Highlight Travel Guide: San Francisco

9 Nov

Last month I had a last minute work trip to the Bay Area. Anthony and I were able to make a weekend out of it. Neither of us had been to San Francisco before.

Painted Ladies Close Up San Francisco CaliforniaI bought a new lens with our upcoming trip to Morocco in mind and was happy to have a reason to take it for a test drive. Continue reading

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Dining Room: An Update

19 Oct

When you decorate slowly, like I do, you don’t exactly feel like changes are “blog -worthy.” But, after a series of small changes you might think the transformation is similar to me seeing my nephews for the first time in months and thinking, “those can’t be the same kids.” Or, maybe it still isn’t that dramatic.

Here it goes: the pictures, noted changes, a list of what I would still like to accomplish here, and sources.

Dining Room Copper Mirror Black Abstract Art Alphabet Dresser Anthropologie Crane Server Jadeite Mugs Astier Villate Adelaide Bowl Zebra Cowhide RugAlphabet Dresser Black and White Abstract Art French Style Mirror Copper Mirror Rose Gold Mirror Nespresso Anthropologie Crane Server Jadeite Mugs

The crane above is the newest addition to my collection. My produce has finally found a home other than “anywhere on the counter.” With the bananas on top, it reminds me of the Chiquita banana lady with the fruit on her head.Dining Room and Entry Way

So what have I done exactly since last featuring the dining room?

  • I’ve changed the artwork
  • I painted the green stripes black
  • I’ve restyled the curio, swapping my most of my green pieces for neutral ones

What would I still like to do?

  • Get a new dining table (I’ve purchased one that is currently being rehabbed and I cannot wait for you to see it!)
  • Purchase new dining chairs
  • Add a black ribbon trim border to the curtains
  • Get a new chandelier (I’ve got my eyes on this one, but I’m not sure it would be enough light)
  • Replace the pillows on the dining chairs

I feel like the vision is finally all starting to come together.

Sources: Alphabet Chest (no longer available) | Curio | Dining Set | Rug | Mirror | Frames | Artwork | Ceiling Medallion | Duck Foot Serving Platter and Bowl | Black Marble Cake Stand (no longer available) | Gold glasses | Malachite Box | Crown Teapot  (I purchased mine in London in 2007)| Monogrammed Carafes | Crane Tiered Server | Large Bowl | Mug/Bottle Rack | Nespresso  (I purchased mine at the William Sonoma Outlet)

 

13 things to do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley

21 Sep

1. Have your picture taken with a llama

You will see women with llamas decorated in colorful pom poms all over Cusco. In exchange for a few soles, you can have a few incredible and incredibly touristy photos to commemorate your trip. This picture is one of my absolute favorites.

Baby Llama Colorful Cusco Peru

Llama Colorful Pom Poms Cusco Peru Continue reading

Highlight Travel Guide: Sydney, Australia

21 Aug

Sydney, like any major city, has no shortage of unique experiences and unmatched options. I want to highlight a short list of best things I experienced during my time down under that I think you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

I am sure it is a given, but I would be remiss not to mention it. Go for a show, go for a tour, go simply to admire the architecture, or to check it off of your bucket list. I don’t care why you go to the Sydney Opera House, but go.

Sydney Opera House Sails Up Close Australia

Sydney Opera House AustraliaUntil I was right beneath it, I didn’t realize that the sails are tiled.

Sydney Opera House Sails Up Close Sydney AustraliaSydney Opera House Sails Sydney Australia.jpgAnthony and I bought tickets in advance, packed our Sunday best and went all in. Before heading into the concert hall, we snagged a few seats at the Bennelong bar and grabbed a drink and a few delicious small bites. Continue reading

Highlight Travel Guide: Machu Picchu

1 Jun

Machu Picchu Peru in CloudsBefore our trip, everyone asked, “Why Peru?” The easy answer: Machu Picchu. And while that wasn’t our whole answer from the time we set out, it’s a good place to start the story of our maiden voyage to South America.

