Welcome Home: Smoky Mountain Style

And now for the remainder of our North Carolina tour...

The second half of our trip was spent in the Smoky Mountains. We were lucky enough to stay at The Swag, which I would recommend to anyone, hands down!

As you will see, the location and scenery were outstanding. It's hard to notice the Fall decor in a situation like this, but it's there, and it's done simply and beautifully.

The Swag, main house

With a view like this, you don't need a lot of decorative adornment

Sometimes simple is best

I love how the orange of the pumpkins stands out against all the weathered mountain wood and stone.

The decorations here really highlight nature's beauty and the simplicity of it all. A couple of stunning gourds speak volumes.

I've tried to keep this principle in mind while decorating my Fall mantel this year. Hopefully I will be able to keep the theme running throughout my home. Check back tomorrow to see more of my season updates.
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Fall Linky

First, I'd just like to say thanks to my new followers as well as friends on Facebook. Your support really means a lot to me, especially as I've just started this little blog and your feedback is the only way to know if people are really reading!

And secondly, I'm interjecting a little Fall decorating preview into this week's posts about our recent trip to North Carolina.

Well, the weather is getting colder and I'm having trouble resisting all the fun associated with Fall nesting. So, it's official, the Fall decorations are coming out of storage.

One of the first things to be addressed, the mantel. I'm not an over-the-top kind of accessory girl, it's my belief that simple can be best, so that's what I am sticking to this year. Simple.

Summer Mantel

Fall Mantel

Admittedly the changes are subtle: a couple of white pumpkins and semi-homemade topiaries.

I picked up these little pots in a great garden store, while we were in Asheville. Can you believe they were only $2.50 each? Bargain! I love their rustic edges and their bright green color. If you didn't know already, I love green! I topped them with faux pink sedum balls. I like the idea of topping the pots with seasonal flowers...maybe boxwood or holly for the Holidays.

Today, I'm taking part in the Nesting Place's Fall Mantel Party, the Falling Up party at Cottage and Vine, and the Fall Decorating Party at Hooked on Houses. Check out all the wonderful posts for loads of creative ideas for your own home.

Tomorrow, I'll finish up my series on North Carolina and check back later to see some updates on my front porch.
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Welcome Home: Biltmore style

My husband and I have had a love affair with older homes for a long time. So it was without question that our North Carolina tour would include a stop at the Biltmore Estate.

The Biltmore House, home of George W. Vanderbilt and his family, was completed in 1895 and is the largest privately owned home in the US.

A grand home like the Biltmore House needs to make a big statement when welcoming their guests. And I think they have succeeded, just take a look at their front entryway.

That's a serious planter!

And if that doesn't beg you to come in and take a look, their gardens will certainly entertain you for a couple of hours. Check out the greenhouse; very impressive.

You know how I love orchids!

One could literally wonder these gardens for hours!

The Biltmore really shows how to create a welcoming home on a grand scale! After all the place was built for entertaining. Of course, the average household won't be able to duplicate these ideas on such a scale, but the basic principles are the same. 
I love the idea of offering destinations within a single garden. I definitely want to duplicate that; to me, it says, come in and have a look around. The same thing that I hope my home says.

Fortunately, I will have all winter to formulate the garden plans.
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Welcome Home: Asheville style

As I mentioned last week, we have just returned from a trip to North Carolina. Now, I won't bore you with all the tiny details of our little get away, but I do plan on sharing some images that I have brought back with me. My plan is take inspiration from these images and try to add some of these details to my own home.

So, here goes: the first half of our trip was spent in Asheville, NC. We stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast called The Black Walnut Inn.

If there is one thing that a good B and B should do well, it's welcoming guests. And the Black Walnut did not disappoint! Just look at that driveway and car port. I wouldn't mind driving up to that everyday!

Not to mention the front porch! Doesn't it just beg you to sit and enjoy the view?

And when you walk into the foyer, you get a true sense of what the rest of the house will be like.

In general, bed and breakfasts are classic examples of a welcoming home. There are loads of ideas that can be used in your own home. Of course, I'm not suggesting you offer your guests bottled water and chocolates on their pillow! But I am saying that an inviting porch and foyer can go a long way to creating a welcoming home!

More inspiration from our trip tomorrow and check back later to see how I am changing my entry for the season.
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Another weekend, another brunch

As you know, Brunch is one my favorite ways to entertain and definitely one of the easiest. So easy, in fact, that we managed to pull this one off with no notice - 6 adults and 2 children - all happy and well fed.

