Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Required Reading: Lauren Conrad's "Celebrate"

I have an obsession with Lauren Conrad that started way back in her Laguna Beach days, followed her throughout the ugly crying days of The Hills, and now prompts me to stalk her website daily.  I once heard her referred to as the Martha Stewart of our generation - a description that suits her perfectly!

Today, LC's latest tome, Celebration, is finally available for purchase! I've been anxiously awaiting this pre-order for a while now, and I for one am so excited to dive head-first into her entertaining tips. Check out this sneak peek on the anatomy of a great cheese board - I love nothing more than a good cheese board!

She also has shared some of her fave flower arranging tips as a little teaser to the full book. I have never thought of No. 4 before, but it is a total game-changer! I wouldn't expect anything less than perfection from LC, and I'm sure this new book won't disappoint!

Image via Lauren Conrad 

Have any of you purchased this book yet? What do you think? 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Best Quiche of Your Life

No Really, this is literally THE best ever!

My mom has always been a fabulous quiche-chef, and I have gratefully just let her do her thang.  Never tried to help or anything because I have always found quiches intimidating - kind of like soufflé  (which is next on my list of french recipes to master).  I set a list of goals for myself this Spring (see this post), and mastering the perfect quiche was one of them!

I watched a Julia Child video, read several recipes, and channeled my inner french girl to come up with the perfect recipe. It is equal parts gourmet chef (Gruyere makes everything seem a little fancier) and busy gal (hello, freezer section pie crust) which is the perfect combo for beginners.

It tastes just as delicious three days later as it does fresh out of the oven, so it is a wonderful week-night dinner for those of us who are too busy to cook a huge meal at the end of a long work day.  I also recently baked one tart for myself and Mark, and brought the other tart to my friend Lanie who had broken her arm and was out of cooking commission.  Whether you decide to be selfish (I won't blame you) or to share, this quiche is one you won't forget! Without further ado, here she is:

The Best Quiche of Your Life

Makes: 2 tarts, serves 8
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

1 package frozen pie crust  (2 crusts) I prefer Pillsbury
8 large eggs or 10 small eggs
4 cups Half & Half  (use non-fat, and you will never know the difference)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
6 slices of bacon, diced
1.5 cups (roughly 1 carton) mushrooms of your choice (I chose baby portabella)
1 medium white onion, finely diced
2 cups freshly grated gruyere or cheese of your choice (Cheddar will work nicely as well, just make sure it is freshly grated!)

2 pie pans
Cooking spray
Cheese grater
Pie weights (or 1 bag of dried beans wrapped in aluminum foil)

Step 1:

  • Preheat your oven to 425

Step 2: 

  • Roll your crust out onto a greased pie pan.
  • Press the crust into the edges of your pan gently.
  • Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork (to allow air to escape).
  • Add your pie weights or dried beans and foil. This step is crucial, as it keeps your sides from caving in, and also keeps the bottom of the crust from rising. I used beans, and it worked just fine! Julia Child used beans, and she claimed to use the same bean package over and over again.

Step 3: 

  • Bake your crust at 425 for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Remove the beans and bake for another 3 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and set aside. Lower your heat to 375.
  • I always enjoy when people tell me WHY I need to do these crazy things while cooking, so I'll explain.  Pre-baking your crust yields a much crispier crust than if you just bake it along with the egg mixture.  If you wait to bake the entire thing, your crust will be soggy on the bottom (yuck).

Step 4: 

  • In your large skillet, sauté the mushrooms, bacon and onions together until the bacon is crisp and the onions have caramelized.  
  • No need for butter or oil, your bacon grease will be enough!

Step 5: 

  • Whisk together eggs, half & half, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  • You may add some fresh rosemary or thyme if you are into that!

Step 6: 

  • Assemble your team!
  • Pour half of your bacon mixture into one pie crust, half into the other.
  • Evenly distribute your egg mixture on top of the bacon mixture.
  • Sprinkle 1 cup of gruyere on top of each tart. 

Step 7:

  • Pop into the oven at 375 for 35(ish) minutes.
  • Your quiche is ready if you can insert a fork into the center and pull it out clean.  
  • You want a fluffy, almost scrambled egg consistency, not runny! 

