And the Oscar Goes To…. Not Me

Apologies for my MIA status; my day job got the best of me during awards season.  That, combined with an impromptu trip home to PA over Valentine’s/Presidents’ Day weekend led to one very busy Sledge.  But now that the Oscars are officially over, I’m getting back in the swing.

I’ll be back later this week with not one, but TWO posts for you.  A final recap of Ellen’s Design Challenge (which is currently waiting for me on my DVR) and a little trek through an incredible antique store from my trip home.

So for now, I’m going to leave you with a little preview of what’s to come.  And for those follow along on Instagram, these are just a double dose of beauty.

Federal Mirror - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #1 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Wagon Wheel - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #2 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Foundry Mold - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #3 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Susquehanna River

The frozen Susquehanna river between Columbia & York, PA

Me at our office Oscar party

Me at our annual office Oscar party

 

Isn’t It Pinteresting?

It’s been way too long since I gave you all some pure, unadulterated eye candy and random musings on the world so that’s what you’ve got today while I’m hopping a cross-country flight back to La-La-Land. I’ll be back later later this week with my usual recap of Ellen’s Design Challenge.

Let’s start with a little Pinterest visual stimulation (all the images below can be found on my Pinterest page). Here are some of the things I’ve been drooling over lately:

BEDROOMS

EHenderson Bedroomsource

HouseB Eric Stonestreetsource

ATherapy Bedroomsource

CasaSugar Bedroomsource

KITCHENS

White Kitchen Blue Tilesource

Design Sponge Kitchen Redosource

Grey Kitchen Cabinets Wood Shelvessource

Warm Wood with rugsource

What’s Cooking In The Kitchen
Speaking of kitchens….. after Jefe noticed a bunch of our nonstick pots and pans chipping, we decided it was time for some replacements. I did a little research and turns out Sur La Table, my new favorite place to spend any and all extra cash, sells some of the highest quality sets for under $250.

Sur La Table Cookwaresource

Thanks to a sale and a leftover gift card from Christmas, we brought a new set home last weekend. I also happened to pick up a copy of The Joy of Cooking finally, so naturally I figured the combination of my new purchases would instantly turn me in to Julia Child.

Later that night I discovered I wasn’t that far off the mark: I whipped up one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever made. Chicken piccata with a side of green beans almondine. Although now I think I’ve raised Jefe’s standards a little too high for the amount of time I actually have to spend in the kitchen…

Chicken Piccata with Green Beans Almondine

Fashion Forward
Have any of you been following the latest fashion trend? The industry is FINALLY starting to take notice of the completely untapped resource of plus size consumers. From ModCloth’s amazing commitment to equal opportunity sizing and the wealth of plus-size fashion bloggers to Target’s latest Ava & Viv collection, women of all sizes are finally being given fashion-forward clothing options. I love the new Swimsuits For All ad campaign; who needs a Victoria’s Secret Angel when you can have Ashley Graham? Makes me *almost* brave enough to try out one of their high-waisted bikinis. Almost.

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And as a result of this new trend, I’ve discovered some new blogs that I’m loving! Nicolette Mason in particular is my new current fav. Girl’s got sass and style that does not quit!

A little light reading…..
I love the Kindle app on my iPad. I’ve found myself reading so much more, especially since it can sync will all my devices. Waiting in line at the grocery store? No problem! You’ve got time to crank out another few paragraphs. The downside? Since you don’t have a physical book and its 800 pages literally staring you in the face, it’s all too easy to get sucked in to a book without fully realizing the commitment that you’re making.

Case in point: thanks to all the great feminist reviews of Starz’ new series Outlander and me without access to the channel, I decided to start reading the book. Literally THOUSANDS of pages and 6 books later, I’m fully engrossed in the series with at least another 2 books and a few more THOUSANDS pages to go. But damn is it good – Claire is the most incredibly fierce female character I’ve read in a LONG time.  And the hot Scot playing her 18th century love doesn’t hurt either… Example #1: Starz’s new ads for season one:

Outlandersource

All the reading though has reminded me how much I love it and list of things next on the docket for after I finally finish Outlander is growing quite long. Number one is Amy Poehler’s latest (I know, I know, I’m behind the times on this one). Thanks to my fav site The Everygirl, I’m certain that #2 on the list, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding (best.  title.  ever.) is going to give me a SERIOUS case of wanderlust.

