Things I Love Thursday: Catching My Eye

Crescent Hotel BH

Today’s TILT post is going to be rather a mishmash of things that are making my heart beat a little faster this week. Last night the photo above of the Crescent Hotel in Beverly Hills stopped me in my tracks. I’m so completely in love with the hummingbird painting/print above the bed – such an amazing statement piece.  And the pendants on either side of the bed are beautiful as well.  They actually remind me of the lamp I have next to my bed.  Anyway, Eric and I have been working on some changes around the house and desperately need a focal piece over our bed.  I think we’ve settled on one of the photos he took in Rome, but now we need the perfect frame.

I’ve also been looking for a new wallet.  Mine is starting to look a little worse for wear.  I’m loving this patent LV – bringing a little bit of sexy back to my purse.

LV Sarah Wallet Vernis

I’ve been looking at the pave link bracelet trend that I’m seeing everywhere.  Especially fun in colors like pink, teal, emerald!  Lately I’m finding myself drawn to wearing bracelets, so I’m thinking I may need to add a little sparkle into the mix too.

T and J Pink Peonies

I’m obsessed with Moroccan style, as you know, particularly the dramatic rugs.  This one from West Elm was recently featured in Bri Emery’s office makeover.  I just love this rug so much.

West Elm Kasbah Wool Rug

And, per usual, I am way behind on my DVRed shows (still need to watch the Oscars, in fact).  I’ve had a couple of evenings at home and I’ve been catching up on The Carrie Diaries.  Have you seen this show?  Of course, Sex and the City was always near and dear to my heart – particularly as a single girl.  I was skeptical about Carrie Diaries (and still mourning the ending of Gossip Girl), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised!  It’s fun, it’s young, and OMG it’s taking me right back to highschool.  The music, the clothes, my subscription to Interview magazine…so much win.

Carrie Diaries

If you haven’t been watching, you should definitely check it out.

So, that’s just a quick little look into what I’m loving this week.  I’m glad that tomorrow’s Friday and I’m hoping to get some time this weekend to make a little progress on a few projects I’m working on around the house.  I still need to blog about some of the design changes that have been going on at the house too – we’re nearing completion on most of the rooms in the house, which is really satisfying.  So, more to come on that.  Until next time, what’s catching your eye lately?

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Honoring Her

Easter never used to be more than a holiday for me.  As I mentioned in my last post, over the past few years it has been made more special by spending our honeymoon in Rome for Easter.  Eric’s love of family and traditions has also changed my perception of it, and we celebrate with a special meal and his special cake.  But, this year things seemed to all fall into place to change me at some deep level, to focus on the true meaning of the days leading up to Easter.

On Good Friday, Eric’s grandmother passed away.  And suddenly, we were faced with mourning this amazing woman who had helped to shape Eric into the man he is today.  The past few years have been so full of loss, but somehow this was different.  In the midst of our sadness and grief, we were presented with the message of Easter and for me at least, it brought some comfort.

While I had intended to make Eric’s special cassata cake for him, because of the tradition his Grandmother started, once we got the news on Friday I knew that making Easter special this year was something we both needed.  When I did my last post and posted the photo of my dining room table decorated for the holiday, it reminded me that other than Christmas, I have done zero holiday decorating in several years.  So, I decided that I wanted to make this Easter as special as possible for both of us.  So, on Saturday, while Eric was gone I dug through my holiday decorations and did a little decorating around the house.  Just a few touches, since I knew it wouldn’t be up for very long.  I was so happy to see our dining room all dressed up for Spring.

I especially love my little glass bunnies.  I think I got them from Williams Sonoma years and years ago.  But, aren’t they cute?

And I’m glad I managed to get a photo of how pretty everything looked before the hoodlums got up on the table and ran off with an egg ornament in their mouths and proceeded to bat them around the house.

After I got the decorating finished, I got started on making the cassata cake.  My recipe reminded me that it’s good to make the pound cake a day ahead so that it is completely cooled before I try to put the filling between the layers and frosting it.

On Sunday morning, I got started on finishing the cake.  I made the filling and popped it in the fridge to chill so that it was easier to spread.  Then I got started on making the whipped cream frosting.  Homemade whipped cream is just the best, isn’t it?  Reminded me of my chocolate bread pudding – I need to make that sometime soon.

