Monday, July 7, 2014

How to create an awesome, masculine room

Brought to you by Spruce in San Francisco, the inspiration behind the study I'm working on in the new house that Wes and I just impulse-rented (discovered around the block from where we are currently living: it has an amazing oversize front porch, beautiful wooden floors, a pet-friendly landlord, plenty of Southern charm, and is a blank canvas for my amateur interior design experiments).
Anyway, I've been on the lookout to recreate the mix of colors and textures at this amazing restaurant I visited a few weeks ago - I love the deep navy walls combined with warm camel faux ostrich leather and dark brown velvet chairs, plus touches of crisp white in the tablecloths and oversize sketches and mirrors hung in silver frames offset with antique picture lights and ornate chandeliers. It's traditional, luxurious, masculine - and refreshing, thanks to a handful of bold, well-positioned abstract paintings on unfinished canvases.
Although I'm not ready to commit to the navy blue walls, I'll get the color combination in our new house by using rich rugs, fresh white drapes, a deep walnut armoire and prints of sketches sourced from Etsy and hung in frames spraypainted with my trusty favorite paint (in silver tone) from Michael's. This restaurant is also motivating me to research how to recover the distressed pair of studded leather office chairs that my dad pulled out of the garage and hand-delivered to Charlotte last month along with other Kelly family castoffs (including at least six different types of cacti that have been flourishing* in the Chicago climate).

*They arrived drooping and nearly dead, handed off by my guilty parents who didn't want the blame (aloe on their hands) for killing them all.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What to wear to work in San Francisco

Traveling is the best thing for your personal style because it challenges your patterns and way of thinking. I've been in San Francisco the past few days for work, and have been collecting ideas everywhere - even in meetings, where my collection of suits from D.C. feel out of place among the creative, free thinking crowd in NoCa who have a different take on what a business formal dress code entails. 
The culture and climate drive the style here: you need a jacket year-round to combat the chill, and a bag large enough to fit a reusable coffee mug, Tupperware, and a pair of practical shoes to climb the hills. Trash cans are tough to find, but compost and recycling bins are everywhere you turn. This city is bringing out the granola in my personality, and my FitBit has never been more excited about my weekday step count.

I've added a few items to my iPhone shopping notes, like the San Francisco suit alternative (a midi dress and a silk bomber jacket paired with chunky heels and a leather backpack) and high waist ankle-grazing silk pants with Jenni Kayne flats and an oversize utility poncho. These outfits will be in my suitcase when I'm back here in July (along with some Tupperware).

Isabel Marant silk quilted top, $385, High waist trousers, $184, Jenni Kayne leather d'Orsay flats, $585, Utility poncho, $612, Alexander McQueen bucket bag, $1500, 

Monday, June 16, 2014

What to wear on a first date

A few weeks ago, I finally cleared out all of those under-the-bed storage bins that were holding my overflow summer clothes - things that I've kept year after year and keep meaning to wear but never do, and can't part with them just yet.
Stuffed in a corner of one bin was this old striped sweater dress that I wore on my first date with Wes. He probably wouldn't recognize it, but it reminds me of that night on the Georgetown waterfront holding hands with a handsome guy in an intimidatingly well-ironed shirt (that I later found out was just a Brooks Brothers non-iron and Wes did not actually have the housekeeping skills I assumed he did by the outfit he wore that night). This dress reminds me of how he dropped me off at my apartment after a nail-biting journey up (the narrow, brick) N Street NW in his massive Southern stereotype of a car. Now that I know him well, I am even more impressed that he was able to maintain his composure when I suggested he trade in his Avalanche for a more DC-appropriate Mini Cooper.
Anyway, this one is back on rotation this summer after taking a few years off! I paired it with some lace-up BCBG heels that are not quite as fabulous as the perforated leather cone heels from the original outfit back in 2010 (R.I.P.) but they do the job. As for the title of this post, I feel that once you're married, you have the credentials to claim that you know what to wear on a first date. So there it is, folks. A sweater dress.
Thanks to Val for the photo! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners

There are a lot of reasons to blog (see forum for selfie-lovers and outlet for oversharers), but the primary reason I started this one is because I want to be a creative writer by profession and needed to start somewhere. It has been the perfect place for me to experiment, practice, learn and fail. And oh, how I have failed! At HTML coding, YouTubing my way through Photoshop CS5, using my Nikon, wallpapering my dining room, styling jumpers, etc.

