Nest

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for good design. It’s one of the many reasons I love brands like Apple and Ikea. I’m also pretty into saving money and being “green”. For a few years I’ve been lusting after Nest. If you aren’t familiar, Nest is a wi-fi enabled learning thermostat. It learns your habits to program itself, adjusts when you’re gone and is controllable from your smartphone. Amazon and Home Depot consumers both rate it at 4.5 stars and Lowes consumers rate it at 5 stars. BUT the 3rd generation Nest costs $249. I know it is supposed to save you money but, Ouch! Luckily, our new energy company offered Nest as an incentive to switch to their services. Sign me up!

It took something like 6 weeks but the Nest was shipped to our door. I received an email letting me know it had shipped. The same email also included an instructional installation video and a number to call if I’d rather have them install it. After watching the video I felt confident that installing this thing was in my skill set.

Here are the Cliffs Notes:

What’s in the box: Your Nest. A built in level… genius! A small (and very straight forward) instruction booklet that also has the wire labels inside. 4 screws. A small (and very ergonomic) screwdriver… but I found that using my trusty drill was quite fast. An optional (see 3.5 below) mounting plate.

You may also need: A drill. It’s just faster. Wire strippers in the case that your wires need to be trimmed, straightened or stripped (about a half inch). A glass of wine… because you’ll have plenty of time left over to enjoy it!

According to the video and manual… I did the following:

***I turned off power to my HVAC system before beginning.***

1– Remove the front plate of your old thermostat. Take phone for later reference for where wires are placed.

2– Remove screws and release the old thermostat’s mounting plate. (PS- check out that great vintage green textured wall paper.  I kind of wish it was still here.)

3– Use provided label stickers to label wires accordingly. Photo from step one may be helpful.

3.5 (optional)- If desired, install provided mounting plate. I chose to use it because there were holes and blemishes left from previous equipment that I didn’t care to fill. Well that, and the fact that I had just used the last of the hall color to custom mix a new wall color for the bathroom.

4- Mount Nest using the screws provided. Lucky me dropped one in a vent and had to scrounge up a spare drywall screw from the pit of doom garage.

5- Connect wires to coordinating chambers on the nest. Do so by pressing the button, inserting wire and then releasing button (which tightens the chamber to secure wires in place).

6– Snap Nest in place. It literally clicks into place!

7– Follow prompts on the Nest screen to connect to your wi-fi network, confirm location of thermostat in your home, test each system. It walks you through everything. Just scroll by turning the outer ring of the Nest like a knob and make selections by gently pressing on the outer ring.

8– Download the Nest app onto your smartphone (multiple users are allowed!). Follow prompts to create an account/login and connect the app to your Nest.

Done. That easy. I think I spent about 20 minutes installing it. But I did end up with a little mess. Bonus: O has been walking around with the old thermostat pretending it is a phone, ipad, walkie talkie, gameboy and a remote. WHO NEEDS TOYS!?

Cool stuff the Nest does:

It goes dark and turns off the display when not in use, when you walk away etc.

When you walk by the Nest it senses you , “wakes up” and displays the current setting, current inside temperature.

When heating, the display is orange. When cooling, it is blue. If no system is running it is black.

When set to an energy saving temperature, a green leaf is displayed.

You can review settings from previous days and schedule settings differently for every single day of the month if you want. Both can be done from the Nest display or from your smartphone.

The Nest will record how long your HVAC system ran each day. You can look back to see settings, when settings were changed and when the system turned on from the Nest and your smartphone.

The Nest displays the date, time, current outdoor temp, current local weather, current indoor temp and humidity  level.

The Nest can be programmed, changed and monitored from the app. Going out of town? Turn it off from your phone. Heading home? Turn it on before you arrive.

Nest makes other intuitive home products too… home monitoring cameras, CO2 and smoke alarms.

It has only been a few days so there is no telling if we’ve actually saved energy or money just yet but I plan to report back.

