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Friday, November 24, 2017

Our Guest Room Reveal: A Farmhouse Christmas Retreat



Guest rooms in our house were one of the spaces I always thought I'd introduce lots of color (let's all have a good laugh now). Much like our bedroom, I wanted all our rooms to have a cottagey feel to them, with a bright-ish paint color on the walls, patchwork quilts, the occasional antique and lots of coziness. About a year ago, I started looking at light green paint swatches for this room, and then different inspiration hit and I was on to other designs that took a lot of different forms. But I landed on one that felt right for this space: an all white bedroom with dark furniture and slightly colorful, but neutral, bedding. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide: Conventional Retailers



I love supporting small businesses, but I will admit, I do sometimes look to other retailers when it comes to buying gifts. I have Amazon Prime, and the convenience alone makes it hard to resist. I do buy small whenever I can, but on the occasion you need to explore conventional retailers, here are some of our picks for gifts.


I have to give a shout out to LL Bean. We shop there all year 'round, but in particular, we find ourselves in our local Bean store a lot during fall and winter. They have amazing quality flannels, socks, winter gear and even home essentials like bedding and dog beds. I could walk in here and likely find something for everyone on my list, including Betty! Our picks from the Bean for gift giving? Our first is flannel jammies. I got Josh a pair last year, and they're wonderful quality and really warm for those super cold winter nights. In fact, just the other night he was wearing them and said they were his favorites. They always have a great color selection so you could go Christmas-y red or traditional and neutral.

Photo courtesy of LL Bean.

A few years back, I got Josh a Bean canvas duffle bag and had his initials monogramed on it, and he uses this thing all the time. It's perfect for weekend trips, and even longer vacations, and it's wonderful quality. The monogramming option makes it extra personalized, too.

Josh's duffle bag that I got him from the Bean years ago.
The monogramming option makes it a great personalized but useful gift.


Neither of us have an LL Bean Fisherman's sweater, but I contemplate getting one every time I'm at a Bean store. They're traditional, they're cozy and they're incredible quality. I personally love them because they're perfectly New England, and they make me think of being in a cabin in Vermont somewhere, reading a book by a fire. Or, sailing on my imaginary boat on the first chilly day of Fall.

Photos courtesy of LL Bean.


For beauty lovers, I really love the Bite Beauty gift sets that the brand comes out with for the holidays. Every year, they release mini lip products in a cute little tin, and since Bite has some of the best lipsticks I've ever used, I feel so confident in giving them as gifts. This year, though, I'm especially partial to the Agave Kisses Set. It features minis of their agave lip mask, lip balm and lip scrub, all of which I've tried, and all of which are truly stands outs. If color is more your style, they also released mini tins of their liquified lipsticks and their cream lipsticks.

The Bite Beauty Agave Kisses set includes small sizes of three amazing lip care products. 


I've been having a love affair with the relatively new RMS cream palettes called Signature Sets. They come in two options, and I purchased the Mod Collection this past summer, which has slightly warmer undertones. RMS is known for being an organic beauty brand with stellar performance, and their cream products are simply amazing. I've been using their individual pots for a few years now, and love them all. Having a lovely white compact with five products to sample is an exciting gift to receive if you love playing with makeup. Plus, her products are infused with coconut oil, making these great for dry, winter skin! My recommendation for anyone on the fence would actually be Pop Collection, simply because the two cheek/lip colors are perfect for a snow-kissed winter look.


This is my own palette in Mod. The Pop palette has slightly brighter colors that are
beautiful for the winter season. 