Friday morning, the day before we left Peru, we set out on one of the most anticipated parts of our adventure: we boarded the Belmond Hiram Bingham train and headed for the world wonder. Belmond HIram Bingham Train Machu Picchu Peruvian Dancer Continue reading

Guest Room Refresh In Progress

25 May

You see, the thing about décor for me is that, while I love it, it isn’t typically a financial priority.  I’d rather pay down my mortgage than redo my kitchen, and I really really would love a new kitchen. I would rather take an annual trip or two than have my house decorated to the nines, and I sincerely enjoy having a nice home to come back to. Everyone has to make choices and these are mine.

That, my friends, is why my guestroom, while always ready to welcome out-of-town guests with fresh sheets and towels and a comfortable mattress, has been furnished with hand me down furniture for the past four years. I don’t think most people mean four years when they say good design takes time.  I have no excuses for it remaining beige for so long, on the other hand.

I finally decided it was time to sink a few dollars and a few hours into the guestroom. Here is how it looks today:

Calm and Colorful Bedroom Continue reading

A Guide to Buying, Displaying, and Storing European Blown Glass Christmas Ornaments

25 Nov

One of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood was getting a new Christmas ornament from my stocking each year. For years now, I have been collecting European blown glass ornaments, and my mom continues the tradition of adding an ornament to my collection each year. I’ll be honest, I can’t help myself and I add to my collection too.

If you don’t know where to look, finding high quality, European glass ornaments outside of Europe can be a wild goose chase, but I’m here to share my secrets! These tips come from years of collecting, a little bit of research, luck, and even some travel.

First, I’ll break down brands to look for: searching for specific makers helps tremendously! Then I’ll go over some of my favorite places to hunt, both in store and online. After that, I’ll cover some tips on displaying and storing the fragile ornaments to keep them safe and secure on the tree at the holidays and stowed away the rest of the year.

Brands:

  • Christopher Radko – Christopher Radko is really the brand that popularized intricate blown glass ornaments in America and can be found at department stores and boutiques alike. These ornaments are made in Poland. They tend to retain or gain value for years to come and are quite popular on secondary markets, like Ebay.

    Weihnachtszierde – Weihnachtszierde, literally translated means “White Night Ornament” or Christmas Ornament. This Polish brand makes some unique, numbered, limited edition glass ornaments painted to look like tin toys.

    Tin Toy Monkey Ornament

    Weihnachtszierde Tin Toy Glass Monkey

     

  • De Carlini- These free blown style ornaments are made in Italy. De Carlini most often makes figures or animals of glass with mixed media props.
  • Wiktoria Morawski –W. Wiktoria-Morawski, another free blown maker, isn’t likely a name you’ve heard, and chances are you wouldn’t come across the name easily either. I owned many Wiktoria-Morawski ornaments before I knew the name from purchases at various stores, where the ornaments came unmarked. It wasn’t until I bought my favorite souvenirs in generic white boxes with a tiny stickers at a shop in Munich that I learned of the company. These Polish gems are some of my absolute favorites for a couple of reasons including shapes blown into clear glass domes and a clip-on selection better than any other maker.

    Penguin Snowscape Ornament

    Morawski Penguin Glass Dome

  • Eric Cortina- Eric Cortina makes some of my favorite quirky and whimsical ornaments such as my French bulldog wearing a top hat, bowtie and a spectacle, and my clip-on of Santa’s boots sticking out of the Chimney. He also makes my crown tree topper.
  • John Huras – This guy’s story is really neat. Accustomed to the gorgeous and traditional trees of Poland, he originally started making ornaments for orphanages whose trees he wished could bring more cheer to the children.John Huras Russian Santa Ornament
  • Jay Strongwater – Jay Strongwater ornaments are on my wishlist, not my tree. The designer’s glass ornaments are pricier than most, with a very distinct enameled look.
  • Patricia Breen – I don’t own a Patricia Breen ornament (yet), and while the more traditional themes aren’t typically my style, the detail on each ornament is magnificent.
  • Landmark Creations – Landmark Creations is best known for their ornaments of, well, landmarks. Artist Michael Storings has a line made by Landmark Creations of lovely hand paints bulbs, typically of different holiday scenes in New York City.