 

* I am not affiliated with Nest, Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon or any other brands referenced in this post. None of these links are affiliate links. I have not been compensated financially or with goods or services in exchange for my post, opinions or views expressed here.*

Numbered

Ah… Curb appeal. Not my strongest suit. In fact, I often have visions and good intent and I lose steam or have no idea how to execute my ideas. A perfect example is my house numbers. I remember buying them maybe 3 or 4 years ago as part of my plan to revamp our porch and entry. Needless to say, they lived in a Home Depot bag in the hall closet until this week. I found them and decided to give it a shot. I was intimidated by drilling through metal siding, which I think may be part of the reason these have been in a closet for so long. But I went for it.

First thing was first: removing the old nasty letters. They were here when we moved in. And had obviously seen better days, been spray painted and then left to die on the front of the house. They also had been mounted on the front of the house, outside of the entry and porch area… out of reach of our porch light. So at night they were not visible. I literally yanked them off the house bare handed. So liberating. I didn’t even need a screw driver.

Next I used the templates that came with the numbers to mark where they’d go. I new I wanted to put them above the door so they were lit at night. But I ran into a problem: the light is not centered to the door. I measured, remeasured. I ran down the hill 10 times to eyeball it. Eventually I landed on mounting them almost centered with the light and almost centered with the door. Sort of just in the middle of each measurement.

I opted to use a “floating mount” for the numbers so I followed the drill bit recommendations from the package for the floating mount. A flush mount was also an option but I quickly realized that the angle of the siding could make a flush mount look a little awkward since it would basically angle the numbers upward. Anywho, I  marked my holes according to the templates by drilling straight through them.

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I used a wrench to fit the screws to the back of each number and then I placed the numbers in the holes I’d made for a “dry fit” before I secured them with caulk.

I used painter’s tape to fix the numbers in place while the caulk set. A few hours later, I removed the tape and admired my work.

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A little more modern and visible at night. How do you like them? 

Brave Budget Bathroom Makeover

Before I begin, I totally apologize for not writing much. I have no real reason… just spending time with the family and enjoying our days. I’ve still been creating tons but I have totally slacked on posting here. My Instagram and Facebook are updated more frequently if you want to catch me there too.

At any rate…. the bathroom. I’ve mentioned before that our entire house was brown when we moved in. The bathrooms were no exception. Our half bathroom began with the same paper bag color too. While there is nothing wrong with brown, I do have a problem with a dark and flat brown sucking all of the natural light in the house. So once upon a time I grabbed a random yellow paint while I was at the hardware store. I was just so sick of brown in the bathroom that I decided to be all BRIGHT and cheery. I returned home with what I’m certain is the least thought out paint choice I’ve ever made: Honey. That is what crazy little whims do. They give you colors you only might like rather than really love.

So for 3 years we had honey. And that fun medallion shower curtain, also bright and cheery. Cute. Livable. Cheery for sure. And then, you guys, I got another crazy little whim. I just decided we should have a calm, chill and tranquil bathroom and decided the honey had to go.

This is where I had to get creative. Guess how much money Hubby was willing to let me spend. Just guess. Nothing. Because I had already done the bathroom once. Can’t argue that! So then I was all “Fine. I can do that!” and he was all, “Whaaaa? How?”…

I ran down to the garage and inspected my arsenal of paint. I returned with a handful of cans and slapped a few on the wall. Like paint roulette! I ended up with Behr Ashes from the family room and foyer, Behr Zen from the guest room, Behr Roman Plaster from O’s room, the hall and the striped wall, Benjamin Moore Glass Slipper from the master and basement half bath. *All of these are in eggshell finish*

I ended up getting a little brave and mixing a 50/50 mix of Ashes and Roman Plaster and added 2 cups of Glass Slipper. It made about a gallon (which I mixed in an empty paint can… I buy them in the paint department). So we have a cool silver blue color going (the smear to the left of the rest of the samples). Gutsy but worth it.

I caulked and painted all the trim… because I skipped that last time and I’m pretty sure it had never been caulked. Then I go to work. I have to say I was a little nervous painting gray with brown tile and brown counter tops but I realized there is a gray color in the tile and a bit in the counter top too. Since I wasn’t spending any money I figured I had nothing to lose.

