2014: A Year in Review

Can you believe it’s 2015?! Last year just FLEW by, but when I go back and review all the posts from 2014, it really is amazing how much happened. Thanks to all of you who have stuck around and continue to offer your advice and words of encouragement – I love you all!

I’ll create a to-do list for 2015 tomorrow, but first let’s take a look back of some of the best posts of 2014:

DSC00473Most popular post: A step-by-step look at how to turn an IKEA Ribba frame into a bar tray garnered the most clicks this year – and it was even picked up by IKEA Hackers!

Most commented on post: Remember when y’all helped me pick out a new living room rug? Great job, by the way.

DSC01014Best before/after: I’m so happy I finally bit the bullet and gave my living room a navy accent wall like the ones I’d been admiring on Pinterest forever. Will I regret it when I move out and have to paint it back white? Only time will tell…

Still on my wish list: This may just be the year that I tackle my first upholstery project, so I better pick up “Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design” to prepare.

11Best trip: Sometimes the best trips are the ones that are last minute and random and cheap – that happened to be Kansas City for me this year.

Best purchase: I know this is a home design blog, but this Kipling tote has been a godsend this past year. The blogging fashionistas of the world certainly don’t have anything to worry about, but I know a good bag when I see one.

friendsgivingBest party: I finally pulled off a Friendsgiving this year! The place looked great, and I hope it’ll mark the begin of many dinner parties to come. I love hosting.

Greatest accomplishment: I trained and ran a friggin’ marathon. 26.2 miles. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever say that. Hell, I could barely run the 5 miles during soccer two-a-days in high school! It felt amazing.

DSC00683Best recipe: I just made this Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix for a New Year’s Eve party… so, so good – and ridiculously easy!

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Weekend Rewind: Friendsgiving Dinner

I know it seems like all I do is live for the weekend, but… well, I kinda do live for the weekend. (I have been working on some new projects around the apartment though; I’ll share those later this week.) I kicked off the best time of the year – college basketball season the holidays! – by hosting a Friendsgiving last weekend.

It’s amazing how much work goes into hosting a dinner party – and I didn’t even cook all the food! I made pork roast instead of turkey (I like my mom’s once a year, but I don’t need it more often than that), and all of my friends pitched in an appetizer, side or dessert. We had sooo much food: brie and crackers, nuts, baked garlic, spinach balls, potato casserole, collard greens, roasted vegetables, Amish chicken and noodles, derby pie, sweet potato pie, pumpkin rice krispie treats… I’m sure I’m forgetting something. It was gluttony at it’s finest.

Despite all the hours spent cleaning my apartment, Pinterest-ing my dining room table and stocking up on beer, wine and whiskey, I would absolutely do it again tomorrow. I’d love to hold a regular dinner series once a month or so with different themes. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s in my budget – all that stuff adds up! But I do have the perfect table for it, which is exactly why I bought it in the first place.

At the very least, hopefully this can become an annual Friendsgiving because – bear with me, I’m about to get sappy here – it really did make me thankful to all the wonderful friends, both old and new, in my life! xoxo

Weekend Rewind: Garden Party

Guys, I really let you down. I don’t have a single good picture of my garden party setup! I’m so disappointed, too, because the courtyard looked amazing (the sweeping alone took over an hour and gave me a huge blister!), and I’d made a bunch of fun snacks and drinks.

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I’ll give you one hint why I didn’t get any pics…

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Yup, right about the time everyone had gotten a drink and we were thinking about firing up the grill, it poured. POURED. We all went running into my apartment, everyone grabbing hot dog buns and chips and dip and whatever else was close by. Luckily, the storm cleared off, and we were able to move the party back outside after about 45 minutes. But by that time, the presentation was ruined. Womp womp.

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to have another party to make up for it! ; )

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Weekend Preview: Garden Party Inspiration

It was probably not the best idea to play hostess on back-to-back weekends. Last weekend was my high school reunion (luckily at a bar, not my apartment), and this weekend is the Garden Party, which I’m actually much more excited about!

I don’t have a garden so much as a courtyard, but it’ll do the trick. The plan is to drink and BBQ and welcome back a friend who has been abroad for a few months. An added bonus: The theme is Connecticut Casual. What is CC? It’s boat shoes and bow ties, seersucker and critter shorts, and basically anything salmon-colored or striped. See Vineyard Vines.

