Paleo Carrot Coconut Soup

This carrot coconut soup is perfect for the spring months with its light texture and ginger zing. 

I recently took inventory of the freezer meals I have on hand and realized I have one of my favorite soups just waiting to be enjoyed! I'm talking about this dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo carrot coconut soup. So delicious and so easy. This is a lighter soup so I suggest adding a protein or salad on the side to make it a full meal. Enjoy! 

Paleo Carrot Coconut Soup Dairy Free Gluten Free

Ingredients
Carrots - (10) Large
Green Apple - (1) with Peel
Onion - (1) Medium
Garlic - (4) Cloves
Fresh Ginger - (1) 1" Piece
Coconut Milk - (1) 13.5 oz Can
Vegetable Broth - (2) Cups
Orange Juice - (1/2) Cup
Lime Juice - (1) Tablespoon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Roughly chop the carrots, onion, green apple, and garlic and place in a large soup pot. Grate or dice the ginger and add to the mix. 

2. Pour the vegetable broth, coconut milk, orange juice, and lime juice into the pot. Add salt and pepper. 

3. Boil until the ingredients are easily pierced with a fork.  

4. Blend the ingredients using your choice of blender. Note: If you like the creaminess that cashews lend to a soup (as used in my Paleo Dairy Free Broccoli Bisque) add approximately (1/2) cup of cashews in with the other ingredients prior to blending. 

If you are interested in reading about my essential kitchen tools for quick and easy meal prep check out this post.

5 Function Questions to Ask Before Starting a Design or Remodeling Project

Consider these five function questions before diving into your design or remodel project to make a lasting impact on the longevity and impact of your new space. 

When designing a space, whether you are remodeling a kitchen, or getting some new furniture for the living room it's easy to jump to the pretty picture, inspiration-gathering part of the process. But in order to get the most out of your new space you must consider function. As an interior designer I not only uncover my clients' aesthetic, I am also a detective. I ask probing questions to get to know my client's preferences and needs so that a space not only looks good on install day, it functions for everyday life in the long run. Today I'm sharing my top 5 questions used to uncover the functional requirements of a space. Consider your answers to these questions when working with a design professional or when working on your project solo. 

Fabric: Marble in Smoke by Rebecca Atwood 

Fabric: Marble in Smoke by Rebecca Atwood 

1. How many people will use the space (both on a regular and occasional basis) and who are the main users? For example, you are a family of four that likes to watch movies in the living room on Friday nights. You'll want to have enough comfortable seating that faces the television to accommodate all four of you. On occasion, the kids will have friends over for movies. This means you'll also need some less permanent seating to pull in as needed. Potential solutions include chairs from an adjacent space that are easily moved or a big pile of floor pillows that are brought out for this occasion. Aside from quantity of people, the type of people is also important. The way a toddler utilizes a space will be very different than an empty-nester. 

2. How is the space used and what are the main tasks done in the space? Are there secondary tasks to consider? In a kitchen the main ask is usually cooking. However, within this general task there can be variation. For example, if you are a passionate cook you'll place priority on certain features over others and may want additional work surfaces. Secondary activities that need to be addressed may include space for nightly homework or working from home. 

3. What level of durability does the space require? Are food and drink likely to be spilled on the dining room chairs (hello children!) or is it a more refined dining environment for adults only? Also ask yourself how much upkeep are you willing to do? Be honest :) In an ideal world you might be committed to resealing that showstopping stone yearly, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life will it actually happen? There are many beautiful, low maintenance items to select from if that's what you need. It's simply a matter of planning for minimal upkeep rather than realizing you need it after the fact.  

4. What currently does NOT work in the space? What DO you like about the existing space? Use these answers to inform decisions during your design project planning. It's easy to get bogged down in what you don't like or doesn't function well, but there may be elements that do work well. You'll want to take note of these too so they can be incorporated. 

5. Are there any special needs that should be considered? Perhaps you are petite and would benefit from a smaller scale chair with less depth. Or maybe your home office would benefit from a particular set up that is unique to your job. Consider how you would ideally function and move about in the space and work backwards to find the right solutions. 

