The Kitchen Before and After

Thursday, March 5, 2015

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and around here that statement could not right truer.  Right off our living area, it is a space that we spend all our waking hours in, and I'm happy to report that out of all the spaces in our home the kitchen is definitely the space that has changed the most. From top to bottom, it is completely different than the day we moved in, and it is so unique to my taste that waking up to it every day really does bring such joy into my life.

None of this should be surprising since all the decisions from the "before" were made only by asking the question "what is best for resale?"  At the time we had no idea how long we were going to stay in our home, and we closed the actual week that the mortgage industry collapsed, so there was a big part of me that wondered whether or not we would be able to afford our space for the long term.  At the time we were in an ARM, which thank goodness is now a fixed, but not knowing anything about any of this, my biggest concern was always that we would be able to sell quickly if we needed to sell.  Your first home purchase can be so overwhelming and looking back (with the gift of hindsight) I see that so much of the early decisions that we made were coming more from a place of fear than from a place of creating a space we would love.  Our early meetings basically went like this, "cherry is the most popular finish for resale - okay, we will take it." Gray granite sells really well -okay, we will take it," and so on.  Not one thought was given to our likes or dislikes, and I don't know why I was so surprised when our home turned out feeling a little generic.  Clearly, I have done a 180 in that department, and since we are sure we are never selling our condo, even if we move, that freedom is what now guides my choices and in the end if I'm the only one who likes my hand painted  tile, that doesn't matter one bit.

The kitchen makeover started slowly, and then hit full throttle towards the end.  First it was painting out the accent wall (a suggestion from our friend who is an incredible designer), then the addition of the tile which I was able to get deeply discounted through my dad.  The lighting came next, followed by what I thought was going to be just a quick paint job on the cabinets that quickly turned in to new knobs, and new counters.  I'd say everything but the kitchen sink was changed, but that too got a new look with a cheap replacement sink and faucet that I got from Home Depot at the 11th hour.  The truth is that the mini-reno itself was fast, and not something I'd ever want to repeat.  I went with someone based on price, and not reputation and in the end I ended up having to pay someone to re-paint the re-paint.  It was a good lesson for me, and in the long run I ended up getting the kitchen of my dreams, even if I lost some of my sanity in the process.  The after couldn't be more different from the before, and in this case that is an incredibly good thing!

Without further ado...


6 Favorite Side Dishes

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I've mentioned here before that I typically do a big grocery shop on Sunday or Monday of each week so I can avoid the daily "what's for dinner question" that always pops into my head around 4:00pm.  Lately, because of the snow and school holidays I've been meal shopping a lot more frequently and because the kids have been home so much I've been selecting dinners based on how little prep time is needed.  At least four times a week now, I run into Whole Foods and make a bee line to the seafood section.  Typically they have fish marinating,  and if not they will do it for you in the spot.  You meat eaters have it even better, and I am constantly blown away by all the different options they always have in the case... chicken marinating or breaded, meatballs galore, even meatloaf!

Gone are the days of making big pots of soup around here so after I square away our protein, I will then hit the prepared soup section and grab a quart or two for the week.  Sometimes I pair it with a salad, but more and more it's the sides that I've really been focusing on.  By mixing those up daily,  I don't even seem to mind that I'm having salmon 4x a week, because depending on the side it takes on a whole different feeling.  I've found myself repeating the same six, which are all easy and delicious, and I figured there are more than a few out there in the same boat.  Most of these are great in the warmer months, and lately we've had so many leftovers I been happily eating them for lunch the next day or two.

A good side is hard to find.  Here are six that I just can't get enough of.

Roasted Broccoli with Almonds, Lemon and Pecorino Cheese


Curried Cauliflower Soup
Parmesan Lemon Zucchini 

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas With Lemon Dijon Dressing

French Lentil and Vegetable Salad
For when you are really in a pinch or need some variety there are two easy sides that I LIVE by.  The first is so simple, you just take a bag of frozen corn and spread it out on a baking sheet in a single later, coat with olive oil and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle a generous helping of salt and pepper and let me tell you this is the BEST way to have corn.  It's so easy and so inexpensive. Sometimes I add a little feta cheese or cilantro, but even on its own you will be amazed at how good it is!

