This is the cutest idea that I got from my friend Liz Bushong. Check out her blog at Brenna and I fell in love with Liz’s Valentine’s Day Love Letter made of pie crust and cherry pie filling. We set to work making it for my Mom. Our goal was to deliver it warm.

It was super easy. You need an envelope (think square), parchment paper, pie crust, cherry pie filling, butter and white sugar sprinkles.

Open your envelope all the way up. Trace the opened envelope onto the parchment paper and then cut it out. Place flattened pie crust on top of parchment paper. Cut your crust according to the parchment paper diameters.

Place pie envelope form on baking sheet. Spoon your cherry pie filling onto the center of the envelope, making sure to put some at the top of the envelope flap. Note: less is more! The cherry pie filling will expand.

Pinch the flaps of the envelopes back into place, leaving the top flap open. (And cherry filling on top of that part). I free handed a heart to cover the seems. We coated it with butter, and sprinkled on some white sugar.

We put it in at 350 for ten minutes, and kept watching it. I think we pulled it out at twelve minutes, but I’m not sure because we were was so excited about its cuteness! Be careful, the size of the envelope will expand and it will finish much bigger than when you started. This lead us to make a round of tiny envelopes, which I wish I could show you. But I can’t. They were so cute, they ate them before I could snap a pic.

P.S. We did deliver this hot! (It helps my Mom lives three minutes away). It was a total Valentine’s success! xo


After the holidays, I like to strip down my decorations before I put them all away. I call this “transitional decor.” It’s when you just aren’t ready to let go. Packed away are the Santas, the snowmen, the sleighs.

I leave out the decorations that are more fancy and speak to New Year’s. Here I grouped vintage finials. Using sticky candle wax, I secured the finials in candlesticks and thin vases. This gives me the height want. I also snuck in the spoon trees I did for eHow a few years ago. (I remember when I got the assignment to make “spoon Christmas trees.” I was not thrilled. Then, I made them & have been in love ever since!)



You know I love a White House Christmas! This throw back pic is from 2014 when I was the luckiest girl in the world designing White House Christmas decor. This is a “pop up” book display that I designed with my friend, and artist, Jenn Lange. We made four for the East Room Fireplaces.

They were riddled with DIY challenges, but for now, I’m just remembering how beautiful they were!


Yay Fall!  In almost no time, I made these awesome pumpkin/succulent centerpieces & you can too.


Hallow out your pumpkins, and simply place your tiny succulents in them, like you would any planter. Have some extra potting soil on hand.  Go for unusual colors, like this white, for a new and different look.  For bigger pumpkins, group different succulents together.  Give them a good watering as you plant, and they’ll require almost no upkeep.  Stack pumpkins and gourds for height.  Happy Fall-ing!



This craftsman kitchen was so much fun to design! My favorite things are the black “leather” counter tops on the outlying cabinets vs. the white marble of the island. (Note: no island seam! I did it! I found a 12 foot slab of the exact marble we needed!) Be sure to check out my interpretation of a modern “butler’s pantry.” It’s the shelving that leads to the pantry. I added a swinging door to keep it super fun and interesting. And, I know you won’t believe it, but I trash picked the table and chairs! Check back later for the video showing how I saved the table, and of course, the chairs have a secret too.






I love working with teens because they know what they want and they aren’t afraid to break rules. How much fun would it be to hang out here? The best part of this room is we ditched the headboard in favor of a colorful map tapestry.


I call this “elevated college dorm.” It has all the freedom of a room you decorated all on your own, but is pulled together using color and collections. And yes, a collection can be as simple as the green Perrier bottles on the sofa table, which for our purposes has been converted into a desk.


Don’t be afraid to have fun with design!


And find a way to display what your client loves…it makes a house a home!




Powder rooms are small spaces, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a big design impact. Here, our super modern vanity steals the show with it’s clean, sleek look. I accessorized with a silver fruit collection, a fun take on the old fruit bowl.

Still deciding what to do with the walls. Until then, I’m happy!

It’s Christmas in July! Check out my latest appearance on Hallmark’s Home & Family. (video link above).


July is the perfect time to craft for Christmas! There’s no stress, you can actually give some thought to your Christmas decor and you can enjoy the crafting. (It’s also a great time to sort through your Christmas clutter….but that’s the subject of another post.)

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Here I made gumball trees that Mrs. Obama displayed in the State Dining Room last December. I also showed Barbara Bush’s ballet slipper ornaments. But maybe the craft I’m most excited about are these chic, modern gold nutcrackers! They were featured in the Red Room in 2013.

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Watch the clip for all the how too’s and DIY steps. Merry! Merry!


Red carpet! Shiny statues! Beautiful people! I’m in. There’s nothing I love more than Oscar Week (ok – maybe a good DIY) and this morning I’m going back to my Access Hollywood/Gossip Girl roots. Tune in to NJ 101.5 in the 9 o’clock hour (ok 9:08am exactly) to hear Bill Spadea and I talk everything Oscars. Leo! Rocky! Brie! Giftbags! (Maybe that should just say giftbags – they’re worth over $200,000 this year!)

NJ 1015. w/ Bill Spadea & me. 9:00 hour. Be Oscar ready.


Tune in Christmas morning to catch me talking about Christmas with the First Ladies! If you can’t because of Santa’s arrival make sure to set your DVR!


One thing I love about the holidays is using colors that you already have in your home and making them festive. Here I used my blue and white dinner ware and paired it with timings of silver and white. You can have a blue and white Christmas with just adding touches of ornaments or colored foliage to really pull your look into a cohesive decor.



Dr. Oz was nice enough to have me on his show as a guest blogger, and what did I do? I stole his fantastic idea. Well, actually it was his staffs’ fantastic idea, but he loved it.  It seems when they  didn’t know what to get the guy who has everything, someone came up with perfect gift.  They stocked the green room with a “nut bar.”   I stole this idea and now I to have nut jars, instead of a cookie jar, on the counter.


We have nuts out and ready to grab at moments notice. Do the kids like them more than cookies? No, but I do see them eating them. So, I count this one as a win.


Now back to the show. Dr. Oz told me he really liked my hair (knew I liked him) and I got to practice my selfie skills.


But, sadly while I was away, someone did this to my kitchen and no one broke in to clean it up.

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Yes, this is what happens at my house when I’m at work. How about yours?


Restaurants are a super easy and convenient way to celebrate special events. My favorite tip is to customize your table — especially if its a small celebration. Above is what I had going on at our house.


