Friday, April 30, 2010

Ready for Mothers Day?

I got a promotional e-mail today that shocked me to my core…the subject line read: “Last day to send Mom’s gift in time with Standard Delivery”.  I knew Mother’s Day was coming soon, but I didn’t realize just how close it is!  Mother’s Day is one holiday that deserves proper attention, especially if you’re lucky enough to have an extraordinary Mom like mine.  Use this weekend wisely and pick out a great gift, your Mom deserves it!  The ‘perfect present’ varies from woman to woman, but here’s a secret to picking out something your Mom, specifically, will love.  This is a little more psychology-driven than I ever planned on getting in my posts, but bear with me for just a moment.  We all have a tendency to express love the way we want to receive it, but there are so many ways to show someone you love them!  If you take the time to think about how your Mom (not you, your spouse, child, sibling or friend) feels most loved, you’ll be situated on the right track towards finding something that’s perfect just for her.  Here are the five most common “love languages” (ways people express and receive love) and a some special Mother’s Day ideas for each.  

Acts of Service

If your Mom lit up like the 4th of July every time you offered to help with the dishes or cleaned the car without being asked, she may feel most loved through acts of service.  Instead of a traditional gift, why not surprise her by hiring a cleaning service to come every few weeks and help her out around the house!  It’s a great way to make her feel like a queen.  This gift isn’t suited for everyone, so think before you proceed.  If your Mom is the type to misinterpret your gesture as a suggestion that her home is messy, then abort mission!  It’s not a cheap gift, but it’s certainly one that keeps on giving.  If you know she’d appreciate the help, it’s worth it!  

If you really want to buy her something tangible, consider making a purchase from a company that contributes to charitable organizations or causes she supports.  As someone who values service, she’ll appreciate the extra effort you went through to make sure your gift honored something she feels is important.  Give her a magazine subscription through Dial America and at no additional cost to you, 12½% of the price will be contributed to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  They’ve got all the magazine’s she loves and low subscription prices- Better Homes and Gardens for $15.97, Martha Stewart Living for $19.95, and Architectural Digest for $24 just to name a few.  Okay…maybe those are the magazines WE love- but you get the idea.  

Words of Admiration

No matter what your “love language” is, words are a powerful, powerful thing.  If you know your Mom is particularly fueled by words of esteem, we’ve got a great gift idea for you!  Make your Mom a love book.  If it sounds like a project you made in preschool for Mother’s Day it’s because it’s kind of the grown up version of just that.  Visit the Love Books website and you can create a completely personalized, hard cover, professionally printed book that lists the many reasons you love your Mom.  Choose from a wide selection of pre-made pages that list admirable character traits (I love that you are selfless), activities (I love cooking with you), and talents (I love that you’re a great singer).  They even allow you to add your own custom pages (I love that you help me with my temperature control issues)!  Each page (both predesigned and custom) is decorated with cute stick figure illustrations, and a 54 page book costs less than $40!  
Physical Touch
I read today that the average person needs four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I DO know whoever wrote it is a proud member of the “love language” category physical touch.  If your Mom is a hugger, she may be part of the group too.  I had the best intentions of finding a really beautiful massage chair that defied typical oversized office-looking robot-esque rules.  After some time searching I’m sorry to report this doesn’t exist.  It appears “ugly” is a massage chair pre-requisite.  Until a entrepreneurial designer fills this gaping need (Could be you…or us!  We’ll look into it.) you’ll have to stick with either gift certificates to your local spa or a massage cushion like this little Shiatsu number from Homedics.  

We’ve used this one before and it’s really great.  The best part is you can easily stash it’s ugly mug in the closet when you’re done.   


Just because your Mom’s “love language” is gifts doesn’t mean she’ll be disappointed with anything less than a massive present.  It also doesn’t mean she’ll be thrilled over just any nonsense as though her goal in life is to acquire as many items as possible.   What the average person in the gifts category usually appreciates most is a present that suits their life and personality really well.  I know…everyone likes that.  But for this kind of Mom, presents are an even bigger opportunity to show you care.  If you really want to make her happy, try to buy something she mentioned in casual conversation awhile ago.  Since we’re not privy to your personal conversations with your Mom I’m afraid we can’t make too many specific recommendations… unless of course she enjoys decorating her home (and really, who doesn’t).  Check out Aviva Stanoff’s unbelievable collection of vases, bedding, stationary and our favorite- pillows, pillows and more pillows!  She makes some of the most beautiful I’ve seen...I’d buy them all if I could.

