Personalized Stationary & Happy Holidays!

May Your Days Be Merry, Bright, & Beautiful!

Who else is feeling like December is going way to 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?

Essential Kitchen Tools for Quick and Easy Meal Prep

A Peek Inside My Kitchen - The Imprecise Cook's Favorite Meal Prep Tools

To cook healthy, delicious meals at home doesn't require a lot of kitchen gadgets, but it does help to have some essential equipment to make food prep go quickly and smoothly. Today I want to share some of top choices for tools in the kitchen. Of course, you'll need some basics such as pots and pans, but these are the items I consider my "go-to" essentials.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Quick and Easy Meal Prep

Large & Small Cutting Board
Give yourself space to work. I have two Epicurean cutting boards and love them. They are pricier than some cutting boards but last so long it will pay for itself when you don't have to continually purchase replacements. For the large cutting board I suggest the 17.5" x 13" size. It's spacious enough to give you room to move around and keep scraps off to the side but not too big to be unwieldy. I also suggest purchasing one of the smaller sizes. The Epicurean cutting boards are dishwasher safe so I use a smaller size for cutting meat. The board is then easily sterilized in the dishwasher. 

Chef's Knife & Serrated Knife
If you are only going to purchase one knife make it a large Chef's Knife. Don't be intimidated by the large size. This tool makes quick work of all sorts of food prep. As a bonus tool, I also recommend a serrated knife for easily cutting through tomatoes, delicate fruits, and other items with slippery skins. Now, this should be obvious but don't forget to keep your knives sharp. Dull knives slow you down and make life more difficult than it needs to be. I've had my Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife and Wusthof Serrated Tomato Knife for 8 years and with proper care they show no signs of slowing down. 

Microplane Grater
A mircroplane grater is perfect for adding citrus zest or spices such as cinnamon to a dish. This tool has also replaced my garlic press. Using the grater is quick, ensures all of the garlic juices are utilized, and there isn't a smelly peel to pick out once you are done. 

Parchment Paper
I spent way too much time on clean up before I discovered parchment paper. Most of the time I Use it to line baking sheets before roasting vegetables. The If You Care brand of parchment paper is eco-friendly and the width works well with most baking sheets. 

Vitamix
I spent several years considering whether or not to purchase a Vitamix. There are so many loyal enthusiasts but at first glance the Vitamix appears to be just a expensive blender. A few years ago I finally purchased one and I can't imagine my kitchen without my Vitamix. Soups are my favorite reason to use the Vitamix. The high speed blades whip the ingredients into a creamy, delicious soup, minus any cream. Yes, you certainly use an immersion blender for this purpose but I find the results never quite match up. Aside from soups I use the Vitamix for smoothies, sauces, dressings, make-at-home Lara Bar concoctions, and more. 

Cuisinart
I inherited a Cuisinart food processor from a family friend and it really speeds up some tasks in the kitchen. Shredding cabbage, thinly slicing veggies, and making cauliflower rice with the grater attachment are some of my favorite ways to use this tool. Like the Vitamix, it's an investment, but you'll have it for years and years. 

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup
I don't measure very often, thus the name The Imprecise Cook, but when I do, I reach for my Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup. It's compact compared to having multiple measuring cups of various sizes and serves as well-sized container to mix up small batches of homemade salad dressings and marinades. I also love all of the storage containers from Pyrex - perfect for storing leftovers to enjoy the next day. 

These are my essentials for quick and easy meal prep - what are your essentials in the kitchen? 

Do You Suffer from Design Decision Fatigue?

Interior Design and Remodeling Projects Require You to Make So Many Decisions - Prevent Design Decision Fatique (DDF) with these Designer Tips

When my husband and I purchased our first home we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a five bedroom house. I didn't fill our entire house at once, but I did have to make a substantial number of purchases in order to at least fill some spaces so we could have people over and offer them a comfortable place to stay. Did I mention we were planning to host Thanksgiving and a holiday party just a month or so after moving in? No pressure there.

