Archive of ‘Living’ category

See’s Mint Patty Knockoffs

My husband is a big—BIG—chocolate fan. We’re talking a fan of “last meal” proportions. And his favorite chocolate treat is See’s Peppermint Patties. Now, if you’re not from California, you may be unfamiliar with See’s. And I’d like to just say sorry, because you’re missing out. But, if you can’t come visit me any time soon, you can make these instead!

Epic Dark Chocolate Patty Recipe
-6 cups powdered sugar
-One can condensed milk
-1 tablespoon peppermint extract
-1 bag Guittard’s (or another high end/high milk fat) semisweet chocolate chips

In an electric mixer with paddle attachment, mix milk, peppermint and a cup of sugar, adding a cup at a time to incorporate it all. The texture your looking for is like soft sugar cookie dough.
Put the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up the mint filling. Remove and using a table spoon or melon baller, scoop out approximately one table spoon of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten slightly in your palm. Keep it up until you’ve exhausted yourself and your filling supply. Place patties into the freezer for 30 minutes.
While the patties chill, melt the chocolate. I prefer melting my chips in my ghetto double boiler. It’s a Pyrex bowl on top of a pot of simmering water. It lets my control the temperature of the chocolate so that it’s doesn’t get too hot and start to grain. This will take you about as long as your patties need to freeze.
Once your chips are melted and your patties are cold, work quickly, dipping them in your beautiful melted chocolate one at a time. I use a fork for flipping.
Now that your patties are thoroughly coated in chocolate, let them cool and then devour them in one sitting. Just kidding…maybe. Makes 48.

Derby Time

Derby Time

Not a mint julep, but roses from my garden and a good bottle of sirah should do to thank my lovely party hostess. Let the big hats commence!

Finding inspiration for those not inspired

I frequently have conversations with friends about finding inspiration, or more to the point, about where I find my inspiration for interiors. In all honesty, I’ve always been a creative person, and to me, it’s like breathing. But I am well aware that this isn’t the case for everyone. I often have people tell me that they don’t know what they want, but know it when they see it. But this, my friends, is where inspiration is born!

When I talk with people about space design, I often have people bring tear sheets, images they have pulled from magazines or pinned on Pinterest, making it clear that they don’t actually have to be of interiors, but can be images of anything that speak to them. It could be the color of a tulip, or the emotional feeling an images gives them. What I’m really trying to do is get a better understanding of what they connect with—what speaks to their soul. Because ultimately, we want our homes to reflect what is in our hearts.Image

photo credit: paperfashion 

I also ask them how they want the space to feel, creating a list of adjectives to add to the pictures. Cozy? Chic? Traditional with a twist? Contemporary and high contrast? Their words are just as important as their images. What someone tells you about how they want the space to feel tells you about how they want to feel when they’re in it.

I then lay out their images and words on a table, looking for a theme. What people often view as disjointed, “I love this style, but I also love this styles,” is often not as contrary as they believe. There is almost always a universal factor that ties the images and words together. It may be a color palette, an appreciation for rooms with high art impact, a love of sumptuous texture, but it’s there, that tie that binds. You just have to have all your ideas in one place to see it.  

Using the theme then allows me to search out materials and pieces that fit this collective idea. I create a space with an online program like Olioboard (which is free), including furniture, wall colors, etc, and take that along with me when I shop. It’s an easy cheat sheet for making sure I’m keeping on point.


But ultimately, one of the greatest sources of inspiration is to listen to your intuition. Okay, I know this sounds a little new-agey, but you know what you like. You may just have a hard time taking those ideas and putting them into action. Pay attention to what calls to you. Bring those things together and find out what unites them. Use that to guide your choices.

Your inspiration is there. Hopefully these tips will help you find it. 

I Feel a Change Comin’ On…

It started while staring at my walls. Right after they were painted. By my husband.

It just isn’t right.

But try telling that to your wonderful spouse, who just spent the better part of a week painting your entire downstairs and part of your upstairs what you thought was “Raffia Cream” but turned out more “Golden Wheat”.

“It stays,” he says in his serious voice. “I’m not painting it again.”

That was five years ago. And for five years, I’ve stared at that those walls, waiting until enough time had passed to repaint them. Until the memories of the week of painting it took to get it up on the walls had faded.

Five years, my friends. Five long, sad, years.

And so now, with  the looming anniversary of year five in October, I think it’s time for a change, cuz a change is comin’…whether my husband like it or not.

I’ve been pinning to my heart’s content, selecting rooms and swatches and inspirational images that reflect the mood and color I’m going for. I want something refined, something that allows me to change my accessories with ease, a work-horse backdrop that allows the items in my room to speak, no matter what the season.

Being a fan of change, I really have thought hard about this. I need something that will work with what I have in terms of furniture and art but allow for the addition of new, because knowing my husband the way I do, I’ll be spending the next five years with this color.

I find I’m drawn to shades of crisp white and soft, warm grays. They speak quietly in the background while allowing for the addition of a variety of colors.

I often struggle with paint, as you may have picked up on the fact that I like to *ehem* change things, but I feel confident that one of these beauties has the power to evolve with me.