Step 8: 

  • Allow your quiche to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Cut into 4 slices and serve!

For Dinner: 
Serve with a mixed green salad and a glass of sauvignon blanc!

For Breakfast: 
Serve with fresh fruit and mimosas!

Veggie Option: 
replace bacon with asparagus - yum!

Bon Appétit!
Xx Ivy 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Contemporary Palace for a Modern-day Princess

I came across this Parisian home tour on Elle Decor a while back and just have not been able to stop thinking about it!

The opulence of Jean-Louis Denoit's design for a young Middle Eastern Princess is something most of us can only dream of.  The gilded 1970s touches, the aqua tinted silk rugs, the fabulous lighting, and of course the bespoke mosaic marble flooring - this is the stuff my dreams are made of people! Shockingly, there isn't one ounce of pink in this abode - this is no disney princess, but rather a chic, sophisticate young woman (I mean - check out her closet!).  I've determined that rather than envy this glamorous home-owner, it is better to simply emulate her style (in a much more budget-friendly manner, of course).  Below, my top ten princess-worthy purchases:

1) Johnathan Adler Rider Etagere $2,995

2) West Elm Metal Frame Upholstered Chair in "Celestial Blue" $499

3) CB2 Vega Flushmount $249

4) Zena Side Table - One Kings Lane $1759 - love the aqua shagreen!

5) Mark & Graham Hexagon Ice Bucket $125

6) AERIN Hampton wall sconce via Circa Lighting $315

7) Nate Berkus for Target Gold Gem Box $16.99

8) Another Fabulous Nate for Target find - Gold geometric taper Candle Holder $14.99

9) Williams Sonoma Home Tetra Pieced Hide Rug - From $2995

10) Nassau Glassware - starting at $65

I hope this little lust-list has inspired you to treat your home like the palace it is!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wedding Wednesday - The Modern Gal Selects her China Pattern

As we gear up for the busy wedding season ahead, I'd like to give my advice to those brides who are  selecting their first china pattern.  Too often, formal dinner china is overlooked by brides of our generation for various reasons - the most common of which is "I'll never use it".  I'm here to squash that myth and to offer up some helpful tips when selecting something that will likely stay with you for the rest of your life!
  • Shop without presumptions 
For years I dreamed of registering for China. When asked what patterns I leaned toward, I said without fail, "Herend's Queen Victoria".  Elegant, classic, feminine.  Just what I thought my formal china should be.  Boy, was I wrong!  On registry day, I proudly marched my mother over to the Herend display to show her my choice.  "Lovely" she said, "But just not very... you".  My aunt was with us and she agreed that while gorgeous, it felt a little too formal for my personality. 

I was quite disappointed. For someone who has been dreaming of china registry their whole life, this was the equivalent of her not liking my wedding dress! Ok, maybe that's going a little too far, but you get the point.  We started from scratch, and began to look at other lines.  My eyes settled on Mottahedeh's Tobacco Leaf, and I was smitten!  It's colorful, whimsical, and has a very Asian influence - perfection! It just goes to show you that a second set of eyes is invaluable when making your selection.

  • Involve your Fiancé
Mine had no interest in this aspect of our gift registry - he wanted to register at Bass Pro... can you imagine?  However, I did see many couples shopping for china together, which I found lovely. At the very least, keep your future spouse in mind - Mark would have hated something too feminine, so I made sure to steer clear of anything with too much pink. If you select something that you both love, you will be more inclined to use it!  This advice goes for the rest of your registry as well - involving your future spouse in the selection process is a must, especially if they will be the chef in the family!
  • It's about the mix, not the match
Gone are the days of matching your dinner plate to your dessert, to your charger, to your bread and so forth - or so I found out.  I learned that layering your dinnerware is a lot like layering fabrics in your home - start with a focal pattern, and draw color and pattern inspiration from it.  After selecting the Tobacco Leaf pattern, I determined that I would use that as my dessert plate and select something different for my dinner plate and charger.  I selected L'Objet's Aegean Filet Gold for the dinner plate, and I love how the delicate gold scallops lend a contemporary edge to the more floral Tobacco Leaf.  Finally, I selected four different colors of chargers - pink, orange, green, and powder blue - to coordinate with the colors in the dessert plate. I set the table with all four colors at one time for a very fun, festive look!

