Dining Al Fresco

I love to dine al fresco. Partly because I enjoy the outdoors and partly because I sound fancy when I speak Italian. (Al fresco means outside in Italian.) But there would be no al fresco at our place until I cleaned up our balcony.

Out table in particular was screaming for TLC.

So one night while JT was working late, I went shopping, determined to get this space in shape. After a few “quick” stops to Home Goods and Home Depot, and then a Skype session in the middle of World Market with my mom for styling advice,  I was armed to DIY and decorate.

I followed this tutorial to revive our table and chairs. I also scrubbed every surface to remove all of the pollen that had caked itself onto our balcony.

I only added a few items for some color and ambiance, but it has made a huge difference. The lanterns with candlelight at night are awesome. We’ve already had a few dinners and late night cocktails outside.

It’s amazing what a difference a little elbow grease and some pretty accents can do. It also doesn’t hurt that our apartment complex is having a “beautify your balcony” contest in a few days. That contest may or may not have influenced me to do this sooner than I would have… Thank you to my mom for “online shopping” with me and to my husband for hanging everything. I don’t need to win the contest to be happy about our updated balcony, it turned out great!

(You know I’m lying. I do need to win.)

Home Sweet Home

Even though Virginia is now home, we still have a soft spot for our hometowns where our families still live. So when I started seeing home state art pop up all over Pinterest, I had to make something for our apartment.

I didn’t pin this, but my inspiration came from this picture, found here.


I’ve had this idea saved for months, but never got around to making it until now. What do you think? The photo quality isn’t great because I left my camera at work, so these are from my phone. I was too excited not to share this right away.

I LOVE it. It replaced a watercolor painting I had in that frame that had no significance to us. Now we have a little reminder of where we came from.

And if you think it’s a coincidence that PA is on top, it’s not. ;)


The DIY duo at Young House Love posted a style quiz from Ethan Allen’s web site. It’s intended to narrow down your taste and help you choose which signature collection will suit you best. Between not knowing what style I like and enjoying someone making a decision for me, I decided this quiz would be perfect for me. For the record, I also find sarcasm inappropriate. (Ha)

Apparently, Ethan knows a thing or two about my home decor style. The description of what style they recommend for me is spot on. What he doesn’t know, is that I’m too cheap to buy his furniture. Sorry Eth (can I call you Eth?), I’ll just use you for pinning. So what did he have to say about my taste for textiles? Elegance.

I can’t argue with that. I like timeless pieces and clean lines. What I can argue with is why he didn’t call me to model for this shoot. The least he could do is pay me for my idea. I shot this same look years ago. Years ago!

Now maybe I wouldn’t title this “Elegance” but I promise this photo is circa 2009. And those Michelob Ultras aren’t mine. ;)


When my husband expresses interest in a date night, I get almost as excited as the day he proposed. (I said almost.) Whether it’s a night out or a night in, I am ready to pull out all the stops. I feel like it’s more important when we’re having a night in to make it extra special. If I don’t jazz it up, then it looks like any other Tuesday. And what is there to be excited about on Tuesday?

We both have a love for Mexican food, specifically our favorite “fast food” place, Chipotle. Instead of ordering in (to keep this date night also budget-friendly), I decided to make fajitas for dinner. But before I started cooking, I had to set my tablescape. Now I’m no Sandra Lee, but she certainly inspires me to make my table as pretty as possible. I wanted lots of color for our indoor, evening fiesta, so here’s what I did.

Fresh flowers are a MUST.

I bought these at Whole Foods for $5. You just can’t go wrong with fresh flowers on a table. Plus, they lasted for another week and a half!

I used a table runner and a few of my brightest table linens. I also have lots of colorful serveware (all Rachael Ray of course) which added an extra punch of color.

For dinner I made chicken and steak fajitas with sauteed peppers, onions and we can’t forget cheddar cheese. I also served sour cream on the side and made some refried beans. Here’s a tip: don’t buy refried beans! Heat up some pinto beans, add a splash of water and your spices of choice (for me it was salt, garlic powder, cumin and cayenne) and use your potato masher. Much healthier and made with love.

For an appetizer I set out some tortilla chips with a creamy ranch and jalapeno dip. It’s also delicious on fajitas too. Score for dual purpose food!

But what about dessert you ask? It was a last minute decision, but I made churros. I saw a really easy recipe on Nigella Feasts a few days before our Fiesta Date Night and decided it was worth the extra effort. What good is date night if I don’t make a special dessert?!

I didn’t have a wide enough tip for my pastry bag to get the fluted edges, so I’m well aware of what these look like… I promise they were delicious!

Getting the table all gussied up for dinner made it easy to turn off the TV and enjoy dinner just as much as we would at a nice restaurant. Unfortunately we had to do all the cooking and cleaning, but we didn’t have to pay anyone to do it. I think the success of our Mexican-themed dinner will lead to future theme date nights. With Easter around the corner, I see visions of chocolate rabbits and honey-baked ham.