Scrolling through Instagram might be more fun, but considering these function questions before diving into your design project can make a lasting impact on the longevity and impact of your new space. Are there areas of functionality in your space you struggle with? Let me know in the comments section and I'll help you uncover potential solutions!

Designer Secrets to Selecting a Paint Color You Love

Based on years of experience as an interior designer, I share my paint selection tips that will decrease overwhelm and ensure that you select a color you love! 

Painting is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to update a room. However, selecting the perfect paint color and finish can be challenging. Last week I wrote about the emotional resistance that can arise when selecting paint, which I tie to our internal fear of getting a major life change "wrong."  Today I'm going to give you some practical tips, based on years of experience as an interior designer, that will help make this selection feel less overwhelming and ensure you end up with a color you love. Below are my top five designer tips for selecting paint colors. 

Designer Tips Paint Color Selection

1. Start with a reference point
If you aren't sure which color direction to go in a room look to the colors you are drawn to in the items you already own. This could be a piece of art, an area rug, throw pillows or other accessories. Pull your favorite color from these items and start to consider the options within that color family. If you are redecorating an entire space, leave the paint selection until other major elements are selected.  There are an infinite number of paint colors to select from, while items such as area rugs or upholstered furniture pieces might be more limited. Save yourself some trouble and wait until the end of your selections to select the paint.

2. Consider how you want the room to feel
Color plays a big role in how a space feels. For example, do you want your room to feel light and airy? Go light.  Or do you want the room to feel intimate and warm? If you are going for the later, consider a deep, saturated hue.

3. Get samples
This is the fun part, but have some restraint. Just because you can take home all of the samples doesn't mean that you should. The more you take with you the greater the chance you will feel overwhelmed when you get back home. Start by pulling lots of options but see if you can narrow things down before leaving the store. If you can, bring your reference point (or a photo) to the store so you can easily eliminate options that are clearly not going to work. 

3. Hang samples on the wall to narrow down your choices
Once you have a few front-runners, tape the samples to the wall. It's important to hang the samples on the wall because that's how you will actually experience the color - not looking from above if they are spread out on a table. Remember, adjacent colors can change your perception of a hue. Isolate the particular swatch in consideration and hang something neutral, such as a blank piece of paper, behind the swatch if necessary. 

4. Consider finish
Finish is both a practical and aesthetic consideration. From a practical standpoint, a matte finish is not as durable as an eggshell finish but it is easier to touch up. A finish with a higher sheen wipes clean easily but it will emphasize imperfections on the wall. With that said, paint technology continues to improve and the matte finishes are getting more durable. Showrooms such as Hirshfields are a great resource on the latest paint types. From an aesthetic standpoint using multiple finishes can create interest and variety in the design. 

5. Test the color(s) and leave up for at least one day
Do a test sample on all four walls in the room you are going to paint. I recommend doing all four walls as the color can actually look different depending on its orientation in the room. Look at the samples throughout the day to see what the color looks like with different light sources (natural vs artificial) and at different times of day. Certain color undertones may be highlighted or be less noticeable depending on these factors. You'll want to make sure the color appeals to you at all times. 

A last piece of advice is to not over analyze. There are so many colors available it's easy to drive yourself crazy. Remember, you can always repaint! Do you plan to repaint any rooms in your home? What are the biggest challenges you face when committing to something new for your home? 

PS - If paint selection or other home decisions are stressing you out I share my tips to prevent design and remodeling decision burnout in a past article which can be found here.

A Can of Paint and New Beginnings

Sealed within a can of paint is a sense of revitalization, possibility, and new beginnings. 

Painting a room seems to be one of everyone's favorite ways to transform a room. This makes sense. Color can dramatically alter the look and feel of a space, the materials are relatively inexpensive, and, if so inclined, most of us have enough skill to complete the job ourselves. But what about the less tangible allure of a fresh coat of paint? I'd argue that sealed within that metal can is a sense of revitalization, possibility, and a new beginning. 

