Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with History, Home and the Best Irish Icing Ever!

Background of lush green clover leaves

 
 

Celebrate the start of springtime, the Irish in all of us and the color of the year all in one month!

 

March Madness may be about basketball for some, but for me, it’s about color and new beginnings and lots of good food and fun.
 

Here are my three favorite St. Patrick’s Day highlights for the history geek, the home decorator and the cook.
 

A Wee Bit of Irish History

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Learn about the legend and lore of St. Patrick, how the City of Chicago uses 45 pounds of vegetable dye to go green for St. Pat’s Day, and some key Gaelic phrases to back up that “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button.

 

Bring the Outside In: 7 Easy Ways to Go Green at Home

Home plant

 

Find out why green is one of the best colors to bring into your home, and 7 easy and inexpensive ways to take advantage of this multifaceted color, not just at St. Pat’s Day but the whole year through.

 

Spiked and Spiced: The Best St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Spring 2012 043
 
Dig in to these delectable homemade cupcakes made with stout beer, or a cake mix version with added punch and spice. Both are topped with a scrumptious booze-laced icing that will make sure those Irish eyes are smiling!

(Shamrocks photo credit: © Swapan – Fotolia.com)

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Conversation Heart Door Hanger

 

Valentine Door Hanger

Sometimes I just need to paint something, glue something, and make something cute, ya know? Life can get so hectic but there is something about taking 30 minutes (or less) and doing a craft  project that calms me down. So every once in a while I will stop what I’m doing and pull out some supplies and see what happens.

That’s the story behind this quick, easy and totally cute Valentine’s Day craft – a “conversation heart” door hanger that is perfect for any door or small wall space in your home. Paint the hearts any color you like, write a few sayings, glue on some ribbon and voila! Instant gratification.

And then you can resume your busy schedule.

Valentine Craft Supplies

Supplies

3 Wooden hearts from the craft store (4″ across)

1 Spool of red & white polka dot ribbon (1.5″ wide)

Acrylic craft paint (I used yellow, pink and lavender)

Foam paint brushes

Red paint pen

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Sand paper or sanding block

 

Directions

1. Lightly sand each wooden heart with the sanding block or sand paper. Just enough to smooth out any rough edges. Remove any dust with a barely damp paper towel.

2. Paint each heart a different color. Apply at least 2 coats for complete coverage, allowing to dry between coats.

3. When the paint is completely dry, write conversation heart sayings on each heart with the red paint pen. (You could use a red Sharpie marker if you don’t have a paint pen.) For inspiration on what to say, click here for a recap of the newest sayings from the maker of the Sweethearts candy.

4. Lay out the hearts, spacing them evenly apart. Measure a length of ribbon – you want it long enough to fit all the hearts plus at least 6 inches above and below the hearts.

5. Glue the hearts in place with hot glue. (Use more than you think you need.)

6. Fold down the top inch of the ribbon and secure with a dot of hot glue (you want a double thickness of ribbon to be tied into the bow).  Measure another length of ribbon to create a bow – about 2 yards if you want the streamers to be as long as middle ribbon. Use this ribbon to tie a bow around the top of the ribbon with the hearts, making sure the knot is nice and tight.

7. Cut the bottom edge of the ribbons in an inverse “V” shape if desired. Hang the doorhanger from the knot in the bow from a nail or hook.

 

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How to Supercharge Your Creativity and Confidence with One Simple Step

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I admit it. I was a messy desk person for years. And years.

When I worked as an attorney in private practice, my assistant would regularly come into my office and ask for a document, looking dubiously at the piles and stacks of papers and files on my desk and on the floor.

I would think for a second or two, reach into a pile and voila! I could pull out what she needed pretty quickly.

I was proud of my messy desk and my piles.

Maybe I’ve outgrown whatever psychological need my messy desk fulfilled, but a few months ago (July 30th to be exact), I realized that I dreaded going into my home office to work at my desk. I had been working for a couple of weeks at the kitchen island, telling myself that the new sofa and rug made the great room the best room in the house. Why wouldn’t I want to spend time there?

