Domesticity

So…notice anything new? The blog got an update!

(If you are not actually on my site right now, you might not be able to tell. You should hop on over on a desktop when you can. Because design work is really hard for me, guys.)

I’ve been meaning to give the ol’ girl a little makeover for a while, but this week I finally got around to it. Not too shabby, eh? I also learned how to crop circles and overlay patterns in Photoshop. It was a big week.

Speaking of little updates, have we discussed my book collection? I love owning loads of books. One day, I hope to have a library or at least a giant wall of them somewhere in my home, but for now, I settle for two little shelves in the living room.

The problem? My book collection is often busting at the seams — and my sweet little shelves can only do so much.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few ways to incorporate the books into the rest of our apartment’s decor. This solves the problem of the shelves being too crowded, and provides me completely free decor ideas. Win-win!

Here are my four favorite ways to decorate with books:

books-above-cabinets

 

Anyone who has been in my apartment knows that I am extremely efficient with the amount of space we have. Our apartment is by no means large (heyyyy, NYC real estate…), but we’ve made the most of what we have. A perfect example? Our kitchen cabinets. For whatever reason (cough…they’re cheap…cough), our building owners didn’t built our kitchen cabinets up to the ceiling. That means there’s about two feet of dead space above the cabinets. Dead. As. A. Doornail.

Rather than mourn the lost cabinet space forever, though, I instead choose to look at the tops of the cabinets as a long-lost display shelf. I use it to store my dutch oven, the crock pot, cake stands, and, of course, all of our cookbooks. The best part? The books add a bit of color to an otherwise bland (and dead) spot.

books-as-desk-decor

 

It has to be said: Our desk is really hard to photograph well. I feel like it looks nice in person, but it always comes across a little shabby in photos. But the point is, a few weeks ago I was on a mission to make our desk look a little more deliberate and involved in the rest of our decor. One way to do that (that was TOTALLY free)? Adding a few of our most colorful books to prop up our desk light.

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Another great place for a colorful stack of books? Our coffee table. When we first moved to our apartment, I was totally bummed out that we couldn’t paint. As a result, though, I’ve found a bunch of other ways to bring color into this totally blank slate. (Besides, given how fickle I can be with decor, it’s probably better that I couldn’t commit to one color in the beginning.)

A few of my favorite hardbacked books make a great focal point for the room. Bonus: My bookshelves are starting to look at lot less jam-packed.

books-to-display-perfume

And finally, we mix a little nerdiness with a little bit of girlie-girl by using a stack of books to display perfume on our dresser. (And because I love a theme, obviously I tried to pick a few of my girliest books for this pile.)

How do you store your books?

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As a textbook Type-A individual, I can tell you (in excruciating detail) the exact areas of my home that are not organized in a satisfactory way.

In no specific order:
1. The wooden trunk at the foot of our bed.
2. The file cabinet next to the desk.
3. The desk drawer.
4. The back shelves of our front closet.
5. The tupperware cabinet.
6. The linen closet.
7. The corner of our bedroom next to Joey’s side of the bed that I am perpetually trying to make peace with because the dude needs one corner that his wife leaves alone.

Sometimes, when it looks like I’m spacing off, I’m thinking terrible thoughts about these areas of the apartment. Terrible thoughts.

I bring this up because, prior to this weekend, there was one other thing on that list: my wardrobe.

I’m pretty good about cleaning out my closet regularly. I’ve said before that I try to do this at least twice a year, and it’s always the first thing I think of when I start to get serious about simplifying.

Putting it bluntly, I love shopping. I love new clothes, I love styling outfits. It’s a serious hobby of mine. The problem is when that “hobby” translates into too little closet space and too small of a savings account. Since cutting back on shopping was one of my simplification goals, I decided that paring down what I had (but never wore) should come next.

Of course, when you love shopping, there is nothing less fun that not shopping and getting rid of clothes. So I decided to find a way to make it more fun.

Enter the clothing swap.

About a year ago, I did a cross-country swap with two of my blogger friends, Kayla and Madison. I had so much fun styling the new clothes (and seeing how they styled mine), and I had been meaning to replicate the experience with some of my local friends for a while. Well, after a conversation with five of my pals about how we were all wanting to simplify and spend more money, the swap basically planned itself.

And you know what? It was actually way more fun that just shopping. We ate snacks, chatted, and had fun trying on things we might never have purchased on our own. Everyone got rid of at least a bag or two of old clothes, and almost everyone walked away with a few new things.

