Monthly Archives: November 2011
Did anyone see the Reese Witherspoon movie “Four Christmases” a few years ago? It was not the fun romantic comedy we thought it would be. Which is a shame , because the casting offered so much potential. I love a good Christmas movie to get us in the spirit of the season!
The other thing that gets us in the holiday mood is Christmas music and putting out our holiday decor. I’m gonna cover movies and music in some other posts, but today, I have brought you some fun holiday decor. Pulled from all of my retail wanderings, I have gather together three mood boards of Christmas decor on Pinterest.
Just like every board on Pinterest, all of the items shown are linked directly to their retailers. Just click on the pictures to take you there! I hope you like what I’ve put together for your window shopping or gift buying pleasure.
Each mood board has a different style theme, so there should be a little something in there for everyone. I had a lot of fun building these, since it also allowed me to pretend shop for things I like. And for all of you readers that are already dealing with snow, I hope this warms you up a bit!
A Victorian Christmas
This mood board is everything old school about Christmas. Think Dickens. Think “The Night Before Christmas”. Think hot chocolate and mistletoe and the rich colors of antique gilded ornaments.
You can layer this style of Christmas decor as thick as you want it to be in your home. The Victorians’s were big fans of the
“less is more” “more is more” theory, so you can even say you are being historically accurate. Throw another log on the fire, sing a carol or two, and pour yourself a glass of mulled wine. It’s Christmas!
A Nordic Christmas
This mood board takes it’s inspiration from the simplicity of Mother Nature’s colors at this time of year. Blankets of snow, wood decorations, and muted colors mix with the warmth of brandied eggnog, cosy sweaters and fresh pine boughs.
By using neutral colors and mostly natural finishes, this timeless decor style makes it easy to change up your colors from year to the next. You can add red accents everywhere this year, using ribbon, candles, fruit, flowers, etc. The next year, you could switch to a light blue color theme.
All of your Nordic decor will adapt and be useful for years to come. (Hint: This is exactly the same reason I always recommend good neutral sofas to clients!) Snuggle up with a warm blanket, savor some gingerbread and enjoy every snowflake that falls. Happy Yuletide!
A Mod Christmas
You may already know the theme music to this Christmas mood board. It swings and it scats ’cause, baby, it’s cold outside! Ole St. Nick won’t mind if you jazz up his Christmas Eve by leaving him a cocktail with those cookies.
Shiny silvers, bright jingle bells and sleek surfaces come together to make this a new classic style. Warm up the winter weather with some lime greens and cherry reds. Keep the decor simple and focus on the fun you’ll have popping popcorn, filling stocking and dancing around you tree as you entertain this year. Bring on the bubbly and have a very happy New Year, too!
To The Mood Boards
Here you go! Just click on the picture below…
… and happy browsing!
Let me know if you find a must-have treasure in those mood boards. Some of those treats are so affordable! What is your favorite decor item to put out at Christmas? Is there one thing that really says, “Christmas is here!” to you? Share your favorites in a comment!
Well, hello again!
It’s so nice to see you here! I’ve been away working extra long hours to help my clients get their homes ready for holiday entertaining. I’m happy to report that all of our goals and deadlines were met in time for some serious Thanksgiving feasts. My one worry was that when I returned to blogging that all of my readers had given up on me. (New Year’s Resolution #1: Find better work/rest life balance.)
What have you been up to lately? Did you eat your fill of turkey and dressing? Did you get to enjoy some time off to relax? Are you ready for the calendar to roll over into December? December! Can you believe it has crept up this fast this year?!
Speaking of calendars, I thought I’d share sources for something to help us ease into the next big holiday. In my travels through the internet and stores at this time of year I see all kinds of holiday decor. (More eye candy coming on Wednesday!) Several of my friends have asked me to watch for these items, so I’m guessing some of you might be looking for them, too.
I’ve gathered a list of sources for Advent calendars. I grew up with these in Europe and they seem to be more popular every year over here. I have found both the candy ones and the ones you can fill yourselves, in case your kids don’t need more excitement through extra sugar.
I’ve also tried to find them in a variety of price ranges so we can all stay within our budgets. All of the images above and below are linked directly to their retailers to make
shopping for them grabbing them before they disappear easier. You can just click on the pictures!
