Everyday Inspirations


~ home ~

Valentine's Day table setting
love centerpiece
Remember how I was talking about do it yourself Valentine's Day? Well if you're keeping Cupid at home, first thing you need to do is to set the scene. Sure, you can just cook a yummy meal and have a nice night in, but how often do you set a nice, romantic table for just the two of you? For me it's almost never. Start off by creating a mood for the evening with a beautiful table.

First I chose my color scheme. Red, white and black with accents of pink--it's Valentine's...that was easy. But I would recommend choosing a focus to make it come together.

Since our ceilings are fairly high I really wanted fill the area. Having decor hanging from above will always add some extra drama. I already had these lanterns (from the dollar store) from a bridal shower I hosted, so why not put them to extra use?

Because I had a lot of attention above (and it might be nice to be able to see each other) I wanted a lower centerpiece. I was able to find these cute glitter hearts on wires at a local craft store, filled a vase with white tulle and finished it off with a black bow to tie my color scheme together. Inexpensive and it took all of five minutes. I surrounded it with tea lights which not only add some romance, but also reflect really nicely on those sparkly hearts. 

For the actual place settings I already had stuff to match my color scheme (on a side note, I've learned red is a great color to have for many occasions). I used my chateau stripe placemats and napkins, my regular black plates and silverware, the pretty wine glasses Ash gave us for our wedding and our Rebecca Moses dessert plates. 

Finally, I put together a menu because, well, I'm a designer and that's my favorite part. It adds such a sophisticated element to dinner and really ties the whole thing together. With a cute little box on the side for a gift, dinner is all set to go.

So now, what should I fill the box with? What are your Valentine's Day gift ideas?  

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~ fashion ~


Have I written this post before? I feel like I have... or perhaps Angie has. But I went through our fashion archives and found no other cold weather accessories post. So maybe I'm losing it (quite possibly true). And if I'm repeating a post, perhaps you'll forgive me since I'm sharing so much cuteness.

Today I have two fun accessories to share with you... because if winter insists on sticking around, then I'll just have to keep wearing cute things to stay warm. To start, a pair of out-of-this-world adorable gloves Angie gave me for my birthday. They're actually a fingerless glove/mitten mix and, to be honest, were purchased to keep my hands warm while typing away at work (she knows me so well!). They're so darn cute I proudly wear them at my desk. And out in the cold. Can I wear them to bed too? Maybe to the gym? Okay, too far.
Second, may I please present for your consideration the world's cutest beanie? (Another gift, this time from Dan for Christmas. I have very sweet people in my life.) This isn't one of those boring beanies your mama made you wear on the walk to school. This is a beautiful, crocheted beanie, complete with silver thread running through it. Yum. Maybe winter can stay for a little while longer.
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~ how to ~

For the last two years my new favorite way to celebrate Valentine's Day--dinner at home. Maybe you think, "Alright after eight years together their romance has finally died." Believe me, I have experienced plenty of V-Days out on the town (and battling the crowds) with extravagant dinners, over-priced flowers and nice gifts, but well, it just doesn't compare. A couple years ago we had just gotten engaged and signed to buy our house so we were trying to come up with something romantic while saving cash. What did I learn? If you plan it out right a romantic night in can be way more special. Totally customize these ideas to you and your special someone, but here's our recipe for success. 

Make Dinner Assignments
Plan ahead who is in charge each part of the meal (one person with entree, the other with wine and appetizer/dessert for instance). The more you can prep in advance the better. It's also fun to keep your dishes a surprise to build a little anticipation. Nate made me gorgonzola walnut chicken and a tomato vinaigrette salad (recipes coming Thursday) and made me sit where I could smell it but not see it. Chocolate dipped fruit is also yummy and who's to say dessert has to stay at the dinner table? ;) After all, there are benefits to being home. Just have some fun with it and make it something a little gourmet.   

Decorate the Place
Make sure your house is all clean (fewer distractions) and decorate a bit to make it feel different. As cliche as it seems, lighting some candles and sprinkling rose petals really does help set a nice mood. Get everything set up in advance so you can just enjoy being together. Here are some cute Valentine's table settings to help get you inspired. I also love the idea of leaving a love note for each other. 

Plan an Activity You Both Love
Bundle up for a day hike, a day skiing on the slopes, or a couples massage (you can do that yourself too). Find something you don't regularly do where you can really spend some quality time with each other and that always helps kindle the romance. 
Foster the Romance   
Despite what society tells us, romance and Valentine's Day is really not about material things. The reason we have fallen in love with this tradition is because it allows us to foster the romance that's already there without spending a bunch of unnecessary money. Doing special things for each other and spending quality time as a couple feels way more romantic to us than battling 80 other couples at a nice restaurant. The key is just to get it all ready so it feels like you're being pampered even though you're doing it yourself. 

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~ small inspiration ~


I just enjoyed an amazing dinner of pesto pasta with salmon, and I'm now drinking white wine and blogging. Ahh, the bliss of Saturday night. 

It was quite a productive Saturday for us. Ran six miles, finished some errands, cleaned the apartment. I also fell asleep on the couch for an hour or so after arriving home, but hey, I'm not complaining. But before all that happened, I woke up around 7 a.m. (which is sleeping in for me), made my way to the couch with a mug of hot mint tea, and read.

I have discussed my love of books quite a few times on this site. I've always been an avid reader. In fact, when I was in the third grade, I won the contest of having read more books than any other classmate during the school year. My prize was a jump rope (I was SO excited), and as she handed it to me, my teacher made me promise I would use it over the summer.

Nerd, nerd, nerd.

As an adult, I've made it a point to use my love of reading to continue to educate myself. In an effort to avoid becoming that ignorant American who knows nothing about her country's past, I have started simultaneously reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and Kenneth C. Davis' Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned. Both have been on my reading list for quite some time, and I'm so glad I've cracked them open.

