Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our Mother's Day Fig Tree

We spent Mother's Day this year down at the farm with both our mothers and extended family. While the true gift that day was spending time together, we did decide to gift Mary's mom with a fig tree to plant on the grounds.

Not only is her house set on a family farm that's perfect for high-producing fruit trees, but we thought it was reminiscent of the large fig tree on the grounds of the Italian olive orchard where we stayed last year — and may make a nice tradition for harvesting each summer.

We decided on a brown turkey fig since they are well-suited for Virginia plant zoning, and the variety is different from those our neighbor's tree produces each summer here in the city.

Since brown turkey fig trees weren't immediately available at our local plant nurseries, we decided to order online from Stark Bro's and have it shipped. We've had luck with ordering plants online before (like our fiddle leaf fig and wisteria) and like that there are typically more organics and variety to choose from when doing so.

What we weren't expecting upon opening the box was how stripped down and literally twig-like the tree would be, albeit, we're hopeful:

We've read how brown turkey fig trees can grow up to 25 ft tall and wide, so it will be fun to watch how this seemingly stark little trunk may take to the land and establish over the next several years. It's even got us thinking of different fruit varieties we may plant to create the start of a family orchard of sorts.

We're hoping for good things with this new little fig tree. We'll look forward to future trips on the farm to watch the progress and hope to have some "fruitful" news to share, perhaps this time next year.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Over on eHow: DIY Geometric Brass Table Lamp

It's no secret we're fans of clean lines, geometric shapes and a touch of shine — which is why I've been such a big fan of the geometric brass lighting options popping up lately (like this one & this one). It wasn't until a recent trip to our local Habitat ReStore that inspiration struck for creating a budget-friendly version of our own...

In our latest project collaboration with eHow, we transformed an outdated glass pendant light into a luxe modern-geometric table lamp and it all it took was a standard lamp kit & a little help from a can of shiny brass spray paint.

The before and after is really quite something:

This was one of those projects that's a very simple undertaking with a rather large impact. It was a matter of finding the glass pendant light in a a size and shape we liked, then removing the inner lighting components in order to apply a bright brassy spray finish to what would become the lamp base. Once dry, Tim finished the lamp by assembling the lamp kit and tightening on a new modern shade.

While we haven't decided on final placement for where this new table lamp will land, we've been enjoying the added illumination in the front office lately and the proximity to the corner reading nook:

Head on over to eHow for more process shots with detailed step-by-step instructions for how this new table lamp came together.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Mother's Day Brunch: Sweet Potato Waffle Recipe

With Mother's Day celebrations in full swing this weekend, I wanted to pop in to share one of my favorite waffle recipes, which happens to make for an all-around brunch crowd pleaser.

What I love most about this recipe is its versatility to incorporate new flavors into the batter base; just recently I made this sweet potato version in collaboration with to share in honor of Mother's Day.

As mentioned, the base waffle batter is made from simple pantry staples that lend well to combining with a homemade puree of your favorite seasonal fixings. The result is a light, fluffy and flavorful Belgian style waffle just waiting to be finished with your favorite breakfast toppings — perhaps maple syrup, whipped cream, nuts and nutmeg? Yes, please.

I've used this recipe to make butternut and sweet potato waffles, and think as we're headed into the height of spring that rhubarb, a beet medley or citrus flavorings would also be delicious variations to try.

Head on over to to find my full recipe for these fluffy sweet potato waffles— and we'd love to know, what's your favorite go-to brunch recipe?

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Bits & Snaps: A DIY Bridal Shower & Etsy Weddings Event

It's been a busy start to spring and one of my favorite parts of this time of year is the return of wedding season — the celebration, the happy spirit & general inspiration of it all.

We have a few weddings in the family coming up this year and last weekend my sister and I hosted a bridal shower for our cousin. I've been eager to share some of my favorite pics from the party along with a few highlights from the Etsy Wedding event in NYC if you care to see...

My sister opened up her home for the party and we planned the shower decorations, taking heavy inspiration from colors and design elements in the bride's wedding invitation and notes from her career in the field of Library Science.

We used a mix of vintage books and cameras paired with mason jar vases that held diy floral arrangements with white and blue accents (find the diy tutorial for the vases here). Little brass bees and greenery to mimic garlands were also woven in to echo the emblem our bride's fiancé  designed for their invitations. 

Oh! The cupcakes. We can't forget these. The Queen Bee honey flavored cupcakes from Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe — they not only hinted at the bee portions of the party theme, but made a great story as this was the same flavor from our own wedding cake & first anniversary.