Champagne Room

Currently, our “dining room” is a part of the general communal area of our apartment. You know how it goes in these spaces – the living room, kitchen and dining area are really one giant space separated by your furniture if you’re lucky enough to arrange it just so. I’m at my wits end with our place though. As my tastes evolve and I grow into my own decor style, I am eager to expand and get to decorating and DIYing.

BUT. Since that isn’t a reality for me right now, all a girl can do is dream. And dream I shall. So let’s take a look at my new inspiration for a dining room, should I ever have a real one. At this moment, I’m loving the idea of a glamorous space. One where I can host dinner parties, send out invitations written in black ink calligraphy and instructing guests to wear their fancy pants. Shiny and sparkly; my own special champagne room! I can serve my best meals in my prettiest dishes and for a few moments we can all feel like we live the life of luxury.

Here’s a list of what I’m loving. And a huge disclaimer that since this is pretend, price was not an issue. It was SO MUCH FUN.

I highly recommend this game unless you’re really trying to put a room together. In that case, don’t avoid the price tag. It’ll just be painful when you fall in love with pieces like I have. And to prove my point, I went back to see what the total would be in this simple, yet fabulous dining room of mine: $2,780. Expensive taste is bittersweet. 

p.s. Click the photo to see the details better. ;)

Prepare the Suite.

This weekend J.T. and I went bananas cleaning our apartment in preparation for a friend who will be living with us for a few months as he gets acclimated to his new job in a new-to-him city. That means we emptied the guest room (with the exception of a hanging organizer because literally there was not another inch of closet space to move it to) and rearranged it to make it “move-in” ready. The guest room is usually the dumping ground for all things. I know everyone has a space for this in their home. Ours just happened to be an entire room. So here’s the before:

 What you’ll find among the mess is laundry, dog crates, dog treats and other random items that I didn’t even realize where there. What we’ve done is cram store that stuff in other areas of our apartment. We’ll probably never remember where the stuff is at, but I can’t really tell you what exactly we had in there anyways.

On to the after pictures:


There is now an entire wall free. Amazing. Stonewall always hangs out under the guest room bed – it’s his booshkie fort. Now that we’ve moved the furniture around and gave it a good cleaning, he spends even more time in there. It must feel like Extreme Makeover: Dog Edition. At least if our friend isn’t comfortable during his stay, Stonewall is happy. :)

Inspiration and Imitation

I’m going to make this short and sweet (which is relative, so no judging if this turns into a long-winded post). In my moodboard post for our master bedroom, I included clear bedside lamps. I showed one from IKEA, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. What got me on the clear lamp kick was Bryn from Bryn Alexandra Interiors and her post about  Clear Bedside Lamps. She has a list from high end to affordable and I loved what she showed. Well don’t you know that in talking with my mom (who doesn’t even realize she’s the ultimate DIYer), she found a set of lamps on clearance that she thought I would like. And guess what? They are the SAME ones Bryn posted on clearance from JCP. Oh. Em. Gee. My inner Jill was screaming for the real Jill “You’re a genius! How did you find them?! How did you know?!” But wait! There’s more!

Guess who’s getting those fabulous and perfect lamps for her master bedroom redo? Two thumbs point this way at THIS GIRL. Haaaaaapy biiiirrrrthdaaay to meeeeee! Even if my birthday isn’t for another 7 months, I already have a fantastic gift waiting for me. I can’t wait to set them up and get one step closer to the adult bedroom we (but really just me) desire. Here’s the lamps in Bryn’s house, and of course, they’re in her master bedroom too:

Soon you will live with me my pretty light delight.

So really what the morale of the story here is that if you share you inspiration with others, and are smart about your purchases (like having a clever mom who buys gifts early) you can get exactly what you want. I really did do a little window shopping in store and online to see if I could find a better deal or something I loved more, but I didn’t. And I think waiting until September to get these beauties will make me appreciate the process of updating piece by piece instead one big giant credit-card-debt-that-you-regret-until-it’s-paid-off kind of upgrade.

So if you’ve got your eye on something that you just love and know it will be perfect for you, take my advice: Call my mom. She’ll hook it up.

Head(board) Master

I did it. I DIYed my first real project. Sure, I’ve updated with spray paint. I’ve rearranged furniture (enough times to make my husband think I have a feng shui addiction). But this is the first start-from-scratch project I’ve completed 100% myself. I shared my master bedroom mood board a little while ago and this project was part of it.

I DIYed a headboard! I couldn’t have done it without some inspiration and a few of the fantastic blogs I follow have tutorials that really helped me realize that I could do it (and how to do it as well). I have to share the big reveal first because we all know it’s the best part:

 Now on to how it’s done. As I mentioned, I read two tutorials over and over and then over and over again to make sure I knew what I was doing. Censational Girl posted about her nailhead trim headboard but I knew I wouldn’t go that fancy. We don’t own power tools, have a garage or actually have the skill to do that (YET). I also read about a DIY headboard on another blog, but I can’t remember which one. Trust me with CG’s though. She’s got more than one, so you should be able to follow. Also, I ordered my nailhead trim from the same place she did, but more on that later. Tutorial time!

