New Years Bubbles


Oh how I love good champagne.  It's my weakness, well that and scarves.  Every Christmas for the past 9 years, my mom has gifted me bottle of Veuve Clicoquot.  At this point the new years wouldn't seem right without it.

If you are like most and decide to enjoy a little bubbly to ring in the new year, then here are a few tidbits so you can know your stuff. 

Not all sparkling wine is Champagne, but all Champagne is sparkling wine.  
  • Champagne is from the Champagne regions of France
  • Sparkling wine is typically from other regions in France, Italy, Spain or the USA 

There are two different Champagne styles.
  • Non Vintage (NV):      No vintage label; blend of grapes of different years 
  • Vintage:                       Same year for all grapes used  

Dryness and sweetness levels are on the label, you just have to know what they mean.  
  • Brut Zero:         Bone Dry
  • Brut:                  Dry
  • Extra Dry:         Off-Dry
  • Sec:                   Semi-Sweet
  • Demi Sec:         Sweet
  • Doux:               Very Sweet 

How do you usually ring in the new year?  Any drink traditions or cocktail must haves?

No matter what you are drinking tonight, hopefully you send out 2013 on a high note....have fun & be safe!


Merry Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for your support.  I worked every single day of December up until today, and while I am exhausted I am also extremely grateful for those who continue to believe in my abilities. 

I hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas.  Even if you won't be celebrating the holiday, hopefully you will find yourself happy, restful and with those who love you.

Enjoy the day, the rest of 2013 and may the new year bring you joy!



Wish List

What better day to post my holiday gift wish list than on Black Friday?  While I'll be working today instead of shopping, that doesn't stop a girl from looking. 

Here is the list of what I'm wishing Santa will leave me this holiday season....

What is on your wish list this year?

Happy Thanksgiving

Image via Pinterest

Holidays usually end up being a day of reflection - on the things to be thankful for in this case.  I am feeling incredibly thankful, and very excited for all that is in store for my future.  Hopefully you have plenty to be thankful for and enjoyed the day with your loved ones.

Thank you all for your support - Happy Thanksgiving!



Gifts for Her

Glitter coasters, top knot art prints, antlers used to hold your jewelry.....not to mention the world's oldest candles with amazing scents and script inscribe milk jar vases.  Making the "her" list was hard, because I already have my wish list and separating the two was tricky.  There is lots of beautiful stuff out there right now, but if you are having a hard time deciding then always go with something that smells good.

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Gifts for Him

Shopping for "him" is hard.  Whether that is your boyfriend, husband, father, brother or friend, men are not the easiest when it comes to shopping.  Sometimes you have to take a chance and get them something other than an iTunes gift card or new socks.  The candle version of the best smelling scent is a great option, so is a tie in the classy version of our favorite sports team (Go Hogs!).  Think outside the box, but just to be on the safe side...get a gift receipt. 

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Gifts for the Hostess

I honestly had hesitation putting "Hostess" in the title.  I typically just bring a nice bottle of wine to those hosting parties - this list feels more like gifts for those who like to entertain or know their way around a kitchen.  Whether you want to shop for a truly unique gift for someone hosting a party this holiday season or you want to find a perfect gift for those culinary inclined, these are a few of my favorites in the category.  I might get the popcorn bowl for myself, though.  It sure would beat eating from the bag!

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Gifts for the Office

Office related gifts can be difficult, especially if you are shopping for your boss or co-workers.  You don't want to give a gift that ends up in the same category as fruit cake, but you also don't want to break the bank.  Get something unique for those in your office this year, or just buy a few of the items in this post for your own work space. 

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Gifts for Kids

Kids are great, which is why I went as far as to have my 8 year old buddy help me ensure the items on this list would be just as great as the little ones receiving them.  Pretty sure these are some awesome finds - some you might even enjoy playing with yourself.  Like the Ok to Wake Nightlight that gives parents some extra sleep they might not be able to get otherwise....or the Crystal filled rock that you crack open by throwing against the ground (sounds exhilarating and rewarding).  Shop the post below, and be sure to use the codes at check-out.  Just don't use the money you are saving on a fruit cake, because that isn't really saving at all. 

