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Click to check out June, July, and August.

Right now in life, I am:

MAKING progress on my goals for creative self-improvement! I’ve been practicing my calligraphy and hand-lettering (I joined the New Orleans Lettering Arts Association), I’ve been working on a few logo projects, I’ve started Bonnie Christine’s Designing Surface Patterns from Scratch Course on CreativeLive, I’ve been blogging more lately, and I’ve been working on a much needed blog re-design! (more to come with all of this in October!)
COOKING many loaves of Artisan Gluten-free Bread, making lots of yummy Fall soups, such as Chicken Tortilla soup, White Chicken Chili, and Creamy Potato Soup with Sausage and Kale, and baking up some delicious Cheese Stuffed Lasagna Manicotti.
DRINKING mostly water, as usual. A little bit of sweet tea while Front Porch Sitting.
READING The Happiness Project, still. Drew and I have been reading a little bit of it in the evenings together before bed. Lately I’ve really been wanting to re-read Anne of Green Gables (my absolute favorite book ever).
WANTING to have time to get through Bonnie Christine’s Designing Surface Patterns from Scratch Course next month! I’ve watched a little bit of it live and I’ve bought the course to watch, but I just haven’t had time to make it through it yet (working full-time makes it hard to have time for all this creative stuff!). I’m so excited about this though. For the longest time I’ve wanted to design fabric and I’m excited to start actually making surface pattern designs and see where that leads!
PLAYING country music on the radio.
SEWING nothing right now.
CROCHETING a baby blanket for Drew’s niece’s baby. Just finished it today!
WISHING for an October filled with lots of time outside.
ENJOYING the gorgeous weather in New Orleans. This weekend is the first weekend we’ve been able to have the windows open. Absolutely LOVE this time of year!
WAITING to hang our living room gallery wall until I have all the pieces painted/framed/collected. Getting closer! I did get a few frames this weekend that were on clearance at Target!
LIKING the antique shopping we did last weekend and the beautiful, twinkling hot air balloons we saw.

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WONDERING where I can find an old church pew for my foyer/dining room.
LOVING that the hot Summer temperatures are mostly gone and Drew and I’s 7 year dating anniversary is coming up in October! (yes, we still celebrate that!).
HOPING that I meet a lot of creative goals next month.
MARVELING at the change in seasons. In New Orleans, it doesn’t look much different from season to season, but it feels so different. I love this quote:

“There is indeed, something inexpressibly pleasing in the annual renovation of the world, and the new display of the treasures of nature.” -Samuel Johnson

NEEDING to paint more. My Art Studio Inspiration Wall is inspiring me, now I just have to make the time to sit down and paint!
SMELLING the first Sunday roast of the season in the oven cooking as I type.
WEARING ballet flats again! It is still warm enough outside here to wear flip-flops/sandals, but I’ve started making the Fall transition to flats lately.
FOLLOWING along with Bonnie Christine’s Design Surface Patterns From Scratch Blog Tour. So inspiring to see everything that people have been able to create since taking her class. A great motivator! See more work from the students that have taken her class so far, here.
NOTICING nature around me lately. Drew and I were walking around for Art’s for Art’s Sake last night and I kept stopping to take pictures of pretty things.
KNOWING that things change, often for the better. Missing Kelly (our Associate Pastor I had the pleasure of working with over the last year) and her family as they move to Seattle, Washington. Enjoyed a lovely farewell lunch for her at Commander’s Palace last week. (photo above)
THINKING a lot about my future, my creative passions, my career, and what I really want out of life.
BOOKMARKING this book I want to read, these fabric designs I love, this rug I really want, and this artist whose work I really enjoy.
OPENING my new iPhone 6! I got it on release day! It is the first time I’ve upgraded my phone (to a brand new one) in almost 5 years, so it was much needed!
LAUGHING and enjoying time with friends while watching a Tulane game in the new Yulman Stadium. A totally different experience than Tulane football was when I was in school! (they used to play at the Superdome downtown).
FEELING thankful for the church I work at and the 20/30s program there. I’m enjoying forming closer friendships with lots of great people. Loving our Friday afternoon Front Porch Sitting Club

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I’m really starting to enjoy blogging again now that I’m doing these monthly posts. I love being able to look back on what I’ve been up to. Click to check out June and July.

Right now in life, I am:

