Playing with modern/coastal

I’ve been having so much fun with the Sherwin-Williams color of the year (Loyal- SW 6510) and the creamy white (Westhighland white- SW 7566) and pink (Rosy Outlook- SW 6316) palate that I’ve been working with, that I decided to tackle yet another style incorporating the same colors. (Survey also suggests that it’s helpful to see the same colors used in different styles, so if colors appeal but design concept does not, maybe I can hit on your personal style through one of these posts. Or perhaps vice versa).

It’s summer, I’m thinking breezy and cool and relaxing. I’m thinking margaritas and Coronas and sangria and seafood. I’m thinking clean and beachy, but not kitsch (remember Trading Spaces designer Doug Wilson? His mission was always to avoid a “kitschy” design. Channeling Doug).

Ryan often talks about someday owning our own beach house. Me, not so much, not because I don’t love the beach but more because I don’t want to be overly invested in one location; I want to see it all. I want to travel to as many different places as we can, broaden my horizons, see as much as I can see and absorb as much culture and as much of the world as I can. But that doesn’t stop me from imagining what it might look like to own an oceanside escape. There are few things I love more than the ocean- the salt air, the sand between my toes, the dolphins jumping in the waves, a cold Corona or a Landshark in my hand, my boys covered in salt and sand and sunscreen and smelling like a delicious combination of all three.

And so, I’ve carefully considered what our modern coastal retreat would look like. Forget the wicker furniture and the seashell bedspreads, Mama wants to go a bit more refined. I see lots of glass, some of which should tinted to suggest beach glass, and some clear and modern. I see hints of rope and rattan, and in contrast, a few pops of metallic for glam factor. Artwork is modern and abstract but hints at sunsets and waves, with maybe one set of prints featuring ocean life, in black and white to avoid the “kitsch factor,” because the rug features a pattern reminiscent of coral reef, and that’s kitsch enough.

Tell me what you think, friends! Does this board speak to you? Are you feeling the beach vibes? I want to hear what styles you love!



I didn’t choose the race life; the race life chose me: an interview with my favorite rookie racer

This summer is our oldest son’s rookie year racing go-karts. Ryan started last year, and has encouraged, helped, and guided our oldest son to race alongside him. (Most tracks open rookie racing at age five; our boy is just months away from 7.)

Our big kid has done a pretty amazing job learning the ropes of driving his little race car. I’d be lying if I said the idea of allowing him to drive, in a car, by himself, with other children, around in a dirt circle, doesn’t amp my anxiety to the hilt, but he loves it and he’s proven that he can not only do it, but he’s kind of great at it. This past week, our boy placed third out of seven cars, running a smaller engine than any other kid (more about that in a minute). At the end of the race, after accepting his trophy, I watched my six-and-a-half year old grip his trophy in his left hand, while totally casually steering his go-kart back to the pit area with only his right hand.

I’ve only attended two of his races so far (see: anxiety, above). But the races I’ve attended have shown me even more how capable our kid is. I shouldn’t be surprised; this boy amazes me. He’s pretty mature at his tender age, and there’s not much he takes on that he doesn’t come out on top of. He’s hard on himself; he’s a perfectionist (not sure which side of the gene pool that came from…). Striking out at a baseball game always leaves him shaking his head in disappointment. Bumping another car on the race track leaves him frustrated, yet more amped up than ever to go back and do better next time. At his last race, he veered off the track and into a muddy patch. He kept his foot on the gas and motored through the muck, coming out of it with one hand in the air aimed at his family with a “thumbs up” to show us he was good. Which, come to think of it, is kind of an awesome metaphor for his attitude about life. But on that night, I’d have given just about anything to have had a mic on him at that moment to hear what was going on in that go kart.

Curious to get his thoughts on racing, I asked him if he would grant me an “interview” to share with you. He couldn’t wait to oblige. Here’s what he has to say:

Me: “Mr. Merrow, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today. I have a couple of questions for you about your racing career.

Little Merrow: “Um, I race on it with dirt and it’s really fun to be in it because last summer I was watching my dad do it, and I was like, ‘I just wanna do this!’ so this winter we went to this kid’s house and got this kart that this kid used , who’s my age…well, he’s seven and I’m about to turn seven and it’s too…well, once I first got in it…it’s really fun. I’m ready for the questions, I think.”

Me: “Tell me about your go-kart. Do you know what kind it is? What year is it? What kind of motor do you run?”

