Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Have yourself a SPARKLY little Christmas!

So I'm participating in TWO Holiday Parites in blogland! If you're here from Hooked on Houses, welcome! I'm participating in Julia's Hooked on Holiday House Tours Party! I've also signed up for Kimba's Holiday Open House! Both of these parties have FABULOUS hostesses and lots of eye candy on their tours. Be sure to check them out! Let the party begin!

Anyway, onto the Christmas decor you'll see at my house these days: Above is a close-up of my mantel this year. I LOVE decorating my mantel at my house. It's huge, and flanked by two symmetrical square windows. The mantel itself runs the full length of the living room wall so there's lots of room to put STUFF. And come Christmas-time, I do. I Put Stuff.

Here's the mantel when you step back a bit. The garland is made of curly-willow branches, spray-painted silver, that I had left over from the wedding I designed last winter. I stuck in several SPARKLY picks of berries and leaves, plus some aqua Christmas ornaments. I interspersed my little collection of mercury-glass candleholders and voila! Can you tell I like SPARKLY things? (There's also a little garland made up of small square mirrors that is draped below the mantel that you'll see repeated later on my tree.)

Here's the scene on top of my piano. (You may remember this post where I lamented over the empty space above the piano. Well, as you can see, it's empty no more!) I filled a simple hurricane with a large white pillar candle and ornaments from Target (they look glass, but are only $8.99 for 24! Can't beat that!) Also, my very first snow globe. I'm not a fan of them, but my daughters are, so the day I spotted one that matched my living room, I bought it for them. (I know, I know - it's a sickness. But I want them to match the decor and not be cheesy...what can I say?)

Here's a closeup of the hurricane. These cute little trees I bought at a clearance sale at Pottery Barn after Christmas one year (which, by the way, is my number one tip for affordable Christmas decor - buy it the day after Christmas for the following year!). If you like the look of these little trees, they have similar ones at Target right now - although the bases are red or gold - for only $6 to $9 each. Super cute, simple, and somewhat realistic-looking. Also, you can see the base of the mirror that I bought at a garage-sale this summer - it was only $7 but painted gold - I finally spray-painted it white and now I think it feels somewhat relieved!

Here's the shelf above my TV. You can't tell in this pic, but the three trees are VERY SPARKLY. Crate & Barrel, After-Christmas Sale. (Spotting a theme, anyone?) I backlit the aqua vase with a $6 light from Ikea and I have to admit it looks very cool and dramatic, especially at night. The vase is filled with silver branches and branches with silver and glass berries.

This PEACE sign is also SPARKLY, though you can't tell here. Only $7.50 at the new Real Deals store here in Oregon City. (For you locals, it's on Washington just down from Home Depot. Love their Christmas decor!)
And here's the tree. So, every year I use my SPARKLY and clear and white ornaments, and add a different accent color. So far I've done silver + purple, silver + red, silver + green & blue, silver + red & aqua, and now this year....what happened? It was supposed to be retro-inspired, with silver (of course) plus aqua, lime green, pink, and orange. Crazy, huh? The problem is, I can't find my lime green ornaments (yes, I really do have some!). AND, I'm wishing I had done pale pink rather than the hot pink, because that hot pink is sort of grating on my nerves a little, but the other day my daughter said (in a somewhat breathless, dramatic voice) "THANK YOU for doing that bright pink on the tree, Mommy!" So at that point, there was no turning back. My daughter loves the pink, as bright as it is, therefore, it stays. You know how it is. (When you see her playroom decor, you'll understand!)

There's a story with this tree-topper, too. Every year we've used a silver and SPARKLY star that lights up. Well, this year, it didn't light up. Last year it didn't light up either, and my husband spent a ridiculous amount of time (bless his heart) painstakingly taking it apart and making it work again. This year, I just don't think he could bring himself to do it again. I didn't blame him. So, after looking at a dark star on top of the tree for a few days, I just couldn't take it. I pulled some of these silver and SPARKLY picks out of the branches of the tree and wired them to the top of the tree. Then, I added this SPARKLY turquoise ribbon and voila! It was budget-friendly, because I already owned all the components to make it. And it's fun cause it's just something a little different.

Some closeups of the SPARKLY-ness. (Is that a word?)


We have picture frame ornaments on the tree from the year we were married, and from each of our children's first Christmases. I'm going to start buying a frame for every year, whether it's a kid's first Christmas or not. They're much easier to find these days and very inexpensive! It's fun to dig out the ornaments and relive the memories from the photos. You can also see a little bit more of that mirrored garland - which I love - that is on both the fireplace and the tree.

Here's one of the two silver SPARKLY trees that we have in front of our two little windows over the mantel. This is the view at dusk.