  

It took 2 coats but I believe its and ace! Everything already felt more calm and put together with the new color.

So the red shower curtain had to go… it no longer matched. I had also washed it several times according to the label but it had shrunk to a humorously short excuse for a shower curtain. The final straw was when I washed it while I painted the last coat. I eyeballed a few shower curtains online and had considered several geometrics or very subtle patterns but I went against my usual stripe addiction and landed on a monochromatic floral paisley. I know. I was surprised myself. This is the only money I spent: $23. And since it was now a need Hubby agreed.

Here is the finished product. A calm and tranquil sanctuary of a bathroom. My own personal spa! I hung a few of my Instagram pictures of the Cincinnati Museum Center that my parents had printed and framed when they gifted us a pass for Christmas (way more fun than opening a gift card!). I promise to take better non-iPhone pictures later but for now this should do. High five for a (nearly) free bathroom makeover!

A Bubbly New Year

  
Pop fizz clink! New Years Eve is here and it’s one of my favorite holidays… Dressing up, gathering with friends, reminiscing the past year and starting fresh for the next. And of course, champagne. I do love a good glass of bubbly. After all, I do take after my mother. 

Whether you’re a regular champagne drinker or only pop open the bubbles on NYE and at weddings, these articles and recipes are enlightening to say the least. 

First, let’s discuss this amazingness. I am pretty sure I’ll be adding it to the bucket list. Can it be done?

Don’t be intimidated. A decent bottle of bubbly doesn’t have to cost a fortune. I’m a Prosecco gal myself and I rarely splurge for anything over $20. If you’re lost on what to buy, check out this list of bubbly buys under $20.

And you know, champagne has plenty of health benefits. At least I’m reducing my risk for Dementia and Alzheimer’s while keeping it glamourous. Multitasking at its best! 

If you’re adventurous I promise these champagne cocktail recipes won’t disappoint! 
Source: Picklee
Find more recipes here and here

For the best champagne experience I’ve compiled a few basic pointers:

1- Cold champagne pops louder and more powerfully because the molecules have expanded as the temperature dropped. See #3 for safety tips.

2- If your champagne goes flat (if you’ve attempted to save), just drop a raisin into the bottle to revive the bubbles. 

3- To safely uncork a bottle of champagne: open the foil at the top of the bottle just below the lip of the bottle. Twist the metal cage open and remove. Hold the neck of the bottle with one hand and hold a clean dish towel over the top of bottle with the other hand. Use your thumb to loosen the cork. The pressure should pop it once loosened. The towel will prevent the cork from rocketing upward. You’re welcome. I just saved your ceiling, light bulbs and maybe your face. A handy video!

4- Make a toast! It’s simple… Raise your class, make a joke or a wish, honor a guest, celebrate with a “cheers”. 

5- Be sure to serve champagne in a fluted glass whenever possible. They are designed narrow and tall promote bubbles to rise through the liquid. The narrow opening helps retain the carbonation (bubbles!). Serving in a glass with a wider opening (like a wine glass) helps the carbonation dissipate quickly and therefor go flat. Read more here

6- While you’re at it, be sure to hold your glass by the stem. It helps keep the champagne cool and at an ideal serving temperature.

7- There is always an occasion for champagne! Moët Chandon has a nifty food pairing feature on their website.

8- For extra fizz try adding berries to your glass. Frozen berries keep your champagne cold too!

9- Be sure to store your champagne in a cool, dark place. Read more here.

10- feeling fancy? Study up on proper champagne service.

Cheers! Happy new year! See you in 2016!

Xo

Hilda

Things I’m Loving

It has been a while since I posted about things I’m loving. In an effort to take a break from the holiday hustle, I’ve rounded up some small but mighty moments and things I’m just loving.

First of allthis hilarious collection of gifts might almost completely reflect my choice of language. I’m basically Sharon Osborne’s long lost daughter.

Copper. Have you heard? Apparently its the next big home decor trend. And I don’t hate it. Give me copper! Here is a peek at Crate & Barrel’s metal trend inspirations.