Since I genuinely love all of those things, I don’t even have to look for a “costume” (my mom actually bought me the perfect dress for such an occasion a few weeks back), which is great because it leaves more time to prep decorations and food! Here’s what I’ve got in mind…

Beverage Dispenser: These things are EVERYWHERE this summer! I keep going back and forth on whether I should buy one – I don’t really have a place to store it – but luckily for me, a friend is letting me borrow his. I’ll be mixing up a gin cocktail for the group, and it’ll be great just to make one big batch instead of taking multiple trips to the kitchen while the party’s going on.

Striped Bunting: Love the preppy look of this nautical party. Is it bad that this is a 1-year-old’s birthday party and I’m 27? Whatever, it’s adorable, and it should be easy enough to DIY. Could also go the tassel garland or paper fan route… we’ll see what kind of paper I can find on sale.

Christmas Lights: I think mood lighting is a must for a party that’s going to start in the daylight and move to night. I love the Pottery Barn-style globe lights as much as the next person, but there’s really no point in spending money on those when I have regular Christmas lights buried in a holiday box in the storage area. Wish me luck finding them!

Butcher Paper Table Runner: I just picked up a roll of butcher paper at the Dollar Store the other day for different project, but then I started thinking how great it’d be as a table runner too. I could write on it with chalk or just a Sharpie or create a design with washi tape. Gotta love getting multiple uses out of something that’s only $1!

Mason Jar Candle Holders: Mason jars? Check. Tealights? Check. Water? Check. Centerpieces made from stuff you already have around the house? The best. I don’t have any of that straw string stuff, but I’m not a big fan of that anyway. Too country.

Fruit Kabobs: I want to incorporate some healthy options into the party menu. I’m not on a diet or anything, I’m just attempting to eat healthier as part of marathon training. Plus, the boys are making hot dogs and hamburgers, and we have a few vegetarians coming so I need some meat-free options outside of dessert. I’m cheap and don’t want to buy plastic silverware, but I do have a pack of skewers in the drawer. Problem solved!

Have a good idea for me? Sent it my way! But you better hurry… The party is tomorrow!

Aside

Design for You

I don’t often dole out advice on here—an expert, I surely am not—but I (accidentally) learned a valuable lesson recently, and I think it’s important to pass it along.

I’d been going back and forth for a few weeks about where to hang two photographs—beautiful images I bought while traveling in Cambodia. They were originally part of the gallery wall but, as you know, I dismantled that after painting the dining room.

So my idea was to move them to my little foyer. Option 1 was to hang them on the wall you see as you as you open the front door, a great first impression for guests. Or Option 2 was to hang them on the wall to the right, next to the bathroom door and perpendicular to the front door.

Before

Option 1 on the left, Option 2 on the right

While Option 1 seems like the obviously choice, there didn’t seem to be enough visual space for both images on that wall. It’s a little narrower than Option 2, and they’d have to contend with a light switch.

Finally, I stopped humming and hawing and just went for it—Option 2. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that guests would be getting a side view of the frames when they walked in instead of the images themselves, but I could always change it later, right?

AfterThen the next morning when I woke up and opened my bedroom door to hit the shower, there they were. I realized that every day I get to start my morning with these serene images and memories of a great trip long past. It’s been about two weeks, and still every single morning, I take a second to look at them.

after2So here’s my advice: Don’t forget to design for you. Think about how many days a year you live in your home without guests, and then think about the number of days you entertain. Unless you’re a socialite or run a business out of your home or something, the time you’re there alone probably greatly outweighs those days when you’re playing host.

So don’t just think about what would make others happy. What would make you happy?

Hosting Guests Without a Guest Room

BEDROOMfinalSpring is finally here so you know what that means—the start of travel season! Summer in Chicago is THE BEST. It’s what makes people put up with the terrible winters (though I know some people are teetering on the edge after this last one…). I can’t really blame anybody for not wanting to come visit me November-April, but I hope to play host a few times over the next six months or so.

There’s only one problem: I don’t have a guest room. I can barely afford a bedroom for myself, let alone another one that’s only used a few days out of the year (though don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I could find plenty of uses for it on the other days). Do you host overnight guests without an extra bedroom? Any tips or tricks to make their stay more comfortable (for both you and them)?

