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Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Friday | Cookies for the Crew & Store Restocking



I get a lot of comments about how I "do it all" - and each time I read one of those, I feel a little guilty.  I never want this blog to make anyone feel like I'm some wonder woman that sleeps 2 hours a night and still has time to make fresh pancakes every morning and decorates cookies in the afternoon.  The truth is that the store has been a great new inspiration for me professionally - and a lot more work than I expected.


I started the store last summer - after blogging for 5 years, I needed a little something different to concentrate on and motivate me on a daily basis.  It was way, way, way more work than I thought it would be.  In a good way - and in an overwhelming way.  I've forged new relationships with my readers, opened new avenues of creativity for me and turned my brain on in a major way.  However, it took a major toll on my time.

The new note that goes out with each package - printed on my favorite really heavy textured cardstock.  It is the same paper and colors we used for our wedding invitations.
I've always been the type to do everything myself and reject help at all corners (I'm sure this sounds familiar to most of you!).  This has served me well, but also has been limiting.  After all, I am only one person... or so I've been reminded : )

After the holidays, I was exhausted... but already thinking about fun Valentine's products.  I knew I couldn't keep up at the rate I was going - burnout was just around the corner.

So, after a little encouragement from Mike, I set out looking for help in the form of a crew.

For the past two months, I've been transitioning and training the new crew.  It feels like a huge step - the first time I've taken one of my ideas to the real next level.   Typically, the week after a new product launch, I spend days/weeks knee deep in krinkle wrap and packing tape. 

This new found freedom allows me to be able to respond to your questions more quickly, keep tabs on fleeting inventory, fix dinner for my family, and write blog posts, without feeling like I'm underwater for two weeks straight.


On their first big packing day I made a big basket of Egg Cookies (made from my Copper Cookie Cutters) and Lemon Butter Cakes (baked in Kraft Loaf Pans) for the crew.  I wanted to treat them to something special - and, I wanted them to feel and experience my brand on a first hand level.  I told them that these are the sort of things that these fabulous customers are planning to make.  I want them to understand how important presentation is - and that every package that goes out should feel like a gift.

Of course, Mike thought I was insane when I got up early to package them and tie the ribbons... isn't this why you've hired help?  As I explained to him, this is the fun stuff.  The reason I started everything in the first place.  And I'm so glad I have the time and energy to do the fun stuff and to do all of those little things that make life special.  


Last night, we had our first Spring storm that brought in drizzling rain and a 55 degree morning today.  The sun might not be shining, but the birds are chirping, my doors are wide open and I can smell that lovely damp scent of Spring.  I'm so glad I have the time and energy to enjoy it!   Oh - and thanks for all of the compliments on my new photo!   However, I assure you that I look nothing like this today in my comfy clothes while I work with my feet up and latte in my hand - of course. 



Product Updates :

Last week when I debuted the new Spring Collection, some items sold out so quickly, so I've restocked them this week, including My Everyday Candles (in the classic cream, this time) and Tablets + Le Pens in fresh colors.

Next week is all about Sugar Cookies.  I'll be posting unique packaging ideas, decorating tips and trying a couple new icing and cookie recipes. 

Thanks so much for all of your support!  Happy Spring : )

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Spring Products | Spring Cookie Cutters, Creamware Platters, Tags & Cards, Willow Baskets


The weather (around here at least) is finally beautiful, the mornings are crisp, the afternoons sunny and the birds have returned - and if that wasn't proof enough, yesterday was the official first day of Spring.  Emma's been on Spring break this week, so I spent much of last week taking photos of products and uploading them to the store during naps this week.  Thank for being patient with me as the blog has been quite for too long.  I look forward to sharing many of the recipes and projects I've been working on in the next couple of weeks.  I have lots of tutorials planned (perfect icing colors, per your request) and new recipes.  


The Everyday Occasions Store
Spring Collection

You can find all of the products that are new for Spring, here, the photo to the left is just a small snapshot.  I've picked out a couple more of my favorites below, but I'll be featuring many of the products in the next couple of weeks with some recipes, entertaining ideas and homemade gifts.



 Willow Vase & Votive Collection

I'm personally so excited about the Willow collection.  The Large Willow Vase shown here is everything I love about accessories for our home - simple, natural and pretty.  It is be perfect for any season.  I love how yellow daffodils look with the wood willow branches on the vase - to me it is exactly how this time of year feels when the bare branches of winter mix with the first Spring blooms.  I also can't wait to have it full of blue hydrangeas in the summer.  

In addition to this Large Willow Vase, I also am carrying a set of two Medium Size Vases, and a set of 6 Votives.  They look great used together or mixed in with your own collections.