First, go to Home Depot with a friend. I recommend a Friday night around 9:45pm. The service is excellent and the rides are free.

Free rides!

I bought a 60″ w x 32″ h piece of plywood. I have no idea what kind. We chose the thickness based on what was eye level. There was a HD guy there to “assist” but I’m not convinced he knew what he was doing. What really tipped me off that he wasn’t properly trained was the fact that we almost convinced him to let Katie use the wood cutter. Not smart. We still don’t let her use bread knives, but that’s another story…

After Home Depot, we went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought a great golden tan fabric (2 yards I think) that was a classy jersey knit. No, that is not a contradiction. My headboard fabric is like Snooki covered in glitter. Okay, that probably didn’t paint the right picture. Anyways, it works people. I also bought 1″ thick foam and 2 queen size bags of batting. I wanted this puppy thick and comfy so in case anyone steals our bed, we can sleep on the headboard. Is this getting weird for you too? Blame the wine…

After she was all wrapped up in the foam and batting, I got my staple gun and put about a thousand staples in to secure the padding, then to secure the fabric. You would think I took a picture of the headboard with just the fabric. Nope. Too excited to get to step two. The trim!!! I mentioned before that I ordered my nailhead trim from Beacon Fabrics, just like CG. Not because I want to do things exactly like her, but I couldn’t find it in any store. Any where. I live in the DC metro area and no one sold this stuff. Le sigh. So I anxiously waited for it to arrive and within a few short days it was time to complete my DIY headboard journey.

I read that you need to use a rubber mallet to hammer these so you don’t ruin the finish. This is good advice. And I don’t have a rubber mallet, so I improvised like any good DIYer would do.

I used my sock. By the way, don’t use good socks. That poor guy is holey and had to be thrown away. Also, while the nailhead trim is easy to shape, the sides are quite sharp. I had cuts and was bleeding. Yes, I bled making a headboard. My fingers looked like they got into a fight with a ream of paper. Paper, 1. Fingers, 0. Luckily, the trim went in easily and quickly, so after I bandaged up my battle wounds, I finished up and was left with a fabulous new headboard! The best part is that since we have a platform bed (IKEA Malm) I was able to wedge it between the mattress/boxspring and the back part of the bed. Since we’re still renting, I am hesitant to put too many holes in the wall. I’m lazy and don’t want to patch those bad oscars up when we eventually leave. :)

If you think you want to tackle this project, DO IT. The foam/batting/fabric wrapping took 5 minutes. The trim really wasn’t that bad (I’m dramatic) and it’s totally worth the end result. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bask in the glory of my comfortable and under $130 project.

My First Mood Board!

Even though there is only one exclamation point on that title, I’m basically screaming this. I am SO pumped to share my inspiration. I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with what style  I we want in our master bedroom. I definitely favor dark wood and warm colors, so when JT said he wanted a bright bedroom, I panicked. Luckily, we compromised and found a great bedding set at Kohls – Apt 9 Options in green. The photo I’m going to share shows it in charcoal, so just imagine white where you see gray. So without further ado, here’s what I’m working towards:

We currently have IKEA Malm furniture in medium-brown. Every other day I want to paint it, then not, then add drawer pulls, then not. So for now it’ll just stay the way it is since I can’t seem to make up my mind. I also can’t seem to convince my husband to let me go paint crazy. With our bedding and the furniture, the rest of the room I want to keep light and white. I am loving the clear, crystal lamps. I plan on scouring Home Goods and TJ Maxx this weekend to find a deal. The one listed above is from IKEA, but while I was blog-stalking (don’t judge me, we all do it) I came across someone who found one for $20 at Marshall’s. I know that deal is still out there for me! We also have a full length mirror, which I plan on painting the frame white, but I am LOVING the idea (from IKEA of course) of setting it up on a little storage unit. That is actually a tv unit with a shelf left out, but we’ll see what I can find. That might be a thrift store or Craigslist search.

And of course, I didn’t forget the little details. I’ve been helping a friend get her new apartment decorated fab and I saw some great vases at Ross recently. The vases and candle votives above are from West Elm (which I happen to have a giftcard to) but I’m going to hold out for some local deals. I just can’t resign to using my giftcard. It’s like a little piece of gold in my wallet. No, I don’t think that’s a ridiculous statement. You’re just jealous that you don’t have one. How do I choose?!

Anyways. The biggest part of our master bedroom upgrade will be my DIY project I intend to tackle in the next two weeks: a headboard! That’s right. I just completed my first mood board and I’m already diving into a DIY headboard. Crazy. I can’t help it. I’ll definitely let you know how that goes. In the mean time, I need to make a list of what I need so I can control myself when I am unleashed into the wild. And by wild, I mean Home Goods. Which happens to be right in between World Market and TJ Maxx. I may need a leash.

Before I start updating, I’ll snap some before pics. I know how much we all love before and after shots! Why isn’t Home Goods open 24/7?!