Hello, Dalai!

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This week and weekend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in Birmingham to attend a symposium at the University of Alabama Birmingham on Neuroplasticity and Healing. Today, he’ll talk to the public in two events at Regions Field (one in conjunction with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Gah!). Tickets for today’s events were sold out, but we didn’t totally miss out on the festivities. For the past few days over at Railroad Park, Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery have been hard at work creating a mandala in honor of the Dalai Lama’s visit, and we were lucky to swing by while they were still at it. Creating the mandala is a painstaking process—it starts as a sketched outline and gets filled in with individual grains of colored sand—but a peaceful one to watch. This was just one more of an increasing number of discoveries that make us appreciate all that our new hometown has to offer. You can read more about the Dalai Lama’s visit and the creation of the mandala here.

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A Crisp, New(ish) Country Road

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If you know me, you know that I like to shop online. And that I do it often. But something that piqued my interest during a recent session wasn’t a pair of shoes or cute dress (well, not exactly), but what appeared to be a brand’s total makeover. While scrolling through my Pinterest feed, a shift dress (pictured above) with short, fluttery sleeves in a crisp black-and-white stripe stopped me in my tracks. When I saw that Country Road was the Pin’s point of origin, I figured I must be confused. There’s no way it’s that Country Road, I thought. Until then, my only exposure to the Australian brand had been its store at the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, New York. I immediately remembered walking into it as a college student and weaving between racks of neatly hung houndstooth blazers and black trousers. It wasn’t exactly my speed. Fast forward nearly 15 years and the site I had just clicked into was a bright and airy online showroom—almost Scandinavian in its sparseness—filled with clean-lined separates and dresses in crisp, graphic prints, like windowpane plaid, stripes, and the occasional floral. And I wanted everything I saw. But I didn’t want to fork over extra cash for international shipping, so I put it out of my mind. Country Road popped up on my radar again last week, though, when I came across an article on The Cut proclaiming Australian model Gemma Ward to be making her comeback in a beautiful new campaign for—who else?—Country Road (see below). Partnering with the doll-faced model ubiquitous in the early aughts seemed like proof that the brand was for sure kicking its image into a new higher gear. And it turns out it’s true, only the transformation started 10 years ago. I’d say mission: accomplished. As for whether these pieces are as gorgeous in real life as they look online, well, I might have to fork over the funds for shipping and find out.

Country Road clothing

1. Mesh Back Tank // 2. Block Stripe Neoprene Skirt // 3. Sheer Solid Dress // 4. Raffia Trim Wrap Dress

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// Women’s Lookbook //

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Did you know about Country Road? What brands’ transformations have you been surprised or delighted by?

Before & After

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Leafing through the pages of a shelter magazine (um, ahem) or scrolling through pictures of dreamy homes on Pinterest, it’s all too easy to take gorgeous interior design for granted. It’s like devouring a plate of delicious food that’s been placed before you: you recognize that it tastes fantastic, but without any understanding of the painstaking process by which it was created—ultimately, what exactly makes it taste that good. That’s why, when it comes to homes, I love a good Before & After story. Sure, the “after” shots show the falling-down-gorgeous results of a renovation, but the “befores” are the key component, providing insight into an interior designer’s gift for seeing a space’s potential when most of us would never even know where to begin. Here are a few of my recent favorites.

Actor’s Upgrade
Dexter star Michael C. Hall hired interior designer Kishani Perera to give a 1920s Spanish-style home (kitchen below; bedroom above) in Los Feliz, California, a hefty and heavenly refresh.

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Mississippi Makeover
A Louisiana couple looking for an escape spent three years renovating a plantation in Fayette, Mississippi, to marvelous results. (The exterior’s transformation will blow your mind! Click below to see.)

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Loft’s New Life
On the Nate Berkus show American Dream Builders, two teams made over a pair of L.A. lofts. The team that worked on this one said its goal was to “combine high style, modern function, and masculine tones.” Mission accomplished! kitch beforekitch afterImages via Elle Decor

A Better Bedroom
HGTV star Emily Henderson recently documented the upgrading of a guest bedroom in her somewhat recently purchased home. There weren’t many (if any?) structural changes, but, wow, is the change amazing! It looks like an entirely different room.

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Do you have any favorite Before & Afters—perhaps from your own home? Share!

Office Envy

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I work in a pretty standard corporate setting (for the most part, anyway; our public spaces are pretty awesome) and have been thinking a lot lately about ways to style my own office. I’ve always thought it’s important to be surrounded at work by things that are familiar, stylish, and inspiring given the amount of time we spend there, but it can be tough to do when an office suite is a maze of cappuccino-colored carpet and cubes. So far, I’ve picked up a few pieces of art and have some other ideas in mind to shake up my space a bit. In the mean time, here are a few companies whose chic, design-forward, and sometimes whimsical offices crush the competition when it comes to inspiring surroundings.