MAKING our house pretty. Over the last month we’ve painted our living room, our foyer/dining room, and the french doors connecting the two rooms.
COOKING homemade gluten-free blackberry pies (turns out it is a family tradition! My great-grandmother used to make fabulous blackberry cobblers from blackberries she picked in the backyard–the same backyard I grew up in), rice crispy treats (first time I’ve had those in forever!), and eating lots of fresh cherries. (along with other more sustainable things, you know) I also baked my first loaf of homemade gluten-free bread yesterday!
DRINKING a pineapple juice/orange juice/grenadine/rum cocktail every so often.
READING The Happiness Project.
WANTING to get some more paintings done, print some more prints, and open an Etsy shop.
PLAYING this song over and over again (Drew is obsessed!) and this (it made me cry. I’m so sentimental.).
SEWING new curtains for the living room from plain white sheets.
CROCHETING a throw blanket for our living room.
WISHING for this quatrefoil mirror for our apartment. Love it!
ENJOYING our freshly painted house and how different (better) it feels.
WAITING to hang our living room gallery wall until I have all the pieces painted/framed/collected.
LIKING apple picking, pie making, corn shucking, hiking, and waterfallin’ with my homies in Nashville (my husband, sister, her husband, nieces and nephew). Sweet little Gig was my little shadow all last weekend. 🙂
WONDERING why I decided to chop half my hair off! I miss my long, wavy/curly hair. Short hair is so much maintenance!
LOVING that summer is slowing down. The last few months have been so busy! Looking forward to a quiet fall.
HOPING that my hair grows quickly!
MARVELING at the ability of sweet little kids to help you slow down and take life in.
NEEDING to paint more (mostly actual paintings, but there are a few more walls here that need to be painted too).
SMELLING fresh homemade gluten-free apple and blackberry/raspberry pies Blair, Gigi and I made last weekend. Made with apples we picked (photo above) and berries we bought because I’m obsessed. This was the fourth berry pie I’ve made this summer.
WEARING more black and white lately. I even bought some black skinny jeans last weekend.
FOLLOWING the “one-minute rule” lately. Don’t put off any task that takes a minute or less to accomplish.
NOTICING lots of stars on our visit to the country. I wish we could see the stars better in New Orleans. I love this quote, “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they’d live life a lot differently.”
KNOWING that I need to spend a little more time on our “curb appeal.” Our rosebushes need to be trimmed (they’ve grown like crazy in the last year!), weeds picked, more mulch spread, some other potted plants need to replace our current ones (our little potted rosebushes constantly struggle with black-spot like crazy. Time to replace them with some simple little boxwoods.) Maybe in September I’ll tackle that.
THINKING a lot about self-improvement and happiness. Fall seems like the perfect time for a fresh start. Love this quote I read today, “Happiness is a collection of small, pleasurable moments.”
BOOKMARKING this gray couch. Oh how I wish our couches looked like that one! (someday…)
OPENING up my creative endeavors by joining the New Orleans Lettering Arts Association! First meeting is next weekend! Can’t wait to learn some new calligraphy techniques! I bought some new supplies this weekend! My new version of “back to school” supplies.
LAUGHING at this sign at a roadside Farmer’s Market.
FEELING thankful for quality sister/niece time last weekend, a weekend getaway/time spent in the country/nature, and for our beautiful, cozy little apartment to return to.

P.S. This past week (September 4th, to be exact) marks 4 years since my first blog post here! Happy 4th Birthday Icing on the Cake blog!

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Following in last month’s footsteps, it is time for a peek into my July!

Right now in life, I am:

MAKING lots of things. Many work projects happening, website re-design included. Also logo and lettering projects. House projects and painting rooms too. We made this new tufted bench/coffee table this month from a base we found while shopping in the French Quarter when my friend Tonya was in town. (picture of us below)
COOKING homemade gluten-free Blackberry pie (with a few raspberries thrown in too) using my GF pie crust recipe here. The first fruit pie I think I’ve ever made, actually. 
DRINKING always water, and a root beer float on occasion.
READING Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life still. Also finishing The Nesting Place book (LOVE this) and I’ve started the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series.
WANTING to finish the new gallery wall in our living room and get everything hung. We painted the walls in there last week (only after 3 years of wanting to!).photo (5) 1

LOOKING back on lots of pictures and memories and moments from this past month. 
PLAYING a whole lot of Castle episodes. I started watching Castle a couple years ago, about 4 seasons into the show, so I decided this summer it was finally time to go back and watch all the seasons I had missed and get ready for season 7 that starts this Fall! I’m so obsessed!
WASTING a lot of time watching 6 seasons of Castle, lol! But I’m enjoying it, so is time really wasted?
SEWING, well CROCHETING a baby blanket for a gift. 
WISHING for a more quiet and relaxing August after all the craziness of July. So much travel, vacation, friends, and family.

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ENJOYING where I am. 
WAITING on the perfect fabric to make new curtains for our living room. (and the right pieces to finish up our gallery wall in there, and the time to build a new tv stand and to re-finish furniture… projects are always waiting!)
LIKING exploring so many new places this month and revisiting favorite ones.
WONDERING what I’ll paint next.
LOVING snacking on cherries. I love summertime!
HOPING to finish up several work projects soon! My plate is overflowing!photo (7) 1

MARVELING at the beauty of the United States. Such a diverse landscape from coast to coast.
NEEDING to Let it Go.
SMELLING raspberry wine at Arrington Vineyards in Nashville (photo above), the salty sea air of the California Coast (photo above and below), and the sweet and delicious smell of homemade blackberry pie filling.
WEARING my usual. Patterned shorts, floral tops, colored pants, neutrals, summer scarves. Always wearing my gold watch.
FOLLOWING lots of artists. Like Teil Duncan and Emily Jeffords.
NOTICING lots of things from my travels. The colors, the people, the environments, the landscapes, the diversity of weather, to name a few.

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KNOWING that you only get one life to be happy in.
THINKING about this. “I just want to make pretty things and get enough sleep.”
BOOKMARKING untranslatable words.
OPENING up my creative endeavors by trying out more hand lettering projects. See here and here.
GIGGLING at ???. I feel like this month I was a little too anxious to laugh enough. Put that on my to-do list for August. More giggling.
FEELING thankful for wonderful opportunities, for travel, and for grown-up sleepovers with childhood best friends. I needed those long, catch-up, best-friend chats. (Thanks for coming to New Orleans, Tonya!)