A Can of Paint and New Beginnings

Consider when fresh paint is often applied. Often it is because a room is about to serve a new purpose. There is change in your own life. You move into your first home and want to put your mark on the space. Perhaps a room is converted into a home office where you will begin your entrepreneurial adventure. Or, the former guestroom will become a nursery where you'll spend sleepless nights, experience moments of joy as you hear a first giggle, and realize with utter frustration this tiny human does, in fact, have a mind of their own. 

When I look at selecting paint with my designer eyes I see the technical aspects explaining why it can be so difficult. Extrapolating how a tiny sample will appear when the color is applied to all four walls or understanding the nuances of color undertones can be tricky, but what about the emotional aspects of choosing a paint color? When there is little certainty around life changes, as there rarely is, we can cling to things we can have control over. Could it be that the pressure we put on ourselves to get our new beginning "right" transfers to a concrete decision we can make right now - like a can of paint? 

Does this idea resonate with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

PS - Advice on how to select paint colors is one of the most common requests I receive. Next week I'll share my designer secrets to selecting a paint color you love. Stay tuned. 

Five Secrets to (Almost) Stress-Free Travel with Kids

Traveling with children may not be as easy as traveling solo, but with some planning, there are ways to make your "trip" feel less stressful and more like a "vacation."

Do you think there is a difference between a vacation and a trip? I've heard parents describe a vacation as an occasion where you can relax, take a break from daily responsibilities, and maybe even read a book(!). On the other hand, a trip is a journey to a destination with your children - it may be a beautiful destination - but there is still an element of effort and work involved. As much as we love our children they do require some tending to! 

To make break up the cold Minnesota winters our family loves to get out of town. With a three year old and a 6 month old this can be tricky, but we do it frequently enough that we've found a way to travel with kids and have it go smoothly. Below are my top five tips for traveling with children (almost) stress-free.

5 Secrets to Stress Free Travel with Kids

1. Rent a house or condo
Hotels are expensive and quarters are tight. By staying at a vacation rental you'll be able to cook at home for some or all of your meals. This is less expensive, healthier, and much less stressful than dining out with young children. You'll also have a place to hang out after the kids go to sleep. No tip-toeing around and you will be able enjoy an uninterrupted conversation over a glass of wine. Lastly - this is my favorite - you'll have access to laundry. Once you have children there is no such thing as "traveling light." The ability to do laundry means there is less clothing to pack and less to suitcases to haul through the airport. I recommend Airbnb or Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) for booking vacation rentals.

2. Sign up for express or rewards programs
As you know, waiting in long lines with children is no fun.  Most airlines and rental car companies have their own rewards programs. Check out your preferred companies and see what they can offer.  After waiting in an exceptionally long rental car line (with a very busy toddler) my husband discovered that Dollar-Rent-A-Car has a free express program that has saved us some serious time and frustration. 

3. Have a plan
Get specific here. Consider things like who is taking what luggage, who is responsible for what children, etc. In the middle of airport chaos, while one child is running off, is not a good time to figure these things out. Here is an example of our airplane boarding. I always board the plane first while my husband waits with the kids at the gate. I have time to gate-check the stroller and set up snacks and games in our seats so we are organized and ready to go. When it's near the end of boarding, my husband brings the kids on. Our three year old has had fun watching the planes and hasn't had to sit still in his seat for longer than necessary (there is only so long they can contain their wiggles!). 

4. Centralize the details of the trip
Send yourself one email or create a document in Evernote that contains all of the information you will need once you arrive (rental car confirmation numbers, the address where you are staying, etc). When everyone is tired and needs a snack you won't have to waste time scrolling through dozens of emails to find the information you need. 

5. Set expectations
This is a family trip but it doesn't mean you can't carve out a little "me time" while you are there. Before the trip talk to your significant other about expectations or priorities you both have for the trip and strategize how you can meet those wishes. For example, on our last trip I wanted to take a daily exercise walk outside. By being upfront about this priority we could deliberately plan for that time instead of me just hoping it might fit into the day. 

