Archive for May, 2009

Divine Dash & Albert

Dash & AlbertI can’t remember when I first fell in love with Dash & Albert rugs, but I know the infatuation has been going on for several years and I’ve just been waiting for the right moment to act on it.  Finally, this weekend, I had my moment.  Using this new fabulous blog as an excuse, I bought one of the woven striped cotton rugs in a blue/neutral palette.  A 2×3 foot area rug starts at $28, and most of the more than 75 color combos are available in all sizes, going all the way up to 9×12.  In my wildest fantasy, I would love to have a whole private stock of these beauties, changing with every season…hmmmm…some day… 

{Truth be told, I really love all things Annie Selke, the brilliant and creative head of the Annie Selke companies  — Dash & Albert, Pine Cone Hill and Potluck Studios — so be prepared for more Annie Selke love in future posts.}

Image credit: Dash & Albert 


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sounddock_bl_lgAlthough decorating is primarily an exercise in changing the visual of a room, I believe the rest of the senses play an equally important role.  The sounds, smells, and tactile experiences of a space can drastically enhance or detract from the way a space, and your activity in it, feels. Case in point:

 For a long stretch a few months ago, I was finding that our family’s evening rush (leave work-pick up kids-make dinner-get to bed-mayhem) was really getting me down.  I was stressed, the kids were acting out on that stress, there was crying (from all parties involved), and it was ugly.  Then one night, when I just had it with my hungry and tired kids fighting in the playroom, and my hungry and tired self trying to cook up a healthy dinner in three minutes, our Bose SoundDock caught my eye.  I popped in my iPod, cranked up the volume, and starting rocking out to Fleetwood Mac.  Before I knew it, my little guys were in the kitchen with me, setting up a “drum set” using chairs and their tambourines.  The vibe of the evening changed instantly and we laughed through dinner, singing, dancing and being totally goofy. 

These days when I get home, I head straight for the music before even putting on water to boil.  Sometimes it’s Zanes and sometimes it’s Zeppelin, but either way, it makes everyone feel better at the end of a long day.

Some of my recommendations for amazing sound and a small profile include the Bose SoundDock (for iPods) and the Tivoli Model One Radio (Radio only). 

Image credit: Bose

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Sun Calculator

I yearn to be good gardener, and there’s no earthly reason why I shouldn’t be really. My mother has a prolific garden (there’s such a thing as a gardening gene, right?) and my husband spent every summer in high school and college running a completely legit landscaping business (not just a guy with a mower).  But excelling at gardening is something that has eluded me.  I think it’s because of poor planning.   

About this time every year, I find myself facing racks and racks of plants outside our local grocery store.  I pull pots down, trying out combinations for imaginary planters on my front steps or non-existent beds in my backyard.  Hydrangeas in the front?  Veggies in the back?  Plants are chosen, purchased, and home when it hits me…I have no idea how sunny or shady our property is.  I plant anyway, and a few weeks later everything is dead, or leggy, or something it wouldn’t be if it was planted in the right spot. 

Chalk it up to being away from the house too much or just not paying attention, but it turns out I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on in her yard during the day.  As I was perusing the June issue of Better Homes & Gardens this weekend, I came across the SunCal — a little device that measures the amount of sunlight hitting a particular area during 12 hours of exposure.  Seems I might have a better chance with those planters this year after all.  

Find stores listed here for the SunCalc Sunlight Calculator, $30

Image credit: SunCalc

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Basket CropBeing a family of two working parents and two active kidlets, one of our main jobs in life is keeping clutter under control.  Generally I feel like we do a fairly good job of clutter-busting, mostly due to some simple systems we’ve put in place.  The simplest of all?  A basket that waits at the bottom of the stairs.  Rather than piling up shoes, books, toys and other random things on the first step, fill up a basket with junk that needs to find its way to the second floor and bring it up once at the end of the night.  After you’ve unloaded upstairs, do the exact same thing in the morning for items that need to get to the first floor.  So simple, yet totally effective.

{There are terrific baskets actually made to fit stairs — usually called step baskets — but becuse of our narrow staircase and clumsy boys, we just place a Reisenthal market tote on the floor.}

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surlatable cutting boardsI know, I know, I’ve heard it a million times — when prepping ingredients to cook, it’s really important that you keep your meats, fish, poultry and veggies separate.  But honestly, with the mayhem of life, I just can’t seem to remember whether I use my white cutting board for salmon or chicken.  And the red one…it’s the color of tomatoes, so it must be for veggies…or is it red meat?  So when I was visiting my best friend in Atlanta this weekend, I instantly fell in love with her super-thin, super-stylish and toomanythingstothinkabout-proof cutting mats from Sur La Table.  Complete with color-coding and little icons, now there’s no way I’ll end up with Ratatouille avec Salmonella.