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The week after I helped my little sister, Kelsey, move into her dorm room, I spent a few days in Nashville with my older sister and her kiddos before heading back to New Orleans. While I was there, we got the chance to check out the Southern Living Idea House 2013 on the Fontanel Estate in Nashville.

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I was super excited to check it out, I mean who isn’t excited to check out a house featured in a magazine and designed by Southern Living? I figured it would be fabulous and I would be left wanting a house just like it. However, that was not the case. While many of the design elements and the grounds were pretty, I was a little disappointed overall. I expected some gorgeous mansion, but in reality it was a collection of several buildings that felt really choppy and separated. It was ridiculously impractical for any family to actually live in (the main house only had one bedroom and the rest of the bedrooms were located in separate buildings connected by a wrap around porch). That made more sense once I found out that they planned to use it as a bed and breakfast for the Fontanel Mansion estate after it was done being open for viewing as the Idea House, however I found the choppy layout uninspiring.

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Many elements of the design were pretty, but overall I was a little underwhelmed by that as well. There were only small snippets here and there of things I actually found inspiring. I thought overall the design choices were pretty expected and maybe boring? I know my design style is not completely traditional, but I still respect and find inspiration in other design styles as well. To me, for this to be an “Idea House” (essentially setting a goal for people to use it as inspiration), I personally don’t think it took enough risks in the design choices.

Here are some pictures and things I did like though:

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On the outside of the buildings, I did like the taupe-y grey paint color, combined with the creamy soft white trim, the darker neutral shutters and the brick/stone color on the bottom. Not exactly a new or groundbreaking design choice, but I thought it was pretty and classic, while still feeling modern/updated/2013. I do like the more classic design style of the building contrasted with the more modern steel railing and cute metal gutter system. I also really liked the Oil-Rubbed Bronze outdoor light fixture above the door (although you can’t see it super well in these pictures).

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That little building opened right up to a bedroom with two full/queen beds (not pictured) and then this little nook/kitchenette area (above) and a bathroom around the corner. I thought the wallpaper in this room was pretty and I really liked the wide plank dark wood floors and the creamy white trim.

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I thought this little kitchenette area was really beautiful. I love the wallpaper, the dark stained butcher block counters, the open shelving and the white accessories. However, I don’t think this area was super practical. I know it is an “Idea House” and so they aren’t exactly expecting guests, but design inspires me when it is both beautiful and practical/useful. I thought this area was beautiful, but was it useful? There was a small fridge, but there was no stove top/microwave/coffeemaker or any type of appliance to actually make food prep possible, therefore there was absolutely no use for any of those dishes, other than maybe a glass. Add a coffeemaker and a microwave, and then maybe it would have been a practical space. (but I think those are things the design team should have addressed)

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Turn the corner from the kitchenette area and there was this beautiful bathroom. I did really like this room. I thought all the marble tile was really pretty (love the hex tile on the floor!) and the lines of the sink are beautiful. It was very classic, but also felt new/clean/modern too. For a small bathroom, the layout of this room was designed well and it really did have it all– a walk in shower, a separate little toilet nook, a beautiful sink area and this nice little closet/storage area right across from the sink (below).

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Throughout the buildings, I did really like this style of molding. It was really pretty, but also really simple.

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Moving on to the next building, the door on the left led to a bedroom, bathroom, sitting and kitchenette area and the door on the right went up stairs and led to another bedroom and bathroom. You had to go outside and in the other door to get to the spaces though, they were completely separate. (Which makes sense if they plan to use it as a bed and breakfast, but as a house, the spaces were too separate.)

I did love the color of the wooden doors though, the transoms above, and the schoolhouse style light fixtures on the porch ceiling.

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Right outside those doors, on the porch, was this nice little seating area. The design here doesn’t overwhelm me, but the sectional and garden stools are nice.

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The left door (in the photo above) led to this bedroom/seating area. I liked the dark color on the walls in here, the sliding barn door to the bathroom, the open wooded/metal shelving, the white accessories, the white fireplace/mantel, herringbone pattern on the inside of the fireplace, abstract art, the tall curtains, the fiddle-leaf fig trees and dresser/side tables next to the bed. Overall, I really like this area and was one of my favorites in the whole Idea House. I think it is pretty and classic, but also has newer/modern elements. I think this was one room that really melded a good blend of the two together (while still keeping a country, Southern Living style). A lot of these elements are really popular right now (fiddle leaf figs, sliding barn doors, open shelving, white accessories, drum shades, etc), so although I like the room and I like a lot of the elements, I’ve seen them all already on design blog after design blog, so I wouldn’t say there is any element in this room that just overwhelms me with inspiration.

That doorway in the back led to another little kitchenette area that was cute (but also similar to the last one I already talked about). I didn’t get a good picture or get to study it very well because there was a guy painting in there while we were there.

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Sorry for the grainy picture here, but this was the sink area of the bathroom connected to the above living room/bedroom. It was spacious and had a nice closet there, but I think my absolute favorite element was that mirror on the vanity area. LOVE that shape. Behind where I was standing to take this picture, was another spacious room with a big tub and another spacious room off that one with a toilet in it. I didn’t include pictures of those rooms because I wasn’t that inspired by them and actually thought that the space in those areas was a little wasted (the toilet room was huge and just had a toilet and small dresser/table in it).