    I Love BG Taxi Ornament

    Landmark Creations Michael Storings Bergdorf Taxi Ornament

  • Krebs Lauscha and IMPULS are German and Polish companies, respectively, that make some of the widest variety of more readily accessible European glass Christmas ornaments.
  • Inge Glas – Inge Glas is one of the oldest German-based glass blowers. These little treasures are usually more reasonably priced than other brands.

Continue reading

Paradise Found: Kona, Hilo, and Waikiki

26 Jul

I have experienced something magnificent and unique in every place I have ever visited. Throughout my most recent trip, spare maybe the Grand Canyon, I was more moved by nature than I have ever been. For my mom’s fiftieth birthday, my family traveled to the big island (Hawai’i Five-O, get it?).  Where else can you experience the power of the ocean, witness glowing red molten rock sputter out of a crater and be humbled by astronomy?

If you find yourself heading to Oahu or the Big Island, I’ll breeze over some favorites, hoping you find my experiences useful. If you’re not going anywhere for awhile, I hope the pictures provide a quick escape or motivation to start planning your next getaway.

After spending an afternoon at Punalu’u Black Sands Beach, we grabbed lunch at the  Ohelo Cafe on the way to Vocanoes National Park. If you’re short on time, walk through the Thurston Lava Tube and stop at the Jagger Museum overlook where we saw lava sputtering out of Kīlauea crater.

Punaluu Black Sands Beach HawaiiPalm Trees at Punaluu Black Sand Beach Hawaii Big Island

We rounded out the day with a guided night snorkel with manta rays. I hope to add photos of the dive to this post soon, but I used a waterproof disposable film camera, so they are currently being developed. I feel like I time travelled a decade just typing that.

Continue reading

Magical Places in London

7 Jul

November 2015. Paris is heinously attacked. The U.S. Department of State issues a travel alert for Americans travelling to Europe. We have flights and train tickets and hotel rooms booked to visit five cities with plans to do precisely what the government was advising us to avoid.

Concerned, Anthony and I discuss cancelling the trip we had long been anticipating. We were nervous (and so were our parents). I read horror stories of not being able to cross borders at specific locations we planned on using. The government advised against visiting open air markets; the main reason we chose the cities we did at Christmastime. What if we got stuck in one country or another? Or worse, what if the attacks earlier in the month were just the beginning of the terror?

I definitely did not throw caution to the wind. We enrolled in STEP. I sent my itinerary including hotel contact information to my dad. I printed out multiple copies of the address and phone number for the nearest consulate and/or embassy for each city we were visiting.

If you haven’t already guessed, we went. I was constantly alert and surveying my surroundings, as if I were walking to my car alone at night, but eventually my nerves settled and the trip quickly became one that had the je ne sais quoi of “the trip of a lifetime.”

London was the first of the five cities we visited. It was not originally on the itinerary, but we had to fly through Heathrow and opted to book an overnight layover. I had been once before, but Anthony had never. We arrived with just under 24 hours to cram in the sites he couldn’t miss and a few new experiences for me.

I am sure I have said it before: I almost never choose going to a place I have been over visiting somewhere new. However, there is something magical about return travel. It is like a strange memory game, flipping over cards you know you have seen before, remembering some precisely, and getting others entirely wrong.  It is also curious to see what has changed and what has remained exactly the same, or maybe even how you have changed since you last stood in the same place.

When booking our hotel, I felt compelled to stay at the place I stayed at with my British Literature class in college: The London Guards Hotel. Only, the very plain but conveniently located London Guards Hotel had turned into the very stylish, but reasonably priced Arbor Hyde Park. I couldn’t have hunted down more ideal accommodations: a well designed, central location with easy tube access and relatively inexpensive rates.

