There’s wine in my soup

Those of you following us on Instagram may have seen this mouthwatering photo of our homemade Chianti Minestrone pop up on your feed for #winewednesday this week.

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We got a lot of interest about what’s cooking in our kitchen, and we were asked by a reader (and high school friend! what, what!) to post the recipe. So, without mincing words (see what I did there?) I’ll get straight to the point. Here’s how to make the magic happen.

Homemade Chianti Minestrone with Spicy Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz. chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 lb hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced into half moons
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh basil, chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup good Chianti (optional)
  • 1/2 water (as needed)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

To Make:

  1. Coat the bottom of a large soup pot generously with olive oil. Add sausage, onion, and garlic and cook over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through, and the garlic and onion are fragrant but not blackened. Crumble sausage as much as possible.
  2. Reduce to medium heat and add carrots, cook 3-5 minutes more or until slightly tender.
  3. Add zucchini and squash and saute until tender, another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for another 30 minutes or so.
  5. Add pasta, beans, spinach, and herbs and return to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes and reduce heat to low simmer.
  6. Finish by adding 1/2 cup of good Chianti, and salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I’ll add an extra 1/2c. of water or so too, depending on how much broth has reduced.

That’s it! You’re done. If you want to go crazy and make homemade bread too, this soup goes fantastically well with my homemade herbed bread, and you can find that recipe here. This makes a LOT of soup and typically feeds us for a couple of meals. I add a bit of water to thin the broth when I reheat it, but it keeps very well in the fridge for a number of days.

Bon Appetit and happy fall soup-ing! (And wining, if you’re so inclined.) Cheers!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

 

Bug off! Non-toxic home pest control

It’s that time again! The end-of-summer showers have arrived, bringing with them lots of humidity loving… BUGS. Yep, just when you think school’s back in session and you are solidly on the way to a pumpkin spice latte, the summer heat and showers hang around and make it feel like these bugs are here to stay FOREVER.

macro photography of brown beetle with dew drops

Ok, ok, I exaggerate. But here, near the water, I feel like we’ve had more than our fair share of creepy crawlers this year, and  kid-friendly, non-toxic methods to deal with these seasonal pests is something that I find moms ask me about ALL the time. And I’m all for supporting eco-systems and letting bugs do their thing outside, but when they come inside on repeat?! Whole lotta NOPE.

So, when the little crawlers have you creeping, or shall I say “bugging out”?? (Who’s got mom jokes??) Have no fear, we got you. And as moms, we are particular. We want bugs out, but no toxic pesticides in either. Here are our go-to (and I don’t know if I can say stylish in this arena… but not-totally-smelly-and-disgusting-looking in the very least) methods for kid-safe/pet-safe indoor pest control to keep the summer bugs at bay.

apples assorted bananas bowl

The offender: Fruit Flies

Look. I love a beautifully arranged fresh bowl of produce as much as the next guy, but the GD fruit flies are really cramping my style. I am absolutely certain that every time I reach for a lime, those little suckers have multiplied. But homemade methods for trapping fruit flies can seem borderline sadistic. You know, the mashed-up fruit with the funnel in a cup trick? And the sticky paper?! No. The solution shouldn’t be more disgusting than the problem, people! Enter the saviors at Garden Supply Co. with this little beauty, pictured below.

fruit fly trap

This actually nice-to-look-at soapstone dish comes with two odorless bait inserts that lure in fruit flies and trap them. And it works. Like within days, you’re done. (Maybe the best part, even when emptying, the flies are OUT OF SIGHT!! Yes!) You can leave the simple, clean, soapstone container out on your counter preventatively and no one gets fruit flies in their wine. Win.

shallow focus photography of couple ants holding book figurine
I want to think of them being cute.  I just… can’t.

The offender: Ants, Spiders (and other crawly friends)

I really just can’t even list the names of all the summer crawlies. But thankfully, I don’t have to, because there is a natural, non-toxic solution that works on all of them called Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE can be used indoors or outdoors, and deters ants, spiders and the like. It is made of the fossilized remains of phytoplankton (yes, REALLY!) and is completely odorless and about as worry-free as it gets. It’s harmless even if baby gets some in her MOUTH. (Little known fact: Humans actually can and do eat DE, as often farmers sprinkle DE in and around their grain to keep the bugs out of the grain.)