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Leaving the bedroom/seating area above, going out onto the porch and entering the other door, you were greeted by this staircase, then a bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. I do like the lantern light fixture in here, but the art is a little bit of a disappointment. I’m all for gallery walls, but this one was really uninteresting. This tall, neutral room would have been a great place to add a little more interest, color, pattern, anything really that would be eye catching and make me want to treat this as a room, a place where I would actually stop and look at the art, rather than just walk on by and on to the next room.

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I did like the sliding barn door in here as well, although when you slid it open, it opened a closet/eave area of the house. While it was neat that that room was sort-of secret, it meant you couldn’t close the bedroom door without opening this big closet, and therefore couldn’t have both rooms closed at the same time. Might not be practical for a real house.

One thing I really do like about this room was the fact that the ceiling is painted a color, while the walls are neutral. I love the idea of treating the ceiling as a 5th wall, and love the fact that they gave it some interest. I think it adds a nice cozy factor to the room.

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I really liked the windows throughout the entire set of buildings. They were all like these, with the muntins forming squares of glass, rather than the traditional rectangle. I thought they were a slightly more modern take on this traditional window style.

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The ticking pattern on the walls (and everywhere else) was actually fabric. I thought it was really interesting that they covered the walls in fabric, rather than wallpaper. They used to do that to cover the stone walls in castles back in the day. That isn’t something often seen in interiors these days and was inspiring. How cool would it be for the fabric to be a really cool pattern? There are lots of possibilities with that and I would love to see more interiors explore this. It gave the walls a nice softness. I’m curious as to the process involved (how they hung it, how they covered seams, etc.) I should have studied it further when I was there.

I’m not however the biggest fan of the fact that the walls, curtains, chair upholstery, lamp shades, curtains behind the bed, etc are all the same fabric. It gets a little too matchy-matchy. I would have loved to see them pair the walls with some other fabrics on everything else.

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A walk around the porch again led to the main house. This porch swing was nice and the ropes to cover the chains were a nice touch, although one I’d seen before. The big triple white door behind the swing was the door to the library/study (I’ll show it later).

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The porch of this house was enormous, it wrapped around all the buildings, so there were lots of little areas. I like the polka dotted rug and the side tables above and I’m in love with the beautiful trestle table in the outdoor dining area below. The geometric rug below is nice too.

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This beautiful wood herringbone door below is the center entrance to the main area of the main house. While I absolutely love this gorgeous wooden door and the transom above it, the door itself is a little small/skinny (less grand) of an entrance for it to be the main entrance to the house. The doors to the library/study were also on the front of the house, but were bigger (there was also another larger entrance on the opposite side of this front door, symmetrical to the library/study entrance).

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That door opened up to this enormous living area. The tall ceilings, horizontal paneled walls, windows along the top, and rustic wood beams were gorgeous. I liked the sliding barn doors here again leading to the kitchen area.

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This room was very pretty, but again I couldn’t get over how separated it felt. I mean who needs two separate living spaces in the same room? (a bed and breakfast maybe, but not a real house) In my opinion, this room felt like a little bit of wasted space. It took up almost half of the entire main house, but only functions as a living room.

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View from the kitchen (above) and view into the kitchen (below).

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I LOVE the old crocks on the kitchen island. My dad has collected these old crocks all my life and has a ton of them. (I have a couple in my house that he gave me). I really love the old patina they add to this otherwise more modern space. I also love the trio of plants themselves and the pretty ceiling pendant.

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I loved the deep teal-y blue color of the kitchen cabinets (the pictures online from Southern Living don’t show the color accurately at all!), although they did make the room seem really dark (and therefore the pretty big room seemed a little on the small side). I also love the butcher block counters (and the way they contrast against the white and blue in the room). The sink faucets here also have a really pretty shape. I did like this room, although it seemed dark and made me wish that ALL the cabinetry wasn’t painted such a dark color (This would have been a great room for two toned cabinetry). I would have also liked to see a little more open shelving and a little more personality in this room with art/accessories. It feels a little on the too industrial side for me.

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The laundry room was pretty, although pretty basic, but it did have nice windows in it. I love laundry rooms that have a counter top over the washer and dryer. I wish I had that in our laundry room, it would be so convenient. The sink and faucet in here are pretty too (although I would have preferred an apron front sink and perhaps a different skirt around it). This room was right off the kitchen, and on the opposite side of the house from the bedroom (and other buildings with bedrooms), which isn’t horrible, but it seems like it would have been more convenient on the other side of the house.

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I like the windows and the rug in here, but overall I thought the dining room was really disappointing. It was at the back of the house and almost seemed like an afterthought. The decor in here wasn’t anything spectacular and for a place (along with the kitchen) that seem like they are usually at the heart of a home, this room didn’t feel like that.

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The back porch was really spacious as well. I liked that the fabric screens rolled up and down to block light when needed.

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The master bedroom (or the only bedroom in the main house) was right off the back porch, but I didn’t include pictures of it, because it was really boring. This shot (above) was of part of the master bath/closet. The waterfall marble counter top on the sink was kind-of pretty, but the rest of the room isn’t anything special really. That room in the back was supposed to be the master closet, but it felt more like a mudroom or locker room.