In reality, I felt completely uninspired sitting at my desk, surrounded by piles of papers, files from completed projects, books, reminders of unfinished projects. And the piles of stuff that just sort of landed on my desk. (Like evil fairies came in and dumped stuff on my desk, right?) I think there may have been some hair products and a missing lip gloss in there. Oh, and an ankle brace. Even my desk accessories seemed to forlornly say, “We’re done.” There was barely space to set a glass of water or a cup of tea, much less to spread out work documents or reference books.

My desk on July 30, 2016.

My desk on July 30, 2016.

The physical clutter was creating mental clutter and stagnation on so many levels.

And I was feeling like a fraud; after all, one of the basic tenets of my design business is “where you work affects how you work.” I’ve written reports about it, and written about how to clean off your desk.

But I wasn’t doing it. Hmmm. There had to be something else going on.

Armed with that curiosity and an intention to make a permanent change, I embarked on a challenge to not only clean off my desk, but keep it clean for 30 days and see if it made a difference.

Well, it’s been more than 75 days and I’m happy to say, my desk is still clean. Turns out, it’s an actual thing. Desktop Zero. Kind of like Inbox Zero, but for your physical workspace.

Desktop Zero: My desk on August 1, 2016.

Desktop Zero: My desk on August 1, 2016.

The difference in my energy, attitude and confidence working with Desktop Zero has been nothing short of extraordinary. I love walking into my home office every day. I feel happy sitting down at my desk. It seems happy, too. My work is more focused and efficient. I have everything I need at my fingertips. I feel inspired. I have physical space to work! I have mental space to think and create. And when I’m getting more done, feeling great about my results, and having new ideas—guess what? These are all confidence builders. Mindset changers.

So that’s the simple thing: Desktop Zero. Not easy, but simple.

If, like me, your desk is a long way from Desktop Zero, I’ll share the steps of my process to get there, in hopes that it inspires you to clean off your work space and keep it clean—and see what might happen for you and your creativity and business!

desk-accessories

1. Find some inspiration. For me, getting to that “enough is enough” point was the spark, but finding some very cute and inspiring accessories at Home Goods helped push me over the edge of inspiration. I chose a teal color palette based on a pencil cup (it’s actually a tumbler for the bathroom), an intricate wood box from India and some pastel file folders. I couldn’t put these beauties (above) on a messy desk!

2. Clean off the desk. Literally get everything off the desk surface and any cubbies. I used the method I normally do: trash, action, file (get all the steps here). This time I added bins for “relocate” and “put away”– things that belonged in another room or in the supplies cabinet and “donate,” and then a separate pile for shredding.

3. Look at your pain points. As you’re cleaning off the desk, look for patterns in the piles. What’s in them and how did they get there? For me, I discovered that I tossed receipts and business cards from business trips on the desk (there was no designated place for them) and dropped random items on the desk just because they belonged somewhere in the office. For example, when I would unpack from a trip, anything that is stored in the office like my camera, travel power cords, or books, I would just put them on the desk and not put them away where they belong. Instant clutter! Over time, it built up into overwhelming mountains of stuff. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can design a solution or process to handle the pain points (more on that in a minute).

4. Clean your desk. Dust, vacuum, polish, wax—whatever is best for your desk. I dusted and applied a nice coat of lemon oil to my teak writing desk.

Desktop Zero

Replace the essentials on your desktop.

5. Replace only what is necessary on a day-to-day basis. I have a rule that a desktop is for creating, inspiring and working. It is not for storage. So my desktop has a lamp, pen cup, computer, a small box for paper clips and such, a notebook, a legal pad and a stand up file organizer for frequently (daily) used files. On the little shelf on top of the desk I keep a few inspiring photos, letter opener and a vase of flowers.

Pretty file folders keep papers tidy and close at hand.

Pretty file folders keep papers tidy and close at hand.

6. Address pain points. This step will depend on what you identified as the major causes of clutter in step 3. In my home office, I dealt with the piles of receipts by creating a folder for them. I created a “home” for the receipts. And more importantly I resolved to put things where they go, rather than dropping them on the desk to put away later. I literally timed how long it took to put back a book, put my tote bag where it belonged, or to put an event folder in its storage box. Each task averaged about 20 seconds. I’m not kidding. Assuming everything already has a home, it takes seconds to put things away rather than stacking or piling them until they become a messy pile that can take an hour of precious time to tackle. Time it yourself!