Quality Time

If your Mom’s love language is quality time then center your gift around activities you can do together.  Purchase tickets to an event you can both attend or buy games you can play as a family.  For a special treat for her home check to see if there are any pieces of cookware or serving platters she needs replaced or added.  Buy enough groceries for one of her favorite meals and bring them to her house so you can cook together.  Cook or serve your gourmet masterpiece in her new present!  For a maximum amount of time spent together, pick up Williams-Sonoma’s All Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker.  It’s a top of the line Mom-must-have-item. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Absurdly Creative Art

Every so often I come across an artist or design concept that’s delightfully odd and over the top.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share some of the most extreme cases with you…they may be entirely impractical and ridiculous but they certainly show how imaginative the human mind can be.  On an average day the things we share with you are unified by the fact that we are either recommending them or at least really impressed with their taste level…keep in mind that is not necessarily the case right now.  We just can’t believe some of this stuff!

Heike Weber

Heike Weber is a German artist who uses an incredibly unique technique of heavy repetition. Her work has appeared in exhibitions all across Germany and other areas of Europe. It sounds counterintuitive, but the spaces she creates are overwhelmingly busy and stark all at the same time. Whether you like her work or not you’ve gotta admit...she’s unbelievably creative!

Julian Beever

Julian Beever is an English chalk artist who is best known for his sidewalk 3D illusions.  I promise, you’ve never seen anything like this in your life.  Beever uses a projection type called anamorphosis, which is pretty much just a fancy way of saying he draws completely flat images in a way that looks unquestionably real when viewed from the correct angle.  I stared at these pictures for longer than I’d like to admit trying to figure out how they could possibly be two dimensional.  It wasn’t until I saw the very last picture, taken from a different angle, that I realized this is no’s unmitigated genius!

James Hance

James Hance is a Jacksonville based artist who appears to be as clever as he is talented.  Somehow, he managed to mesh characters from Star Wars (yes, you’re reading that correctly) with pieces of fine art in a way that demands a second look.  When asked about his creative process he responded, “I paint mainly in my pajamas, watching the Muppet Show and eating cereal.  I’d like to think it shows.”  Like I said…funny guy.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fishing for Compliments

Close your eyes and imagine the person whose opinion you value most coming into your dream house for the first time.  In a perfect world, what would they say?  We’re all in the market for different kinds of compliments because we’re all working towards a different vision for our home- what you’d want to hear is directly proportional to your own personal style.  Here are a few pretty basic compliments we think you might appreciate and some ways to achieve them in the space you have right now.  

“Your home is so ________________”

(see also: expensive, striking, posh)

If you want your home to radiate luxury, then consider adding opulent textures like silk, velvet or even leather to your space.  Choose Furniture with details like tufts or high backs, and be extra choosy in your fabric selection.  

Large decorative mirrors (like this Omni Leaner Mirror from Z Gallerie) will make even a small space feel more open, especially if you place one opposite a window and use it to reflect the light.  If you’re really interested in making a strong statement you can add a crown molding that coordinates with the rest of the room, or consider having a consultation with a faux finisher to really enhance your walls.  If you’re working on a budget, than check out our previous post Buy This, Not That for some tips on how to choose inexpensive items that look high-end.  If you’re looking for one item that screams luxurious louder than the rest, then you need a perfectly selected chandelier.  This Brentwood Collection Chrome Six Light Chandelier is a particularly ornate option, and about $700. 