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Color the Earth / 4D Turtle Puzzle / Snow Stompers (Check their website Wednesday for Thanksgiving Discounts) / Celestial PJs (Use code GETGIFTING for 15% off) /  
Vintage Style Truck (Sign up with Land of Nod for 10% off First Order) / Campfire Set / Rainbow Nightlight Projector / Kitty Bag / Rock Pouch / Kitty Shoes (Use code EARLYGIFT for 30% off) / Giraffe Teether / Plaid Ruffle Dress (Use code GAPLOVE for 20% off) /  
Knitted Fox Headphones (Sign up with Cotton On for 30% off first order) / Play Tent /  
Leather Rhino Bookends (Use code 68945GH3 for 15% off) / Potato Head Super Spud /  
Owl Ok to Wake Nightlight (Use code TODDLERSHOP for 15% off) / Ukelele



Photography on the Brain

Last night I was trying to do a bit of technology related organization - cleaning out my email folders, unsubscribing from junk mail, sorting my bookmarks, etc.  Problem with doing online organization, though, is that staying on task can be a bit of a challenge if you don't stay focused.  After about an hour of cleaning up the ole laptop, the internet sucked me into it's black hole of what I like to call "cool things to look at until that moment you realize you wasted the last three hours of your life checking out pointless stuff."  That is usually when I decide to close 'er down, but not before I have added 20 more things to my Etsy favorites.  At least I'm not looking at cat videos on You Tube (I'm saving that for when I'm in my 40's).     

Last night was different, though.  I ended up looking at a series of photography based bookmarks that I had saved over the past year - deciding which to keep and which to purge.  It actually made my night, and was a breath of fresh air to see pictures featured on something other than Instagram.  Don't get me wrong.  I love how at any moment of the day, I can see a picture of just about anything taken by someone just about anywhere.  These sites were different, though....

I absolutely love this series called Dear Photograph by Taylor Jones.  As a child, I would look through my parents childhood photos for hours; anytime I was visiting either of my grandparents, I would always ask if I could see their old albums.  This site makes me want to visit those places in some of those old photos, then capture a new memory using the old one.  Very poetic and extremely creative Mr. Jones.  Well done.  Image via Dear Photograph

In combination with my love affair of photographs, there is also my weird love for VW Vans & CampersThere is definitely something intriguing about the idea of seeing the beauty of the world via van.  Don't get me wrongI like my home with all its stuff - hot water being at the top of that list - but the notion of living simply yet experiencing immensely gives me wanderlust badlyI'm sure after a while I might want to check into a hotel, but the vee dub adds a level of cool.  I can at least dream, and the Van Life website assists in filling the void. Images via Van Life

Andy Warhol is a genius.  Sure, that movie Factory Girl made him look like a huge jerk, but in terms of his artistic ability he is incomparable.  Little did I know, that his silk screen pop art was inspired by his Polaroid sessions with a slew of iconic celebs of the 70s and 80s.  You have to scroll through the images.  I am tempted to get a framed print of the Jagger one....and take a look at OJ Simpson.  He actually looks like a cool dude.  That's the thing about polaroids; everything automatically looks better.  It adds a grainy vintage hue to any shot, even if you took it last week.  That, folks, really makes me happy.  Images via Andy Warhol; Top of Page Image via Jen Gotch

oh....and for good measure, check out the Back to the Future series by Irina Werning.  Recreating today the photo memories from years past.  Like this one from London 1976 & 2011.  Genius.  

What sort of stuff do you find yourself checking out online?  Do you go on for a specific purposes and later catch yourself just browsing?


Saving Money is Fab-ulous

This morning I opened my email and noticed a little 20% off treat from Fab.  Not sure if you have heard of this site, but it is one of many e-commerce sites that have popped up in recent years.  Just like Gilt or One Kings Lane, they are dedicated to selling a wide variety of products at discounted prices.  The reason I love Fab more than most, though, is the eclectic mix they offer their customers.  I mean, where else can your shopping cart include a year subscription to Garden & Gun magazine, adorable baby clothes, and a vibrator?  

Now I know my last post said I was bringing you gift guides next week, but I decided to get a jump start on things since Fab is offering 20% off (plus a $25 credit if you spend $150) for the next four days.  I just purchased a book that has been on my wish list all year, but if I could go hog wild I'd purchase tons more stuff.  Here are a few items that top my list, whether for myself or someone else....

iPhone Key Ring ChargerEarlier this year I mentioned how I keep my portable charger in my purse for whenever I need it.  What about men who don't carry a murse or those of you that might forget to take it with you on a daily basis?  The solution is this little gem that attaches to your key ring.  You'll never find your phone battery knocking on death's door again!