Candy-filled Advent Calendars
In my experience, all holiday planning goes more smoothly if you have a mouthful of chocolate. Exhibit A: Santa’s waistline. It seems to me that the only dilemma with candy-filled Advent calendars is making sure the candy tastes good. Here’s what I found:
I found these chocolate-filled Advent calendars on Amazon. I’d never noticed any Trader Joe’s products on Amazon before, but maybe I just haven’t been looking since I live near two store locations.
I’ve had other chocolate products from Trader Joe’s before, so I can safely guess that this chocolate will taste good. These calendars are moving fast on Amazon, so if you want one before they run out of stock, I’d grab it now.
Moonstruck Chocolate Co.
The Advent calendar I showed at the top of this post seems more for adults, especially with it’s gourmet price tag. While I’m not familiar with this chocolate company, this calendar is certainly filled with some mouth watering treats. Take a look:
Mmmmm. Chooooocooooolaaaaaate…. What? Sorry!
I was rather surprised at some of the places I didn’t find candy-filled Advent calendars. Really, Williams Sonoma and Godiva? This product seems to fit your brands so perfectly.
Not only is this chocolate really good, it’s vegetarian, kosher and is guaranteed fair trade. You can eat this chocolate in the name of making the planet a better place to live.
I haven’t seen this calendar in my store yet, but I’m going to look for it. Maybe they have already been bought out…yikes!
Fill-them-yourself Advent Calendars
I kind like the concept of these types of Advent calendars because they are open to more creative gift ideas. A cool eraser, a new matchbox car, a pretty hair clip…lots of potential for easy, affordable solutions. Plus, you only have to buy the calendar once and you can re-use it for years. Here’s what I found:
New this year from the people who got you hooked on lingonberries, this very affordable ($10!) Advent calendar was flying off the shelves when I was at Ikea last weekend.
I like that it has a non-boxy shape and weights only 1 lb. Easy storage for next year! It would even make a creative host/hostess gift.
To be fair, I browsed Target for Advent calendars before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so I can’t promise that their inventory has not been decimated by that crazy Target commercial lady and her friends. I like the style option of this model…
…but I would recommend buying these in the stores, so you can see that the quality of construction is good. Some of the individuals ones I found in the store had drawers that don’t close properly and/or wonky mirror application. Sorry, Target. Gotta keep it honest for my readers!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Looking for something a little more artistically sophisticated in your Advent calendar? You’d think this source would offer lots of pricey options, but all of their advent calendars come in under $20. I love the creative forms they offer, like this one:
As each day passes you open up the calendar page and add another little ornament to the paper tree. This would be great in a younger child’s room. How fun to have your own little tree!
This next calendar is actually pre-filled, but it replaces the traditional chocolates with Christmas stickers:
I like this idea. However, I have a friend who pointed out that the candy sugar rush burns off rather quickly, but she could still be staring down a Christmas sticker next July. Any other parents out there want to weigh in on this?
I also like this calendar, because I love the colors and its design. You open each drawer to remove a Nativity scene character, which helps you build a Nativity scene by Christmas Day. You also turn the drawer around to slowly create a tree full of graceful angels:
It has nice sized drawers, which could be used for other little treats in future years. Aren’t those fun? You can see all of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s advent calendars in their online shop, linked right here.
This last source is a company I use a lot with my design clients because they have great quality of construction. If you are a fan of them, too, you might have already spotted some of their furnishing in some of my past client mood boards, which you can browse right here.
I love this advent calendar:
I like the almost-doll-house feel of it. This is another version of the drawer calendar openings. I like that you could decorate the house more with ribbons and garland to your own tastes. I like the size and that it can sit almost anywhere in a home.
Do you use an Advent calendar in your home during the holidays? Have you been looking for one recently? What is the best thing you ever got from an Advent calendar? Who else is still craving chocolate? Leave a comment and share some holiday cheer!
We have a winner!
It’s almost Thanksgiving and this week’s free giveaway winner has won the Oxo Digital Instant Read Thermometer. This little kitchen beauty can help you all year round as you prepare all sorts of yummy meals.
And the winner is…Cara S.!
