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CASHEW? I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU!

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I just couldn’t resist that title. I may live to regret it since someone reading it without a photo or any context won’t have the first clue what this post is about. When I was a kid, my mom used to say, “Tissue? I don’t even know you!” when we asked for a tissue. That mom of mine is a funny gal! No wonder I love her so much. (Did I mention she would also pump the gas pedal to the beat of the music while driving down our back road if a song came on that she liked?)

Let me get to the point because this post shouldn’t take up too much of your time. When I was a kid, I got a recipe for peanut butter, honey, raisin, and oat snack bites from my Sunday School class. Don’t ask me how or why it was part of the lesson or materials, but they were a favorite snack of mine. I used to make them myself at 8 years old. I attempted to look for that recipe about 10 years ago at my mom’s house without any luck. Fast forward, a nutritionist I worked with gave me a recipe that I thought was very similar. But with all of the peanut allergies (including Kai’s), I decided to try these with cashew butter and make a few little tweaks. I need a healthier way to satisfy my cravings as I try harder to cut refined sugar. These little bites are packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. They are a perfect healthier treat when your sweet tooth is calling!

Before I get to the recipe, allow me to provide a few health benefits for consuming these treats, other than just satisfying your sweet tooth. First, there’s protein. I’m often tired…exhausted, truth be told. I need energy, and I usually do the wrong thing and pick up something loaded with sugar and other carbohydrates. Naughty girl! Since protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, this treat will provide a longer-lasting energy source. Next we have fiber, which is great for controlling blood sugar, helping with digestion and regularity, and helping to lower cholesterol. That’s just to name a few. And the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (plant-based in this recipe) are almost too many to list. But a few that are important to me are helping to reduce the risk factors for heart disease, fighting depression and anxiety, improving eye health (as I can’t see a thing any longer without my readers), and fighting inflammation, which is believed to be a root cause of so many diseases. For those of you who are pregnant or have kids, Omega-3s can promote brain health for your unborn child during pregnancy and for infants once born, and it can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.

And best of all, this baby couldn’t be simpler to make. If you want, you can increase the amount of ground flax seed and chia seeds, but I always like to provide a lower amount, and then you can increase as desired. For flax seed, I like to purchased whole flax seed and then grind it in my Nutribullet. I just think it’s fresher and perhaps a little more beneficial that way, but that’s probably just my crazy brain and not based on anything I’ve read. If you use a food processor, it’s much easier, but just be aware that your bites won’t look exactly like the photo above. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll be just fine, as those pictured above were mixed by hand and I survived the stirring. I promise you’re going to love these, and in my opinion, they taste so much better than using good ole peanut butter.

MAKES 20-24 BITES

1 cup       cashew butter
¼ cup                honey (organic preferred)
1 cup                  organic quick oat
2 tbsp                ground flax seed
1 tbsp                 chia seeds
¾ cup                raisins
¼ cup                 unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ tsp                  kosher salt
 

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until combined OR combine everything in a bowl and use a spatula to combine. Roll into balls about 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter and refrigerate for one hour before eating. Store in refrigerator or freezer in an air-tight container. 

 
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MAKEOVER MONDAY: BOY'S BEACH BEDROOM

Jennifer Mejia

 
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The room in our home with the most issues when we purchased it was Kai’s room. There were cracks in the plaster coming through two layers of wallpaper! It had a really dirty, beaten up, and painted white hardwood floor. The paint was chipping from the windows. I know there are other things that my memory has blocked in order to preserve my sanity. I’m calling it Kai’s room, but truth be told, Kai never sleeps in it. He likes to sleep between us! If you walk straight once at the top of the stairs, you walk into this room, and he’s worried that if someone enters the home, he’ll be the first person they see. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I had that same fear in our family home when I was 7.