LM: “Uh, I don’t remember. I have a 2012 go-kart.* The motor is from Harbor Freight for a hundred dollars. It’s a Predator 79CC. They’re getting a bigger Predator. I’m racing a kid in DuBois who I came in second against my dad’s engine. They’re way bigger; they’re called clones. He just got a new motor from a guy though who, he made it. It’s called an Animal.”

(*NOTE* We had to consult an expert here. Ryan supplied the following information: the go-kart chassis is a 2012 Mongoose. Our boy has, up to this point, run the Predator 79CC engine, but will be testing a Clone motor in tomorrow’s race. )

Me: “Where do you race?”

LM: “Um, I race at a track that’s called Race 1 in Dubois, I race in Pittsfield, I race in, um, New York, not in New York City, at Stateline, really close to here on Saturday mornings. My dad races in DuBois sometimes, but when we go there we can’t go to Stateline on Saturday mornings because we don’t get home from DuBois until 2:00 in the mornings and I don’t really want to do that. I also race in Clearfield at a track called Flat Run that has a big wall that, like, a bunch of people crash into- I have before- and I only smacked it one time because there’s tires around it and I only smacked the tires then I saw another guy bang into another guy on two wheels and he hit the wall, came back down, and his engine stopped but I wasn’t in that race.”

Me: “that’s a lot of race tracks. Can you tell me which is your favorite?”

LM:”Um, my favorite track is, um, all the tracks that run my engine like Slippery Rock even though we haven’t been there yet but I would like to race my engine, and I like to go to Stateline a lot. I can’t race at Flat Run. Well, I can, but I still would be racing [against other engines like my dad’s].

Me: “What was your best finish at Stateline?”

LM: “Um, my first time I finished second [in the feature]. Well, I won a heat race there. It’s really fun. I’m ready for another question.”

Me: “Your mom gets nervous about you racing. What would you tell me to make me worry less when you’re racing?”

LM: “Well, just think about like, um, how much fun, um, like, um, like if I come out of a race without being in a wreck, it’s really fun about it. And just, like, think about fun things that you and I have done together. And you don’t have to come to all of the races.”

Me: “Do I make you nervous when I’m there?”

LM: “Well, NO! Just, this was awesome.”

Me: “Tell me about all of the safety equipment you have to wear to race.”

LM: “At the end of the interview you’re going to see pictures of me in all my gear”

Me: “What is all of the gear?”

LM: “Well, wear this Armadillo chest protector in case I bump the steering wheel and it hits right here [pointing to his chest], in my chest, I’m fine. And I wear racing gloves that say K1. I wear a K1 fire suit. I wear a Bell helmet. Um, my dad also wears a Bell helmet. And a neck brace (and my dad also wears a neck brace and racing gloves). The neck brace, you can’t move your head around because of the neck brace and you can’t move your helmet like this, side to side, because, um, it’s like really cool and I’m six years old and it’s really fun being in a kart, being a kid.”

Me: “What would you tell other kids, or even grownups, who think they might want to race go-karts?”

LM: “I would want them to know about my wins, really. And I have a bunch of trophies. I think I have four.”

Me: “What’s the most fun part of racing?”

LM: “The most fun part about racing is being under the visor of the helmet and, like, how cool it is to be under it. When I put up my visor, I’m like, breathing so much energy and I love it and I give a thumbs up to you guys who are watching me, and just, thanks for coming, actually, for watching me. My cousin was just at my race last week and he got to sit in my kart and put on my helmet and my neck brace and and my gloves and he got see what it’s like, and how cool it is.”

Me: “That was really nice of you. And it was really nice of you to do this interview with me. Thank you for your time, Mr. Merrow.”

LM: “OK. Thanks.”

Mmmm. Chocolate

Have I ever told you how much I love chocolate? Like, really, really love chocolate. As in, if my DNA were analyzed, I’m probably part cocao bean (I did not spell that incorrectly. Cocao trees produce the beans that are roasted and made into cocoa- chocolate). I’m pretty sure I could qualify as an honorary citizen of Hershey, PA (one of my favorite places on earth). And for all the summers I spent there with them, an entire section of Hersheypark should probably be named after my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don (or perhaps a building, One with air-conditioning).

Over the years, I’ve collected all of the Hershey’s memorabilia: clothing, jewelry, refrigerator magnets, books, cookbooks, stuffed animals, sports equipment- I’m a walking poster child for Hershey’s, what can I say?