With so many decisions, from backsplashes and cabinet hardware to headboards and bedding, I found myself, someone very accustomed to making these decisions daily, becoming overwhelmed by my own project. Between filling the spaces in our own home I was pouring myself into my interior design business, bringing the very best of my skills to my clients. By the end of the day I didn't have any bandwidth left for my own home. I found myself stalling on some decisions and making other decisions simply because it was the easiest choice in the short term. I was suffering from Design Decision Fatigue (DDF).

Designer Tips Prevent Burnout During the Design and Remodeling Process

Even though furnishing a home is not a life or death decision, it's a lot of decisions and decisions require mental effort. The unfortunate news is that we all have a limited amount of mental energy to expend in a day. I'm guessing you have a few other things on your plate. With this in mind, here are my top tips for avoiding Design Decision Fatigue and preventing burnout during your next project.

1. Create a Mood Board or Inspiration File
This little bit of extra effort up front will pay off big time in the long run. Start to collect images (from magazines, Pinterest, Instgram, etc) to bring awareness to your personal aesthetic. As you proceed, patterns will emerge reflecting your tastes and what you are naturally drawn to. Throughout the design process, refer back to the Mood Board. Do your selections fit with your vision? If yes, move forward. If not, consider an alternate. Need more convincing? Check out my article Why You Need a Mood Board for your Next Design Project.

2. Stop Second Guessing Yourself
Once you make a decision stick to it. It can be hard enough to make the decision for the first time so why torture yourself with revisiting the topic over and over again.

3. And Stop Polling the Audience
Once you have a better understanding of what you like, trust your instincts. Ask a friend if you are really torn between two items, but remember, you don't need anyone's permission to love what you love.

4. Give Yourself a Deadline
Set a reasonable amount of time to make decisions and work towards that date. This can be a day you put on the calendar for your knowledge only or you could set a more public goal of inviting friends over for dinner. Having a deadline ensures that you can't keep looking for something that might be incrementally better. At some point you just have to make a decision.

5. You Don't Have to Do It All at Once
It's not the end of the world if your space is not 100% complete before you share it with the world. If you have the major pieces in place and the thought of accessorizing is causing you stress, take a step away and gradually pull together finishing touches as you're inclined. This can be more fun anyways as it allows you to collect items when traveling or are out and about and find something especially striking.

Are you suffering from a case of Design Decision Fatigue? If so, I'd love to hear your challenges, questions, and antidotes!

Why You Need a Mood Board for Your Next Design Project

Creating a Mood Board for Your Design Project Will Help You Discover Your Signature Style and Keep You Focused

Anytime I start an interior design or remodeling project I begin by creating a mood board to narrow in on the design direction. New to mood boards? They are a visual tool, often in a collage format, that can consist of images, text, and/or tactile samples. Mood boards can be physical, with items placed on one big board or gathered in a central binder or folder or they can be created digitally using Pinterest or another online source. Mood boards have long been used by the design professional but can be extremely helpful for anyone starting a visually driven project. I like to think of mood boards as the first piece of homework you do in preparation for a project. Mood boards can be an excellent way to discover your signature style and they also keep you focused once you move into the implementation phase.

Above is a mood board I created while dreaming up some ideas for a master bathroom remodel. I used a new website, called TRAYS, to compile the images. It's a user friendly, no-tech-skills-required option that will create a beautiful mood board to reference within minutes. Image Sources (Clockwise): Settecento New Yorker Glazed Tile, Gray Vanity 1 (via Pinterest), Gray Vanity 2 (via Pinterest), Cambria Countertop & Benjamin Moore Paint, Southern Hills Brushed Nickel Cabinet Pull, and Hinkley Lighting Abbie Sconce.   

Above is a mood board I created while dreaming up some ideas for a master bathroom remodel. I used a new website, called TRAYS, to compile the images. It's a user friendly, no-tech-skills-required option that will create a beautiful mood board to reference within minutes.

Image Sources (Clockwise): Settecento New Yorker Glazed Tile, Gray Vanity 1 (via Pinterest), Gray Vanity 2 (via Pinterest), Cambria Countertop & Benjamin Moore Paint, Southern Hills Brushed Nickel Cabinet Pull, and Hinkley Lighting Abbie Sconce.   