(see also: uncluttered, organized, sparkling)

A clean house could very well be the most universal (and for many, seemingly unreachable) aspiration of all.  While most people are able to maintain a generally tidy space, it’s hard to fight the feeling that things aren’t really as orderly as they should be.  Your house may be dust, dirt and grime-free, but if it doesn’t look crisp and put together than there’s still work to be done.  The obvious culprit in an unorganized home is clutter, most notably homeless clutter.  The best way to achieve a spectacularly clean room is to give everything a home base whether it’s in the trash, in storage, in a bin for Goodwill or in a drawer.  If it’s not decorative, it doesn’t get prime parking.  If you just don’t have enough space, you may need to consider my Aunt’s one in, one out rule and avoid buying anything at all until you’re prepared to throw something else away.  It’s extreme but it works.  We loved the smooth lines and unique storage space of thiscoffee table from Bobby Berk Home.  The cute little nook gives you some extra space, but be sure you fight the temptation to store clutter there!


(see also: one of a kind, distinctive, original)

If you’re looking to pull together a look that’s entirely your own, there are a couple approaches you may want to mull over.  Over the top decorating can be really fun, but make sure you keep some of the space grounded.  Decide on a few areas you want to focus your attention doing so you’re creating focal points instead of a jumbled mess.  There are a lot of ways to accomplish this- take Nannette Lepore’s Victorian Townhouse for example.

She balanced out some really strange pieces (a floating ship chandelier, Napolean Bust, etc) with classic architecture and simpler pieces that didn’t fight for attention.  Play with scale and oversized objects, or choose a bold pattern for your furniture or accessories.  Look for affordable limited edition pieces like CB2’s One of a Finds.  For optimum originality, your best resource is Etsy.  There’s a world of no-two-are-alike handmade pieces just waiting to be discovered on Etsy- we thought these watercolor paintings on delicate vintage French book paper were really something special.  Just imagine how interestingly beautiful they’d look framed.

Even if you’re looking for something extremely specific and can’t find it, there’s an entire area on Etsy where you can commission artists to take on your project.  Name your price and describe the piece you want, then sit back and wait for the bids to pour in.  If you’re looking for something unique there’s simply no better place to go.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Man's Trash

When it comes to cleaning out my fridge or kitchen cabinets I can toss trash and recycle without hesitation.  No matter how much I enjoyed whatever deliciousness used to occupy the packaging, I certainly don’t value the container itself.  This is true for most every example I can think of…with the exception of a few select wine bottles.  There are several factors that make me inclined to save a wine bottle…it could be that it’s somehow attached to a great memory or celebration, I may have found the wine to be really exceptional or it’s possible I just think the bottle or label is beautiful in and of itself.  At the end of the day I usually convince myself that saving the bottle is impractical and silly and end up throwing it out anyway.  Since I don’t drink a lot of wine I don’t run into this dilemma too often, but I got to thinking about how I could utilize the wine bottles I love (and their various appendages) as part of a design concept.  Here’s are some of the ideas I came across.

Wine Bottles as Vases

While you can certainly use a wine bottle as a traditional vase for your table, we went crazy over this idea from Purr Design.  We liked the concept of using clear matching bottles, but this design could be just as attractive and even more unique with your favorite bottle- even if you left the label on!  They’re surprisingly simple to make, all you need is a split ring hanger, rod, and a few other inexpensive pieces form your local hardware store.  The whole project costs costs just a few dollars, for full instructions go here
Wine Bottles as Candle Holders

Take a tip from your favorite Italian restaurant and adorn your favorite bottle of wine with a taper candle.  We think the dripping wax gives it a little something extra, but if you’re not on board with that idea than you can always use a dripless candle.  For a romantic dinner for two, one candlelit bottle will do...for a gorgeous dinner party centerpiece idea refer to the picture below.

Quadruple your bottle’s capacity for candlelight by purchasing this candelabra from Napastyle.  It’s less than $40 and can stand on it’s own even if you don’t have a wine bottle to pair it with.

Napastyle also offers a different approach by using large 3-6 Liter bottles as a hurricane...each fits a pillar candle up to five inches in diameter.  Prices vary from $99-$249 depending on size, but with a little elbow grease and the right tool you could technically create one of these stunning pieces yourself.  A glass bottle cutter will run you about $40.  Keep in mind your wine bottles probably aren’t quite as big as the ones featured here, so your homemade creation might not create such a dramatic effect.  Nonetheless you’ll certainly save some money with this do-it-yourself option.

