Three Renovation Years Later: Downstairs Before and After

It’s CRAZY that we’ve been working on this house for over three years now! It only seems like yesterday that we got the keys to the house – and immediately tore out the built-in bench in the old sunroom, and starting ripping down the wallpaper in the dining room. Every few months, when certain projects get too overwhelming to even think about, I look back at the photos I took when we first bought the house and I realize just how much we’ve gotten done.


Yes, there’s TONS left to do, but let’s celebrate just how much we’ve gotten done in the last 3 years:







Dining Room:

Why yes, we still haven’t put up the rest of the dining room cabinet doors… three years later…
Living Room:




I’ve mentioned a few times that we resided the house – it was a HUGE improvement. In the picture below you can see how bad the old shingles were.
We inherited an overgrown mess – I’m happy to say it’s finally been cleaned up!
And that doesn’t even account for the massive amounts of yard projects, dirt-moving, re-siding, new driveways, plantings, trans-planting, digging, and grading we’ve done outside. I’d love to share it with you, but I don’t really like to share too many outdoor pics online. (That pesky internet safety issue.) You’ll just have to take my word for it.

I would never have been able (or wanted to) tackle this house without my handy husband. Everything would be clean, painted, and surfaced fixed, but nothing would be truly fixed. Renovations truly are like being on a roller coaster, and I’ve had more than one plumber / plasterer / etc tell us this is a great way to ruin our marriage, but we’ve had our share of fun (as well as not-fun).

Since this post is already epically long, I’ll share the upstairs next week.

Fourth Anniversary: Unique “Fruit & Flower” Themed Gifts

This week my husband and I celebrate four years of marriage – woo-hoo! As I’ve posted about in the past, I’m here to share some creative ideas for anniversary gifts. This year the theme is fruit and flowers. Without further adieu, here are some creative gift ideas to celebrate your fourth anniversary:

Wine Tasting Night

Buggy Designs wine glasses | Brooklyn Slate Co. cheese board | Le Creusut wine opener

Maybe you can’t fly off to Tuscany, or Napa Valley, or even the Finger Lakes, but you sure can throw your own wine tasting night at home. With some personalized glasses, a fun cheeseboard it’s sure to be a delicious night, and maybe it’s time to upgrade to a nicer bottle opener.


Juicers for Breakfast

Jack Lalanne | Breville | Vitamix | Ninja

I’ve been juicing for over a month now, and I’m still enjoying it. We have the Jack Lalanne Juicer (which is probably the most budget-friendly entry-level juicer), but wouldn’t mind upgrading to the Breville if we really want to stick to juicing long-term for easier clean-up. Or maybe you are a smoothie maestro and want to spoil your sweet with the infamous Vitamix, or the wallet-friendlier Ninja.


Plant One on Me

If you’re a homeowner, it’s likely you spend a solid amount of time doing yard work – especially at this time of year. Pick up a few trees / bushes of your choice and enjoy the gift that keeps on giving. Pair it with some new gardening gloves or pretty birdfeeder.


Love you a Latte

Okay, so a coffee bean is actually the pit inside a piece of fruit – but who’s really keeping score here? Grab a bag of your favorite beans and a desired coffee accessory – New mugs? A Keurig? I love my Cuisinart Bean Grinder (although coffee aficionados would tell you to get a burr grinder).


The Apple of my Eye

An apple a day keeps the doctor away? How about an Apple a day keeps the techie away? The Apple Store is your one stop shop for gizmos and gadgets anyone would love. Or maybe it’s time to upgrade your iPhone case or snag some cool accessories, like an iPad stand or noise-cancelling headphones for the traveler in your life.
Happy Anniversary to us! Do you have any anniversary traditions?

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

This past weekend we went to the Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate. The party was organized by Boston Swing Central. We went with friends and brought along our own picnic. If you haven’t been to the Crane Estate yet, GO! Castle Hill on the 2,100 acre Crane Estate is located on Boston’s North Shore in Ipswich, MA.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

The undulating, perfect hills, “Grande Allée”, leading out to water are my favorite part. (Perhaps because that’s where my husband proposed!) I’ve been inside the house a few times for some art showings, but the grounds are my favorite reason to visit.
Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively
Designed by the Olsted Brothers (sons of the designer of Central Park) in 1912, the property boasts the historical mansion, 21 outbuildings, several gardens, a grass mall flanked by classical statues, what once was a grand “casino” with a pool and ballroom, a sunken rose garden, and an amazing view of the Ipswich Bay.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

The Roaring Twenties Lawn Party was AWESOME! There were antique cars, dance groups who performed, and pop-up shops selling vintage goods. The sunken gardens were equipped with bocce and badminton for those who don’t love to dance.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively


Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

Everyone was invited to picnic on the lawn. The Baby Soda Jazz Band came up from Brooklyn for the event. A similar lawn event is thrown in NYC and they decided to start a secondary event in Boston a few years ago.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

If you don’t know how to dance, there were lessons for Swing and the Charleston. My only complaint about the whole event is that, while the band was incredibly talented and fun to listen to, I didn’t think they were great for swing dancing. There was plenty else to do besides dance – the grounds of the Crane Estate were made for walking and the main green stretches one half-mile from the house to the ocean cliffs.  But gorgeous views of the Ipswich Bay could be seen from everywhere on the estate.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

A lot of the fun of the Lawn Party was that everyone who attended was very into it.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively


Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively
Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

The Crane Estate, a part of the Trustees of the Reservation, is open all year long to visitors and there is a constant rotation of events – from summer concerts on the lawn, to art gallery showings, to Christmas caroling. If the Crane Estate looks familiar, maybe you’d seen it in a few movies: The Witches of Eastwick, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, or even on The Amazing Race reality show.
Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively
Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively
Roaring Twenties Lawn Party at the Crane Estate - DesignLively

The Lawn Party was a lot of fun! You know I love a good theme party and dancing. Boston Swing Central, a dancer-formed, volunteer-run non-profit dedicated to promoting swing dance, hold regular dance parties in the Boston area and welcome new members. Lawn Party Tickets were $25, and they will be throwing the event again next summer – put it on your calendars now!

Do you swing dance? Have a penchant for theme parties? Just me?

The Great Outdoor Messmakers

Lately our life is made up of dirt. Pants, shirts, shoes, gardening gloves, socks, you name it – it’s covered in dirt.

This month we seem to embody the motto “work hard, play hard” because if we aren’t ankle deep in the yard, we’re at the beach or a theme party, but never in-between.

Like most people, we’re angling to get as much outdoor work done before we have to worry about leaf clean-up and – don’t say it – snow. Most of our free time has been outside finishing up the deck, weeding, mulching, transplanting, and a few other big projects (namely, moving dirt).


The earlier part of this summer was taken over by wrapping up two big projects – the bathroom, and fixing our garage roof. This winter’s heavy, heavy snow was too much for the old roof to bare, and we ended up having to replace the entire structure. (This was clearly not a DIY job – yowza! But the guys did a great job and our new-but-looks-the-same-roof is great. Actually, it’s about 6″ higher, and although most people wouldn’t know the difference, we can definitely tell and it makes the garage feel bigger.


So clearly, things have been quite a mess.  We outgrew our dumpster. By a lot. So the yard took a good beating. It’s all gone now though and we have a nice, huge dumpster size brown rectangle on the lawn where the non-grass is. : )


Speaking of grass, we most definitely don’t have any in the back and side yards. It’s a big, old dirt pit. Which is better than the overgrown weeds we had before all the machines started coming into the yard. With the help of our incredibly generous neighbor (who owns that machine), we’ve put in a small retaining wall behind our rhody. The rocks came from our yard – we’ve come across a lot of big ones in all our excavating. I love the new wall! And it will help protect the stability of the rhody, stop erosion, and looks a lot prettier than the weeds that would have just overtaken that hillside.


Throughout all this mess we were desperately trying to protect our 90% finished patio. It came through all right, but took quite the thorough cleaning to finish. (Sadly, I was at work that day and couldn’t help go through each crevice with a toothpick. Yes, really.)



But the patio is finally finished – wahoo!!! The gator sand is in and has dried. We hired a local schoolteacher who does patios on the side, and he did an amazing job. I’ll write another post with more about the patio another time.

You can also see Moose has been making progress on the back deck stairs. (While I was working on the highly important steamer trunk project. #priorities)

We have the sweetest neighbors – that wicker set you see in the corner of the photo was given to us by a neighbor for free! We only had to buy new cushions.


And now that the back patio is done, we’ve moved on to getting the front walkways to the front door and to the deck ready for their own makeover. Both will be getting the same stone laid for walkways as we did with the patio. We’ve dug up the dirt and laid down the rest of the stone dust. Our patio-maestro will be back sometime later this summer to lay the pavers. The perk of hiring someone who does patios on the side is that you save money – and the downside is that the projects usually take longer. They always said patience is a virtue, right?

I took this last photo because the situation made me laugh. I’ve been trying to make the most of the patio furniture, and enjoy reading out back. I had to snap a photo of my picturesque backyard view – the enormous dumpster, piles of demo lumber, and a massive pile of stone dust for the patio. I guess I’ll just have to close my eyes and envision the green grass and vegetable garden I’m planning in my mind.

Lastly – happy Friday!!!

Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton


I’m a bit of a cookie diva. My motto is homemade is always best, and it better be soft and chewy. Enter Tates, which is store-bought and crunchy. The opposite of what I love, yet insanely delicious. Tate’s Bake Shop is a bakery in Southampton run by Kathleen King. They are famous for the cookies – ranked the best cookie by Consumer Reports (so you know it’s true). The crispy cookies are excellent for dunking and can now be purchased in gourmet grocery stores.

While my sister-in-law and I were in Southampton we went to the original Tate’s in town!


Tate’s sells more than just cookies, at the original shop you’ll find everything from cookies to cakes to pies to coffee drinks.

My gluten-free friends will be pleased to know that Ms. King, who developed a gluten sensitivity herself, has opened a GF kitchen and makes GF baked goods as well.

In a moment of weakness, I ended up getting the ice cream cookie sandwich dunked in chocolate. YUM. If you are in Southampton this is one treat that should not be missed!

I’m thinking I may need to buy a bag a Tate’s (they’ve got them at Wegman’s and Roche Brothers for my fellow Bostonians) and try this one at home next.

We were in Southampton for the 4th of July, and, lucky for us, the rain let up and we were able to enjoy the surrounding area. Southampton is a beautiful place and town is lovely. I love looking at put-together shop windows and curated stores, and in a town like Southampton they certainly do put a bit more effort into making the retail experience a pretty one.



All that rain made the hydrangeas perk up quite a bit.

Did you know this year we are in a bit of a hydrangea “shortage”? Due to the terrible winter we had, many hydrangea bushes never fully bloomed this year. (I read the strangest news articles…)


I spent the rest of the afternoon with my husband’s family reeling in blue fish and enjoying the fireworks. If you’re looking to spend an afternoon in Southampton, we had a great lunch at Citarella - a gourmet market where you can pick and choose whatever you like to eat. Following that up with a visit to Tate’s Bake Shop isn’t a bad idea either! : )

What’s your favorite type of cookie? I love my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, or oatmeal raisin! Yum!

Modern Quilters

via Design Houston – Modernism emerges in quilting world

Is there such a thing as a hobby-crush? Because I have a hobby-crush on modern quilters. And as soon as I finish up my current sewing projects, I’m going to finally take a running leap into the quilting circle.

I’ve made two t-shirt quilts, so I understand the basic concept of how to make a quilt. But I’ve always wanted to design and sew my own quilt. It’s on my list of 101 things, and I have a whole Pinterest board dedicate to quilts that I love! I love quilts because they are so cozy, and they can be used anywhere – wrapped up on the couch, laid out at the beach, or draped over the end of a bed.

I’ve recently been very intrigued by modern quilters – which makes sense for me – it’s like graphic design in quilt form! Colors and compositions and weight and patterns. It’s all the same whether it’s on a screen, a canvas, or a quilt.

Here are some quilts that have been inspiring me lately:

Colorful quilt by Anna Maria Horner

This one is the quilt that really did me in.  I believe I “pinned” this image to my board with a caption that went something like “THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.” Consider me inspired.

Meg Callahan Quilt

Meg Callahan Ada Quilt

Meg Callahan was the first modern quilter I came across and she’s amazing! Look at all the symmetry!

Scrappy Lone Star from the Modern Quilters Guild

I love this one by Janice Ryan of the Modern Quilters Guild! It takes the elements of the classic patchwork quilt and the modern colors, weighting, and composition make a fun and punchy quilt.

Tangled by Robert Kaufman

This awesome intertwined quilt is a pattern that will be available in September through Robert Kaufman.

Bolt and Bias Quilt

Move over teddy bears and ballerinas. This baby quilt by Etsy seller Bolt & Bias is beautiful!


Quilt by Angela Flicker – The Artists House

This colorful one is AMAZING!! I would love to attempt something like this quilt by Angela Flicker. She made this one for the Temporary Museum of Permanent Change and Craft Lake City’s gallery exhibit titled, “Celebration of the Hand”. Her Flickr photostream is full of other amazing examples of her work.

Now I just need to finish the projects I’ve already started!!

Pucker Up: Lemon Ice Cream

Lemon Ice Cream Recipe from DesignLively

On a trip down to the Cape earlier this summer I discovered a new AMAZING ice cream place. The Ice Cream Sandwich, in Sandwich, MA. (FYI: the perfect plate to stop when there’s Sunday evening traffic due to the exodus of tourists crossing the bridge.) Ice Cream Sandwich is all homemade flavors and I tried the Lemon Mousse Shortcake – and oh-my-icecream – it was fantastic.
I loved the creamy take on a citrus flavor, as lemon flavors usually come in tart sorbets or italian ice. I thought I’d try my own hand at it.
Lemon Ice Cream Recipe from DesignLively
Lemon Ice Cream Recipe:

1. Zest and juice 5 lemons. I use a cheese grater to zest.

2. Soak zest in lemon juice for an hour for added zing.

3. Add 1 cup whole milk, 3 cups cream (sorry…), and 1 cup sugar

4. Churn in ice cream maker for 25 minutes

Lemon Ice Cream Recipe from DesignLively

The result was a light and refreshing lemony ice cream. Not tart, like lemon sorbet.

I’d like to try it next with a raspberry syrup, or churn in fresh blueberries.

Now that I’ve tried citrus ice cream, I’m eager to try grapefruit!

What dream flavor ice cream would you like to try?

Love Vintage? Visit the Crompton Collective

Whenever I come across an awesome vintage / antique place to shop, part of me wants to shout about it from the rooftops, and the other part of me wants to keep it all to myself to keep the crowds away.

Crompton Collective is “curated boutique marketplace” made up of 80+ stalls belonging to local artisans and curators of vintage goods. At Crompton you’ll find everything from vintage clothes to awesome paper goods to handmade baby booties to chalk paint to antique collectibles.

It’s the perfect place, at least in my opinion, to shop for home decor, gifts, or just to browse.

image via Apartment Therapy

The goods are in constant rotation, which they kindly keep you updated with if you follow Crompton Collective on Instagram.



Seriously!! Look at all these hats! How did I manage to leave empty-handed?


The brainchild behind Crompton Collective is shop owner Amy Chase. Amy started out as a fashion blogger, and started Haberdash Vintage, America’s first mobile vintage shop. While she still has the mobile shops (a vintage school bus and a 1950s teardrop camper – cool!), Haberdash Vintage can also be found inside the Crompton Collective marketplace.

image via HABERDASH VINTAGE Facebook page

image via Crompton Collective

On Saturday mornings and Thursday nights the building is also home to the Canal District Farmers Market. The market offers everything from local organic produce, to gourmet cupcakes, to local wine, to flowers, to locally raised meat, to live music and yoga classes.

image via Canal District Farmers Market Facebook page

image via Canal District Farmers Market Facebook page

The boutique has also recently designed and opened an event space, The White Room, available for parties and classes. They held an amazing Bridal Show earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to the many exciting events to come! Additionally, there are always smaller meetups and classes going on in the building, like Vintage Pinup Hair Classes, Small Business Saturdays, and Craft Classes. I even attended a blogger event at Crompton.

image via Crompton Collective Facebook page

Most people don’t even realize that Worcester, after Boston, it’s the second largest city in New England. If you decide to make your way out to Worcester from Boston, don’t miss the Worcester Art Museum, or the many restaurants on Shrewsbury Street. (One Eleven Chophouse and The Sole Proprietor are two that we’ve enjoyed!)

The Crompton Collective is located at 138 Green Street in Worcester. They are open Wednesday through Sunday:

Wed: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Thu: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fri: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

So, do I need to race you there? How amazing is this place?

Summer Seltzer Mocktails Recipes

Summer Seltzer Mocktails Recipes

I stopped drinking soda a few years ago. While I’ll occasionally have a glass of pop, it’s been a few years since I’ve kept it in the house. The same goes for juice. I buy it rarely, and when I do I usually water it down. Instead, I drink a lot of seltzer.

I like to save my sugar for ice cream and gummi bears yo!

I’ve become quite the Queen of Seltzer making up lots of flavor mash-ups as a healthier alternative to a sweet treat or fun beverage.

I like to buy Polar Seltzer. It’s made locally here in Massachusetts, and they have a ton of fun flavors like Mango Papaya, Cucumber Watermelon, and Mint Chocolate. Although, I usually stick to the simpler flavors, and then add my own (fresh) ingredients.

Summer Seltzer Mocktails Recipes

My seltzer mocktail making process:

1. Pick your flavors – I usually use mint and some type of berry.

2. Muddle the fruit and herbs. (I have this muddler.) You can use a fork… but it won’t work as well.

3. Optional – add a simple syrup if you are looking for extra sweetness.

4. Top with ice and seltzer! Stir and enjoy.

There is no end to the combination of flavors that you can mix up. These are some of my favorites:

Summer Seltzer Mocktails Recipes
Summer Seltzer Mocktails Recipes:

Lemon Blueberry = Lemon Seltzer + Muddles Blueberries

Faux Mint Mojitos = Plain Seltzer + Muddled Mint + Lemon + Mint Simple Syrup

Strawberries & Cream = Vanilla Seltzer + Muddled Strawberries

Watermelon Lime = Lime Seltzer + Muddled Watermelon (Grapefruit is another great alternative!)

While this shouldn’t replacement water in your diet, it’s better for you than a Coke, glass of wine, or even a glass of orange juice! Crushing up five strawberries in your seltzer will give you 98% of your daily vitamin C without all that extra sugar and stuff they add into O.J.

 What keeps you cool in the summer? Popsicles? Ice cream? A pool? (If so, lucky you!)

(This is not a sponsored post. I just love me some Polar seltzer!)

Renovating the Guestroom

When we gutted and renovated our upstairs bathroom, we ended up reconfiguring two closets and moving a wall. The other room affected by our bathroom renovations was our smallest guestroom.

It’s a room seen very little here on the blog – mostly because it’s not used very often and, besides an extra bed, it’s never really been decorated. After weighing all of our bathroom reno possibilities, the best solution was to rob this bedroom of some square footage. We moved the wall 36″ into the room, took space from the closet and added it into the bathroom, and turned around a hallway closet to create a new bedroom closet. Confusing? I thought so.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

This picture was taken from the door of the guestroom. You can see the bathroom in the upper right corner with the white tile floor. The white door on the left with the blue tape is to our bedroom. You can see from the different flooring where the two closets used to be.

Here is a “before” shot. (That’s our new bathtub just hangin’ out there.)

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Sidenote: None of our bedrooms are square. They all have rounded ceilings on one side of the room.

Just like the bathroom, after we tore down the wall (where the guestroom closet was), they rebuilt the wall structure, installed rough electrical, added blue boards, and then plastered the walls.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

They also framed out, blue boarded, and plastered the structure for our new guestroom closet.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

The closet was originally accessible in the hallway next to the bathroom. It was originally a cedar closet.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

We have plans to install a new floor-to-ceiling cabinet linen closet where the old closet door used to be in the hallway. Someday… : )

Also located in the hallway ceiling was our access panel to the attic. We never use the attic. And the access panel was U-G-L-Y. In the middle of the renovation, my husband had the genius idea to move the access into the new guestroom closet since the ceiling was being torn down anyways. I knew I liked him.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Now it’s no longer in the middle of the hallway and we have a regular old ceiling! It’s the little things.

The attic can now be accessed via the guestroom closet .

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

We have a bit of finishing work left to do inside the closet – that will come when beach season ends. There is too much summer to be enjoyed at the moment to worry about a thing like that!

Since all the walls were newly plastered, they needed to be sanded down, cleaned, and given two coats of primer. Then I gave them two coats of Valspar’s Summer Wish (the existing color of the room).

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Then I pulled a Kat – which is to mean that I had an uncontrollable urge to paint the room another color. You see, yellow is my favorite color. And I keep trying to paint rooms yellow and am never happy with it. I love the colors in the daytime, but when the natural light is gone, I often find the colors I’ve chosen to feel harsh. Seeing as the room was still empty, I decided to ditch the yellow and go with a soft blue-gray (Woodlawn Sterling Blue by Valspar).

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Satisfied with the new color, I moved the furniture back in!

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

We recently inherited Moose’s childhood bedroom furniture.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

I was a little worried that this room would feel very small after taking so much square footage from this room. But I’m very glad to say it doesn’t. It’s definitely not a big room, but is not bordering on itty-bitty either.

Moving the closet also made the existing space much more usable. Before I never knew exactly where to put the bed – with the wide closet, radiator, windows and door to consider.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

Once we finish up the closet and add the door trim, I’ll take down the curtain and install bi-fold doors.

Guestroom Renovations - DesignLively

It’s not perfect – but I’m just glad things are slowly getting back to normal around here!

Guestroom projects left to do:

- Caulk and paint attic access

- Doors and doorframes for main and closet doorways

- Get hardwood floors refinished

- Install and paint baseboards and crown molding

Woo hoo!! So… will you be our guest?