In many ways, a mood board becomes a guide or set of loose rules you can refer to, and follow, throughout the life of a project.When you get distracted by shinny objects take a look at your vision - will this complement and enhance the overall aesthetic or is it simply a distraction? With so many decisions to make (even with a small scale project) you'll want to maintain focus to avoid what I like to call Design Decision Fatigue (DDF). I'll share some additional tips on how to avoid DDF in an upcoming post.

Not only can this aesthetic-focusing technique be applied to interior design, it can also be applied to other areas of life such as branding a business, updating your wardrobe, or planning a creative birthday party. Below are my top tips for creating and successfully implementing a mood board for your next project.

1. Gather Anything that Catches Your Eye
Grab a stack of magazines or books or head to the internet. Start to collect anything that catches your eye in relation to your end goal. The images can be color palettes, specific furniture or lighting items, photos of full rooms or even text evoking a feeling or emotion. Make sure to note the image source - down the road you may what to purchase something specific and then you'll know where to source it. It's best to set a time limit on this phase or you can easily get sucked into the vast amount a material available or get stuck on this daydreaming phase and never take action.

2. Take a Break
Take a step away from the images for a few days and then go back to reassess and pair down your imagery. In images with multiple items crop or cut out anything you don't like so your vision is clear. Eliminate anything that you've grown stale on. If it can't sustain your interest after a few days it certainly won't stand the test of time. Also eliminate anything that clearly does not fit your lifestyle.

3. Identify Major Themes
Review the remaining items and aim to identify a few major themes. Is there a certain style or color palette you gravitate towards or have you pulled 10 images of a similar chandeliers?  Even if you are drawn to a couple of different styles there are typically some common threads. Perhaps you tend to like geometric patterns over floral or are always drawn to the color blue and there is no trace of red.

4. Make it Portable
If you have a an actual board, take a photo. Loose sheets? Make a binder. Using Pinterest? Download the app on your phone.  You'll want your inspiration on hand so that it is easily referenced. The exercise of creating a mood board can be beneficial in itself, but you'll receive the most benefit by referring back to it on a regular basis.

If there are multiple decision makers (ex. a significant other or a business partner) you can start by doing Step 1 and 2 individually. Once each party has paired down their desires, come together and work through Steps 3 & 4. See where there is overlap and see where there are disparities. Look for images and items that speak to both of you so that as you move forward everyone is invested and on the same page.

Have you created a mood board for projects or are you new to the process? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Love the One You're With - Embracing the Less than Perfect

Interior design and decoration is a process - learn to love what you have while looking toward a future vision

Let's be honest, you probably don't love every last item in your home. Styles change, you change, or you're slowing replacing inexpensive placeholders with more permanent investment pieces. This could be an item you purchased a while back or a piece you inherited that serves its purpose for now but it's not a long term love. While you're going through this process it's easy to lament the fact that you might not be able to replace everything in your house at once. But I actually think there is something to be said for slowing bringing in the new or new to you. This is where you learn to love the one you're with.

Design Tips to Embrace the Less than Perfect

What do I mean by love the one you're with? I'm suggesting that you actively embrace and elevate current items by basing new purchases on your décor vision for the future. You'll freshen up the existing and actually make what you already own look better. New items can loosely complement what you already have but keep moving you in the direction you ultimately want to go. Let go of the idea that everything needs to "match" as you make your transition. Bringing in items that are more in line with your overall aesthetic vision will uplift the lingering items you want to replace. Trust me.

Here is a specific example. You have your eye on a modern rug with a crisp, geometric pattern for your living room but your current sofa and coffee table have a traditional aesthetic.  How do you blend the two? Consider how you could bring a few other modern touches to the room without much investment. Swap out old throw pillows with a design that complements the rug or select a decorative tray with clean lines to style on top of the coffee table. These simple touches become a bridge that links the old and the new. Rather than perpetuating the style you have outgrown you're enhancing what you already have and intentionally moving towards your future style. The other benefit of this approach is that mixing styles creates a layered, collected experience in your home which makes it easier to bring new things in and edit old things out.

