No matter what religious beliefs you fall into, this is the perfect time to do your spring cleaning--body, mind, closet, and home.  With all the gluttonous behaviors we engage in from Thanksgiving to Mardi Gras, it almost seems imperative to take a step back and reassess things and figure out what you need to give up and what you need to change.

BODY

I have a passionate love for fountain drinks. The wonderful carbonated bubbles are so magical in my massive styrofoam cup, BUT my favorite beverage completely wrecks the body, from the empty calories to the sugary syrup it takes to make it.  To reboot my body, I have banned myself from it completely for the next several weeks and replaced it with water, infused water, and...a side of water with my water.  While the first couple of days were torturous, I have noticed a boost of energy.  I also have been trying tons of different combos to infuse my water. After some trial and error, I've settled upon lemon and mint as my faves (quick side note: it goes amazing with my vodka!!!).  This small change in my daily beverage has done wonders for how my body feels. 

MIND

I am hyper and high strung by nature, so falling asleep at night is the great battle of my life.  I try to watch mindless TV to the wee hours, and just when I think that I’m finally ready to fall asleep, I turn off the TV and, without fail, I am again wide awake.  I try counting and before I can get to ten, my mind wanders through the million things I should do, could do, and will do.  I have finally come up with a two-fold perfect plan to bring my insomnia down ten notches to finally sleep like normal people.  After much research on supplements, the only thing I have found that works is Natural Vitality Calm.  It’s an amazing magnesium supplement that helps a ton of things, but most importantly, it actually makes my mind calm enough to relax and fall asleep.  The second thing that works for me is, instead of tossing and turning, to get out of bed and work until I get tired. Accomplishing more helps me shut my brain off to what I need to get done because I’ve already done most of it. By only getting into bed once I'm truly mentally worn out, it creates a habit of bed signaling sleep instead of triggering restlessness.

CLOSET

Somehow about this time every year my closet gets overrun by fall/winter of last year and new spring finds of the current year.  Fortunately I have a good size walk-in closet; however, I’m not a Kardashian, so space starts getting really limited.  Spring is the perfect time to pull everything out and edit your wardrobe.  To do this, I pull everything out and make two piles--one for fall/winter and one for spring.  From there I take my fall/winter and make two piles from that--one pile to donate and a second pile to pack up and put away.  Removing the bulk of last season gives me a good idea of what I lack for the new season.

Spring Staples:

  • Great white T-Shirt
  • White Button Down
  • White Jean
  • 1 great pair of blue jeans for everyday
  • 1 trending blue jean shape
  • Thin spring jacket
  • Nice beach sweater
  • Body-friendly bathing suit
  • Great pair of shorts that makes my rear end less tragic looking

Once I get through it all, I bring my donations to a local orphanage or family in need and go home and reorganize what’s left behind.

HOME

While spring isn’t quite here, here in the south, we are close enough!  This is the time to redo your bulky feeling interior décor and revisit your flower beds and shrubbery.  I need to mention one thing that absolutely kills me, and please bear with me during this rant, but I can't stand the butchering of Crepe Myrtles. 

PLEASE GIVE THAT UP.  PLEASE STOP LEAVING NUBBINS OF BRANCHES LEFT BEHIND!  Have you ever went for a haircut and asked for a trim and came out with a SEVERE CUT? Remember how you felt walking out feeling scalped???  This is how your tree feels.  

So how are you supposed to trim? When in doubt on how much to trim off from your trees branches, follow this article on Crepe Murder (ha!) from Southern Living, it will make you and your tree happy! 

Once your tree is trimmed and happy, tackle the inside.  Pick up the furry pillows and chunky throw blankets and find some lighter options.  Think linen and cotton for your linens, and lighter rustic baskets. Add some whimsical florals, pastels, or bright colors--whatever makes you happy.  Bring in some touches of gold and leafy live plants and herbs.  Your home will both smelly yummy and feel refreshed.

Green Juice has nothing on this cleanse!

Nov
26

ON THE BIAS

Interpretations of style that runs against the grain

As a little girl I would pour over every fashion magazine that I could get into my hands, longing for the beautiful clothing that stared back at me.  Unfortunately for me, being in a small town in the South, searching out these gems (more like the mass produced replica of) was always a task.  Heartbroken and defeated, this was me stomping through the local mall without seeing even an inkling of anything I saw in the latest Seventeen magazine.  Little did I know then, that this was the thing that would help me define my style later in life. This frustration forced me to be creative with what I did have at my fingertips.  It also pushed me to mixing pieces that were quite different than the actual outfit the store told me went together.  I would choose the skirt from this set with a different top and a wild card pair of shoes. 