What I Was Doing.....source

So there you have it. Random musings and a few very pretty pictures for the week. What have you all had your eye on? New cookware? Or maybe a new book you’d love to get lost in? I highly recommend Scottish time travel circa 1743 :-)

Ellen’s Design Challenge – Episode 3 Recap

UPDATED with photos of final designs below!

This week’s recap of “Ellen’s Design Challenge” begins with the Wayfair WALL ‘O CHAIRS! Each designer was tasked with selecting a chair that reflected their design aesthetic.  Katie chose first, stealing Gaspar’s prized Ghost Chair.  Gaspar had the opportunity to choose next – a black plastic chair with light, wooden legs.  Carley chose a french country chair that I absolutely adored.  Tim bucked tradition and decided to challenge himself by choosing the white plastic S chair.

Designers and their chairssource

Joe then presented the challenge for the week – craft a dining table to compliment the contestants’ chosen chairs (I couldn’t see that one coming from 500 miles away…) Each designer was quick to create their designs, however, Tim and Carley’s were nearly identical. After sparring over the same beautiful slab of raw wood, Tim eventually relented to Carley’s persistence.

Fighting Ovsource

Carley’s table was an intriguing design from the get-go and obviously focused on forged metal highlighting her expertise, however I knew the one glaring problem – the giant splice down the middle – was going to be a serious problem come judging time.

Carley's Tablesource

Tim had to adjust his design based on this second choice of material. This worked to his advantage as the design was now distinctly different from Carley’s. I was thoroughly impressed with how he managed to create such a rustic yet modern piece that gorgeous in such a short time! In the end, it still screamed very masculine, but I couldn’t dispute that it was a stunning piece of furniture that perfectly complemented his chairs.

Tim'ssource

Gaspar got inventive. Like Tim, he decided to step outside his comfort zone this week and chose to work with plexiglass. He crafted a stunning tree silhouette out of wood veneer and then sandwiched it between the plexi. The final product was not my style but was indisputably beautiful and truly one of a kind.

Gaspar'ssource

Now for Katie. With Leslie gone, Katie’s quickly stepped up as the most annoying contestant in my book. I do love her perky attitude but the Valley Girl talk has gotten on my nerves. Combine that with the very cow-like table that she crafted and it was just too much for me. Had her finished product more closely resembled her initial design with a marble-like finish, I would have liked her piece much more than the barnyard animal she came up with.

Katie'ssource

I did, however, admire her fierce commitment to wildlife courtesy of the pandas all over her pajama-like pants.

Panda Pants 2source

Our guest judge, Ray Azoulay of Obsolete was another design-world insider. All the contestants seemed thoroughly impressed with him but as an average viewer, I had no idea who he was.

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His insight in to each piece, however, was spot on. Note to the producers and programming executives – not the smartest move to continually have unrecognizable insiders in that chair. Your average American viewer is oblivious to their resume and will quickly be turned off.

Ellen and Furniture

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 During judging we FINALLY got our first Ellen in-person sighting of the season. She made quite the comical entrance, but otherwise, her presence was fairly unnecessary. It didn’t add much besides some fake, crafted for TV suspense when she handed notes to Katie and Carley telling them who was going home. (SPOILER ALERT: Neither. Did you really think Ellen was there to do the dirty work?! Of course not!). So all 4 designers are safe for another week.

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Overall, I’d give the show a 5/10. It has some redeeming qualities but certainly has room for improvement. So I’ll keep watching it for now, if only so that I can critique it for you all the rest of the season.