Spring Copper Cookie Cutters

Cookie Cutters have become my new favorite item to think about for each season of the store.  For years, I've always looked forward to decorating cookies each season, now I look forward to being able to share that tradition with all of my readers.  

I featured cookies made from cutters just like these last year on my blog and they may have been my favorite of all time.  I love the entire collection - the white bunny, the yellow chick, the blue bird and all of the fun speckled colored eggs.  When I was deciding which cutters to have made for Spring, I just couldn't decide... so I had them all made.  You won't find them cutters anywhere else. 

The Baby Birds I first added to the store for Valentine's Day sold out so fast, that Ive restocked them for Spring.  I've used them for baby showers, wedding showers and Easter.  They are irresistibly charming - and so versatile.  I've featured them on the site on several occasions and receive countless requests for them. 

These cookie cutters are extra special, as they are made from copper - the most traditional metal for cutters.  They are a truly heirloom quality cutter that can be passed down for generations.  I love collecting copper cutters - and I love thinking that Emma will be using them with her kids and grandkids as they make holiday memories as I did with my Mom and Sister.

*These Copper Cutters are handmade.  As they have to be ordered months in advance, I only have a limited number available.
 
Glass Spice Jars 
 Small & Large

For me Spring is all about refreshing our house, our menus and our routines.  Everything is lighter and airier inside - gone is the clutter of the Holidays and Winter stock piling.  I want every surface, cabinet, garage and closet to be neat and clean. 

Remember when I posted my this photo of my organized Baking Pantry a couple of years ago?  I got a lot of requests from readers that wanted to do the same thing for their cabinets, so I've stocked glass jars for this Spring - two sizes, small (for spices) or large (for sprinkles, baking soda, even storing pastry tips...).


There is nothing better than opening up your pantry to a nice and neat row of sparkling glass spice jars.  Before I made the switch to all glass jars, my spice pantry was a constant struggle of craziness, spilling out every time I opened the door.  Now, it is probably the most organized corner of the house, which makes baking and cooking so much fun.  One of the best spring cleaning projects!

Creamware Egg Cups
 
I can't wait to use these Egg Cups this year to display the Easter Eggs Emma and I make together.  I've wanted some for years - they seem to be in every March edition of Martha Stewart since the beginning of time.  If you're a Barefoot Contessa fan, you've seen "Michael" set a brunch table featuring hollowed out eggs in egg cups filled with muscari. 

I love how simple and elegant these are.  They make great placecards at each plate or just scattered down the center of the table amongst little bunches of daffodils would be so fun.  If you don't plan on dying eggs this year, find some great heritage eggs in browns and blues for a great natural look.












 


Linen Tea Towels

Every season I brighten up my kitchen with fresh linen tea towels.  For the store, I've had a flax natural linen and black in the Fall, and flax and red for the holidays.  

This season, I found these lovely towels with a simple, classic pattern in my favorite hue for spring, Light Blue, and a classic Graphite and White - perfect for anytime of the year.  They instantly made my kitchen feel lighter and more fresh and clean.  Don't be afraid to use them - they soften beautifully in the wash. 













Gathering Basket

I am obsessed with this.  It is my new favorite thing.  Right now, ours is hanging on the door knob right inside our front door full of pussy willows.  Last week for the photos I had it filled with hydrangeas.  I can't wait to have Cherry Blossoms in it next month, big bunches of leaves in the Fall, branches of berries for the Holidays... endless.  

Please note, it is a little too large to hang on my front door, as we have a storm door in front of it.  I am going to figure out how I can hang it on the storm door outside (from a ribbon?) in the future.  But, for the moment, I'm loving it just where it is.












The secret to using fresh branches and blooms in the basket is using floral tubes to keep them fresh.  I've included 10 large clear tubes with each basket. 
My Everyday Candle in Blue

This Spring, I've had my signature scent poured into a soft, powder blue bowl (Bliss Blue).  I love how this color looks with pale butter yellows, bright daffodils and lilacs for Spring.  As it is Bliss Blue, it also makes a great gift for wedding season.
...

I had these custom poured by a local artisan.  She created this most amazing scent that contains all of my favorite things - red currant, quince and the slightest hint of orange blossom.  I burn this candle in our home on a daily basis - it is so soft and sophisticated.  It is the kind of candle that makes you want to breathe deep and relax into a cozy corner.

I had them poured in a mini latte bowl (from Anthropologie) that can be used after the candle is gone.  I love anything with a double use.  They are perfect for everything from individual desserts to holding dijon on a buffet.

