Monday, June 30, 2008

choosing an invitation

Invitations are often the first thing that get decided for a party. They generally set the tone for the celebration...whether to convey a mood (think dressy casual supper), define a theme (like the dog days of summer) or establish a color palette. That's why they can be one of the most exciting (and stressful) parts of party-planning! 

Some people set out to buy an invitation with an idea of what they are looking for. Others decide the direction of the party based on the chosen invitation. And for those crafty few with a very definite opinion(who don't mind spending some extra hours), they make their invitation! 

Amy's party already has a couple of key things established, including: 1) the 'where' (their house) and 2) the 'what' (dog days of summer 1 year old birthday party). Her son, Jack, is in love with their family dog, Otto, who is a dalmation-mix. My guess is that Amy will want to incorporate Otto into the celebration, and may even have him serve as the mascot! Since dalmations already come with a preset color palette (black and white...and often fire-engine red), it gives Amy an opportunity for an 'easy button' color scheme.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

dog days of summer

The hottest and muggiest part of the summer season is almost upon us! It's a perfect time of year to throw a dog days of summer party. A couple of years ago, I threw one for my yellow and black labs' birthdays. Really, it was just a good excuse for a party, but it was fun to make bone-shaped cookies, have their 'friends' over, and take some cute pictures of them.

Webster defines 'dog days' as:
1) the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere
2) a period of stagnation or inactivity

What a perfect time of year to jazz things up and have some friends over! 

This year, my dear friend Amy is throwing a dog days of summer birthday party for her soon-to-be 1-year old, Jack. She is busy getting ready for this August event, and looking for some inspiration. I plan on dedicating this week, or at least part of it, to Jack's big day. Feel free to throw in your ideas as well! (And to my reader throwing a 'flea' birthday must send in pictures soon).

For the story behind how 'dog days' came about, go to
I love finding out the meaning behind names, but if you're not interested, I won't bore you on this blog. More to come tomorrow...

Dog toy from Three Potato Four.

2 things I love

Two things I love are:
1) finding something on SALE
2) finding something great in an unexpected place!

While doing some light shopping at the mall, I came across these great pavilion verandas from Z Gallerie. Z is one of those stores I pass by but never go into. For some reason I decided to stop in this time. The pavilion verandas look like much pricier versions, but are only priced at $399-$499! I can see one of them set up for a poolside party. The styling inside the veranda could use some help, but I'm willing to overlook it for the price.

Z's other offerings were fairly impressive as well. They seem to be doing a Jonathan Adler/Hollywood Regency thing these days. Keep it up Z, and get to work on that styling!

Pavilion verandas are available in green, black or chocolate trim.

Friday, June 27, 2008

summer paper goodies

Being that I am a self-proclaimed paper junkie, I am always looking for seasonally appropriate paper goodies. A couple of my favorites for summer to send you off for the weekend!

 From top: Blue Dot gift wrap from Jack and Lulu, Creamsicles from Pie Bird Press, On the Town/Beach invitation from Hicks Paper Goods, stripe gift wrap from Peculiar Pair, and Oriental Silhouette note paper from Whitney English.

summer food safety 101

During the summer months I always go the grocery store with a cooler in tow. The last thing I want to give my guests (or myself) is spoiled meat! I picked up this cute red cooler from Cynthia Rowley's 'Whim' collection for Target in May. It is large enough to stash most of my perishable foods, and small enough to keep in my car all the time. The friendly guys in the seafood department always give me a bag of ice, which makes it sooo easy. I can still head to the gym across the street from the grocery store for a brief workout and get back home with my food safely cooled. Now if I can just remember my cloth shopping bags, I'll have the whole system down pat!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

summer party tunes (the cheater's edition)

Invite- check! Food- check! Decor- check! Music...uhhhh...

When preparing for a gathering, I often forget to create a music mix until the last minute. I used to get myself into a mad panic and would often end up spending hours on iTunes searching and searching for just the right tunes. The stress! The agony! But no more! (here's the big secret...shhh...) 

A year or so ago I had the bright idea to google my favorite Nashville radio station. It's the station I listen to when I'm not listening to my 7-month old's 'Music City Music Together' cd. It makes me feel cool, in the know, and mentally takes me to a place when I was younger and firmer. It makes me want to roll down the windows, let my hair blow in the breeze, and maybe even hum, if I'm in a really good mood. The music is usually THAT GOOD. And they always have something new and different, but not too different, if you know what I mean. 

So I started snagging their playlists for myself. And when we have people over, I always get questions like, "Who is that (playing on the ipod)?". And I feel so cool that I am that in the music know. Like I am so in tune with the music world that I have all the latest greatest indie bands. But now you know my truth. 

If you want to impress your friends at your next party, checkout the playlists from Lightning

Image from geministudio on's also a hint as to what's in store for next week's posts!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I’m not scared of a little tomato

Just yesterday my husband noted that I've fixed all tomato-based meals this past week: gazpacho, pasta with spinach and tomatoes, tomatoes and mozzarella... the list goes on. While tomatoes are piling up at grocery stores across the nation in the midst of the 2008 tomato scare, I'm one of the few loading them into my cart. I don't know whether I feel bad for the tomato farmers or I'm simply getting that summer hankering for really good, ripe tomatoes; but nonetheless, I've thrown caution to the wind and am devouring them every chance I get! I'm not completely foolhardy– I am staying away from the ones the FDA has warned against, but I simply can't turn my back on tomatoes altogether. If you (and your guests), like to live dangerously as well, then perhaps you'll enjoy the gazpacho recipe below, taken from Ina Garten's first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa

The best part about this recipe is that it is really hard to mess up. You can put in more or less of something you like or don't like, without having to be particular about quantities. If you have a food processor, it is SUPER easy, since it will save you from lots of chopping. Just be careful...I went a bit over on the processing, and while it was still good, I would have preferred it to be a bit chunkier (see my version pictured above). This makes a LOT, so you will probably have some leftover (always a bonus, in my opinion).