 
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The “before”—I promise it looked much worse in person

When we hired an interior designer to transform several rooms in our home, this one was not in the budget. So over time, it was up to yours truly. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially considering the starting point. Like all of the bedrooms, there was a hideous and dirty through-the-wall air conditioning unit. It was removed and central a/c was installed throughout the second floor. There was a ceiling fan in the front of the room near the windows, so we moved the ceiling light to the center of the room. Because we weren’t certain if we would reconfigure the second floor at some point, we didn’t want to spend the money installing hardwood floors. So we installed wall-to-wall sisal and layered an extremely soft indoor/outdoor rug over it to add comfort and dimension. I knew I wanted the room to have blue in it to continue the theme throughout the home, and I wanted a rug that was easy to clean, so this one was sort of a no-brainer.

 
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I worked with Serena & Lily to choose bedding. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to begin a room with fabrics or a piece of art. In this case, it was the “fabric.” The exact bedding I chose is unfortunately no longer available, but I’m providing a few similar options. We have two sets of sheets for the beds. One has blue crabs all over it, and I chose this to remind myself that I’m a Maryland girl at heart and can pick crabs like nobody’s business! We chose a second set of sheets for when more mature guests are staying in the room so it is not so boyish. The throw pillows are also indoor/outdoor pillows and washable (because my kids are 4 and 7) and no longer available, but I’m listing a few alternate options that would still give you the same feel of this room.

 
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When it came to art, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money because my boys have been known to launch Hot Wheels cars at one another, making breakage of things quite likely, at least for the near future. In a few years, I’m sure they’ll be wrestling and knocking into the walls themselves. One Kings Lane can’t be beat for affordable and attractive art. I actually saw the Surf/Swim print in their Southampton store, and when I applied my 20% off coupon, it was the best deal in town. Framed and ready to hang. The prints over the bed are from Pencil & Paper and also framed and ready to hang from One Kings Lane. Don’t worry if you don’t love my choice of colors, as they have several others and even sell sets of six to create an “I don’t have to think about it” gallery wall. The print between the windows is a limited edition from one of my favorite portrait artists, Sally King Benedict. My little guys love the water, so I just couldn’t resist. I framed it myself in a matted frame from Michael’s.

 
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For the furniture, simple navy blue headboards were an easy and practical option. I’m providing the link to two options—a headboard and a bed—in the shopping section below. For furniture, you know I never match pieces, and in every room I really wanted to have a coastal/beachy element. This bedside table gave me that in this room. I love the shelves and the hidden drawer. And the lamp seemed to be a perfect fit when I saw it staged in a boy’s room at One Kings Lane. My son, Kai, actually chose the campaign dresser, and I said “yes” because it’s a classic choice for a child’s room yet can also grow with them into teenage years. The lamp on the dresser is a classic and could be moved to almost any room in our home, and it’s always nice to invest in classics. It’s presently on sale at the time of this post. This overhead light is from RH Teen, and I’ve listed a very similar option that has a slightly smaller profile.

 
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The things that finish a room can’t be forgotten, so I couldn’t resist this colorful book that is a piece of art itself. The 80 puzzles inside are fun for kids and adults alike. I purchased a small easel for $5 from Michael’s to help it stand and display the cover. The green sculpture was found at HomeGoods, and other accessories are linked below.

 
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This was a really fun room to put together, and I love that Kai actually had an interest in certain elements and helped me. My nephews and their friends have probably used this room the most, and I hope the next time they return, they’ll be happy with the progress that we’ve made. To shop items in this room, simply scroll through and click on the images below. And many of them are also available in the LIKEtoKNOW.it app.

SHOP THE ROOM

MAKE IT AHEAD: COQ AU VIN

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Nothing says come in from the cold more than this one pot meal. It’s comfort food. It’s delicious. But I feel like the name itself…maybe the fact that it’s French…sounds intimidating to many. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of recipes for this fabulous dish, including one from Ina (of course). The good news is that’s helped me create my own version. One that’s really easy. It’s prepared completely on the stovetop in about 30-40 minutes of active prep and cooking time. (The braising takes longer but you can relax during that time.) And the best news of all? It’s actually better if served the next day. So it’s a great dish to make ahead if you’re expecting guests and would rather spend time with them than in the kitchen once they arrive.