Once I had my filling and frosting made, I cut my poundcake into layers and then brushed them with rum.  I have actually forgotten this step before, so this time I made sure that I noted it on my recipe ingredients.

Once I had the cake assembled, into the fridge it went so that the ricotta filling and the whipped cream frosting could set up.  Then it was time to make dinner.  Eric made the fabulous Moroccan lamb burgers we’d agreed on for Easter dinner, from a recipe courtesy of our friends in Rhode Island.  We opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato for dinner and it was a delicious counterpoint to the spices in the burgers.  Everything was so good!

And after dinner we dove into dessert.  I sprinkled the top of the cake with some semi-sweet chocolate shavings.  I loved the finishing touch it added.

Here’s a little view of the cake once we’d sliced into it.  So so good!  And don’t you love the little bees on the table runner?

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, made all the more special because I felt like we were honoring Grandma’s life by celebrating with a wonderful meal, a beautiful table, and time with each other.  She will be truly missed.

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Preparing for Easter

Egg Tree
This time of year is always special for Eric and I.  Our wedding anniversary is at the beginning of April and we spent our honeymoon in Rome over that Easter weekend.  It was the first Easter Mass for Pope Benedict XVI.  With this Easter being the first for the newly elected Pope, it brings back some memories for us.  Eric and I have also been watching The Bible on The History Channel, and it’s been an excellent conversation topic for us in these weeks leading up to Passover and Easter.

I haven’t been very inspired to do any holiday decorating around the house since Christmas, and the two boys with their kitten antics make me think twice about what I put out.  But, after looking through some old photos, I found the one above of our Easter table and decided I would really like to have a special table setting for our Easter dinner.

And one of the traditions that we have is  preparing a special Italian cake for Easter.  Eric’s grandmother used to bring a cassata cake from the Italian bakery for Easter every year when he was growing up.  When Eric and I got married, I decided that I wanted to recreate this cake from Eric’s past for him.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Cassata cake, I’ve found, can be interpreted in several different ways.  So, over a series of Easters and birthdays, I tried out a number of recipes.

One of the first I tried was for a Sicilian cake that seemed to be similar to a cassata cake.

It was a two layer sponge cake with ladyfingers around the edges, and topped with walnuts, chocolate chips and candied cherries.  Pretty good, but not anywhere close to Eric’s memories.  Plus, with the ladyfingers and the topping, it was a rather labor intensive cake to make.

So, we refined our definition of what he remembered and I ended up cobbling several recipes together to try for my next attempt.  Eric had told me that the cake of his dreams was a loaf cake, like a pound cake.  So, I took a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe and started with that.

Notice the yummy vanilla that Eric’s mom brought us from Mexico?  Love that stuff!  Anyway, the Martha recipe was a total bust.  There was so much butter in this batter that when it was cooking, you could see the cake swimming in a sea of butter.  I’m all for butter, but this was ridiculous.  And the cake itself was not soft and moist, but surprisingly crunchy.

Eric also remembered that the filling between the layers was a lot like cannoli filling.  So, I borrowed a recipe for cannoli filling (ricotta, chocolate chips, etc.).  That, at least, was pretty straightforward.  I used the mini chocolate chips and mixed them in with the ricotta filling.

And then we got to the frosting for the cake.  Eric said it was pretty close to the frosting his mom uses on his usual birthday cake, which is a whipped cream frosting (icing?).  I hit her up again for her recipe and this also was pretty straightforward.  I think it’s just heavy cream, sugar, cream of tartar.  And it makes a ton!

And the final product Eric deemed pretty darn close to his memory.  So, I made several notes, including a note to self to try a different pound cake recipe because the Martha recipe was a big yuck.

And when I made that very first Sicilian cake, it called for brushing the layers of spongecake with rum.  So I added that in this attempt as well.  It adds a little extra depth of flavor in the cake.

I’ve made the cake a couple more times since this initial try and refined it over the last few years.  I’ve changed to a pound cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is very good.  And I’ve started making the cake itself the day before, and it makes it a little easier to assemble the next day.  I’ve also cut the filling and frosting recipes in half, because I seriously ended up with enough for a second cake.  I’ll be making cassata cake for Easter Sunday this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it since I haven’t made it in a while.  I’ll be sure to share how it turns out!