And this is how it looked at the restaurant. Brenna and her friend were graduating elementary school, and we took them to a fancy restaurant to celebrate. I hit the craft store looking for something that said “school” to me, and left with the chalk board easels and letters. A little hot glue later, I had what my southern friends would call an appropriate monogram. I added some flowers in the tiny watering cans and headed to the resturant a few minutes early.


The girls were surprised and felt really special. The best part about this, is you get a lot of impact for a little work. The restaurant does all the hard stuff– ironing the table cloth, cleaning the glasses, polishing the silver (ok, that might be over the top, but you get the idea). You do only the fun stuff. Try it next time, you’ll be happy you did.

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No more pencils, no more books… our living room at least!  The kids went back at it again last June and collected recycled school supplies to donate to students in need.  Year 2 was a big success as you can see by the mess in our house.

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This year the local media even got in on the story as one angry resident wrote an editorial and made the same observation that my kids already had: perfectly good school supplies end up in the trash come the last day of school. The newspaper covering the story shared what my kids were doing to donate barely used school supplies. This lead to even more donations. At this rate, we will probably be buried in binders next year.


Still, this good deed is pretty simple.  The kids collect the supplies in boxes the last week of school, then they sort and clean them, and we drop off to a donation center.   We got such a warm welcome at the Trenton Soup Kitchen that we will be back for sure next year.


I love people who get having parties. My sister-in-law Christie is one of those people. She’s goes all out for my niece’s birthday, and I love it! This year it was an ice cream party, complete with a centerpiece made of ice cream sprinkles and tissue paper.


For the sundae bar, cones and cups were dipped in chocolate and sprinkles.


With all the toppings you could want.


The ice cream cone bunting by was adorable. Christie made tissue flowers and glued them in paper cones, and strung them across the window.


In fact, every place she could put a tissue paper cone, she did! Can’t wait for next year.


Ok Trendy Tuesday still is not coming naturally. And yes, I missed it last week. But I’m back! This cute shirt was only $7.00 at H&M, proving again, I have no excuses.

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And shocker! I  saw my new shirt in an On Cor Frozen Food commercial! Not exactly what I was targeting, but I will take it. If it’s good enough for a commercial director and stylist on a national ad campaign, than it’s good enough for me.  Strange, the woman in the On Cor commercial looks oddly younger in her shirt than I do. Her house is also cleaner. Guess that’s the magic of TV.

PS along with my killer fashion instinct, I’m also fine tuning my modeling.


And, from behind, we could be twins!

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I’m a big fan of porches. Who isn’t? What I love about this one is it’s simple charm.


Nothing here is super expensive, and that’s part of the beauty. I’m sure you’d love to spend some time here.


The blue pot and yellow wreath are the perfect touch of color. And the pot just leaves you dreaming of shucking summer corn. Or better yet, the kids shucking corn.


You get the impression this family has everything it needs: a porch for dreaming, a pot for cooking, wood for warm fires.


And who doesn’t love a milk box. This porch is more than design. It’s a call to a lifestyle. Love!

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With sadness, I note the too soon passing of White House Chef Walter Scheib. Walter was the White House Chef for eleven years and served both President Clinton and President George W. Bush. He was funny and charming and helped me often when I was writing my book, Christmas with the First Ladies.

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These are some pics Walter shared with me a few year ago. He loved his job, did it brilliantly and always was humbled to be working in the White House. RIP Walter.

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Want a little zen with your happy hour? Yoga Happy Hour mixes a little wine and a little meditation. Meant for beginners, everyone is welcome. Making new friends is encouraged.


Great way to start off the weekend.


Ok, I came up with that title a year ago. That’s how long I’ve been thinking about upping my fashion game. Guess I didn’t want to jump into anything!  (It did not take that long to find an orange dress — just fashion lazy!!!)


Found this cute dress at Francesca’s at the mall. Think it was in the $35.00 range. Took a risk with orange, because as a redhead I used to shy away from that color. Decided to live dangerously. Besides, it’s Trendy Tuesday and I don’t have a ton of time. Orange it is.


See how happy I am in my trendy dress?  The fit isn’t great, but its more good than bad. I find Francesca’s is great if your short like me. I don’t have to worry about alterations. Price is good and it is trendy. Here’s my warning: you have to try on and be age aware. In general, I think the store is geared at girls in their 20’s.


And here’s my tip: always splurge for the accessories. They’ve got stylists working for them. Steal the look. Don’t even bother getting dressed if you don’t have an accessory. On Trendy Tuesday at least. So which necklace is better? Gold and Orange or Wood?



One of my favorite things about summer is when these signs pop up, letting us know fresh produce is just steps away at the farm store. I mean, what about a giant strawberry doesn’t make you happy?


And who can resist fresh eggs when they’re marketed like this?!


I don’t even have a dog and I want to have one of these parties! My genius friend Pam had a tailgate birthday party for her dog Jack at the local dog park.  For Jack’s 5th birthday, they showed up at the park ready tailgate! Anyone who was there was welcome to join in. How fun is that? I especially love that Jack dressed up for his special day. Nothing’s better then being classically understated.

Next stop, I just saw a flyer advertising cocktails at our local dog park. Really? Canines and Cocktails? Might be time to get a dog.


Okay girls, just figure out a way to make this one early for your daughters. You will reuse it every year and just think how adorable the pictures will be as your little one grows up in her birthday sash. I also expect you to wear it on your own bday!

You can make this as easy or as complicated as you wish. If you don’t sew, find a friend who does. It’s practically no fabric, and no time. Think pre-cut letters from the craft store, some hot glue and some embellishments. It’s years of fun.  Special thank you to Aunt Deb who made this sash — my mom, myself and my daughter have all worn it!  Family heirloom!

Teacher Tip:  These are also a fun way to celebrate birthdays as school….especially since sweets are now outlawed!



I’ve taken the fashion challenge. Ok, in full disclosure this was my New Year’s Resolution that I am just getting too. (Resolutions don’t actually expire until 12/31. So I’m still ok). Why now? Honestly, I didn’t have much choice since at any moment the crew from What Not to Wear could come out of retirement just to save my sad fashion state. From here on out, it’s Trendy Tuesday. (Sorry people, I did not think a whole week was reasonable or possible). Here are the rules: must be trendy, must be Tuesday, must not cost a lot of money. To start the shirt I scored at the Lilly for Target free for all. Here’s the blog post if you missed the blow by blow



I brake for farm stands…who doesn’t!!!! This week amazing asparagus and everyone’s favorite, peonies.