My dad would cringe to see me walk out of my room at times, telling me to turn back around and change the outlandishness.  I can remember, specifically, a romper with pink, purple, mint green and yellow that I paired with hot pink tights and purple Chuck Taylors.  I looked in the mirror and admired my perfect blending of colors and texture in an unexpected way.  Bouncing out the door on cloud nine, I got 20 steps out the door before my dad beckoned me back in to change.  Not that he wanted to crush my fashion dreams or even know how fabulous this confection was; he was just stopping me from being outlandish in my small town school surroundings.  You would think his pleading would have stopped my adventurous wears, but it didn’t—especially after seeing Andy, AKA Molly Ringwald, wow in her one-of-a-kind ensembles.  This is where I really felt my against-the-grain fashion sense wasn’t so off the beaten path.  To this day, I wear what I love and what makes sense to me in my artful eye.  My favorite compliment/not-so-compliment is “Only you could pull that off”, which really means “This outfit makes no sense to me, but you are wearing it with a confidence that I’m questioning. Are you on to something or if it’s still just weird?”  If someone had to ask me what my style is, I couldn’t answer because it changes every day.  Sometimes I feel boho chic, sometimes it may be classic Jackie O, and other days I may feel like a rockstar.  It’s ever changing.  The only constant in terms of my style, is knowing how to dress my body, how to put colors and textures together, and wear it with 200% confidence.  Once I put it on and walk out the door, I’m totally committed to the look.

The take away point is that it’s not about what others tell you is stylish or what you should wear, it’s about what you love and feel comfortable in.  Only then can you really be in style.

FALLING FOR THE SEASON

Here in South Louisiana, we may not get much of a seasonal change but for some reason I always feel like Fall is the best time of the year.  We go from a sweltering 100 degree weather to a manageable 70-80’s.  Believe it or not, we literally break out the boots at 74 like a snow storm is coming.  I wait in anticipation for the first cool front to come, and once it does I scour through my seasonal recipes to stay in, cook and veg out with my family.  It’s a season of Comfort Food Superstars in the produce section, my particular favorite being the apple.  

Ah yes…the apple.  The apple is such a versatile little fruit.  From the clean mildly sweet flavor of the Honey crisp to the tried and true Granny Smith.  Over the years our options have expanded from the “Red” and “Green” of our childhood as well as the myriad of recipes to broaden your horizons.  Here are a couple to inspire your creative side and wow your friends:

Cocktail Hour

Ringo Star (courtesy of Food and Wine)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ounces dry sake
  • 1 1/2 ounces apple cider
  • 1/2 ounce caramel sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

In a saucepan, gently warm the sake, cider and caramel sauce. Stir well, pour into a martini glass and garnish with the cinnamon stick.

Quick Bites

Turkey Sandwiches With Apple and Walnut Mayo

(courtesy of RealSimple.Com) 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼cup walnuts
  • 1tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅓cup mayonnaise
  • 8slices wheat bread
  • sliced turkey
  • 1green apple, cored and thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the mustard, walnuts, and parsley into the mayonnaise. (For extra flavor, mix in a few drops of hot sauce.)
  2. Spread it on the bread, then make sandwiches with the sliced turkey and apple.

NOTE:  I think an aged cheddar would be a great addition to this sandwich -SH

These are apples I think anyone would like!

ARE YOU PREPARED?

There’s nothing chic or trendy about hurricane season (and we aren’t talking about the New Orleans drink staple), but if you're living in the South near the Gulf of Mexico, it is definitely a part of life.  If we have learned anything from Katrina, it’s that we must always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst (and the unpredictable).  With hurricane season upon us, I think now is the perfect time to get a checklist and make sure you have everything in place for when the time comes to make your grand exit. 

Here’s my quick list of things to do:

  • Know your evacuation routes for each direction you may be heading
  • Have a detailed list of your home items and values (I find it helpful to take yearly pictures of my home contents).
  • Verify your insurance, what it covers, and keep all policies in one location for grab and go should you need to evacuate
  • Have all necessary supplies stocked at home, should you not need to evacuate, as there is a possibility of power outages, stores being shut down, or no stock available (items such as water, batteries, canned food items, flashlights, etc).
  • If you have a generator, now is the time to make sure it is in perfect running condition.  This should actually be tested every month.
  • Have all personal items that are sentimental to you, irreplaceable, or important documents in a grab and go case so there is no worries about what was left behind.  You can replace a home but you can’t replace certain items (not to mention your mom's guilt trip for leaving your grandmother's heirloom ring behind).
  • Make sure you have all the items necessary to board your house up and/or make sure all workable hurricane shutters are in good working condition.
  • If you have pets, please make sure you have arrangements for them as well.
  • Most importantly, always use your best judgement!  When in doubt, check out the resource links below.

www.redcross.org

www.ready.gov

www.nhc.noaa.gov

Being safe is always in style and fabulous! 