Honey Badger Flask:  I'm from the south where it is pretty normal to own a flask, or several, but a honey badger themed flask is definitely not something you see everyday.  Now you an excuse to drink like you don't give a damn...

Winter & Summer Shakers:  Creative, cute, conversation starters.  These salt & pepper shakers are everything your current shakers are not.  I keep thinking about how they need one made for course sea salt and have a tornado in the middle.  Then you can make it hail at every meal.

Wright Books:  My parents built a lovely FLW inspired home a few years ago, and what better gift than these books.  Whether you are just a fan of amazing architecture, love big coffee table books or consider Wright a genius in every sense of the word, these books are amazing...and you won't find a better price anywhere else.  I promise. 

Gold Piggy Bank:  I have been obsessed with this bank for over a year.  It cost a decent chunk of change (pun intended), which makes me want to empty the two jars of change I currently have, roll all of it, take said rolls to the bank, then go home and buy this sucker.  That is saying a lot, too, because rolling change is not my favorite thing to do.  Why does it cost so much?  Well, this bank is produced from a cast of a real pig (who lost his life from natural causes), and the result is a highly realistic scuplture.  It is part art, part bank....completely fabulous.  

Glasscape:  I had beta fish that lived 10 years.  His name was Xavier and he would have loved this fish bowl.  Hand blown "mountains" - each is one of a kind.  Not into fish?  Make a terrarium, float some candles, contain that endless supply of paperclips.

Infinity Scarf:  Hi, my name is Lauren, and I'm a scarfaholic.  Yup.  I like scarves....a lot.  They keep me warm and double as an accessory.  This one in particular is a cross between a scarf and a necklace.  My favorite is the grey gold, but the bold red is great for the holidays.   

Record Player:  I listen to vinyl, and you should, too.  This is a great starter record player, and I love that you can close the lid without having to remove the record.  This one plays all three record speeds, and features input/output cords.  The built in speakers won't bring down the house, but they still let you do a decent about of rocking out. 

Electronic Clock:  I may not wear a watch, but I really like to know the time.  This one reminds me of a binary clock, without having to deciper a code to tell the time.  You can also change the language in case this is a gift for your French boss or Eskimoian boyfriend.  

Arrow Earrings:  I really dig gold fish hook earrings, especially when they are dainty enough to wear in the day.  These are unique and the price is pretty awesome, too. 

Hot Pink Boxes:  Storage meets art.  These little cubes are part of MoMA's permanent collection, and that should be no surprise considering they have kept spaces tidy for more than half a century.  I'm finding myself drawn to pops of bright pinks these days, but they have tons more color options.   

What do you think?  Any Fab items you can't live without?  

This post is not sponsored in anyway. I just really enjoy awesome stuff.



Holiday Gift Giving

I'm back from a long weekend, and feeling under the weather.  It was fun having company, but rest was not something on the weekend agenda.  Two concerts, great food and drinks, and lots of shopping.  It all got me thinking about my holiday gift list for others (and the wish list I have for myself).  With that being said, next week I am going to put out a series of gift lists to help you get a jump start on your shopping.  There will be one for kids, women, men, hostess and my own personal list - that last one is more of a wish list than what I am actually giving myself.

For good measure, I will include any coupon codes I find for the items on the list.  You can also bet I'll find the lowest price out there for the items on the list.  No sense in paying more for what you want to give (or get), when you don't have to.


Happy Friday!

Heck yeah.  The weekend has arrived.  I've spent everyday since September working with clients and then there's the whole perfecting casa de Solution Girl.  I am well aware that these are champagne problems, and I'm sure my dad would be playing a tiny violin with his fingers right now.  However, when I get an idea (or twenty) in my head, I don't ignore it (or them).  As a result, I've got paint in my hair and bags under my eyes.  Not looking so hot over here, folks.

A rare non-working weekend couldn't have come at a better time.   I am getting things started at noon today - hair cut with Chase at Lucy Pop Salon, free facial at Nordstrom (thanks to Beth at the Revive counter), and then I'm sure I'll find work to do before one of my closest friends arrives for the weekend.  My mom is also coming up towards the end of my time off, so this is a very special treat for me.  I am not sure what I am going to do with myself being that I rarely take a day off from clients, let alone three.  I can only surmise that it will involve copious amounts of food, alcohol and good conversation.  All of which are very much needed.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I'll be back on Monday.