The second simple side is made by taking a pack of baby kale (found by the fresh bagged spinach) and simply putting it in a skillet over medium heat.  First you sauté a little chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, and as soon as the garlic is fragrant add in the kale.  After a few minutes the kale will be wilted and you are good to go after a sprinkle of salt.  You can also throw in some mushrooms while the kale is sautéing or add a squeeze of lemon at the end.  From start to finish this takes about 3 minutes and you are left with a healthy and elegant side.

Bon appétit!

P.S. If you want more, here are some other great recipe posts from this series.
6 favorite fish recipes
8 favorite kale recipes
6 favorite vegetarian pasta recipes
7 asian inspired dinners

Spring Beauty Inspiration: Alexa Chung

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


One of the biggest trends for Spring that I am seeing everywhere is a return to 60's inspired fashion.  From top to bottom, fringe hair and bangs (please do not let me cut bangs) to fringe on clothing and wide legged pants, to clogs.  Yes, clogs.  Guys, get ready because what's old is new again and to this day I'm kicking myself for not forcing my mother to save some of the clothes from her youth.  A hippie through and though, let me tell you she had some good good wears that I can guarantee you would be just as relevant now as they were then!

I know it feels like we've gone though this for the last decade with the whole "bohemian chic movement" but from where I sit, this new 60's girl is a lot more modern, and tailored... we are talking mod 60's here, not flower girl 60's.  Think Jane Birkin or Bridget Bardot.  She likes thick eyeliner, a modern take on a bellbottom jean (these are my absolute favorite which I bought almost 5 years ago and still wear every season) with a cool leather jacket, or tailored blazer over a striped bateau top  with a leather fringe bag.  Cool, and put together but with a little edge.  No one better exemplifies this look than Alexa Chung.  She pretty much has the market cornered when it comes to perfectly mixing the Mod 60's with the fashion of now.  I'm always so inspired by how much her personality shines through in all her looks and I can think of no one better to be my new spring muse. 

Okay, she's adorable, there is no doubt but I have to say as great as her style is, it's really her makeup that takes things to the next level.  Since giving up mascara and finding my intense love affair with eyeliner, I have been so drawn to her overall look and more and more I'm opting for heavy eyeliner on a minimal face. Who better to take eyeliner tips from than the woman who seems to have perfected the modern Bridget Bardot, Chung's makeup artist herself.  Here she talks liquid eyeliner and I was thrilled to see she included my current favorite as well.  Getting the product is half the battle, right?  Now that you have your liner, how do you get that incredible winged look?  There is a video detailing just that  (you can bet I've been playing this one while I attempt the style myself.)  As if that wasn't good enough, I found this great video on how to get her entire 60's inspired look

Spring is almost here... I think I can, I think I can! 

Monday Links.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Did you all have a nice weekend?  Mine went down as one of the best ever (no surprises there) and I can't even begin to tell you how nice it was to get away from EVERYTHING and just relax.  This time of year Martha's Vineyard was almost unrecognizable and because of the snow and lack of tourists the entire town was so quiet... it truly was heavenly.  Quiet is the exact opposite of my everyday life, which in and of itself is amazing, but then you throw in my best girl, a few bottles of wine, some exercise and meditation classes, and SLEEP (like actual uninterrupted sleep), I can't even put in to words how much more relaxed and recharged I feel.  My boys had a great time together, and knowing that I can go away and not have the world fall apart was so eye-opening for me, it has completely changed the way I look at my daily life.   As a mother, I often forget that I am part of the equation, and that I also have needs.  I feel so much more inspired to take time for myself, and to speak up when I need something after this weekend.  Constantly giving is exhausting, and my whole family recognized that I was in desperate need of a break.  I arrived home last night right before bed, and the sense of calm inside me resonated with my whole family and so far we have had the most seamless bed-time, wake-up, and out the door to school routines.  I realize it's only been one day, but you can bet I'm going to try to hold on to this zen like feeling as long as I can! 
... and now it's Monday and that means it's back to the grind.  Here are a few fun links from around the web to help us all ease into the week! xx

This pretty much best thing I've ever read.  10 mothers, one story.  Intense, raw, and so moving.  