7. Store active project files off the desk. This was the game changer for me. I struggled with having a “working office” and a clutter-free, presentable office. (My office is just off the foyer of my home and doesn’t have a door.) I’m busy, I have a lot of projects that I work on for different clients at any one given time. Plus, my desk doesn’t have deep drawers. So I took to the floor. On one side of my chair I have a deep file-size basket where I keep binders of reference material, and on the other side I’m using a deep tray to store project files, notebooks, my planner, and other project materials. I can easily pull out what I need as I work on different client projects during the day.

If you have a credenza or storage drawers in your desk, these might be optimal areas for you.

But here’s the most important step and the key to this new clutter-free workspace:

8. Put everything away at night. At the end of the day, no matter what you worked on, put everything away, leaving only the essentials on the desktop.

No, really. At the end of every day put everything away—no matter what. Even if it’s the thing you’ll keep working on first thing in the morning. Put. It. Away. This is the secret! This is Desktop Zero.

Just try it for 30 days. Once you clean off your desk, address your pain points and get into the habit of keeping it clean and clear every day, you’ll see how you feel coming in to your office in the morning. See how it affects your mental clarity, focus, creativity and confidence.

Let me know how this works for you! Comment below or share your story on Facebook. If you’d like to book me for a consultation to get your home office on track, please contact me at deanne@deannemarie.com.

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How to Create a Spa Bathroom

Spa Bath FB post
Sunday nights are for relaxing. (At least I think they should be!) What’s better than retiring to your own spa oasis, having a nice long soak in luxurious bubbles, and just enjoying the moment?

If we follow our 5 senses, putting together a pretty good facsimile of a spa experience is quite doable. Here’s a video explaining it all, and I’ve put some notes and resources below the jump. Or, if you’d like the thumbnail, here’s an infographic/cheatsheet.

1. SIGHT

Two major themes here: decluttering the vanity surfaces, and creating a soothing color scheme.

When it comes to beauty “stuff” — all of our lotions and  potions — I get it. There can be a lot. And if your bathroom is on the small side, storage can be an issue. If your beauty care items have a home, put them back when you use them. That one simple act alone can make a huge difference in reducing visual clutter.

If you find you have a lot of things you use daily that don’t have a permanent residence in your bathroom, get creative with storage. There are a lot of inexpensive but stylish ideas out there. Here are 10 organizing ideas under $10 each.

Next, let’s talk about color. Think about your favorite spa. What colors did you see there? Chances are, the color scheme was designed to inspire a sense of calm. That usually means a monochromatic (one color) scheme in neutrals (white all the way up to taupe) or blues and greens. (For tips on how color affects the human mind and body, check out this infographic.) A monochromatic scheme is less stressful because the brain has less to process, fewer contrasting colors to process.

Whatever your color of choice, bring it in with paint on the walls, the shower curtain, window coverings, rugs, and of course towels. Here’s how I turned my guest bathroom into a more spa-like space for under $100.

2. TOUCH

Here’s a designer tip: whenever you’re using a monochromatic color scheme, your room needs varying textures to keep the design from being bland and boring.

In your spa bathroom, bring in texture through soft, luxurious towels. Buy the best you can afford, start with just a few pieces and build up your inventory if you have to. Because I see good towels as an investment, I want to know how they’ll perform before I plunk down my money, so I purchase a wash cloth from each brand I’m considering and I use them. Really use them and wash them a few times to see how they do. Then I can purchase more pieces of what I want.

Other ways to bring in different textures: the shower curtain; a soft looped cotton rug underfoot or a gel mat by the tub; floral arrangements; a loofah scrubber or mitts; a natural sea sponge; and/or a luxurious robe. (Seriously, isn’t that the best part of some spa treatments?)

A more ethereal texture: bath products. Yes! The silkiness of bath oil, whipped body butters and bubble bath all count towards the sense of touch. They also bridge the way to the next sense …

3. SCENT

(I think I said “smell” in the video, but “scent” sounds nicer.) Of course here is where the core of many spa experiences is found. I love going to my local Aveda spa where they give you a choice of aromas to incorporate into your treatment. So pick up a few of these elements in a variety of scents to cover an array of sensory needs from de-stressing to energizing.