So what's my "love the one you're with"? It's the two neutral chairs I purchased from Room & Board when we moved into our first home. One of my issues is the way they have worn - the down filling in the back in not substantial enough and I'm constantly fluffing to revive them. The other is that they have become too clean-lined for me. Back when I started the process of decorating our home I gravitated to more modern lines and that is very much reflected in my initial purchases. Today I find that while I prefer clean lines I also find something very welcoming about traditional design elements. There is nothing horribly wrong with these chairs and my husband isn't exactly excited about replacing them since they are only a few years old. So while I wait out their retirement here's what I've done. First, I went to the upholsterer to have the interior cushions wrapped and beefed up. I've also layered on a colorful throw pillow to draw the eye away from the back cushions that I so dislike. Lastly, I purchased a side table with organic lines and a warm wood top to soften the chair's straight lines. These small changes cost significantly less than replacing the chairs and I can now appreciate how the chairs work in the rest of the room.

In order to work towards a cohesive whole, give some thought to what the future space looks like as it evolves (I say evolves because in my mind a room is really never "done"). Hopefully this gives you some ideas as to how to embrace those items that are less than ideal. I think the idea of loving the one you're with is something we all can, and should, embrace.

 I'd love to know what in your home you're learning to love and what you're doing to embrace the perfectly imperfect. 

Palm Springs Getaway

Palm Springs Offers Warmth, Unique Landscapes, and Mid-Century Modern Design

The past two years our family has traveled to Palm Springs, CA to get catch some sunshine (while wearing loads of sunscreen) and get away from the cold Minnesota winter. Aside from the warmth the area provides, I've really enjoyed exploring the area. The desert scenery is so different from what we are used to seeing back in the Midwest. I loved taking neighborhood strolls to see the variety of landscape designs, many of which incorporate Xeriscaping, a landscaping and gardening approach that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Below are photos from some of my outings.

Palm Spring Travel Uptown Design District

And then there is also the abundance of Mid-Century Modern homes. To take a piece of Mid-Century Modern style home, check out the plethora of retailers, consignment boutiques, and antique shops in the Uptown Design District, located in Downtown Palm Springs. Both Instyle and Dwell magazines feature travel guides on their websites highlighting the best of Palm Springs. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.

Have you been to Palm Springs, CA? What are your must see or must do items?

Paleo Recipe - Roasted Asparagus and Eggplant Salad

Roasted Asparagus, Eggplant, and Basil Combine to Create a Fresh, Paleo Summer Salad

It definitely feels like summer here in Minneapolis. The temperatures are rising and best of all, the farmers markets have started up for the season. The sights of farm fresh greens and other early summer produce has me excited to start playing around with summer salad recipes. I experimented with this Roasted Asparagus and Eggplant Salad as a dinner side salad the other evening. The flavors are fresh and it's easy to make, just what you want during the summer months.

Paleo Salad Recipe Roasted Asparagus Eggplant Basil

Ingredients
Asparagus - (2) Bunches
Eggplant - (1)
Basil - (1/4) Cup
Scallions - (2 or 3)
Tomato - (1) Cup (I used grape tomatoes but you could substitute another variety)  
White Balsamic Vinegar
*Choose a high quality vinegar for drizzling and finishing off the flavors. Locally, I love the White Balsamic from Vinaigrette, an excellent source for high quality olive oil and vinegar in Minneapolis (Linden Hills neighborhood). 
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  The eggplant will take the longest to cook so I suggest starting your prep here. Cut off the stem of the eggplant and cut into 1" cubes. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing a couple of times to ensure even cooking. The eggplant is done when it is tender and browned. (Notes on Eggplant Roasting Preparation: Some prefer to remove the eggplant's skin prior to cooking. Another preparation option is that you can salt the eggplant to remove some bitterness and moisture. I personally don't bother with either of these steps in order to save time but feel free to experiment and see what you prefer. This is a good tutorial on how to roast eggplant cubes if you are curious about these options.