Speaking of models here's how to look like a J.Crew fashion model.  Just look at your phone? Okay, I've perfected that one!

Ikea's new furniture can wirelessly charge your phone! What a genius idea for a desk! 

A student loan debt revolt is beginning.  Both my husband and I know A LOT about student loans.  It will be interesting how this plays out. 

Did you all see these INSANE Instagram pictures from the Oscars

This letter from a mother to her son is so incredibly beautiful.  I love how they were inspired by another story that went viral.  There is so much information shared these days, it's nice to see how something you put out there can actually change the lives of a stranger. 

Do you all remember the dating book "The Rules?" Here is one woman's account of what happened when she followed it for three months

This weekend makeover which was done on a very tight budget is really mind blowing.  You all know I took more than a few notes on this one. 

Anthropologie is killing it with their swimwear this season.  I'm especially loving this, this and this one.  One pieces for the win!

A week or two ago I tried out this vegetarian kung pao recipe and it was so, so good.  Everyone gave it rave reviews!

The blogger who made 8 million dollars and inspired a Harvard case study.  Oh, she's also gorgeous!  Very inspiring. 

Finally, the LM was in such a fun "contest" at Orchard last week and there is a great highlight reel. Look for the little guy at the 1:10 mark.  For those of you who live in the area, I can't say enough good things about this shop and I know a lot of local business have been hit hard this winter.  These guys do so much for the kids around here, and they really take the average skate shop to a whole other level.  If you love state art, accessories, clothing, etc... you have to check them out!

The Bathrooms: Before and After

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oh, the bathrooms.

The bathrooms are the one place where I kick myself every time, because we actually bought our home pre-construction and at the time could have done anything with these spaces.  This was long before subway tile and marble were a trend, and when the tuscan look was still going strong.  By chance our master ended up looking more modern than the other two, but obviously if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would go a completely different direction!  Without ripping out the tile, there is only so much you can do in a bathroom, but I have to say paint and some beautiful shower curtains have gone a long way in these spaces.  With the curtains closed I don't even notice our previous missteps, but it is likely that if we live here another 6 years I may push for a mini renovation.   For now the rooms are fun, a little whimsical, and go perfectly with the other spaces in the home, and I am perfectly content with how they turned out. 



What a difference a coat of paint makes, right?  I like to call this my Golden Girl's bathroom, because it definitely has that Florida feel, and the paint and gallery wall (which spreads through the entire space) really detracts from that weird shiny tile in the back so much that I almost don't even notice it. 

The boy's bathroom, which is right off their bedroom, was the room that had the most challenges.  It is definitely in the tuscan vein, which would be fine if the rest of the house had the same feel, but it has forever stood out like a sore thumb.  The peach marble was completely my fault, because instead of picking the piece myself, I trusted a cell phone picture which turned out to be completely different than what we received.  People, ALWAYS see your marble/ granite in person!!!  I definitely learned this lesson the hard way.  This was a costly mistake and one we won't ever be making again.  Luckily, we had some butcher block and some paint left over when I re-did the kitchen, and it was just enough to swap out what was already existing.  That change, coupled with the bold shower curtain really gave that space new life, and a more modern feel. 