When it came to activities, we tried to think of something a little more meaningful than your typical bridal shower games. I'd found a set of blue library style cards to pass around prior to gift opening and asked each guest to write their name & relation to our bride to be, followed by a fun fact, anecdote or favorite memory you share. We collected each of the cards and asked the bride to read them aloud prior to opening each recipient's gift. This turned out to be a fun way to get to know one another, as well as learn something new from the many facets of the bride's life — plus she was able to take each of the cards home with her.

Have you heard of the tradition to use bridal shower gift ribbons to create a faux bouquet for the wedding rehearsal? Our bride's sister assumed the bouquet-making role and we all watched with eager anticipation of whether or not the bride would "break" a ribbon — another wives' tale, being the number of broken ribbons as the equivalent to how many children she'll bear.

Perhaps my favorite part of the shower decor was the custom designed chalkboard. You may recognize the board from our wedding — after wiping it clean it became the perfect canvas for a shower backdrop. Using Etsy's local search, I found a Richmond-based calligrapher, Sarah Hilterbrant, who hand-lettered the design and delivered the finished piece for the shower. Sarah was incredible, and incorporated the same bee garland emblem from the wedding invitation to help tie everything from the shower theme together. Definitely take a look at Sarah's shop — she's got a growing collection of paper goods and is open to custom requests like chalkboard art or other mediums.

Speaking of Etsy, I was in New York this past week for work, part of which included talking trends at this year's Etsy Weddings Event:

With over 40 Etsy sellers displaying their newest collections across weddings — there was enough creative inspiration and unique products to make a gal want to plan a wedding all over again (raises hand). Good thing the bridal shower last weekend helped satiate that feeling :)

Part of my job entails keeping a pulse on emerging and evergreen marketplace trends, which leads to incredible opportunities like this weddings event where I get to meet the creative entrepreneurs behind the products. My favorite part of the entire scene was pairing faces with the shop names I've been familiar with from behind the screen on a daily basis. Highlights included meeting Laurie, the jewelry designer behind Bare & Me and both Kat & Lana, the mother/daughter duo behind Lankka Bridal. Lana's design past was in the New York fashion industry before her daughter convinced her to develop her own line of hand tailored dresses from local and sustainable materials. The dress I wore to the event was handmade by Lana, so you can imagine how excited I was to meet them both in person:

Thanks for checking in today. Wedding season always has a lifting effect on me — it reminds me of the time spent planning our own big day, marks milestones to spend time with family and old friends, and keeps me continually inspired with what's happening across the "celebration scene" in general. Cheers to the season!

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Vacation Photos: Cancun Mexico

A couple weeks back we broke for spring as tradition has it, spending a week in Mexico to soak in the warmth. Now settled back home and rested, we're ready to take on the rush of spring activities — if only the season will make a lasting appearance.

Today we've rounded up a collection of our favorite vacation photos and memories from our week in the sun if you care to visually walk along...

This trip is an annual favorite. Tim found direct tickets out of Dulles and we arrived in sunny Mexico about three and a half hours from boarding — pale from winter but smiles abound:

Our goal for the week was relaxing (OK and maybe a suntan for Tim). We didn't venture too far away from the resort this year — but enjoyed the tropical surroundings, white sand, sunset and happy hours. Hello, piña coladas!

We did happen upon a new-to-us dinner spot, El Fish Fritanga. It was low-key setting overlooking the bay and a bit off the beaten path for the more typical Hotel Zone restaurants:

We tried menu items like smoked marlin carpaccio and hoja santa con quesos, which translates to leaf with cheese, drank mojitos from glasses similar in size to fish bowls and sat under thatched palapas with string lights that glowed once the sun set over the bay.

This was one spot we'll put on the list to venture back to on future trips.

One of the resort features was a standard lap pool with 3 lanes reserved for swimmers — it was an infinity style format overlooking the community pool and ocean. Knowing the lap pool was here, I'd packed my racing suit and goggles as a way to get back in touch with my past in competitive swimming (minus the competitive part):

Each morning we'd rise as the sun was coming up over the water, grab a takeaway coffee and head down to the pool before anyone else was around. Pacing laps in the quiet with a view like this was incredibly calming, almost meditative experience.

As you can gather, it wasn't a week filled with activity, we really took the time to break and reset. In keeping with tradition, we wrapped the week with a dinner at our favorite steak & seafood restaurant in the Hotel Zone, Harry's:

Thanks for taking the time to check in on us today. If you're interested in seeing more photos from past trips to Mexico — take a look through our 2015, 2014, & 2012 recaps by clicking into the links provided on each date!