  • Scented candles
  • Reed diffuser
  • Bath products
  • Essential oils

Here’s a quick aromatherapy tutorial to help you decide on your perfect scents.

4. SOUND

One year for my birthday I treated myself to the spa at one of the big-name casinos here in Las Vegas that had great reviews online. I was already familiar with other spas in their chain so I had every expectation it would be a great experience. Wow was I under-impressed with the sound environment! I could hear jackhammers, cars, and every other treatment going on since the walls didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling! It was totally distracting.

That’s when I realized the power of sound to transport us to that sacred zen place of bliss. Don’t skimp on this sense! Bring in a CD player, your smartphone or tablet (be sure not to get anything too close to the tub!) and play soothing music. Put together your own playlist, pick up a compilation CD (I always find them at Target), or listening to one of the spa/relaxation stations on your streaming music service.

5. TASTE

The final spa element that you can replicate at home is taste. Spas are famous for their flavored detox waters and teas. Make yourself a pitcher of flavored water. Simply slice up some fruit of your choice, add some herbs if you like and place it all in a pitcher with some good, pure water. Chill for at least 1-2 hours to let the flavors infuse. Some traditional combos: cucumber-mint; lemon-mint; and blackberry-apple. Of course there are no rules here — use what you like best!

In a pinch, pick up one of the naturally flavored waters widely available at supermarkets. Make sure there is no added sugar.

So there you have it! The 5 easy steps to make a spa at home. I’d love to hear how you’re incorporating these elements and senses into your spa night routine. Please leave a comment over on the Facebook page and be sure to follow my master bathroom board on Pinterest.

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7 Ways to Refresh a Room in 15 Minutes or Less

Time is relative. Fifteen minutes may seem like an eternity if you’re stuck in traffic and late for work. Or, it may seem like the blink of an eye when you’re in the zone working on a project.  It’s the same quantity of time, and it will pass whether we are sitting still or moving fast.

When decorating your home, you can make an enormous difference in a room just 15 minutes at a time. So without further ado, here are 7 ways that you can start to refresh your entire home. Simply set a timer and work for 15 minutes. You might be amazed at what you can do.

Who says there’s no time to decorate?

 

1. Clear some clutter

Cluttered table

Sometimes refreshing a room is like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Meaning, there’s just too much stuff in the way of seeing the room and its features and furnishings.

I’m not saying you’re going to completely de-clutter and organize your entire house in 15 minutes. But what can you do? Maybe it’s just cleaning off the kitchen table or the counter. The room will look and feel better instantly!

Nearly every decorating plan starts with cleaning and decluttering—removing anything that is not used frequently, belongs somewhere else, or gets in the way of the room’s purpose. Examples might include shoes, toys, magazines, papers, clothes, dishes and glasses, or even furniture.

Look at your room with an objective eye. What really doesn’t belong there? Unless you belong on a show about hoarding, chances are if you slow down and look at the room from a new, fresh perspective, you’ll see lots of items that can be removed.

When in doubt, ask a neighbor or friend what they see as clutter in your room. (Or try my Clutter Clearing and Organizing audio course.) There’s a great Polish proverb, “A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year.” Sometimes we just get comfortable with all the stuff. Pare it down and let the room breathe.

 

2. Let there be light

Lots of lights

Light is one of the most overlooked elements of interior design, and yet it’s one of the easiest to acquire and manipulate.

Light makes a room feel larger, brighter and fresher, so take some time to assess the lighting situation in your room. If the room has a window, wash it inside and out to let in more sunshine. Open any shades or blinds during the day to maximize natural light. If there are window treatments, are they too heavy, dark, or outdated for the room? Just taking down drapes—even if you don’t have anything to replace them with just yet—can have a dramatic impact on a room.

Then look at the light fixtures and lamps in the room. Is there enough light to move around the room at night, or if there are no windows? If not, add more lamps to the mix. Check the maximum wattage stated on each fixture and lamp, and install higher wattage bulbs to bring in more light.

 

3. Rearrange the furniture

Room arranger w arrows

Arranging furniture in a room is a lot like a puzzle. And once we think we have it figured out, we keep it that way. For years. (I’ve certainly been guilty of this!)