Adventures with Legos

You think that a missing Lego piece gives your kid an anxiety attack?  Try being the organizer of over 100 kits.    Yes, Lego organization is possible.  No, you do not have to be on Xanax to complete the project (but you might end up wanting to have a few glasses bottles of wine at the end of the project).

A few months ago, one of my favorite clients enlisted my help to oversee the organization of her sons' numerous Lego kits.  The plan was for us to gather all the Lego boxes, pieces and manuals from both boys rooms and place them all in the playroom.  She decided to hire a few high school students that worked at the Lego Camp her kids attended over the summer to help with the process.  They would be able to quickly locate the pieces to each kit, which they would then put in Ziploc baggies with the respective manuals.  If any pieces were unable to be located then the piece code would be written down and ordered online.  Each kit would then be placed in a plastic bin with other coordinating kits.  For example, there might be three small Star Wars kits in one bin, two larger Super Hero kits in another, and so on.   After all the kits had been placed in the bins, laminated names and pictures would be placed on the outside of each for quick identification.

Unfortunately, that plan has sort of changed a bit.  The high school students decided to build the kits instead of simply finding the pieces and placing them in baggies, which only adds an unneeded step and tacks on more time than allotted for the project.  Not cool, dudes...not cool.

Being that I love a challenge, I offered to take on the huge undertaking of sorting the kits.  I am now almost halfway done, and it has proven to be one big organizational scavenger hunt.  I also have somehow developed a habit of regularly talking to the pieces as I am searching for them - "Ok, little red square with one dot...where are you?"....."No, two dot red rectangle, I am looking for your square friend with one dot."...."Luke, where is your father?!  I need to find Darth Vader!".


Since this project hasn't been completed, I am going to hold off with the full list of tips & tricks.  However, I do have a few pointers to get you started:

Sort all the loose pieces by color. 
Now I know that there are plenty of lovely people that will tell you the best way to organize Legos is to keep them separated and labeled by color - all the time.  If you or your children buy loose pieces and build your own creations, then this is perfect for you.  However, if you want to build a kit then keep the kit pieces together.  You are only using colorizing to make finding pieces easier.  Based on the experience I've gained in this process, I can tell you it is not fun searching through what seems to be an endless box of white Lego pieces only to find it still attached to another white piece at the bottom of the pile that you have been combing over for what seems like forever.  God forbid that one white piece somehow ends up in the pile of red pieces, which you didn't bother to look at....you know, because it isn't red. Kids want to build & play, not search.  If you have extras at the end of the process then you can keep those separated by color, just not all of them.

Start separate piles for "special pieces".
Think in terms of specifics - wheels, bodies, heads/hats, small accessories (Harry Potter's owl, Indian Jones' rope, etc.).  It is up to you how you group them, but I can tell you that it is way easier to find those tiny grey binoculars in a small pile of accessories instead of a massive pile of grey Legos.  

Do not spend forever looking for one piece.
Keep a notepad and pen handy and write down the kit number, piece number and how many you are missing.  Anything missing at the end can be ordered directly from Lego.  My rule of thumb is to not spend more than 5 minutes looking for a piece.  I'd hate to see you waste time looking for something that was sucked up in the vacuum months prior.  At the end of the project there is going to be left over pieces, because each kit comes with a few extras.  If you find those missing pieces hinding out with the others then you can put it with the kit and mark the piece code off your list - if you still do not find it that is what the list is for anyways.

Hopefully this inspires you to start on your own Lego organization!  Stay tuned for more details on getting (and keeping) them organized in the coming weeks.


Re-Design Chaos

Most of my assessments start with me saying "once I get started, things are going to appear to get worse before they get better".  This is based on personal experience with clients, and the current state of my own home.  Let me back up so you can better understand.

In January of 2010, I packed a suitcase and moved to Nashville.  Not everything I owned fit into a suitcase, mind you.  Actually, I was the owner of a beautiful 1800 square foot property that my parents and I flipped back in 2005.  In the five years that I lived there, I filled it with many lovely things.  Lots of large lovely things.  When you live alone with three bedrooms, two baths, two attics and a garage, you have the freedom to buy what you want and store what you don't want.  The ample space is a luxury and a curse at the same time.