 Like most of you, I love the look of wallpaper, but just can't seem to ever justify the price, especially when it comes to a bathroom.  I had picked samples and had the space measured twice,  but when I saw a post on Pinterest  about stamping walls to save money I was so inspired that the next week I did just that!  I used a ruler and a laser leveler, and basically just went row by row, putting a pencil dot where the middle of the bee would be.  I then coated my stamp with gold paint and once the grid was done, and two hours later the entire room was finished!  I'll admit not every bee is perfect, but it gives the space a wallpaper feel and coupled with the star wars accessories it makes the room feel a little retro, like a kid who put some posters up over his mom's floral wallpaper.  The tub in there is incredibly deep, and surprisingly out of all the bathrooms, this is the one where I spend most of my time in. 



As I said before, our master bathroom was by far the best of them all.  White Cararra Marble, with matching penny tile.  A glass shower door with white subway tile.  Cherry cabinets, which aren't really my jam but actually look great in the space.  All we really needed was a little paint to give the space a WOW effect.  The now infamous Farrow & Ball Hague Blue did just that, and with some fun art, Kate which I found on ebay and that great print quoting Jenna Lyons from Posh and Prep made the space feel much more luxurious without any structural changes.  This room will never change in the future, and that makes me very happy. 



Most of us have rooms that we don't love, but that we don't hate enough to put in the money it would take for real change.  Those two bathrooms are just that for me.  My takeaway from all of this is that a solid paint job and some modern accessories can go incredibly far and since they cost so little there really is no reason not to give it a try yourself.  Dark gray, navy, and black can hide almost all sins and look incredible when paired with a simple white shower curtain.  The best part is, it's only paint so if you hate it you can always start over! 

Shop The Post

Guest Bath
Paint- Sherwin Williams Color Aloe in Ben Moore paint
Trash Bin (similar here)

Boy's Bathroom
Orange Furniture Piece was a purchase from Gilt, where diapers were stored in the nursery
Start Wars Nightlight (sold out)

Master Bath
Paint -Farrow and Ball Hague Blue
Jenna Print- Posh and Prep
Kate Moss Print from ebay

Tomorrow I'm heading off for a retreat with my best girl so I'll be scrambling to get the boys all set before I leave. My usual Weekend Links will be posted on Monday.  Stay tuned because next week I have a big (HUGE) announcement! I hope you have enjoyed the room tours so far, next week I'll be posting the kitchen and the boy's room. 

After photography by Sarah Winchester

Guest Room Before and After

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Our guest room transformation is probably my favorite of our house, not necessarily because of the dramatic difference in the room, but more so because for so long this was such a sad, sad room.  When we moved in to our home, the LM had just turned one and I was about 8 weeks pregnant with our second baby.  The upstairs room was smaller in size and we knew it would make a perfect nursery.  I had plans to turn it in to just that when I learned that I had miscarried somewhere along the way.  As devastating as this was, I was sure that soon we would be having another child, so I simply kept a pull-out sofa from our former residence in there in case we had guests.  After a few months I got tired of looking at the empty walls and eventually created a pseudo playroom for the LM which was great because I finally had a place to store the mountain of toys that come with a toddler.

I never wanted to touch the room until we had a baby, since at the time I was so sure would happen any day the "old fashioned way" and during the two years of infertility, 6 rounds of clomid, and 2 rounds of IVF, I basically just shut the door to the room and pretended like it didn't exist.  Consider me as the Elsa before my time (that's a Frozen reference for those of you without kids who haven't been forced to watch the film 20,000 times.)



Eventually I just let it all go (see what I did there ;)) and the happy ending is that we conceived our little Gray Gray during our IVF second transfer and I finally was able to fill the room with the love and joy it always deserved.  I won't go too into the nursery design, but again I roped in my mother-in-law to help me paint an accent wall (seriously, I need to send that woman a huge thank you) and at the last minute had the yellow stripes added. I think I might have actually been going in to labor as the paint was drying!  I would have painted the whole room in that navy (which is by Serena and Lily) but I was way too far into my pregnancy to make that kind of effort.  The room turned out better than I imagined and for three years it was the perfect spot for our early riser... as in it far away from the rest of us!