Frame the Label

If you’re not interested in utilizing the wine bottles themselves but still want to display the beautiful labels, than all you need is a
Label Lift Wine Label Remover.  The remover automatically laminates the labels as you lift it off and peel away the adhesive backing.  Each package contains 10 removers for $9.95.  After you’ve removed the labels they can easily be matted and framed to match any room you want to display them. 
Monday, April 26, 2010

Spot 'O Tea

I spent this past weekend sick in bed as a result of my arch nemesis, pollen, and the devastating effect it’s had on my sinuses.  Fortunately, I have the greatest family in the world and they took great care of me.  My cousin, Jessica, is a world class nurse and provided me with a seemingly endless supply of Sudafed, Cepacol, Zicam and any other over the counter medication she had.  Jess is my best friend, but even she will tell you I’m not the easiest patient in the world…mostly because I’m not interested in any of the things that will actually help me get better.  When I don’t feel good, all I want is tea.  I almost wish I could blame this defect on deep holistic beliefs, but unfortunately all I can tell you is tea tastes good, it’s warm, and it sure feels like it’s healing something to me.  We’ve found a great middle ground where I at least make an effort to take the medicine she gives me, and she allows me to pretend that- when I finally do feel better- it’s actually due to all the tea I’ve been drinking.  This weekend was no exception.  I’m feeling a little better today but still haven’t been able to get tea off my brain.  Here are a few teapots pretty enough to make any day better and some of the teas we love to fill them with.

     I had an absolute love at first sight moment with this Noble Poppy Bone China Tea Set.  Sunshine yellow is a very difficult color to accomplish in bone china, so I was surprised to discover this set is just under $100 for all nine pieces (one teapot, four cups and saucers).  If you’re all too familiar with the sinus nightmare that was my weekend, fill up this tea pot with Teavana’s Roobios tea.  Studies have shown it may reduce or relieve allergies and colds.  I’m not sure whether or not it’s actually effective in any way, but I can tell you one thing- it’s delicious.  I’m a fan of their Apple Lemon Pomegranate Roobios Tea in particular.

This Sontu Teapot from Teaforte comes from their line of artisan, hand blown glassware.  The lid has a hole for Teaforte’s signature leaf and stem tea bag, but this particular teapot also works incredibly with their Sontu Infuser.  For a limited time you can receive a free loose tea canister of your choice if you purchase the Sontu Teapot and use the discount code ‘FREELOOSE’ at checkout.  I’d recommend either their Formosa Oolong (it’s one of the rarest of all teas and a delicate balance between green and black) or a dessert tea like their Orchid Vanilla (sweet and delicious with zero calories and no added sugar, can’t beat that). 

There’s something about this Black Iron Hobnail Teapot from Sur La Table that leads me to believe it could have been around for centuries...I just love that.  It also seems perfectly suited for some delicious Jasmine Green tea, and I’ll be honest...I love that too.  

If you’ve got the blues (or worse- Holly Golightly’s mean reds!) you may need a fancier tea set to pull you through...which is why we searched for a relatively affordable silver ensemble.  Personally, I feel better just looking at it.  We found this four piece silver plated set by Reed & Barton for just $224.97, a fraction of what a solid silver collection will cost you.  We’d have to drink something classy from this set, like my Mom’s favorite- Black Currant Tea.

Inspired by Britain’s love of tea, Christine Misiak created a line of“Old/New Tea Sets” unlike any others we came across.  Her goal is to portray and preserve aspects of the past while blending them with contemporary styling to create a vibrant contrast.  Mission accomplished.  Each Tea set includes a tea pot, sugar bowl, milk jug, spoon and set of doilies and costs £50 (since she’s based over the pond).  These unique pieces may just be worth the terrible exchange rate...and I’d say the most appropriate way to christen them would be with some English Breakfast Tea.  

This hand painted porcelain Peacock Tea Set by Kathy Ireland for Franz Collections is an absolute piece of art.  Have you ever seen anything like it?  Each piece must be purchased individually and ranges from $35 to $100.  We’d have to fill it with something equally exotic, like Republic of Tea’s bold Hibiscus Tea.