We’re also planning on having our Moroccan Lamb Burgers on Easter as well, because Eric knows that’s about the only way I will eat lamb.  So, I’m looking forward to those – something else we haven’t had in awhile.  Sounds like I’ll have a busy next few days getting everything ready for Easter, but I’m looking forward to it.  And as always, it’s such a special time for us as a precursor to our anniversary, so it deserves to be done right!

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Things I Love Thursday: Marrakesh Decor

Well, I’m a day late for my TILT post this week, but wanted to post anyway.  As I mentioned in my last post, there’s been some redecorating and rearranging going on at my house.  Well, I’ve always wanted to have a Moroccan-inspired living room, at least as long as I remember.  I even blogged about it in this post.  And we’ve made  a lot of changes to the living room since then, but nothing like the changes we’ve made in the last couple of weeks.

I’m really loving the way the room is coming together, and I can’t wait to show you the changes.  You can also see what the room looked like after its most recent “tweaking”.  You may see in that post that I was really pushing toward the Havana-look.  Ultimately, I’d really love a room that has a global feel – things collected from all over the world and incorporated into our design.  Which is one reason why we’re focusing a bit right now on the Moroccan pieces.  And for inspiration, I decided to order Maryam’s new book.  I absolutely love her blog and could not pass up all the inspiration she offers in this book.

The book arrived last night and I’ve already thumbed through it several times.  Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.  I can’t wait to sit down and read it cover to cover.  I love that there are also beautiful photos of her gorgeous Peacock Pavilions too!

I have the creativity and inspiration flowing right now, which is so exciting.  And I feel like one of the most-used rooms in my home is finally getting the facelift it’s been needing, which is making me happy happy.  Now we just need to pull in some other things from other cultures and I think we’ll be good.  I have some great pieces in storage that I think will help!

It’s been a really hard week to stay positive and be grateful, but always important to refocus on the good stuff.  So, here’s what I’ve been grateful for this week:

  • My book on Marrakesh as well as my books for book club arrived
  • Taking an afternoon off work
  • Sharing nail polish photos with friends
  • Ice Road Truckers – I love that show!
  • A delicious meal of butter chicken, naan, rice and mango juice that Eric made
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Things I Love Thursday: Light-Filled Rooms

Recently, I’ve been feeling very frustrated about my home (see also number 3 on this list).  I feel so overwhelmed with the clutter and just sheer amount of “stuff” that it’s making me crazy.  We had a great team over to the house this week to check our house for energy efficiency and where we may need to replace weather stripping, etc.  I was so glad they were there, but my comment to Eric was “I hope they don’t call Hoarders on my ass”.  I know I’m painting a horrible picture here of my house, but it’s really only two rooms that are serious problem rooms.  The addition of two very curious kittens into the mix has left us just shutting the doors to both rooms.  I wouldn’t want 1) them to get hurt 2) lose them in there.  So, Eric and I are working on trying to deal with the issues in those rooms.  But, like I said, I’m frustrated with my home.  And I know that this is supposed to be my TILT post, and instead it’s become a what’s wrong with my house post.  But, stick with me…I’m getting to the point.

I think part of what’s bugging the hell out of me is the lack of light in my house.  It’s Texas.  It’s July.  We have not cracked open a drape or a blind in months.  Plus add to that my husband likes to exist in some sort of weird batcave-like existence.  The darker the better.  We once had a stand off that lasted three weeks over a burned out lightbulb because he simply “liked it better without that extra light”.  Seriously.

And I am all for batcave darkness when it comes to watching a movie, or trying to sleep.  But the rest of the time?  I want light-filled rooms!!!  My favorite places in the house are the ones that let in a lot of light (via skylight in one case so there’s nothing he can do about it bwahaha).

So, today for TILT, I thought I’d focus on something I love, something I’ve been missing, something I want to reintroduce to my home.  Light!

Bringing light into a room, just gives it so much more energy. And since I tend to decorate with dark colors and dark woods, you need that light to balance it out.

I think the clutter too adds to that sense of feeling closed in, and when you couple that with having all the blinds closed/drapes drawn, I feel like a shut in. Especially at this time of year when the days are longer, I want to soak up every bit of it.