Once we made the decision to move the boys together I wasted no time in turning the space into the guest room of my dreams.  For real. After their first successful night together I took apart the crib and ordered the bed just so I couldn't turn back.  My sister, who is the closest person on earth to our family, lives an hour away and since she was kicked out of the LM's room I wanted to make sure that she would have a space in our home ASAP.  You long time readers know that I decided to take on the paint job myself, and as luck would have it my husband had just had surgery, and all four of us came down with the stomach flu in the middle of the project.  I had already painted over the accent wall and had to keep going before all my brushes dried, so against all odds I was able to finish painting the room and transforming the space in just four short days.  The second I washed out the last paintbrush and roller I looked at my husband and swore that's the last time I'd ever paint anything again.  So far I've stuck by that.

The design I was going for was clean, bright, with a Malibu Beach House sort of feel.  I knew I wanted to keep the stripes so I had to keep the rest of the room pretty neutral so it wouldn't be to juvenile.  I kept the personal effects to a minimum because I wanted it to have a hotel room feel.  Keeping that in mind, I cleaned out the closet from top to bottom and left only some white wood hangers, some of our linens, and a coffee pot for guests.  I probably would have picked up a terry robe if I thought my husband wouldn't have laughed at me for the rest of my life.

The room came together better than I imagined and I really thought it was prefect until I spent a night up there with a hacking cough and realized the bed was far to hard.  A quick stop on Amazon Prime for my absolute favorite product, and now it's just the best spot to sleep in the house.  Proof that you should always seep in your guest room before you have actual guests!   The curtains which remained from the nursery are black-out and I placed our "never leave home without it" noise machine behind the bed, and I'm not kidding when I say I beg to sleep up there!  It's as far away from the kids as you can be so on a Sunday morning it's just as close as you can get to a vacation!  On the wall opposite the bed (not pictured) I had a stunning Slim Arrons photograph printed on acrylic (such a great affordable framing option) and when you are lying in bed it really feels like you are looking out a window at the pool!

Okay, I'll stop fawning now and just let you all see the afters.

Master Bedroom Before and After

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I am so excited to share our master bedroom with you today, because as you will see the transformation could not be more dramatic!  When we purchased our home, the actual buying of our place nearly wiped us out and when I tell you we had almost nothing for the master bedroom, I mean we had almost nothing.  The year prior we had invested in a quality bed, but the rest of our furniture was from a friend which we purchased before they moved for a grand total of $50 dollars.  (Funny enough, with a new lacquered top and some new knobs, that dresser is the same dresser that is in the boys room).


To say the room was in need of a makeover is a vast understatement, it was just so plain and there was SO MUCH WOOD!  After our incredible friend offered up her designer discount, the next few years we began swapping out our well used pieces for some more quality ones.  The room was pretty much designed around the Eames chair, because well, it's an Eames chair, and the overall feeling I was going for in the end was moody and calming.  My mother-in-law and I painted the accent wall behind the bed dark (when I was very pregnant with gray) and after we had to re-do our floors and walls because a foundation leak I knew I wanted to carry the dark gray throughout the room.  I would read so much about how this can really make a space look smaller, because we get so much light in the room and it is already pretty large, I felt confident painting the whole space dark.


From there it was really playing around with accessories.  The art over the bed was the trickiest part, and when I finally moved the skateboards to the hallway and found that incredible print, the rest flowed from there.  When you have such a dark background, colors really pop, as does white so I tried to sprinkle both around liberally.  The richness really comes from the gold in the frames and sconces, and I even hung a few of my favorite necklaces off the frames to try to bring more of that lux feel in.  Because we had such a neutral space I felt like texture was very important and really played that up with the throw, the pillows in leather and Mongolian Lamb and the cow hide rug, which like leopard really is a neutral.  That crazy little stool was a unplanned purchase, but he adds so much whimsy to the space, I'm so glad I didn't pass him up.  As you can see, the bedding was difficult for me to settle on, but once I saw that gray/blue linen that was slightly lighter than the walls... I knew we were in business.