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Ahh, the library/study. This was by far my absolute favorite room in the house. I liked the rich dark wall color (it made it cozy for a room that is meant to be quiet/serious), the tall windows with transoms, the geometric chandelier, and the patterned curtains. For me, this was the most inviting room in the entire house(s).

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Love that magnifying glass above. I think the thing I liked the most about this room was it was the one that had the most interest, pattern, accessories, and artwork. I think those things really make a space.

Last but not least, this bedroom was on the other side of the main house, in its own little building, directly across from the first room I showed you. Overall, I think this room is a little boring and hotel-ish, but the headboards are pretty.

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That pretty much wraps up the tour. There are some rooms I left out, these ones are just ones that I found the most inspiring.

I’m sorry if this post was a little negative about the SL Idea House, but I left it with such a disappointed feeling. I expected to be wowed and over-inspired but I really wasn’t. I’ve thought a lot about why I felt that way, and I think it has to do with several things.

I think that for an “Idea House,” too many of the choices were too boring. They were expected choices, not overwhelmingly creative and innovative ones. I know I might read more design blogs and keep up with the design world more than most people do, but I’ve seen these same choices over and over again. I expected more creativity or innovation or something. I think color is one thing they could have been a little more innovative with. I love color and I love bright colors and I know that not everyone does, but a lot of the rooms in this house were too neutral or they used expected color choices– light blues and greens, browns, some reds, etc. I think the teal-y blue color in the kitchen was perhaps a step in the right direction, but I would have loved to see some more creative colors and color combinations used throughout, even if in just small doses. Peacock, mint or teal blues, perhaps lavender or more raspberry pinks– there are a lot of really hot colors right now that would have been more refreshing to see.

I would have loved if the spaces had been set up in a more inspiring way (less of a bed and breakfast and more of a real house), but I guess I understand their decisions for practicality in the afterlife of this Idea House. However, I think the absolute biggest problem I had with this Idea House was that it felt like a Pottery Barn store or a furniture store, not a real-lived in home with a story. I guess that is to be expected, but I found it to be a little stale. The pieces all seemed new, they didn’t feel collected over time. There wasn’t any personality. The art and accessories were lacking. I didn’t see any paintings or art that I thought were very inspiring. I would have loved to see some vintage landscape paintings mixed in with more modern abstract pieces, prints, and black and white photos. I wish that they had used the art and accessories to make the Idea House feel more like a lived-in home, rather than a hotel or store.

Which maybe brings me to an even greater point, that interior design (to me at least) is more than just harmony of objects in a space, the beauty of rooms, or the quality of the pieces. It’s about the story that they tell–the art, photos, books, knickknacks, furniture pieces, memories–all showing a picture of their collected history together. They describe the personality and the history of the people who live there and what the interests of those people are. I love a pastiche of things in a space. A mixture of styles and pieces, thrifted tables next to handmade curtains next to a modern light fixture. But I think the story of them is what equally interests me, and why I find myself drawn to design blogs where people tell the stories of their own houses and I can see the rooms and the things in them change as time passes, how those areas are both beautiful and practical for their lives/families. In light of the amazing resource that is design blogs, I find that decorating television shows, magazines, and I guess Idea Houses too, just don’t captivate or inspire me in nearly the same way.

A few weeks ago (right after I got back from Portland) I headed on a trip to Puerto Rico with my sisters and nieces! It was such a fun and relaxing trip hanging out with family!

Get ready for a super photo-heavy post about it all! (Sorry for the varying degree of quality on these pics — some were taken with my iPhone, some with my small point and shoot, and some with a DSLR)

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The resort we stayed at was really nice. Right on the beach (although, unfortunately there was a really bad undertow in the water right outside our hotel, so you could really only wade into the water a little bit), our rooms had pretty ocean views, there were four different pools, hot tubs, restaurants on site, free towel and beach chair service, the whole works. (Although, I don’t think I got any pictures of the rest of it)

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Most of our days we spent relaxing by the pool or the beach, but most evenings we ventured into Old San Juan to try out various restaurants there. All the food we had was really good! It seemed like the most abundant “island food” were plantains. (sorry, didn’t get any pictures of food either!)

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We enjoyed walking around Old San Juan in the evenings. It was really pretty there. It reminded me a little of the French Quarter of New Orleans, but it was much cleaner and the buildings (which I think are actually older than those in New Orleans) looked much nicer, newer and better kept. They were all painted really pretty colors. (I wish I had gotten some good pictures of them in the daylight!)

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One day we ventured down to El Morro (also in Old San Juan) a 16th century citadel/castle. (read this if you want to learn more about it)

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Georgiana and I ended up wearing matching shorts that day!

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My and Jill’s shadows in the grass.

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And BEHOLD! this might be one of my most favorite pictures of all time:

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It makes me laugh every time. There was this stray cat laying there (we saw a lot of stray cats there actually) and we somehow managed to get this crazy, not really planned picture of it. They were all sitting there and I just kind-of maybe said smile and this is what became of it. Captured that moment well.

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The grounds and all the old walls and stuff were really pretty and we walked around there for a while. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously hot outside and there were these swarms of really irritating little flies everywhere. They were all over and inside our hair and clothes. It was gross.

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The inside of the fort was really neat as well. There were lots of little nooks and crannies and hidden-ish passageways to explore. It was huge!