Our meal centered around yummy Oatmeal Pancakes (recipe recommended by my Aunt Linda) from Cooking Light magazine, accompanied by crispy bacon and fresh ripe melon. So easy and so delicious.

Image from Cookinglight.com

To view the recipe in full, click here, or see below:

1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (1/4 cup)
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
Cooking spray


1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Combine buttermilk, butter, and egg in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles; cook until bottoms are lightly browned.

Servings: 12 pancakes. Although, I doubled the recipe and only managed to get 14 medium-ish cakes.
Note: I did not use quick cooking oats and I didn't soak them either and it worked just fine.
This is a really great, new, lighter take on your traditional pancakes. I can just imagine a Saturday morning in the near future, picking pumpkins with the kiddos and their friends, and returning home to a yummy pancake brunch! Sounds like a plan.
As always, if you try it and like it, let me know!
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Accessorize with Meaning: London lessons

In keeping with my London nostalgia week, I thought I would highlight how the lessons I have learned from our various homes overseas have influenced my current design style.

As I have said, in my opinion, every vignette needs to tell it's own story and the only way to do that is to accessorize with meaning and surround yourself with the things you love.

This is my view from our breakfast table (if I am not looking into the adoring eyes of my lovely family, of course).

Every time I look at it, it just makes me smile. The reason being - every piece in this picture tells a specific story to me. Nothing is from a big box store and everything was hand selected.

Jam Cabinet - first antique that my husband and I purchased together while living in Belsize Park. Our kitchen was so small we ran out of space immediately. We added this piece to the hallway just outside of the kitchen and used it as our pantry.

Wine - what's not to love? I worked in the wine industry overseas and basically, it changed my life and my appreciation for wine forever.

Antique scale - purchased on one of our first 'mini-breaks' to the English Countryside. I had grand ambitions to collect antique scales, but all our homes were too small to accommodate such large pieces. Oh well, in some cases, one large scale piece speaks more than a lot of little ones - at least that is what I am telling myself.

Wire Roosters - these were actually given to me for my first official Mother's Day, from a little shop in Wimbledon Village. And I didn't even pick them out. Love them!

Antique Mallet/Hammer - one of the first antiques that my Dad gave to my Mom.

Antique Ice Cream Scoop - this was my Father's Grandfather's.

So, as you can see, each piece has meaning and memories attached to it. To me, this is what makes a house a home. And of course, some of these things are even practical - like the wine! And I've even used the ice cream scoop once or twice! Most recently to scoop a delicious and festive cherry Bourbon slush at last year's Winter cocktail party - really must find that recipe again.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my London week as much as I enjoyed reliving our time there.
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Living up to Martha

I have to admit, usually, I am not a Martha Stewart person.

But as most of you know, we are thinking about renovating our kitchen so at the moment I am open to all ideas and suggestions, which is how I found myself purchasing the September issue of Martha Stewart Living.

While reading through her "50 Top Kitchen Tips" article, I stopped in my tracks when I saw some of her drawer images.

Office Supplies

Kitchen Utencils

First Aid


Dish Towels

Not only do I not have enough space in my kitchen to have whole drawers dedicated to office supplies, first aid, and skewers - I also do not have enough time in the day to keep up with this type of organization. Can you even imagine how long it would take to group each type of skewer like that?

Or so I thought, until I was putting away my own freshly laundered dish towels and immediately noticed a similarity.

So maybe mine aren't all perfectly folded and perfectly spaced, but you must admit, it is a little similar. They are color-coded and organized by use - from the left, extras, coordinating, white. It's a  little scary, at least to me!

Maybe we all have a little Martha in us after all.

To read this article in full, click this link.

I'm linking this post to The Inspired Room's creative organization link party - check it out for some great ideas for your home.
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London Nastalgia: Wimbledon

After a year plus in Hampstead we moved to our third and final home in London, Wimbledon.

Wimbledon holds a special place in my heart; we stayed there the longest, our daughter was born there and for me, it was the closest I have come to living my Simple Life.

A quick tour of our house:

From the front

Reception 1: living and study

Looking into second Reception

Second Reception and Kitchen

View from the Front Window

The Village and surrounding areas:

High Street, Wimbledon Village

Homes along Wimbledon Common

Wimbledon Common

Much like our first home in Belsize Park, our home in Wimbledon was small and in a great location. The big difference was the addition of our daughter and you know how much stuff small children bring with them! We really had prioritize what was important in terms of design, accessories, etc. Everything had to have meaning and tell it's own story. We had to purge a lot of extra stuff, which was hard, but in time proved to be a great relief.

