Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Design File: House Beautiful Before & After

I scouted this home, set on a beautifully meandering lake in suburban Minneapolis, a few weeks ago. The owner, interior designer Brian Ellingson, bought the home about 10 years ago when it was a forgettable one-story rambler in a positively unforgettable setting. Talk about vision! Brian raised the ceiling height on the first floor, added a second story, designed an incredible addition with a soaring kitchen and great room, and meticulously transformed the interior with, among many gorgeous details, new parquet floors and Francophile decor. 

One of the things I love about being a location scout is having so many opportunities to be inspired by real-life homes. Chances are I will never oversee a renovation to this scale (or even close) on my own dwelling, but I can take itsy-bitsy pieces of what I see in this or any other location—a flower box, a wall color, a powder room mirror—and incorporate them into my own home. Or at least add them to my "maybe someday" file. 

Happy inspiration! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Plates! Jane Jenni

Jane Jenni melamine plates. $8.50/each at

Friday afternoon I scouted a beautiful home in St. Paul. It had one of my all-time favorite kitchens—classic with a youthful edge, thoughtfully but not overly designed, rich with personality, and full of life. (How's that for a teaser? More on this kitchen in a future post!)

The homeowner, Katie, a busy wife and mom of three, couldn't have been more fun and gracious. When I went crazy over these adorable melamine plates stacked on the kitchen's open shelves, Katie pointed me toward the Patina store on the corner of Selby and Snelling in St. Paul. Alas, Patina was out of the plates, but it wasn't a wasted trip, since I'd never been to this fun retail corner before. Great tip, Katie!

You can buy Jane Jenni plates at, which also features their signature wordplay designs on zippy pouches, cups, totes, and more. I have a mom-hunch that these plates are going to be a big hit with my kids, and my sentimental side already envisions them divvying the plates up amongst their grown-up selves. They are collectibles after all! These two will definitely be in my first order:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Memory Maker: Watch-a-Bug

"Firefly in a Jar" photo by Steven David Johnson (

My in-laws' home sits atop a wooded ravine, and their yard is prime lightning bug territory, which makes it a magical place for kids on warm summer evenings—much like the Friday night a couple of weeks ago when my kids and their cousins, AJ and Siri, chased lightning bugs and put the ones they caught into the Watch-a-Bugs that Grandma Jean had affixed to their sweet little wrists. Magic! I really believe it's simple things like this that create the richest childhood memories. 

Jean found Watch-a-Bugs at a dollar store, and they're also available on Amazon (see link below). Of course, these watches can hold all manner of creepy-crawlies. Just be sure to tell your budding entomologists to be nice to their insects and to release them after an hour or two—especially lightning bugs, the populations of which are dwindling all over the world. is a wonderfully interesting place to learn more about how to safely catch lightning bugs and help the firefly population. You and your kids can even track where you've had lightning bug sightings to help entomologists study their habitats. How cool is that?

My niece Siri showing off her Watch-a-Bug

Grandma Jean bought my oldest son this book after their first lightning bug adventure. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Shop Around the Corner

Earlier this week I wrote about The Stash, an awesome occasional store in Waconia, and how it opened my eyes to the whole "pop-up shop" phenomenon. When the awesome owners of The Stash learned of my home dĂ©cor obsession, they said, "Get in your car right now and drive four blocks to The Shop Around the Corner. They close in an hour!" We eagerly obeyed. Stepping into the Shop Around the Corner, my adrenaline started buzzing, and all I could think of was Sarah Richardson of Sarah's House and Sarah 101 fame. In her shows (which I watch religiously, usually early on Sunday mornings with a cup of hot coffee before Heidi's House wakes up and gets crazy), Sarah is always bopping about to treasure trove stores where she finds beat up old desks and lumpy old chairs that, with some "simple" reupholstering and/or paint, transform into one-of-a-kind show stoppers. Not to mention the fun-and-fab plates, lamps, signs, and artwork that Sarah uses to such great effect in her finished spaces. "Why aren't there any of those stores around me?" I used to wonder. Turns out there are stores like that around me—and probably around you, too, in the form of occasional stores like The Shop Around the Corner. 