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to Wall Mount a Turtle Shell

Earlier in the week we shared the newly complete corner gallery wall in our front office. Amidst the collection of art and photos are a few natural curiosities, for instance the ivory colored turtle shell that adds a little dimension into the mix:

A few years back, Mary's mom had given it to us — she'd uncovered it from the ravine overlooking the river at her home and had never quite seen a one like it. At first we wondered if it came from a specific species or perhaps belonged to a rare albino turtle, then quickly learned with a little research that the scutes (similar to scales) can shed or fall off to reveal the bone underneath. This particular shell retains 6 of the original scutes near the opening of the shell, hinting at the coloring this turtle would have had.

We've had the shell for a few years, not really sure where we'd place it before deciding on the wall — it made a nice touch within the art collection. With the help of a power drill and a few basic framing supplies, wall mounting a natural turtle shell can be quite simple — very similar in fact to the method we used to wall mount the pair of deer antlers we found in the same location some 4 years back. In the following steps, we detail the process...

  • Power drill
  • Wood drill bit
  • Wall hook and nail
  • Picture hanging wire
  • Hammer
  • Paper, pen, scissors & tape (optional)

Using a wood compatible bit, drill two equidistant holes one quarter from the top of the shell where the natural points fold in towards one another.

String the picture wire through each drilled hole, overlapping the extra wire back onto itself to create a secure hold. The shell is now prepped for wall mounting.

To mount the shell on a wall, first trace a template of the shape and tape in the desired position. Doing so helps ensure exact placement if needed in a project like a gallery wall. Hammer the frame hook into the wall directly over the paper template:

Remove the paper and hang the shell by carefully catching the wire in the hook. 

Reposition to display straight if needed and enjoy the look of a perfectly floating piece of natural history in your art display:

Pretty simple, right? We're partial to the new corner gallery here in the front office — especially how packed with personal details and memories it's collected. While this little shell sat around for a few years before the idea sparked, it always feels good to make it happen when inspiration strikes.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Corner Gallery Wall: How To Hang Art on a Curved Wall

We recently introduced the addition of a small gallery wall to our office decor. While our home decor is in a state of continual evolution, we're loving how this newly-filled wall of personal art makes this front room of ours feel complete:

(Don't mind the missing turtle — you'll see him make an appearance further down in the post.)

Over the past several years, this corner made the perfect display area for the Victrola my Aunt & Uncle passed down, however the wall above seemed noticeably bare. We'd been itching to add art to this space and while we're not strangers to hanging a gallery wall, the curved effect of this corner office wall presented a new challenge.

Since it's the wall I gaze on most frequently during the day from behind my laptop screen, I've had a long time to think up a plan. It struck me that while a single piece of art wouldn't work, perhaps a collection of smaller pieces would. With that, the gathering began and after pulling together enough smaller, personal pieces along with various frames, Tim and I were motivated to work out the display. I was going for a balanced look with a collected feel, so you'll notice flat art paired with photography and a few 3-dimensional items mixed in.

To make the process of finding the best configuration simple, I traced each of the pieces onto scrap paper, labelled each, then taped them on the wall into what I felt looked both varied and balanced. The tape allowed for easy mixing and matching without the hassle of hammering nails or guessing which pieces would work well next to one another.

Speaking of making things simple on ourselves, don't ask me why I didn't think to move the Victrola prior to taping each piece of paper up on the wall, ha!

We left the paper template up on the wall overnight in order to view again the next day with a fresh point of view. Once ultimately happy with the final configuration, Tim helped me nail each frame directly overtop the paper for a perfect transfer. The paper can be removed with a gentle pull right out from behind the nail once the art is in place.

As for the art, you may recognize a few pieces from our recent trips and posts —

We had the linocut prints from our fall trip to Italy framed, hanging the snowy Assisi Basilica version in this collection as a fond reminder of this memory-filled trip. Also included is the horse hair bird's nest I'd recently displayed in a shadow box, and a white turtle shell my mom had found along the ravine at Beechwood. Peppered in are also the snaps from Tim's deep sea fishing days, an old favorite photo of Basil at the river and a vintage Tobacco advertisement from a local auction. Finally, a silhouette cameo of Tim's mother near the top and a smattering of photobooth strips from our past adventures. That leaves the single square frame still to be filled — I'm thinking one afternoon we'll dig through some of our old family photos to find the right fit.

Once all said and done, we're quite pleased with the look of this curved wall that had us scratching our heads for close to four years. It's filled with personal mementos and makes a great resting place for the eyes when looking up from the computer screen throughout the day. What about you — have a challenging space or one you recently solved for?

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