  • Consider a monogram
Nothing is more exciting when you get married than using your new monogram - I love monogramming things with mine and my husband's initials, and cherished any gift I received with my new last name. Consider a china pattern that allows you to add your monogram to the center of each dish - ask your local specialist, many shops have at least one line that will offer this.  A monogram can also be incorporated into your linens - never too many in my book!

  • In with the old!
I know a few lucky women who have inherited china from their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc.  If this is your lot in life, make the most of it, and add in some touches that represent your style and personal flavor.  A colorful dinner plate, or a metallic edged charger will modernize your inherited treasures and make them your own!

  • Have fun with it
China gets a bad reputation for being a boring, old, stuffy wedding tradition from the days when it was included in a woman's dowry (as if!).  Our mothers' generation was taught that their best china was reserved for only holidays and extra-special dinners.  Just because something is beautiful and well-made does not mean it needs to be stuffed back into a cabinet only to be pulled out on Thanksgiving - living well means using your best items everyday.  Select something you enjoy, and you'll get a smile every time you pull it out - you may even find yourself eating Chinese takeout on your new set of dishes... and I won't blame you!


Dessert Plate
Dinner Plate
Place mats: Vintage, similar here
Monogrammed Napkins: Vintage, similar here
Gold Bamboo Flatware: Estate sale, similar here
** We opted out of registering for traditional silver, and I adore the vintage gold set I already had.
Wine glasses
Gold Candlesticks: Vintage, similar here
Glass Candlesticks
Napkin Rings: these were a gift, similar here
Colorful Taper Candles - Never use scented candles on your dinner table - they will overwhelm the food!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring To-Do List

Signs of Spring - Blossoms in our backyard

Spring has officially sprung around here, and I am loving the beautiful warm weather!  I don't know about you, but this time of year usually inspires me to tackle the long list of projects around my house that I've been putting off all Winter.

1) Refinish this little Craigslist dresser I found for our guest room.  Poor Mark uses the closets in this room (I have shamelessly taken over the master closets), and he needs some good storage. I love it's retro 60's lines and brass hardware - will look fabulous in a creamy white lacquer!

2) Replace the ceiling fans (dust traps) in guest room and office with flush mounts. Does anyone else have a husband who refuses to get rid of the ceiling fan in the bedroom? I can't stand 'em!

3) Have a small cafe curtain made for our kitchen window. I'm thinking of using this Jessica Zoob for Black Edition fabric!

4) Plant creeping Ivy along the front side of our house - I love a brick exterior crawling with vines. Oh, and while we're at it, I'd love to paint our trim white... We'll see if I can convince my other half to tackle that one.
Image via Pinterest

5) Install new front door hardware & a peep hole - why it has taken us so long to do this, I have no clue.

6) Bi-annual garage clean-out. I try to do this once in the spring and once in the fall when the weather is nice enough to be outside all day!

7) Learn to make the perfect quiche! I'm not usually into the whole "breakfast for dinner" thing, but quiche is a different story! How hard can it be? I've been watching this video of Julia Child for inspiration!
Image via Martha Stewart 

8) Plant an herb garden - If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen by now that I got a jump-start on this portion of the list yesterday! I planted rosemary, mint, basil, and thyme in a little pot outside our back door.

9) Overhaul our guest bedroom. It needs help badly!  Will do a long post on this transformation soon.

10) Host a spring cocktail hour for my girlfriends - Raspberry Mojitos anyone?? I saw Heather Christo speak at a luncheon a few years ago, and have been obsessed with all of her recipes ever since!

What are your spring honey-do's?


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Designer Crush: Kit Kemp

Once in a while (every night when I'm trying to go to sleep), I fall down the rabbit hole of Instagram and stumble upon some pretty fabulous inspiration.  This week, I've been stalking images of the Kit Kemp designed Firmdale Hotels in New York and London. Kit's gorgeous mix of colorful textiles and whimsical details has led her to collaborate with AnthropologieChristopher Farr, and Wedgwood - suffice to say, she is a genius!