Here are a few tips for planning your own clothing swap:

1. Start with a clean space.
Between the six of us, we had about eight bags of clothes to go through. I was so glad that I had gone through my own clothes in advance and made room in my bedroom for us to spread everything out. Plus, if you’re working in a messy space, things that you don’t want to swap are bound to get mixed in. Bonus points if you have a movable clothing rack to display everything on and help keep things organized.

2. Size up your guest list.
GET IT? But seriously. Your entire guest list does not have to be the same size (odds are you are not only friends with people who share your pant size), but everyone should be close enough that exchanges can be made. For example, one of my friends is busty-er with a narrow waist, another is smaller on top with a curvier booty, another is slender all over, another has a perfect hourglass, etc. The idea is that everyone shares at least one size (whether it’s dresses, skirts, tops, or whatever) with at least one other person at the party. Plus, if you are like my group, some of the things are getting tossed because they don’t fit anymore, so they will probably fit someone else.

3. Have a full-length mirror handy.
You are essentially turning your home into a dressing room — good lighting and a full-length mirror or two are crucial.

4. Mind the menu.
This might be over-thinking things, but consider serving a healthy-ish meal with more decadent treats after everyone has tried on clothes. Maybe it’s just me, but I never feel my best after I eat something high-calorie or fattening, and I certainly don’t feel like trying on clothes. So instead of pizza, we had a giant salad with grilled chicken and veggies with hummus. Then, when the clothes had been doled out, we ate cookies. Because we’re only human, you guys.

5. Have a plan for what gets leftover.
Fortunately with this group of girls, no one was offended if any of their clothes went unclaimed. Prior to the swap, we just agreed anything leftover would get donated. The bonus of the backup plan is that no one is tempted to take home anything they don’t love just because they don’t want to see it thrown out. SOMEONE will benefit it — it just won’t be someone from our group.

Post-swap, I’m pretty pleased to report that I have three new skirts and a top — AND a super-organized closet that makes it a million times easier to decide what to wear each day.

Have you hosted a clothing swap? What tips can you pass along?

how-to-plan-kate-spade-party

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love a theme. (Symptom of being an overplanner.) I typically plan one themed (or at least more elaborate) party a year, and since it had been over a year since my Mad Men housewarming, I was due for another.

The party would be to introduce a few of my girl friends. A while back, my friends Ashli and Nikki started a little tradition of planning “glam girls’ nights in” where we could introduce women from our different social circles that we thought would get along. I had said I wanted to host the next one, and then I set about working on the girliest party theme possible: a Kate Spade theme.

Here’s how I decorated, what we ate, what we wore, and how we celebrated.

How I decorated:
The first question my husband asked when I told him the party theme? “What the heck is a Kate Spade party?” Essentially, the theme was lots of color, stripes, and polka dots. In the invitation, I asked all the girls to incorporate stripes or polka dots into their outfits. (More on that later.)

invite

I got my invitations on Etsy from Olive & Star — because a fancy party needs a fancy invite. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail?

My apartment is already pretty colorful, so the rest of the decor was simple. I created a rainbow canopy with crepe paper streamers, had a few balloons in the entryway for when people walked in, and created a photo wall in the kitchen using polka dot wrapping paper and some leftover streamers.

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I also made a few Kate Spade quote prints in Photoshop to decorate the food table, bar, and bathroom. You can download the PDFs for these at the bottom of the post.

What we ate:

veggie-rolls

Veggie Rolls, cheese and crackers, and spicy crab dip made up the appetizers.

Veggie Rolls
Ingredients:
Carrots
Red and yellow bell peppers
Cucumbers
Goat cheese

Directions:
1. Chop carrots and bell peppers into matchstick slices. Set aside.

2. Thinly slice cucumbers into long strips. Spread with 1/2 Tablespoon of goat cheese.

3. Place carrot and pepper slices into cucumbers, roll up, and pin into place with a toothpick.

Spicy Crab Dip
Ingredients:
4 cans crab meat
4 T light mayo
2 tsp chili powder
1 T hot sauce

Combine ingredients and chill until ready to serve.

For dinner, I boiled tortellini and served with a marinara (store bought…I’m only a pretend housewife, remember?) and a kale pesto.

tortellini

Kale Pesto
Ingredients:
4-5 cups kale, washed
1/2 cup pine nuts
4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

My friend Cyndy also brought a salad.