To use, sprinkle the powder where you think the little critters are coming in (vacuum excess if using indoors) and let this stuff do its magic. It takes a couple days, but we saw a drastic decrease in our stubborn sugar ants pretty quickly. For more information on DE and how it works, check out this article from SFGate.

toy fly on white graphing paper

The Offender: House Flies

Oh my flipping word… if another fly buzzes past my head at a summer meal!! Am I right?! Ugh, let’s just say I struggle to find the redeeming qualities of house-flies when the sight of them inevitably reminds me that they probably sat on poo before they sat on my kid’s sandwich. Every.single.time.

Common solutions to flies are often ineffective, smelly, loud, or visually pretty gross. Think fly-zappers, smelly traps, and yet again, the sticky paper. Why the sticky paper!? I don’t want to look at live flies, but I also don’t want to see them stuck to my wall. Instead, here are some quiet (maybe even interesting) and non-toxic solutions we use in my house.

fly trap

Venus Fly Trap

For real. You can get a plant that will eat your house fly problem. OK, carnivorous plants are basically just cool.  While interesting (and maybe fun in an odd way?) and happy to digest any victims of the fly-swatter, our Venus Fly Trap wasn’t up to the job of actually ridding our residence of flies. (Side note: did you know venus fly traps are actually native to the Carolinas?! They originally grew wild in boggy areas of North and South Carolina, gobbling up swamp bugs! Sorry, I digress. But really, that is cool.)

Indoor Silent UV trappers

UV light trappers are not new, but the quiet, indoor models are. (Trust me, this is not the porch zapper of our childhood.)

fly catcher

I love this method because it emits ZERO chemicals into our home and the clean, non-offensive look of this trap (pictured above) in particular that comes with a lot of solid consumer reviews, makes for a tidy and non-toxic but effective fly-catcher. (Works for mosquitoes too!)

white and purple flower plant on brown wooden surface

Whole home: Essential Oils

Another method for cleansing your home of pests is essential oils. While they won’t trap or rid your home of infestations, they will smell nice, and have a deterrent effect that can help keep pests out instead of drawing them in. Some great scents to try include Rosemary, Citronella, Lavender, and Tea Tree oil. Always diffuse with care and according to instructions.

Try a drop of each in a carrier oil such as ghee butter, olive, grapeseed, coconut, or avocado oil. Rub it all over as a deterrent. If you wish to diffuse it, grab a diffuser from any health food store (don’t make it expensive) and place 3-6 drops of each oil each in your blend if you are relaxing outside.

When in doubt: go with Hollywood. Honestly, the best pest deterrent is pure garlic oil. Crush a clove or two….or three… You’ll have to bathe after, but you won’t have West Nile. (Or vampires.) I’m just sayin’.

Wishing you a pest-free weekend and a fresh, clean home! I’ll be here, doing my no-fruit-fly happy dance. From my fruit-bowl to yours, you’re welcome.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and fly-swatting ninja.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Zen As A Mother: Kristy’s Simple Guide to Creating Your At Home Zen Space

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Oh, there you are!

Now that school is back in session, I have found gratitude in some straight up sol-i-tude. Know what I’m sayin’? Rather than spending this time binge watching “This is Us” (no judgement if that is how you relax) or adding on work hours that would leave me depleted when the kids got home, I’ve decided to dedicate this time where I am transitioning in so many ways to starting each day with some zen time.

This has always been a hard concept for me, because my house has never felt…well….zen-able. I have struggled with the ability to turn off my anxiety in order to sit peacefully without the checklist of things that I have to get done before I turn my “mom” back on. I realize now, that that notion is no longer working for me.

zen frog

So, I put on my Namaste big girl pants and tackled a space in my house that has been many things. A guest room, a Massage Room, the room where I kept all my LulaRoe clothing inventory (yes I did do that for a time) and now, I have transformed it into a loving and welcoming environment for all those family members who wish to find peace with meditation.