Here’s my no fail tips for both: blanch asparagus for one minute in boiling water for perfection. Now for those peonies, if you ever cut them fresh and brought them into your home, you know you’re asking for an ant invasion. Prevent this by filling a bowl with warm water and a drop of dish washing soap. Dip the peony in the water, submerging the flower. Roll slightly, and the ants should come sliding off. Shake flower gently. Arrange. Peonies will dry in no time.


I got my myself involved in a preppy feeding freenzy, and all I got was this dumb shirt. Actually, I really like the shirt. And, I was really lucky to get it. Unlike a lot Lilly fans, I had fun at the Target Lilly Pulitzer free for all and have something to show for it.


It’s all Cousin Courtney’s fault. She told me about it the night before. So, I didn’t have four months to plot and plan and get all worked up over the Lilly for Target Look Book and ad campaign the way many super fans did. I just heard we had to get up early (already there!) and that it would be competitive. It sounded like a retail yard sale. It was a special collection for Target and prices were super reasonable. Dresses $45., shirts $26.50. I have no idea what the normal stuff goes for (except high), and I have been playing around with the idea of being more fashionable. I was in.


It only looked mildly intimidating at first. Some preppy gals in floral prints with cute flip flops or Sperry’s. A few camped out in lawn chairs. It was chilly. We got there an hour early and were number 10 and 11 in line. But the number grew to about 60, and the girl at the head of the line announced she was going to grab everything. Ouch. New level of mean girl, wearing pink and lime green print.

Because of the Look Book everyone knew exactly what they wanted, myself included. People were even discussing what they might pick up for other people. Sizing was a big topic, along with how serious the girl at the front of the line was ( turns out very). War stories were swapped about the annual Lilly Warehouse Sale. The Preppy Crowd was trying to determine how fast they could hit Lilly Clothing, Lilly Housewares and Lilly Accessories. I was trying to figure out how fast I could hit the grocery department and get out of there when all was said and done.

The Target employee guarding the door could work for Black Ops. He gave us no info. Finally, the doors open. Suddenly, the women from the lawn chairs are draped in tote bags. Someone from the back of the line jets to the back of the store. Where was Cousin Courtney? Where was I?


Turns out I was at one of two small racks of clothing, right in front of the shirt I was looking for. I wanted to move and strike out at other locations, but I have been burned at an Easter Egg Hunt or two. I stayed where I was grabbed two sizes of the shirt I liked. It was a free for all. Where was all the stuff?


Turns out we all made a critical error by going to a smaller Target. We were right in thinking that there would be less people. We didn’t count on less merchandise. Lilly inventory was next to nothing. It was all gone in seconds. The people behind us definitely got nothing. Public service announcement: angry preppy’s are not fun.

I headed to the children’s department. (short girl secret, sometimes we can fit into the biggest sizes there). Scored a green and white jump suit in extra large. Headed to the dressing room that had a certain crazed edge to it. It all felt a little wild kingdom. The top worked out, the jump suit didn’t. Someone else nabbed it to sell on eBay.


Then everyone was gone, and I found myself alone in frozen foods. What was that all about? I circled back through the store. One or two dazed Lilly shoppers remained, clutching shift dresses. I went back to the Lilly Home section. It was like looking at a carcass on a wild kingdom show. And then, there they were. The Lilly indoor/outdoor lights that will look perfect in Brenna’s room. Sometimes it pays to be a Christmas decorator all year round.


Yes, Brenna asked where I stash the citric acid. My first thought was, why does she think we’d have this? My second thought was, should we?? We do encourage DIY in this house, but this felt like we might be getting into MacGyver territory. Short answer is that she needed it to make bath salts. First round, looked like above, and sadly, had no fizz.


But we don’t give up. Especially when the possibility for making a huge mess is at hand. Here’s the second round. Some fizz, but still not up to par. Update, while we still have no citric acid (its on the grocery list, which I have been begging them to make for ages), we are also now currently out of baking soda, food coloring and coconut oil. But I think she’s closing on success. #bathsalt #bathbomb #bath


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My pics from the Philadelphia Flower Show prove there’s an outside trend in the making: Organic Garden Walls. I loved this one made from fresh cut logs, and filled in with various garden plants. (By that, I mean, I have no idea what the varieties are called!) And anyone who knows me, knows I love to decorate with sticks (seriously). This just takes it to a different level.


Here’s a second option with thick vertical branches. Also, awesome.


Finally, copper is not only the color of the moment for interior decorating, it’s amazing outside as well. Love the shine the copper sheets bring to the garden.


One of my favorite things about parties are the special little touches. You can’t go wrong with a cupcake cross. And this year we branched out (thank you pinterest) to Bible Fig Newtons. Did you ever think you’d read those words?


But, aren’t they cute? They required fig newtowns, white icing in a baggy to pipe, and red fruit rolls ups. Cut one side of the fig newtown to give the appearance of a book. Then cut a thin slice of fruit roll up to resemble a book mark. I pressed my book mark into the cookie with a tooth pick. This was the trickiest part. Pipe with white icing. My most important tip– have your plate or platter ready to go. These don’t transfer easy. Make sure you use a doily — the fruit roll ups do stick to a bare plate and will pull apart.


Finally, look who chipped in and did all the cupcake icing!


My wonderful friend found love love again, and I am thrilled for her, but I might be even happier that she found Fishtail on the Upper East Side! It’s my new favorite spot for anything. Plus, it’s Celebrity Chef David Burke’s place. No, I’m not related. (But in my mind, all things are possible. Perhaps, my in-laws just haven’t introduced me to him yet? It’s plausible, they’re a quiet bunch and I’ve only been in the family 18 years).


As I mentioned, Fishtail would be awesome for anything. In this case it was a bridal luncheon, and it was divine.


Then again, they had me at the light fixtures. Can you say work of art?


The pieces in me was very, very happy.


My friend’s Bacholorette Party is coming up (really? I haven’t outgrown these??), and the invitation said “Lingere Only” for gifts. How I wish I could bring even one these!

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Just amazing…from the Philadelphia Flower Show. Love creative people.



You know all those birthday emails you get from different businesses? Well last year I got one from a yoga teacher from where I used to live, offering a free yoga class on my birthday. I wrote back telling him I moved, and asked if knew of any chants that were specific to birthdays.