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A different day, the bigger kids (Bob, me, Kelsey, Jill and Evie — Blair stayed behind with Gigi and Jack during naptime) took a little trip to Laquillo Beach so that we could see a little more of Puerto Rico and swim a little farther into the water than we could outside the hotel. The mountain views on the drive were really pretty.

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The beach that we stumbled upon was really pretty! It was more wild and natural than any other beach I’d ever been to. It was really cool.

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We had fun checking out the coconut palms, swimming, and exploring a little river/lagoon-y thing that we found. The water was really clear and the view was picturesque.

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Another day, while exploring, we walked across this bridge over a lagoon, where the water was really clear and you could see different fish swimming around. My favorite find of the day was this really awesome starfish! We were really high above it, but it had to have been around 15 inches wide.

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On our last evening there, we dressed up in coordinating outfits and took pictures on the beach. Here we are in the elevator on our way down.

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Love my sisters!

Apparently we were there towards the end of the rainy season, and the forecast showed rain everyday, but luckily we missed out on a lot of it. It was mostly clear and sunny everyday. Something interesting about there — it gets completely dark by 7pm every night. In the US, the sun sets much later in the summer, but it doesn’t in Puerto Rico.

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Such a fun trip and great time with family! I miss relaxing by the beach/pools at the resort! We had a great time, but since there were 8 of us and we were only there a few days, we only got to see a little bit of Puerto Rico. I’m sure there are tons of other great things there to explore!

The week after my graduation, Drew and I headed out to Portland, Oregon as a graduation getaway and first anniversary trip. (We went to Portland, Maine on our honeymoon, why not try out Portland, Oregon next?) It was cool and rainy the entire time, but we still had a great time. One of our top favorite cities actually.

Shall we recap? (warning, this is a long, photo-heavy post!)

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Neither there nor on the way back did we have non-stop flights, so we had several flight legs and a few delays (we logged quite a bit of time traveling and in airports on this trip). Imagine this (x4):

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But once we got there, we did some pretty cool things. One of the first things we did (and one of our favorites) was to check out Multnomah Falls. It was seriously amazing.

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Drew and I both agreed that this was one of the most amazing things that we had ever seen. It is so “WOAH” to be standing next to something so powerful.

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There were lots of little streams around and a hiking path that led all the way to the top of the waterfall. It was cold and rainy and the path was steep and slick, so we didn’t go all the way to the top, but we did go up to the little bridge in the pictures above.

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From up there, if you turned around and looked the other way, you could see the Columbia River and those mountain/hills are in the state of Washington:

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The drive there and back along the Columbia River Scenic Highway was pretty too:

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Almost everything we saw in Oregon was pretty. After we went there, we headed out to a little island called Sauvie’s Island. Someone recommended it to us and it had cute little farms and areas for fresh farmer’s markets, but we must have gone on a bad day (it was a weekday and raining) so not much was going on. It was a nice little drive through the countryside though. This was the only day we had a car while in Portland, so we saw the stuff that was a little out of the way. Once we were back in the city, we were driving to the restaurant we had picked out and while driving through this cute little neighborhood, we stumbled upon a random little neighborhood rose garden! How sweet! (We were headed to Screen Door restaurant, soooo good!!!)

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The rest of our time there we took the public transportation everywhere. Portland has a really awesome public transportation system that is super efficient. It was really awesome to use while we were there to avoid having to rent a car everyday. It did take some getting used to though. It definitely isn’t like popping in the car and being where you want to be in a few minutes. Taking the MAX lightrail and the bus system involved a whole lot of walking around from bus stop to bus stop and waiting on the MAX or buses to show up. We spent a lot of our day figuring out how to get where we wanted to go!

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The next day we headed to the Pittock Mansion. It was really awesome, except for the fact that it is situated at the top of a huge mountainous hill. The public transportation only went to the bottom of the hill, so Drew and I were left to hike 30 minutes straight up a huge hill on this tiny winding road in the middle of the woods. It was exhausting!

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The view from there was pretty cool though!

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The inside was gorgeous (plus it had a lot of original pretty modern amenities)! I took a ton of pictures of the inside but I’ll spare you from showing them all, you can learn more about it here. You can also take a video tour of it, here.

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We headed to Deschutes Brewery for lunch and for Drew to try their craft beer. Then later on that same day we also checked out the Portland Art Museum, which was neat (and awesome that they had free admission on Friday evenings!), but we were so exhausted from that hike to the Pittock Mansion that we really couldn’t stand to walk around the museum very long.

The next day, we headed out to the Portland Saturday Crafts Market:

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It was neat that it was right next to the Willamette River that runs through Portland, but overall I was a little disappointed with the arts and crafts at the market. It wasn’t much different than the French Market in New Orleans. I felt like a lot of the stuff was a little “cheap” (as in cheaply made, not cheap prices). I guess I expected something more like a real-life Etsy.

After that, we headed to the International Rose Test Garden. It was so neat! There were all kinds of roses everywhere! There were roses everywhere all over Portland, actually. It’s like the city of roses.

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This was actually the closest we got (the whole time we were there) to a view of Mt. Hood.  I guess when it is really clear you can see it from the city? I’m not sure if Portland ever has a day clear enough for that! This day was the only pretty day the whole trip (it was a little warmer with sunshine and no rain!), but the rest of the time it was cool and rainy. I’ve heard Portland is always that way.