This place truly did make my heart race. I was very tempted to buy a pile of pillows that looked almost identical to some I saw on the cover of a recent Pottery Barn catalog as well as a big iron industrial basket to corral blankets in our basement. Truthfully, this store is so fun and inspiring, it made me want to re-do my mudroom and all of my kids' rooms. Since that's not in the cards, I only bought a big "H" that's propped on my desk and a black-and-white primitive "Grand Central Station" box sign that is now hanging (oh so appropriately) in my kitchen. I can't WAIT to get back!

Cool quilt, pillows and nightstands featured on Sarah's House on HGTV

 Cool quilt, pillows and nightstands (with inset maps!) at The Shop Around the Corner!

Wine bottle chandelier—how kitschy cute would this be on a screened-in porch?
Repurposed old trunk + great girls' room art
Painted furniture

Decoupage dresser

Patchwork pillows

Lamps, funky art + more, more, more

I just loved how the shop hours are written on brown packing paper

Like The Stash, The Shop Around the Corner is open the first weekend of every month. Upcoming dates are August 4–7 and September 1–4. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yum Review: Goody Good Stuff Gummies

My Kids Eat Candy© received samples of Goody Good Stuff gummies a few weeks ago. Last night I brought them to my oldest son's baseball game, which I figured would be the perfect test lab. Verdict: The kids all loved these 100 percent gelatin-free, gluten-free, fat-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free treats! Goody Good Stuff gummies are made with natural colors and flavors, to boot.

We tried the Cheery Cherries and vegan Summer Peaches varieties. All told, the My Kids Eat Candy© review panel included seven kids—four boys and two girls ranging in age from 15 months to 11 years. I heard "Yum!" "Awesome!" "These are good!" and a comparison of the Summer Peaches variety to Trolli Peach-Os.

Thanks, Goody Good Stuff, for sharing your awesome product with us! Visit the company website to see where Goody Good Stuff gummies are sold near you. I also found them on Amazon. (See the handy link below.)

Official My Kids Eat Candy Yum Review: YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM 
(5 YUMS out of 5!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fab Pop-up Shop: The Stash

Okay, I'm far from a fashion maven, but how did I miss this whole "occasional store" thing? Why have I been (albeit infrequently) buying trendy tops, sweaters, and jeans at places like Anthropologie, Hot Mama, and Banana Republic when I could have been spending so much less for similar sartorial goodies at places like The Stash in Waconia, Minnesota? 

(Not a Minnesotan? Google "occasional store" or "pop-up shop" and your city, and chances are you'll discover the same retail concept happening in your area.)

Last Thursday, my friend (and fellow mom of three boys!) Kami invited me along on a so-worth-it trek into the far western suburbs of Minneapolis. Destination? The Stash, which is owned by Kami's fashionista friends Summer and Rebekah. Summer and Rebekah go to L.A. and New York several times a year to score private label, boutique-y brands—tops, bags, jeans, summery dresses, skirts, accessories, belts, ballet flats, and more—and open up their store's doors just one weekend a month so in-the-know women can nab trend-right clothing at ridiculous prices.

And I do mean ridiculous. For $136.54, I bought five wildly-different-from-each-other tops (from a polka-dot swingy tank to a silver-gray dressy-type shirt with lace peek-a-booing out at the bottom) and an oversize bag with metal detailing that looks just like a pricey Michael Kors number I wouldn't allow myself to buy last spring. I would have easily forked over $250+ for similar items at traditional retailers. 

A visit to The Stash is a fun, easy shopping experience. Summer and Rebekah couldn't be nicer or more helpful, telling me in keeping-it-real terms that a few things I tried weren't doing me any favors. (I will never again try to rock mustard yellow anything.)

The next "Open Date" at The Stash is August 4-7, when everything in the entire store is $9.97 or less. Visit the store website for location and hours, and tell them My Kids Eat Candy sent you!