Perusing on Anthropologie's site, or just walking into a store during the holiday season, you can probably cross quite a few people off your list. I always find really great gifts here that don't disappoint, and this year, I put together a small list of some of the things that stood out to me. 1. The Joy & Cheer Mug caught my eye because of the, well, cheerful design and it struck me as the perfect winter mug for someone who loves shabby chic or colorful cottage decor. 2. This Vintage Ski Loft Ornament isn't an extravagant gift, but it makes me smile when I look at it, and perfect for someone you now who loves to ski. 3. Not that people are eating a ton of ice cream in the winter, but this Copper Ice Cream Scooper kind of makes it worth being extra cold. 4. I see these Night Market Candles in the store each year, and I'm always drawn to the Mulled Wine scent. Also, the vintage illustration on them is so heartwarming. 5. I've had these Monogram Gem Necklaces saved in my cart specifically so I would remember them for the holiday season. I love that they're a bit different than your traditional alphabet pendant, and the colors are so beautiful. 6. I'm not normally one for patterned stemware, but I'm kind of in love with these Monogram Champagne Flutes. Whenever you break out the champagne, it's usually time for a celebration, and these flutes just say "party time" when you look at them. Plus, they come in all letters of the alphabet, so they're also personalized, which makes them even more fun and meaningful.

Photos courtesy of Anthropologie.

I love getting books as gifts, especially books with beautiful photos to admire that I can display on our coffee tables. I have so many books to suggest that I've loved reading over the past year, but today I'm recommending two that are less traditional and more inspirational. The first is the Half Baked Harvest cookbook. I've drooled over her Instagram feed for ages, and I'm so excited that she has a book filled with her mouth-watering recipes. It would be such a lovely display book on a kitchen shelf, and an amazing guide to some serious weekend cooking. Second, I'm sharing another book that I first discovered on Instagram. I've followed Flora Forager for a couple of years now, and she creates art out of botanicals. They're so whimsical and mesmerizing when you see what she uses to create images of birds, trees and other living things. Her book, Flora Forager: A Seasonal Journal Collected from Nature is filled with these images, and I think would be a fun, unique gift to someone who feels inspired by nature.
These could technically fall under small business if you purchase them from a local bookstore, but to be honest, I haven't seen them in smaller shops - Amazon and places like Barnes and Noble are the only places I've found them. But, you are supporting these lovely individuals by purchasing their books, even if you buy them from Amazon.
Photos courtesy of Amazon.


Josh told me about this new thing that was aided in development by Kickstarter, and as soon as he told me about it, I immediately thought it was an amazing and unique gift idea for a vinyl music lover. The RokBlok is a wireless & bluetooth-enabled device that plays a record simply by moving around on top of the record. It sounds crazy, but it's kind of genius. It runs on rechargeable batteries and will wirelessly connect to to a speaker system within a 30-foot radius. I assumed it would retail for more than $200, but they actually cost $99, which I think is a fair price for something rather unique. 
Photo courtesy of RokBlok.

I've gotten Josh a couple of Timex watches over the years, and the Weekender style is the most universal, and also comes in so many styles and price points. Josh loves watches because, in his words, "Guys don't really have a lot of fun accessory options," so he loves that with just two different watch faces he can totally change the look of it by swapping out the bands. I've gotten him several different bands as stocking stuffers for the past few Christmases, and it almost like he's gotten an entirely new watch. The Weekender comes in both men's and women's styles, too.


Photos courtesy of Timex.




I feel like I, personally, can never have enough scarves, and I love receiving them as gifts. I also love giving them. This year, two scarves at J.Crew caught my attention. The first being the Plaid Cape Scarf. Normally, I don't gravitate toward cape-styled, well, anything, but this one drapes like a light sweater and it looks so stylish and so easy to pull off. The second is the Patterned Cashmere Scarf, which is technically in the men's department but really is unisex. I love the navy and red plaid color making it classic for any season, or really, any person. And who doesn't love a little cashmere?



When in doubt, wine is usually a good idea, especially if you're in need of a hostess gift. One of my absolute favorites during the holidays is a red blend by Bogle called Phantom. My mom introduced it to me years ago when I went home for Christmas one year, and we definitely ran to the liquor store to buy more after polishing off two bottles. I'm not a wine expert, and I'm terrible at describing the flavors, but this one is just rich and complex and makes me think of the holidays. I've only ever seen it at liquor stores during the holiday season, and I think I read somewhere that it's a limited release each year, so I always like to snatch a few bottles up right before Thanksgiving to enjoy throughout the next several weeks. 