Creamware Platter Collection 

Finding pretty, simple platters can be a challenge.  Many times platters are too bright white, or a little too modern... or adorned with something distracting.  These creamware platters are perfect.  The smaller ones are perfect for side dishes or appetizers.  The medium sizes are great to make displays of desserts or for a cheese tray.  The large work great for the main course of a dinner party.  When we're entertaining, my favorite way to serve the main course is all on one platter with the beef, pork or chicken in the center, then piles of vegetables on each side - easy and beautiful.
Tablet + Le Pens
new : Light Blue

This is the best little gift for yourself - a great way to get organized for Spring.

I had the tablets custom printed with a simple label-style header on a natural (just slightly creamy) cardstock.  These have been one of my most popular items since I opened the store last Summer.  The new Light Blue is just the thing to make your Spring to-do list lighter.























Everyday Tags & Cards

As I've started spring cleaning and organizing for our new house, I've been planning my new mudroom/studio space that will contain storage for all of my crafting supplies.  I thought it would be a great idea to make a line of stationery tags and cards that would be perfect for any occasion.
The Small Tag is pre-punched with a hole, ready to be strung on ribbon or twine.  The Folded Card can be punched and attached to a gift as a card, or used as a place card.  I love anything with a double use.

This collection would also be beautiful for a wedding or rehearsal dinner - the place cards at the tables and the tags on the favors.

I had these printed on a natural white extra-extra thick, textured cardstock.  The ink color is the same we used for our wedding - the original "Bliss Blue" (click here to see other products in this color).  It is a soft, powdered blue that is the perfect neutral for any color wrapping or ribbon.
Small Wooden Baking Basket

Another very popular item each season has been the wooden baking baskets - before in a medium and large size.  Now, I've added a small size that is perfect for Easter treats.  It fits nicely in the Large Cello Bag and can be used to bake in (think one large cinnamon roll...) or for making mini individual Easter baskets for friends or brunch guests.  I'll be showing more ways to use these in the coming weeks, too... especially with those darling Spring sugar cookies made with those Copper Cookie Cutters.

......

Enjoy shopping and browsing!  I'll be back Monday with some recipes and new ideas for Spring.  Have a great Spring weekend : )

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Addition House Plans | Cape Cod Style Home

Welcome to the first, real official introduction to our house project.  I know I've been talking about this foreeevvveerr already, and you've heard my schpeel many times as we've prepared for this. 

I've been holding back the full plans until we got the final OK from our city's planning board because most of our decisions were hinging on one important part - being able to add and attached two car garage.  We had almost enough room to add the new garage in the place where the side-porch is in this photo, but we needed the city to grant us a variance of 2ft on the side setback.  And for the record, I hate that we have to get rid of the charming porch, but it really was the only way to accomplish many of the other things we wanted to be able to do with our budget - and provided us the perfect spot to build a generous and lovely master bathroom.  So, after a nail-biting couple of month collecting signatures from neighbors and reviewing architectural plans, we got a huge OK from the city. 

If you would like to read about where we started, you can start here and here to get a little background for those of you just joining me to follow along in our journey.  Basically, we bought this small little house because I love its elegant curb appeal, it is in the most charming neighborhood in our city, on a beautiful tree-lined street full of families, and it had never been added onto.  It has a huge flat backyard perfect for bumping up, out and over. 

So... these are about two days later than I promised, but finally - here they are.  Hey, it is a construction project after all, I'm told to expect a ton of delays so why not here, too, right?  In addition to working with architects and contractors, I've been a busy bee behind the scenes preparing for my new Spring Line that will be available in my online store in less than 10 days.  I have so much fun stuff that you'll love to refresh your home - new types of products that I've custom designed and others that I've discovered.   Thanks for your patience while I've been working away.  Let the journey begin




Our goal was to keep the house looking very much the same from the front - a very simple and classic Cape Cod style with a steep pitched roof.  The only real change with the front of the house is the addition of the garage on the left side, and finishing the old garage into livable space.




I was very particular in designing the back of the house.  There are much more cost effective ways to bump out a home, but it was important for our addition to be just as pretty from the back as it is from the front.  I also wanted it to look like it was supposed to be built this way - instead of an afterthought.  I love this style of roof and came across the idea from a book called "Updating Classic American Capes" given to me by our old neighbor from Concord, Mass that had recently added onto their own house.  Our trip back to New England last fall gave me so much inspiration that I relied on when redesigning the house.

As you can see from the drawing above, we're adding a covered porch just off of the new open kitchen and hearth room through french doors.  Hopefully this area will be a good replacement for the porch we're loosing.  All the way to the right is the mudroom/my studio area that also opens up to the backyard with french doors.