Later this week: Our visit to "Shop Around The Corner," an occasional marketplace filled with upcycled and repurposed furniture and decor. New American Homemakers, this store made my heart positively race. Plus I'll include list of other regional occasional stores and markets. (Thanks, Summer and Rebekah, for giving me the lowdown!)

Just down the street from The Stash is Lola's Lakehouse. Get a patio table overlooking the marina and toast your girlfriends on your incredible hauls! The sweet & spicy ahi tuna sandwich was yummy. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Design File: Contemporary Cape Cod Kitchen

Cape Cod houses might be my absolute favorite. They're so unambiguous, understated, classic, enduring, charming, and—in the case of this lovely home—cool. I'm a freelance location scout for national home and garden magazines, and had the chance to see this home a few weeks ago. The owner, who's as cool as her house, said I could share it here with you. When she and her husband bought their Cape Cod a few years ago, it was an urban lakeside beauty on the outside, but a mauve-and-oak mess with "acres of ugly floor tile" on the inside. They stripped the interior to the studs and knocked down a few walls, then proceeded to lay new hardwood floors, replace the oak trim with white, paint the entire interior Benjamin Moore Grant Beige (a color inspired by their weimeraner, Morgan), and install a gorgeous new kitchen. The result is a fresh, interesting, "I could move in here tomorrow and not change a thing" contemporary Cape Cod. Enjoy! 

A classic foundation (generous baseboards, white trim, shaker cabinetry, dark oak floors, a harlequin backsplash detail) pairs with contemporary details (sleek cabinet hardware, a stainless vent hood over the Wolf range, Sub-Zero fridge, dual-zone wine cooler, modern light fixtures) to create a fantastic kitchen. 

Contemporary hardware in a classic Cape—love it!

The homeowners' interior designer, Brian Ellingson, had the ingenious idea to create two traffic-friendly islands instead of using one long island. Each island has a separate function: one boasts tons of storage and houses a flat-screen TV visible for the family room; the other is accommodates three counter stools for casual meals. 

I loved the harlequin detail above the range—doesn't scream "look at me!!" but still manages to catch your eye.

The view from the gathering room.
Benjamin Moore Grant Beige HC-83

Friday, July 1, 2011

July 4 Decorating Ideas

I love the Fourth of July! We don't have an annual tradition for this most fun and patriotic weekend, but I really admire (okay, envy) our friends who do—like our neighbors who participate in a boat parade on their beautiful lake every July 4, or our friends whose neighborhood has an annual parade with bikes, trikes, wagons, and dogs festooned in red, white, and blue. 

My two best fourth of July memories are 1) watching fireworks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when I was a kid and 2) spending the day at the beach on Tybee Island near our home in Savannah when my oldest two sons were just tots. Watching the fireworks fall into the Atlantic while the boys' salty, sandy, tuckered-out little bodies leaned against me is one of those magical mom moments I'll never forget. 

This year our plan is no plan (aside from several trips to local ice cream parlors). Whether you're hosting a July 4 gathering or need a gift for a cookout you're attending, here are four super cute and easy decorating ideas for your holiday weekend that I found at

Wrap tin cans in construction or scrapbook paper.

Create flour bouquets anchored in red, white, and blue gum balls!

Make patriotic beverage buckets by affixing star stickers to colored pails. 

Keep kids busy by having them make these "star stamp tees."  Click here for instructions!

Patriotic P.S. While I was searching for patriotic ideas, I realized that I never knew why the U.S. flag is red, white, and blue. Here's what I learned at Interesting!

"The Continental Congress left no record to show why it chose the colors. However, in 1782, the Congress of the Confederation chose these same colors for the Great Seal of the United States and listed their meaning as follows: white to mean purity and innocence, red for valor and hardiness, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. According to legend, George Washington interpreted the elements of the flag this way: the stars were taken from the sky, the red from the British colors, and the white stripes signified the secession from the home country. However, there is no official designation or meaning for the colors of the flag."