SOOOOOOO, without further Ado, I give you my guide to making your seemingly impossible chaotic space….zenified.

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  1. Find a subtle corner: It doesn’t have to be an elaborate room or even a huge space, if you feel at peace in a corner of your bathroom with Cindy Lauper blaring, do that.
  2. Declutter your space; Declutter your mind: Make sure you vacuum, sweep, remove any trash or clutter items, so that energy can flow nicely and there are less distractions in your space. In the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Feng Shui, (Feng Shui being an ancient Chinese version of creating harmony in your living or working space) “In a clear and organized space, energy can flow freely and feelings of guilt and unrest might vanish too.” I know that clutter makes me feel irritated and judegmental of myself and my surroundings, and disorganization of my space adds to my anxiety and scatter-brained moments. So, clear answer is a clear space leads to a clear mind.
  3. Meaningful Decorating: For me, it is super important to feel inspired by the art that surrounds me. Whether it invokes a sense of peace, a pleasant memory, or makes me feel cloaked in the guidance of a loved one who has passed, each piece in my zen space has meaning. My personal space has some living energy in the plants that remind me of divine guidance and the readiness of life to bloom at any moment.
  4. Sacred clearing: Not only do we declutter our space of “things”, we must also declutter our space of energy. If you haven’t heard of smudgingimg_0031 with sacred sage before, now is the time to jump on that train. It can be a smudge stick, or it can come in spray form, but the idea is the same. According to Jane Alexander in her article Smudging, “It [smudging] is the equivalent of spiritual spring cleaning.” There is a ton of information out there about the origins of this practice, but for our purposes here, I will explain my intentions. Sacred sage, for me, allows any energy that will influence my mediation practice to be cleared. I believe the smoke from burning the smudge stick will attach to the energies. So, I fill the room, open all the windows, and blow the energy out to the earth. This way, I am clear of any influences or energies that are not my own.
  5. Sound Elements: Sound therapy is always a plus for keeping energy flowing and clear as it is moving through your space. In this amazing book, How to Heal with Singing Bowls, Suren Shrethsa explains that “clients have experienced a wide array of benefits from deep stress relief and relaxation, to a reduction in chronic pain.” One can also use music of all kinds, guided meditation tapes, or water elements such as this fountain for the sound therapy as well.
  6. Get Cozy: In my zen space, I use a sham pillow that’s cushy and cozy to sit on. You, however, may choose to lay, sit in a meditation chair, stand, or even do yoga. The choice is yours, just get comfy so your body can fully relax.
  7. Set up your Altar: There are a million ways to set up your altar space. Setting up an altar with statues, figures, photos, intention candles, or relics that pay homage to your higher power, can help ground your reflections and connect you to that source you find most comforting. It does not have to be about an organized religion, but just think about what makes you feel unconditional love, and place your reminders on your altar. Mine has a heart that reminds me of the sacred union between my heart and the universe, and a mantra that reminds me to light my soul’s fire and be fearless in that. I also love to remember that the world is full of magic, so I am inspired by peacock feathers and a fairy next to my orchid.
  8. Protect your space: believe it or not, it’s super easy to be effected by the energy of others while creating sacred space for you. If your kids are at home, or your neighbors are cutting the grass, their influential distractions can take their toll. I like to put up special mirrors, called Bagua mirrors that deflect negative energies and keep them from entering your space and on the other side, keep positive vibes in. Rad, right?
  9. Time for zen. Now, it’s up to you. Go forth, my loves, and get your zen on, whatever that means to you.

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Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

Back-to-School Breakfasts

Back to school mornings got anyone else feeling like they are #herdingcats ?? You have TONS of time to make breakfast for everyone before the bus/carpool/work/drop-off, right?!?! 

