Friday, May 26, 2017

Wine Club Throws a Puppy Shower!

My friend Ashleigh's had a lot of great ideas, but I think multiple lightbulbs went off above her head when she suggested we throw our friend Stacie a Puppy Shower. It's such a great concept, I assume it will sweep the nation.

Our friend Stacie let us know she was getting a chocolate lab puppy a few weeks ago and Ashleigh — perhaps inspired by the Sex and the City episode about why showers are reserved just for weddings and babies — said we should surprise her with a puppy shower. Brilliant!


Ashleigh invited Stacie's sister and sister-in-law and we all met for dinner at Leone's, a fancy new Italian place. Somehow none of that seemed out of the ordinary to Stacie, and she didn't even notice each of us carried a gift bag in when we entered the room. We had a magical moment where we all put them on the table at the same time and she was totally shocked!




Puppy George got all the necessities: chew toys, pool toys, poop bags, treats, grooming supplies and beyond. When I mentioned in passing that I was buying these items for a Puppy Shower, the Petsmart employee squealed and said, "OMG that's amazing." Our waiter said he needed to get better friends. What can we say? We love a good theme party.


I'd be remiss if I didn't also shout out the tremendous beef tortellini I had with sun-dried tomatoes and shallots, followed by profiteroles. Mmmmmm good.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Front Door Makeover: I'm a Robin's Egg Blue Addict


My name is Amber and I am a Robin's Egg Blue addict. It was one of my wedding colors. It's also the color of my bedroom, my living room lamps, most of my pottery, my recipe box, my patio chairs, my future kitchen tile...you get the picture. I knew I wanted to paint the front door but I didn't want to fall into my same old pattern, and yet, here we are: my door is the Pinterest equivalent of a basic bitch: Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue and unabashedly pretty. I can't quit you, robin's egg.

From our first visit to the house, I was not feeling the red shutters or the red-toned faux wood fiberglass front door. It felt old-fashioned to me, and I'd been fantasizing about a bright front door like those I saw all over Dublin. I thought that meant I'd have to get a new front door someday that was more my style, but after seeing a friend paint his door that was nearly identical to ours, I felt emboldened. Once we decided to paint the shutters, I knew the house needed a bright touch to balance out its new dark look and became obsessed with virtually painting the door online.


My first thought was Wythe Blue, but it's a little played out in the blogosphere. Seriously, do a search for it on Pinterest or Instagram and you'll see many, many Wythe Blue doors. It's classic for a reason, but I didn't want to be a cliche! So, I got samples of three Sherwin Williams colors (Peppery, Silvermist and Patina Green) from Lowe's and painted these Spot On nifty wall vinyls they sell in the paint section in a three-pack. These are awesome because you can hang them up, move them around and get a good idea of what your future color could look like.

Sean, Katie and I squinted, shaded our eyes, took pictures, looked up close, looked from far away and decided the Patina Green was the best, but still not quite right. Not quite as good as say...Wythe Blue. So I accepted my fate, and packed Sean off to our local BM dealer. 

 I got very, very lucky on the prep side. Our fiberglass door had never been painted and is protected by a storm door, so it truly only needed to be wiped down with a damp rag. Primer was built into the paint, so all I needed to do was tape the window and hinges, put down a drop cloth and work up the courage for the first stroke! We tried to remove all the hardware but ultimately got intimidated trying to undo the Baldwin lock on the backside of the handle, so I taped and hoped for the best.


I read several good online tutorials that recommended handpainting the insets and tricky corners first before using a smaller roller for the flat panels. I took long breaks between coats to watch 13 Reasons Why and make sure I didn't rush the job. All told, I ended up doing three coats on each side and it didn't take long when you consider I watched so many episodes of the show. It took most of my Saturday, but was 90% done by 6 p.m.


After two coats! I can't say for sure if it would have gone faster if I'd primed first...the paint adhered pretty well, but I'm just a little obsessive and almost always do 2-3 coats on any paint job.


I could not WAIT to pop out and see the door in all its glory and I'm so happy with it. Sean, who indulges all my crazy whims but usually isn't very effusive, was truly impressed. It definitely pops and we don't have any other houses on the block with this color (thank goodness!).


And of course, it's a beautiful complement to a planter of succulents I just put on the porch. By the end of this week, we'll have a new fence in the front, so our curb appeal is definitely getting much, much better! To-do list now includes: cleaning up our mailbox area, mulching the front beds, removing moss growing all over the place, and pressure washing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finally! A Backyard BBQ

After several failed attempts, we have finally crossed "have a backyard BBQ" off our to-do list! In the 2.5 years we've lived in our house, it has rained out approximately three attempts at a backyard party, to the point where I almost forgot how BBQs even work. 