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Paying it forward. The other day I went to the coffee shop for a coffee. Totally normal, right? But then when the cashier ran my card it didn’t work. She apologized and ran it again. And again. No dice. Mortifying… I promise I had enough money for a latte (which my now had already been made and was sitting just beside her). She explained that their credit card system had been wonky lately and asked if I had cash or another card. My only other card in my coat was for work and I had zero cash. By now I’m so embarrassed. Then she shrugs it off and tells me she has a Pay-It-Forward for a latte already. You guys, people prepay for coffee, muffins and sandwiches for others and the store tracks them on the cardboard sleeves. When you need one, you just grab the appropriate sleeve and hand it to the cashier. I accepted and promised to pay it forward. The next day I returned (while an IT guy was there setting up a new card reader by the way) and bought 10 coffees and got to write on the sleeves. Above is my handiwork.

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O’s artwork. O loves anything crafty. She’s been all about watercolors lately. She painted this the other day.. Of course I tell her it looks fantastic and that I can tell she worked very hard on it. She tells me “Its Blueberry (our Beta fish)!” Can you see it?

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Krohn Conservatory’s Holiday ShowCincinnati people: you don’t want to miss this! Not only is the botanical exhibit incredible, the gift shop irresistible and the trains impressive… they have the most insanely beautiful replicas of Cincinnati landmarks made out of bark, acorns, pine cones and branches. I found a replica of my childhood home, a painted lady Victorian of Tusculum (above).

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Coozies. In my former life coozies were strictly for adult beverages. But O found this at Walgreens right before Halloween and has been using it for her Almond milk. Just slide your hand in and it makes you look like you have a monster hand. Never gets old. Its almost Christmas and this bad boy is in the daily rotation.

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Balsamic anything.  I brunched with a dear friend the other day at Taste of Belgium. You all KNOW how much I love that place. This time I paired my Mimosa (below) with a spinach, red pepper, goat cheese crepe topped with balsamic reduction (above). I need another trip to ToB already!

And as if you need more reasons to drink Champagne- I’ve heard it may prevent Dementia and Alzheimers. Article here.

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This killer wall stencil. My cousin Megan just did this stencil on one wall in her dining room. I believe the wall is one color and the stencil is done in the next lightest color on the swatch and in the next highest sheen.

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I died when I saw it. I must find a place for this technique! Also, Megan chalk painted and gel stained the table and chairs herself! Go girl! Looks sharp!Can a wall be sexy? Because this one just might be. 

Union Terminal. Another Cincinnati treasure and architectural dream.
IMG_8358The dome shaped ceiling screams art deco and has some amazing acoustics.

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I actually took these in selfie mode on my iphone. Not bad, eh?IMG_8372

Redeeming myself. Yup, totally loving that. I once really over baked some brownies for my boss’s dinner party. Like, so bad. That night she sent me a video of everyone trying to cut the brownies and soaking them with ice cream to attempt to soften them. All in good fun and we’ve been laughing about it for a year. The other day they asked if I would want to bake for a dinner party again. We joked about not making brownies and that hopefully nobody would choke or anything. I told them I had a family recipe for a carrot cake that promised to impress. It took me about 3 hours to make and it was perfect. Isn’t she purdy?

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That night I received videos of guests eating the cake and raving about it’s decadence. Totally made up for the brownie incident of 2014.

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Oreo truffles. Three ingredients, 20 minutes of your time and people think you’ve saved the world. Recipe here.

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O’s selfies. She’s been filling my phone with photos and videos of herself, sometimes the dog and even myself. She’s snapped a few great ones and I’m obsessed wit h this one. She can fill my phone with her precious face absolutely any day.

Stitch Fix! I tried Stitch Fix over the summer and I’m hooked. I have posted some of my scores on Instagram. If you want to try it out be sure to use my referral link (this is not an affiliate link but I would get a credit via Stitch Fix for sending you).

 

So what are you loving lately? A song? Your new haircut? The weather? Spill it… I wanna know.

