Favorite Buys: For The Home

I am a sucker for gift guides and round ups of “best product” type lists in magazines and blogs. Ryan always says I am the ultimate consumer, and our cardboard recycling pile waiting to be picked up at the end of our driveway would agree. I primarily shop online because either I’m working, or I convince myself that taking a hungry toddler to a store after daycare is the worst idea ever. I am addicted to amazon prime. It makes daily mail deliveries feel like Christmas – even if the only item being delivered that day are a months supply of Ziploc bags. :)

Rather than share a gift guide for a holiday, I thought I’d share what my favorite purchases were over the past 3ish years are. I chose that time frame because that’s when we bought our first house, finally got the hang of entertaining, and our lives changed when we became new parents. We didn’t have a traditional registry when we got married, so some of these are items that I would have registered for when we got married almost six (!!!) years ago. I can’t believe we’ve been married for that long! Below is a list of my favorites, in no particular order…

 

 

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5-piece Colander Set.
  When I first brought this home from the store, Ryan thought I was ridiculous because “how many strainers does one person need?!”. I soon showed him how convenient they were, especially when making dishes like chili – straining beans, pasta/rice, straining the fat from the meat… all at the same time. They’re durable and stack together beautifully in the cabinet. I immediately tossed our three old strainers that were breaking and bulky in our already full cabinets.

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Glass Nesting Bowls. I bought these when we bought our first condo in 2007 and we’ve had them since. I use them for everything: from preparing meals to putting chips in them for parties. I like that they are glass, rather than metal, because they can easily be used when entertaining. Another space saver in our full cabinets!

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Landscape Lighting. As silly as it sounds, a childhood dream of mine was to have a house one day with landscape lighting. I was a nerd destined to be a designer, I suppose. I always thought it was expensive and difficult to install, but I saw this blog post, showed it Ryan, and we both were excited to try it ourselves. To be fair, Ryan did most of the work himself but he said it was easy to install. I’d say the most difficult part of the project was knowing how many lights we’d actually need/want. We were weirdos standing outside at night shining flashlights at our bushes to see how a light would look… If our neighbors saw us, I’m sure they thought we were nuts! We did this project this past summer and I love driving into the driveway at night because it makes our house feel so elegant and inviting – for only about $300!

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Shower Curtain Rings. These rings have a hook on each side so the liner and shower curtain are separate so when you have to take the liner or curtain off to wash it, you only need to take one off at a time. Genius! 
71832945499050pGrill pan. Especially when we’re trying to eat healthy, I love using a grill pan. They don’t sell the version we have, but this one is similar and nicer. :)

 

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King Size Bed. We bought this bed when I found out I was pregnant and it was a total game changer. At that point, we needed a new bed and mattress anyway. I knew I was about to become a huge, cranky pregnant woman, and Ryan and I are both tall. I love having a king size bed to sprawl out… especially since both cats choose to sleep on me. We bought it in a chenille-like fabric which has withstood two scratch happy cats. This is one of my all-time favorite buys.

 

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Baking Dish. I have this baking dish in two sizes and love it! It’s another item that can go from oven-to-table because of it’s simple design and neutral color. I also love that it doesn’t stain like other baking dishes I’ve owned.

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Meyer Lemon Candle. This is my new go-to candle. I love the crisp citrus scent – it’s so delicious I want to drink it! I have one on my nightstand in my bedroom and it’s so fragrant and fresh even when it’s not lit.

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Large modern weave baskets. I have two of these simple baskets tucked into corners of our living room for additional toy storage, and for blankets to snuggle up with.

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Bench. The stock photo for this bench doesn’t do it justice. We have this in our living room which was originally used for blanket storage, but has now turned into a “lego bench” where Cole stores all of his legos. I’m happy to have pretty storage for toys since they seem to have taken over my house. The fabric is a durable and beautiful velvet, and looks way more elegant in person than it does online!

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Outdoor candles. I am obsessed with these candles. They really do flicker like real candles! They’re a bit of a splurge for an outdoor item, but the quality is so great that I convinced myself they were worth it for hanging out outside. I also got a few for our screen porch, since the cats and Cole are often in there during the warmer months. Now I have the cozy feel of lit candles without the worry of burned tails or baby hands.