Traveling with children is certainly not as easy as traveling solo but there can be so much joy in the unstructured time away from your daily routines. It takes some planning, but there are ways to make your "trip" feel less stressful and more like a "vacation."

I hope you and your families will have the opportunity to see a little sunshine, spend quality time, and explore new areas together this winter. I'd love to hear where you are headed!

Roasted Beet & Butternut Squash Side Salad Recipe

Try this warm side salad recipe made of beets and butternut squash during the cold winter months. 

For the past couple of years we have been members of a winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) through Foxtail Farms. Among a plethora of other fresh vegetables, the shares we received in the last months of 2016 included beets and butternut squash. I decided to combine the two, tossed with a homemade salad dressing, and have a new favorite simple side dish recipe! To make this side dish into a full meal, simply combine with mixed greens and add grilled chicken. 

Roasted Beet and Butternut Squash Side Salad

Ingredients
Butternut Squash - (1) Large
Beets - (3) Medium
*Aim for a 50/50 mix of squash and beets; adjust quantities as needed.
*I prefer red beets for the pretty color contrast against the butternut squash but any type will work. 
Raw or Roasted Unsalted Pecans - (1/4) Cup
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel the beets and butternut squash. Remove seeds from the inside of the butternut squash. Cut both the beets and butternut squash into 1" cubes. Note: It's best to keep your cubes of similar size for even roasting and cook time. 

3. Toss the cubed beets in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the beets out, in a single layer, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Next, repeat these steps with the cubed butternut squash. Keep the beets and butternut squash on separate baking sheets in case one requires slightly more or less cooking time. 

4. Roast the beets and butternut squash, flipping occasionally, for approximately 30 - 45 minutes. They are done when they can easily be pierced with a fork. 

5. While the vegetables are roasting make the salad dressing by mixing olive oil, red wine vinegar (about 50/50 ratio), and a splash of lemon juice. 

6. Once the vegetables are done combine the beets and butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with the salad dressing, and add chopped pecans. Mix until the beets and butternut squash are evenly coated with the dressing. Serve warm.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try - I would love to hear what you think!

P.S. Learn more about Foxtail Farms and the benefits of joining a CSA by clicking here. I also suggest this interesting article on CSA's from The New York Times

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 3 - Sentimental Objects

Objects that evoke strong emotions or memories are complicated. Below are 6 ways to honor sentimental objects without their physical presence

We all have excess items in our lives which is why I began to discuss why we hold on to these objects. I've concluded that most excess items in our lives fall into three categories. In part one of this post I discussed aspirational items, or objects that represent the person we want to be. In part two, I discussed the objects in our lives that represent the person you used to be. Today, in the third and final part of this post I will discuss the most complicated of excess items - sentimental objects, or objects that evoke strong memories.

Fabric by Christopher Farr Cloth

Fabric by Christopher Farr Cloth

Objects that evoke strong memories or emotions
Sometimes sentimental objects are items that bring you pleasure, such as a platter passed down from generations that is always brought out for special occasions, but sometimes sentimental items can feel weighty. Perhaps an item was a gift from a close family member or friend. The gesture was appreciated but the item does not suit your lifestyle or aesthetic. Or perhaps it was a favorite reading chair passed down from your father. You can picture him sitting in it reading the paper every night. But you haven't looked at it or used it in a long time because it's in a storage unit or it's not practical in your home. Emotions tied to our belongings are complicated so it's often easier to simply hold tight to these items. Today I challenge you to consider the possibility that the emotional ties and corresponding memories can live on without physical possession of the item. 

Below are ways to cherish and honor sentimental objects in your life when you are ready to move on from their physical presence.

1. Take a photo
This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of large items taking up space. Photos can be placed in an album for future viewing and sharing. If it's a unique collection you might consider having select favorites professionally photographed. Create a gallery of these images on the wall as a way to experience the objects as art. 