Salt Dough Ornaments 2.0

A couple of years ago I posted about making last minute Santa hand print salt dough ornaments (pictured below). We had so much success that we wanted to use the recipe again to make ornaments again this year. It doesn’t hurt that its super affordable, I already had everything to make these in my house and it’s a total breeze. I promise this is one Pinterest project that you can’t mess up! O is older so I opted to let her help with everything.


The recipe:

1 cup salt

2 cups flour

1 cup warm water

As mentioned in the previous salt dough post, I discovered using my stand mixer and dough hook were most effective. This worked well because I literally just let O dump the ingredients together and I flipped on the mixer. Once mixed well I kneaded it a bit more by hand… I’ve noticed a little body heat and elbow grease make the dough smoother. Then I helped O roll it out in 3 batched on parchment paper (wax paper would work too) and let her do her magic with a handful of holiday cookie cutters. I used a straw to make holes so that I could hang them by twine later.

I baked as many as I could fit on a cookie sheet at a time at 200F for about 45 minutes and flipped them over for another half hour on the back side. I just kept watching and peeking in on them.

The next day we were ready to paint! I used an egg carton to hold small amounts of acrylic craft paint that she chose to decorate her ornaments.

She had a field day and painted most of them in one sitting!

The paint dries fairly quickly so I followed up behind her writing her name and the year on the back of each ornament and then tying a string through the hole I’d made earlier.

Ta-da! These are gifts for family members, special friends and neighbors. So if you’re reading this and later receive one as a gift just act surprised (wink wink).

Adventures in Ophthalmology 

Yesterday O had a check up with her Ophthalmologist to assess how she is progressing with her newest prescription (updated in September to R+4.50 and L +7.00 and a new diagnosis of slight astigmatism).

O is usually well behaved at appointments. She was particularly cooperative yesterday and it makes it so much easier on me, as my emotions are always running high at the Ophthalmologist’s office. Since she’s older and so communicative (I wonder where she gets that?) they now have her identify shapes and letters projected onto a mirror from a screen on the back wall (as shown below). O is seeing much better with her new prescription and is closer to 20/20 vision than ever! The doc says her muscles are responding appropriately and that she can see even further down the chart to smaller lines she’s never seen before! He looked at me and told me it was “the absolute best case scenario for her.”

O does need to patch 4 hours each day again. Her left eye is crossing minimally and we need to keep things balanced for her. The good news is that her brain is using both eyes almost evenly! Hubby and I are thrilled and very proud of our girl!

Spinach and Ricotta (Vegetarian!) Stuffed Shells

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Are ya ready? This recipe is a family favorite (even with spinach!). It happens to be vegetarian but I often serve them along side meatballs (nothing fancy- frozen meatballs in a pot of jarred sauce). It makes about three dozen shells  (10-12 servings) and I often freeze half or pass it on to friends since it is easily assembles and heated.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 box jumbo pasta shells

4 cups (2lbs) Ricotta cheese (I use part skim)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 eggs

1 package frozen chopped spinach

1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3-4 cups marinara sauce (a 28 oz. jar does the trick)

 

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While I wait for the water to boil I set up a sort of assembly line. I hadn’t thought to photograph that.. oops, blogging fail. Basically I have the water boiling on the stove. Directly next to the stove I lay out parchment paper to lay the cooked shells on. Next to that I have my bowl (we’ll fill that in a minute) of ricotta mixture and then another parchment for the filled shells. Then I have several freezer bags (if I intend to freeze a batch) or my greased pans with marinara and Parmesan ready nearby.

Cook shells in batches of 5-8 (depending on size of your pot) according to the timing on the box. Slightly under-cooked shells are okay and actually easier to fill because they keep their shape and don’t tear as easily. An overcooked shell will work fine but will require more care when removing from the water and filling. Also, I recommend a splash of olive oil in the water to keep the shells from sticking together.

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Defrost the frozen spinach and drain well. For good measure I also use a large chef’s knife to chop the spinach again. I know, I know… The package says its already chopped. But I’ve found that chopping more makes the spinach less stringy and and more “bite size”. This is particularly helpful for the kids, as we want them to virtually forget about the spinach anyway, right?!