Here’s one Apartment Therapy writer’s suggestions:

First things first: Find a “bed”. If you want to prioritize hosting overnight guests, you need somewhere to put them. Pull-out sofas and daybeds are the obvious choice, but they’re not to everyone’s taste or budget. I love the corner sofa-turned-bed in my living room (in a furnished rental) for its hosting abilities, but would I buy it myself if I were furnishing my dream flat? Probably not.

Luckily, there are other options. A good air mattress is comfortable and doesn’t take up too much room (store it inside a suitcase when not in use). Or, depending on the guest and the length of stay (I’m thinking in-laws, and two nights max), you could also have the guests in your room and take the sofa yourself. If you’ve got kids, consider putting guests in their room while having the kids bunk with you or sleep on the sofa (little people take up less room, after all).

Remember, guests come with stuff. Think ahead to where your friends are going to put those pesky suitcases they arrive with, even if it’s just clearing a generous area on the floor. If you can allocate a small table, a shelf on the bookcase and a section in the coat closet for hanging things, all the better.

Consider your non-bedroom like a bedroom. Maybe you fall asleep on the sofa occasionally, but your guests will be trying to get some serious rest in this room, so think about it like you would your own bedroom. Do the curtains keep out enough light for your pals to get some shut-eye? Is there a draft coming under the front door that makes it cold at night? Is there street noise? There are simple, temporary fixes for most of these issues (even if they are just extra blankets and earplugs).

Throw in some extras. In addition to the basics above, adding some luxe touches to the “bedroom” area will go a long way to making it seem more inviting. My best friends always have fresh flowers in their apartment when I come to visit, which never fails to make me feel welcome. On the more practical side, a power bar for charging phones and Ipads is always appreciated, as is your wifi password written on an easily-accessible card.

Privacy… for everyone. If your guests will be staying awhile, try to afford everyone in the household a bit of solitude. A folding screen can lend a little privacy to an open plan living area turned bedroom, which is ideal in the mornings or evenings if everyone has different routines. Working out a shower schedule is another necessity that feels like micro-managing at first, but helps everyone feel more comfortable.

Weekend Rewind: Cheerio!

This weekend was the first annual (or at least what I personally hope becomes a yearly event) Countries of the World Party. The idea was that each friend’s apartment would be a different country, he/she would provide drinks (food optional) that fit the theme, and we’d essentially “crawl” between each place.

So between me and four friends, we covered England, Ireland, Jamaica, Germany and the USA (the last one had to be changed to the US because my friends wanted an excuse to watch the Colts game… lame). I picked England since I studied abroad there, and I just so happened to have sampled their most popular beverages a time or two… Or 200. It was an easy choice: Pimm’s Cups and Strongbow.

I’m so sad that I didn’t have time to set up a better photo opp (I was running right on time, and people started to arrive before I could style a vignette) because the set up was adorable! The decorations, the drinks, the scones… yes, I made scones from scratch. More on that Friday.

The Union Jack printables are courtesy of Simply Creative. It saved me so much money on decorations! All it took was a couple bucks in Kinko’s color prints, some cocktail picks, a little bit of twine and some quality time with my scissors. The Keep Calm and Pimm’s On poster I generated on Keep-Calm-O-Matic and threw into an old frame I had on hand.

IMG_0702Anywho, these photos don’t do it justice at all, but I do hope you’ll try a Pimm’s Cup sometime if you’re not familiar with the drink. It’s a fruity snack and a cocktail. It’s an especially good drink for summertime on the patio. Cheers!

Pimm’s Cups
Serving: 1 pitcher

1 Part Pimm’s No. 1
1 Part Sparking Lemonade (I love Trader Joe’s brand myself)
1/2 Lemon
1 Parisian cucumber
1/2 Orange
6 Strawberries
6 Mint leaves
Ice

In a pitcher, combine equal parts Pimm’s and sparking lemonade. Add in fresh-squeezed lemon juice for extra zing (don’t forget to remove the seeds beforehand). Slice up cucumber, orange and strawberries (I didn’t have any at this party because they were all out at thanks to the polar vortex!), and combine with fresh mint leaves. This can be done beforehand to cut down on prep time.

You can add your fruit mix to the pitcher, which would be the traditional way, or you can put the fruit in each individual cup (I like the latter because you avoid all the fruit clumping together in the pitcher). Add a bunch of ice, and enjoy!