2. Select one item from the collection
My grandma had an extensive collection of Hummel figurines. As a little girl I loved to look at each one as she carefully brought them down from her display. When she passed I knew I did not have the space (or the desire) to keep the entire collection. However, I did decide to hold onto one figurine in particular, the "Little Pharmacist." Of all of the figurines I remember delighting in his dripping medicine bottle. One piece of her collection is able to revive those memories while not requiring me to keep the entire collection. 

"Little Pharmacist" Hummel from my Grandma

"Little Pharmacist" Hummel from my Grandma

3. Imagine the joy the object will bring to someone else
This item may not suit you, but it could be the perfect addition to someone else's life. When you pass on an item think of how someone else will incorporate the object into their own life. It could become a cherished piece of someone else's family.

4. Consider how you could replace the object with something you would actually use
If you didn't have this item taking up space, how would you feel? Would you feel relief at having the extra space or maybe there is another item you actually would use that could take its physical space? If you are selling the item for cash or using it as a trade you can think of the gifted as having helped you bring this new item into your life.

5. Repurpose the item
Does your grandmother's buffet not fit in with your décor? Consider painting it or changing out the hardware. Or maybe you don't have a formal dining room where you feel it ought to be place. What if you reimagined the purpose of the buffet? Could it become a TV console or dresser that you would be able to use?  

6. Journal or write a story about the item, a specific memory, or its effect on your life
If looking at or touching the item brings a rush of memories take some time to sit with those emotions. Pull out your favorite writing tools or create a voice recording to capture the place this item once held in your life. Attach a snapshot so when you share your story with others they have a visual.

This is not to say you need to get rid of everything, but it does mean that you should be selective. If you decide to keep something for sentimental reasons, how can you incorporate the object into your everyday life or at the very least, find a way to incorporate the item(s) on a regular basis?

What is the biggest challenge you face when deciding what items to part with? What are the items that are so special they remain in your life? 

Personalized Stationary & Happy Holidays!

May Your Days Be Merry, Bright, & Beautiful!

Who else feels like December is going way too fast?! Before the rest of the month passes by in a flash I want to tell each and every one of you Happy Holidays! This time of year can be so busy. I hope that you all carve out some moments to rest, refuel, and reflect as we head into the New Year.

I started some of my holiday shopping earlier this month and had to share a product that has just delighted me! May Designs is an affordable, yet high quality, personalized stationary and notebook line. There are so many options for customization - there really is something for everyone on your list!

Personalized Stationary by May Designs

Personalized Stationary by May Designs

Mica May, the founder, did an interview on one of my favorite podcasts, The Lively Show, which is how I originally heard of the company. Mica May's story of how she got to where she is today piqued my interest and the beautiful designs she offers made me a true fan.  

A few of my May Designs creations

A few of my May Designs creations

The photo above shows a sampling of the products I've ordered. I had a lot of fun selecting the designs, colors, and fonts. Here is a round-up of what is shown.

  • Teacher Gifts - Coordinating personalized notebooks and stationary
  • Happy Holidays Card - I plan to use these for gift cards and notes of appreciation (shown at top of post)
  • Baby Milestone Notebook - I learned the first time around that while all of these moments are incredibly special it's actually very hard to remember all of them! Now I have a pretty way to record these events.
  • A Treat for Myself - I love to send and to receive handwritten notes so stationary for personal use was a must :) 

I'll be signing off for the rest of the year to enjoy some extra time with family, especially my little guy when his preschool's winter break starts up. We are hoping to have lots of mommy adventures! I'll be back in the New Year with new content which I can't wait to share. If there is anything you're loving, want to see more of, or even a question you'd like to see answered in 2017 leave a comment!

How to Create an Inviting Guestroom

This Holiday Season Make Your Guests Feel at Home

The holidays are upon us which means your guestroom is about to get some heavy usage. Why not give your guests a five-start experience? Below are my top five tips for creating an inviting and comfortable guestroom (warning – they’ll want to come back!).

