods.
Aroundthetable 2. Around the Table: Dozens of stunning color photos invite readers into Martina’s home and around her table all through the year. With this delightful entertaining cookbook, fans everywhere can join in the fun, whether it’s a Red, White, and Blue Backyard Cookout, a Retro Valentine’s Day Supper Club or a night of Mistletoe and Martinis. Chock full of personal anecdotes and memories, this delightful keepsake is infused with Martina’s girl-next-door spirit and irresistible charm.
tupelo 3. Tupelo Honey Cafe: Heralding in its own unique style of cuisine representative of the New South, the Tupelo Honey Cafe salutes the love of Southern traditions at the table, but like the people of Asheville, marches to its own drum. The result is a cookbook collection of more than 125 innovative riffs on Southern favorites, illustrated with four-color photographs of the food, restaurant, locals, farmers’ markets, and farms, in addition to black-and-white archival photography of Asheville.
JOY 4. Joy of Cooking: This 75th edition restores the personality of the cookbook, reinstating popular elements such as the grab-bag Brunch, Lunch, and Supper chapter and chapters on frozen desserts, cocktails, beer and wine, canning, salting, smoking, jellies and preserves, pickles and relishes, and freezing foods. Fruit recipes bring these favorite ingredients into all courses of the meal, and there is a new grains chart. There are even recipes kids will enjoy making and eating, such as Chocolate Dipped Bananas, Dyed Easter Eggs, and the ever-popular Pizza.
bdaycakes 5. Birthday Cakes for Kids: Annie Rigg shows you how to make various cake mixes in different quantities, as well as frostings and decorations for fabulous but effortless cakes. She then takes you through some Simple cakes such as Princess Cupcakes, a Meringue Mountain, and a just Fantastic Chocolate Cake to end all chocolate cakes! Chapters on Animals, Transport, Fantasy, and Wildlife offer all sorts of cake ideas for novice and confident bakers alike.

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Dining room progress & pitfalls

Hey, hey! Thanksgiving is around the corner and I’m not sure we are going to be able to consider our dining room “done” before the big turkey day. As frustrating as it is to miss deadlines, I’m trying to remind myself that while targets are nice to have, we also don’t want to rush something that isn’t working. Right now, in it’s current state, the space isn’t working. I’m trying to be better about documenting the “process” and so here it goes-our dining room progress (I’ll discuss the “pitfalls” momentarily)…

IMG_8857 OK, so what’s happened…I did purchase the West Elm, Eclipse Chandelier and I do love it. It wasn’t easy to get at all. Our local store didn’t have it in stock, it’s being discontinued so they won’t be getting any more and online had it back ordered till after November. I ended up finding one at a Chicago location and ultimately they let me purchase it just as if I was ordering it from their website. Also, we purchased a rug! I flip flopped between the one you see here and the West Elm Herringbone rug, but ultimately there was a 75% off sale at RugsUSA which I couldn’t pass up and I did fall in love with it after seeing it on this blog. Plus, the West Elm rug was an 8 x 10 which really would have probably been a little too big, the one we got fits nicely at 7′ 6″ x 9′ 6″ and it was a steal, let’s be honest.
IMG_8789 IMG_8788 So now…the pitfalls…for one, the chandelier needs to be dropped down significantly. That’s an easy fix, thankfully it can adjust from 30-66″ so we just need to drop it more at eye level, right now it’s just sitting too high.

IMG_8792 Next problem…those blank walls, specifically the back wall. I can’t make up my mind with what to do with it. I’m leaning towards three or four long picture ledges with leaning frames in various sizes. We may still attempt this before Thanksgiving, but I’m not holding my breath that we can pull it off. Even if we do, there is still the annoying wall to the right that competes with the back wall (see below). Ultimately I’m assuming we’ll either put a simple buffet or maybe a large scale piece of art. Either way, the wall real estate in this room is not doing me any favors. IMG_8808 IMG_8802 So there you have it, my headache. I’m hoping that either genius will strike or my parents will just enjoy the low lit magical lighting thanks to the chandelier and once we get the linens, tableware, etc pulled together it will make the room look less stark. We’ll see…as usual, a work in progress. It’s easy to get discouraged but I still think the room as a whole has come a long way….see the original photos here.

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