Ok, did that last part come out of left field? I should tell you that I have been a fan of chanting for some time. It’s gotten me through some of the hardest parts of my life. I don’t think I could be a student of silent meditation, but chanting works for me. So it seemed appropriate to ask for a birthday chant. This is what he sent me:

I am the light of my soul.
I am beautiful.
I am bountiful.
I am bliss.

I was taken back by the chant, mostly because it is in English. I’m not sure what language I’ve been chanting in, but English it is not. In fact, the foreign sounds helped me in the beginning, because chanting in English would somehow make me feel ridiculous. Go figure.

But I looked at the words he sent and they were beautiful. And they were what I needed. So even though it was in English, I gave it a try. It was the first time anyone ever gave me a Birthday Mantra, even if I asked for it.

And this is what I found, after chanting it a few times, it stayed with me. I’d be making dinner, or doing laundry, and this mantra was the tape playing in my head: I am the light of my soul. I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am bliss. In a year, where I was getting older, certainly broke, and often saddened, it was a great message. Much better than some of the negative thoughts it crowded out.

So now it’s my gift to you. Try it out. I swear, it works. (Swearing, not good yogi behavior!) If you are uncertain, try it for three minutes. Find a quiet place, and say the words over and over. You can also find the words set to music on You Tube.

Honestly, one of the best Birthday gifts I ever got.


So, the vase obsession, or lack of vases, continues. A year with no flowers, and now, we’re rotting with them. We’re getting tired of looking at our improvised glass milk jar vases. Enter burlap. I’m still not over the burlap/twine trend.


So while we have no vases, we do have burlap. This time, I wrapped it around a empty can. You can either hot glue or pin it, whichever is easier. Viola! Vase crisis averted.



Ok, I shared with you in horror that we have no vases in the hotel house. Mom saved the day last week with some mason jars for Brenna’s flowers. Here we are at Valentine’s Day though, with no vases again. A problem I’m happy to have — since we went 11 months without a need for a vase! Thank God, this whole family is getting back on track. Just one more reason I love milk that comes in glass jars. Happy Valentine’s!


Everyday, Brenna is working on her 31 Day Nail Challenge. My first reaction was that it’s easy for her to do because she loves it and she’s just a kid. But the truth is she makes time to do it. And it takes a lot of work and patience. So after a particularly bad year of self neglect, and with Brenna as my inspiration, I’ve added a second resolution. (That’s right — I’m adding resolutions, while others are dropping theirs! Also, notice, I have yet to reveal my first resolution – because I haven’t done a thing about it.) OK, back to the second resolution. I am going to use hand cream for 31 Days. That probably seems like a lot of sentences to write about a little resolution. Well, you haven’t seen my hands. How hard could it be? I can already tell you that some days it will feel impossible. I’ve had this amazing hand cream on my desk since September when a friend gave it to me. That’s right, I looked at this for five months, and never opened it. So it might not be as easy as you think. But, I agree. It’s doable. #littlethings



Okay, I’ve become attached to the Crazy Garage Wreath, which I rescued from the trash. I just had to see it up close. And when I saw it up close, I kind of fell in love with it. And when I dropped over it over our Buddha Baby, I felt like it had found the perfect home.

So for the time being (until I regain my sanity), the Crazy Garage Wreath makes me smile every time I open the door.


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Remember last year when I told you about January Cookies? Well, today January Presents showed up! We exchanged presents with my Cousin Courtney (Cousin is a proper noun in this family!) when she showed up unexpectedly on January 14. I loved it. Of course, it helped that Courtney wrapped the presents in gold and white chevron. It felt more stylish and current than Christmas paper would have felt. It was as if our presents already realized their New Year’s Resolution and had a makeover!

So two things: 1) January Presents are fine by me! It really helps to have flexible deadlines on some items during the holidays, 2) if you take your decorations into January, paring down your décor to golds and silvers is a great way to go.

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And finally, an update on January Cookies . Daughter #2 informed me they were a complete failure, and she didn’t want to go that route again. She didn’t mention that last year when she was dipping them in milk…


A little known pet peeve of mine has to do with wreaths. I can’t stand when they are hung at the wrong height. And I can’t stand when they are the wrong size. And, it’s very common for both things to occur at once. Why? Why? WHY?

Now I know this is a first world problem. But I can’t help myself. I see these wreaths all over. I just want to fix them. Which is why, I became particularly obsessed with the garage wreath. That’s right, it was hanging just as you see it. And, I saw it at least twice a day, as I had to pass it on my way to the main road.

My first reaction was surprise: Look at that wreath! What is it doing way down there, thrown over the garage door handle??? Someone probably didn’t get to finish decorating, and just put it there so it would be out of the way.

But as the days wore on, it was clear the garage wreath was not moving. In fact, as I looked at it more closely, I wasn’t even sure it was a wreath. Just a wild looking circle type thing with gold garland flying off it.


Several scenarios crossed my mind. #1: The owner put it there, meant to move it, and just got used to it. Decided it didn’t look that bad. Thought maybe it was ok there afterall. This has happened to me. This theory had potential. I felt compassion for the decorator.

Theory #2: The owner thought it looked good there. This theory seems particularly absurd, but I guess it could happen. Not sure how this leaves me feeling toward the owner. Very hard to believe this could be it.

As the days went on, I noticed the garage wreath had a type of wild abandon about it. It’s garish gold garland haphazardly caught the wind. It did have a certain confidence about it. A certain joy. A certain individuality about it. Then it hit me, Theory #3: I bet there’s a reindeer car behind that garage door. And with that, I fell in love with the owner. ( If you missed the reindeer car )


This happy snow heart was made by boot heels, and melted my heart. #snowisnotsobad

UPDATE: I knew this pic reminded me of something, and I finally got it. Check out July Resolutions — which I still think is the perfect time for change. (As I struggle, with my New Year’s Resolution!!!)

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I love Brenna’s sixth grade teacher! I thought this was the most amazing gift that she gave to every student in the class. According to Brenna, it started like this: Mrs. L. wrote each student’s name on a blank sheet of paper. Then the paper was passed around the classroom and the students wrote down positive thoughts they had about that particular person. Nobody was allowed to see what anyone wrote about them. Mrs. L. later took all the words and organized them around the students’ names in bright colors (and I ran out of time with my holiday to –do list!) Finally, Mrs. L. framed the final product and gave them to the students, who by this time were sufficiently excited to see what was written.
(Read: they were out of their minds).