So there I was, in a new city with a new job, yet no real place to call my own.  A friend let me stay with her until I sold my home and found a place of my own.  It was the end of April when I accepted the offer on my house, which was perfect timing considering I had found a place to put down my own offer.  Things didn't go as I had hoped, though.  Story of my life.

Just a few days before the whole closing-moving process was to begin, Nashville flooded.  We aren't talking about pulling out a poncho & some rain boots - more like a raft.  The new place had water seeping through the floorboards from the crawl space, my POD (with all my aforementioned lovely things) was lost for a week, and I was still living out of that stupid suitcase.

It was back to the drawing board, and the first go had been hard enough due to my Champagne taste & Bud Light budget.  I needed to find a place under 200K that had some storage space, wasn't going to be a serious fixer upper and managed to have some character.

Two months later I found a lovely renovated gem in East Nashville - a 950 square foot 60's ranch with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a relatively open living space, attic, unfinished basement and off street parking.  Oh, and a front porch view of the city's skyline.  Sold.

This is casa de Solution Girl on moving day - July 2010.

Not sure if you noticed that I said 950 square feet.  Yes, folks.  That's almost 1000 square feet less than my previous home.  I like to think that my lapse in judgement was due, in large, to the fact that I was living out of that blasted suitcase for seven months.  It was really easy for me to forget the magnitude of everything I owned with it sitting in storage, and everything I did remember was not quite as large in my head as it was on moving day.

Fast forward a little over three years, and anyone can attest to the fact that I did a damn good job of decorating using furniture bought for a house twice its size.  I had to be creative with my use of space, become more open to giving away & selling stuff, and get really good at making wise purchase decisions. Unfortunately, I look around and feel as though this home is my old home's sloppy seconds.  My can tell my furniture is feeling sad and I'm sad for it.  So, let the re-design process ensue....

I have already started projects in the bedroom, bath & office, which are still works in progress.  The living room has changed a bit, but I haven't settled on my design board for that space just yet so I'm holding off a little while longer.  I'm also changing up my organizational system when I redo the rooms.  Attic & basement will see some organizational tweaks, as well.  I'm accepting what seems to be a constant state of chaos, knowing the end result is going to be fantastic.

Instead of just telling you about it, though, I've decided that casa de Solution Girl will open it's doors via my blog - nothing is off limits, which is going to be entertaining for you considering I somehow managed to step in the paint bucket again last night.  But hey, at least I'm good at finding solutions for paint removal.  Yes, even on shoes.


So Haute: Beni Ourain Rugs


Beni Ourain rugs have been featured in countless blog articles, interior design magazine, and even used as set props for J. Crew in years past.  Sure all that attention might make them a trend, but considering that some of the real deals date back to 1920, I'd say they have some serious staying power.


While Beni Ourain might sound like some designer with exquisite style, it is actually the name of the collective 17 Berber tribes in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, where rugs are bountiful. 

The rugs produced by these tribes are easily recognizable - they almost always have an ivory background, shaggy pile and abstract geometric patterns in either brown or black.  Basically, they are old, awesome and far from cheap - which pretty much describes everything I usually end up wanting.  

VIA:  1/2/3/4

Since I am not the type to sit around and covet - I found a much more affordable solution for the void of a Beni Ourain rug in my life....

West Elm.  While they are not the only ones offering Beni Ourain style rugs, they are the closest in comparison and the quality seems to be the best.  You can also find a few other imitations, but read any reviews provided.  Sometimes you pay for what you get.


What do you think of the real deal vs the imitations?


Stella & Dot Giveaway!

Guess who is going on vacation tomorrow?  Little ole me.   I am heading to San Francisco for an extended weekend to celebrate my birthday.  Since I'm about to enjoy some much needed time off, how about I give one of you something to use on your next trip?

My dear friend, Kathy Chaney, is an Associate Director with Stella & Dot.  She knows how much I love the irresistible travel bags in their product line, and has decided to generously give a lovely pouf to one of my followers. 

The free stuff doesn't end there, though.  I am going to fill your pouf with a variety of product samples from some of my favorite companies - Ojon, diptyque, Kiehl's, Orgins, Aveda, Viktor & Rolf, NIA24, Bobbi Brown, Chanel & more!

Oh..and just because I want to throw in a little something extra, the lucky winner will also get a $10 gift card to the Container StoreYou could buy yourself the latest copy of Real Simple, save it to use towards a big purchase, or just wander around the store and figure out what to buy while you try not to get lost. 