It's perfect for a summer gathering!


2 cucumbers, halved and seeded, but not peeled
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomatoes
2 red onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces of tomato juice
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 t freshly ground pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess! 

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

summer party attire

Of course, attire must be planned in advance for a great summer fête! Pictured above are some summer-inspired favorites. Menswear halter, Roma wedges and Strawberry dress for the ladies, by Anthropologie. July and Pinecone tie for the men in your life by Lena Corwin (these would be fabulous paired with a light-colored linen suit and a checked or striped dress shirt... or even better, seersuckers!). Lastly, some amazing vintage children's outfits from Melodie Adam's Etsy store. I don't usually like John-John's for boys, but this one is pretty irresistible! There are lots of cute one-of-a-kind summer finds to be had at Melodie's shop: 

Monday, June 23, 2008

ahhh, summer!

The heat and humidity have finally settled in here in Nashville. Summer has officially arrived! Of course, you wouldn't know it if you've been into any stores lately...they've already started to move on to fall merchandise. It's such a shame that retail moves so far ahead of the rest of us! Of course NOW is the time I want to go find a pretty summer dress and buy white-finish furnishings, but c'est la vie. For now, I'm choosing to bask in the present moment, and hoping to have a summer soirée very soon. 

Above are some favorite summer images: flowers and tablescape styled by Chelsea Fuss (, firefly girl (love this!), napper and pillow party-er photgraphed by Maura McEvoy ( 

Friday, June 20, 2008

ETSY find: vintage children's book illustrations

There is something so magical about vintage children's book illustrations. They tend to speak to my nostalgic idea of what childhood is or should be. 

Pictured above are selections from several card series by Etsy seller 'Stories & Divinations'. They are described as "charming, original frame-worthy illustrations salvaged from overly-loved 1930's American children's schoolbooks mounted with care on smooth creamy cardstock with a satin edge.' She has given the various collections names like 'Summer Boys Becoming Men', and 'A Whole + Happy Life.'

These cards would make a wonderful gift in and of themselves, or make an ordinary gift more special. A series of three is priced at $12.50 and can be found on Etsy at the Stories & Divinations store.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

when you really care...

I started photographing the gifts I've received from my friend Gen, long ago. The one above was taken in June of 2005. 

Gen is the kind of friend I never thought I'd find in Nashville...a kindred spirit in every sense of the word. We share a love of all things 'design-y', with gifts being no exception! Here, Gen has wrapped a flea-market find in a lovely kraft paper box, with a photocopied page from a Warhol book (affixed to the bottom of the box). Truly, I couldn't imagine a better present. The wrapping alone was a gift in itself.

While sometimes it doesn't seem worth putting the extra time and effort into wrapping a gift, the message behind a well-wrapped present often translates to 'I care about you.' For loved ones in your life, the attention to detail is well worth the effort and won't go overlooked.


I am starting to notice that I tend toward weekly 'themes.' Last week, it was cupcakes, this week, books. While I can't promise I will always stick within thematic parameters, it seems in line with the way my brain for now I will go with it!

A friend of mine once mentioned that she always gives cute bookplates as birthday gifts for her 3 year-old's friends. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and asked her to direct me to her source. Lo and behold, she said Blonde Designs is her favorite.

Blonde Designs was founded in 2002 by Angie Gubler and Kristen Rees, former art directors (and colleagues of mine!) at Martha Stewart. For those of you in love with the Martha Stewart-esque style and color palette, look no further. The saturated pastels and sophisticated typography ooze good taste. Best of all, the bookplates are SO affordable! Only $12.50 for a personalized set of 25. Go to their website to order

always judge a book by its cover

To me, there is no better gift than a book (other then wine or food, perhaps). So I was delighted when my book club threw a 'baby book' shower for me last year. I have always been drawn to the clean, crisp illustrations of many children's books, and even purchased quite a few way before the thought of having a child entered my mind. 

While a mom-to-be will always appreciate a classic (Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, The Hungry Caterpillar), a more unusual selection can be a great gift as well. A book with a charming cover doesn't even need gift wrap...just a ribbon and a sweet note. A couple of my recent favorites are shown above. Whatever and Tikki, Tikki, Tembo have slightly 'dark' endings for children's books, but nonetheless, are beautifully illustrated. All of Maira Kalman's (What Pete Ate from A-Z) books are amazing, not just because of the quirky illustrations and bright colors, but because they entertain the adult just as much (or more then!) the child. I just found Leonardo the Terrible Monster during my last trip to the book store, and thought it was delightful. You can't go wrong these days, with so many great books to choose from.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I actually started drooling when I saw the amazing creations of 'hello naomi' on flikr. Not only are the cupcakes and cookies little works of art in and of themselves, the backgrounds elevate them to a higher level of brilliance! I think she has a future as a food stylist. Unfortunately, Naomi hails from Austrailia, so those of us in the States will just have to admire them from afar. Next week, I promise to move on from my cupcake obsession, but these photos seemed the perfect way to send you off for the weekend. For more photos of Naomi's amazing delights, go to

Thursday, June 12, 2008

in the mood...

for cupcakes! I can't get my mind off that giant cupcake from yesterday's post. In search of all things cupcake, I came across these paper-based beauties. Not quite as great as the real thing, but a close 2nd. From top: Snow & Graham cupcake wrapping paper, Hicks Paper Goods' cupcake buffet invitation, Sprinkles cupcake invitation, and Boatman Geller enclosure card