Brenna loved this gift. It was the gift of confidence from an adult outside her family. She sat quietly looking at it, and later explained the project to us, often mentioning just who wrote what. Can you imagine if you got a gift like that? In addition to fostering a child’s self- worth, Mrs. L. created such a neat atmosphere in the classroom, where the air was filled with everything that was great about each of the students. Maybe this should be mandatory in every work place! (Just kidding, right wing readers).

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Imagine what happens now if each parent hangs this present in the student’s home?
Of course, we promptly placed on the mantle where it became part of the decorations

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I got this in the mail the beginning of December – addressed to me, not the kids! I cannot even tell you how much fun I had with it. At first, I was like, oh, this is sweet. And I put it in my desk drawer. Every time I accidentally saw it, it made me smile. What could it be?

Soon, I decided it was too interesting to be in the drawer. Of course, I stuck it prominently on the tree. The envelope made me feel like a little kid. I considered opening it, and apparently I do have willpower (discussion of failed attempts of quitting sugar later), because I didn’t even attempt to steam it open. In fact, I savored not opening it. It even made me feel strong that I could resist it. If I could just not open the envelope, imagine what I can achieve! (yes, readers, this is where I am).

Once, it was on the tree, even the kids begged that we open it. As we closed in on Christmas, I called the sender to fill her in on what was happening. She promptly replied, “Oh God, it’s nothing.” I told her, I didn’t expect it to be anything, that I was just happy having so much fun with it. Plus, I really knew she put a key to a brand new car in that envelope.

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So the day after Christmas (feel my power growing!), I sat down with a cup of coffee and opened it. It was the sweetest necklace. It had a snow flake charm which reminded me immediately of a project we worked on together. I love it for a million reasons, including all the fun that went up to opening it.

Of course, I’m doing this next year. I am so sending a “Don’t open til Christmas” to some unsuspecting friend! Because what fun is Christmas without a little torture!

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Great to be invited back to CNN to tape their Christmas Day Show! Michaela always cracks me up (she promised next year to bring her Grandma’s rum cookies!), and as usual, a typical selfie. Thank you to those who noticed that I broke down and bought a blue dress. I was getting way tired of that red one.


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Yes, this is a Christmas Pyramid, or the closest thing we could get to it in the Burke house. The need for this architectural feat was revealed to me after a week of insane work travel with only hours to the deadline. (In retrospect, I was lucky I got the few extra design hours).

The scope of the project was revealed slowly, and I was lured into a sense that all was ok on the home front. I’d been away. They’d survived. Somehow everything was handled, except getting stuff together for the pyramid. Really? The Christmas Pyramid? Somehow that was left for me.

It didn’t sound awful at first, just annoying. Everyone had to bring in something to decorate the pyramid. Brenna’s class was learning about Egypt and instead of decorating gingerbread houses, Mrs. L’s class was going to decorate pyramids. Hurray for Mrs. L! She makes learning fun. I was exhausted, but what did I need to run out and pick up?

Uh, the pyramid? Well, what are the other kids bringing in? Heshey Kisses, gum drops, icing. Hershey kisses, gum drops, icing, and WE GOT PYRAMID? I looked at her face, and I just knew. You signed up for pyramid? You didn’t!!! She did.

My heart should have been warmed that she thought I could do it. That I would want to do it. But, it wasn’t. (Then at least.) Instead, like a scene from ‘Nam, flashes went through my head: ten cups cooked macaroni revealed at 7am same day they were due (Maeve in second grade). Four dozen cinnamon brownies for Spanish class (Maeve, 10th grade). Empanada dish (J., 7th grade). Pineapple smoothies (made to order no less in class, Brenna 4th grade) Four dozen cinnamon brownies (J., 9th grade) —wait didn’t I make these Spanish brownies already? Or was I so good at it, I got assigned them again?


So here’s the deal, as you can see in the time span of the above examples, kids don’t really get the hang of giving you notice on when to bring things in. And, they don’t make these things themselves. It doesn’t get better: “The teacher just told me! I forgot! College hinges on it! Please, I’m trying to make friends. Everyone wants empanadas!” You get the idea.

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What I’ve learned to do is to accept. Lord, grant me serenity for the things I cannot change. Yup, this is a childhood disease. I don’t know one mom friend who’s kid doesn’t have it. Also, if the whole class is bringing something in, don’t pay attention to the quantities. Whatever the first batch yields, that’s it. No matter what the assignment says. (trust me, half those cinnamon brownies will be back, but your containers won’t). And ask if they are actually going to eat it. Something makes me think those Egyptian pyramids might have gone up with hot glue…


This really happened, but it was a couple of years ago. Let’s say it’s not easy to forget. I was given a pair of car reindeer antlers by an adoring daughter who was sure she got me the perfect gift. I, gulp, put them on my car. Because it was the perfect gift. I was not breaking any hearts that Christmas.

If you have seen them, I’m referring to the kit that comes with a red nose for the center of your car’s grill, and two antlers that clip to the roof of your car. In under three minutes, my car was transformed into a mobile reindeer. Not your vision of motherhood? Just wait.

The first time I took my reindeer car out, of course, I was driving the kids somewhere. They loved it! And almost immediately, a strange occurrence. There was no driving stress for me. Drivers of reindeer cars don’t cut people off, or get annoyed at other drivers. In fact, drivers of reindeer cars let people in, yield and wave to other drivers, drive slowly. They enjoy the ride. I’d love to say the kids stopped fighting, but this isn’t a fantasy. Just us running around town, sporting a red nose and antlers.

With the kids in your car, you can just shrug your shoulders, and give other drivers that “what are you gonna do” look. But, the first time you drive a reindeer car without your kids – that’s a bit of an unnerving experience. Still, it’s too much of a hassle to take them on or off. You convince yourself, “I’m a grown up. I can drive a reindeer car.” You remind yourself of this the first time you stop to put gas in your reindeer car.

A funny thing happens when you drive a reindeer car. You start to spot other reindeer car drivers. That’s right. There’s a community! Reindeer cars are happy when they see each other! They honk! They wave! Instead of the finger, reindeer cars give you the thumbs up!