3. Next, cut off the hard ends of the asparagus stems and cut the remaining stalks into 1" pieces. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, tossing once to ensure even cooking.

4. While the eggplant and asparagus roast, slice the tomatoes and scallions (both the bulbs and the leaves). Again, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once the asparagus is tender, remove from the oven and place in a mixing bowl. Using the baking sheet you used for the asparagus, spread out the tomatoes and scallions and place in the oven for a couple of minutes just to soften the ingredients.

5. While finishing up the vegetables, chop the basil and add to the mixing bowl.

6. Once all of the ingredients are to your desired tenderness, remove from the oven and combine in the mixing bowl. Drizzle with white balsamic vinegar to finish. Serve warm or refrigerate for a cold salad

Enjoy and let me know what you think of this recipe!

Everyday Upgrade - Gold Ring Dishes

Control Clutter with Pretty Gold Ring Dishes

Ring dishes are a lovely little way to control clutter. They can hold paper clips on your desk, store bobby pins on the bathroom counter, and of course, provide a safe spot for rings while cooking or washing hands.  I like that all of these ring dishes incorporate a gold element. Gold is a classic finish and also adds a little bit of glam to your interior décor. Below are five gold ring dishes that make for the perfect Everyday Upgrade.

Gold Ring Dishes Small Storage Bowls

Gold Facet Boxes - Jayson Home
The Gold Facet Boxes from Jayson Home feels large a jewel within which you can store your own jewels. Available in a large and small size so you can stack and store more.

Suite One Studio Confetti Mini Bowl
I adore the delicate, yet playful take on the ceramics from Suite One Studio. The Gold and White Confetti Mini Bowl is a great way to get introduced to the collections.

Susan Gordon Pottery
Another handmade option from Etsy, the ring dishes from Susan Gordon Pottery combine the two beautiful art forms of pottery and watercolor. I want one in every color.

Anthropologie
Giraffes are one of my favorite animals so this Giraffe Trinket Dish from Antrhopologie had to be included in the round-up!

Heather Nicole Designs
The gold scrollwork on this handmade ring dish from Heather Nicole Designs has excellent detail. The shop's ring dishes are also available in a variety of custom colors.

Do you have a favorite ring dish from this round up?

Rethinking a Room's Purpose - Interior Design Tips to Reimagine Underutilized Spaces in Your Home

What to Do with a Room or Space in Your Home that You Don't Use

Do you have a room or transition space in your home that goes unused or is used infrequently? Wouldn't it be great to get more function out of the space you already have, not to mention eliminating the feeling of a dead zone in your home? Think for a moment. If you could add a room to your current home, what would you add? Do you wish you had a dedicated area for working from home, an area to cultivate a hobby, or an area where the kids can do as they please? Which of those activities do you think you could incorporate into an under-utilized room or space in your home?

New Purposes for Underutilized Rooms in the Home

Rooms to consider are a formal dining or living room, only used when it's your turn to host Thanksgiving, or a grown child's bedroom that is only used for an occasional weekend visit. Less obvious spaces to consider include an extra closet, a space under the stairs, or a nook along one of the home's transition areas. The room pictured above is a space in my own home that I'm considering converting. It used to be the "library" where we would read on the weekend. Now we would like an additional play area for our growing family and this might be just the space (stay tuned...).

If you are converting the function of a stand-alone room the top task you have is shifting your mindset from the old function to the new. If you are adapting a space that is an integrated portion of your home, e.g., incorporating a home workspace into your living room, you'll want to make sure that the new addition feels intentional and blends with its surroundings. Below are three tips for creating a cohesive aesthetic between an existing space an its new purpose.

1. Consider color palette. 
Piggyback off color choices from adjacent rooms or choose a complimentary color scheme to what already exists. This will allow the spaces to connect visually even if there are different functions occurring side by side. 

2. Invest in storage.
I'm a fan of organization to begin with, but if you are going to place an office or a playroom on your main level be sure to have a way to calm the chaos  when needed.  