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cake

“Naked” Funfetti Layer Cake
The highlight of the food, though, was the dessert. I want to preface this with one fact: I am not a baker. Baking is chemistry, meaning you can’t really improvise that much, and that stresses me out. I almost always mess up things I bake, and even when I don’t, there’s ALWAYS a moment during the process when I am convinced I’ve ruined the whole thing.

Like I said – stress.

I always manage to forget these things when I entertain, however, and decided that I was going to bake a cake.

Not just any cake. A layer cake. Because that’s simple.

I baked a funfetti cake from a box, but I did a few substitutions to make it taste better: add milk instead of water, butter instead of oil, and an extra egg. The buttercream I made using this recipe.

Word to the wise: Just because you’re making a “naked” cake doesn’t mean you don’t need LOADS of icing. I should have at least tripled that recipe to have had enough.

After baking the layers and trimming them to be level (another tip: freeze the layers overnight after baking to make them easier to trim/stack), I started stacking. A few spoonfuls of sprinkles and a confetti topper later, we were in business.

The drink I’m calling the PopFizzClink in honor of our hashtag. Here’s how to make it:

drink

PopFizzClink Cocktail
Ingredients:
1 oz St. Germaine
1 oz pomegranate juice
Champagne or Prosecco

Combine St. Germaine and pomegranate juice in a champagne flute and fill the rest of the way with bubbly. When making in large batches, I recommend mixing the St. Germaine and pomegranate (in equal parts) in a large pitcher to chill beforehand. Then you pour a bit in each glass and top with champagne/prosecco.

What we wore:

kate-spade-guests
Have I mentioned how much I love friends that commit to a theme? These girls did not disappoint.

Everyone incorporated stripes or polka dots, plus there was plenty of color to add to the evening. Plus, I finally got to wear the tulle skirt I’ve had in my closet for months. (Because one day I decided I needed it, okay?)

Even Bogey got in on the action. (Because you know I would not have a party without Bogart.)

What we did:
Since the evening was going to be about introducing people who didn’t know each other, I planned a few games to keep things interesting. (I didn’t want to do too many because I know some people hate party games…just enough to get everyone talking.)

Aren’t You Cute?
For this game, I gave each girl five polka dot stickers at the beginning of the party. Whenever they heard someone use the word “cute,” they were allowed to steal a sticker from them. But if they said it, whoever caught them could steal a sticker from them. The goal was to have the most stickers by the end of the evening.

Meet My Fabulous New Friend
To introduce everyone, I paired the ladies off with someone they didn’t know with questionaires. They would interview their partner, and then “introduce” them to the rest of the group. I stole this idea from Ashli and Nikki’s party because it was such a funny way to hear hilarious stories and get to know each other beyond the basics. Questions included things like “what is your job,” “what is your most embarrassing moment,” “what is your favorite place you have traveled to,” and more.

There Will Be A Quiz
While everyone was introducing their new friends, I wrote down random facts each person revealed. After we had all “met,” I told everyone we were starting a new game where they had to be the first one to identify who had said the things I had written down. Whoever remembered the most (and the fastest) won a prize.

Put a Bow On It
We didn’t end up playing this game, but I think it’s always good to have a back-up in case things start to slow down. The plan was to pair everyone off again and give each team of two a piece of ribbon. They would then have to race to tie their ribbon into a bow first — but each person could only use one of their hands. Teamwork!

At the end of the party, I also sent each girl home with a little goody bag with a face mask, compact mirror, nail polish, and a Ring Pop.

treat-bags

The party turned out exactly how I hoped. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I had fun learning new things about everyone. Plus: cake and tutus. What more do I need?

Thanks again to the girls for playing along! And a HUGE thank-you to Monica for taking most of these pictures (if you want to hire a photographer in the NYC area, let me know and I can pass along her info).

#popfizzclink!

 

Free Downloadable Kate Spade PDFs
Eat Cake for Breakfast
But first, champagne
Cocktail in her hand, confetti in her hair
She is anything but ordinary.
Coral lipstick
Dressing up begins at age five…
#PopFizzClink
She is a voracious reader…

I’m pretty thrilled to announce that I have completed the Spring Simplification List (with a couple caveats, I suppose).

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet
Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

(The newly checked off items are in purple.)