Design by Desi Creswell (Desi Interior Design)

Design by Desi Creswell (Desi Interior Design)

1. Get Creative
Guestrooms are an excellent opportunity to play with unique or bold design elements. Delight your guests and create a memorable experience with playful patterns, an unexpected color combination, or a curated collection you’ve developed over the years.

2. Stock the Basics
No one wants to feel like a burden. Set out plenty of fresh towels, a basket of travel-sized toiletries, and keep a stash of toilet paper in the guest bath so your guests never have to ask. Other useful items to make available are the WI-FI password and a spare key.

3. Clear the Closet
If you use the guestroom closet or dresser to store your overflow clothing, now is the time to de-clutter. Leave at least two free drawers, ample hanging space, and an extra set of hangers to store belongings.

4. Room-Darkening Drapery & Luxe Linens
Yours guest are on vacation – help them sleep in with room-darkening drapery and a “don’t-want-to-leave-this bed” comfortable set of linens. Guests will appreciate these touches (and it might give you a little extra time to yourself in the morning!).

5. Reading Material
Encourage relaxation by providing bedside reading materials. Out-of-towners may enjoy a local interest magazine or a book on the history of your area. For an extra special guest, pick up a book on one of their favorite topics or hobbies. Write a note on the inside cover to thank them for their visit and to encourage them to take the book with them when they depart.

What are some of the special ways you make your guests feel at home? 

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 2 - Objects From a Past Self

Do you hold on to objects that represent the person you used to be rather than owning objects that represent who you are today?

In part one of this series I started a discussion around why we have too much stuff by addressing aspirational belongings, objects that represent the person we want to be. Today, in part two, I will discuss objects from a past self, objects that represent the person you used to be.

Fabric by Robert Allen

Fabric by Robert Allen

Objects That Represents the Person You Used To Be
Whether we are aware of it or not, our possessions play a large role in shaping our sense of self. In my own life I see this most prominently in the closet. When I started my career as an Interior Designer I worked at a prestigious design firm in downtown Chicago. I wore a sharp-looking suit to the interview and had a clear picture of how a "working professional" was supposed to appear. Fast forward to 2016 and I'm so much more than what I had originally defined myself to be. Yes, I'm still a professional. And now I choose to show up in a way that reflects the current me. I'm also a mom of two and have to be prepared to have a gooey hand smeared on my clothing at any moment. So tell me, why do I still have that interview suit hanging in my closet? That suit represents an important part of my life - a first job, becoming financially independent, and professional accomplishments as an emerging designer.  But on the flip side, it also reminds me of how much I have changed, and how the vision I had for myself 10 years ago is not the vision I have for myself today. I have different goals, different priorities, and a different lens through which I view life. 

Items we cling to can often feel like a safety net. It will be there if we need it, if we decide we want to be that person some day in the future. But the truth is, you'll never be that exact version of yourself. As you evolve,  you can bring items into your life that truly serve who you are in this moment. 

In order to evaluate whether or not to keep these types of objects I encourage you to consider the three questions below. 

1. Have you used the item in the past year? If not, it's time to let go. A year can seem to go by quickly, but in reality you twelve whole months to make use of something. If you haven't used the item within this time frame it's highly unlikely it will be used in the future. 

2. Are you holding on to something in hopes that it will motivate you to be the person you used to be? We are ever-evolving and will never again be the same person we were in a particular moment. Keeping something with the hopes that it will motivate you to be that old version of your self is not a good use of physical or mental space. Instead, ask yourself what, at the core, do you want to incorporate into your life as it stands today. Make a plan to choose behaviors that create the change.

3. Are you clinging to an item from a mindset of scarcity? Are you keeping something simply because maybe, some day in the very far of future, you may decide you want to use it again and if you don't save it you will never be able to get another one? Does that sound dramatic? It's supposed to. Share your abundance and trust that there will be more if the need arises. 

Having items in your home that no longer serve a purpose or uplift you can make your environment feel heavy. It might be time to clear some of this emotional clutter. Create the opportunity for an expansive life while contracting your belongings.

Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series where I will discuss objects that evoke strong emotions, which can be the most difficult to sort through.