Many times, school mornings are a “just trying to get pants on all parties before they exit the house” kind of mornings, so healthy, homemade breakfasts for the whole squad can sometimes feel out of reach. And we get that. BUT we also know that no one learns better hangry, so it feels awesome when we can pull together a nutritious breakfast for our little one’s learning minds.

plate morning breakfast jam

Christiana’s Pick: Make-Ahead Protein Waffles

We LOVE waffles in our family, but as a mom, I didn’t love that most prepared mixes and waffle recipes were full of sugar, hydrogenated oils, and not much nutritional value. Enter the make-ahead protein waffle. These are definitely not just for the kids! Full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, these waffles keep our whole super-active family full and energized all morning. I almost always mix these up on a Sunday morning and double the recipe so I have batter to last me a few weekdays. If you make ahead, simply refrigerate the batter and add a teaspoon of warm water to the bowl and re-mix before cooking on the waffle iron. As a bonus: There also lots of great ways to top these. Our house favorites include farm-fresh berries and cream, bananas and nutella, or frozen blackberries with pure maple syrup.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk of your choice (I like to use organic whole milk and/or unsweetened almond milk. You may need slightly more or less depending on the amount of optional extras you add, listed below.)
  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil  (Easiest to mix batter when oil is warmed to a liquid)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup chia seed (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup protein powder (Optional. We prefer flavorless or vanilla, particularly Bob’s Red Mill Pea Protein)

To Make: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix and let rest while waffle iron warms. Scoop 1/4 -1/2 cup batter per waffle based on desired size. Top and enjoy!! Refrigerate leftover batter for busy weekday mornings. Will keep covered and refrigerated for several days.

Related imageAnnie’s Pick: Protein Banana Muffins

These are easy to make a week in advance, they freeze and reheat super easily – plus you get rid of those old bananas, hoorah! They are SUPER fast because you cheat and use Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Protein Packed Flapjack and Waffle Mix. They are also healthy because they’re whole grain and pack great healthy protein in each one. They taste good enough for my picky eater to mow through them because they’re made with real butter. Don’t you dare start skimping on that or throwing in your “applesauce in place of fat” recipe substitute nonsense- if you need to review my post about healthy fats to convince you, go here. The recipe is from the back of the box with a little less sugar and added vanilla. Kodiak also makes a gluten-free mix if you’re a glu-tard like me 😀

  • 2 cups Power Cakes Mix
  • 1 cup organic whole milk or milk substitute of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas, smashed up
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • optional: about 1 C chopped toasted nuts, coconut, chocolate chips…

To Make: Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line muffin cups (This will make 1 dozen but I usually double it). Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Use 1/3 C measuring cup to scoop into muffin tin. Bake 14-18 min for full-sized muffins or 10-14 for mini muffins. If you want to be a little “extra”, after they come out, melt some butter in one dish and mix up 2Tbs sugar and 1tsp cinnamon in another one. Dip muffins in butter then cinnamon sugar. You can also swap the banana for pumpkin and the cinnamon for pumpkin spice and up sugar to 1/2 cup for a festive fall version reminiscent of #PSL.

Mushroom-spinach-and-bacon-egg-muffins-five
Photo Cred: realsimplegood.com

Kristy’s Pick: Sausage or Bacon n’ Egg “McMuffins”

These paleo goodies are a Wright fam favorite for protein on the go. They are a meal prepper’s breakfast dream and can be made in regular size or “mini” for the kids. We have adapted this recipe several different ways, but from realsimplegood.com, the basic method is the same. If you’re like my household where”mushroom” is a bad word and provokes riot level hunger strikes, this recipe above needs to be adapted to avoid the Fungi That Shall Not Be Named. However, we’ve found it is easily substituted and a fun way to avoid the tummy rumbles and have the kids get involved! Also, since we have chickens, eggs are a plenty in our house so we try and utilize them any way we can.

For the bacon muffins:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced and precooked
  •  green onion, diced
  •  handful of spinach, chopped
  •  salt and pepper, to taste

For the sausage muffins:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped (optional – create your own flavor options here)
  • handful of kale or spinach, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To Make: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat two medium skillets over medium heat. Add in the sausage to one skillet and the bacon to the other. Brown the sausage and bacon and remove from the heat and set said.  In two separate medium bowls, crack five eggs into each bowl. Whisk the eggs up. Add in your ingredients to each bowl. This is where I let the kiddos take the lead. You can let them add herbs, cheeses, or extra meats they like! Next, rub a muffin tin with a little oil or spray with coconut oil spray, spoon the egg mixture into the muffin tin, filling them to just below the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Hope this gives you all a few options beyond toast and squeezie yogurt (no judgement on those options though!) or…. paper products. Happy Back-To-School week Real M*thers!