I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Free range/organic. I think chicken thighs are best for braising—they get nice and tender and you can actually cut them with a fork once braising is complete. But you can also use a whole chicken cut into pieces or any one cut if you have a favorite. Remove as much of the fat as you can before browning so it’s not a super fatty/greasy dish.

A few tips. When you make coq au vin, which translates to “chicken with wine,” contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to use expensive wine. (But you can drink it once it’s served!) A $10-12 bottle of dry red wine will do the trick. As for prep, I typically like to prep all of my ingredients ahead of time. Things like cutting vegetables and herbs. But in this case, since the first step is to brown the chicken and that takes time, you can cut all of your vegetables and measure your liquids while that’s happening to be more efficient.

If you choose to make this ahead, you won’t be disappointed, as it actually tastes even better the second day. (But don’t worry if you want to eat it right away…it’s still delicious!) And the best news is that when you remove it from the refrigerator the next day, you’ll see that a thick solid layer has formed on the top. That’s fat. Pick it off with a spoon or fork and discard it before reheating. You’ve just made your dish a bit healthier.

SERVES 6-8

About 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (preferably organic)
                            to taste               kosher salt
to taste               black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
2 tablespoons                 unsalted butter
2 teaspoons                freshly minced garlic
1 large               Vidalia onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 pound (about 4) carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick, diagonally
about 10               cippolini onions
4 slices                thickly sliced bacon, diced
1 ½ cups                dry red wine
1 cup                chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons                  good brandy or Cognac
1 tablespoon                 tomato paste
10 sprigs                  fresh thyme (preferably tied with kitchen string)
½ pound                  crimini mushrooms, stems removed and quartered if large
1 tablespoon                   all-purpose flour or corn starch
2 tablespoons                   water

Remove excess fat from chicken. Pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Brown the chicken in batches in a single layer, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside. 

 Add bacon, carrots, onions, and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in red wine, broth, brandy, tomato paste, and thyme and stir to mix. Add chicken back in, including any juices on the plate. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

 After 20 minutes, heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to the chicken pot and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. In a separate bowl, blend flour or corn starch and water. Add to pan, increase heat to high, and stir constantly for 2 minutes to thicken sauce. Add chicken back to pan. Serve. 

 If making ahead, allow to cool, place in refrigerator overnight. The following day, remove the thick layer of solid fat. Then reheat covered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. 

 
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WARM WEATHER DRESSES

Jennifer Mejia

 
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The weather here in New York City was amazing yesterday! I didn’t even need a jacket, and my boys and I were still running around the playground playing tag at 5 pm. It had me thinking about warmer days ahead and putting my sweaters and boots away for good. We aren’t there yet, as temps are dropping again today, but a girl can dream.

 
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I feel like every year when the temps get warmer and I want to buy a few new dresses for the season, my size is never available. So I decided to get ahead of things this year, and when I saw this feminine blue number, I snagged it. I love dresses that make me feel pretty and sexy without showing too much skin. The belted waist makes it feel a little more polished. And I could easily see wearing a pair of espadrilles with it to make it a bit more casual. And pointy-toe pumps could elevate the look even more. I paired it with simple gold jewels like my favorite hoop earrings, the top half of this delicate gold necklace, and this perfect gold bangle.

 
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But as I’ve said before, you don’t always come to the blog for one dress, even though this is a really good one. So I’ve curated a collection of some of my favorites to bring out during warmer weather. There are a few that are true splurges that I can’t afford, but I simply love them and just couldn’t resist. Perhaps one of my readers is lucky enough to have the budget and can score them. To shop, simply click on the images below.