Beats by Dr Dre (pictured above, too)

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Refinery29

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Urban Outfitters & Free People

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The Honest Company

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Moda Operandi

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Can you imagine walking into these offices with a hot cup of joe each day? I’d also love to see the corporate offices of Lululemon, Piperlime/Athleta, Tibi, Pinterest, and Instagram. Whose offices would you love to see inside?

Leif Peeping

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Over the last few years I’ve fallen in love with home design, from interiors to furniture to décor. But it’s not something I’ve tried at all very hard to apply in my real life, which I blame on what’s been a pretty nomadic lifestyle. In the 11-plus since years since I finished college I’ve lived in four different cities—and states!—and eight different apartments, counting our current situation. That kind of movement doesn’t exactly inspire one to pour a bunch of blood, sweat, and tears (or cash) into a real design scheme. But while Pinning some gorgeous rooms and fun decorative things earlier this week I was reminded of a site I love called LEIF, which stocks super-colorful, boho-chic, graphic-print house stuff for won’t-break-the-bank prices. (They have great accessories, too.) With our latest move, job change, and wedding now behind us, I’m thinking a few simple swap-ins and updates would go a long way in making our cookie-cutter apartment feel more like a stylish abode. Here are a few things that made it onto my wish list—and might, some day, make it into our home.

1. Brass Hexagon Planter // 2. Herringbone Salt Cellar // 3. 16″ Kilim Pillow, Mystic Journey // 4. Neon Green Geo Laser Cut Artwork // 5. Grid Planter //  6. Confetti-Print Tea Towel (on sale!) // 7. 18″ Kilim Pillow, Bolivian Stripe // 8. Tchaikana Metallic Laser Cut Artwork // 9. Cable Knit Planter // 10. Greyscale Triangles Wool Blanket // 11. Cities Coaster Set // 12. “Hot Pink” Print // 13. “Firecracker” Print // 14. Pyramid Salt Cellar // 15. Rainy Day Wool Throw // 16. Leo Wool Blanket // 17. Copper Patina Planter //  18. Two Tone Stripe Bath Towel

What shops and websites do you love for home décor?

Maine Attraction: Bar Harbor

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Years and years (and years) ago, my parents took my brother and me on a summer vacation around New England. I was too little to remember most of it in much detail, but I can still picture the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY; the Cheers bar in Boston; the gold-domed state house in Montpelier, VT; and a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. But the destination that sticks out most in my mind is Bar Harbor, Maine. I know it stood out for my parents, too, and more specifically my mom, who has both threatened and promised many times over the years to pack her bags and move to the oceanfront enclave for good. She and I spent a few days in Bar Harbor a couple years ago (happily, I was able to find an adult-size hoodie from Cool As a Moose to replace the original one I wore out as a kid), and my parents headed there together just last month after our wedding in Newburyport. They say the town has grown exponentially in the years since our first visit—and even since our visit just two years ago—but judging by their pictures, it’s also still the same sweet hamlet that stole all our hearts all those years ago. A few things that made it onto their itinerary: a stay at the new West Street Hotel, a visit to Acadia National Park, and a stop at The Jordan Pond House Restaurant for some of its legendary popovers.

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Have you re-visited a favorite place from your childhood? How different was it?

Note: All of these photos were taken by my parents, so thanks to them for letting me share them with you all!

Wedding Week, Part 4: Little Palm Island Mini-moon

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When we first started thinking about our honeymoon, we wanted to go away right after our wedding for a nice, long break. At the time, we also had no idea that we’d be making a major move down South for my new job, which threw our logistics off but which also meant less vacation time for me since I’d be starting it halfway through the year. We weren’t sure what to do, but we did know that, after the spring and summer we’d just had, we weren’t willing to skip our honeymoon altogether. In the end, we booked three nights at Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys, a tranquil little slice of paradise that we visited last year and loved. The tiny island is accessible only by boat and is populated by thatch-roof bungalows with jetted tubs, outdoor showers, and giant king-size beds draped in frothy mosquito netting (the beds are so high off the ground that step stools are placed at either side so guests can climb in). What the island lacks, gloriously, is TVs, thumping nightclubs, loud music, and just about any sign of life besides other guests, staff, birds, geckos, and a few adorable key deer. After just three days and nights of fabulous meals, long naps by the pool, paddle-boarding, boating, and two soul-soothing spa treatments apiece, we found ourselves feeling surprisingly refreshed and relaxed, if just a touch reluctant to return to the real world after the best week ever.

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Wedding Week, Part 3: Our Big Day!

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It’s hard to believe that, after counting down for nearly a year, our wedding day is now two weeks behind us. It feels like it was yesterday, and I’m sure it’ll be a while before the overwhelming feelings of love and excitement from that day subside.