Do you have an item in your life that represents a strong tie to the person you used to be? How do you feel when you look at that item? What would it take to let it, and the former version of yourself, go?

Simple Side Recipe - Roasted Delicata Squash

Roasted delicata squash with a dash of cinnamon is so easy and so tasty - you won't be able to get enough!

If you've never tried delicata squash before, now is the time! Delicata squash is sweet, savory and is a simple fall side dish. When you add a dash of cinnamon delicata squash transforms into a decadent treat. Plus, you can eat the skin so prep is so easy! 

Simple Fall Side Dish - Delicata Squash

Ingredients
Delicata Squash
Olive Oil
Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut delicata squash into 1/2" thick rounds. Scoop out the center seeds. Do not remove the skin. 

3. In a large bowl, toss squash with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and cinnamon and continue to toss until seasonings are evenly distributed.

4. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and spread out squash in a single layer. 

5. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, flip squash and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The squash is done when it is easily pierced by a fork. 

Delicata squash does not store as well as some of the other fall squashes so gobble them up while you can!

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 1 - Aspirational Objects

Do you own or purchase items that represent the person you want to be rather than honoring your current position? 

Lately the idea of excess belongings has been on my mind. What's the how and why behind the objects we tend to accumulate? As I have thought about this topic I've come to the conclusion that excess items in our lives most often fall into three categories - (1) objects that represent the person you want to be, (2) the person you used to be, or (3) objects that have a strong emotional pull. In part one of this post I'm sharing my thoughts on aspirational belongings - objects that represent the person you want to be.

Aspirational Belongings - Objects that Represent the Person You Want to Be
Do you aspire to be a person that entertains, one that makes exercise a consistent routine, or one that cooks dinner every night? New habits are hard to implement so we find ourselves looking for a quick fix to fulfill these lifestyle aspirations. We might purchase a set of fancy barware or the latest kitchen gadget. These items provide an instant ping of excitement that you are headed in the right direction. And for some, they are a good sign. The desire to use these items may actually spur you to invite friends over or work on your culinary genius, but if you don't have the solid intention of performing this activity, and most importantly, a plan as to how you are going to implement, these items often sit gathering dust in the home.

If you find yourself acquiring aspirational objects, here are some tips to consider before the purchase to ensure that they are actually used.

Fabric by Lee Jofa

Fabric by Lee Jofa

1. Consider how you currently live and get super specific on what you want and why. For example, if you want to cook dinner every night - what are you after? A healthy meal, a chance to slow down at the end of a hectic day, time to reconnect with your spouse or family? What are some behaviors you could work toward? You could aim to prep one or two healthy meals on Sunday so prep is minimal during the week or you could agree that all family members are home one night a week to do an activity together, even if it is quick. Do you really need to purchase something? Or is there a behavioral shift you could make to achieve the same feeling or outcome through different routes?

2. If you do decide to purchase something new, get specific on how you are going to use the item.  For example, once you purchase new tableware for entertaining, set a date with friends for a gathering. Make it a goal to invite friends or family over once a month. Do whatever works best for you, but make a plan.

3. Set the routine to achieve the desired results and then treat yourself once you get in the flow. This is the dangling carrot theory. You don't need the latest gear to get going on an exercise plan. Allow yourself a treat such as a stylish workout ensemble after making it to the gym for a certain number of days. You'll find yourself buying less and using more of what you have.

So what do you do if you find yourself with a pile of aspiration purchases? I always like to remind myself that awareness is the first step in making a change. If you don't acknowledge that you are either buying or holding on to items that don't actually serve your lifestyle you won't be able to start to make the changes necessary to discontinue the cycle. Stay tuned for part two where I will discuss items that represent the person you used to be, another source of excess "stuff" in our lives.

In the meantime, I'd love to know, are you an aspirational purchaser? What have you've purchased? Do you use these items?  If not, how does that make you feel to have them sitting around the house? If you don't fall into this category what keeps you from accumulating aspirational items?