Which is why a few weeks into December, I was on the side of the road desperately searching for where my husband said the reindeer antler flew off. (Christmas is a magical time, and I unfortunately, am prone to believing anything). It couldn’t be found. What would happen now? Would the kids be disappointed? How would my reindeer friends know I was one of them?

We never found the missing antler. We did drive around as a disabled reindeer until the end of the season, mostly because we never came across another kit to buy. And, I never did get another. But driving that reindeer car changed me. Every year, I love spotting them on the road. I know they are happy people, and that makes me happy. I’m not there yet, but I don’t judge the cars with the big headlight eyelashes. It could happen to anybody.

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Ok, that is a lie. There was no red carpet. But here’s my pics! Tim Gunn said it was perfectly fine I am wearing the same red dress over and over because it works, and it’s not cliche. That’s verbatim people!


You know I really like Genevieve or I would never agree to stand next to such a tall goddess for a pic.


After spending countless hours researching the Johnson’s for “Christmas with the First Ladies,” it was a thrill to meet Lynda Robb Johnson — I mean she got married in the White House!


And Susan! She killed it as a member of the 2014 White House Decorating Team!!!! Thank you Susan for all your hard work — I loved working with you!!


Finally, Cousin Courtney, who makes an appearance from time to time on this blog. Thanks for all the help!


I have the privilege of working with DK Interior Concepts in my hometown to decorate a fabulous restaurant called The Yardley Inn for Christmas. I was on mantle duty. The Yardley Inn has amazing charm and we wanted to pair that with a very sleek look. We started by hanging three mirrors and accessorizing with high impact silver vases.


Here’s my mantel tip: whatever is on your mantel year round, take it down for the holidays. (Mantels aren’t terribly large, so your not packing up a ton of stuff.) In this case, we removed the year round painting. By starting fresh, we created an entirely new, fun look. And sometimes change is easier when you think it’s only temporary! (I can see management falling in love with these mirrors, and trying to figure out on Jan. 2 if they really, really want that painting back!)


The reflection between the new mirrors and the vases is amazing. Big red ornaments and pine cones finish the look. Now I just have to go back and get pics when the fire is blazing! Tweet me if you have have dinner/drinks by the mantel, I’d love to see your pics. @bycoleen.


I’m not as Black Friday crazy as some of my friends, but these adorable doors just make me want to go inside and get something. I mean, if their taste in doors is this good, there has to be something in there for me! The store is Charming Charlie and it’s worth a trip just to go through the door!


Ziploc prep like to pros

Ziploc prep like the pros

I was delighted when Ziploc included me in their holiday round up of experts. Oh, dear Ziploc you do not know how I honor you daily as I pack those never ending lunches. Thank you for keeping their fritos safe and dry, their chips from spilling all over their backpacks, and jelly from a squished sandwich contained. You may have just found me, but I have loved you forever.

Check out the Ziploc post:

Thanksgiving Prep Like The Pros


Coleen Christian Burke is a holiday decorator for the White House. She recommends taking the family on an autumn hike to pick up seasonal treasures for your Thanksgiving display. “You can collect whatever catches your eye: twigs, berries, pinecones, etc.” she explains. “You can’t help but feel thankful when you bring nature into your home at Thanksgiving.”


Outdoor Thanksgiving displays are simply pared down Halloween displays. Get rid of the the scary and keep the orange. I love this rusty, metal flower pot holder that I trash picked. (If I was being fancy, that would be “rustic” instead of “rusty.” But trust me, it’s rusty.)


I found some Daisy Squash at my local farmers, for .50 a piece. So for $3.00,and a strand of fake leaves I’ve had forever, I was done. Bonus: my farmer tells me when I’m bored of the display, I can cook the Daisy Squash with butter and brown sugar at 350 degrees for an hour. He swears it’s delicious. I’ll get back to you on that.


P.S. this is what it looked like when I found it on the curb. Who could have thrown it away???!


I always smile when these turkeys come to town! Before the ice storm last year, I was rotting with turkeys. I didn’t have the space to display them all. So I’m extra thankful for these turkeys that survived. To make the display, I use tall glass vases and some white candle stick holders.


If you have a lot of turkeys, use different size vases to create different levels. Turkeys can be tricky– some stick with tape, others require sticky candle wax. (My go to magic adhesive for every occasion). Your kids will love seeing their artwork,


and you will love seeing what their little minds were thankful for!


Okay, we’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the ice storm that took our house out. It took ten months, but the unsound structure was finally knocked down. Even though its been incredibly sad and frustrating, this felt like progress…finally!



It’s that time of year again when I start talking about the design style of the First Ladies and won’t stop! I was psyched when The Acorn Club, located in Philadelphia, invited me to speak. The Acorn Club is the oldest women’s club in America. A group of women formed it when they got ticked they weren’t allowed in the old boys club. Good for them! I love that spirit and it’s still going strong today. It was originally a walking club, which I love!


On the table, are some of my recreations of the First Ladys’ holiday style. How cute are Jackie Kennedy’s miniature present ornaments?

What’s a girl to do when she spies a jar of popcorn kernels and she’s not quite sure how long they’ve been in the cabinet? Decorate with them of course.


Glassware is the quickest and fanciest way to decorate. I grabbed two wine glasses, poured the kernels in and dropped in a tea candle. Presto! I’m in the Thanksgiving state of mind.


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Square lamp shades continue to be my obsession. And a hot design trend. You can find them for table tops
and even wall scones.

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These are from the super high end luxury lighting source Currey & Company. Something to dream about. Until then,
I’m happy to hunt for the knock off versions in my favorite bargain stores!

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If your carved jack-o-lanterns are ready for the trash, head back out for November pumpkins. November pumpkins are sometimes on sale, and the easiest way to decorate for Thanksgiving.




One of my favorite things to do (ok, everything’s my favorite), is to mix things up. So of course, I dropped a big pipe cleaner spider (you can never have too many) right on top of these elegant flowers. Unexpected, and loved by everyone who saw them! (except for the guys who were like, “oh, somebody put a spider on some flowers.”)


I also adore draping drug store webbing all over elegant furniture and homes. These pics are behind the scenes of a new web show I’m hosting called Holiday Insider.


Give you more info when I have it!



The best thing about the hotel house (for those of you new to the blog, this is what I loving call the rental home we are living in while we try to figure out if we can ever rebuild our home), is that it’s pared way down. Only the stuff you need. All my decorating traditions have to be re-invented (again), and these curtain ghosts just make me smile. It was crafting at first site. The moment I saw the windows last March, I knew this was going to happen if we were still here at Halloween.