But the biggest challenge by far has been developing confidence in what I am creating. To me, this blog is a work in progress, like the pile of unfinished paintings behind the armoire in my living room. It's a dirty secret as much as it is a creative outlet: even my husband didn't know the link until a few months ago.

So, discovering other creative types who battle this confidence roadblock has been therapeutic for my own struggle. Any time that I hit a writer's block or start to flounder on why I continue to write, I reference an Ira Glass quote that my friend (and great photographer) John shared with me:
It's true not just for writing, blogging, painting and creative endeavors but for any aspiration you have in life or your career. Going through a volume of work is the only way to get where you're going. It takes practice, failing, and learning from mistakes. For all of the hundreds of posts, articles and stories I've written and published, there are five really good ones. Just five. For the thousands upon thousands of hours I've put into my career, just recently have I felt really good at my job. Ira is right. Fear of being mediocre will just keep you mediocre.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to style an animal bust on a wall

There is something about animal heads hanging on walls that is so irresistible to me and I am always on the hunt (groan!) for a good safari bust to add to the walls of my home. There's something so awesome about papier mache horns slapped on the wall with a few basic Target white frames, or the byproduct of one of Uncle Derwood's deer hunting trips next to a stretched canvas print. They add some 3D interest to an otherwise flat, boring (dry) wall.
On my biweekly perusal of the HomeGoods clearance aisle, I snapped up this cool silver longhorn to add to my collection. It sits above a framed picture of the Capitol and an old wooden chair that Wes picked up off the curb in D.C. way back when he first learned of my appreciation for dumpster diving.
Animal heads, at least my herd of them, are best hung in arrangements of at least three items. They need something to anchor them to floor of the room and then draw the eye upwards but not distract from everything else going on (a la Gaston's living room from Beauty and the Beast). It's something I saw done well at Pretty People Vintage in Virginia (an equally wonderful source of interior inspiration and vintage clothing): they styled a papier mache zebra bust with a bright yellow chair and a few frames, and tucked it into a small space next to a display shelf. (I also love the purple walls and more-is-more approach to d├ęcor.)

This picture has been in my interior inspiration file for a long time, and has influenced most of the rooms in my tiny little house: if you visit, you'll find a wine rack-and-mirror combo topped with a silver moose; a fireplace mantle stacked with books and finished off with a pair of deer antlers; and a desk with a few pictures hung beneath an elephant bust. And now a pair of longhorns in our bedroom!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to wear denim overalls

Confession: there is a pair of worn out, oversized overalls stuffed in the back of my closet that I have never worn in public, but occasionally wear around the house with a pair of tall heels Google-imaging how I could potentially wear them in the future.

This weekend, I will wear them with a tube top, kooky glasses and a sun hat just like Jennine at Eat Sleep Denim. She is a real jean genius (or, a jean-ius, if I may go there) and pulls off denim overalls better than anyone I have ever met. I love this look because her overalls are just a little too big that they hang just right, and that she paired them with a printed bag, cool heels, simple accessories, and loose hair. It is such a fun look and makes you want to be her best friend! Hop on over to her cool blog to see more of her styling tricks for overalls.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The best low-carb dessert ever

Normally, my sweet tooth can sniff out a dessert scam from miles away and gets scared off by any description preceded by 'low-fat,' 'low-carb,' or 'low-calorie.' I was tricked a few weeks ago when my friend Ashley introduced me to a recipe for low-carb vegan chocolate chip cookie dough balls and was smart enough to make me taste them before telling me what was in them. Now I cannot get enough of them! There is a sheet pan filled with these chocolate chip cookie dough balls in my freezer at this very moment and I am known to eat them by the half-dozen.

My addiction to actual chocolate chip cookies has been completely transferred to these amazing (much healthier) little nuggets, just in time for summer. They are best served a few minutes out of the freezer and have a nutritional profile that will help my body with it's recovery from a winter-induced case of pale smushiness. Make them, taste them, and bask in awe that you're eating chickpeas! You can thank me, Ashley, and Elissa Goodman, the genius nutritionist who original created this recipe.

Vegan, low-carb chocolate chip cookie dough balls

  • 16 ounces cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 T raw organic honey
  • 1 T coconut palm sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 T raw organic almond butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips (minis work best)


Combine chickpeas, honey, sugar, baking soda, almond butter, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in a food processor and process until smooth.
Remove to a bowl and stir in half a cup of the chocolate chips. Form into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid.
In a double boiler, melt remaining cup of chocolate chips. Dip the balls into the chocolate until covered, then place back on parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, then store at room temperature.

Photo is via