But what if there was a different way? Switching up the furniture arrangement can shift the feeling of a room in an instant.

Before you start moving anything, play with the arrangement on paper. Create a scale drawing of your room on a piece of graph paper, measuring the walls and noting any doorways and windows. Then measure and draw shapes to represent the furniture pieces and place them on the room drawing, playing with different layouts until you find one that feels right. Pay attention to traffic patterns and how the room is used, and try to create “zones” for each use. I’ve created a design tool that makes it super easy to try this designer trick. You can get it FREE here.

And, it may be that the current arrangement is the best for the room, and that’s great! At least you’ve looked at other options.

 

4. Get your group on

Grouped items

Have you noticed most of these tips so far have been fast and free? #4 follows that lead with a “use what you have” approach to accessorizing your room.

Shop your house for accessories—objects, candleholders, vases, picture frames, figurines—that have a common, unifying theme or motif. Maybe they’re all red, or they’re all ducks or apples or sailboats. Chances are there’s a collection of something hiding in plain sight around your home. Bring everything together and display items together on an end table, dresser, sideboard, console.

Displaying similar items together gives them more presence and makes the room more personal. Visually link smaller items together by placing them on a tray. This is a heart display I put together for Valentine’s Day a few years ago.

 

5. Update with textiles

Pillows on sofa 2

One of the easiest and fastest ways to change the entire look and feel of a room is with fabrics.

Look around your room. What fabric elements could be changed, either by bringing in something new or swapping them with something from another room? Think about:

  • Drapes
  • Area rugs
  • Toss pillows
  • Slipcovers
  • Throws
  • Table coverings
  • Shower curtain
  • Towels

As a bonus, updating the textiles also means bringing in new (or more) color, texture, and/or pattern.

 

6. Add life … literally

green plant

Live, leafy green and/or blooming houseplants (not silk plants or cacti) are great additions to nearly any room. Their green color is automatically calming to the eye, and they produce oxygen. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and can easily fill a large area—like an empty corner— if need be. Or, opt for one or two smaller plants placed around the room. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, ask your florist to suggest a hearty variety, or add a self-watering tube like an Aquaglobe®.

Fresh cut flowers are also a great decorating secret. Their color, life, texture and fragrance can be elegant or fun, indulgent or whimsical. And with most supermarkets now selling flowers, they’re convenient, too!

To get the most from supermarket bouquet, be sure to re-cut the stems when you get home and make sure the vase is scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from killing the blooms prematurely. If it’s a mixed bouquet, consider making smaller arrangements and tuck them all over the house, in the bedroom, bath and kitchen for example.

 

7. Alter the art

Blank art

Art can set a mood, reinforce a theme, or be just plain wonderful to behold. Like light, art is often an afterthought in a room’s design plan, but it deserves much more attention.

Art is also fairly easy to swap from room to room and season to season. Think of your rooms like a gallery with an ever-changing collection. Look around your room. Does it currently have or need some art? Is there a focal point piece, for example over the bed or fireplace? If so, is there another piece in the house that could be traded out to give the room a fresh look?

Anyone who’s followed this blog knows that at holiday time, I love to change up the art all over the house. Here’s a quick and easy seasonal tip: Use the same frame and mat, but swap out the image. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from some simple silver frames in the guest bath, with a rotating display of everything from calendar pages to greeting cards and trip photos to scrapbook paper.

Children’s art is also a great addition to any room, and can be updated as the child creates new masterpieces. Nearly anything can be art!

A few tips about displaying art:

  • Be sure to hang it at eye level. Not too high and not too low, although most folks hang their pictures much too high. Look at magazines and home catalogs to get a feel for placement.
  • If there’s any doubt about how high to hang something, make a template of the art piece with some newspaper or kraft paper and tape it to the wall, then stand back. How does it look and feel in comparison to what you’ve seen in magazines or on design shows?
  • As a general rule of thumb, the top of the frame should be no more than 6 ft. from the ground.
  • Or, hang up on hanging art and use a gallery ledge instead. By far the easiest way to swap and rotate your favorite works of art.

What’s your favorite 15 minute life or design hack? Share your comments and stories on the Facebook page!

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