Cara is a big fan of sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie. Those dishes have such yummy orange colors that they can inspired the use of color in your home beyond the dining table. Check out some great examples in decor here and here. Congratulations, Cara! You’re gift is on it’s way to you!
If you didn’t win today, hang in there. There is another free giveaway coming very soon! Also, help me spread the word to your friends about these giveaways. The more entries I get, the bigger I can make the prizes!Hint: The next giveaway will help you get in the holiday spirit at home or at work.
Spread the word, friends!
********************This giveaway is now closed.**********************
Thanksgiving is just two weeks away from today. Are you ready?
Today I’m throwing out a great giveaway to help you get ready. Whether you are cooking a big family meal in 2 weeks (14 days!) or are just learning to cook, this week’s giveaway will take a lot of guesswork out of your cooking time.
This is the Oxo Digital Instant Read Thermometer and it is the very best digital thermometer I have found. I love that it is easy to clean and oh-so-easy to read when you are in the middle of a recipe.
The large digital display can be set to display celcius or farenheit temperatures, so this tool can be used easily in any kitchen around the world. It also has a very handy guide to help you make sure you are cooking any meat to the correct, safe cooking temperatures.
What is the safe temperature for a pre-cooked ham? Do you have the exact correct internal temperatures memorized for beef cooked “medium rare”, “medium” and “well done”? With this thermometer, you don’t have to look them up. They are all listed right on the little dial built into the thermometer cover.
Insider info: This thermometer is Mr. CARO’s absolute favorite cooking tool. Although we use it all the time in our kitchen, he really loves using it on Thanksgiving Day as a reliable way to check the internal temperature of our turkey and dressing. Here is our Oxo Digital Instant Read Thermometer at work in our home recently when we were cooking up some chicken for a favorite Chinese dinner:
I also wanted to show you that picture to remind you that I never get paid or perked for talking about a product on my blog. I like to be able to be completely honest about my experiences with household products in our home and I don’t want you to ever wonder if I’m promoting a product for any alterior motives. Keeping it real, my friends!
So, how can you bring this handy giveaway to your home in time for Thanksgiving? Here are all the details…
To Enter: Leave a comment that begins with “Turkey time!” and tell me about your favorite dish at the Thanksgiving table. Do you have a weakness for mashed potatoes and gravy? Does your mouth water for dressing or cranberry sauce? Is there a favorite family recipe dish that just says Thanksgiving to you? If you reading this from another country, share your family menu favorites will all of us!
Enter By: Monday, November 14, 2011 at 10pm EST
Number of winners: Only 1! And only one entry per email address will be allowed, so that everyone gets a fair chance of winning. I’ll ship this giveaway to anywhere in the world, so international entries are welcome!
The Winner: Will be selected at random from the total number of comments by using random.org and will be announced in a post next Tuesday.
Can you help me spread the word about this giveaway? Please share this blog post with your friends and family using any of the links below. Thanks!
This time of year is a very busy time in my work with clients. Because the holidays are approaching, many of my clients need their projects completed in time to entertain family and friends. My work load at this time of year makes keeping myself organized at home for our holidays more than the usual challenge it is.
With the holidays approaching, the last thing I want is extra last minute trips to the grocery store for forgotten items. This post is about a solution I came up with to fight my own holiday food planning scatter-brained-ness. (Is that a word? It is now.) It looks like this:
Truth be told, a few years ago I had to really search for a favorite old family Christmas recipe. I thought I had lost it and couldn’t remember where I had put it away, very safely, the year before. I eventually found it, but I decided I never wanted to go through that again. For the next year, I needed a new plan.
So, I bought myself a small three-ring binder with a plastic cover, so I could wipe it clean easily. I bought some cheery scrapbook paper to slide into the cover and spine, to help me distinguish this cookbook binder easily when I need it. I labeled the spine and the cover clearly and then started my holiday recipe gleaning.
To protect each recipe, I filled the binder with plastic sheet protectors. I am normally relatively tidy when I cook, but at the holidays, when there are so many dishes and so much conversation going on at once, spills happen.
(Okay, those clear sheet protectors don’t photograph well, but you know what I’m talking about.) Next, I pulled out all of our favorite holiday recipes for the closest approaching holiday of the year, which was Thanksgiving. Then, I typed them up, little by little, over a couple of nights in front of the tv. (Martha Stewart really doesn’t live here.)
