Brunch Design Find

Sometimes I spy something great but I  have to be sneaky about taking pictures of it because sometimes it happens while I’m at a brunch with 20 other people and I don’t really know all of them and have to consider that they might think I’m a little odd for taking pictures of the placemats.

But last weekend I saw these really great placemats:

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The loosely woven rope seemed to hold together without glue. I wished I could have picked them up to figure out how they were made, but people don’t seem to do that in restaurants. Bummer. A Google search once I got home revealed that Sur La Table sells something very similar, so perhaps I won’t have to figure out how to make them myself.

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I love the way they add contrast and interest to the table setting while letting the table’s beautiful sheen show through.

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Sometimes the dishes are really interesting too and you have to be extra sneaky about turning them over to see what they are. It turns out that these are from a British company called Dudson. This is their Evolution line – it’s made for restaurants but also seems to be available on Amazon. I loved the texture of the glaze and the lovely shape of the little creamer.

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I thought the shiny red salt and pepper grinders were also a great colorful addition to all the natural tones on the table. A little color makes a big difference.


I’ll be back soon with more Design Finds – I have so much to share!

Alexandra and Julia

On a recent visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I spent a long time peering into the windows of Julia Child’s kitchen. (Julia’s kitchen has been moved in its entirety to the museum – down to every last measuring spoon. You can’t walk in, but there are lots of windows to look through into Julia’s world.) I was fascinated – not so much by the kitchen, but by my reaction to it. I loved it. But why? If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s clutter. My ideal kitchen has no wall cabinets, nothing on the countertops – it looks clean and sparkly and open. Julia’s kitchen is the opposite – there is stuff everywhere. To her credit, I wouldn’t call it clutter – there are no piles of mail or dirty dishes. It’s actually pretty well organized, but almost every surface is covered with cooking tools. I can’t begin to imagine what’s inside the cabinets – what should be the contents seem to be everywhere. No space is left untouched – there’s even framed artwork hung on the cabinet doors. So when it was so far from anything I could live with, why did I love it so much?  I do love a retro kitchen – was that it? Upon further reflection, I think it might be because it was an honest space – one that reflects Julia. It is who she is, no apologies. When you see a sleek, shiny, empty kitchen in a magazine, what does it tell you about the owner? Not much. Julia’s kitchen tells you everything about her. Bravo, Julia.

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A Week of Design Finds: Functional Fun

When a functional object is also nice to look at, it’s a beautiful thing. When it’s silly and it makes you smile, that’s even better.


We bought this for my daughter last weekend. She’s ten and excited about learning to cook, but the oven is a little bit scary because, well,  it’s hot. This handy tool helps pull out the oven rack and also push it back in, making her feel more confident about doing it on her own. She named him Bob. They made chicken nuggets together the other day and it went great!

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I love this tool not only because it gives my daughter independence, but also because it’s handmade in the USA of cherry wood. We found it at a local art festival, and I think I would have bought several more of their wide variety of gorgeous and smart kitchen tools if we hadn’t been in a hurry. They had lovely wooden tongs that folded flat for storage and flipped open for use  and toast tongs with a magnet in them so you can keep them right there on the toaster. (Another great tool for kids.)  There were also ingenious wooden spoons designed with a special notch so they rest right on the edge of the cooking pot – in both right and left handed versions.  Awesome gift idea! (Especially if that gift is for yourself!)

Jonathan’s Spoons,

A Little More Road Trip

As I mentioned yesterday, Culpeper Virginia had many lovely shops, but it also had two other things I love – a good old fashioned hardware store and a cozy independent coffee shop.

Clarke Hardware was packed from floor to ceiling with hardware, housewares, and gardening supplies. It reminded me of the hardware stores I visited with my dad as a kid – it even smelled the same.





We bought an apple peeler/corer/slicer to replace the one we broke last fall. Every fall we go apple picking with the kids and make homemade applesauce, some of which we freeze to use at Thanksgiving. Last year we waited too long and there were no apples left to pick and the orchard was closed. So the kids “picked” them at Eastern Market in downtown Washington DC. And then I broke the peeler/corer/slicer by tightening it too much on our new marble countertop. At first I thought the noise was the countertop cracking! So last year was a little bit of a disaster. Hopefully this year will be better with our new vacuum base peeler!

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Next to the hardware store was Raven’s Nest Coffee House. It had a lovely interior with wood floors, exposed brick walls, and a beautiful reclaimed wood coffee bar.




It also had good coffee!


I loved these vintage mailboxes on the wall. I noticed they had papers in them and thought for a moment that they were actually still in use. I love the idea of having a mailbox inside a small town coffee shop! Then I walked around the wall and discovered it was actually being used for brochures and event notices.