And that's a wrap on my gift guides for this year! I had a lot of fun putting these lists together, and I hope that it gave at least one person an idea or two. I'm wishing everyone who takes time to read my posts a huge helping of thanks and gratitude, and a wonderful next few days with friends and family. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Small Business Holiday Shopping Guide



If you like to start your Christmas shopping early, then you and I have a lot in common. The older I get, the earlier I start. About four or five years ago, I started to finish all my Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, it's allowed me to see the magic of the holiday season in a much bigger way. I'm not stressfully running around for last-minute gifts, waiting in lines at stores, or getting anxious that my Amazon order won't make it in time. I may wait to buy one or two things that I know will go on sale for Black Friday, but other than that, once Thanksgiving comes around, I know I can go into the Christmas season completely stress-free.

Each year I try more and more to buy things from small businesses. This year, I'm doing a holiday shopping guide, in two parts. The first, focusing on shopping small, and second, sharing ideas from more conventional retailers. 

Let us begin by shopping small!



My personal favorite things on this list are from Farmhouse Pottery. They're based in Woodstock, VT, and I drool over their Instagram feed on the regular. What I love about FP is that their pieces are classic, and they can work in any home design, be it rustic, modern, traditional or, you guessed it, farmhouse. I bought my first FP piece this past June, and I'm so smitten with it, and I love that it's handmade in New England. But, beside that, their pieces are truly dreamy. My picks from their shop selection are their 1. Maple syrup and bell pitcher boxed set (who doesn't love to make pancakes in flannel PJ's on a cold winter Sunday morning?), 2. Silo soup mug (for cuddling on the couch on a snowy day with an oversized mug of soup), 3. Milk bottle match striker (for lighting all those winter candles and starting your evening fires), 4. Beehive baker (pricey, but an incredible heirloom-quality, functional piece that can be handed down to generations).

Photos courtesy of Farmhouse Pottery.
If you're feeling like a splurge, you could even purchase a workshop session in their studio in VT. Someday, Josh and I would love to do this - and what a great gift idea for a couple, mother/daughter or best friends weekend getaway, right?

My own first Farmhouse Pottery purchase. 


Those who know me well know that my love for Organic Bath Co. products runs deep. I first discovered their Drenched body butter a few years back, and I've exclusively used it since then. I've also branched out to try their sugar scrubs and their Nourish Night Balm, and all these products continue to be in constant rotation in my bathroom. Going into the winter season, I cannot recommend these enough. The Drenched body butter is the most amazing, moisturizing one I've ever tried, and I personally find the fact that it's fragrance-free amazing so it doesn't irritate me while I sleep. The Nourish Night Balm is perfect for dry skin in the winter, and their sugar scrubs exfoliate your skin, while leaving it incredibly moisturized once you're out of the shower. They also donate a portion of each sale to the Global Soap Project, an organization that provides soap to underdeveloped countries.

Photo courtesy of Organic Bath Co.

I feel like men are more challenging to shop for than women, and that could be because women just use more stuff than men. But while browsing Etsy, I found this shave cream from Moss N Oak, and it sounded like a great little stocking stuffer for men. It's infused with Argan oil, which is my favorite for skincare moisturization, and it's also infused with peppermint, pine and lavender essential oils, which will smell perfectly woodsy and clean for the winter season. Neither Josh or I have tried this, so we can't speak to its quality, but the shop has stellar reviews on Etsy, and I'm awfully intrigued by it.

Photo courtesy of Moss&Oak on Etsy.

If you don't find goats irresistible, then I don't even know who you are. Beekman 1802 has been growing in popularity over the years, but I still consider them a small business, I suppose. I guess you could argue me on that one, but I thought they more so belonged on this list versus a conventional retailer. Whenever I use my Beekman goat tote for groceries, farmer's markets, or sometimes even as a work bag, I get compliments on it. Reusable bags are great for a variety of reasons, as we all know, so get one that's super cute for a farm animal lover in your life. Every season, they change the design, so it's not the same as the one I have, but every design I've seen has been super cute.