At least for the next five years;)


Flea Market Finds for the Frustrated

thrift shop sign

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent hours looking at blog posts and pinterest links to interiors that scream originality, spaces filled with items that are one of a kind, exuding the owner’s sense of style. Often, the owner will mention that they’ve picked them up along the way, at flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores. Armed with inspiration you head out, driving in circles around the neighborhood, hoping to god you’ll find the showcase piece you’ve been looking for, only to find a bevy of used George Foreman grills and a few laminated pieces better left in the 80’s.

Searching for one-of-a-kind pieces that give soul to a home requires more than just tenacity and a full tank of gas.It requires footwork. It requires strategy. And that’s where your computer comes in handy. With a few tips and tricks, you can find just the right piece for your home, and a Foreman grill or two along the way.

Craigslist is the daddy of all home-shopping thrift operations. People often get frustrated trolling Craigslist, sorting through mountains of listings only to walk away bleary-eyed and empty-handed. But by thinking about key terms and keeping an open mind, you can find rare gems. For instance, if you’re in love with Hollywood Regency style, you can, of course, type in “Hollywood Regency” into the search option. But you might also find what you’re looking for by typing in materials and designers that were popular during the era such as malachite, lucite, art deco, and Dorothy Draper. Also try terms that are used to define the style, such as luxurious, glamorous, glam, and Hollywood.

Also try searching outside of your immediate area. Confining your search to your city, or the nearest large city, may make for easier driving, but there are a number of listings that won’t necessarily show up in your search if it’s confined to a certain area. By clicking the map view you can see geographically where items are located.

Craigslist is also great for seeing what garage sales will be going down in your neighborhood and giving you a preview to items that will be sold. Most people will post images of bigger ticket items such as furniture, so you’ll get an idea of whether an early Saturday morning is worth your while.

And a last note on CL; make sure to search with the “pic view” option or “grid view” option . It enables you to preview the item without having to actually click the link to look at it.

Auctions are another often untapped resource. And I’m not just talking about Ebay here. Nearly every city holds auctions. A simple google search can produce a list of local auction houses. Spend some time on their sites. Find out when they hold their auctions and what the basic requirements are (prior registration? preview dates? hold time on a purchased item?) before you go. Most auctions will also post images of their auction items online prior to the sale, so take some time to peruse their listing before you make the trip.

Thrift Stores are the place where creativity pays its dues. Most items found in thrift stores are not going to be investment pieces. Think of thrift store finds as the place where your imagination gets to play. Paint and new drawer pulls can rescue the dullest of dressers, and with a little ingenuity, that sorry-looking chandelier can be the centerpiece to your outdoor space. Remember, since most items from a thrift store will require work, think about how much it will cost to improve a piece before you buy it. And how long you can stare at it while it sits in your garage before you get up the energy to do the work.

The Flea Market. Living in Northern California, I am blessed by the fact that within a short drive I can stroll one of the best flea markets in the nation, the Alameda Point Antiques Faire. It really is a site to be seen. But if you’re not in the city–or any city–by the Bay, chances are you might need something a little closer to home. And that may be to your advantage. Small, local, flea markets can often be the best place to score something fabulous for less. Since larger flea markets often require larger rental fees, those costs are passed on to you. But at smaller, regional markets, rental fees tend to be less, as does the number of people shopping the market. Remember high school econ class? Less demand equals lower prices. Another cool thing about local flea markets are that they tend to be filled with regional sellers who often have things from the area. Looking for an antique restaurant sign for your kitchen? You just might luck out with one from the diner downtown.

Whether it’s online or on your own two feet, flea market finds can be found without an intense headache or empty wallet. All that’s required is a bit of persistence, some strategery (yup, strategery), and an eye for diamonds in the rough.

Drinks Are On Me!

Ah, the home bar. The quintessential “prop” to a stylish home. I’ll admit, I really like the look of a well stocked bar, but the reality is that the only drinking regularly going down in my home revolves around me and a glass (or 3) of wine. That, however, changed recently when we began hosting a quarterly dinner with a wonderful group of friends. With guests, one wants them to feel at home, and sharing a bottle of wine that I may or may not have drunk directly from, is not the best of etiquette.

It became my mission to create a functioning, well-stocked bar. One that would not become a dust collector. One that others would look at and see a good time. One that would trump ALL OTHERS!


Unfortunately, I quickly found out that stocking said bar can be a pricey endeavor. In order to be able to mix a mean drink while not having to sip out of paper cups, I had to think strategically. I figured the best way to approach the issue of stocked-bar-meets-frugality was to have a few easily prepared drinks in my back pocket that used similar base alcohols and could easily be adjusted with items from my refrigerator.

After doing a bit of reading, I found two concoctions that would keep the party going with a minimum of liquor; the Manhattan, and the Kir Royal.

The Manhattan

-3 oz Bourbon

-1 oz. Sweet Vermouth

-Dash of bitters

-Maraschino cherry

-Twist of orange peel

Stir bourbon, vermouth, and bitters together. Pour over rocks. Add cherry and twist orange peel over the cocktail.

Kir Royale (My personal favorite and a great substitute to mimosas)

-Dry champagne

-2 oz. Chambord

-Twist of lemon

Pour champagne into flute. Add Chambord. Add twist of lemon, dropping peel into the glass. Pretend your somewhere fabulous while enjoying it!

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