I love that I live a block from a library and that we we live in an age where we can hop on the Internet to receive and share information about anything. Knowledge is so easily accessible that it can sometimes be easy to take advantage of it. I always keep in mind that learning most definitely doesn't end when you leave a classroom. I believe it is our personal responsibility to continue educate ourselves at all stages of life. 

Start with researching one topic that's interesting to you -- history, art, fashion, science, current events. The sky is the limit and the greatest thing of all is that you only make yourself better by absorbing more information about our fascinating, inspiring world.
My cute, bearded man.
PS: Who else is stoked for the Super Bowl tomorrow? We're getting together with our friends Kayla and Brian (and their sweet dog, Nikita) to watch the game. I think this is the first year I actually care about who wins. And in case you're wondering, we're rooting for the Packers for two reasons: one, Dan is from Ohio and is one serious Bengals fan--I learned quickly we do NOT like the Steelers. ;) And two, I have a little crush on Aaron Rodgers (okay, maybe this reason is unique to only me). I think it's because I have a thing for cute, bearded men...

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~ our world ~

romantic getaway
In my opinion, there are few things that can bring you and your partner together more than travel. There's something about experiencing different cultures and new places together that can really renew your bond. Plus, getting out of the daily routine helps spice things up!

My hubby and I are planning a second honeymoon of sorts to Spain, the destination that was our first choice when we got married. So now to plan! For me planning it is almost as exciting as experiencing it...almost. In another post I shared my favorite sites to help get the planning started and I sure have been doing a lot of research. Seeing as it's almost Valentine's day, now would also be a great time to go for discounted, last-minute fares for something both romantic and spontaneous. And why not? Make it your goal in 2011 to plan some time with just you and that special someone without pets, jobs, kids or responsibilities--because you deserve it.  
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~ food ~


Guys. My night is cursed.

First of all, my plans to head to the gym right after work to complete my three mile run? Canceled. Because of the damn doorknob, which broke right as we were walking out the door. My landlord wasn't able to help until her husband got home. We were stuck.

After about 10 minutes of offering "support," I went upstairs and jumped on the exercise bike. I felt bad, leaving Dan to deal with the situation, but I was no help as I sat pathetically shivering on the stairs. Somehow he survived the below-freezing temps to remove and install a new knob. I honestly don't know how he did it without some serious cursing. He has a gift.

I won't go into the rest of the night in detail, but it goes something like this: No food in the house. Let's go grab something. Drive, drive, drive, can't turn here. Drive, drive, drive, no parking. Drive, drive, drive... forget it. Find the most healthy thing we can get NOW. Drive home. No Internet. Sigh.

This is the moment where I stop and search for inspiration. Because that's what we do here, folks. Luckily, I've had a little something in my back pocket since the weekend:

Days like today make you glad God gave us Nutella.

Ah, Nutella, that blessed chocolate/hazelnut spread that makes the world a better place and reminds you that the bad nights don't last forever. And even if they did, you have a combination of indulgent cocoa and delectable hazelnut to cheer you up.

Nutella is not paying me to write this. But if they were offering to pay me with cases of their product, I would gladly accept. ;)

Anyway, my mom recently gave me a sandwich press and we were a little obsessed with it this weekend. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner--that thing was working overtime and was awesome. Before the gym on Sunday morning, I decided I needed a breakfast that was not oatmeal to prepare me for my run. And of course I needed to use the sandwich press.

Enter these little babies.

{Pressed Nutella and Banana Breakfast Sandwiches}
Ingredients for two:
- 1 banana
- 4 slices whole wheat bread
- Nutella
- Cinnamon
- Powdered sugar

1. Spread Nutella on your bread. Yes, both slices. You know you want to.

2. Add bananas on the Nutella. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

3. Press in sandwich griddle or on a griddle pan on the stove for about 30 seconds to one minute--just enough to melt that chocolate goodness.

4. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar.

5. Take on the world.
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~ a better you ~

Borghese Fango
I don't know if you have noticed, but it is f*%#ing freezing outside. And dry. And bleh. The groundhog may have predicted spring (hmmm we'll see),  but my skin sure feels like winter. I felt like my face needed a little rejuvenation so today I used my favorite face mask--Fango by Borghese.* I love the way I can feel it working--gently removing flaky dead skin and clearing my pores. Of course I also appreciate that the mud comes in this fabulous green color that always makes me feel a little like Jim Carrey in "The Mask" (can you see the resemblance? Ha!) Borghese is a top-of-the-line department store brand (I actually used to represent their line when I was in college so I know how truly awesome it is), but you can get it for a deal online or even sometimes at Costco. I have had many a facial, but Fango always has a way of making my skin feel refreshed. Rub in some moisturizer afterward and I feel like a new woman ready to face the freezing cold outdoors. Let's pray the groundhog is right. I want my normal skin back!

* I am in no way being compensated to write this for Borghese.
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~ home ~


Over the last few months, I have learned an important fact: boys come with lots of remote controls.


That kinda makes it sound like my boyfriend can be controlled with the click of a few buttons. NOT what I meant.

Anyway, I've noticed that the living room can easily taken over by remotes. Remotes on the table. Remotes on the armrest. Remotes on the cushion. You see where I'm going with this. Luckily, we discovered a simple solution for any type of clutter. My grandma gave us a bunch of kitchen stuff a few months ago, including this wooden container. She used to use it to collect various kitchen-y things on her counter (mints, sugar, dry creamer, etc.), but we have discovered it is the perfect place for small things that we want in the living room but don't necessarily want in the open. Things like remotes. And coasters, and that pencil I use for Soduku. It's the perfect little sanity saver that simply tucks away on the shelf under the table.
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