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And just as a small aside – the folks over at HGTV and Wayfair need to work on their cross promotions. I appreciate the Wayfair interstitial ad we got right before we cut back to the show from a commercial break, however, there is ZERO presence of the show on Wayfair’s site. For the amount of in-show Wayfair mentions and commercial air time purchased, I was certain they’d be plugging it left and right but I searched for hours and couldn’t find a single mention on their site. Especially for an online retailer, thats a huge missed opportunity. HGTV Ad Sales and Wayfair Marketing – call me. I’ve got a ton of ideas for how to up your game :-)

So what do you all think? Is anyone loving it? Watching out of obligation? Or have you already unloaded it from your DVR in favor of making room for another episode of “Downton Abbey?” Speaking of which, who watched this past Sunday’s episode?! I just have to say to Edith: you go girl. You do you; you do you!

Ellen’s Design Challenge – Episode 2 Recap

Surprise!  You guys get 2 posts this week!  First off – are any of you watching Scandal?  Last night’s episode was bananas!  I can’t handle it!  But that’s not the show I’m here to talk about today.

Apparently a lot of you lost your cable on Monday night!  I’ve gotten a lot of questions this week about what happened on episode 2 of Ellen’s Design Challenge.  I have to say, I’m still holding out hope for this show.  There were a few glimmers this week.

To start, the challenge was a lot more exciting.  Each designer was tasked with creating a piece of furniture to house the mystery contents of a storage unit.  The contents varied from barware to baby clothes to craft supplies.

Storage

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What I really enjoyed was seeing the designers spend more time with their carpenters actually designing and building their furniture.  I know in a first episode of a new series that you need more time to establish the show – the rules, the contestants and their backstories, etc.  But in episode 2 you can really dig in and see the contestants’ process.

Building

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Ellen was again – no where to be seen outside of a TV monitor.  She provided the contestants with some inspiration for the challenge, however, I really missed seeing her in person.  Knowing that they film her talk show in LA and they filmed this show in LA, I am sorely disappointed that she couldn’t find time to show up in person to tape 5 minutes for each episode that has her own name in the title.

Katie

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When it came time for judging all of the critiques were on point.  However, I disagree with their final winning selection.  I thought Gaspar’s sideboard for dishware knocked it out of the park.  I wouldn’t put it in my home but I thought it was stunning for the right space.

The judges had other ideas though and selected Katie’s red cabinet that was VERY 80’s inspired.  I thought it was over the line kitch, but the judges just loved the artful storage it provided for clothing.  Her finished piece is below:

Winning Cabinet

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The judges eventually decided to send home Leslie FINALLY.  Although she caused drama, which makes for good TV, her overall attitude and approach to everything was just annoying and I was so happy to see her go.  The dresser she created to house baby clothes was too simple, lacking any unique features.  And as Christiane pointed out, the changing pad with a baby would have gone flying off the table without being properly secured.

So I’ll give the show one more week.  What did you guys think?  Are you still watching?  Or have you grown bored?

My Funny Valentine

Valentine’s Day.  A day full of love, romance and scattered rose petals or a made-up holiday perpetuated and capitalized by the greeting card and flower industries?  I admittedly fall somewhere in the middle.  I think it’s a crock to make such a big deal about February 14th.  I do, however, appreciate the sentiment behind it so whether you choose 2/14 or another one of the 364 days of the year, it’s nice to take some time out of your day to show your significant other a little extra love.

Somehow I literally forgot to post last year’s budget-friendly Valentine’s Day recap so here we are.  With 12 days left to make your plans, here’s how Jefe and I celebrated last year in hopes of giving you a little inspiration.

To start, for the last 4 years, Jefe and I both agreed “we’re not doing anything.”  And every year without fail, we’ve both done something for each other.  My gifts have varied, but Jefe has been pretty standard with beautiful flowers (thank you 1-800-Flowers!)  He’s not a romantic flowers kind of guy so it’s always a pleasant surprise when they show up, always at the office.

Flowers at the office

Flowers' ride home

Don’t throw away the box!  Repackage them for the trip home and no spills!