Zucchini Mania

Anyone else getting overloaded with some zucchini this time of year??

Image result for zucchini hunting season

Here are 2 recipes to add to your arsenal of zucchini disposal – bonus, my kids love both!!

Lemon Zucchini Cake

This recipe and gorgeous photo above are from Mom On Time Out Blog with a couple very slight tweaks – a little less sugar, used divided, and I used unsweetened macadamia milk and butter instead of almond milk and olive oil. She has a ton of awesome zucchini recipes – definitely check her out!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup granulated sugar – divided
  • 6 Tbsp melted and slightly cooled butter
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened vanilla macadamia milk (I like Milkadamia)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 2 cups cake flour (can substitute AP flour following directions here)
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1½ cup shredded zucchini, sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the sugar and toss in a mesh strainer. After prepping rest of above, squeeze excess liquid out.
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
Glaze (optional)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spray a loaf pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Prep zucchini. I like to cheat and use the food processor for shredding.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 3/4C sugar and butter. Whisk to combine.
  5. Add eggs and macadamia milk and whisk together.
  6. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  7. Add flour mixture and stir just until incorporated.
  8. Fold in zucchini and lemon zest.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. The top of the cake should look dry.
  10. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Use the parchment paper to carefully life the cake from the pan. Let cool completely on rack.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the cake.
  3. Slice and serve.
  • Still have more??
  • Triple Chocolate Zucchini Muffincakes

    These are my stand-by “get kids excited about something with zucchini in them” food. I think, hand to God, these are more delicious than regular chocolate muffins without the green stuff. The chocolate is in cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips and then optional ganache frosting and the zucchini makes these more decadent than a muffin but also healthier than a cupcake…. so I call ’em muffincakes.

    Makes 12 regular and 12 mini muffincakes

    • 1 C All purpose flour + 1/2 C whole wheat flour (optional substitute gluten free flour – works great in these
    • 1/2 C cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon (also optional)
    • 2 tsp coffee granules (if you don’t have, sub 2TBS strong coffee into wet ingredients)
    • 1/2 C melted butter or coconut oil
    • 2/3 C sugar (divided)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 2C grated zucchini – sprinkle with a handful of the sugar and toss in a mesh strainer. After prepping rest of above, squeeze excess liquid out.
    • 1 C dark chocolate chips ( I like Guittard)

    Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare muffin tins by spraying with coconut oil or lining with cups.
    2. In medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through coffee granules)
    3. In mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and then vanilla. Stir in zucchini.
    4. Mix dry into wet in a few portions until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips and pour batter into muffin tin.
    5. Bake at 350F. 10-12 min for minis and 15-17 min for regulars.

    Optional Ganache

    • 1 C dark chocolate chips
    • 1/2 C heavy cream or coconut cream

    Heat together on stovetop or in microwave at 20 second intervals until chocolate is soft and can be stirred to smooth, melted heaven. Spread on cooled muffincakes. Indulge.

    Messy kitchen + happy kiddos + healthy treats = a win in my book!

    xoxo Dr. Annie

    At Home with Christiana: Quick Style Fixes

    While this is the Home Renovation and DIY section of our blog, there are many reasons and different stages in our lives where we may not have the ability to take on major home renovation projects. Be it time or budget constraints, or simply living in a rental where making permanent changes isn’t an option, sometimes the dirty work just has to wait.  This post is a nod to some of my favorite, time-tested quick style fixes for the home in times or situations like these. Big style, little effort. No sledgehammers, no permits, no construction loans required. Promise.

    brown wooden center table

    These simple tricks of the trade are great tools to make a temporary house feel like home, stage a home for sale, tap into design trends without commitment, or bring style into your home without investing a lot of time and money. 