You want to enter?
1. Become a follower (or already follow) my site 

Be sure to leave a comment on this page post so I know you are entering for the giveaway.

2. Head to The Solution Girl on Facebook and like my page (or already like my page) and share the status update on your timeline.   Be sure to leave a comment on the giveaway post so I know you are entering.  

You want to get extra entries?
1.  Become a follower (or already follow) my Instagram or Twitter page.  Just be sure to retweet my giveaway post or comment on my Instagram giveaway picture so I know you are entering.

2.  Head to Kathy's Facebook and like her page.  She's the best.  You really shouldn't have to be enticed with an extra entry, but I'll give it to you anyways.  Just be sure to comment on her post on the giveaway so I know you are entering. 

There you go...lots of ways to enterYou have until Tuesday, September 24th to enter.  I will announce the winner on Wednesday. Good Luck! 


Game Day Ginny Bucket

Let me preface this recipe by saying that gin is not my drink of choice.  Whenever I think of it, I imagine myself at 45, mascara smeared, and crying about how nobody told me they liked my casserole.  Nothing about that image makes me want to drink gin.
The “Ginny Bucket” was first served to me in Wisconsin, out of a questionable looking bucket with a turkey baster - I can’t make this stuff up folks.
I have changed the original recipe slightly and eliminated the use of aforementioned baster.  They may not use glassware north of the Mason-Dixon line, but this is the south.  We consume our tailgating drink of choice like the best of them – out of solo cups.

The Solution Girl’s Ginny Bucket
Mix 1.75 Liters of Gin
4 Liters of Fresca
16 Ounces of Lime Juice
(2) Lemons; (2) Limes; (½) Grapefruit – Sliced
Combine in Bucket & Serve with Ice*
Serves 4-12
*I recommend keeping ice separate from the bucket to ensure you do not water down the drinks.  It can also be stored in the refrigerator overnight to chill.
This drink is light, fresh and perfect for tailgating. I can guarantee there will be no smearing of mascara, unless, of course, your team loses. 


Managing Inspiration

With the internet, inspiration is at our fingertips.  Sometimes, though, I feel as though it is possible to get over inspired. Let me explain...

Right now I am contemplating what I want to do about refinishing my file cabinet, and have been looking to fellow bloggers and design magazines for inspiration.  My idea list is as follows - whitewashed wood with black hardware, glossy black with brass hardware, glossy white with darker wood drawers with brass hardware (or vice versa), and glossy emerald green with brass hardware.  There were other options, but this is the list thus far.  Ridiculous, I know.

It isn't that I don't know what I want, but it is that there are so many other options that I have to remind myself to not veer off course.  It is the ultimate balancing act - finding things to inspire yet maintaining focus.  With all the flash sale shopping, pinning, instagraming, tweeting, and facebook liking, this is no easy feat.  Why else do you think your boss is all "no looking at etsy on my dime".  

I have found that the best way to stay focused is to start any project by writing down your ideas and overall vision.  Then here is the hard part - you need to try to stick to it.  While you can allow yourself a little wiggle room, make sure you set some perimeters.  If not, then the next time you go to the paint store you are going to act like a kid at a toy store who skipped his last dose of adderall.  

Once you have a basic idea of what you want, it is safe to go online or pick up the latest copy of House Beautiful.  Whatever else you find after you have a vision should serve only as a means of installation or implementation - not make you feel like you need to start over from scratch.  This is also a great way to not find yourself shopping for stuff you don't need or will later have to return. 

Now say you don't really have a vision or your vision is wanting to mimic the style of someone else.  That is completely ok - but watch out for the tricky grey area.  You see, there is a fine line between seeking inspiration and out right copying.  

Say your want to build a house, but don't know where to start.  Drive around and see which styles you prefer or look up house plans online and find a few to make your own.  Just don't be the jerk who builds an exact replica of a unique home that someone else probably spent years creating.  Even worse, don't be a local designer who copies the work of another local designer - I saw this done recently and was shocked that they were hired to design and all they did was install the hard work of someone else.  I mean, who the hell wants to pay for a Picasso that was drawn by someone else?  Let's be professional here, folks.  This isn't Sips n Strokes.  

While I think it is great to seek out new ways to be inspired - don't forget to use your own creatively.  It is more interesting, and quite honestly, is a hell of a lot more satisfying.