After they were all typed, they became the first pages in the new recipe binder. When I got to the next holiday, I just worked on the next batch of recipes. One month after another, I put them in the binder in the order of the year. Here’s a look at a page from December:
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around next year, my holiday recipe book was done. Not only do I now know where these recipes are stored, but my husband does, too, and can we can tag team organizing the grocery lists much more easily. It is also nice to have clean, printable versions of favorite family recipes to share with other family members and friends.
While I was making these pages, I also added in a couple of helpful cheat sheets, like this one from Real Simple:
No more digging around for random tips and slips of paper when we plan or while we cook. I glued my favorite holiday cheat sheets onto a pieces of cardstock and they all get stored together for their holiday between the relevant pages.
That’s my little system for sanity through any holiday cooking extravaganza. I can’t tell you how nice it is to never have to dig around for those recipes every year. Do you have a special way to store your favorite recipes? Have ever lost a favorite recipe? How many recipes do you cook up at your biggest holidays? Share your stories in a comment!
Looking for more home organizational ideas? You can see my running list of them right here, including one of my other favorite cookbooks. Looking for more recipes? Here’s the link to everyone I’ve posted so far.
I thought of the subject of this post months ago, but I decided I would save it until we were into the cooler Fall months. As the summer months pasted, I thought of more and more topics to include in this post. So, now that it is time to write this post, I can’t decide what category this post should fit into on this blog. My choices seem to be between:
- Design Vocabulary
- Food topics
So, I have decided that the answer is: Yes. All of them. We’re talking about spice today. Just like any good spice that can be used in multiple dishes, this subject is a part of many larger topics.
In the 16th century, finding islands with exotic spices was the Space Race of it’s day for sea-faring European countries. Massive fortunes were made or lost on the success or failure of a trading company’s ability to get its ships around the world and home again with a full cargo of spices to sell.
City states like Venice and countries like Portugal and Holland invested heavily in ships and trading ports designed to get spices back to their own European markets. Spices were in high demand to give flavor to foods and to work as preservatives in kitchens from every class of the European population.
Because it took so much work to bring the spices to the European markets from far away places, often a distance of over 6,000 miles, spices were expensive. With the experience gained from these arduous journeys, spice merchants quickly learned how to ensure that their precious cargo arrived as fresh as possible. No one wanted to pay for an expensive spice expedition and have the product arrive stale months later.
What the spice merchants learned is that heat and light are the most dangerous enemies of any spice. Whether it was an common black pepper or and elusive cinnamon, exposure to heat and light dried all of the flavor out of them. As a consequence, spice ships were large, with deep, dark holds for hundreds of thousands of pound of spice that were undisturbed on the return voyages.
Spice merchants around the world also needed to keep their merchandise fresh as they sold it to customers. We can see a common solution to the light and heat problem, on a shopkeepers display scale, in this example:
This spice chest, or apothecary chest, is from Asia, where spices were used for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Each drawer contained the spice label on the drawer’s front and was kept behind a store keeper’s counter to keep the costly spices protected.
Have you ever thrown away an old bottle of spice, well past its “use by” date? It always makes me rather mad at myself when I have to do it. In 16th century homes across Europe and, eventually, the New World, caddies and mini spice cabinets where carved to store these luxurious pantry items safe and functional for as long as they could be kept. These could be ornate and crafted by high-profile cabinet makers, like this Regency-style spice cabinet:
or they could be simple and functional in a classic way, like this Shaker-style spice box:
With the progresses in ceramics technology, canisters were eventually developed to keep storage functional (no light or heat!) yet still be decorative for the display of such luxury items. Here’s an example of a common spice canister shape:
With the development of refrigeration techniques in the 19th century, spice demand dropped significantly. There were no longer needed for food preservations, but primarily food flavor. As transportation systems advanced, the lengthy travel routes to obtain the spices also became obsolete, causing a sharp drop in prices.