And here it is during the day. I think these were a JoAnn's purchase a few years back; they often put their Christmas decor down to 70% off (often even before Christmas!) and that's when I scored these pre-lit beauties for about $10 each. They have glass-beaded branches. I love them.

Okay, moving on to the kitchen now. In case you are dying for a glimpse of traditional red and green, never fear! It's here. In the kitchen. Actually, I recently painted the walls a soft green, so I am using some of my red Christmas decorations in here. It's a more casual feel - a little less SPARKLY - but no less festive. Above is a silver wreath with a red ribbon. I like the fruits on it - goes perfectly with the kitchen. (They aren't really this bright - the flash made them look almost flourescent.)

I hung red star ornaments with fishing line over the window above the sink. I love the simplicity of this look.

Here's my easy-peasy centerpiece for the kitchen table. A Christmas plate, red candle, and more simple red ball ornaments. I tried a few other centerpieces, but the girls couldn't see each other over them, so I made it smaller and shorter. Now they're happy.

And speaking of the girls, here they are! My little elves, who love helping me put up Christmas decorations. The ones I'll let them touch, that is. ;-)

And last, but not least: the pink foil tree, complete with pink lights, in the orange/pink/lime green playroom. This tree is all girl (as if you couldn't tell!) and is being slowly decorated with one tiny ornament a day from our little advent calendar. By Christmas Day it will have the full cast and characters from the Nativity on it.

Phew! If you stuck with me all the way to the end of this long post, bravo! I guess my posts are more about quality than quantity, these days. :-) I am missing blogging but have managed to fill my time with many, many other things. It feels good to be getting caught up, but I do miss my Nesting Instincts blog and business. You can bet I'll be checking in more between now and March, when the baby's due.
Have yourself a SPARKLY and Merry Little Christmas!! xoxo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

we found out our new little chick will be a...


That's right, after two girls, we are being blessed with a boy! We were both sort of hoping for a boy, but since our track record has been all-female thus far, we were trying to prepare ourselves for another girl. Woohoo! So, let the nursery decorating begin! I've been checking out the real-life inspiring nurseries over at ohdeedoh (which is a cool blog by apartment therapy that's all about decorating for kids) and getting lots of ideas from some super-chic mommas. I'm beginning to unearth the disaster that is (was) our home office and am slowly trying to find new homes - or recycling bins - for all the *STUFF* we've crammed in there for the last five years. It will become the new nursery.

I'm loving bright, happy, retro-inspired colors right now. Aqua, red, orange, and green in particular are really appealing to me. Check out this cute bedding set as an example:

With aqua-colored walls, brightly painted furniture and whimsical, retro fun would that be?

Since budget is definitely a concern, and since this is Baby #3, the poor thing won't get quite the same amount of moolah spent on him as my first daughter did. But, that doesn't mean I have to sacrifice style. Check out this set from Target (a limited-time collection by DwellStudio) - only $79.99 for a 4-piece crib bedding set!

DwellStudio for Target bedding collection - Circles

Cate Cordelia's Modern Library - ohdeedoh

So, can I just say how hard it's been to make myself stay away from blogland? Well, I've still been "lurking" on my favorite blogs, but haven't even been commenting. It's like I've got to break the habit or something, so I've been trying to go cold-turkey. I have to admit, I've been getting a lot more accomplished in the real world recently without the pressure of writing frequent posts. But I couldn't NOT check in with you all and give you an update! In fact, you may get a few more of these "surprise" posts over the coming months.

There is nothing like the blessing
Of a bouncing, baby boy
He will fill your home with energy
And touch your heart with joy.
He’ll hug you and bug you
And try you within
But each precious memory
You’ll treasure again and again.
~ Linda LaTourelle

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

sometimes the hard thing is the right thing...

There is so much talk about nesting these magazines...on decorating blogs...on HGTV...and from me, for heaven's sake. But this redesigner has begun nesting of a different sort...getting ready for the arrival of Baby Number Three! My husband and I are looking forward to adding one to our nest in March of 2009. The arrival of any baby brings with it any number of changes, joys, and stresses, and this one is no exception.

Counting My Blessings
I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing amount of flexibility in my redesign business. I'm free to schedule not too much, not too little, but just enough to be a Mom First and a Redesigner Second. I have also been blessed with a steady stream of clients over the last twelve months, and experienced more success than I ever anticipated when I quietly created my first website last year. My blog has grown to hundreds of readers daily and I've had the opportunity to contribute to various publications as an "expert" in the field of interior redesign. Wow. Can I just take a moment to say "Thanks, God!" And another moment to say, "Thank YOU! For reading, for caring about what I have to say, for enjoying my photos, for hiring my services, for spreading the word about Nesting Instincts!"