3. Don't get stuck on the type or style of furniture you "should" have in a particular area of your home.
Choose pieces and finishes that reflect what works best for you. Function and style can co-exist! 

Today I encourage you to think about your home in a different light. What possibilities could exist if you disregard the intended purpose and start to envision your room as a space that serves your unique needs? Instead of trying to force a space to be something that doesn't fit you or your lifestyle, embrace the freedom to make your home your own! 

Paleo Recipe - Dairy Free Broccoli "Bisque"

This broccoli soup is decadent yet it is dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo

Whether you already love broccoli or are trying to find delicious ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, this dairy-free broccoli soup is a crowd-pleaser that I make year round. The soup tastes completely decadent, yet it is dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo.  The secret? Its creamy texture comes from cashews. The first time I made this broccoli soup my husband could not believe that it was not loaded with cream. We both felt almost guilty helping ourselves to seconds. Fortunately, we came to our senses. Trust me - it's that good. 

Paleo Dairy-Free Gluten Free Broccoli Soup

Ingredients
*The amounts listed below makes approximately four large bowls of soup.
Broccoli - (4) Large Crowns - I also use the majority of the stalk
Carrots - (6) Large
Celery - (3) stalks
Garlic - (2) Cloves
Yellow Onion - (1) Medium
Dried Dill - (1/2) Teaspoon
Unsalted Cashews - (3/4) Cups
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Water - (3) Cups
Vegetable Bouillon (I like the Rapunzel brand with herbs) - (2) Cubes
Plain Unsweetened Almond Milk (optional) as needed

Imprecise Instructions
1. Chop the veggies into chunks . Since you'll eventually blend all of the ingredients together this can be a quick, rough chop. Just make sure the pieces are roughly of similar size so they cook evenly.

2. Add water and bouillon to a large stock pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the bouillon. I usually start with 3 cups of water and 2 cubes bouillon.  The water should mostly cover the vegetables. Alternately you could choose to boil the vegetables in almond milk. Once the liquid is boiling and the bouillon is dissolved, add the vegetables, dill, salt, and pepper to the pot. The bouillon has salt so you don't need to add much and can always wait to add additional salt at the end. Stir occasionally and boil until soft. 

3. Once the ingredients are easily pierced with a fork it's time to blend the soup and add the cashews. You can use a blender (I'm partial to the Vitamix - nothing gets the vegetables mixed and whipped like this masterful machine), food processor, or immersion blender. For a blender or food processor, add the cashews first so they are closest to the blades. I usually keep a small portion of the liquid out and add as I blend. This soup is supposed to be thick. You can always add more liquid but you can't take it away! If you find yourself without enough liquid, add more water or almond milk. The more you make this broccoli soup the better idea you'll get of the amount of liquid to use to achieve your desired consistency. 

And now it's time to eat! 

Cashews give this soup it's creamy texture but feel free to experiment with other types of nuts or even adding other vegetables. I think the next time I make this I might add some spinach. I'll see how it goes - as I always do in my kitchen :)

Color Crush: Blush Pink

Versatile Color Combinations for Blush Pink

Spring is here and it's the perfect time to celebrate the many ways to incorporate blush pink into your home décor. Pantone, the world-renowned authority on color, named Rose Quartz, a blush pink, one of the colors of the year. While blush pink has been identified as trending, I think it's a very classic and versatile hue. Using Benjamin Moore paint colors, I've created five color palettes centered on blush pink to get you started.

Benjamin Moore Blush Pink Tissue Pink Color Combinations Pantone

The blush pink shown in the color palettes is Benjamin Moore paint color Tissue Pink (1163).
Pairing colors are listed below.