Last year, I was a little strapped for cash so I had to get creative and turned to Pinterest for budget-friendly inspiration.  There were thousands of options, some cute, others VERY tacky, but the things that caught my eye the most – food.  They say the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?  Since VDay last year was on a Friday and Jefe would have just gotten home from a trip to NYC, I decided I’d make him his favorite for dinner – steak.

Dinner was a simple enough gesture though that I felt I needed to kick it up a notch.  So dessert was to be my special surprise.  Thanks to my Pinterest inspiration and Jefe’s unfailing love of root beer floats, I came up with this adorable little tag:

Valentine Float My Boat

Valentine Float My Boat 2

Then I attached the tag to a 4-pack of gourmet root beer (the vanilla ice cream patiently waited in the freezer.)

Valentine Float Root Beer

But that still didn’t seem to be enough so I whipped up a batch of brownies (Betty Crocker to the rescue!), pulled out a heart-shaped cookie cutter and went to town.  A treats box with gift tag later, and I had a great little set up.  To top it off, I grabbed one of our drinking straws, cut out a red heart from construction paper with 2 slits and added it to the straw.

Valentine Heart Shaped Brownies

With the places set though, the table looked a little bare (notice the vast void of blackness at the top of the picture).

VDay Place Setting 1

So I scrambled around the house for a few accessories to jazz up the space: flowers swiped from the bookshelf, votive candle holders stolen from another shelf, and I pulled out our fancy candle sticks.

VDay Place Setting 2

VDay Place Setting 3

I stood there staring, wishing I had a non-holiday table runner to really finish it off.  That was when I remembered Sherry of Young House Love fame (R.I.P. tear….) had previously used scarves to finish off a few spaces.  Next thing you know, I was rummaging around for my red infinity scarf and voila!

VDay Place Setting 4

All in I think I spent about $30 between supplies from Michael’s (gift tags, string, treat boxes and heart cookie cutter) and the grocery store (brownie mix, root beer and ice cream).  So you don’t need to get too fancy just to spread some extra love.  It was a bit cheesy, but I didn’t care and Jefe certainly appreciated the effort (and the brownie/root beer float mega dessert he had later that night!)

VDay Place Setting 5

Head on over to my Pinterest page to see some additional ideas that caught my eye for your own VDay inspiration!

Ellen’s Design Challenge

Updated: Found some photos of the finished products if you scroll to the bottom!

For those that don’t know, I work in the entertainment industry to pay the bills.  So I get super pumped when my world of interests collide – television, branding, and home design.  Such was the case with Ellen’s Design Challenge which premiered this past week on HGTV.

Ellen

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First off – Ellen.  Love her.  I think she is one of the funniest, most genuine women on TV so naturally I was stoked to have another reason to watch her.  The show is named after her, she’s in all the promos and marketing so she’d be a main part of the show, right?  Wrong.  She’s in one segment.  Where the contestants watch a clip of her on a TV.  Total snoozefest.

Ellen on TV

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The format.  Totally Project Runway meets HGTV Design Star.  Pre-selected, talented contestants compete in unique furniture design challenges each week to prove who is the best.  You get the gist.  Design school graduates, self-made furniture builders, a FEMALE blacksmith (my favorite).

Contestants

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Casting was obviously done both for talent and reality TV drama because honestly, why else would you watch without at least one cat fight?!  I could list all their names here, but honestly,  no one stood out enough to remember.  Which is not good TV.

As the contestants have limited time to complete their challenges, they’re each given a carpenter to help execute their designs.

Carpenters

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Here’s what really pulled me out – most of the carpenters are smaller, but recognizable HGTV personalities themselves.  This is never acknowledged.  It’s like they’re just your average carpenter found through the Yellow Pages.

The host.  Generic, mildly charismatic reality show type guy.  I do not even remember his name and you learn nothing about him.  He just directs the contestants where to look.