One of my favorite types of gifts to give are personalized ones, and Etsy is the best place to find these types of gifts. When I was browsing Christmas decor on Etsy in October, I stumbled upon a shop called Black Butterfly Signs, and they make personalized door mats. For someone who just purchased a home, or really, anyone, a door mat with either their name, or a saying you know they'd like is such a fun gift to give. My personal favorites from this shop are down below (if you have a Seinfeld-obsessed friend or family member, you need to check out bottom right).

Photos courtesy of Black Butterfly Designs.

I also love getting people personalized mugs from Etsy. This past May for my sister's birthday, who is a nurse, I got her a Trauma Llama mug, and it was a hit. I feel like everyone has too many coffee mugs, and yet, not enough at the same time, especially if it's personalized with your name, or a funny saying. A standout Etsy shop for fun coffee/cocoa mugs is Sweet Mint Handmade. They have something for everyone, and their designs/font choice are awesome. Below is a sampling of my favorites from this shop.

Photos courtesy of Sweet Mint Handmade.

You had to know that I would work Cape Cod in here somehow, right? We bought a candle from Cape Cod Soy Candle at a boutique in Chatham a few years ago, and it's so lovely. I mostly bought it because of the beautiful mason jar and label design, but the fragrance is perfection. We got the Cape Cod Cottage scent and love it. I have yet to try any others, but they're always on my wish list. For winter, their Holiday by the Sea scent smells like perfection in a jar.

Photo courtesy of Cape Cod Soy Candle.


Going back to Etsy for a sec, I really love the idea of getting someone an illustration of their home or happy place. Great for new homeowners, or someone who travels to a place that gives them all the feels, if you send in a photo of the home or place, an artist on Etsy can draw or paint it for you. I actually plan to do this for our house because I have the perfect place for an illustration of it. There are so many artists on Etsy, and it's hard to choose just one, especially because it depends on the recipient's style and taste. To give an example, though, here's a house watercolor from an artist, landgpaperco, on Etsy, that I personally admire.

Photo courtesy of landgpaperco.

I love the t-shirts from Sneaky Bacon Tees. My personal favorite is their You Had Me At Pizza tee because, well, I have an obsession with pizza. They have so many funny t-shirts, though, that would make a memorable gift for someone you know.

Photo courtesy of Sneaky Bacon.

Lastly, Josh wanted to chime in and say, "Buy local beer!" For anyone who enjoys a good microbrew, he'll often go out to a brewery near us to grab a growler or a six pack to bring with us while we travel for Christmas, and pour people glasses, or give them as gifts. For us, we live local to Brown's Brewery, and he also grew up close to Southern Tier Brewery (which, by the way, their Warlock beer is hands down the best I've ever had. It's a seasonal beer of epic proportions). Southern Tier can be purchased in a lot of stores now, but these are the varieties we had on hand. So anyhoo, that's his way of gifting a little taste of home.

Beer-y Christmas, everyone!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Guest Room Part I: The Construction

I can finally say, come be our guest!

Not that people haven't come to visit us since moving in, but they've been sleeping in storage facilities that seemed to have once resembled something that looked like a bedroom. Friends and family that came to stay with us would wake up with a lovely view of the sunrise over our tree farm, clouded by silhouettes of 2x4's, storage boxes and the distinct fragrance of saw dust. So once our bathroom was done, we were desperate to get the guest room complete as well, since they sit back to back to one another. And also because it was getting a little ridiculous to clear out our lumbar supply each time we had overnight company.

This is the room we took a chunk out of to install the guest bathroom and laundry closet, so it's smaller than when we first moved in. Those two projects changed the shape of this room from square-ish to an L. I was worried, at first, that we made the guest room too small, and maybe it would have been better to eliminate the room completely and just make a really big bathroom and laundry room instead. But once we actually laid it out I realized it was still plenty of space for guests to be comfortable. It's definitely quaint (tiny is more accurate). But really, it's a place with a bed and room for a few suitcases, which is all people really need when they come to stay. Plus, we have another bedroom that will eventually be converted into a guest room as well, and this space could potentially be Josh's office someday. So basically, the size is actually rather perfect as a bonus room/den.

