the queen of one-liners, well at least a dowager countess

I am a huge Downton Abbey fan! (btw -Does anyone have the real scoop on Season Six being the Final Season?) From the beautiful setting, to the family dynamics to the well written script, I just can’t seem to get enough.

One of the best characters of the show, it’s impossible to choose only one, is the Dowager Countess of Grantham. *Maggie Smith is one class act and the perfect choice for this character. The Dowager has gracefully reached those beautiful ‘golden years’ of life which are rewarded with the privilege of being able to say what she chooses and it can be present in a way that it is taken as wisdom. (well ok, to a point... but isn't that what we love the most?)

Her humor and grace are so enjoyable that I thought I would share this great list compiled by The Huffington Post. Here are just a few of the finest and funniest lines ever uttered by Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

a handwritten note

Taking the time to hand write a note - especially a thank you note - is such a wonderful and personal gesture. Receiving a note can be the bright spot in someone’s day and it says a lot about how much you value their friendship.

Of course, a note is welcome any time, but I truly believe it’s just good manners to send notes after receiving gifts, kind gestures or simply just because...

sunday in bed

It’s Sunday and everyone deserves a day off.
Here’s wishing you a restful Sunday.

recipe friday



·        Acorn Squash, halved and seeds cleaned out
·        Water
·        ½ C walnuts
·        1/3 C melted butter
·        1/3 C brown sugar
·        ¼ tsp salt
·        ¼ tsp cinnamon


Place squash meat side down in shallow pan with 1” water
Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees
Turn squash over

Top with walnuts, melted butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon

Return to oven and bake 15 minutes more

beach cottage style

I think I have been bitten (and bitten hard) by the 'Warm Weather Bug'. I just can’t seem to get my mind out of the sand... the sun and the sea… yeah, I'm ready for Spring and Summer!

And I am sure you know by now, that when I think of those three items (sun, sand, and sea) my mind goes directly to New England and the beautiful cottages that exist there. But some of us just aren’t blessed enough to own a New England cottage… so why not the next best thing? Create your own cozy cottage style with a little inspiration from great images of seaside cottage homes and comfy cottage rooms.

quick tip: sticky notes

Before you toss one of these paper reminders in the trash, run the sticky side between the keys of your computer's keyboard to collect crumbs, dust and other grime.

have you made these mistakes?

House Beautiful magazine asked Ten Top Designers what they would say is their Number One Paint Color Mistake, and here are their Ten Different Answers:

Ceiling Paint
"I never paint a ceiling dead white because all white paint has a bit of gray in it, and it takes the room down. Paint the ceiling a cream shade." –Athalie Derse

well done... or maybe just medium?

The warm months are ahead of us right now... and what better way to celebrate than to start cooking outdoors on the grill. But getting the exact right 'doneness' on the grill is an absolute fine art.  Here are some great tips to help you conquer the art of grilling. 

When it comes to cooking meat, do you really know the difference between Well Done, Medium Well, Medium, Medium Rare and Rare? It all boils down to (or maybe I should say ‘cooks down to’) the temperature of cooked meat. No matter which ‘way’ you like your meat cooked, it is best to know the following tips when cooking.

sunday in bed

It’s Sunday and everyone deserves a day off.
Here’s wishing you a restful Sunday.

michael graves

Last week, we lost a great visionary in the design community.
Michael Graves July 9, 1934 – March 12, 2015
Check out his gorgeous website here.

Identified as one of The New York Five, as well as Memphis Group, Graves, was an American architect, was known first for his contemporary building designs and some prominent public commissions that became iconic examples of postmodern architecture, such as... 

quick tip: stainless steel spoon

After slicing onions or mincing garlic, neutralize smelly hands by rubbing fingers on a stainless steel spoon under running water.

monday morning movie

Each week I post one of my YouTube Videos here and invite you to sit down, relax with your cup of coffee (and your movie popcorn) and enjoy a short (approximately 3 minute) Design ‘Movie”. If you want to know how this all got started, click here.

This is the last video post in my blog's Monday Morning Movie Series.  And interestingly enough,

sunday in bed

It’s Sunday and everyone deserves a day off.
Here’s wishing you a restful Sunday.

recipe friday bonus ~ friday the thirteenth edition

recipe friday

ssshhhhhhhhhhh - I have a confession, I am a junk food junkie... and this fast food item is one of my most extremely decedent treats. But guess what, with this - you can now make it at home (so no one knows you eat the junk)! 


  • 1 ½ C Miracle Whip
  • 2/3 C Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp season salt
  • ½ C Heinz chili sauce
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/3 C sweet pickle relish


Mix ingredients together
Spoon over hamburgers at serving time
Keep refrigerated

quick tip: a folded shower curtain

Stash an old shower curtain in your car's trunk to line it when carting potentially messy plants, picnic coolers, or beach gear in the summer.

the writing is on the wall

There is a new trend in wall art. This trend is referred to as Typography. Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language readable and beautiful.

The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing, letter-spacing, and adjusting the space within letters pairs. Type design is a closely related craft, sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers. In modern times, typography has been put in film, television and online broadcasts to add emotion to communication.

Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, clerical workers, and everyone else who arranges type for a product.

Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users, and David Jury, Head of Graphic Design at Colchester Institute in England, states that “typography is now something everybody does.”

There are almost as many methods to applying typography to the wall within your home as there are ‘words’ and subjects to use:

Methods: Peel and Stick Decals, Stretched Canvas, Freehand Graffiti, Framed Screen Printing…

Subjects: Favorite Quotes, Wines, Locations, Motivational Statements, City & Street, Biblical Passages, Family Name and History, Passionate Statements…

The most popular of these wall hanging seems to be the white print on black stretched canvas.

The typography can be our all time favorite font, our favorite color of the rainbow, and large or small. Remember, art, like design, is all in the detail – it is yours so make it yours!

monday morning movie

Each week I post one of my YouTube Videos here and invite you to sit down, relax with your cup of coffee (and your movie popcorn) and enjoy a short (approximately 3 minute) Design ‘Movie”. If you want to know how this all got started, click here.

recipe friday

Cherry Tomatoes
w/ Buttermilk Blue Cheese 


  • ½ C crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ C buttermilk
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
  • 2 pts yellow cherry tomatoes, or red grape tomatoes, or both
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


To prepare the dressing, place the blue cheese, buttermilk, and olive oil in a medium bowl and stir together with a fork, mashing a little to break up the cheese. Season with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chives    Set aside

Wash the tomatoes, and pat dry with a paper towel.
Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and season with a pinch of salt.
Add the tomatoes to the dressing mixture and toss to combine then garnish with freshly ground pepper, to taste.


which would you choose?

Let's have a little fun today...
I found this cute photo while 'surfing' the web... do they still say that?
So let's play the game... please leave your answer below in the comments.

quick tip: medicine jar

Once the meds are gone, this tube-shaped container is ideal for stashing quarters in the car for tolls (the childproof cap prevents a 'coin avalanche' — but best not to open it until you’re stopped).

more bang for the buck


The value that you have in your home is the single most important reason why you own instead of renting a home. In the recent economy of falling house values and unstable housing market statistics, every home owner should know how to put more value back into their homes.


Although making home improvements is not a sure-fire way to increase the value, it will at the very least make you more competitive against your competition.

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Here are 15 tips to increase the value of your home and enjoy the rewards when it is time to sell.

1.) Update kitchen appliances: The most sought after room in your home is the kitchen. It is worth the most per square foot and will make the difference of your home appealing to buyers or not. If your appliances are more than 3-5 years old consider updating them to the comfortability of your wallet. A newer model, a more designer finish, or more features will help home buyers take a second glance at your kitchen. For top of the line appliances consider stainless steel and professional series lines.


2.) Kitchen cabinetry makes the look: When you walk into a kitchen the first thing you notice is the cabinets. Cabinetry is at the top of the percentage of kitchen costs, but also shows the most return. Opt for wood over laminate surfaces and add custom features like crown molding, wine racks, glazing, and custom woodworking to set your kitchen apart from your competition.2.) Kitchen cabinetry makes the look: When you walk into a kitchen the first thing you notice is the cabinets. Cabinetry is at the top of the percentage of kitchen costs, but also shows the most return. Opt for wood over laminate surfaces and add custom features like crown molding, wine racks, glazing, and custom woodworking to set your kitchen apart from your competition.


3.) Add value by upgrading your countertops: Any room where you have countertops – kitchen, bathroom, bars, or utility rooms the more money you can spend in higher end countertops - the better. Plastic laminate countertops are considered the lower end grade, solid surfacing, concrete and granite is considered to be the higher end grade.


4.) Flooring is a forgotten upgrade: The rule of thumb for flooring is the more resilient and long lasting, the higher the upgrade, but the higher return is on investment (ROI). Vinyl flooring and low end carpet is at the bottom of the upgrade spectrum. Consider wood, tile, and natural stone for flooring options to add value to your home.


5.) Upgrade plumbing fixtures in kitchen and bathrooms: If your plumbing fixtures are more than 10 years old, consider upgrading them. If you have standard grade fixtures, such as chrome finish, opt for higher end finishes and materials. Brushed nickel, antique copper and brass fixtures are relatively inexpensive to replace. At kitchen sinks, choose plumbing fixture collections that offer matching faucet, control, and sink sprayer. Similarly in bathrooms, choose bathtub/shower/and sink controls that coordinate for a unified look throughout your home.


6.) Master bedrooms should feel like a retreat: The master bedroom or suite as some like to refer to it is a high commodity for home buyers. Upgrade flat ceilings to raised tray ceilings and allow for several lighting options. Recessed lighting with dimmers, lighting wall sconces help create an ambiance that has a high value in appeal and for the value of your home.


7.) Upgrade master bathroom with spa-like features: Part of the master bedroom is the master bathroom. Buyers want to have spa features from the shower to the tub. Similarly to the kitchen, put upgrades where you can most afford it. Upgraded tiled floors and showers will add value over pre manufactured units. Jetted soaking tubs, multisprayer showers and large square footage will also add value to your overall home.