    Make a Gallery Wall

    For those big, empty walls in your home, a gallery wall can make a big impact and really personalize your space without making any permanent changes or dropping any serious dinero.  Use your own photos, or print some cool stock images that speak to you. You can download some beautiful botanical prints for free from Botanicus.org.

    art black and white decoration design

    I love the clean, simple look of black and white photos in matching frames. Or for a more colorful look, I love coordinating images to create a theme for a space, as below.

    apartment bed bedroom chair

    Improve Aesthetics with Lighting

    Shed some light on your situation. Literally. I mean “wow this room is so great and dark” said no one, ever. Dark rooms feel smaller. Period.

    bed bedroom comfort contemporary

    Adding lamps to a space can not only brighten it, but add an instant element of style to it as well. Rental properties, in particular, often lack quality lighting (think harsh, fluorescent lights) and softer light from accent lamps can provide a nice alternative.

    Rule of thumb for table lamps: Always, always, buy a PAIR. Even if you only need one lamp at the time of purchase, someday you will, without fail, need two and you will hate yourself for not buying the pair while you could. Trust me.

    Play with Pillows

    Let me start by saying that I have a definite love/hate relationship with throw pillows. In the sense that I hate how much I love them.

    brown and grey leather sofa with throw pillows

    Like, I recognize how completely frivolous and unnecessary they are. I do. Remember that pillow scene in Along Came Polly?

    amazingunsunglamprey-size_restricted

    I want to embrace that minimalist “who-needs-throw-pillows” mentality in theory. But in reality… pretty, soft throw pillows got me like…

    Because really, comfort is a thing. Fluff has never, that I am aware of, ever made anything less comfortable. And from a design perspective, throw pillows can totally change the look of a piece of furniture and/or update accent colors in a room for a fraction of the time and money required to replace large furniture pieces or paint walls.

    ashtray book cushion decoration

    You can easily change them when you’re tired of them, or even swap them out seasonally if you’re so inclined. Major pointer for pillows: Unless you are buying for staging purposes only, spend the money for pillows with removable, washable covers.

    Bring the Green in

    Indoor plants are another quick and simple way to warm and bring style to a space. (And I’m talking REAL plants here folks, none of your granny’s faux flower arrangements) With the added benefits of purifying your air, plants are a design multi-tasker for making your home both prettier and cleaner. A few personal favorites are the fiddleleaf fig, palms, succulents, and orchids. The fiddleleaf fig (shown below) is having a major style moment as of late, but is also a notoriously slow and finicky grower.

    green indoor plant in a room

    Orchids are a design classic often written off as pricey or difficult to maintain but at around $15 for a medium sized plant, which should last you a few months at minimum (even if you kill it) I would argue they are more cost-effective than buying cut bouquets. I’ve had a few re-bloom for 3-5 years, which is like $5 a year. Definitely less than most fancy design items, and I swear that maintaining them is as easy as just watering less than usual houseplants. (You can find straightforward orchid tips from the pros here.)

    candles contemporary decoration furniture

    For the non-plant people out there, succulents are the lowest maintenance way to bring the green in. (Bonus points if you coordinate your plants and your pillows.)

    photo of plants on the table

    Temporary Wallpaper

    Temporary wallpaper is a great non-permanent alternative to traditional wallcoverings and is a quick way for renters and commitment-phobes alike to tap into the current wallpaper trend. Put it on an accent wall, on stair treads, in a closet, on a door, in cabinets or on shelves, and make a statement with it.

    wallpaper uo
    Expressive Palm Removable Wallpaper, Urban Outfitters

    Available in a variety of price points and design styles from mainstream retailers like Amazon, Wayfair, and Target. (Fixer Upper fans check out the shiplap print from Home Depot!)

    Soften your Surroundings

    Quality flooring is another element that is often lacking in rental properties and is generally difficult to install in homes without major expense and time. Area rugs provide a quick and easy way to add style to a space and cover less than desirable flooring.

    white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug

    Soften tile and vinyl floors wherever you can with rugs. Heck, I’ve even used area rugs over carpeted floors to define spaces and well, just to cover up ugly carpet. General rules for rugs: don’t float a rug in the middle of a room. Always buy a rug big enough that it reaches your furniture. If that’s not in your budget, I’m a big fan of layering smaller plush rugs over a more affordable natural fiber (jute) rug for a clean look with softness where it counts. Apartment Therapy breaks down how to layer rugs with style here.

