Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Matchy Matchy at Stony Creek Brewery

Head to Toe: Top and slacks, tote, and sunglasses, Urban Outfitters // Scarf, Lilysilk // Sandals, Teva

I'm a huge Urban Outfitters fan but usually feel the price isn't worth it for the quality, which is why I turned into the actual heart eye emoji when I got an email that they were having a 50% off clearance flash sale last week. Needless to say, I stocked up on some things, like this trendy set and macrame tote bag. The cat-eye shades in the photo above were $2.50, which is a fraction of what I pay my sunglasses guy at the cart down the street from my office. I also got some basics for fall, like a white fisherman sweater and a plain black crew-neck sweatshirt. Apologies for using the F word, but I know autumn will be upon us before we know it. Tomorrow is officially August!

While the summer lasts, I have been enjoying warm-weather destinations around Connecticut. My friends have been talking about Stony Creek Brewery in Branford forever but I had never been until this past Saturday. CT friends, it lives up to the hype. The view is beautiful, and there are three levels of outdoor space and multiple cornhole boards, if that's your thing. (It's definitely not mine with my lack of hand-eye coordination, but it's fun to watch.) They have several beers on tap and wine options if you aren't a beer drinker. I chose the "Sun Juice," and it even matched my outfit. #Winning. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Sweet and Easy DIY Keepsake for Wedding Cards

Confession: I am a card hoarder. I have boxes of old birthday cards that I will probably never look at again but refuse to throw away. I didn't want to see that happen to my bridal shower and wedding cards, so I decided to make a little book out of them with this easy DIY. This was perfect for wedding cards but could also make a great keepsake for baby showers, children's birthdays, or family Christmas cards.

Here's what you need: Cardstock for the front and back cover, string or ribbon, and a hole punch. That's it. Since I had extra marble contact paper from my kitchen makeover, I decided use that for the cover by adhering it to a manilla file folder. But any cardstock will do, or get creative by laminating your invitation, gluing wrapping paper to cardboard, or making a collage. Make sure your cover is slightly larger than your largest card and cut to fit. (I found I am just not skilled with a razor and ruler, so I freehanded with scissors instead.) Then, decorate the cover or leave it blank. I had these sparkly gold letters on hand from Michael's, so I spelled Bride for my shower cards and I Do for our wedding.

Next, punch holes in your covers and each card using two holes of a three-hole punch. It's important do this so that they all line up, as it would be difficult to measure the same distance punching one hole at a time. For our wedding, I included the invitation at the front, and for my shower, I included marriage advice cards guests filled out at the party.

Last is to string them together. If you want a more professional look, you can buy special rings (like these). I preferred a more "shabby chic" look and chose twine for my shower cards and leftover ribbon from our bookmark favors for the wedding. I'm so pleased with the result and plan to display the books on a shelf with my dried bouquet. How do you store special cards?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How I Redid My Rental Kitchen For Under $200

When Sean and I were apartment hunting, we fell in love with this little condo. The only thing that really gave me pause was the kitchen (see before picture at the bottom of this post). It was very dark, outdated, and the countertop had a big burn mark that made me cringe every time I saw it. I didn't mind the dark oak stain, but it just didn't go with the light, breezy way we decorated the place.

My landlord said the cabinets needed to be sanded and painted, but didn't really offer a timeline for when it could get done, so I asked if she minded if I did it myself. I got the green light, and we were off to the races. I read up quite a bit on how to paint kitchen cabinets, and according to the internet, it's insanely hard. Take them all down, remove hardware, wipe everything down, sand them, paint the primer on the backs, let it dry, prime the front, and then repeat on the other side.
I turned my research toward how I could cut down on some of those steps. First, did I really care about the back of the doors? I don't, and it is a rental, so skip. I also decided I was willing to spend a little more money to skip the sanding step, my least favorite part. I found Valspar Cabinet Enamel Paint at Lowe's for $50 for a gallon. This paint can be mixed in any color, just like regular paint, and is designed to go over existing finishes. Score! I bought a gallon in CafĂ© Blue.