And speaking of mail, I also spotted this wonderful old mail sorting desk across the street at a combination vintage furniture/candy shop called My Secret Stash (which also had really fun candy including chocolate covered malt balls in amazing flavors like mint and pumpkin). Based on the city names, I think it may have come from New Jersey.




Next stop, Charlottesville!



Add a Smile to the Table

Here are a few fun things I’ve spotted recently that made me smile. Happy, fun, and colorful additions to any table.


After many years of owning our coffee maker, we finally got around to learning how to use the automatic timer feature last week. Waking up to hot coffee is a joy – having it in one of these gorgeous colorful mugs would make it even better.


Love the bowls too!


I couldn’t miss this rainbow of fabulous napkins in vivid color – and the price – only $9.99 for a set of six!


Lovely lapis coasters.


Shown here on a mantel, these votives in iridescent spring green and ivory would also look wonderful on a dining table.



These vibrant purple glasses could also hold votive candles. Or flowers. Or beverages!

Spotted at:

Mugs, bowls, coasters, glasses: Anthropologie

Napkins: World Market

Green and ivory votives: Flora’s Feathered Nest



Happy Birthday to Me

I learned the fun way on my birthday last month that having a blog is almost like having a gift registry – it makes it pretty easy for people to know what you like!

Remember these?

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I’m now the proud owner of four place settings! Perfect for our family of four, and will also look great alternated with our stainless flatware for larger gatherings.

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I also got this fun poster – or as I like to call it, A Checklist of Things That I Need.



How To Get Invited Back

This is my favorite little trick to make a hostess gift look great. Instead of bringing a plain bottle of wine to dinner, wrap it in a pretty tea towel. A tea towel makes a great gift – everyone uses them, no? They have many uses besides drying dishes. Drying hands! Wiping counters! Hanging prettily from the stove handle! My Partner In Finds even upholstered the seat of a chair with a particularly beautiful one. If your recipient is not a wine drinker, this trick works equally well with a nice bottle of olive oil or maple syrup, and is a great housewarming gift idea also.


Towels with an all-over pattern tend to look best – as opposed to one with a design only in the middle.


Remove the price tags and lay the towel face side down. Place the bottle in this position.


Fold the bottom of the towel up to cover the bottle of the body but not the neck.


Roll it up!


Tie a bow tightly around the neck of the bottle to secure. Here I used twine for a rustic look.


Ta da! A gift any host or hostess would be happy to receive. For a more festive look, this bold striped towel and purple raffia do the trick.

Tea towels are usually not too expensive and easy to store in order to have on hand for last minute dinner party invitations. Pick them up when you see them and you’ll be prepared to be the best guest ever.

Here are a few I spied recently:


Top photo: Crate and Barrel, Bottom left: World Market, Bottom right: Anthropologie.

Towels used in tutorial above were purchased from World Market.


Behind Closed Doors

Hello! It’s another snowy day here. I’m itching to get out and hunt down some Design Finds, but that will have to wait! Instead, I thought I’d continue to make good on my promise to show you some more of the little details that I love about our remodeled kitchen. Today – inside the cabinets!

I am a huge fan of tall pantry cabinets. Look how much you can store – and the 15″ depth of these cabinets is just the right size to fit everything in and be able to see it!


The next pantry cabinet over is customized to hold our cheese/carving boards, baking sheets and muffin tins:


We didn’t have space in our layout for a Lazy Susan, so we opted for a blind corner cabinet with Hafele LeMans pullouts:


The pullouts are S shaped and snake out of the cabinet, allowing use of the normally wasted space in the corner. The bottom shelf shown here holds the food processor and the popcorn maker.


To keep the countertop as clutter free as possible, we installed an appliance garage for the toaster:



The appliance garage cabinet also provides a great place to end the tile backsplash.

We don’t have a ton of trash, but we do seem to have a ton of recycling, so we installed separate pullouts for each. This one is for recycling:


And this one is for trash:


The trash is right next to the sink and the main prep area. I have a large drawer right there to hold my knives and cutting boards. Everything I need in one place!


I’ve saved the best for last – this cabinet is in the dining room. As most of our mail sorting and bill paying gets done downstairs (even though our office space is upstairs), we installed a pullout drawer and an electrical outlet in one of our dining room cabinets so we could put the shredder downstairs. Very handy!


If you’d like to see to overall kitchen, click here.

Stay warm today – have fun in the snow!




Orange You Glad It’s Almost Spring?

Even before we got 13 inches of snow last week, I was craving the bright colors of springtime. I actually love winter, but I was really missing color. I had a few spare minutes, so I ducked into Crate and Barrel in search of some color to pep me up.

Now I’m loving the idea of a colorful dinner party:





Or a couch overflowing with orange throw pillows:








A little color goes a long way to brighten things up!





Orange you ready for Spring? I am!