But maybe because Mother Nature knew my mom was coming to visit or that it was Sean's birthday,  we got a perfect brisk, early spring night in the high 60s. Here's a peek at spring around our house:


I set up my spring mantel, complete with my Mermaid Factory mermaid.


I also had the joy of seeing my ranunculus bulbs bloom! I was concerned when they sprouted within a week of being planted and then our yo-yo winter weather, but they're yielding and they're beautiful!


My first harvest! Totally worth every penny and every minute of effort.


My mom was in town and it coincided with Sean's birthday, so we used it as an opportunity to attempt another BBQ and, as I said, we were finally successful!


We even got a new patio umbrella to replace the one wrecked in the hurricane...story of my life.

 Us and our beautiful littlest gal pals!

Happy Birthday to Sean! We dined on hamburgers, hot dogs, carrot cake, corn salsa and this lemon balsamic bowtie pasta salad. And now we have beaucoup leftover beer for the next 2-3 barbecues!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Bye Bye, Red Shutters


Our house exterior recently had a big makeover, and like putting mascara on, it really completes the look! From the day we pulled up to the open house, I said, "I would have to get rid of those red shutters." Call me boring, but I like a fun-colored door more than bright shutters, and I have particularly always disliked red shutters on brick houses (we all have our weird things, right?). 

Considering that was my first impression, it's pretty amazing I made it this long without actually whipping out a paintbrush, but as any homeowner can attest: there's always something else that needs fixin'. Around the fall, I got really itchy to tackle this project, but then the weather took a turn, we had a bonafide hurricane, and before I knew it, the moment had passed. 

Meanwhile, this was happening...
  

Peeling. Like a lot of peeling. White fiberglass shutters were to the previous owners what red shutters were to me, apparently, and their red paint job has been rapidly deteriorating over the past two years. Most people would never notice, but I couldn't pull in and out of the driveway without taking a mental inventory of the white spots peeking through on each shutter. The time had come!!


Because I'm a newbie at all this, I genuinely believed we had wood shutters until we pulled them off the house and realized we didn't have wood...and they didn't look like vinyl either. Mystery! We truly weren't sure what the right protocol is for painting chipped fiberglass shutters, but the folks at Home Depot nonchalantly shrugged, said "Sand it and then paint" and we decided it was time to just go for it.

We split the project over two weekends, which I can't recommend enough. If you, like us, are cursed with louvered shutters, you're going to need some time to really get intimate with the nooks and crannies.

On the first weekend, we hosed them off, wiped them down, cleaned them with TSP and wiped again with soapy water and then AGAIN with rags. After we felt sure we'd swept away every cobweb, we sanded them to remove the obvious peeling paint and set them aside for a week while I tried to settle on a swatch.


I had always known I wanted to do black shutters. That is, until I went to pick out black swatches and realized there are MANY shades of black. On a friend's recommendation, I scoped out the Sherwin Williams line at Lowe's, and on a whim, grabbed a swatch of Black Fox. Black Fox is an almost bronze-charcoal-chocolate color that defies definition. It is not black — that's for sure — but as I held swatches against our brick, I realized it was a great complement to the dark bricks. And although I'm not in love with the shade of our brick, I realized everything will work out better if I play nice.

I chose the Sherwin Williams Weathershield paint with primer in semi-gloss and bought one gallon (we have quite a bit left over, but that's good for touch-ups). Because the pollen was heavy, we decided to do the whole project inside the garage. Using a trim roller for the fronts and sides and angled brushes for the louvers, we painted on Sunday and (sadly) even a little on Monday night for the amount of time it took to listen to the entire S-Town podcast. One coat was definitely not enough, but thankfully, a second coat seemed to do the trick!


We let the shutters cure for a few days and finally, Sean put them back on the house and I came home, looked up and went, "OMG!" At first, I thought...am I going to be OK with not having the black shutters I always pictured? I also felt more committed than ever to paint our front door a nice color for some contrast.


But after looking at a before and after, I can say for sure that the house is more ME and I think the color was a great fit for the brick. I was even inspired to plant dwarf boxwoods in my iron planters and now I'm using all the virtual painting apps to try to narrow in on a color. Any ideas?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Pretty Week in Provo


Not too long ago, I jetted off for a work trip to beautiful Provo, Utah. I didn't expect to have much time to explore, but I was pleasantly surprised I did get to hop around a bit! In case any of you are plotting a trip to Utah, I thought I'd share some of the spots that charmed me.