First step was to take down all of the cabinet doors from the frame...I think what was bothering me the most about the existing cabinetry was the hardware, which had been stained over once already and was clunky looking. I removed all of the knobs and filled the holes with wood filler, then sanded those over for a smooth surface. I got new handles that fit into the existing holes for the drawers. I had plans to drill holes in the corners and add new knobs, but I decided I liked the plain, minimal look best, and the cabinets have little lips on the bottom to grab anyway. Another step skipped!
In one long afternoon (that stretched into the evening), I was able to paint all the cabinets and the frame. I did one coat with a brush and a second with a small roller. It wasn't easy, and by the end I was all blistered and covered in blue, but I did it! After I rehung them the next day, I used a teeny brush to touch up any dings or missing spots that occurred in the process.
For the countertops, I used marble contact paper to cover the entire surface, which is completely removable on laminate. Read: You don't have to ask your landlord! I read up a lot on this process as well, and knew although the material was temperamental, I could make it work. (You can too! It just takes a little lot of patience.) I followed the advice from Make Do and DIY on this post and bought DC Fix paper on Amazon, as Linda recommended. Since her post explains things pretty well, I just have a few extra pieces of advice to add from my experience: 
  • Buy more paper than you think you need—I had to go back and order a second set of three rolls. (Thank you Prime and two-day shipping.) If you have extra, you can keep it on hand to replace any spots that need to be redone down the road. 
  • Get a wide, flat spatula intended for spackle. A lot of posts recommend using a credit card to smooth the paper, but the spatula is only a few dollars and makes it much easier to smooth a larger surface area.
  • Don't get hung up on matching the seams perfectly. They really aren't that noticeable, as long as everything's covered, so let the edges overlap a bit. It's easier than trying to get the seams to line up exactly. 
  • Be okay with imperfection. In the end, I did have a few bubbles, but they aren't a big deal. It's pretty near impossible to make these 100-percent perfect, but if your countertops are like mine, anything is an improvement on the original! And the overall result has a big "wow" factor.
In my family, no home is complete without a braided rug. My mom handmakes them, and the craft was passed down from my Grandmother (who hand-painted the little toleware dish I use to hold my rings while washing dishes, below). My mom made this one for our Upper West Side apartment, but it fits perfectly in our new space. And, of course, Truman approves. If you're interested, you can shop my mom's braided rugs in Etsy or order a custom design!
The best part about our new space is being able to enjoy all of the wonderful gifts we received for our shower and present them in the best light. It warms my heart every time I use them to think about all the great people in our life and such a beautiful time. Most pieces are from our Crate & Barrel registry, but if there is anything you are curious about in particular, ask me in the comments!
Last, but not least, the before

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Seaside Style in the Perfect Summer Jumper

Head to Toe: Jumper, Marshall's  (similar) // Sandals, Melissa // Sunnies, Izipizi // Bag, J.McLaughlin
Friends, I had a realization the other day. The consensus on Instagram was that everyone should drop what they're doing and run to the nearest Nordstrom for the anniversary sale. And I just thought, I don't give a crap about the Nordstrom sale. I've actually only purchased one thing at Nordstrom (a pair of wedges), ever. And then my next thought was, Am I really a fashion blogger?

When I started this blog seven years ago, the landscape was pretty different. Fashion blogs were just about girls taking photos of their outfits, sharing styling tips, and getting creative. But in today's Instagram world, fashion blogging seems to be more and more about selling things (looking at you Like It To Know It), and that's honestly just not something I'm interested in doing. Most of my clothes are found at Marshall's, secondhand, or vintage. Other times, it's swag I'm lucky enough to inherit as an editor. So that "where did you get that" question can be hard to answer.

Getting older has also made me more interested in spending my money on other pursuits than just my closet, like things for my apartment or a nice dinner out. I think, as a consequence of that, you've seen my blog drift more into the lifestyle realm, and that's where I think it will continue to go. This week, I'll be sharing my DIY kitchen "remodel," and I hope to write more about our new place and how it's coming together.

Overall, I think it fits. Because #LivingMyBestLife can mean a new outfit or a new kitchen or a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe. My friend Alexis of Cheese & Weim was feeling similarly as a food blogger and being limited to posting about recipes, and we both decided branching out was a good move. But for me, outfit posts will never go away entirely, which is why I had her take these photos—crowded restaurant patrons watching be damned.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Festive Fourth Barbecue

Happy Fourth, fashionistas!  Our new apartment as a pretty spacious balcony, so I scanned Offerup for a few weeks before we found a steal—a large gas grill, only two years old, for $100. We've been firing it up ever since and wanted to celebrate the Fourth with an intimate barbecue. We had my parents and a few friends over for burgers, kabobs, and corn on the cob. Sean loves blueberry pie, so I took my first stab at making one with this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction (although I used Pillsbury crust, I'm only human people). I rolled out the dough and cut into stars for the top, which was actually incredibly easy and made it so much more festive!

For drinks, I had to make this Watermelon Punch I stumbled across on Suburban Simplicity's Instagram. I hollowed out a watermelon for the punch bowl and blended with pineapple juice, frozen lemonade, and vodka. It was a messy, sticky project, but came out delicious and super pretty on my tabletop. I'd recommend for any summer soiree you have this season if you're up for some serious counter wiping.

For decorations, Sean and I found everything we needed at Dollar Tree! We were actually trying to head into TJ Maxx but it wasn't open yet, so we went into the dollar store to kill time. Why do I not shop these stores more frequently?? It had a ton of cute entertaining stuff for, yup, $1. We got a tablecloth, lanterns, plates and napkins, and little flag decorations to set the scene. It was a great afternoon; I hope everyone had a happy Fourth full of food and friends. #MERICA!