Anyhoo, let's go back to the start of the project. 

Josh tore down the plaster and lathe walls in this room back when he did the bathroom space demo work. While we installed our bathroom, the guest room became a literal construction site. There was tons of lumbar everywhere, and it was filthy. Josh set up his saw and work station in there. Screws and nails were all over the floors. It was a disaster. So Step 1 was just cleaning some of it out so that we could at least walk inside.

The guest room when we started the bathroom reno, which was on the other side of this wall.

Step 2, my friends, was refinishing the floors. I did a whole separate post about this here.




When I last left you with the floors, we hadn't yet sealed them. We used a professional grade polyurethane from Bona Traffic and followed the instructions to a T. This product is really highly-rated online, and requires you to put down three coats of product. But, it was worth it to protect all the hard work that was put into these. Only time will tell how well this will last through the years, but so far, we're pretty thrilled with the results. The best thing about this product, for me, was the it was pretty clear - as in, no yellow tint. I knew that the poly would darken the natural wood a bit, but what I didn't want was for them to become too yellow or red. This product didn't do that, and darkened them to the perfect hue of rich, but natural, pine. 

You can see the color difference once the poly was applied
(the bottom right is the raw wood without poly).

Josh started to drywall and tape once the floors were in (but not yet sealed). While Josh wrapped up the taping and sanding, I started to sand, prime and paint all the shiplap planks we had cut at Home Depot. I really wanted faux shiplap on the back wall (where the bed headboard will go) and we used 3/8 in plywood to make it happen. We've done this in our bathroom and mudroom, and loved the way it turned out. We always have Home Depot cut the plywood for us because they don't charge much for each cut, and it saves us so much time (plus, when they do it, they have better tools, and it comes out way better). 


The room after the drywall was ready for painting.
After doing the mudroom and bathroom faux shiplap walls, we learned a thing or two. For me, the biggest pain is actually painting them. Getting in between each plank to paint the top and bottom of each piece while attached to the wall is beyond tedious and it takes what seems a lifetime to finish. I had to use a tiny little art brush from a craft store to do it in our other rooms, and I was miserable through the entire process. So this time, I decided to prime and paint them before putting them up on the walls, and then just doing a touch-up layer with a big roller once they were up. This was a much better process, and what I would recommend to anyone who wants to do a similar project. 

Painting the sides of the planks with a roller before attaching them to the wall was so much easier
than trying to paint them after installation. 

The plywood shiplap pieces ready to go!

I decided I also wanted to prime and paint the whole room, including the wall where the shiplap would go, before we installed the plywood planks. And once that was done, we started to install the planks to create the faux shiplap accent wall.



When our contractor installed all the plumbing and electrical for our bathroom next door, we had him hardwire this room for a ceiling light fixture as well. So, we were finally able to install a ceiling fan/light combo in here, which was such a great feeling. None of the bedrooms in this house were hardwired for ceiling lights, so we have to do this in each room we remodel. 



After that, we just had to cut, prime and paint the new trim for the door, windows, floor and ceiling, and drill and paint the door. Once the room is painted, we always feel like we're so close, and we're always so surprised when the trim work ends up taking another few weeks. But, it's always worth the wait in the end. For the door, we bought a slab door, and I decided  to paint it the same color as the room. I was originally going to stain it a walnut color, but with the warmth of the pine floors, I decided it would flow better if it was just plain white. We're still waiting on the door knob, but it's the same one we used on our kitchen doors. This knob is a special order, and we always wait until the last minute to order it, and it never comes before we actually finish a room.





Once we finished caulking the trim work, and felt confident that the floors were completely cured, it was my favorite day - move in day. Stay tuned for how I'm decking this room out for the holidays. 
 
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