First, the desk. Some of you will remember my post last week talking about how I wanted to spruce up our computer desk. Well, for once I actually accomplished a goal within a couple of days. (It may have helped that I had a little party Saturday, so I had extra motivation.) After a quick trip to Target, I had this:

desk-overall-1

desk-decor

Of course, with a close up of the GREATEST TAPE DISPENSER EVER.

Next, the new coffee table. I have been coveting this one from West Elm for literally two years, but I just couldn’t in good conscience shell out $600 for a coffee table. Plus, you know my thing about buying new-new furniture. (And people very rarely sell these on Craigslist, probably because they’re perfect.) So, in typical me fashion, I scoured online for something similar, preferably pre-owned.

I searched for months, as evidenced by the fact that I wrote this simplification list at the beginning of spring. Finally, a week ago I found my new table.

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It even has a lift-top like the West Elm version! The biggest difference? I paid $75 to a guy in Brooklyn for mine. Win.

Now for the list caveats. Obviously, there are three things that have not happened yet: art over the dresser, selling the kitchen table, and finding an IKEA Norden table.

For now, I’m sticking with the table we have. It’s fine. It doesn’t provide extra storage, and I will still sell it if anyone contacts me, but I’m holding off on buying anything new for a while. So for now, this one will do.

I still have every intention of finding something for over the dresser, but I think it’s time to retire this list. Obviously I’ll let you know when I find the right thing.

Even with those little asterisks, I still feel pretty accomplished about checking off a lot of those things. Cleaning out the crawl space and finding the new coffee table have been plaguing me for the better part of a year, so it’s pretty dang satisfying knowing they’re done.

Guess it’s time to think of some more goals, huh?

Our computer desk has been a bit of a trial for me.

In our first apartment, I never really loved how it looked (apologies for that atrocious photo), and in our new apartment, it’s the first space to start looking cluttered after I’ve given the apartment a deep clean. And because organizing the desk area is on the simplification list anyway, I figured now would also be a good time to figure out an organization system that actually works.

And it wouldn’t hurt if it was also pretty, right?

Here’s what I’m thinking of adding:

Desk Details in Gold

Cute, right? Y’all know I love anything white and gold.

I also need to spend a little time styling our bulletin board. I really like these inspirational ideas from Pinterest (click images for sources):

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Just because our bulletin board is functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be pretty, right? And now that I’m working from home a couple of times a month, it helps to have an organized, aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Do you have a home office? Is it more utilitarian or more stylish?

About a year ago, there was a trend in the blogging community around honesty in posts.

The problem stemmed from the perception that lifestyle bloggers were miraculously leading perfect lives, despite juggling children, careers, Etsy shops, etc. Suddenly a few bloggers decided to dispel the myth, revealing the piles of laundry they had shoved just outside the frame of their immaculately decorated living room photo. The screaming toddler on the floor below their food styling table (where an expertly crafted souffle in a mason jar lay waiting to be photographed, of course).

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon then (because even a bandwagon about being genuine starts to feel a little forced after a while), but I can completely relate to the sentiment.

The fact is, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. And this was never more true to me than this weekend when Joey and I finally crossed a few major items off of my SpringSummer Simplification List.

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet

Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

The new crossed-out items are in purple, but they are that I finally cleaned out the pantry, and Joey cleaned out the front closet and crawl space. (I helped where I could, but it was mostly his hockey stuff that needed organizing, so he was pretty much on his own there.)

The process was…not tidy.

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It was kind of mind-boggling how much stuff was in those two spaces. And it took all of my will power not to freak out as it continued to expand throughout the apartment.

But I stayed calm and trusted that Joey knew what he was doing. And you know what? He really did. Not only is all of his stuff straightened away, he also managed to find a space for a large plastic crate full of sports stuff that has been living in our bedroom for about a year.

Total disclosure: I hated that crate the entire time, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better my life is now that I don’t have to stare at it every day.

I tried to take an “after” photo of the crawl space, but the fact is that it’s still not that pretty. The rest of our apartment just looks loads better, and you can actually walk to the back of the front closet now. That’s progress, people.

Speaking of progress, we’re still trying to sell our kitchen table (buy it here, if you’re in the market), and we’re also selling Bogey’s crate since he has only used it about five times (listing here). Come on, help me cross more off my list!

My goal is to have everything done by the end of the month. But don’t worry — I’ll be real with you guys if it doesn’t happen.

What projects has everyone else been working on?