You may have sensed me leading up to something here. Well, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth (okay, just kidding! but there may have been a few little tears) I've decided to put Nesting Instincts on hold for several months while I work on getting my household in order, preparing for baby, and then caring for the baby for the first several months of its life. Little things like moving furniture - which is a regular part of my role as Redesigner - are getting more difficult as the pregnancy progresses. Since Nesting Instincts is a one-woman show, I have no assistant or back-up. Also, my house has been in a fair amount of chaos (it's true!) while I've cared for my non-human baby - that would be Nesting Instincts - and I'm feeling the need to get my home ship-shape again in time for the human baby's arrival. There are other contributing factors to this decision, but you get the picture. I have every intention of picking up where I left off sometime next year (Summer or Fall of 2009).

What does this mean for my loyal readers and clients?
After this week, I will no longer be updating the Nesting Instincts blog or sending out the Feather Your Nest newsletter. Gulp. Yeah, that one kinda hurts, because it's something I really enjoy. But it's also something that takes a lot of time and energy - two valuable commodities that I am feeling short on these days. I plan to devote that same amount of time and energy to my family and home in the coming months instead. My blog will still exist in cyberspace, so if you need links to other great resources and blogs, or would like to peruse my past articles at any point, you'll still be able to do so.

In addition, after November 15, I will no longer be doing interior redesigns or consultations for clients (until sometime next year). If you would like a new look in your home before the holidays begin, just contact me! The appointment just needs to take place between now and November 15. If you were already thinking of getting my help with your home, but just hadn't made the call, now is the time to do it. Most likely my rates will change when my business resumes in 2009.

I feel a little melancholy as I write this, but I know it's just for a season. Who knows what amazing things are around the corner? (Well, I know that one of those things is a baby, but I meant after that!) I only ask that when you see something from Nesting Instincts pop up in your inbox several months from now, you'll remember who it's from - and might actually open it and read it! And feel free to still tell your friends about Nesting Instincts, because in the words of the illustrious Governor, "I'll be back."

Thank you for your amazing support and encouragement, friends! I will miss you!

For now...

If you'd like to view some of my signature redesigns, read here

For posts on entertaining and events, read here

For my Fabulous Finds - my past favorite picks from Etsy artists - read here

For my Artist of the Month interviews, read here

P.S. I'll still be peeking in on my favorite know who you are! And I would love to hear from you. I can always be reached via email at courtneyg [at] See you again in 2009!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

my new favorite book on entertaining

So I was enormously flattered when Wiley Publishing contacted me to see if I'd be interested in an advance review copy of Matthew Mead's new book, Entertaining Simple. Um, hello! This book is so right up my alley. I didn't realize just how much it was, at the time, but now that I've read it, I've fallen in love with it and I'm happy to say that it's a book that I would have actually purchased, had I run across it in the store.

Matthew Mead, stylist guru extraordinaire

Let me explain. The book is based on the premise that it restores sanity to entertaining, without sacrificing style. I love that! The idea that I can entertain in a stylish way - that is also affordable and doesn't take hours and hours or give me a head full of gray hairs - is extremely appealing.

use a wine glass to hold individual servings of nuts!

One of my favorite sections of the book is where Matthew recommends four different ways to use one common household item for entertaining. He'll take a common object that nearly everyone owns, like a wine glass, egg cups, or glass votive holders, and show you four different and innovative ways to use them - either as decor or serving pieces (and often accomplishing both!).

wineglass as a floating candle holder

I'm also really happy about the recipes in the book. It's one thing to include sophisticated recipes in a book on entertaining - it's another thing to make them simple and even give shortcut options, which Matthew includes at the bottom of every recipe. Here's one I definitely want to try (warning, your mouth may start watering at any moment!):

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Filling

These decadent-looking cupcakes are easy to make and more tempting with fresh chocolate ganache.

¹⁄³ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups creamy peanut butter
Chocolate Ganache (page 206)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place liners in two standard 12-cup muffin tins.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. Whisk in the eggs, water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Continue whisking until the batter is completely mixed.
3. Fill each muffin cup with ¼ cup batter. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; then remove from the muffin pans. Cool completely before filling and icing.
4. Fit a pastry bag with a number 20 (small) star tip. Spoon the peanut butter into the bag. Press the tip into the center of a cupcake top; squeeze the bag for 3 seconds to fill the cupcake with about ¾ tablespoon peanut butter. Repeat for each cupcake. Set the bag aside.
5. Using a small knife, remove any excess peanut butter from the cupcake tops. Using an offset spatula, spread ganache over the top of each. Add a flourish to the top by squeezing a bit of peanut butter through the star tip.
Makes 24 cupcakes

Simplify: Begin with cupcakes from your favorite bakery—all you’ll have to do is fill them with peanut butter and frost.