I was told by BYU grads that no trip to Provo is complete without a stop at the legendary 37-year-old deli, Sensuous Sandwich. Its circa-70s decor reminded me of our own college sandwich joint, Subway Station and my childhood favorite, Dari Barn.


This is the wall of brave souls who have tried to set a record devouring the 24-inch sandwich. I played it a little safer, with the 8-inch Bodacious with swiss cheese.


I walked around the beautiful grounds of the Provo City Center Temple, which was reconstructed after a fire not too many years ago. It's right on Center Street, which is the main artery leading to international restaurants, the convention center and lovely small shops.


I loved Unhinged, a quirky boutique selling small brands' apparel and accessories, art and decor, along with plenty of vintage clothing and even a barber shop upstairs.


Fancy a new old pair of Chucks? Unhinged has got you, boo.



Down the street is Here, a beautiful boutique selling art, decor, some apparel and even stained glass! I picked up a couple prints with gold foil-printed quotes from Jane Austen and Walt Whitman.


One night, we trekked out to one of the breweries in the area...be forewarned, beer is on the weak side, because Utah requires beer to have only 3.2 percent alcohol content. Just the same, Strap Tank Brewing Co. was a great spot to sip beer, watch basketball and listen to live music! The decor was amazing...that wood ceiling was mesmerizing!


How beautiful is that wavy glass? So many great details.


And my hefeweizen!


You can't visit Provo without making time to go at least to the base of the legendary Y mountain. It has many switchbacks that make it an easy hike, but I arrived at sunset, so decided not to go too far. Just the same, I was rewarded with a beautiful view.

Not far from the start, I saw a small hill and once I reached the top, I spotted this sweet tree swing. How adorable is that?


On my way to the airport, I realized I actually had enough time to do a whirlwind spin through downtown Salt Lake City. I did a Google search for "best burger in SLC" and Proper Burger Co. popped up.


I've been trying to cut down a bit on my burger/fries consumption, so I'm very glad I broke my long break with this fantastic one. I had the hipster burger, topped with red onion jam, kale pesto, fresh herb cheese spread, garlic aioli and spinach, under a delicious flour-dusted bun. And you best believe I didn't pass on the fry sauce.


After lunch, I drove to the State Capital, which is situated high above the city with a view of everything. And yeah, it does look just like the U.S. Capitol.


Beehives have great symbolism in Utah because Mormon leaders believed it was a symbol of industry, harmony and the sweet results of toil. It's cute.


The state capital was basically the most incredible marble showroom I've ever visited. With all due respect, I was envisioning my dream bathrooms the whole time.


How gorgeous is that?

In short, Utah is beautiful, sweet and the people couldn't be sweeter! I really want to go back to visit Arches National Park, one of my dream vacations.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wine Club Gets Healthy (ish)!


Maybe aging is finally affecting us, because everyone in Wine Club is finally trying to be sorta kinda healthy. Don't worry, we're still dipping into some mac and cheese or pizza on occasion, but we're making more room for green things. In this spirit, we had a "healthy favorites" wine club that was super delicious! Only problem? I ate so much it couldn't possibly be considered healthy!


We chose wines we thought would suit our respective dishes. We sampled:
  • Sheep Thrills Pinot Grigio: Delicate floral and tropical fruit aromas, perfect with my bell pepper panzanella. 
  • Love Noir Pinot Noir: This is an especially delicious and lush pinot noir with "generous notes of dark cherry." It was a fantastic match for our espresso-soaked steak. 
  • Alamos Malbec: Ripe red fruit flavors with notes of vanilla and anise. 
  • Kris Pinot Grigio: Hints of lime, tangerine, apricots and almonds with a long finish.


On one side of the table, we had Stacie's "green spaghetti," with broccoli, mozzarella cheese and olive oil, Erica's steak marinated in Savor the Olive's espresso oil, and Lauren's Fresh Market fruit and custard tart.


On the other side of the table, we had Ashleigh's Famous Kiwi Guacamole, Lauren's amazing quinoa salad and my bell pepper panzanella (from a Plated recipe). 

My overloaded (and delicious!) plate. I can pretty much wholeheartedly vouch that all of these were tremendous, and — maybe not together — healthy options.

Click for the panzanella and guacamole recipes!