Several years ago, I received a set of Hershey kisses shaped cookie cutters for Christmas, in varying sizes. They’re adorable and I love them. The problem was, it seemed a bit counter-intuitive to use them for regular ol’ sugar cookies. Sure, I could’ve made traditional sugar cookies and then topped them with chocolate icing, but where’s the fun in that?

Problem solver that I am, I took to my laboratory Google and began searching for a recipe for chocolate cutout cookies.

Um, you guys? There wasn’t one.

Yes, you read that right. There was no recipe for chocolate cutout cookies.

And so, a few years ago, I set out to create one. Because there is no such thing as too much chocolate. Is there?

The final result is a cookie I’ve made several times and always had great results with. The dough is soft and sticky, and works best when refrigerated for a couple of hours (I usually go with 24, not because it requires that much time but because I have a problem with starting and finishing a project in the same day). Additionally, when rolling the dough, I usually forego the usual dusting of flour on my rolling surface and use plain ol’ baking cocoa instead to keep the dark chocolate color.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup baking cocoa

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups flour

cream butter and sugar. Add cocoa, then eggs and vanilla, then baking powder and flour. Mix until combined, refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight. Roll, on surface dusted with baking cocoa, then bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.




Stop and smell the flowers

We’re in the car. We’re ten minutes away from where we need to be in five minutes. (I am my mother’s daughter, after all).

Ed Sheeran is singing about the Castle on the Hill on the radio; the littlest little has just informed us that it’s his favorite song and has asked me to turn it up. His twin is crying that he’s thirsty and needs a drink (we left home three minutes ago, and he’d had a drink with his breakfast, right before we left).

It’s the fourth day of having all three boys home with me on summer vacation, and I’m frazzled, despite the fact that the oldest helped the littlest make their own breakfast (cereal and cantaloupe) and they didn’t even make a mess. The bigger twin slept late, and has been very agreeable since he woke up.

Still, getting them in the car and where we need to be, on time, isn’t easy even on the best days. (During a kindergarten field trip recently, another mom and I were commenting on how much easier it was to be on time before kids. I was rarely late, until I was a mom).

We drive past the local college, deserted for the summer but very much alive with its blooming flowers, towering old trees lush with leaves, and shady green lawn. Across the street, a man is walking his dog. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I watch the man slowly reach out his hand, and pull a flowering vine close to his face to smell.

In that moment, I felt a twinge of guilt for my rushing. Guilt for taking for granted the fact that it’s a beautiful, sunny late spring morning, that I have three of my loviest little loves with me, that their chatter and singing fill my car and my heart in a way that not many other things can.

Our boys are inquisitive and precocious, always asking insightful questions (last night we were on a quest to learn “where do snotties come from?” for one of the twins). We discuss and explain and research and ask Google and Alexa daily for the answers to the questions these boys ask that I often don’t know how to answer. We’ve started reading the Harry Potter series to meet summer reading goals.

Summer break is my turn to make sure these boys continue learning and growing and discovering. Through my “grown-up eyes,” I sometimes forget how much they can learn just by remembering to…

Stop and smell the flowers.

Enjoy summer break, friends. It comes but once a year. Let’s make the most of this time.



Expanding my horizons (Farmhouse Style)

Awhile back I shared my love of Joanna Gaines with you, while simultaneously sharing that her decorating style isn’t exactly like mine, in a post where I discussed my love of mid-century modern interior design. As a designer, I’m always trying to push myself to experiment with different looks, so while I have my personal favorites, I love the challenge of going outside of my comfort zone.

Through the years, my personal style has been all over the place. I’ve fallen in love with Victorian decor (one day I dream of owning an old Victorian style home renovated to house my bed & breakfast); I’ve ogled traditional, transitional, Mediterranean, Asian, contemporary, global, eclectic, glam… you name it, chances are I’ve dreamed a room in that style.

Over the past year and a half or so, I’ve started playing with design, color, and layout again, deciding it’s quite possible that my dreams are worth pursuing. And so, even without a specific client in mind, I’ve decided to put together some samples of different design styles for my own amusement, to learn new technology, and to build the online portfolio I plan to put in a separate page on this site, eventually.

Since my last post was focused on mid-century modern, but I also nodded to farmhouse as a very current style, I decided to make farmhouse the next decor genre I wanted to tackle, using the same colors as in the mid-century design. For this post, I’ve also put together a fictitious room, complete with a space plan and 3D renderings, because sometimes it’s hard to picture how all the pretty things might come together if there’s no space to put them in.