Um, yeah! A few other recipes I'd like to try, which looked simple but a little more sophisticated (okay, a lot more!) than what I usually cook for my family: Carrot-Ginger Soup and Twice-Baked Potato Boats. Don't they just sound so homey and comforting?

Matthew gives great ideas on everything from creative napkin-folding to basic serving dishes that should be in every pantry. He even includes ideas for theme parties (that are not cheesy or over-the-top). I found this book to be quite timely, since there are so many ideas on how to make what you've most likely already got, look more special and do double-duty for a party.

The book is released on October 27 - but if you just can't wait till then - you'd better get over to Restyled Home where Linda is giving away not one, not two, but TWENTY copies of Entertaining Simple! Check out her post for the details. Happy Reading and Happy Entertaining!

Friday, October 3, 2008

heads up...I do love a sale!

Just a quick note to let you know that one of my favorite artists (and frequently featured on my Friday's Fabulous Finds), vol.25, is having a sale next week. Running Monday Oct. 6 through Monday, Oct. 13, if you buy 2 prints, you get one free! So get yourself to her shop ASAP and check out her charming prints!! For more on vol.25 on my blog, check out my Artist of the Month vol.25 interivew from June. This artist was a serious crowd favorite!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

on my wishlist...beautiful calendars

Having just repainted my kitchen, I've been looking for a wall calendar that I'm not embarrassed to have on my kitchen wall. You know, one without cats or muscle cars or anything like that. (No offense if you love cat calendars or muscle cars...sorry.) Well, I've finally found a perfectly gorgeous one! Check this out from Paper Source.

Each month displays a different piece of artwork that just so happens to have a small calendar on it. I love that it's more art than calendar. Of course, you can always trust me to prefer form over function (in my personal life, that is...I try not to make my clients suffer in this way!).

But for a second choice, I could easily go with this one, also from Paper Source:

All the nostalgic images from Italy are really fun...especially since I have a bit of a soft spot for Italia. They also offer a New York calendar, with vintage travel posters, and a vintage Paris calendar. But if none of these are your style, check out this one:

It's full of prints of vegetable drawings from the 19th century. Kinda kitchen-y and cool. And for my more romantically-inclined friends, look at this one:

Aren't these botanical illustrations beautiful? Celebrating flowers without being fussy. I really like that.

Anyway, every calendar above is from Paper Source. You might browse through their complete selection - I just think they are all lovely.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

going crazy with silver paint

Okay, so I've decided to share a few of my silver paint projects with you, even though they're not done, in order to ask for your help on a couple of them. But first, here was a spur-of-the-moment project. I had this fake orange pumpkin sitting around. (Don't we all?) Now that my walls are blue, instead of yellow, somehow the orange pumpkins just don't look quite right.


AFTER... I already had the silver paint out, which I had been using on the projects below, and decided to see what a silver pumpkin would look like. It was craft paint, rather than spray paint, so a fair amount of orange still showed subtly through the silver. I can't decide if I like this look or not. But, when the paint was still wet, I also showered it with a liberal coating of clear glitter. Yep, that's the one and only thing I was able to accomplish with my new glitter before the glitter incident. So now I have a silvery, glittery pumpkin. Again, not so sure if I'm in love with this or not. But at least it's not orange anymore!

Here's the real reason for the purchase of the silver paint. Yep, recently I've been extremely expired by all the cherry blossom branches I've seen on walls in magazines recently. The latest issue of Elle Decor showed designer Cynthia Rowley's dining room on the cover, with wall paper (of her own design) depicting a modern-looking version of cherry blossoms.

Inside was another story of a young designer (can't remember his name off the top of my head) and his dining room also had cherry blossoms. These two examples looked vastly different from each other, but I still loved the idea. So, since I'm planning to repaint my bathroom sometime soon anyway, I thought I'd try out the idea on my bathroom walls. There is tile wainscoting up to about 3 1/2 or 4 feet off the ground, so I'm only planning to paint the area above the wainscoting.

These branches literally took about five minutes. They were so easy. The flowers - not so much. In fact, this is where I need your help! I want to find a stamp of a cherry blossom that I can use to quickly and easily put uniform cherry blossoms on these branches.
I found this one on Etsy that would be perfect, except that it's a typical rubber stamp, intended for use on smooth paper and fabrics. I have very textured walls, which will need a stamp made out of a sponge or something similar. But this one, by Etsy seller Corrabelle (who has adorable stamps, by the way!), is the right size (about 1 1/4 inches). Any ideas where I could find something like this, but appropriate for use on walls?

...and then things got a little crazy and I started painting my fireplace screen. So, could use a stamp for this too, because those little flowers are enough to drive you nuts! As you can see, neither the walls nor the screen are finished. Still waiting for that elusive stamp. Any ideas, my genius blogging friends??