Setting the Stage for a Successful Party

Most people have entertained at their home, whether it be for little league, book club, a Christmas party or even and an Open House.  It’s always a mad dash in the last hours prior to the event to pull off absolute perfection.  On the day of the event, your home has never been so immaculate, nor your culinary skills so spot on.  I would even venture to say that most spouses would pay to have someone beg you to host a party just to keep things in pristine condition (or at least mine would!)  On the flip side, some are so overwhelmed by the thought to even attempt such a feat, but it's just a matter of organization and planning. Aren't sure where to start? Let me help.

I always start off with a theme.  To do that, I have to answer two questions; 'Who are my guests?' and 'What’s the purpose of the event?'  To give a few examples, if I were to host a group of 10 year old boys, I would have a more casual atmosphere. Think of a pizza party or BBQ and make it a fun outside event.  If I were to host a 6 year old daughter’s birthday, I would possibly go with a tea party revolving around Alice in Wonderland--something that would appeal to her and her friends.  In an adult setting, you may want to have your own unique twist on a usual event. For example, for an Open House, I love the idea of calling it a "Sip and See for Your Home" and making it mid-morning brunch.  It makes it more fun and the theme lends itself to being a little more creative.

Now we have an idea of what our vision is. Where do we go from here?

As an example, let’s build on the open house “Sip and See” brunch idea.  Now, I need to come up with a menu, a signature drink and decorate around that.  Since we are calling it a brunch, I want a light, bite-size appetizer, some small sandwiches, tea cookies and a drink that may incorporate juice.   Another food add-on that always looks amazing and requires hardly any prep is a charcuterie board. This would consist of a dry cured meat (such as prosciutto), a dry cured sausage (salami), a soft cheese (a brie or similar), a hard cheese (gouda or an amazing aged cheddar), a variety of great olives, a fig or apricot preserve, and sliced, crusty bread.  All these together on a beautiful marble serving board creates an impressive dish, especially when garnished with a bundle of grapes draped to the side.  Simple and beautiful, that, my friends, is a menu Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t scream about!  If you are the world’s worst cook, or love the convenience of having someone else handle all the details, I do suggest you call a catering business.  Bella Cosa Catering, which is a local company here in Houma, has an amazing menu of options that you can pick through for any event.

So now we have a theme and a menu, it's time to set the stage!  So building on our current Open House theme, if a home has existing furniture and décor, all I have to do is freshen up!  But what if it doesn’t?  What if the home is completely empty?  Since the average buyer can’t usually envision a room pulled together, you have to create an appealing vision for them (Not to mention, sometimes they may buy the home with the décor you used to stage).  For a small investment of renting the items to stage, or even purchasing some key pieces, your Sip and See crowd will be wowed by your entertaining skills and how amazing the home is.  I myself use Bella Cosa Fine Gifts and Décor. They have a myriad of gorgeous items in house for you to see up close and personal.  You can use your favorites, depending on the style of home. It's the details that really create an atmosphere.

Now that, my darlings, is Food and Wine cover-ready entertaining!

 

For more information on catering or home decor from Bella Cosa, check out their Facebook page.

As a Realtor, part of my job is to assess properties for my clients.  What does that mean?  Depending on if I’m working for the buyer or seller, the point of view may change a little. The goal is that each party walk away from the transaction happy because the product/value and the price were in line with one another.   So let me give you some idea of the mechanics of that process through the eyes of each and the bottom line of what that could cost or not cost you.

  When my client is on the buyer's side, that job entails looking at each home and figuring out if the price is fair to the market, if the layout fits my buyer’s needs, and if it will it suit them in 5 years, 10 years and beyond, depending on their long-term goals.  The buyer walks around considering how many changes or repairs will need to be made for the home to be mov-in ready.  As they walk through that home their mental calculator is making a monetary tally of what that adjustment looks like.

Working with the seller, the point of view changes to evaluating the property and helping come to a price for that home.  That is accomplished by pulling comparable homes to that property that have sold in the past 6 months or less. From that point you then evaluate what sets that seller’s home apart value wise from the listings currently on the market and how they are priced as compared to what the actual closing prices are.  The hardest part in being a seller’s agent is having to do your walk-through and advise your client honestly on what tasks need to be handle prior to listing.  Why?  Because you have to tell them everything wrong through the eyes of a buyer.  It’s the necessary but advantageous evil in marketing.   

I am breaking down the process for you because what questions I get asked most are, “Should I remodel?”, “What changes do I make?”, and “What will bring me the most value in return?" Let me tell you the answer I hear from most agents and then tell you what I have read statistically.    Most agents will tell you that the kitchen, master bedroom, and the master bath are the things you should make sure are updated and relevant.   While I may agree with that to a certain extent, I don’t agree as a whole because I’ve looked at too many fact based stats debunking that--if we are going by dollar for dollar return on investment. 