Set of 4 Color-Coded Flexible Cutting Boards, $15

Image credit: Sur La Table 

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antsign3Eight years ago, when I moved back to Boston from New York, I was surprised to find that there wasn’t an open-air art market (like the ones that you can find every weekend in nearly every Manhattan neighborhood) anywhere to be found.  But just a few years later, the SoWa Open Market began to fill that void, pitching tents in Boston’s South End and filling them with local vendors offering everything from original art to handmade accessories to fresh-off-the-farm produce.  This weekend, the brains behind Open Market launch their newest addition to the SoWa family — the SoWa Antiques Market, housed in the historic Trolley Barn.  Dealers offering antique and vintage pottery, furniture, textiles, collectibles, glassware and more, promise to be a great addition to this Boston institution-in-the-making.  And if I weren’t away this weekend I would be angling for some child-free time to roam the aisles…   

SoWa Open Market, Antiques Market and Produce Market, Sundays through October; opening weekend only open Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17; 540 Harrison Avenue, South End, Boston.

Image credit:  SoWa Open Market

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Jane Marvel All Day LongGiven the name of this blog, and my own penchant for accessories, on occasion I may (ok, will) post on a really great product that you might find in a mudroom.  As most everyone who knows me will tell you, I am a huge collector of bags — it really doesn’t matter what label or material, great design is what hooks me.  So when I was rushing to my car last week, already late to pick up my boys, I had to stop when a bag in the window of Mint Julep (one of my favorite dress shops in Cambridge) caught my eye.  I ran in, grabbed it out of the display and after assessing its key qualities — super-lightweight, huge capacity for stuff, great pattern, reasonably priced — bought it on the spot.   As I was being rung up, I looked at the label and thought, Jane Marvel?  Who is this marvelous Jane Marvel?

The next day, in the next town over, in another store completely, I was running a few errands when I came across Miss Marvel’s line again — clearly the universe was speaking to me and I just had to share.

So if you’re in need of a new bag, or even if you’re not, check ’em out.  The Vegan bags — laminated canvas and non-leather trim/handles — are lightweight, virtually waterproof, ridiculously easy-to-clean and come in a huge range of styles and patterns (I picked up the All Day Long in Plaid Flowers).

Jane Marvel All Day Long Tote in White with Red.  Check here for store and web locations. 

Image credit: eBags.com

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Lilly MatchesEverybody needs a little Lilly.  In my heyday as a pink-and-green-blooded prepster, I used to pull off the whole Lilly look — patchwork shift, Jack Rogers sandals, patent headband.  But even though my personal style has evolved, I can still have a little of that classic Lilly Pulitzer fruit punch-drunk color in my life with her new matchbooks.  At $4.50 a box, I might fill up a little vessel in my pink-tiled bathroom…

Lilly Pulitzer Strike It Hot Matches first spotted in the June issue of Country Living, available online at Preppy Princess.

Image credit: Preppy Princess

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robeWe have guests regularly, but for about 18 months after we moved in, our guest room/office/magazine storage facility was in really bad shape (white walls, hardwood floors, unpacked moving boxes as a bedside table, roller shades that fell down if you tugged too hard).  Finally this winter, after my stepmom had put up with our spartan accomodations more than she probably wanted, she suggested sincerely — maybe you could get a reading lamp? Really, she assured us, that’s all the room needs.

Fast forward, and although it is still not the ideal space, we’re a little bit closer to creating a cozy spot for guests to relax, store their stuff and catch some zzz’s (warm walls with art, rug, proper bedside table, functional and pretty curtains from previous post).  So when I came across this great checklist from the May issue of House Beautiul, I did a quick scan to be sure I was covering all the bases:

Guest Room Essentials (from Tom Scheerer, Interior Designer)  

  • Bath and hand towels, washcloths
  • Fresh soap
  • Shampoo
  • Bath oil or foam (hmm…I’d replace this suggestion with a tube of 30 spf sunscreen)  
  • A unisex XL terry robe
  • A hair dryer
  • A refillable water vessel and glass
  • A pad and pencil
  • An alarm clock
  • A range of magazines (!)
  • A range of hangers
  • Luggage rack
  • Bedside nosegay or single blossom
  • An orange or apple

I love this list because it seems so, well, normal.  I’ve seen lists like this before that include suggestions for city maps, a list of telephone numbers for services (dry cleaner, taxi), extra toothbrushes and other items that make it feel like we should be running one-room hotels rather than providing the essentials that make a guest feel at home.

Of course, there’s one thing missing from Mr. Scheerer’s list: a reading lamp.

For Tom’s list and 15 other expert checklists of “The Essentials,” ranging from Kitchen to Barware to Fashion, visit House Beautiful or pick up the May issue (or both!).

Image credit: Women’s Lightweight Calf-length Terry Robe at Lands’ End

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Patio Vintage

769455750747mdWith the arrival of summer-like weather this weekend and a stream of visitors celebrating kids’ birthdays and Mother’s Day, I was reminded of our lack of outdoor seating.  We spent all weekend hanging out in utilitarian and decidedly un-chic foldable chairs — you know the ones I mean — meant for outdoor concerts or trips to the beach, most emblazoned with corporate logos of one kind or another.  If only I had caught a glimpse of these beauties a few days earlier, we might have been sitting pretty sipping our drinks watching the kiddos knock heads in the birthday bouncy house.

Garden Treasures Dining Patio Chair, $31, from Lowe’s.

Image credit: Lowe’s

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