SHOP DRESSES

MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP

Jennifer Mejia

 
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A few weeks ago, a chef I follow on Instagram posed a question to her followers about minimizing food waste. I commented that I often like to prepare a meat dish that serves more than we can eat in one night, and then I use the leftovers to create something new the following day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like to eat the same thing two days in a row. I need variety to keep things exciting. Doing it this way saves time so you’re not starting from step 1 every night.

If you’ve roasted a chicken and you’re wondering what to do with all of the leftovers, look no further for a solution. While this delicious and easy recipe is not my creation (I got the original from a friend who got it from a book), I have shamelessly stolen it and made it my own over the years.  It’s a really tasty and ridiculously simple soup that is perfect for a cold winter day. But the best part is that you won’t spend all day preparing it. Instead, you can relax by a warm fire and cozy up with a good book or watch an old movie. You can obviously prepare chicken for the soup if you don’t have leftovers, but I like to make my Roast Chicken with Lemon-Butter Sauce and then save the leftovers for this soup the next day. Enjoy life! Don’t spend it all cooking.

SERVES 4

About 1 pound       cooked chicken off the bone, roughly chopped
1 cup                  Vidalia (sweet) onion, medium diced
¾ teaspoon                  fresh minced garlic
  ¼ teaspoon                  ground cumin
  ¼ teaspoon                  chili powder
14.5 oz can                  diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
4 oz can                  diced green chiles, undrained
32 oz                  low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoon                  kosher salt
1                  ripe avocado, sliced
1 bunch                  fresh cilantro, leaves only
1                  fresh lime, cut into wedges
1 cup                  grated Mexican cheese blend
  ½ cup                 sour cream
  4                 corn tortillas
  3 tablespoons                 extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry brush, spread olive oil on one side of corn tortillas. Sprinkle with salt. Cut strips about ½ inch wide, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on desired crispiness.  

In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, drizzle 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, garlic, cumin, and chili powder and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken broth, diced tomatoes,  green chiles, and chicken. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with 1½ teaspoons salt or as desired. Place in serving bowls. Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over soup. Add toppings as desired—cilantro, avocado, cheese, tortillas, and sour cream.

 
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MY FAVORITE COFFEE TABLE BOOKS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I’ve mentioned a few times that it’s the stuff in the home that makes it interesting. By stuff, I don’t mean bedside tables and sofas. I mean the things that you’ve collected over time and the things that show off your personality and your interests. Nate Berkus likes a collected home and even published a book called The Things That Matter. It made my list! He shows examples of homes that tell a story, and he speaks to how this makes a house a home.

 
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But when you have a new home and you’re trying to decorate and finish it all at once, you don’t always have all of those collected things at the time. One of the easiest ways to add style, color, interest, and to bring some of yourself into a home, is with coffee table books. I mentioned this in my Guest Room Before & After post, so today I wanted to show you a few more examples of how we’ve used them and share a few of my favorites.

 
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I like interior design, art, fashion, landscaping, and travel, so naturally, you’ll see a lot of those in this curated collection. But in addition to having really wonderful content, some of these book covers are art themselves. So even if the subject doesn’t really interest you, think of it as being similar to a vase or other accessory. And this may be the one instance where you can judge a book by its cover.

 
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You can stack them to add height where needed. If a book has a beautiful cover, make sure it’s on the top of the stack so everyone can enjoy the art. A great example of this is Slim Aarons La Dolce Vita and the Alex Katz book I’ve featured. Pay attention to the colors in the covers when pairing them. And remember they’re called coffee table books for a reason, as they are a wonderful way to fill the large surface area of a table or console. You can place candles, vases, and interesting objects on top of them. And they’re books, so they obviously look fantastic adorning bookshelves! Keep scrolling to see a few more examples of how they can beautify a space and to shop my favorites. Hopefully you’ll find one or two that will become one of yours. Simply click on the images in the “SHOP BOOKS” section below to shop.