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These roses were huge! The blooms were about 10 inches wide.

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Not all the roses were in bloom, but a lot of them were. The grounds of the park were just gorgeous. Plus it was totally free! Such an awesome place to wonder around and it smelled so good! It would be an awesome place for picnics!

After that, we headed up to the Portland Japanese Garden, right next to the rose garden.

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The grounds of the Japanese garden were really pretty, but overall we weren’t that impressed with it. It was kind-of expensive, it was around $20 for Drew and I to get in, which seems pricey just to walk around for a few minutes. I got the feeling that it was created to be a tranquil place to sit and meditate, which would have been nice, but the day we went it was packed! There are only tiny little paths throughout the entire thing, so there was no room to stop and meditate, since there was a whole line of people behind you waiting on you to move along. The streams and waterfalls were pretty, but after visiting Multnomah Falls and all of its natural beauty, the man-made features here lost their sparkle. The water was also really cloudy/yucky looking and in a lot of places it was still, so it was a breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We didn’t stay too long. I would recommend going perhaps on a weekday to lose some of the crowd and perhaps get to enjoy it a little more.

We ate a lot of really great food while in Portland, and it was one of the features that impressed me the most. At every single restaurant we went to, the menu was clearly labeled with foods that were vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. Most places also prided themselves on serving organic and local options as well. It was so amazing to be able to go out to eat and have awesome healthy gluten-free options! It is nearly impossible to eat out gluten-free in New Orleans! For lunch/dinner with savory options it is usually easier, but in Portland, even the breakfast places served gluten-free bread, pancakes, french toast, etc.

One of my absolute favorite places we went was to Tula, a completely gluten-free bakery:

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My absolute favorite was the Lemon Ricotta muffin. Oh my goodness. Amazing. (I had to try making my own as soon as I got back to New Orleans!) They also had a really awesome lemon loaf, banana flaxseed bread, chocolate chip cookies, fruit tarts, scones, chocolate muffins, coffee cakes, cupcakes, savory meat/cheese croissants, paninis, etc. Everything I tasted was delicious. I insisted we visit this place multiple times while we were there! I so wish I lived close to this all the time!

Other than that we checked out Stumptown Coffee:

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We also checked out Voodoo Doughnuts, which is supposedly pretty famous, but I thought it tasted just like any other doughnut (plus I couldn’t eat much since they weren’t gluten-free).

We also visited several other craft breweries, brewpubs and tap rooms per Drew’s request. There is apparently quite the craft beer selection there that isn’t available in New Orleans. One place we stopped was even a beer truck: (the food truck scene was pretty hopping in Portland)

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Per my request, we ventured out to Schoolhouse Electric, which provided some nice home decor inspiration:

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I also found a fabric store to score some cool fabric finds. I love getting a little bit of fabric on trips as a souvenir so that when I use it I can reminisce about where it came from. I picked up a couple fabrics in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when we were there on our honeymoon that I ended up using in my BA Art Exhibition.

We also stopped in at IKEA while we were there (there isn’t one in NOLA). We also enjoyed walking around and looking in shops downtown– Crafty Wonderland was a favorite of mine! I bought this print from there. We tried the famous Salt and Straw ice cream and had lots of other great foods, desserts, and beers (Drew). We really had an awesome and packed-full trip!

On our last day, we decided to rent a car and drive the couple hours up to Seattle, Washington and back for a day trip. It was overcast and rainy, so we couldn’t see much on our drive which was a bummer because we drove right past Mount St. Helens and couldn’t even see it. We didn’t have a lot of time in Seattle, mostly just ate and drove around a little before we needed to head back. We did check out the downtown market area:

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We also stopped in to try out some of the famous Beecher’s cheddar mac-and-cheese:

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It was good, but not the best I’ve ever had, plus it wasn’t gluten-free, so I could only eat a few bites.

I wish we could have seen a little more of Seattle, since we drove several hours to get there, but it wasn’t a nice day. Goodness, I wish it hadn’t been so grey and rainy the whole time! I really wanted to see mountains! Oh well, I’m glad we went, even if just to say that we had been there.

Overall, both Drew and I really loved Portland. I wish it wasn’t so far away from family (and didn’t rain every single day) or else we would totally move there in a heartbeat. I loved the mix of big city, but also country and natural attractions. I loved the awesome, healthy, gluten-free options and the fact that people there seemed to be really concerned and aware about what they were eating  and actively involved in the discussion around it. Portland’s tap water doesn’t contain fluoride and there was a march against Monsanto while we were there.  It seems to be a pretty healthy, creative, crafty city and just overall has a lot of great qualities, cool shops, pretty places and awesome parks and natural attractions.

I’m sure we’ll definitely be back sometime!

The last week or so I’ve been in Southern Illinois visiting my family. Every time I’m back home, I try to squeeze in a trip to my favorite fabric store in the area — Hancock’s of Paducah (in Paducah, KY). I absolutely love fabric and could spend all day in a fabric store. I love all the prints, patterns and possibilities of things to make out of all the prettiness! I had several house projects in mind that I needed fabric for, so I was definitely in need of a trip to the fabric store while I was home! (New Orleans doesn’t have any great fabric stores.)