So cute, and done in under seven minutes. I know because I looked at the clock in horror. I wanted to have these done to surprise Brenna when she woke up for school. Too much GMA, and I was under the gun. No worries. I only needed black felt, tape and scissors. I free hand cut the circles, taped them to the curtains, and waited for the giggles. Overall, a great morning. And by the way, this was how it all started.



The last time we saw our pumpkins, they were on top of a pile of pumpkins that had been carved for a candlelit walk called Canal-o-ween.


When it got dark, we headed out to Canal-o-ween to see how the whole thing turned out.




We weren’t disappointed. Going back next year, with or without teenagers!


Canaloween is an amazing idea! I heard about after it was over last year, and promised myself we’d go this year. Easier said than done, with two reluctant teenagers. At least my eleven year old wanted to go. You read it hear first, I am officially not dragging anyone to anything else. Those days where we could just go and do fun, campy things are over, and I begrudgingly accept it. That said, WE HAD A REALLY GREAT TIME! (that’s not denial, we did!)


So here’s the gist. We live in a place that has a beautiful canal that leads to the river. Some genius (I mean that in the nicest way, I wish it was my idea), decided it would be beautiful to come together as a community, carve jack-o-lanterns, line the canal path with them and take a candle lit stroll.


Local businesses sponsor the event, so its no cost to the families. They even provide all the tools. In the end, everyone had fun (one teenager even admitted it). And we can’t wait to come back tonight to see how it looks!



Halloween is a really fun time to help your community. The Moonlight Trail in Montclair, NJ is one great example. It’s run by Van Dyke Health Care. It’s a moonlit walk through over a thousand carved jack-o-lanterns. Some spooky, some sweet, all for a really good cause. And it’s a great place to take a shameless selfie.


The Moonligtht Trail raises money for the local food pantry. You can see by the set-up, how much fun it is…and how much work goes into getting it done.


All those pumpkins need to get carved, set-up and lit. Volunteers are always welcomed. Last year they raised almost $2,500. So get in on the fun. Find out what’s going on in your town. It’s a chance to be spooktacular. (sorry, couldn’t resist).


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So this year’s Halloween decor started off with a box of cast of stuff from my Mom. In the box were a handful of black ornaments. Now, one the commandments that I usually follow is that ornaments are only for Christmas. But beggars can’t be choosy. I threw these up on the brass chandelier that I have always hated in the hotel house, and suddenly, I liked it, I really liked it. I would never have done this at my old house (or any place I have lived really). And now I wonder why I was being such a snob. It’s really cute, and even sometimes feels chic.

Who knew? Have the courage to break your traditions!


Okay, this family gets lots of points for this guy. I loved his height, his burlap-like garb– basically everything about him. Just wouldn’t want to see him alone at night.


Here’s another fireplace with great bones! Sorry, you know I can’t help myself.


There’s nothing wrong with keeping Halloween decorating simple. This year it was part of the fun.


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Somethings in life are just worth paying for. An Olillo handbag is one of those things. If you haven’t heard of Olillo yet, you will. They just launched this week with seven amazing styles, designed by seven amazing women. Proceeds from each sale go to support the charitable causes of each woman. Can you say “handbag charity?” Heaven!


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Each of the women behind the bags has an incredible story and a noble cause. Simply put, Olillo is luxury with soul. How great is that?

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Any woman whose ever carried a bag, knows it’s more than just a bag. The genius design team at Olillo figured that out, and upped the soul factor. Each bag is more fantastic than the one before, and the stories behind them are even more amazing. Worth saving your pennies for! Curious? Check them out at

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But they’re not cheap. If you are going to splurge on one luxury item this lifetime, it should be on Olillo. Buy an Olillo handbag and help change the world!


We love this little guy! When my youngest wanted to make a spider I asked her what she needed. Materials list: black pipe cleaners, two styrofoam balls, googly eyes, black paint.


Now, I would have been tempted to make this more complicated. But why? He’s adorable, nice and big. We painted him black, used a skewer to hold the two styrofoam balls together (my contribution), glued on the eyes and pushed in the pipe cleaner legs. Then we put him outside to scare my oldest daughter, who happens to hate spiders. Could she really hate him?

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I love fall decorating! All of my fall decorating was down to science. I could get it done in record time, with time left to free-lance and be creative. Oh, how I loved my decorations and the system I had worked out. Then, we moved. Then, our new house flooded and was unlivable. (sorry dear readers who are sick of this old story). At this point all my decorating traditions are wiped out. So I’m starting over. Fall Decorating Phase One is all sweet and nice. Pumpkins, gourds, and happy scarecrows.

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It’s as simple as grouping a bunch of pumpkins together. Done. Now Phase Two Fall Decorating will be more of a challenge. Phase Two: Scary. Check back if you dare.

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Brenna, age 11, is suddenly crazy for nail art. Sure our house smells like a nail salon, and we should have bought stock in nail polish remover, but I’m still loving it. These back to school converse nails just make me happy!

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Who knew, our back to school look wasn’t complete until we had these!

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You know I love art that comes home from school more than anything! So I was crazy about what my friend Karen did in her daughter Gracie’s room.

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Karen stole the idea from…herself! She used to be a teacher and this is how she decorated her classroom with her students’ work. She simply hung yarn securely, and used clothespins to hang whatever came home from school.

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The best part is the art changes all the time. Eventually Gracie will decide what goes up and down….and art will probably be replaced by One Direction!

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My favorite new thing this fall is my brother Dave’s wishing well fountain. Of course, he made it himself. (See Garden Gift Bags for more on him). I love that it is so rustic and fun, and nothing like the style of everyone else in our family.

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He made it from an old water pump my Grandfather had, and I’m guessing, some type of new electric water pump from Home Depot or Lowe’s. I didn’t ask because I knew I wasn’t taking these project on anytime soon. (Why would I, if I could just get Dave to make it?) Or, maybe he made the pump too. It’s possible.

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Wishing wells remind me of those days as a kid when you could toss a penny and a dream could come true…

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I guess we’ve both grown up…look what Dave is wishing for these days!

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My friend Liz Bushong of Serve it Up Sassy served up this fabulous woodsy wedding cake at a recent summer wedding. It would be perfect for fall too…just think flowers in oranges and yellows. Of course, my favorite part is the cake stand…nothing short of a tree trunk with moss. Divine. (I thought twice about that word, but it’s the right one to use!)