 
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A few examples from a favorite designer and artist…

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Photo via Paloma Contreras Instagram—Paloma’s Bedroom

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Photo via William McLure Instagram

 

SHOP BOOKS

Simply click on an image to shop…

YOU’RE MAKING ME BLUSH

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Blush. It’s probably my favorite color and has been for at least the past year. It’s perfectly feminine without being too girly or “baby-ish,” as my 7-year-old likes to classify things. I remember watching “The Wedding Planner” and seeing J Lo in lavender all the time. It made her softer, more feminine, more love-worthy. I think blush is the modern day version of that. Around Valentine’s Day, everything is about red. Or pink. But I’m opting for blush this “holiday.” It’s in quotes because my husband says it’s a holiday Hallmark has exploited to make lots of money. Maybe he’s right or maybe he’s just always wanted to relieve himself of the pressure of finding a perfectly-suited gift.

 
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Whatever the case may be, I fell in love with this sweater for any day of the year. Blush is a color that transcends seasons. You can see it pairs easily with blue denim. I’d also throw this on with white or black denim. It’s a perfect sweater for the fall and equally as perfect for a cool summer day or evening.

 
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But you clicked through to a blog post for more than one sweater, right? Because I’m so infatuated with blush at the moment, I’ve created a boutique of some of my favorite blush items available, including this sexy open-shoulder sweater. Simply click on the photos below to SHOP BLUSH LOOKS.

 

SHOP BLUSH LOOKS

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GUEST ROOM BEFORE & AFTER

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Renovating this old house has been a love hate relationship. There are always surprises. Construction and renovation ALWAYS costs more than you’ve budgeted. Then by the time you get to the fun part—the decorating that you love—you’ve lost a fair amount of steam and A LOT of money. So then the room that you’ve dreamed about starts to cause anxiety because your champagne taste is now on a beer budget. And that’s when the work starts. But then you realize that this work can be fun. Because it’s now a challenge—to still make it the room of your dreams without completely bankrupting yourself. So where do you begin?

 
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The guest bedroom before the renovation

 

Before you can begin, you MUST see beyond the clutter and everything that’s wrong with your starting point. Just look at the bones. The photo above is our “before” photo. The room as it was when we purchased the home was horrible. If you can believe me, it actually looked far worse in person. And besides the decor, a lot of work was necessary. The second floor of the house had hideous, old, and loud through-the-wall air conditioning units. The ceiling fan light was not centered in the room but instead was close to the windows and the a/c unit. There were two layers of wallpaper, and underneath the wallpaper were cracks in the plaster. The carpet was full of dirt, dust, and goodness knows what else. As for the furniture layout, any light that tried to come in was blocked by heavy drapes and a valance and the headboards of the two twin beds.

So as quickly as you can, put the past behind you and create a fresh start with inspiration. Find photos of rooms you like. Ask yourself what made you fall in love with that inspiration. Study it. Is it the palette that speaks to you? The varying textures? Is there a piece of art that you think makes and anchors the space? Then ask yourself which of those things could actually work in your room, and when you’re answering that question, you need to consider both scale and budget. 

 
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Photo via Studio McGee

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Photo via Studio McGee

 

I am obsessed with these two rooms from Studio McGee, one of my favorite design teams. I loved the neutral headboards with clean lines on white walls, and our walls are white throughout the home. I also wanted blue in the pillows, as every room in our home has some amount of blue in it. I think it’s important for a home to feel cohesive and connected. Nothing is more unsettling and jarring to me than drastically different colors in every room. In the first inspiration room pictured above, I love the use of mixed metals. The chandelier is aged iron, while you see gold/brass in the bedside tables. Mixing metals is one of my favorite things to do in a room, as I can’t take anything too matchy-matchy. Matching seems very contrived, so you’ll never see me purchase a complete set of bedroom furniture. I really liked the mix of natural wood and white in the nightstands featured in the second photo, but that mix doesn’t have to be on one piece of furniture. I opted to mix it by choosing different finishes for the dresser and bedside tables. I also love layers of bedding because nothing is more inviting to your guests than a cozy bed. I especially love the use of a quilt at the end of both inspiration beds. Lighting should never be an afterthought—it can make a room, so I was drawn to the use of substantial bedside table lamps in both of these rooms. And finally, artwork. I love the use of a long piece over the bed so the bed becomes more of an anchor for the entire space.