The after photos taken by the insanely talented Sarah Winchester pretty much speak for themselves so I'll let them do just that.  I included a source list at the bottom with quite a few similar items because these are definitely on the pricier side given that we were able to get them discounted through our dear friend.

Living Room Before and After

Monday, February 23, 2015

By now I know that most of you have seen the after shots from my Rue feature, but I'm sure there are very few of you who remember the way it looked before.  I'm talking before, before.  Before I ever read a design magazine, a blog or discovered Pinterest.  I'm talking the real before, like when I thought that everything should be brown and was terrified of color.  Before, when I was to afraid to paint anything for fear that it would decrease our home value.  Before we had enough money to spend on anything, let alone home furnishings. Yes, we are going way back. 6 years back to be exact. 

Here is exactly what our living room looked like the day we moved in, and to be honest about two years after that. 

Can you tell I thought "grown up" spaces should be brown?  It's crazy, I remember living in this space, and actually liking it.  Now, I see it for what it was, the first of many layers.  That's the thing with home design, unless you know exactly what you are doing and/or have about a ton of money to throw at it, you do things in stages.  I can't hate on this space too much, it was just the first layer of many more to come.

This was what the living room looked like about 2 years ago.  Better? Yes.  More layers, some art, some color... sure it's still brown but it's a nice space.  The problem was that the space still wasn't very "us."  In real life we are about as opposite as you can get from brown, and I wanted the space that we spend most of our waking hours in to reflect that.  Also, after nursing two kids on that sofa, we definitely had to make a choice... toss or save.  I went with save and you all know how wonderful that turned out.  

Now, the afters...

Weekend Links

Friday, February 20, 2015

What are you all up to this chilly weekend?  At this point we are all basically just surviving the cold, and crossing our fingers for no more snow!  The Little Man and I are going to brave the sub zero temps to hit the mountain for some skiing tomorrow, and my husband gently reminded me that there are only a few weekends left in the season.  Part of me is a little sad about this, but the other (much bigger part) cannot wait for Spring to get here!  Whatever your plans, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  Here are a few fun links from around the web to start the weekend off right  (apologies for the heavy NYT content, but I really enjoyed them all!)

I'll be back next week with our room by room home tour! xx

The most accurate piece I've seen about what it's like living in a city buried in snow. 

... and this one just for fun. Well, as fun as mountains of snow can be. 

Instagram and middle schoolers, not a great combination.  It's hard for me to fathom what it's even like growing up during this technology age... it was hard enough when we just had lockers and school dances.  Right now the LM is in an all boys school and I'm hoping we can skip so much of this.  Hoping being the operative word. 

How one tweet can ruin your life.  I found this to be such a fascinating read. 

Monica Lewinsky's first speech in 16 years... and she says exactly what needs to be said

Love in the time of binge watching.  This is my husband and I to the letter!

Speaking of grey, my favorite pair of stylish sweatpants are on sale right now! To say I live in these would be a serious understatement. 

Bratz dolls get a much needed make-under.  I LOVE everything about this. 

An accurate video detailing why mom's (and dad's) can't get anything done.  I'm pretty sure this is why the phrase "nailed it" was invented. 

My absolute favorite purchase from last year and what I plan to wear the second the snow melts!

When my MIL was in town we were talking about the "olden days" and how my husband traveled to Europe with friends at an age now that would never be considered in these modern times.  An article discussing just this.  I'd like to think I'm somewhere between helicopter, and free-range but there are times that I certainly dabble in both! :)

The Honest Company is now selling formula and nursing accessories.  Very cool!

Finally, a wonderful post on my boy's room (with sources), written by the lovely Marni Kaufman Katz who wrote the Globe Magazine piece! 

Above is my favorite shot that didn't make the rue feature.  The animal print quoting the enviable Jenna Lyons, "as far as I'm concerned leopard is a neutral" is by Posh and Prep.  Photo credit: Sarah Winchester Studios. 

Have a great weekend!