The moral of this house was again, simplicity, and to accessorize with meaning.

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London Nostalgia: Hampstead

If you are just tuning in, you are in for a week dedicated to our time in London in honor of Mr. Designing Domesticity's jet setting ways.

Honestly, just a quick overview, really.

After a year plus in our teeny tiny flat in Belsize Park, we moved a bit farther North to Hampstead. Here we managed to score a detached home close to the Western Extension of Hamsptead Heath (this will probably mean very little to most of you).

As I mentioned earlier, it took us a long time to realize what a great set up we had in Belsize Park; here in Hampstead, we had a much bigger house, but we weren't very close to the village.

A quick look through the house:

Reception: living area

Reception: dining area

Kitchen: by far the nicest kitchen we had while living overseas. Very American with a full size fridge, double ovens and separate pantry. Needless to say, we were in heaven.

Hampstead High Street
For the first and only time while living overseas, we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends and family visiting from America. For me, the holidays spent in this home where the most influential in my desire to create a welcoming home.
Here's the main reception decorated for the Holidays.

What did our time in this house teach me: location, location, location. But more importantly, how important a welcoming home can be; what a difference it can make to those who are traveling to see you - great distances or small. I knew from this point on that I wanted to make my home feel as homey as possible to all my visitors. Obviously, something I have become a bit obsessed with.

A great house - but it didn't last long; we moved a little over a year later to South West London.
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London Nostalgia: Belsize Park

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I'm happy to report that I just enjoyed my first away trip from my daughter - a whole week away in fact, and it was glorious!

We headed to North Carolina and stayed in Asheville for a couple of days and then moved on to the Smoky Mountains. I'm hoping to share photos and inspiration from our trip for a welcoming home next week. Speaking of inspiration, I am officially ready for Fall. Let the decorating festivities begin.

Anywho, back to reality. Just a little sad, especially as my other half has jetted off to London for work. Jealous much?!? I haven't been back since we left a little over a year ago.

In honor of his trip, I plan to spend the week reminiscing over our time in London (while I catch up on housework, get back into our schedule and organize all those NC photos) and explain how each of our homes in London have influenced my current design style.

So, here goes - our first year, in Belsize Park.

Check out our cute (and by cute, I mean, super small) flat.

The street view

The reception: living, dining and office space (special cameo by Mr. Designing Domesticity).

Our teeny, tiny kitchen

Our beautiful back garden

We spent a lot of time walking Hampstead Heath when we lived here. Truly a lovely park - they definitely do Green Space well

And, finally, my second home away from home: work, Regents Park Road in Primrose Hill

The concept that I most took away from that first year in Belsize Park is, simplicity.We walked everywhere; we were lucky enough to live across from a fresh market, a couple of good restaurants, wine shop, etc. I even walked to work. We lived in a small space and made do with what we had room for.

Of course, it has taken me a couple of years looking back to realize how good we had it, but nonetheless, good times, and a great introduction to the city!

Today, I try to surround myself with things I really need and love - not a whole house full of meaningless stuff; I try to keep it simple.
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Not Quite Fall

I know I said I was taking this next week off, but I decided to sneak in one more quick post. Mostly because I wanted to take part in The Inspired Rooms Fall Nesting Party. I just love a good link party!

Here in the Chicagoland area, it's not quite Fall yet. Sure the weather has gotten colder, the days shorter and the nights longer - but generally speaking, I'm not ready yet - so it's still the end of Summer to me.

Just because it's not quite Fall yet, doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. Fall is my favorite season of the year after all. So right now I'm in the staging process.

Here, you are looking at some of my Fall goodies - coming out of storage; all lined up and ready to go. I'm taking stock of what I have and taking notes on what I might still need. Still plenty of shopping time before the season truly kicks off, whether it be outside for natural decor or your favorite shops.

Mentally, I am placing them around my home in anticipation of the coming season (ok maybe a little more than mentally, but I had to make sure it looked right.)

All good plans need some time to peculate and that's just what I am doing. Is this how you operate too? I want to take my time and enjoy the nesting for the season. It's one of the best parts, in my opinion.

Check back soon because I will be decorating and there will be good ideas happening, at least I hope there will!

And don't forget to explore the link party over at The Inspired Rooms - tons and tons of good ideas for your home.
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