For the fill mixture: Beat 3 eggs. Add ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and season with parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in spinach.

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As the batches of shells are ready, pull them from the water with a slotted spoon. Lay them on parchment paper and allow to cool. Carefully spoon filling into each shell so as not to tear the shells. Set aside to cool on parchment.

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pour thin layer of sauce in pan and arrange shells upright and tightly in baking dish. Spoon Marinara sauce over each shell and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.  If you’re freezing some or all of your shells be sure to let them cool completely ad then place in freezer bags with as little air as possible and being careful to keep them facing upright until frozen. Once you’re ready to use the frozen shells, remove from freezer and assemble shells in baking dish as instructed above. Allow to “thaw” on refrigerator overnight to 24 hours before baking.

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Enjoy, as always, with a glass champagne!

xo,

Hilda

Coral Modge Podge Chair

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I scored an orphaned kitchen chair at a yard sale for $2 a couple of weeks ago. It was in decent shape but just plain and boring.

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I deglossed it and did a quick all over sanding. Then I used Coral spray paint. I’m not usually a spray paint girl for furniture but chairs are my least favorite item to paint (so many surfaces, corners and potential drips!) so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose on this piece except a few bucks.

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It took 2 solid coats with a round of touch up but over all I like the color and finish and maybe hate spray paint a little bit less than I did before. I left the chair plain for a few days and pondered on how to jazz it up… it was just missing an it factor. I stumbled upon (okay, purposely) stopped into a fabric sale and hoped to find trim, ribbon or something to make this chair more special. There I found a few options that I knew could further transform this piece.

I narrowed my choices to these two.

Above is a bit more formal and bright.

Below is more traditional but still bold.

Both were only $4/yard for upholstery grade fabric!

II was pretty torn and considered buying both but decided to ask Erica of EH Calligraphy for her input. You know, becaude decision making is not my strong suit. After texting back and forth we opted for the blue damask pattern. Then I traced the seat of the chair and cut the fabric to fit up to the edge of the seat. A few coats of modge podge later I had this pretty lady!

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Its a new take on a classic chair but still super functional. I think it could be a cool corner chair in a guest room or entry area or a fun pop of color in a home office. I will be coating it with some poly to help durability and I think it should be for sale soon.

Oh Hey.

Some of you may have been wondering where I’ve been. Well, I have no real excuse except that summer is busy around here! Plus, O is older now and my time often goes to doing all kinds of awesome growing up stuff with her. And then she suddenly started preschool and I’m all like, “Whoa, I have a little time on my hands!” But I have kept up on my projects and I hope to be posting more consistently now that O is in school.

So here’s what’s new:

I’ve been dabbling in hand lettering and loving it. I made these for my sister because, Champagne.

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I still love Sherry & John from Young House Love. I pre-ordered their new book and celebrated like it was Christmas morning when it arrived.

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I’m planning to go to Books by the Banks and meet them (again) and have this book signed like I did the other. Last time I saw them they took an Instagram picture during their author Q&A and I ended up in it (see me… holding up their book on the right?).

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Really, I’m only a little obsessed. Imagine my surprise thrill when they responded to my celebratory Instagram post. So now I need to brush up on my rhyming skills.

I’ve been working still (10 years!) as a professional Nanny and with my sisters in our sweet little family company. Just another day at the office.IMG_9665

And of course I’ve got some furniture projects going. In fact, I have more than a few. Hubby made a rule that if something comes in (to my garage/studio), something else must go out. So I’m choosy on projects but I’ve got some fun new things I’m trying with them!

I’ve also been playing with my camera more. I used to take pictures constantly but I got away from it. Who wants to carry a baby, diaper bay and a camera everywhere, right? This is one of my “make time to do things you love” things. So far, lots of fun!

And of course, cooking. Tomato basil soup was my firsy soup of the season and I’m dying to make more. So delish. Still playing with the recipe a bit more but I’ll share eventually. For now it’s just a really pretty picture on this blog (posting for accountability).  

More to come. Promise!