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Sponges. A random thing to write about, right? An even more random thing to love… but it’s true! I love these sponges. The size and texture is different from any store bought which makes clean up way easier. Plus, it’s made of natural fibers and is anti-microbial. We never have that nasty sponge smell! Insert dancing-lady-emoji here!

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Stainless teapot. When our last tea pot fell apart (literally), I knew it was time to upgrade to something heavier and more substantial, even though that means more money. I like to keep a tea pot out on the stove all the time, so I wanted something functional (obviously) but that was also pretty and classic since you’ll always be seeing it. This one fit the bill! They used to sell it at Williams Sonoma, but I bought mine on Amazon because I’m addicted to Prime.
Side note: Because I keep mine out on the back burner all the time, it gets dirty from cooking. I did some research and bought this cleaner and it keeps it looking new and shiny.

 

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Wine Out. If you drink red wine, or have friends who drink red wine – BUY THIS! It’s like magic, seriously! I have the bigger bottle in my cabinet for larger spills and I’ve never had a stain. Ryan teases me that I have the “wino-sized” bottled. :)

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Takeout menu organizer. We are lucky and have a lot of different takeout options where we live. We used to have menus stuffed into a binder until I came across this organizer. My brother-in-law always makes fun of me, but I know he secretly loves how easy it is to find the menu for our favorite pizza place when he’s at our house.

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Modern litter box. Creepy cat in the photo aside, this litter box is beautiful. A sentence I never thought I’d type. We have the box open in our newly finished basement, so it’s pretty visable. I wanted something small and discreet and this one is perfect! When we were showing family the basement once it was done, someone complimented the box but didn’t even realize it was a litter box! I love that the opening is on the top, too, so they track less litter through the house.

 

How is that for the most random list of “favorite” items?! :) Thanks for reading.

What I’ve learned about entertaining

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Am I the only one who feels like they are still catching up after the holidays? We finally put our Christmas tree away this week and it felt so good! Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and seeing all the beautiful ornaments we’ve collected over the years but it was time to have my house back.

I took a week off in between Christmas and New Year’s – what I call “family week” – and during that time I was thinking about how much easier this Christmas Eve felt to host. This is the third year we’ve hosted and I felt like I finally was in a groove after learning from all my previous party “mistakes”. Here’s what I’ve learned to have a fun, easy, stress free and memorable party…

 

Set up beforehand, if possible. I like to have the table set up a day or two before Christmas Eve so Ryan and I don’t have to stress about taking folding chairs and folding tables in from the garage the morning of the party. This year we ran out of time and set up last minute, but it worked out because our curious almost-three year old was very curious and would have moved everything around anyway. :)

Cook some, buy the rest.  Pre-baby, I used to go crazy trying cook everything, proving to myself and my guests just how domestic I was. Ha!
Post-baby I realize how crazy I was! If you’re hosting dinner, make the meal and buy the appetizers and/or desserts. No one wants to go to a dinner party where the host is stressed, so do yourself a favor and let other people help! Plus you don’t want to be in the kitchen all night feeling like a caterer. Accept help so you can actually enjoy your guests!
If you’re hosting a big group, like I do, do a potluck. I make a ham and some roasted veggies while our families bring sides and appetizers.

Have sternos on hand to keep meals hot. Someone will always be late. No matter how organized you are with planning your meal times, someone will be late and all your food may get cold. I only have one oven, so I keep these on hand to keep the meal hot as guests arrive.

Always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You never know if someone will share news to celebrate! I love drinking champagne even on days where there’s nothing to celebrate but life itself, so I usually have a bottle chilling in the fridge.

Take stock of dish soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. A few years ago when we were hosting a party, we had only one roll of paper towels and one clean dish towel. Party foul. The next year I made sure all the dish towels were clean so clean-up was easier. Also, make sure all bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper so your guests don’t get embarrassed asking for it mid-party.

Set the mood. I’m a bit of a pyro, so every party I have there are tons of candles. On Christmas Eve, we try and get our neighbors involved to do luminaries, so our house had 48 candles outside alone. We may have had three times that inside on the tables!  For table settings, I like to keep it simple: lots of candles, plates all in the same or similar colors, and small flower arrangements.  I feel like the candles and the flowers elevate the mood and make guests feel special. At least that’s my intention!