    Window coverings

    Let’s be real. Curtains are about as fun to shop for as socks. They’re not exciting, but they’re style necessities. Vertical blinds never helped noooobody. The short and simple truth of window coverings: buy the best you can afford, and hang them as high as you can. You won’t regret it.

    architecture chairs contemporary curtain

    That’s it. A quick and dirty on the quickest style fixes in my book. What are your favorite ways to add style to your space? And what style problems do you need solved on the cheap and easy? Shout out!

    Cheers to happy homes!

    fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

    (Almost) At Home with Christiana: An exercise in Gratitude

    As many of you may or may not know, I have been absent from the blog for the past couple of weeks while my family relocated up the coast. It was a typical military move with more paperwork than there is time, and plenty of bumps in the road.

    And I’ll be honest, when driving up the eastern seaboard on little to no sleep with all of your children and your dog and half of your household belongings shoved into very close quarters in one vehicle, gratitude is NOT the first word that comes to mind.  Especially when your kids get food poisoning halfway through. (Yes, really.)

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    Not that I have (BY FAR) the hardest life, or that I am (BY FAR) as zen as the Dalai Lama, but I have been asked more than once how exactly I cope with the frequent and potentially stressful disruptions of our gypsy-esque military family lifestyle. And in that case, the first word that comes to mind actually is gratitude.

    Charles Dickens may have said it best:

    “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

    In almost any situation, I have learned (and am definitely STILL learning) to temper my feelings of stress or frustration by exercising conscious gratitude. Every day, there are SO many things that all of us have to be grateful for, but unless we stop and really think about them, it’s easy to lose sight of them among a busy day’s hectic or potentially stressful events. But making the effort is worth it. The rewards are big. Like UNIVERSALLY big.  I have found it easier not only to deal with my somewhat un-hinged, out-of-school, mid-move, energetic children in a way that I can be proud of, but to be a whole PERSON I am more proud of. In fact, an active practice in gratitude, I think, is an incredibly simple but profoundly effective way for all of us to be people that we are more proud of. 

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    There are several ways to incorporate more gratitude into your life. And there are literally no rules. Whatever makes you feel it. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a yogi, you just have to be you. For me personally, I have found meditating to be a wonderful way to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, and if you’re able to, you can find a fantastic led meditation on gratitude from UC Berkeley here.

    If meditation is not for you, or, if you’re in a time or place where meditation is not an option (like driving on I-95 with two vomiting children, in my case) you can actively walk your mind through some major gratitude points like those listed below.

    And don’t overlook the basics in your life. Know that if you are expressing these conscious thoughts, you already have several marvelous gifts:

    • The gift of life itself, the most precious gift. Your life. The lives of your dearest, the lives of those who love and support you.light sunset people water
    • The countless conveniences that are available to us today that many of our ancestors did not have, and that people in many parts of our world still do not have. Air conditioning, clean drinking water, vehicles and safe passage, ample food. Machines, schools, libraries, electricity.person washing his hand
    • The work put in by thousands of people you’ve never met to create life as you know it. From ancestors that fought for freedoms we enjoy today, to those who grow and deliver our food, those who maintain our roads, vehicles, pipes, roofs and infrastructure, to innovators and inventors, to deployed and fallen military members and first responders.soldier-military-uniform-american.jpg
    • The particular things you enjoy in your daily life. The gift of a warm cup of coffee  in the morning, or the gift of your comfortable bed at night. A conversation with a friend. A treasured heirloom. A warm snuggle with a beloved pet, or a bedtime story with your child. bonding cold cozy dog

    When we actively appreciate the things we already have, we are able to see the richness surrounding us, and inconveniences or problems seem smaller in the balance of our rich, grateful lives.

    Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

    fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

     

     

    Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography