May 20, 2014

Kitchen Crush: Patterned Cement Tiles

Has anyone else been noticing the use of patterned cement tiles in design lately?  At first I was not a big fan of them but they're really starting to grow on me, especially when I see oh-so-pretty kitchens like this one in Portland, Oregon by Jessica Helgerson...


When coupled with neutral finishes on the walls, counters, and cabinetry, the floor tiles are a welcome pop of pattern.


Those spectacular wood countertops are pretty awesome too, huh?  And all that cabinetry surrounding the gorgeous fridge...hello kitchen storage!


There are so many things I absolutely love about this kitchen - the black casement windows, the light fixtures, the red accents, the black and white color palette - but my favorite thing has to be those patterned cement floor tiles.

And who wouldn't want a matching mudroom to go with that kitchen?  It has enough hooks for a small (but ever so tidy) army!

What do you think of the cement tiles?  Would you consider them for your home?  Do share!

May 16, 2014

Europe with a Toddler, Part 2: Brussels, Belgium

Here we are!  Part 2 of our 5 part Europe travel series, chronicling our whirlwind of an awesome trip to Europe last month.  If you missed it, see Europe with a Toddler, Part 1: Paris, France {here}.

Today I'm sharing our Brussels, Belgium photos with you.  We only got to stay in Brussels for a few hours as it was a quick pit stop in our drive from Paris to our friends' house in Germany, but I'm ever so glad we did stop because had we not we would have missed one of the most breathtaking vistas in all of Europe.  That vista, you ask...the Grand Place.  It's the central square of Brussels and it's surrounded by some of the most beautiful architecture you'll ever see.

 (I promise, she's almost happy here)

Random traveling-with-kids tip: As much as fluorescent colors can make your eyes bleed, it's worth putting your kids in bright colors when you travel abroad.  They're so much easier to spot quickly!  For example...below.

 Belgian selfie time!

It's usually not worth it to eat on the most touristy plazas in Europe - the upcharge is at least double what you'd pay compared to a cafe just a few blocks away from the hubbub - but I can say it was WORTH IT to experience a little bite with this view.

Because you can't leave Belgium without experiencing a Belgian waffle, we indulged.  And, because they're famous for their chocolate too, why not add that on top??

Not to rub it in...yes, it tastes even better than it looks.  Not to rub it in even more...yes, my people are cute.

Here's a photo of the City Hall building in the Grand Place that was constructed in the 1400s!  That's right folks, Columbus hadn't even found his pretty little way over here to North America by the time this baby was near finished...sadly, the timeworn patina of architectural beauty like this is something we simply do not get to experience here in the States.

Although it's a seemingly unnecessary annoyance to pay to use the bathroom at most restaurants in Europe (like a Euro a squat!), sometimes you get worthwhile opportunities to climb the stairs to the bathrooms and take photos like this from above.

One of my favorite family pics from the trip...  (Thank you Instagram filter!)

Here are a few wikipedia pics of the Grand Place - to help you take it all in - because I didn't have a wide angle viewfinder on my iPhone.  It's honestly jaw-dropping in its splendor.


They install the above "flower carpet" display in August every two years.  It's made up of begonia flowers arranged in an intricate floral design.  We didn't get to see it, but I would love to see that in person someday.

We also didn't get to see the Grand Place at night, but it looks truly spectacular glowing with lights at dusk in the photo above.

Although we were only in Brussels for a short time, it was long enough to want to go back and experience so much more of the beautiful country.  It's back on my long list for sure!!  We at least have to go back and see the peeing statue, being that it's bucket list material and all...

Next week, I'll share our small town Germany and small town Netherlands photos...til then!

May 13, 2014

A Nursery Design: A Calm Coral Oasis

As you all know, I love to design.  True confessions, sometimes when I'm idle I think about rooms belonging to my family members and friends and consider ways to decorate their spaces.  I'm crazy, I know! (but they still love me thankfully)

On that very note: the other day I was thinking about my sister and brother-in-law who recently bought a beautiful model home in Colorado.  I'm really ready for them to have a baby (no pressure guys but Addison needs a familial playmate for family gatherings...)  They have a great room upstairs that we call Addison's "guest room" that will morph perfectly into a nursery someday.  I know my sister loves the coral color right now, so why not throw together a little nursery inspiration board for that room??

So, Jenna and it is.  The nursery for your future baby girl (wink! wink!):

See guys, you don't even have to repaint!!  Here's a photo of the room we're working with - great light, beautiful white moulding/bead board starting at the plate rail level, and a really pretty green color (Sherman Williams Tupelo Tree) that can totally work with coral as a main accent color.

For your continued viewing pleasure, here are close-ups of the fabric that inspired the space...

So what do you think?  (Besides that I'm crazy...)  Should Jenna and Beau have a little girl so we can make this nursery design a reality?

May 9, 2014

Europe with a Toddler, Part 1: Paris

We've been back from our trip for a week now, and I've been busting at the seams with excitement to share all of our travel highlights with you.  I figured I'd split up our pictures and share them in parts with posts organized by country.  We visited 5 countries so it will likely be a four or five part series.

Without further ado, hang on to your boots for a high-speed journey through our Europe travels (high-speed but with a nap in the middle of the day...).  Here goes post number one: Paris!

After traveling through the night (best way to travel with little ones I must long as they sleep), we arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Paris at 10am for Day 1 of our adventure.

We pulled up to our hotel - Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan, Paris Eiffel - and were super excited to see this view from the front door...I mean how good does it get??

The hotel was fabulous - the staff was engaging with our little one (gave her a rose upon arrival!), the location was phenomenal (see photo above), and the amenities were very nice (a large modern bathroom and Nespresso machines in the room...Amen, Hallelujah!)

Our bathroom had a window which was very nice in a hotel room...our view from the bath was quaint and very Parisienne.

After we settled in a bit, we started to explore the areas around our hotel.  There were flower shops everywhere. (Oh, why can't the rest of the world follow suit with that?)

I'm a french onion soup fan no matter where I am, but no place can do French Onion soup like Paris!!

Architecture love on overload, folks...

We strolled around Trocadero circle and got our first close-up view of the Eiffel Tower!

Then we took a short walk over to the Are de Triomphe on the Champ Elysees...

We didn't bring our stroller with us this first day but everything was quite close so we made it alright with the babe.  There was a bit of "hold me" going on, but we averaged about 5-8 miles off walking per day in Paris so that can be expected.  Our last event before an earlier bed time was a super yummy dinner at a gourmet burger joint and some dessert - ice cream and a crepe - at the local Haagen-Dazs.

I think all our excitement and a well-deserved nap in the late afternoon helped get us through the first day.  We all slept well that night and were rearing and ready to go for Day 2.

Day 2 was our private tour day.  We HIGHLY recommend splurging a bit for a solid private tour.  Here's learn so much more about the culture and the people, and you get to see so much more of the city than you would with a large tour group.  They gauge it to your needs and go at your pace which was very important with a three year old on board.

Our guide, Pamela, of Paris Strolls was phenomenal!!  We booked her based on her stellar TripAdvisor ratings (always check out the TripAdvisor website before traveling abroad) and we were so pleased with our time with her.  If you go to Paris, you must check out her stroll options.

We started out in a taxi with another quick visit to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, then we cruised down past the Louvre (we visit again tomorrow...).

Then we started the walking portion of the tour at Place de la Bastille, where a monument stands signifying the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

We walked through the Marais District, which has some amazing architecture and even more amazing parks!

The Place des Vosges in the Marais was one of my favorite sites in Paris...

Isn't it just quintessential Paris??  Then we visited Le Eclaire de Genie for a little snack.

I don't typically like eclairs but this was divine...

After our snack we got to see one of the few remaining timber and plaster facades in Paris which dates back to the Middle Ages when all the buildings looked this way.

Then we crossed a few bridges as we walked through the two islands that sit in La Seine - Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis.  If I had a little spare change, I'd live on Ile Saint-Louis in a little pied a terre  of my own.  A girl can dream, right?

The Notre Dame Cathedral sits on the larger of the two islands, Ile de la Cite.

There is so much meaning in every little detail of Notre Dame.  You could spend a full day learning about it.

You can see in the photo below that we're getting a little tired at about this point (check out that face in the middle), so we were glad we only scheduled a half day tour.  Pamela was so patient with us - she rocked!!

We rounded out our tour with a short walk through the Latin Quarter of Paris.  It's called the Latin Quarter because it's where the first universities were established and the academics all spoke Latin at the time.

We got to walk through the coolest old restaurant - Le Procope - which was founded in 1686 and was a favorite meeting place for many of the people who planned and led the French Revolution.

Sadly, we didn't get to eat there.  Maybe the next time we get to visit Paris...because at this point, smiles aside, it was time for a N-A-P.

After a nap, our friends (who live in'll see in the rest of our photos because they were with us for the rest of our trip!) joined us for some lunch at a little bistro near our hotel.  Bon appetit!

We finished this day just catching up and enjoying each other's company.  It's so wonderful to see the faces of old friends when you're far from home!

Day 3 began with an early arrival at the Louvre.  You can purchase advance tickets but we weren't sure which day we'd go, so we opted to arrive when it opened at 9am and stand in line.  It wasn't all that bad for us, but I've heard it can be a bear.

To be fully honest, we really breezed through the Louvre because we only had a few must-sees on our list.  I know that sounds like sacrilege to most people but when you have a toddler in tow only the must-sees are worth seeing...know what I mean?

Mona Lisa, check!

(she's so stinkin' small in person...squint and you'll see her in the background)

Venus de Milo, check!

(a favorite quote..."Where's the lady with no arms?" - my 3 year old)

Egyptian artifacts, check! (which by the way have nothing on the Museum of Antiquities collection in Cairo)

(I call this "The Pedicure")

By this point we were all grumpy and put-out with the crowds so it was time for open air activities...boat ride on La Seine anyone?

It was really good to get a boat perspective of Paris.  It's another beautiful and unique view that helps you take it all in and I've never met a toddler that doesn't want to go for a ride in a boat. 

After another much-needed nap (do you see the trend here?), we headed back over to the Latin Quarter to a must-visit street called Rue Descartes for dinner.  You could eat every meal on this street and be a very happy camper.  There were so many restaurant options and they all looked so good!

We ate at La Maison de Verlaine which has 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and gets 2 happy thumbs up from us!

I had the best steak I had ever had (smothered in French cheese)...and that's saying a lot for a girl born and mostly-raised in Texas.  I know my beef...

Creme brulee anyone?

The building that housed the restaurant just happened to be the building where Ernest Hemingway lived when he was an expat in Paris from 1921-1925.  How cool is that?

 (Anyone else read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain?  It's a good read!)

We finished off the night with some gelato and fun on Rue Descartes.  Had we discovered this street sooner, we would have been back for every meal...

Day 4, our last day in Paris, was really only a morning in Paris.  We did one very critical thing before we left - find some macarons!  You simply cannot go to Paris and skip macarons.

The friendly concierge at the hotel told us to skip the lines of the famous LaDuree on the Champ Elysees, and head to the closer and more boutique Pierre Herme.

Ooo La La, check out the color and design in this place!!  I'm so very glad we got the recommendation.

Are you drooling yet?  Macarons are the ultimate edible eye-candy.  They taste even better than they look...really!

This was my first introduction to macarons, and I'm a believer!  I always thought they were hard but they're actually soft and the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious.

A revoir Paris!  Onward to Brussels, Belgium...that post (a.k.a. tour) is scheduled for next week.
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