However, the two old enemies of spice are still around, yet we seem to have forgotten about them. Exposure to light and heat can cut the flavor and effectiveness of spices in your recipes by half their natural lifespan. That means your spices could only be good for 3 months if you are storing them in your kitchen like this:
Or some variation of this:
As a person who loves to cook, I hate to see this kind of waste in a kitchen. As a designer, I want to get the word out to help clients and blog readers to remember the wisdom those spice merchants learned all those years ago.
There are so many great, affordable spice storage options available today that keep our spices handy yet still protected. Here are just a few examples from online retailers:
The round parts of that Oxo organizer are turntables, to make it easier to browse your spices. Nice design!
Wanna see my solution for my own kitchen. (I practice what I preach, my friends!) I use the high cabinets above our sink for spice and baking supply storage. Mr. CARO and I are both rather tall, so we can reach these shelves easily.
I bought several bins and broke down my most commonly used spices into four sections of the alphabet to label the bins. The best part is, these bins weren’t designed to be spice containers at all. They were designed to be locker bins for high school students. I found them on clearance for $1 each after the back-to-school season years ago.
I love that these bins are easy to clean and I can tell at a glance if I am out of something. All I have do is label the tops of the bottles and toss them in their bins, although nowadays, many bottles already come labeled.
While we’re on the subject, and this was one of my points of inspiration for this post, there are a lot of custom cabinetry option returning to popularity again in new kitchens. Cooking fans have some beautiful and creative solution options that those spice merchants of old would be envious of…
FYI: All of our cooking oils and vinegars like a cool, dark place for storage, too. They last longer and keep from going rancid it you store them with the same care that you store your spices.
I am a big fan of this design of built-in spice storage:
But whatever you may choose to do with a built-in spice rack, DON’T do this:
Right by the oven?! Heat!!!!
Also, avoid putting a built-in spice rack by your dishwasher, which also generates a lot of heat on its side panels. Better to put your pretty and practical spice rack somewhere else in the cabinetry line up. Like this example I recently snapped in Home Depot:
…and now you don’t. Beautiful, practical and functional.
Have you ever thought about how you store spices in your kitchen? How many bottles of spice do you use regularly use in your home? (Just guesstimate.) Do you cringe, like I do, when you have to throw away a wasted spice? Anyone out there have a creative way to store spices in their pantry? Share your spicy-ness in a comment!
When I tell you that I’m going to share one of my favorite customized floor sources with you today, does that immediately make you think of a very expensive price tag? Well then, you’re in for a nice surprise because this floor product is customized at very reasonable price. We’re talking about carpet tiles.
Now, let’s clarify something before we go any further. If “carpet tiles” makes you think of industrial grey or blue thin squares of carpet in an office lit with fluorescent lights, that is not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking a about an area rug or wall-to-wall carpet that you customize to fit your size needs and style desires. Take a look at a few examples:
These are not the dingy, generic office carpets that used to define carpet tiles. These are all the products of a fabulous company called FLOR. And right now, they are having a great sale going on to make designing your own carpet or rug even more affordable.
You may have heard of FLOR before on design tv shows or in magazine ads. They are the new darlings of affordable, customized rugs for your home. And you can certainly see why with this kind of style.
For the price of a regular area rug or carpet padding and carpet, you can afford a very functional and elegant floor covering.
With FLOR tiles, you can customize the rug to the exact size you need in your room, without paying a traditional custom rug size cost.
They also have a great selection of original shapes, colors, and textures. FLOR also offers berber and wool carpet tile models…
…as well as original forms you can assemble and/or cut to your own tastes and interests.
I’m not getting paid or perked to talk about this great company. I only talk about companies that I really like and you can read more about that right here. I love FLOR because it helps my clients put more personality into their homes without breaking their budgets.
How It Works
You choose the size of rug you need in the style of tiles of your choice.
FLOR gives you lots of details about each rug tile model, including the depth of the face fibers so you can plan your rug to meet your traffic needs.
When your tiles arrive, you use their dots to secure the tiles to the floor.
Align each tile onto the dots…
…and little by little, your rug takes shape, right where you want it. Easy vacuuming, no extra rug padding needed and your rug stays in place.
You can also design your own rug layout, using multiple styles, textures, and colors of tiles…
…and by using their user-friendly online customizing tools.