Let's just say, not only do I have major headboard envy (girl has serious game), but I am now scheming up a trip to visit some of these fantastic creations.  Without further delay... some eye candy for your Thursday!

All image courtesy of Firmdale Hotels 

Who wants to plan a trip to London with me? 


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Petite Powder Bath

Last week, I shared the before pics of our house.  Arguably the most dated room was the tiny powder bath - Between the brown golfer wallpaper, the wood toiled seat, and the ancient utilitarian sink, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

This teeny tiny bathroom is attached to our utility room, which is just off the kitchen. Mark tried to convince me to rip out the bathroom and enlarge the utility room, but I knew I wanted keep it. Not only does an additional 1/2 bath provide us with a bit of resale value, but I also know that the kitchen is the heart of the home.  True story, when we have friends over to our house now, the majority of them end up in the kitchen.  Having this little bathroom is super convenient, not only for guests, but for us as well when we are cooking, etc.  So I won, and it stayed.

You can barely see, but the entire utility room and bath had the same standard 12x12 ceramic tile that had been used in the kitchen. Yuck yuck yuck!  I will do a post on our kitchen later, but for the sake of this makeover story,  I will say that we ripped that all out and went with a beautiful hardwood with a custom gray stain.  Again, Bryan helped us with this project, and we saw several samples before choosing "the one". We decided to carry the hardwood into the laundry and the teeny bath (continuity makes a space appear larger), which went a long way in terms of sprucing up the space.  Next, we had the vanity cabinet painted a glossy black and added brass hardware (same hardware as in our kitchen).  Finally, we replaced the nasty wood toilet - out with the old!

By this point we lacked the energy to complete the transformation - the kitchen and living spaces made up the bulk of our "phase 1" project.  We lived with the bath in a state of limbo for about 1 year.  We had other things to focus on, like this small thing called OUR WEDDING! When we arrived home from our honeymoon, I was newly refreshed and inspired to dive back into this tiny space. I was also suffering from a little bit of post-wedding-boredom.  Full disclosure: I got so sick of looking at the linoleum counter top, I attempted to rip it out myself... only to come to a screeching halt when I realized I had no idea what I was doing! A quick call to Bryan later, we were on our way again.

(I didn't get very far on my own, trust me.)

One of my favorite ways to save a bit on countertops is to visit the remnant section of your local slab yard where you can choose beautiful pieces at discounted prices, provided that they fit within your size constraints.  We chose a white Carrara marble and had it cut to fit my favorite sink ever.  Cool story here - the store I work for, 30A Home, is currently in the midst of a massive remodel - we are taking over an entire corner property in Oklahoma City that was once a legal office.  The former owner apparently had quite thing for wet bars and included one in several offices in the building. I ended up rescuing two of these brass sinks from certain death-by-dumpster.


(after a little Brasso + Elbow Grease)

I polished my new treasure up with some brasso and had Bryan undermount it.  We selected this hardware for the simple fact that it felt petite and perfectly in scale with the small little sink.

Next, we installed Schumacher's Haruki Sisal grasscloth in the most gorgeous shade of lavender to three out of four walls. The wall behind the vanity got a custom-cut mirror, which afforded the room a teeny bit more space - even if only by optical illusion.

Finally, I replaced the dated sconce with Aerin's Lynn Wall Light in antique brass and had it mounted on top of the mirror.  This light initially got a "Gross! Flowers?" reaction from the man in my house, but I ordered it anyway, and he actually liked it much better in person - better to ask for forgiveness than permission!  It looks perfect, and I love how the little glass flowers reflect in the mirror behind it and throw sparkle all around the room.

All-in-all, we are so pleased with the way this petite powder bath turned out! Our house was built in the 60s, so a little nod to that era of design works well in my opinion.  I'm now proud to show friends to the restroom rather than embarrassed, and I must admit, I wish this was our master! Someday...



Grasscloth: Schumacher, Haruki Sisal in Lavender
Sink Hardware: Kingston Brass
Sink: vintage, similar here
Cabinet hardware: Rejuvenation
Hand towel: Etsy
Tissue holder: Bebe's, Oklahoma City
Framed charcoal sketch: vintage, similar here
Watercolor: Picked up in the Loire Valley on our honeymoon from a charming French gentleman