Let me know what you think, friends! I’d love to hear your feedback. Are you all-in on farmhouse? What are you drawn to?



Guest post: Two Worlds Collide

Allison at the Holistic Homesteader asked me a few months ago to write this guest post.  I’m honored and flattered to have been chosen for this task, and it’s taken me awhile to find a topic relevant to both our blogs.  But here I am now, fumbling through like the klutz I am. Here goes…

First, if you don’t already know me, my name is Danielle Merrow.  I’ve been blogging at since 2010 (!!!) about all kinds of random topics: life, interior design and decorating, cooking, baking, entertaining, parenting…basically, I’ll strike up a conversation with the Interwebz about pretty much anything.  I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for eleven years, and we have three sweet, cute, spunky little boys together: our oldest is six and a half, and our twins just turned four. We have a geriatric golden retriever (she’s fourteen) who’s a retired therapy dog; her main duties in life now include playing watchdog to our kids and cleaning up all the food they drop on the floor.  (Saves me some vacuuming time. And, we figure she’s earned it at this point.)

So what, you might be asking, does someone like me- a suburban soccer and baseball mom (admitting to those titles makes the me from ten years ago shudder.  Let’s just clarify: I do not drive a minivan.  I haven’t gone that far.) have to do with a self-professed all-natural, hippy, farming mama like Allison?  That, my friends, is a question with a short and a long answer. The short part? I was raised a country girl.  

The long answer is, while I was raised in the country, I longed to leave it (not my family, just small-town life) for more.  I grew up hearing my mom complain about how our town had so few options for shopping, restaurants, entertainment- so few options for just about everything.  I wanted more. For many years, I thought I could hack it as an NYC girl, but I found a college closer to home in a small city that I fell in love with, and a husband who loved it too, and so we chose to raise our family in this area.  Here we are, fifteen years later, raising our family in the suburbs and trying to simultaneously instill the same values of hard work and wholesome living I experienced as the granddaughter of two sets of farmers.

My parents didn’t have a farm when I was a kid, but both sets of my grandparents, plus a great uncle and great aunt, still had working farms.  My parents did what they could, when they could, to continue helping out. My dad is a truck driver; he works long days, and when my grandparents were still alive, he would get up at 3AM, drive till 4 or 5PM, then work at one farm or the other until 10 or 11 at night during planting season or the harvest.  Then he’d get up the next day and do it all over again. My mom stayed at home with us kids, and taught us the basics of homesteading. We planted a big garden every spring, and harvested and canned and froze and stored and preserved as much as we could in the fall. To this day, waking up to a crisp fall morning takes me back to the days of my youth when I’d wake up to the smell of my mom’s spaghetti sauce simmering in the kitchen.  While I have her recipe and technically COULD make it myself, I just haven’t worked up to that point yet. I have, however, used her methods for freezing my own fresh green beans, zucchini, corn, and jellies.

My parents’ parents both raised beef cows.  That means, in simple terms, that I didn’t eat beef from a grocery store until I was in college (this may be slightly exaggerated, but not by much).  Once I was out on my own, it wasn’t long before I’d convinced my better half that we needed to find farm fresh beef, stat. And today, our boys get positively giddy when we come home after a weekend with family hauling coolers loaded with farm fresh beef.  

I worried, briefly, that they’d be upset knowing they were eating a cow they’d helped to feed only weeks before.  I had forgotten though, that there’s actually a sense of pride that comes from eating what you’ve helped to grow. My boys only helped with that cow a handful of times, but they know now what the result is of that hard work: full bellies.  

Because we grew up way on the outskirts of a very small town, the nearest grocery store was 20 minutes away.  Today, we can see the Walmart from our kitchen window. Still, old habits die hard, and I’ve tried to train myself to forget the convenience that’s so tantalizingly close; I refuse to run to the store for single ingredients for a recipe when I can come up with a simple substitute.  (Think, adding vinegar to milk to make buttermilk, or adding butter to milk to make heavy cream. Mixing common spices to make mixes like Old Bay, taco seasoning, chili seasoning, or dry ranch- those little concoctions have saved me many trips to the store with overtired toddlers, and saved dinner on countless occasions.)

Bottom line, after all of that, is that the homesteading lifestyle doesn’t come with strict guidelines.  The basic principles can apply pretty much anywhere. Don’t have a yard to plant a garden? Go support local farmers at a farmer’s market (this is the perfect time of year to go!) and buy enough fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk to freeze, can, or preserve.  Buy your beef, pork, and chicken from local farmers by the whole or half- having a freezer full of protein makes planning and preparing meals so much easier! And using fresh, local ingredients makes them taste so much better.



Mama Cried

Y’all, we’ve had two end of the school year programs in the past eight days.

I know, I know, that’s not a big number- particularly since we have three children- but still, it’s wrought havoc on mama’s emotional stability.

The emotions may be running slightly higher because this year is the first time we sent all three boys to school: the big kid is nearly finished with kindergarten, while the twins just wrapped up their first year of preschool. We attended Spring Sing at preschool without any fidgeting toddlers in our laps. Nobody spoke through the entire program. For the first time, we were able to focus on what was going on onstage. I wasn’t rushing two little people to the bathroom as quickly as possible so I didn’t miss any of the program. Instead, we watched the boys parade out with their class, smiled at them and waved (through my tears.) The music teacher whispered in my direction, “Don’t cry YET!” Still, throughout the entirety of the program, this mama cried.

They sang Disney songs, songs they’ve rehearsed at home, at mealtime, and one day even played for me with guitar and ukulele accompaniment. They each had their own favorite tune, they each expressed it in totally different ways. They didn’t stand next to each other to sing. I saw a whole range of growth and development in each of them in just the way they stood on that stage and performed their hearts out. The smaller of the two, younger by two minutes and blonde to both of his brothers’ brown hair, is also more shy than his brothers. He stood with his hands in his pockets throughout the entire performance, enjoying the music and the opportunity to sing (one of his favorite things to do at home), but being cautious of the fact that he was being watched by a church full of strangers. He met our eyes a few times, and tried to hide a smile as he shook his head- almost as if to say, “guys, I’m doing it, ok? Just let me alone!”

His twin- more outgoing and flirtatious since birth, more wild and free-spirited in every sense of the word, used his opportunity in the spotlight to just be himself. He shimmied and shook and emphasized the hand gestures they’d all been taught. He was in front of a group of people, all eyes on him, and he was milking it for all it was worth. (Their music teacher told me after the program was over that the smaller blonde one is a sports car, while the larger, darker haired one is a monster truck. Her analogy couldn’t be more accurate). Watching the two of them- my two babies who had turned four years old just one day before- turned me into a big pile of mush and pride and more love than I ever knew it was possible to feel. My lap was empty, but by God was my heart full.

Despite my empty lap though, friends, the universe righted itself for today’s “Off to First Grade” program at the elementary school, where one twin settled down on a lap and…fell asleep. The other twin, however- the energetic and adventurous one- climbed on his chair, moved his chair, stood up, whispered that he couldn’t see his brother, asked how much longer we had to stay, and asked question after question throughout the entire performance.

Shortly after we arrived, the kindergarten class paraded into the cafeteria where we were seated. We had received a note asking that all children be dressed in all black, but we didn’t know what the costumes would be. When our boy filed into the room dressed as a bumble bee: gold tape across the chest of the black polo shirt he wore, wings on his back, and an antennae headband- I lost it. I was a sopping, teary mess.

He took his place on the risers, scanned the cafeteria for our wildly flailing arms, yet couldn’t seem to locate us (his dad is 6’2″ and was standing up and waving, so I’m not sure how he could miss us. His mom is 5’3″ and didn’t bother to stand, because unless I was on a chair, he’d never find me). Finally, he made eye contact and beamed his radiant kindergarten smile…the one where he has two loose front teeth and one is so loose that it’s crooked and leaning against the other and leaving an awkward space between itself and the one on its other side. The smile that makes me wonder every single time how I got lucky enough to be this kid’s mom.

He came running to us in all his bumble bee glory for pre-show hugs; And this mama continued to cry. His teacher came around a few minutes later, passing out CD’s of the music from the program. Each disk was personalized with a photograph of our student with the teacher. You guessed it- more tears. The teacher glanced at me and said, “don’t cry YET!”

They opened the show with a slideshow, which obviously pushed me further into emotional ruin, and then they proceeded to make us laugh, make us cry, and make us proud as we watched them perform the sign language conversation they’ve learned with their teacher throughout the year, heard them tell joke after joke, and gleaned tidbit after tidbit of insect information- all things they’ve developed in the past eight months. I’m a little blown away, and a lot proud.

I can’t close this without mentioning how incredibly fortunate we are to have the teachers we do, in both preschool and the elementary school. Our boys are all understood and cared for and looked after, and they’ve all put tireless efforts into making school a fun and engaging place to hang out. And so to our teachers, and to all the teachers, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. You’ve all made this year such a good one, and we can’t express enough how grateful we are for all you’ve done.

And so, if you need me this weekend, friends, I’ll be over here with my box of tissues.



Thank God You’re Here

Quite a few years ago, there was a show on TV called Thank God You’re Here. It was an improvisational comedy show, where an actor entered a scene they knew nothing about and had to mesh with the other actors who already had details of what was supposed to be happening, resulting in one wholly hilarious skit.

I often think this must be how my husband- or, any parent coming home after a long day of work while the kids are at home waiting- must feel every day. The poor man never knows what he’s walking into: it could be calm, quiet, all three boys involved in an activity that has them focused and occupied- either together or separately- or… well, the alternative could be literally anything. They’ve attacked him at the door, one launching into his arms while the other two crash into his legs. They’ve met him at the door to pull him in three completely opposing directions to show him something relevant to their day. Today, the bigger twin met him at the door wearing his backpack with a balloon attached, announcing “Daddy, look, I’m a paramotor!” He’s been forced to break up fights, soothe injuries that occur as they race to meet him, and…on very rare occasions…sneaked in completely undetected in order to kiss ME hello first.

There are days he comes home to find neatness and order, dinner waiting on the table… but far more often he trips over discarded shoes, LEGO’s, and matchbox cars to get in the door, only to find the kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes, dinner ingredients covering every counter surface, the smell of something burning on the stove, and a dusting of flour on top of it all.

I don’t know what my husband’s work days look like. I have some idea, but I don’t know all of what his job involves. I do know it’s stressful, and his days are long and busy. I know that he’s the calm, common sense, counterpart to my chaotic, crazy, creative schemes. And I know that in the face of all of it, he comes home every day ready to blend into whatever skit these boys are putting on, while I stand back and say…

“Thank God You’re Here.”



Joanna Gaines

Rustic farmhouse is the decorating style that’s all the rage these days. I blame Joanna Gaines.  And not in a bad way; that woman is my spirit animal.  Not necessarily in a decor-style kind of way, though I certainly see the appeal.  But more in a, “I love this chick because she can do it all without breaking a sweat and everything she touches is gold” kind of way.  Basically, for Christmas this year I asked for ALL of the Joanna Gaines things: her new book, “Homebody,” her cookbook, a subscription to Magnolia Journal.   We also bought her children’s book, “We Are the Gardeners,” because my kids also love “Jo.”Because the woman is a very classy genius.

Every day my inbox is full of emails advertising the widest array of rustic farmhouse decor from every store imaginable.  It’s lovely.  It’s fresh, airy, reminiscent of wide open spaces, clean air, and days gone by, with a little modern twist. Colors are crisp, light and neutral, and fabrics are the same.  Jute, burlap, sisal, denim, linen, and cotton offer looks so crisp and clean you can almost smell the “fresh.”   It’s comfortable, easy to picture kids running down the hallways,  bustling around the kitchen, lounging in the living room for a football game, or gathering around a big old farmhouse table with a worn wood top, laden with a big Sunday supper of pot roast and mashed potatoes and a big layered cake slathered in fluffy white frosting for dessert. And maybe a goat peeking through a window.

But what of other design styles?  I’m having a big moment with mid-century modern right now.  I’m loving the clean lines and the metallic hardware, and fabrics with bold, bright colors in fun patterns.  Last summer, I walked away from an antique mid-century desk that was priced at, well, basically nothing.  I could easily picture that desk in my house, in any of about six different areas.  Alas, by the time I made the decision, someone else had bought it.  Sad face.  Another life lesson learned the hard way.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, inspiration struck at a strange time (sitting in a chair, waiting at a hair salon), and in my mind I saw a tufted sofa in a rich, succulent green velvet, accented with shades of pink and off-white and pops of metallic gold. I went home that afternoon and assembled a concept board for the fun of it, and posted it to my Instagram and Facebook pages.