 
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The design board. I always put everything together before ordering to see how it will look.

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So where did I end up? I can tell you without a doubt that it looks A LOT better than where we started. (And I’m still not completely finished.) As a rule, I always begin designing a room with either fabric or a piece of artwork, and then the rest develops from there. In this room, I began with the pillows because I knew I wanted blue in the room so it would jive with the rest of the house. And my favorite source for beautiful, well-made, and affordable pillows is Danielle Oakey Shop. For our guest room, I purchased two 22” Zoe Pillow Covers and one 14x20 Floral Block Blue Pillow Cover. Not only do I obsess over her products, but I love that she is a hard-working, mom of two, female entrepreneur. She’s also very sweet and genuine to boot, so how many more reasons to you need to shop her site?

 
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The beautiful artwork over the bed is a print on canvas from one of my favorite artists, Emily Jeffords. I think this is the seventh piece I’ve purchased from her. I own original works, but her prints are amazing quality, and you have to look very closely to tell one isn’t an original. I ordered “Harvesting” in a 15x30 size and had it matted and framed in the Olympia frame from Framebridge. If you’ve never ordered from Framebridge, you must. Shipping to and from their facility is free. They even send you packaging to ship your piece if you don’t have it. You can choose your own frame or one of their designers can select it for you. Thanks to this company, gone are the days of framing that is more expensive than your artwork. And finally, before we leave the subject of art, the small piece leaning on the dresser is by Jenny Prinn. Her work is always cheerful and would make any guest feel welcome.

 
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As you can see, I actually used a lot of the inspiration from the Studio McGee rooms. I mixed metals in the ceiling light and bedside table lamps. The dresser and bedside tables are different finishes, and the dresser gave me that natural/raw wood I knew I wanted in the room. The bedding is layered with a quilt at the end. The pillows have the blue, and I installed a large piece of artwork over the bed.

 
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Many of the items featured in this room (other than the artwork and pillows hyperlinked above), including the furniture, can be shopped below by clicking on the product images in “SHOP THE POST.” For bedding, I always love Serena & Lily, and that’s what I used for this room. But Restoration Hardware is also a safe bet and what we have in our master bedroom. The shades are from the Shade Store (Hamptons-2), and I highly recommend their product and service. They come to your home to measure and install, and we had the most wonderful experience with our installer. Accessorizing is key, and I love stores like Target, West Elm, and Pottery Barn for vases, bowls, and sculptural objects. And one of the best accessories ever? Coffee table books! They add color, height where needed, and provide hours of interest and eye candy for you and your guests. I purchase most of my books from Amazon.`

I hope you love the before and after of this room as much as I do. Thank you for reading, and keep going to see a bit more and to shop several of the pieces featured.

 
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SHOP THE POST

 

ENTRY FOYER BEAUTY

Jennifer Mejia

 
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As many of you know or may have gathered by now, we purchased a very old home a few years ago. The original part was built in 1896. And it’s been a work in progress for us since we closed in April 2016. The construction part—making the home safe and habitable—just about did us in. The house is about two hours from our apartment in New York City, so “managing” the renovation from a distance was not easy. (I’m planning to do a blog post on renovating an old home, but I have to save up lots of energy to write it because reliving it exhausts me!) When it came time to decorate, I was completely out of steam, so for a good portion of the home, we hired a talented interior designer named Paloma Contreras. And we are so in love with the spaces she designed!