After dropping our bags, we headed out to Sketch for lunch. It was on my shortlist. Sketch is Wonderland: I cannot think of another place as full of whimsy. I could feel my imagination expanding as I walked in through the black curtained hopscotch path.

I ordered the souffle and giggled at the phone number seemingly scrawled on my napkin.

Sketch has different dining rooms serving different menus, open at different hours. Peer in all of them and find an excuse to use both restrooms.

Sketch London

Sketch London Pink Dining Room India Mahdavi Interior Design

Sketch London Dining Room

After quieting our gurgling stomachs, we hopped around to a few of the typical sites. If you have not been to London and have only a short time, you cannot miss Buckingham Palace, the House of Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey where royalty is married and crowned and where many greats are buried, and Tower Bridge which many mistake for London Bridge. Anthony also checked fish and chips off the proverbial list.

Buckingham Palace LondonBuckingham Palace Gates LondonRed Telephone Booth LondonWestminster Abbey LondonWestminster Abbey Courtyard Stained Glass London

A proper high tea was another “must” for me. Anthony obliged my desire to splurge on the Berkeley’s Fashion Tea in the Caramel Room which we reserved well in advance (bookings available 90 days out). These were moments of very meticulous magic. By our 5 o’clock tea time, I was bone-tired. And yet, we stayed up until the morning hours, returning to our hotel with just a few hours to shut our eyes before catching our flight to Salzburg.

Best Tea in London Berkeley

After the surprisingly hardy tea sandwiches, scones, and savory bites, we nibbled on a couple of the stunning sweet treats and they boxed up the remainders in a darling neon purse-shaped box. I should also mention they had my name on a shoe-shaped place card when we were seated. The details were delightful!

Fashion Tea at The Berkeley

Fashion Tea at The Berkeley London

Harrods was a short walk from the Berkeley, so, silly me, I thought we could just pop in.

Harrods London at Night at Christmas

We sampled Charbonnel et Walker chocolates at the counter and ogled at the variety before settling on champagne truffles in a Union Jack box.

Charbannel et Walker Harrods London

I wish I would have captured better photos and videos of the animated window displays: teddy bears popping a holiday cracker to reveal Louboutin shoes, a strong man pressing purses, and background singers dancing in flapper dresses.

The last stop before our late night nap was for a night cap at Savoy Hotel’s Beaufort Bar. We ordered cocktails from their pop-up menu (request if not offered). Jetlagged, we sat in one of the gilded alcoves, relaxed a bit, and relished in the fact that we chose a daring adventure over nothing at all.

On my next trip to London, I refuse to miss Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason,  Victoria and Albert Museum, and Bob Bob Ricard. To see other places I’ve been or want to go in London, check out my custom map.

 

 

 

 

Dining Room Updates

6 Jun

Slow progress, as promised. It wasn’t an intentional makeover or a quick redecoration done in a weekend. I hardly noticed it changed, until I was updating the home tour page for another room and realized the dining room IRL didn’t mirror the dining room on the blog.

Dining Room with Copper Mirror Gusto and Grace Blog

One weekend, we painted the ceiling, another weekend, the walls. I gradually added plates to the collection over the curio, and got new glasses to fill it. I picked up a book here and some containers there and eventually styled the alphabet chest. At some point, I gilded the mirror’s frame. It seems like forever ago that I spray-painted the chandelier my coworker discarded and moved the picture frames that used to hang above my stairway. I can’t even pinpoint when I turned the table (cue Adele) 45 degrees.

Astier de Villatte Paris Large Adelaide Bowl

Green and Copper Dining Room

Just as a reminder, here is what the dining room looked like when I photographed it last. Woah!

Zebra Cowhide Rug White and Black Dining Room

Proof. Small steps toward the vision make a big difference.

For more inspiration, check out my H is for Home Pinterest Board!

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