Last week I shared the plan for the main part of the house - the new kitchen, dining and hearth area.  Here is the plan for the first floor.  The front Living Room will stay the same, then it will open up into the open plan room.  I have always loved cozy houses with small rooms, but life with kids really works better with open living.  I can't wait to be able to fix dinner while I can keep an eye on Emma in almost every corner.  For more details about how we'll use this room and the vision for it, see this post

As you can see, through the kitchen doors is what I'm so excited about... a mudroom and "studio."  I love utilitarian spaces.  I am envisioning it to look like a classic potting shed with open shelving, deep sink, wood cabinet storage and wooden "lockers" for every member of the family.  This will also be home to our dry goods storage and pantry.  A very hard working room.  Besides all of that, this is what I'll also be using for taking photos for the blog.  I have designed it so it will have the perfect amount of natural light on the counter for my photos - and a quick trip from the kitchen to get a good final shot of food.  I can't wait to work on my crafty projects here... I already have visions of all of my wrapping and packaging supplies in neat rows and organized in drawers.

The old garage will be transformed into a "Library" - which will be our cozy room of wood paneling and leather.  It will have french doors that can be closed off and be a private, quiet place, which I think will be nice to have with everything else being open.  In fact, I interviewed Sarah Susenka of The Not So Big House book series on her thoughts of how to plan a cozy house with a modern open floor plan.  Her tip was to create one area that could be closed off so that there was a spot to get away to and curl up with a book.  Great advice.   

I should mention that I'm calling it the Library and Mike is calling it His Room : )   I'm giving him majority rule in this room to make most of the decisions (so that means I have majority rule in the rest of the house, right...?), it will definitely be masculine and probably his favorite spot in the house... and probably feature a small collection of golf plaques and trophy's.  I think it will work for both of us because we both love the handsome Ralph Lauren sort of layered look with leather and plaids.  


The second floor is pretty self-explanatory.  The two front rooms are existing and changing very little besides adjusting some window placements to accommodate the garage roofline.  Emma will likely move from her nursery to our room and her nursery will be open for another baby - hopefully someday.  And just in case you're curious, not quite yet... don't want to start any rumors out there.

We are opening the hallway upstairs to be a large central hall for all of the rooms vs. the long a narrow hall that it was before.  Another huge bonus is the upstairs laundry room.  Yes.  I can not wait.  Right now I'm lugging laundry all the way down to the unpleasant unfinished basement.  As I said before, I love utilitarian spaces and can't wait to organize this room with handy and useful storage.  There will also be a big linen closet in the central hall - we're trying to add as much storage as we can.  My goal is to have everything at least have a place - a constant struggle. 

The master bedroom leads to the master bath that extends over the mudroom/garage area.  My plan is to have the bathroom itself be simple, airy and open with a sort of mini-vaulted ceiling that leads to a big soaking tub under the window.

Of course, in the next couple of weeks and months I'll share design boards, inspiration photos and layouts for each individual room.  Today, I just wanted to give you the big picture of where we're headed.  We won't break ground for at least another month while we get final bids and financing (details, details...) underway.  You can look foward to a weekly update (at least) of our progress and new ideas.   I welcome any advice and resource recommendations.  Thanks for taking the time to follow along.  The weather is beautiful here and as soon as Emma wakes up from her nap we'll be taking a long walk to the park.  In the meantime, I'll be doing laundry in the basement ; )

Have a great Sunday!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Roasted Colorful Carrots


This is not really a recipe as much as it is a method of cooking any vegetable.  We really love these "colorful" (I think they're actually called rainbow carrots...) at our house.  Emma now requests, "red carrot" or "yellow carrot" when we're out at restaurants.  Or mac & cheese and chocolate chips - don't worry, we're not that strange that our daughter is requesting only carrots.


For family-style dinners, I cut the carrots into matchsticks, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.  We call them carrot french fries.


For our "adult only" dinner party a couple of weekends ago, I left the carrots long and elegant, cutting them in half (or quarters for larger carrots) lengthwise. 

Colorful
Roasted Carrots

3 pounds of "Rainbow" Carrots
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sea Salt & Pepper

Peel and cut carrots lengthwise - half or quartered.  Place on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes until tender.


Here they are roasted and piled on a platter with the Beef Tenderloin and Cabernet Mushrooms.  I think for the most part, people put way too much effort and work into making vegetables something special, when in reality, they are really delicious when they are more simply prepared... maybe just try to find some fun colors, like these carrots, to keep them interesting.

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