We picked Ceia Kitchen & Bar, a gorgeous restaurant in the heart of downtown Newburyport, for our venue. We chose Ceia not only because the space itself is beautiful—brick walls, iron chandeliers, copper tabletops, polished wood floors—but because its food, wine, chefs, staff, and service are the best in the area. We knew it would be a special experience for our guests. Having our wedding at Ceia meant having the best of both worlds—a sophisticated, city-caliber restaurant in the heart of a charming small town. My husband and I each grew up in somewhat small places, and between us, we’ve lived in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, among other places, so it was a fitting scenario.

While the guys and all of our guests relaxed and spent the day around town, I started it off with a mani/pedi with two of my best girlfriends (the sweet ladies at the shop surprised us with mimosas and, oddly enough for a 9:30 a.m. appointment, plates of tortilla chips, dip, and salsa, but, hey!—mimosas!) and continued on to hair and makeup at Interlocks and lunch at Revitalive with my mom and my mother-in-law. From there, it was back to our inn to get dressed and take a few last deep breaths before things got fully under way. One of my favorite moments from the night was the short walk to the restaurant from our inn with my parents (my groom and my brother made the walk over together ahead of us), and then making my way into the restaurant and spotting my beaming soon-to-be-husband at the back of the room. I don’t remember every single moment of our ceremony clearly—to say I was nervous would be a huge understatement—but what I do remember of the day is the breathtaking feeling of love that emanated from my husband, our families, and our friends, and—as you can see in these pictures, taken by our friend and photographer Doug Levy—the sheer joy that lasted long after the last glass of champagne had been drunk. Cheers!

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What an incredible day! Thanks to all of our family and friends for making it unforgettable!

Wedding Week, Part 2: A Warm Welcome

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In planning our wedding, my Mr. and I decided to skip having a traditional wedding party in favor of asking everyone to come and enjoy themselves strictly as our guests instead. So, without the need for a rehearsal dinner, we planned a welcome dinner for the whole group the night before the wedding to give our guests a chance to meet and make friends prior to the big day. Given that our wedding was set in an adorable New England town, we wanted to keep piling on the charm and host this dinner at a venue that offered water views, fresh seafood, and plenty of space for milling around. That’s exactly what we found in the Black Cow. For months, I worked with the restaurant’s delightful manager, who helped me put together a custom menu, set aside space on the covered deck, and even arrange a cupcake delivery from an outside vendor for a guest’s birthday that fell on that same date. We were treated to balmy breezes and a picture-perfect sunset, which made for a just-right night.

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Thanks so much to everyone at the Black Cow for helping us kick off our wedding weekend so smoothly!

Wedding Week: Everything’s Nicer in Newburyport

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Last October, when my now-husband and I got engaged, we weren’t immediately sure where we wanted to have our wedding. Boston, where we lived (at the time)? West Virginia, where I grew up? Somewhere entirely different, like Napa or Charleston? After several weeks of site visits and waffling, we landed somewhat in the middle of those options: We decided to get married in Newburyport, a sweet little coastal city about 40 miles north of Boston. It was small, charming, and beautiful and free from the sky-high expenses of getting married in the city. And for us, it felt like a destination affair, but without the hassle of long-distance planning. (Little did we know!)

Newburyport has an adorable and entirely walkable downtown, which is filled with cute shops (like Soak, my new favorite place thanks to its bath products, PJs, and robes), specialty stores (Best of British is a must for goodies like rubber wellies, Barbour jackets, Scottish-cashmere scarves, English chocolates, and my favorite British snack, Twiglets), ice cream and candy stores, and wonderful restaurants, like Brown Sugar by the Sea and Brine, to name just two. (Stay tuned for info on two particularly special restaurants in my next posts.) It’s easy to spend a day cruising for music and books, grabbing lunch and beers at a local pub, and even doing a little antiquing.

Newburyport also happens to sit right on the water, which makes for good strolling, sitting, picture taking, and ice-cream eating. One thing we loved most about hosting our wedding there was the idea that our guests would have a number of charming B&Bs and inns to choose from—like this one, this one, this one, and this one—rather than some big-box, brand-name hotels. It made the experience that much more authentic and, along with perfect weather, our most treasured family and friends, and so many fun things to do, one we’ll never forget.

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Downtown Newburyport

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Second only to our wedding venue, I spent most of my money over the weekend here, at Soak.

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Hello from Newburyport’s waterfront!

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A gray day on the waterfront, but it didn’t last long.

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Newburyport Harbor Range Rear Lighthouse

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Some of the hundreds of hand-made soaps at Soak, which we included in our guests’ welcome bags

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Twiglets from Best of British (certainly an acquired taste)

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A dining nook at the Clark Currier Inn

The Essex Street Inn

The Essex Street Inn

Having our wedding on a Friday night gave our guests (and ourselves!) ample time to enjoy the town, whose offerings are too many and too amazing to squeeze into this post. You can see a more complete overview here, on our wedding website.

Next up: our welcome dinner and wedding day! I can’t wait to share it with you all.

 

Note: The photos shown here were taken either by me or by my family members, so thanks to them for letting me share their shots here.