Now before you say “She is crazy!” hear me out.  Yes, those areas being beautiful, functional and featuring quality materials are a total plus in curb appeal.   You should only do these major renovations for your own enjoyment. But the reality is that only a minor kitchen remodel is your best rate of return.  Sure the gorgeous kitchen will wow buyers in the beginning, but your better value is updating windows, roofs, and an AC that are outdated or may not be energy efficient.   As we all know, none of these items are cheap, but at the end of the day a buyer would much rather a brand new roof over a 15 year old roof that they may have to replace.  This makes for economical appeal more than curb appeal, but I promise your buyer is contemplating the cost of changes even when you aren’t.  The average purchaser looks at the roof, foundation and AC when making their choice between 2 competing homes.

If you aren’t willing and/or ready to do the major big ticket fixes and they are still in relatively decent condition, here are a few things that give a great first impression when you are ready to list your home. 

  • Pressure wash the entire property (house, cement, fence etc.)
  • Freshen up the flower beds and/or potted planters as well as cut and trim the yard, de-clutter and organize all spaces, make sure the path to the front door as well as the front door look as appealing as they possibly can, and add a few great decorative stylish items in the neglected bare areas that style hasn’t seen in years. 
  • Make your home feel comfortable and cozy with small touches like fresh flowers or plants, and DO NOT use the awful plastic dust collector sort. 
  • Give a bathroom new life by freshening up the shower curtains.  I actually found some amazing drapes from Pier 1 that I use for my shower curtain that were hung an inch below my ceiling moldings.  It gave the area a look of height that creates a upscale room and added a really attractive hand towel draped over a mirrored tray that hold a beautiful hand soap bottle and lotion for your guest. 
  • Make sure the master is a clean comfortable sanctuary that someone can envision finding their serenity at the end of the day with nice simple bedding with large fluffy pillows to pull the look together.  The few dollars you may spend on chic and savvy updates may be the bigger return with your home sitting on the market fewer days due to its visual appeal.  

How many magazine articles have we all read discussing the Holy Grail of fashion--the one and only little black dress?   I would venture to say that Coco Chanel could have never known that she would create fashion's most iconic must have.  Even the most self-proclaimed fashion "hot mess" owns or at least knows of this closet staple.  Why is this such an amazing piece?  Simply because you can do so much with it.  It's basic and neutral enough to make it a completely different look every time you wear it.  You can dress it up, or dress it down.  You can put any color with it and it all works!  We see endless articles on what’s in and what’s out, but the little black dress will always remain in season.

You’re probably scratching your head thinking “What does this have to do with decorating?” Let me blow your mind here!  I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked what color is best when building, remodeling or just getting ready to put a home on the market. My answer will always be the same. “Neutral--as in white, cream/khaki, or grey”.  That will continue to be my answer regardless of year, style, or season.  Neutral-colored rooms are the LBD of home style.  Your furniture, art, and decorative pieces are your accessories just as your jewelry and shoes would be to your dress.   You can change the look completely by changing a rug, throw pillows or art.  Adding a pop of color with small items make it so much more cost effective and personal than your large items such as sofa, floors, and wall colors, and it makes it easy to switch it up.

I personally love to redecorate every season.  It stops me from being bored with a look and challenges me to be a little more adventurous in trying new colors and textures. With a neutral canvas, I can make changes in a small way without regret.  In a world that says velvet blue chairs are in for fall, you can get the look with a velvet blue pillow. Then add your own spin, like some pops of plum and brass accessories.  You can add a splash of gold in an amazing coffee table tray or add a small vase of fresh peonies and look as chic as any New York penthouse in spring.  When the weather gets cooler, transform your living room to a winter wonderland with a chunky cable knit throw or perhaps a white cowhide rug on your dining room table instead of in your foyer.  In warmer months, summer shades in fuchsias, corals and yellows pop off of any canvas to give a room a unique trendy style.  If you are feeling adventurous, instead of doing a sitting room with peacock wallpaper, find a fabulous chair with peacock fabric. You'll still enjoy the bold statement, but when your Christmas decor comes out, the chair can be moved to another room if it doesn't coordinate.

In an age of DIY weekend warriors, you can put your feet up, relax and sip on a martini because you can wait to find that great piece of art that moves you. It's a lot easier when you aren’t bound by a burgundy dining room that needs to be repainted; you didn’t fall for the Paprika paint for your powder room; and you know chartreuse only belongs in your upholsteries and not on your kitchen walls. You have neutral walls that only enhance the rest of your decor. 

You are the Audrey Hepburn of your home, Fabulous and elegant always!