But an interior designer doesn’t come for free. And with construction surprises (very expensive ones), we didn’t have the budget to hire Paloma to design the entire home. So that left yours truly. Fortunately for me, I learned a lot from Paloma and from studying the work of many other talented designers. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I’m getting better as I go along, and I’m proud to share some of the work that truly is all mine.

A few weeks ago, I provided a sneak peek of our guest bedroom on Instagram. It’s now pretty much “finished” so I’ll be sharing that very soon. “Finished” is in quotes because I’m never really finished with anything, always adding or changing accessories and artwork, so it’s finished for the rest of the world of normal people. (Insert wink emoji.) Today I’m sharing a view and source/shopping guide for our second floor landing. It’s a small space, consisting of only two walls and a floor area to decorate. The other two sides are the stairway entry/exit and opposite of that are doors to two bedrooms. I’m not sure many homes have a small landing like ours, but I think this would be a perfect vignette for a foyer, including the artwork on a nearby wall.

I won't talk too much about the space because at the end of the day, it’s s small space. But I like the idea of a sideboard like this one because it provides storage. And every home can always use more storage. In a foyer, you want it to hide junk so that junk isn't greeting you and your guests. As part of a second floor landing, the storage is great to hold things that most rooms on that floor may need. It can serve as a common and obvious area to search for those items. I always prefer fresh flowers, and the hydrangeas here are real. But for boxwood topiaries, I think it’s fine to go the artificial route.

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this vignette was inspired by one of my favorite interior designers, Emily Henderson. At some point I saved a few photos of hers, and she used this artwork from Target, as well as some black candlesticks...perhaps not all in the same spot, if my memory serves me correctly. If I find the photo(s), I’ll amend this post to add them. But my point is that you can learn so much and get wonderful design inspiration from talented designers, making your job as an amateur a little easier.

 
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You can see the entire artwork on the opposite wall in the mirror’s reflection. It’s a steal. I didn’t want to have anything too expensive since it’s low and people are walking by it.

 

You can shop the post here by scrolling through and clicking on the images. I’m really happy about the way it turned out, especially given that we didn’t spend a fortune.

A PIPE(FITTER'S) DREAM: "YOU'RE THE ONE!"

Jennifer Mejia

 
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one person at a time. 
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Sometimes I write or post something on Instagram and I don’t know what kind of response I will get. Yesterday I donated a lot of toys to a wonderful organization called West Side Campaign Against Hunger, and I was extremely moved, for many reasons, by the reaction when I delivered the toys. I shared my experience in my Instagram Stories. My beautiful friend Tatiana called me last night to thank me for sharing the story, inspiring her and one of her stepsons, and also shared her own story of giving. Tatiana was actually the one who inspired me to clean out the clutter as I saw her going through her own closet. She gave boat loads of beautiful clothing to a selfless and deserving mom of four. One of her children had special needs for many years, and this mom used to bake cookies and sell them to earn enough money to travel with her son to get the help he needed. Tatiana, how thoughtful of you and your beautiful heart—you are also an inspiration.

Yesterday, Tatiana’s stepson also watched my Instagram Stories and said, “That’s so sweet! Tatiana, we have a lot of toys we don’t need in the basement. Do you think we could pack them up and take them to kids who need them?” First of all, what a precious boy he is for that to be his immediate and natural response. Secondly, I am so happy that sharing my story inspired others. Several people sent me messages after watching the stories, so thank you for doing that. Sometimes I feel like I’m an emotional basket case when situations like this move me, so I appreciate others making me feel normal.