And adding energy to a light-filled room by bringing in the colors of the sea or living green plants, even rocks and wood – it just brings me a happiness that I can’t begin to describe. I am a creature of light and color, and I need to be surrounded by it in my home.

So, I think I have some things to look at in the way of a compromise to see how I can let more light and energy in while still keeping the house cool and not forcing my husband to wear sunglasses in the living room.  Any suggestions?

And since I spent so much time whining on this post, I think it’s only fitting to balance it out with what I’m grateful for this week:

  • Eric’s been watching Grimm with me in an effort to help me get caught up
  • Getting together with friends over the weekend
  • Finally feeling like I’m getting caught up at work
  • Kitten-proofing the house
  • An unexpected gift of candy corn earrings – I kid you not, they are awesome!
  • Date night at the movies
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Tufted

One of my favorite blogs to read on a regular basis is Young House Love.  Recently, I was inspired by their “Dude, get on that already!” challenge for themselves.  It made me think about what sort of things I have laying around the house that need to be dealt with, or projects that need to be completed.  Those things that just seem to never get done.  So, as my very first “Dude, get on that already!” project, I’d like to share a little something that went on in our bedroom.  Focus – it’s innocent!

Anyway, here’s a photo of what our bedroom used to look like.  One of the things that always bugged us was that we had no headboard for the bed.  But, we’d been holding off buying one, because we figured that we would buy one when we replaced our bedroom furniture…eventually.  Well, six years later almost, here we are.

 

We bought a headboard!  And it was relatively inexpensive ($100).  It works well in the room and finally gives some definition to the bed.  We had to take down the art we had hanging over the bed, but I was wanting to do that anyway.  I’ll find something else to add back to that space.  I like that the headboard brings out the warm tones in our bed linens too.

And I love that it’s tufted.  It really gives a luxurious feel to the room, with just a little bit of detail.  And on top of everything, I think the headboard met some of our unexpressed wants – we didn’t spend a lot on it, since we’ll probably replace it; and I didn’t have to attempt to make something.  So win-win!

And as an added bonus – I convinced Eric to get rid of our sheets that were wearing out, and pull out these pretty white ones I had tucked away.  I love the lace edging on them.  So, now we’re sleeping in comfort AND I can cross something off our list!

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All Aglow

Our home has been decorated for the holidays, and it is nice to have a bit of “normal” right now, with my father so sick.  We won’t be holding our annual family gatherings this year due to his health.  So, Eric and I will just have a small, quiet Christmas with just the two of us.

Anyway, Eric decided last year that he really wanted lights on the wreath on the front door.  He found some great battery operated lights this year, and now our wreath has its own little bit of brightness.

Eric found a beautiful tree again this year.  I just love the smell of a real tree in the house.  I scaled back a lot on my ornaments this year though.  I wanted a more simple look on the tree.

Some of my favorite ornaments are our Swarovski annual ornaments.  I’ve been giving one to Eric each year since 2005.  They catch the light so beautifully.

And I decided to put out the Nutcrackers again this year on the mantel.  Eric saved the branches he had to cut off the tree at the bottom for me, and I used them on the mantel.  I love the way that looks.

The odd man out in the Nutcracker theme is this guy.  He was a gift to me from my parents when I was about nine or ten.  My parents used to take my sister and I to see the Nutcracker ballet every year at the holidays.  One year, before we went, they presented me with my very own Nutcracker.  You wouldn’t believe how much I cried with joy.  He’s looking a little worse for wear, and his hair and beard are looking a bit thin (they are rabbit fur).  But, I get such pleasure from having him out at Christmas.

We’ve received so many lovely cards from friends and family.  Unfortunately, this year I had to make the decision not to send out cards.  There has just been too much going on to get them done.  I hope everyone understands.

And our tree in the entry.  This is my “handmade” tree.  I hang handmade ornaments on this tree, along with some pretty red glass balls.  There’s a train around the base of this tree as well.

And my Dickens’ Village.  Eric made me a fabulous platform for my houses this year.  The table I set them up on has rather high sides, so it was getting difficult to make them all fit.  Eric made a platform to go over the top of the table and it worked out perfectly!  All the houses fit.  And several of these were gifts from my parents over the last few years, so I love seeing them out.