Have the dishwasher empty. You’ll likely go through a lot of dishes cooking and eating, so have the dishwasher ready to do it’s job! This way you don’t have to wake up to a kitchen counter filled with dirty dishes.

OK to have dishes in the sink. Nothing is more annoying than when you go to someone’s house that appears spotless and they say “oh, don’t mind the mess” just to be polite. Do you agree?! I like to keep a few dishes in the sink: 1) because I’m lazy and hate doing dishes and 2) it makes guests feel like your home isn’t too precious and they can kick back and relax.

OK to entertain barefoot. On the same note as above, I read a tip years ago to entertain barefoot so you’re guests feel more relaxed and at home. I am typically barefoot at home anyway, so the same thing goes when I have people over.

Have ice made. If guests want a cocktail or a glass of water, they’ll need ice to keep it cold. (duh.)  One of my first parties I hosted, I forgot to make ice and I felt awful that my friends were drinking warm cocktails. Lesson learned!

Don’t go crazy buying desserts. If you’re cooking dinner, you’ll likely be too full to binge on sweets. Make/buy one or two and call it a day.

Do not mop your floors beforehand. I repeat: do not mop your floors beforehand. Ryan’s just as OCD as me, if not worse, and we would always mop before a party. As clean as you think your friends and family are, a big party tracks in a lot of dirt and stickiness from spilled drinks even if the party is mainly outside. I’ll vacuum before a party and do a very quick cleaning, but always mop the day after.

Have the garbage and recycling empty. Similar to the note about the dishwasher, have the trash ready and empty to throw things away so you don’t have to bring it out during a party.

 

new uses for everyday things

Every month when Real Simple comes in the mail, Ryan knows not to talk to me for a good hour. This months issue has even more of my favorite “new uses for everyday things” and I’ve compiled a list of genius ideas that I wish I thought of sooner!

  • Use a tissue box as a plastic bag dispenser to organize your pile of shopping bags.

  • Use your salad spinner to get the extra water out of your cashmere sweaters. Just put the sweaters in the spinner, and then lay flat after to dry.

  • If you’re over your Uggs, cut the boot and use the shearling as a pot holder. (After cleaning them of course!) This is a great idea for camping!

  • Wrap a rubber band around nail polish for stubborn bottles that won’t open.

  • Use a lemon to disinfect your chopping block, or to remove stains from tupperware.
  • Clean your kitchen sponge by heating it in the microwave for a minute. (There’s nothing worse than the smell of dirty sponge!)

  • Wrap tomatoes in newspaper seperately to ripen sooner.
  • Hang Christmas lights vertically on your tree instead of wrapping them around and around. It cuts down the time of putting them up, and removing them.

  • Keep a few marshmallows in your brown sugar to keep it soft. Genius!

(all photos Real Simple.)

holiday gift guide – for the home

for the home

1. 9 Varietal Honey Flight – $78

2. House Line Drawing – $60

3. Optical Test Chart “Mystery” Tea Towel – $29.95

4. Marble Cheese Trays $16.95-$24.95

5. Dogon Basket – $250-$300

6. Carafe with Oak Stopper – $29.95

7. Wee Bus Vase with Woven Natural Colorless Knot Net – $26

8. Lutz & Patmos Honeycomb Throw – $79

9. Juliette Pillow – $59.95

10. Platter No. 8 – $150

11. 10-Piece Glass Bowl Set – $38

how to clean stained tupperware

Sooo… I borrowed tupperware from Ryan’s sister and stained it with spaghetti sauce (whoops!). I found a recipe for a natural cleaner a while back and I’ve been anxious to try it! I’ve tried other ‘green’ home remedies and haven’t been pleased with the results. See the directions below for a remedy that works!

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How to:

1. Add enough water to container to cover stain.

2. Add baking soda until the water starts to fizz, or looks carbonated.

3. Squeeze fresh lemon or a tablespoon of lemon juice into container and let sit overnight.

4. Rinse, and wash wish soap and water.

Try it! It works!

not an exit.

So I live in a studio with my boyfriend, Ryan. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the studio part before. We bought it with the intentions of flipping and investing to eventually rent it now. Given the current economy (there goes that dirty word again) we’ll need to be a little patient with investing in another property and just stay in the place we already spent months renovating. For now I can only dream of decorating a foyer, and drool over these uniquely beautiful entries.

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WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PROJECT!