Hancock’s of Paducah is a completely different store than the Hancock’s chain of fabric stores that are found around the country. This one is so much bigger and better! They have a wonderful selection of cotton and home decor fabrics (I believe their main market is for quilters in the area). This isn’t your place to go for silk or apparel fabrics.

I love that they carry higher quality cotton fabrics, especially many by well-known fabric designers.

Here are some of Sandi Henderson‘s newest “Secret Garden” fabrics:

And by Amy Butler:

So many pretty fabrics to choose from!

I’m especially loving large-scale floral prints right now. I love this blue one below. I actually ended up buying some of the pink version of this fabric! Stay tuned to see where it ends up in my house! I’ve actually already been working with my mom on several fabric projects while I’m here!

Here is what my cart looked like once I had made several trips through the store:

Isn’t that champagne metallic dot fabric neat? I ended up buying some of several of these fabrics in my cart. I can’t wait to get back to New Orleans and get them incorporated into my home!

Speaking of the home, they have a great selection of heavier weight home decor fabrics as well. I would love to buy some of these for my home! It is so hard to choose between them though! I kept envisioning beautiful curtains made out of many of these:

Love this green quatrefoil pattern:

I am really, really in love with the combination of this warm grey floral and this rasperry ikat dot fabric. I think they would be lovely to make into layered curtain panels like in this picture here.

So many great options! I just made new curtains for my office (I still need to share pictures), but seeing all these gorgeous fabrics is making me regret choosing the fabric I did!

They also have a few great bargain bin areas where they have fabric remnants for discounted prices. I found a great white and cream check fabric in that pile, enough to make a throw pillow out of for $2.50. Can’t beat a pretty couch pillow for $2.50!

Of all the wonderful options, this is what I left the store with:

Can’t wait to show you what I end up doing with these!

If you live in the Southern Illinois (IN-KY-MO) area, you should definitely check out Hancock’s of Paducah! I’m always a little sad if I make a trip home and don’t get a chance to go! They even sell a lot of fabrics and quilt kits online as well.

How was your Easter weekend? Ours was great!

We didn’t get to go home to Illinois to spend it with our family (it is a ten hour drive each way and Drew only had Saturday and Sunday off work– way too long and exhausting to drive each way to only be there for just over 24 hours!). Since the end of school for us and our wedding day are both quickly approaching, we decided the best thing to do on our weekend was to get some much needed rest and relaxation. What better way to do that than with a mini-vacation?!

We decided to head to Gulf Shores, Alabama to the beach! It is only a few hours from here, so it was a nice little weekend trip. I had Friday off school and used that day to get a much needed haircut and work on some wedding projects. Then Saturday morning, we got up, put our stuff in the car, and were on our way. We took a nice little scenic drive through the country for part of the way and stopped in this cute little quaint beach town of Fairhope, Alabama for lunch and to walk through some shops and art galleries. Once we checked into our hotel in Gulf Shores, we spent the afternoon on the beach and then went out for dinner (really great seafood).

We lucked out with a really awesome room in a nice hotel for not too expensive (we only stayed one night). Our room was huge and on the end of the hotel, so we had a nice window and balcony facing the beach and also three more windows that gave us views of the beach and city from the other sides as well. Sunday we got up, watched the waves from the balcony, then went on a walk down the beach. The water right in front of our hotel was really awesome and super clear. There was also this really cool sandbar that allowed you to be able to walk pretty far out without getting in water too deep. It was perfect. We loaded up our stuff, checked out and headed to eat some Easter lunch at a cute little local diner. We spent a little time driving around and shopping, then headed back home.

It was a really perfect and relaxing weekend! I wish it had been longer! Here are some of our photos via Instragram:

One year ago today, I was on the beach in California, when the cutest, curly-headed boy got down on one knee in front of me and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I can’t believe that it has been an entire year since we got engaged!

For ring pictures, the engagement story, and to see what I wrote on that day, visit last year’s post, here.

This year has seriously gone by fast! I’m sure the next 6 months will go by even faster and before I know it we will be married! It was nice today to look back on the pictures from our trip and re-live those memories. Our trip to California last December was really our first vacation together (just the two of us) and it was such a wonderful trip! We had such a great time and it was of course made all the more exciting by the ring on my finger that we couldn’t stop staring at the whole time. I never posted any pictures from our trip, so here are some never-before-seen pictures from last year’s trip to San Diego:

Such great memories! I’m so blessed!

While I was home I also went to a wedding. Let me tell you, weddings are so much more fun to go to when you are in the process of planning your own! I’ve been to a million weddings before (my dad is an ordained minister and marries people as a hobby–he actually did the wedding that I’m talking about now as well) but you notice the little things so much more when you are thinking about going through the same things yourself in just a few months. I went to high school with the bride and recently just designed her logo and website, so it was so nice to see her again and to be there on her wedding day. She looked beautiful, I absolutely loved the country setting, and her wedding photography showcases it all wonderfully.

 At the reception, I sat down next to the photographer and chatted with her while we ate. She is so nice and does amazing work! She is based in the St. Louis, MO area, so if you are around there and would like to have her photograph your wedding or other event, you can check her out on her website, here.

I loved the simple/rustic/elegant look that Carly created in her wedding. It was beautiful and makes me wish my own wedding wasn’t ten months away! June 2012, hurry up!

All photos copyright Cate Jackson Photography. Used with permission.