 

 

And yesterday, I managed to do all of my gift wrapping.  These were headed off to the Post Office to be mailed.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday and that it brings you much joy and happiness.  Thanks for stopping in to see me and I so appreciate all your sweet comments!

 

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Skirting the Issue

Guess what?  Another nesting project!  (Are you tired of them yet?)  Eric and I are really loving all the little changes we’re making around the house.  And strangely enough, the more we do, the more we’re inspired to do. 

This project is something that’s been on my radar for probably a year at least.  In our office, I have a table set up to use for sewing, crafting, wrapping gifts, whatever.  Underneath it, you can see, I have a variety of storage containers and boxes full of (mostly) quilting fabric and batting.  Although everything is contained, it’s still an eyesore.  Eric suggested that a table skirt might be a good solution to hide my storage and give the room a less cluttered feel. 

You can see in the photo above the fabric we chose for the table skirt.  Nothing overly exciting, and because Eric was helping pick out the fabric, nothing overly girly either. 

After about an hour’s worth of work, I had a table skirt!  It wraps around three sides of the table, and is attached to the table with velcro for easy removal.  It really does make a big difference in this room (and cleaning off the top of the table helped too). 

I’m really happy with how it looks, and my sewing machine can still sit underneath the table so that I can easily get to it.  I did actually take the skirt back off after I took this photo and ironed it, but I lost my light, so no photo of it ironed. 

My next project, that seems to be neverending, is working on that stack of papers on the bookshelf next to the craft table.  That’s all stuff that needs to be scanned and filed electronically.  No need to keep all these piles of paper we seem to have endless amounts of.  It’s going to be awhile before I get that project finished, but I’m working on it a bit every weekend and seem to finally be making a dent in it.  I promise to show more photos of the room once the piles of papers and files are gone.  Once I get the scanning all done, it will give me some more room to organize my craft supplies and hopefully make everything a bit easier to get to and less of an episode of Hoarders.

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Curb Appeal

Like I said, Eric and I have been nesting lately.  Not sure what’s in the water, but I’m liking all the changes we’re making around the house.  Recently, he brought home some solar powered LED lights to put along our front walkway.  (Please pretend I had swept up the crepe myrtle blossoms off the walk before taking these photos – kind of the antithesis of curb appeal, I know.) 

The light on our front porch doesn’t illuminate very far and with no other lighting along the walk those steps were a bit treacherous in the dark.  I love the way the little lights look and they put out an amazing amount of light. 

I am looking forward to having guests over for dinner sometime soon.  Guess I’d better sweep that walk first though…

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Cleaning Out My Closet

One of the things I’ve had on my to-do list was to reorganize my closet.  Eric and I share a closet and it is tiny.  And somehow during the winter months it sort of exploded and I’d never gotten it back under control.  So, one of my goals this month was to take care of this closet.  These are the before photos, just to give you an idea.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was making me crazy. 

Part of the problem was that a good portion of my sweaters were stacked up on top of my shoe rack.  Which sort of turned this spot into a catchall for clothes. 

And as I pull out shoes that are in shoe boxes, they kind of go back up on the shelf haphazardly.  The shoes on the floor tend to end up wherever I kick them off. 

So it was clear, something had to be done before I lost my mind.  The first thing I did was pick up another sweater box at The Container Store.  Then I made sure all of my sweaters were clean so that I could put them away for next year.  That one box made a huge difference in my closet. 

As you can see, I can now actually get to the shoes on the top of the shoe rack without having a huge pile of clothes there. 

And I took five minutes and restacked my shoe boxes on top of the shelf.  Now the box that’s missing its top is on the top of the stack, rather than somewhere in the middle which makes the whole stack wonky.  What a concept.  <— sarcasm

And the shoes on the floor have been relegated back to their boxes.  Hopefully they will stay that way. 

It’s amazing what a difference one box and less than an hour’s time makes.  My closet looks so much better, and it’s not making me lose my mind everytime I slide open that door. 

Now I can cross this off my to do list and move onto some other things I need to do around the house.  Eric and I must be nesting, because all of a sudden we keep thinking of projects that need to be done.  Speaking of which, thanks for the compliments on the Patio Project.  We are so pleased with how it turned out!  The next project for me is making a skirt for my craft table in an effort to hide all of my “stuff” underneath it.

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