I like FLOR tiles because their designs offer some realistic solutions to common household carpet problems. Have you ever been seated at a dining table and struggled to move your chair because the rug was so thick or just got bunched up? That is not a problem with FLOR:
Have you ever had a nasty stain on a carpet that you could never get rid of, no matter how hard you cleaned it? You have probably tried to move a piece of furniture over the stain or replaced the rug outright. Wine, pasta sauce, grape juice, etc. can be every rug’s nemesis. With FLOR, you just replace one or two stained tiles and move on with your life.
A bathroom rug you don’t have to throw into the washing machine or line dry? Vacuuming has never sounded so good:
Did I mention that FLOR is striving for full sustainability? They have a Return & Recycle program that encourages customers to send in their old FLOR tiles so that none of their carpet tiles end up in landfills. You can read more about their ongoing eco-friendly progress right here.
You can see the full line of FLOR products on their great website, which supplied all of the pictures for this post. While you’re on their website, you also can sign up for a catalog to make sure you see all of their newest designs.
Do you like the idea of using beautiful carpet tiles in your home? In what part of your home would you put a new rug or carpet? See a pattern or color you love in this post. Share your carpet cravings in a comment!
It is the beginning of a new month, which means it is time for a new FREE monthly mood board on Pinterest. I’ve created a whole room design and linked every item to it’s retail source to make shopping easy for you. It’s a full room design by a professional interior designer for FREE. What’s the catch? It’s only on Pinterest for one month. When November is over, the whole thing is gone and a brand new board goes up online.
Based on my blog stats, these Pinterest mood boards are quite popular with all of you readers. This made it all the more enjoyable when when a reader named Marlene wrote in last month with an idea for this month’s free mood board. Marlene said:
I have a narrow foyer and an adjoining hallway in my condo that needs a little color. Could you make a mood board for that? My style is very modern. I like streamline, clean things.”
I sure can! This is exactly the type of project I like to develop for the free monthly mood boards. Thanks so much, Marlene. Your inspiration mood board is here! I hope the rest of you enjoy it, too.
This foyer/hallway combo starts with a warm gold wallpaper that unifies the foyer and hallway into one larger room. Lighting for smaller or narrow spaces is very important, so I’ve included ceiling fixtures and an inviting table lamp to vary the sources and levels of lighting according to Marlene’s needs.
Using the walls as a base texture, I’ve layered in additional textures in linear patterns to keep the clean, modern lines that Marlene likes. By using multiple metals finishes, I’ve also given Marlene some slight touches of glamour around the room. With warm tones and repeating patterns, these smaller rooms have bigger personalities, perfect for welcoming guest into a home.
So, how can you see this whole new mood board? Well, you can click on the Pinterest button below or on the sidebar, which looks just like this:
While you are on the CARO Interiors Pinterest site, you can browse around and look at some of the other boards I’ve created showing beautiful things for the home. Or you can jump directly to the “Modern, clean foyer and hallway” by clicking right here.
Want to see more mood boards? You can check out the archive of my past client mood boards I’ve shared right here. Do you have an idea for a future Pinterest FREE monthly mood board? Just like Marlene, you can leave comment and I might use your idea for inspiration next month!
Did you enter to win this week’s giveaway?
They’ll get two 32 oz. BPA-free water bottles and two insulated lunch bags so they can carry their lunches with style and savings.
And this week’s winner is…Dana D.!
Dana’s favorite leftover lunches are turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving, Chinese food or cold meatloaf sandwiches. I’ve never tried a cold meatloaf sandwich and now I’m intrigued! Congratulations, Dana! I’ll be sending you an email soon so you can let me know where you would like your gift shipped.
There weren’t lot of entries for this week’s giveaway, which I’m hoping means so many of you are already taking advantage of tasty leftovers for lunch. If you did enter and didn’t win, don’t worry. There is another giveaway coming in just two weeks! (Hint: It can be a real help for you in the kitchen, especially on Turkey Day!) Be sure to check back and enter to win!
Can you help me spread the word about these free giveaways, too? Feel free to share any and all links to the blog with your friends, talk about them on Facebook and Tweet the heck out of them. The more entries I get, the better the prizes can be!
Have an idea for a great giveaway you’d like to win? Leave a comment for me!