Paleo Recipe - Heirloom Tomato Soup

Make this Paleo, Gluten-Free, and Dairy-Free Heirloom Tomato Soup Now and Freeze Some for Later!

There has been a beautiful assortment of heirloom tomatoes at our local farmers market recently. This means it's the perfect opportunity to make my Paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free heirloom tomato soup. This tomato soup is warming in the crisp fall air and is also easy to freeze and to enjoy later. When we are in the middle of our cold Minnesota winter, I like to warm some up and remind myself that this weather will not last for forever!

Heirloom Tomato Soup Paleo Gluten and Dairy Free

Ingredients
Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes  (Any size or Variety) - Approximately (2) Lbs
Garlic - (4) Cloves
Yellow Onion - (1)
Vegetable Broth - (3) Cups
Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk - (1) Cup
Note: The almond milk is a nice way to increase the creamy texture of the finished soup. If you are allergic or sensitive to nuts, simply swap out for additional broth. 
Fresh Basil - (1/4) Cup
Olive Oil - (1) Tablespoon
Balsamic Vinegar - (1) Tablespoon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
Note:  You will blend the soup at the end so there is no need for precise cutting.  
1. Remove stems from heirloom tomatoes, cut into large chunks, and place in a large soup pot. 

2. Dice onion and garlic. Saute with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once soft, add the onion and garlic to the soup pot. 

3. Pour vegetable broth, almond milk, and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The liquids should barely cover the ingredients. Remember, you can always add more liquid as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper.

4. Turn the burner on high to bring the mixture to a low boil. While this is going, rough chop the basil. After the tomatoes have softened, add the basil and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. 

5. Pour the ingredients into a blender (you know I love my Vitamix!) and blend until the mixture is smooth. Taste the soup to determine if you would like to add additional salt and/or pepper. 

If you plan to freeze a batch, you will need to put this in the blender one more time after thawing as the soup tends to separate. 

"Seasons" of Decorating

Designing for this "Season" or Stage of Life

I've never been much of a seasonal decorator in the traditional sense, and that is not the topic of today's post. The seasons I'm referencing are the seasons of life that we pass through as time progresses. From being single to being married, and from welcoming your first born to becoming an empty-nester, the seasons of our lives affect everything from lifestyle to relationships. These seasons of life can also dramatically affect the way we live in our homes and the requirements we place on a physical space. Since having our children I now understand, and have come to embrace, what it means to design for this season or stage of life.

Photo by Lemon Drop Photography

Photo by Lemon Drop Photography

This concept hit me on my first project back from maternity leave. I was in a pinch and had to bring my three month old son to a client's install. As my son became fussy I took him out of his carrier and held him while the client and I walked around the loft to discuss art placement. As most infants are prone to doing, my son abruptly spit up - splat - onto the new area rug I had just delivered. Oops. As I panicked to find something to clean the mess, my client, in a mater of fact way, said "it probably won't be the last time someone throws up on that rug." This man was single and was referencing a future party that would likely have a start time that is way past my bedtime. We were in different seasons of life.  

Now that our son is a toddler spitting up is the least of my concerns. His ability to run, jump, and do it all in a mater of seconds means the season we are in right now involves making sure nothing is too precious or pointy - goodbye glass coffee table. Everything is stain protected, nothing is easily tipped over or breakable, and I look forward to the day I can put our side tables back in the living room where they belong (side tables are not meant to be used as a climbing apparatus!). Does my home look Pinterest perfect? No it does not, and I'm ok with that.  I choose to embrace the way this season of life looks, for it is just that, a season. Some day my son won't want to dump his trucks all over the living room. I'll be happy to have that space back but I'll also miss this period where imaginative play is at its peak. I also recognize that as he grows there will be new design requirements. Before I know it I'll be incorporating a homework station into the kitchen and we will have a mudroom full of gear for his favorite extracurricular activities.

While your home is a reflection of yourself and your tastes, it is also very much a reflection of your season in life. And, just like anything in life, the current stage is ever-evolving. As you evolve, as your seasons change, so must the spaces in which you live.

What season of life are you in these days?