Do you find yourself brainstorming and then finding photos for inspiration, or starting with nothing and searching for something? 



Tips & Tricks: Going the Extra Clean Mile

Whether you clean your home or hire someone else to do it, we can all agree that a clean home is better than a dirty one.  Sometimes being clean just doesn't cut it, though.  For me, is a lot like salad dressing - good, but better when there is a bit extra.

Here are a few of my favorite products for going the extra mile to a clean home, whether it is cleaning the actual cleaning equipment or ridding the space of funk.

Dishwasher:  I know people who do not have a dishwasher, and I have no idea how they do it.  I'd probably eat on paper plates for the rest of my life if I did not have one.  It saves me time and my manicure, though I haven't had one of those in months.  Over time, though, it can get an unpleasant smell.  The best solution to rid it of funk is Finish Dishwasher Cleaner.  Between washes, when the the machine is empty, plop it in, set it on the heaviest wash, and let it do its thing.  No more residue or smell! 

Disposal:  There was a home inspector that told me once that you should never put any food down your disposal.  This is ridiculous.  Sure, you don't want to put a whole turkey carcase down the drain, but food scraps are perfectly fine.  You are probably more likely to get bugs from food sitting in your trash than you are to end up with a broken disposal from putting last night leftovers down the drain.  If you find that you are getting a little bit of a smell from repeated use or perhaps just had salmon for dinner, just grab some Plink.  As one of my clients recently put it - "Those little things smell so good, I want to eat them."  Seriously, they are that amazing.

Washing Machine:  I live alone, do laundry every other week, and keep the lid up on my washer when it isn't in use.  You can pretty well assume that machine smells just fine.  This might not be the case for those of you who do laundry more frequently or forget to keep the door open between washes.  If you want your machine to actually clean your clothing, then you need to clean it first.  The best option is Clorox Washing Machine Cleaner.  There are a few other brands out there, but this one is the best.  Just be sure you read the box carefully - some are only made for he machines.

Laundry:  Arm & Hammer's Wet Dryer Sheets are the crack of household products.  I can't find it anywhere in town, but I always check the laundry section of any store I am in just to be sure they haven't decided to start stocking their shelves with them.  You might be asking yourself why anyone would use a WET dryer sheet.  It is because your clothing comes out softer, fresher and static free.  I use fragrance free fabric softner, don't put it in when I wash my towels, and I hate dryer sheets.  So, when I say these are awesome, you better believe it!  These guys are your new best friend.  Lavender & Vanilla is my go-to scent, but they also come in Classic Fresh.  On a side note, have you ever needed to quickly freshen a pair of jeans you want to wear just one more time before they see the wash (or get out last night's smokey bar stench)?   These will be your new best friend

Microwave:  I have yet to find a product I like that you can simply stick in the microwave to make it smell good.  Most smell like cleaning products - and that is not what I want when I am cooking food.  So, I stick to what my mom taught me as a kid - mix vanilla extract and water in a microwave safe measuring cup then put in the microwave.  The results are heavenly.  The recipe is one cup of extract and three cups of water.  Place in microwave for 10 minutes, and the boiling water will leave things smelling amazing.  If you don't like the smell of vanilla, then you can use any other extract - lemon, peppermint, etc.  I prefer the vanilla, because I can save money by buying the lifetime sized bottle sold at Costco. 

Entire Kitchen:  Ever walk in Williams Sonoma and wish you could recreate the smell in your own abode?  You can with this concoction.  Take a large pot and fill with 2/3 water, a sliced lemon, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and a few sprigs of rosemary (packages in the grocery store's produce section if you do not have a garden).  You'll want to let it simmer for the entire day.  If you can only do this for a short amount of time, then store mix in fridge for use later.  It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days (any longer and you'll need to pour out, use a Plink, and get a good pot cleaner).  Just keep in mind that the longer you let it simmer, the better your kitchen will smell.

Throughout the Home: Wallflowers are the best.  Forget all the others, because once you have used their scents you won't want to switch to anything else.  My go-to for fall is Salty Caramel, which makes me hungry just thinking about it.  My mom uses the Apple scent - if she had a dollar for everyone that said her house smelled amazing, she could afford a personal chef to cook her an actual apple pie everyday for the rest of her life.  It smells that good, I swear. 

Do you have anything extra tips to bring your home to the next level?
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