8.) State of art audio and sound: Consider adding surround sound systems in your living areas as well as master bedroom area for a notch above your competition. If you are selling electronics with your home, plasma and flat screen televisions are a plus and media rooms are now becoming well sought after. Add seating areas for multiple screen viewing and add theater sound if considering a media room. These upgrades will be an amenity that adds value and buyer appeal.

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9.) Eco-friendly homes bring in a higher value: In this green modern age, eco conscious upgrades have a big return on investment. From water saving plumbing fixtures to tankless hot water heaters, investing in the earth can add value to your home. Choose rapidly renewable resources for finishes like bamboo flooring and opt for systems that save on energy costs. Regardless of the method, green living upgrades are always worth the investment.

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10.) A fully usable garage is an asset: A garage can add usable storage space for the home buyer as well as dry, clean area for parking cars. All homes don’t have garages and therefore can add value on to your home. If your home is on the market, spend time cleaning and organizing your garage so it can be shown. Install garage wall or ceiling organizing shelves to fully take advantage of vertical storage and space.

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11.) Invest in curb appeal: To be able to meet the demands of the average home buyer you will need to create curb appeal. A well manicured lawn, trimmed landscaping and clean drive and sidewalks will help bring greater buyer appeal, and in turn will add value on to your home. Keep your flower beds free of weeds and full of thriving and colorful plants. Nothing says ‘buy me’ like a front yard that has quality upkeep behind it.

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12.) Have fully functioning irrigation system: The more ways you can add convenience of time and energy to a home buyer, the greater appeal is created for your home. An irrigation system that works properly and covers the full yard can add value. Consider having a maintenance check by an irrigation professional that can service and recommend the proper maintenance of your irrigation system.


13.) The more closets the better: At the top of buyers’ lists is always storage. The more you can provide the more value you add on to your home price. Make sure closets are fully functioning and are not being used to hold so many belongings that a home buyer can’t see how much space the closet offers. When choosing how to upgrade your home, storage is one of the easiest and often overlooked suggestions.


14.) A quality roof is a plus: The roof of your home protects and beautifies the structure beneath. A quality roof will add value to your home and reduce the risk of damage in the near future. For roofs older than 15 years, consider having a roofer inspect and possibly replace. Upgrade from asphalt shingles to clay tiles, copper, slate or standing metal seam to add durability and value.


15.) Windows are for more than viewing: Your windows are the source for your light, but also the source for conditioned air gain and loss. Upgrade to windows with higher R values to resist heat and cold transfer from the outdoors. Double paned windows, windows with integral window treatments and insulated varieties all equate to saving energy and therefore will add more value to your home.

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Here are the Top Three Suggestions from Zillow.


In its 10 years of existence, online real estate database Zillow has collected an unfathomable amount of information on housing prices. In the new book "Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate," CEO Spencer Rascoff and chief economist Stan Humphries put that data to use by sharing ways to get the most value out of a home. Mr. Humphries says, “We’re interested in converting real estate from an area of folklore into fact.” Here he shares some of his favorite tips for navigating today’s real estate market.


Redo the bathroom, not the kitchen
“It’s always been conventional wisdom that the best remodel you could do was the kitchen,” says Humphries. “We actually crunched an enormous amount of data...what we found is actually it’s the bathroom remodel that adds the most value to a house.”

According to Humphries it makes the most logical sense because with a bathroom remodel functionality is being added to the house whereas kitchen upgrades are often more about fashion.


According to Zillow's data a mid-range $3,000 bathroom remodel results in a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1.00 spend on renovation.

Plus “when people come to stay with you, you’re going to be a lot happier that you have a nicer bathroom than kitchen.” Kitchen renovations offer among the lowest returns on investment. Both mid range and upscale work on the kitchen recover only about half of their investment.

Just don't invest too much money in the bathroom; upscale $12,000 bathroom upgrades result only in an $0.87 increase in home value for every $1.00 spent.


Selling Season
Home sales reach their peak in June, during the last week of that month residential real estate transactions are 40% higher than average. But when is the right time to list your home?

The home season starts to crank up in January and February, but to get the most bang for your buck, you might want to list your house during the last two weeks of March.


Selling in the last weeks of March, before the peak in agent contacts and after the peak of newly listed homes in February puts your home in the sweet-spot where it's likely to be seen quickly and not get lost within a flood of new listings.

Humphries writes to "put your home on the market after you fill out your NCAA March Madness basketball brackets, but before someone slips on an ivy-green jacket at the Masters Golf Tournament."


Psychologically Price Your Home
Ending your home price in a ‘9’ is incredibly beneficial. Mr Humphries says, “If you were going to sell your house for $150,000, just pricing it down by $1000 and selling it for $149,000 ends up in you making $2175 more than you would if you priced it at $150,000.” The '9' dynamic works for houses at all price-points.

In the majority of cases, home prices that end in a '9' sell for more for a home of the same relative value that ends in a '0.' The risk that the seller takes on by cutting their home price by $1,000 usually results in gaining more than $1,000 over asking.