Pairing 1 - Neutrals
A crisp white and a deep warm gray take blush pink from sweet to sophisticated. Pairing black with blush pink is also a classic combination. 
Benjamin Moore - Dragon's Breath (1547)
Benjamin Moore - Cloud White (967)

Pairing 2 - Coral & Bright Pink
The orange undertones of coral and a sugary punch of pink makes this soft pink look fresh and feminine.
Benjamin Moore - Coral Gables (2010-40)
Benjamin Moore - Pink Popsicle (2001-40)

Pairing 3 - Hunter & Spring Green
Add a masculine touch to blush pink with hunter green. Alternately, channel warmer weather ahead with a yellow-based spring green.
Benjamin Moore - Peale Green (HC-121)
Benjamin Moore - Spring Meadow (486)

Pairing 4 - Navy & Light Blue
Go bold with navy for high contrast or go light and pair blush pink with a pastel blue. In 2016, for the first time ever, Pantone selected two colors of the year. What color did Pantone choose to pair with Rose Quartz? Serenity, a light blue.
Benjamin Moore - Hale Navy (HC-154)
Benjamin Moore - Sweet Innocence (2125-60)

Pairing 5 - Burgundy or Eggplant
The brown undertones of burgundy and eggplant add a layer of warmth of coziness to blush pink.
Benjamin Moore - Fresco Urbain (1253)
Benjamin Moore - New London Burgundy (HC-61)

Light pink is so often associated with baby girl rooms. While that is certainly one way to incorporate the color into your home, I hope I've shown you how adaptable the hue can be. How would you choose to utilize blush pink? Do you have a favorite color combination? 

Kitchen Organization Tips for an Efficient Morning

Organize Your Kitchen for an Efficient Morning Routine

Is your lack of kitchen organization slowing you down in the morning? I used to think it was tough to get myself out the door on time in the morning, but now that I have a toddler to get to preschool, mornings are even more chaotic. I've always been an organized person but more and more I am finding that calming the chaos in the physical space will calm the chaos in your daily routines. These kitchen organization tips are about using the space you have in the most efficient way possible - no kitchen remodeling required!

Kitchen Organization Tips

1. Store Items in the Order in Which They are Used
In this first step, consider how you move throughout the kitchen as you prep for the day. What is the sequence of items accessed? Utilize this information to inform where things are placed within the kitchen. For example, I keep all of our zip lock bags and lunch containers in a drawer directly adjacent to the refrigerator. As I'm pulling together food for the day I have everything I need on hand. There is no walking this way and that. Our kitchen is not large but the back and forth (especially when navigating around a toddler that wants to be picked up and a dog looking for crumbs) can really slow you down!

2. A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
I can't stress this enough. Select a spot for every item in your kitchen and always put it back in the exact same spot. You'll be able to function on autopilot as you grab for ingredients, utensils, etc. It might sound extreme but I even have a spot for where the honey goes - bottom shelf of the pantry, next to the vanilla extract. This also makes prepping for grocery shopping so easy. With a quick scan of the shelves and the refrigerator I can immediately pick out if there are staples missing that need to be replenished.

3. Eliminate Multiples & Items You Don't Use
If you have multiples of items that you don't need or use, give them the boot! Not only are they taking up valuable space, they are additional items to sort through to get to the things that you actually do use. Which leads me to my next tip....

4. Toss Broken Items & Replace with New
If something only works half of the time you're going to spend a lot of wasted energy, and become frustrated, when said item is out of service. And as you know, things tend to not work when you are the most pressed for time. Make a list of what needs to be replaced and head to Target or Amazon. The second part of this is to toss, donate, or recycle the old items.  I often find that after a replacement is purchased, the damaged version is kept as a back up. If it's broken or not in service it's not really a back up. Clutter is only going to slow you down.

5. If Something is Not Used on a Consistent Basis, Store it Outside of the Main Space or Donate
Take stock of what you use infrequently, especially if you are short on space, and find these items a home in an alternate area such as the basement, under the stairs, etc. Even if you have enough space in the main kitchen area, I still recommend separating the infrequently used items from the frequently used items in the pursuit of efficiency.  These could be items such as a bread maker or holiday-themed servingware, but I also encourage you to look for other items that might be getting in your way. For example, my spice drawer only contains my favorite staples. Spices that I use infrequently I keep in the pantry. That way, when I'm cooking I don't have to sort through extras. Re-evaluate periodically if you do store the items out of sight. If you haven't used an item in a year it's time to donate.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to efficient kitchen organization? Do you have any tips that help you move through the kitchen with ease?

Paleo Recipe - Shaved Fennel and Radicchio Salad

Combine Crunchy Fennel and Spicy Radicchio for a Delicious Paleo Side Salad

This Paleo salad, featuring shaved fennel and radicchio, is the perfect excuse to play with the new mandoline slicer I recently purchased. I enjoy the crunch fennel adds to a recipe but the flavor can be a bit intense. Slicing the fennel very thinly mellows and incorporates the flavor into the overall dish. If you don't have a mandoline slicer you can also just use your chef's knife to create thin slices.

Ingredients
Fennel
Radicchio
*A good balance is (2) parts fennel to (1) part radicchio
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
Fresh Chives
Green Onions
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Imprecise Instructions
1. Chop bulb of fennel off from fronds (the wispy top that looks like dill). Remove outermost layer of blub. Slice off bottom of radicchio and also remove the outermost layers.
Note: The fronded top of the fennel has the strongest licorice or anise taste of the entire vegetable. I personally find this part of the vegetable to be overwhelming but if you enjoy this flavor you can experiment with sprinkling in some of the fronds.

2. Using a mandoline slicer or chef's knife thinly shave or slice the fennel and radicchio.

3. Dice the parsley, chives, and green onions. Combine with fennel and radicchio in a mixing bowl.

4. In a separate container prepare the dressing by mixing the lemon juice (I prefer freshly squeezed if possible), olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and taste until the flavor balance suits your liking. Pour dressing over other ingredients. If time allows, dress this salad and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so. This allows the fennel to soften a bit and soak up the flavors.

And that's it! This is a perfect Paleo side salad to add to a meal. It can also be made into a main dish by tossing in spinach and grilled chicken. A sprinkling of sliced almonds adds another layer of crunch. If you aren't familiar with the philosophy behind The Imprecise Cook, click here to read the full story.

Everyday Upgrade - Coffee Mugs

My 5 Favorite Coffee Mugs for a Beautiful Morning
 

If you read my recent post, Don't Wait to Live Well: Elevate Your Everyday Life, you know I love a good cup of coffee. On mornings when I have a few extra minutes there is no greater pleasure that sitting down and drinking the coffee from a real coffee mug as opposed to running out the door with a to-go thermos. There is something about the warmth of the cup, sitting enjoying the view of my backyard, and maybe even sneaking a peak at a favorite design blog like Design Sponge. I prefer a large cup with a wide mouth, a handle that is easy to grasp, and a contour that fits the curve of my hand. I like to have a matching set for when I host a breakfast or brunch but when it comes to an everyday mug I prefer to have a variety of styles and designs so that I can select one that suits the mood of the day. Below is a round-up of my current favorites.

Anthropologie is one of my go-tos for beautiful coffee and tea cups. They offer a variety of beautiful designs, are great for everyday use, and they make great gifts. The painterly flora on the Paradise Found Cup and Saucer immediately caught my eye. I probably wouldn't use the saucer for coffee but it would be the perfect backdrop of an afternoon treat.

I'm also eyeing up the Latte Mug from Anthropologie. They are the perfect size and shape and the range of gorgeous colors offers something for everyone.  A lover of all things pink the Peach color is an obvious first choice but I also am drawn to the sophisticated Squid Ink color.

The Short Black and White Mug from March SF feels like a little piece of modern art in the form of a cup. This dishwasher safe, stonewear mug is made in San Francisco by local artisan Len Carella.

What the Faux Bois Mug from Brika lacks in color it makes up in texture.

I typically choose mugs with handles but I would make an exception for the sculptural Saturn Tumbler by Alli Walker. Named for the Saturn-like ring around the middle for resting your hands, this porcelain mug is handmade and finished with an soft, Celadon green glaze.

Whether you are a coffee or a tea drinker, what are your ideal attributes in a mug?