Last week, a teacher from my kids’ preschool (who is also a gifted published author, and someone I often turn to for inspiration and editing on this blog) sent me a message that she loved the board so much she wanted me to help her to convert her daughter’s bedroom to a home office using the same style. Her daughter will be graduating from high school soon and then moving on to college. Converting the room from an empty kid’s room to a pretty, feminine space where her daughter can still crash during school breaks, but also a sanctuary for her to relax and write her best work, makes the pain of graduation a little more bearable.

Here’s the living room concept board I posted

And here’s the plan for the office!

What about you? What’s your design style? What object inspires your creativity, or sparks your best memories, or makes you feel comfortable and like your best self?



Video Killed the Radio Star

We live in a social media fueled society.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I hear over and over how important it is to use social media to broadcast videos, making me “more approachable, more familiar,” to my target audience. This is a difficult practice for me to embrace, as someone who prefers to be behind the camera more than in front of it. I’m every photographer’s nightmare- my smiles are tentative and self-conscious; I’m the subject who’s always finding a taller person to hide behind (not difficult when you’re barely over the five foot tall mark). I’ve always preferred to be behind the scenes; I feel more comfortable making the scenery pretty without being a part of it. I helped to coordinate a good friend’s wedding in the fall, and I was more comfortable running errands, heading off problems before they happened, and coordinating the details than I ever could have been in a more visible role. Of course, I’ve been more visible several times, and I’ve been honored to take on the roles assigned to me, but I just don’t love the spotlight.

In high school, I was a flutist in the band. We performed often and as a group. I grew accustomed to performing even if I never grew to love it. For me, the band was always more about the friendships I formed.

I don’t remember what year it was, but it was sometime between 2001 and 2003 that we performed a field show that included the Chicken Dance. Part of the show included one of our color guard members dressing in a chicken costume, face concealed, and running around the football field while the band played. During one particular competition where our band was judged against other high school bands, our chicken was unable to perform. Our director asked for volunteers and somehow I ended up in a yellow feathered suit. Face and identity undisclosed, I hit the field and danced and engaged the crowd as I’d never have had the guts to do if my face was showing. Sounds cowardly, I know, but I felt free that day. I remember the strangest details about that performance. It had rained all day, and the field was muddy and slippery under my rubber chicken feet. I almost wiped out several times. But I kept it together, chicken dancing, spreading my arms and “flying” among the members of our band, keeping the audience engaged. When we came off the field, members of other bands were cheering, “We love the chicken!” and begging to know the identity of whomever was crazy enough to act as I had so publicly. But I’d been able to do it anonymously, with only members of our band knowing it was me…and they all knew me well enough to know I could be little (ahem, a LOT) crazy behind the scenes already.

Here’s another example: years ago, when I got my first iPhone, I hung up on my first FaceTime call because I was horrified and freaked out to see my own face on the screen when I picked up the phone to answer. My best friend and a few others have invited me to use the app, Marco Polo, to send video messages. While I love receiving videos of others, I feel absolutely ridiculous taking videos of myself talking. I don’t even do selfies, either. Sure, with the kids to be silly sometimes, or with a fun filter that adds makeup and dazzle to send to my husband or sister, but very, VERY rarely do I sent them. Yesterday, ironically, was an exception, when I sent one to my sister and then to my cousin from the front seat of my car while I waited in line to drop the twins off at preschool. Both were shocked to have received it. It may be another decade before it happens again.

I guess it’s a little like that show, the Masked Singer. I didn’t watch much of it, but I saw a few episodes and was able to sympathize with the performers and their freedom to sing their hearts out in a way that didn’t make them completely vulnerable to judgments and scrutinizing eyes. They must have felt very much like I did that day all those years ago in my chicken costume: free. Liberated. Not judged. And maybe a little more secure in knowing their insecurities were buried beneath a blingy and embellished exterior, faces and expressions hidden from a harsh and judgmental public at large.

My point is, I chose to follow the interior design path (and, I guess if you’re reading this, also the path of writing- at least as a hobby) because I can do the work behind the scenes, baring the parts of my soul I want to share through color, design, images, and words- without showing my face. Even those who have never seen my face have a good sense of who I am, based on stories and images I’ve shared. And I’m guessing, if you’ve been around these parts for awhile (this blog is heading for its ninth year, y’all!), and you keep coming back, you’re not doing it to see my face. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. For being here, for coming back, for encouraging me to keep doing this.

I’d love to hear from you on this. Anyone else feel this way- and put yourself out there anyway? Any advice you can offer me here?

All my love,