I began thinking of my friend, Rick, who I refer to on this blog as “The Pipefitter.” You can read my initial post on him here. That may help the following make more sense, but it’s not absolutely necessary. (But I think you’ll actually like reading about him.) In any case, my story of giving and inspiring others reminded me of this post that I wrote when I had very few followers. So I thought it was worth sharing again. Because the world should have more of this, and I think this is a wonderful story that we can all use to make a difference today. Here is my original post…

It's no secret to anyone who knows Rick that he's always been a generous and giving person. Charity is probably the greatest passion that he and his wife, Lori, share. While they have four nieces and nephews, they do not have children of their own. Many couples would have taken that opportunity to live a lavish lifestyle with their disposable income, but not Rick and Lori. They give. And then give some more. And then some more. That's just who they are.

To name a few examples...For years, Rick and Lori have donated to Toys for Tots at Christmastime. And not just a few board games. I'm talking SUV-loads with bikes, Lego sets, dolls, trucks...everything from A to Z on a child's wish list. At present, they spend two days per week volunteering at a local organization called for Food for Others. One day is busy picking up food from grocery stores with a surplus that would otherwise go to waste. The second day is spent packing food at a Food for Others facility and loading it into cars for those in need, whether they are families in an emergency crisis or families who qualify on an ongoing basis.  (On weekends, this organization also delivers food to high schools so that children can take the food home to their families at the start of the week.)  When they aren't helping their neighbors in need, Rick and Lori are caring for man's best friend. They volunteer for an organization called Dog World Rescue, whose mission is to rescue dogs, nurse them back to health when needed, and find foster and permanent homes. Rick and Lori transport dogs in their own vehicle, which sometimes means a multiple hour trip to save a furry friend. Rick also volunteers once a week as a dealer to veterans playing poker at a local establishment.

When Rick isn't volunteering, he makes it his personal mission to improve the lives of others. One might watch Rick as he makes his way from Baskin-Robbins to Trader Joe's to a casino where he likes to play poker, and label him an excessive tipper. You see, Rick doesn't reserve tipping for fine dining and Starbucks. He believes good service should be rewarded no matter where you are. Rick regularly shops at a local Giant Food. He's made a habit of tipping the cashiers for efficient and friendly service. A few months ago, a young couple who was buying provisions for a football game that afternoon, watched as Rick handed a few bucks to the cashier. The young woman said to her boyfriend, "Did you see what he did? We need to give her a tip, too." Fast forward a few weeks when Rick tipped another cashier at the same store. The cashier replied, "You're the one!" Rick was confused. "The one what?" he asked. "What have I done now?" he thought. The cashier said, "People have been tipping us more and more lately. We were all talking about the guy who started it. You're the one!"

For me, the most important part of this story isn't the money itself. It's about setting an example that makes others see how a few bucks, or anything that's almost insignificant to many, can make a difference. Going back to the tip, imagine if just five people in that cashier's eight-hour shift gave her $2. That's $10 per day, $50 per week, and $200 per month. That's a car payment. That's a great Christmas versus a disappointing Christmas to her child. That changes her life. 

Forget the money. Imagine it's a kind word to a stranger, and that kind word warms a heart that has felt empty and alone for weeks. Or holding a door for an elderly person who goes home to an empty apartment every day, and that gesture makes the world feel like a less lonely place, if only for a moment. You don't have to be anyone extraordinary to make a difference in the lives of others.  

A few weeks ago, Rick pulled up to a stoplight where a homeless man was discreetly begging for money. Rick rolled down his window and handed the guy a $5 bill and said, "I'm headed to poker. If I lose, I'm gonna want that back!" The homeless man paused, looked up at Rick, initially confused, but then saw Rick's smile and said while chuckling, "Thank you, sir! Not just for the money, but for making me smile. I haven't done that in quite some time." 

As humans with good hearts, we all want to make a difference. But with so much wrong in the world, so much hatred, so much negativity, so much poverty, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and think, "I can't make a difference. Why even try?" But you can. It doesn't take money. Sometimes it doesn't even take much time. A smile is free. Holding a door takes a few seconds. The truth is that the world changes one person at a time. Think with your heart. Be the one.