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The cake is just as amazing under wooden beams as it is under the great big open sky. Check out Liz’s book Serve it Up Sassy and her website Thanks Liz!


Who doesn’t want to go to a Ladybug party! My friend Tommy Starling pulled out all the stops for his daughter’s birthday. Sometimes you just have to splurge, like he did on the cupcake tray above, to really make a statement ( and save yourself a ton of time). But don’t worry, Tommy’s got plenty of DIY Ladybug party ideas he’s willing to let us steal.


Before we get to that, I have to gush over Tommy a little more. He’s the author of the amazing children’s book Bob’s New Pants, which is about a curious Lady Bug, who teaches kids about diversity. It’s perfect for ages 3 to 7, and available on Amazon. Who better to give us tips for a Ladybug Party!


I thought this was genius. Tommy simply stuffed fresh raspberries with milk chocolate chips.

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If you don’t want to go for the chocolate chips, you could substitute raisins and still get a Ladybug look. ( I, however, would never mess with the perfection of raspberries and chocolate!)


For his Ladybug pretzels, Tommy dipped pretzels in red and black colored chocolate, applying edible eyes before the chocolate dried. We debated whether these were cute or creepy, and I went for super cute!

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The final sweet touch were the Ladybug giftbags. Tommy filled them with black and red jelly beans, and threw in a random white white jelly bean — just to remind us, like Bob the Ladybug, we are a little different, and special just the same.

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The Red Barn in Hammonton, NJ is one of my favorite places to stop on the way to the Jersey Shore. I love looking at these pies as much as eating them!

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The presentation is so amazing, you actually feel guilty if you don’t eat them. Which is why I ate two myself this summer. Wish I had the will power of my kids who had a couple of pieces and were done.

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What’s better on a sleepy summer Saturday than a Farmers’ Market? I was so lucky to get there when the little flower ladies were setting up (actually they got lost and I gave them directions!), because I’m sure their beautiful flowers sold out! $5.00 a bunch, they were the deal of the weekend.

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Life is funny! When we lived close to New York City, we had a huge farmers’ market practically in our back yard. Ironically, when we moved to the “country” we had none. So I was super excited when some awesome volunteers got together to open one right around the corner from us.

If you can believe it, the flowers were more amazing in person!

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I make so many mistakes buying wines I don’t like (maybe I should stop choosing them based on the design of their label!), that when I hit on one I really like, it’s like I’ve really accomplished something. My current favorite find is Dog Point from New Zealand. The label’s not bad either. Be sure to serve it in an adorable polka dot glass for maximum pleasure!

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If I cursed, I might be cursing about now. How did my daughter get to be 16? I love and cherish her….but 16, are you kidding? And what happened? We somehow forgot to save for college, which is now just around the corner. And apologies about not being able to throw that big debutante ball! (which you know I am only half kidding about. I would really, really like to go to a debutante ball starring my feminist, sometimes goth, sixteen year old).

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Still, 16 calls for cake. As many layers as you can possibly get. Throw in some flowers — they’re all edible, right?

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One of my favorite bookstores, Watchung Booksellers in Montclair NJ, was the first to host my sister Maureen’s new book, The Cocktail Club. Unexpectedly, we both showed up in orange, and after a few cocktails, people started teasing that we were the style sisters. (A few nights later, I showed up at a second book signing to help her, and we were both wearing blue!) More on orange in future posts.

Check out the cherry tomatoes in the olive tray.  The try is lined with vodka!

Check out the cherry tomatoes in the olive tray. The tray is lined with vodka!

One of the easiest appetizers from the book, and a crowd pleaser, are cherry tomatoes resting in vodka. Using a toothpick, spear your tomato, roll it in coarse salt, and enjoy! You can pick up your copy of The Cocktail Club at any bookstore or on Amazon.


The Cocktail Club is here! My wonderful sister Maureen Petrosky wrote this fabulous book just to make our lives more fun!!!!

The launch party for the press was amazing. It was held at the Brooklyn Nite Hawk Theater (hipster heaven). The New York Times, The Food Network, Lucky Magazine and Family Circle all came to Brooklyn to wish her well.

Maureen (left) with The New York Times reporter!

Maureen (left) with The New York Times reporter!

The New York Times even tweeted that Maureen was the only author they ever knew to make her own appetizers for her book launch! The Cocktail Club can be pre-ordered on Amazon now, and comes out May 13. Check back for a chance to win your own copy! Cheers!

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Kids are great for inspiring creativity (that’s when they aren’t zapping it out of you!), and there’s nothing like a school art show to inspire, amaze, and plain make you smile. Here’s a couple of things that caught my eye this year, and left me amazed at imagination run wild.

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I mean, who wouldn’t want a giant, oversized box of crayons and paint? This one left me feeling deprived!

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And of course, inspiration from my very own artist.

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Although we just moved back last summer, I grew up in Pennsylvania near the banks of the Delaware River. Never, ever did I see a winter that turned the river into a jam of ice. I knew this was a spectacular event, that might not happen again. My three kids were less convinced. They fought me, and each other, all the way to see this natural wonder.

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An extreme version of my yearly winter walk, the frozen river provided the type of awe only nature can deliver. Even the kids got it. Miracles do happen. They were amazed and I was right. Totally worth the hassle.

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New Year's 2014

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, I’m usually pretty low key. But this year, we joined all the fun and went fancy! Check out how amazing the ballroom looked:

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Jerry and I even stayed up past midnight! Way to welcome 2014! Happy New Year!

Made me Smile

On my way home from the Home & Family set, I ran into this crazy balloon reindeer in LAX Airport. I’m all about stylish Christmas décor, but this tacky baby made me smile. Snapped a pic for the kids. Merry! Merry!

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I was so lucky to be invited to the set of Hallmark’s Home & Family. I have been a huge fan of Cristina Ferrare for years, and Mark Steines isn’t bad either.

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I was there to show them how to make Betty Ford’s Cranberry Tree. It’s a very traditional decoration — the White House had one on display in the Red Room each Christmas for thirty something years!

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Check out the video and learn how to make one for your home!


What girl doesn’t love a trip to NYC at Christmas? I was so happy when CNN invited on to talk about my book Christmas with the First Ladies. As a bonus I got to meet Grammy Award Winning violinist and conductor Joshua Bell. (And he’s really handsome!)

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You can check out my appearance on CNN below!