Host Jay Montepare

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The judges.  Credit goes to HGTV execs for finding relevant, qualified judges for the competition: Amanda Dameron, editor-in-chief of Dwell Magazine.  She’s a little boring, but clearly knows her stuff and her expertise is appreciated.  She’s partnered with Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of Wayfair.com, one of the show’s key sponsors.  Christiane is fairly expressive and entertaining to watch.

Judges

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They also bring in a guest judge, Jason Chauncey of Brownstone Upholstery Inc.  Here’s my gripe about the guest judge – although I’m no design expert, I have NEVER heard of this guy. And if I haven’t, your average American viewer DEFINITELY has not heard of him. He was also a bit boring.  Where’s Nate Berkus?  Or Genevieve Gorder?  Granted, HGTV probably can’t afford these now uber-famous faces, but you need another hook to keep your viewer interested.  Thought – how about Ellen?!  It is her show and she was in very little of this first episode.  She may not be a design professional, but she’s certainly a lover of great design.  Her home has been featured in some of the best home decor magazines out there.  And she’s a recognizable face (THE face that many viewers tuned in for) which is key when you’re trying to find your audience for a new show.

Elle Decor Cover

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Architectural Digest

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The night’s challenge was to take a big, boring existing box consisting of wood, steel and plexi and repurpose it in to a design exemplary of the contestants’ style (total Project Runway unconventional challenge knock off).

Box Pre Makeover

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The final designs – I was less than impressed.  We had one mid-century modern shelving system knock-off and a sculpturally beautiful chair that was under-appreciated by the judges.

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There was also an entry table made by the blacksmith (she is so bad ass!) and the most boring wall shelving unit I’ve ever seen (she is annoying and should have been the first to go!).

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Then there was the winner, a beautiful yet useful campaign desk made by the guy who, shocker, specializes in reclaimed materials.

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Lastly, I was fairly impressed with the brand integrations on the show.  So often shows like this can look like walking advertisements for Home Depot or Armstrong flooring.  But the Wayfair.com accessory wall was done very tastefully and they had a great interstitial ad just before you came back from one of the commercial breaks.  It showed you examples of the furniture created on the show and then cut to similar styles available for purchase.  It was a commercial, but tasteful (and hosted by judge Christiane.)

Wayfair Wall Background

(best shot of the Wayfair Wall I could find)

Overall, I was a bit disappointed in the show.  The previews for upcoming episodes look promising (and include Ellen in person) so I’ll keep watching.  But if the show doesn’t deliver, I can only last another episode or 2.  Three episodes of any new show is my limit; no one has time these days to waste on uninteresting television.

So there’s my rant.  What did you guys think?  Did anyone love it?  Are you going to keep watching?

Minted Is My Favorite Flavor

Artwork.  It’s a tough one to tackle.  It’s hard to justify the expense when you’re on a budget.  The usual haunts – Ikea, Target, World Market – you can’t rely on them for this category like you can for cheap accessories and fiscally-conscious furniture because no one wants to walk in to their aunt’s home and realize that Verna’s got the same fake painting over her couch as you.  Art stands out MUCH more than if you both, say, have the same Nate Berkus serving tray.

Usually I turn to Etsy, but let’s be honest, their site has become such a HUGE place for artists, that it’s often difficult to find something if you’re just in a browsing kind of mood.  It’s great if you know what you want, but what if you just want to peruse or are in the mood to maybe discover some new artists you never would have stumbled upon on your own?

Etsy 4 Million

4 MILLION options!

Enter MINTED.  They recently contacted me about checking out their site.  And I can honestly say with 120% certainty – WOW.  It’s an incredible resource for independent artists to showcase their work as well as us design-savvy folks looking for a bargain on an original piece.

Minted to the rescue

But it’s not just pretty pictures you guys – Minted has a TON of categories to offer, all created and curated by these lesser known, but oh-so-talented artists.  You’ve got your basic photos, paintings, etc. but you can also get custom art, unique stationary (including wedding invites and their latest addition: Save-the-Dates), fabric and home decor!  Had I discovered them a month ago, I totally would have ordered my holiday cards through them.  And honestly it was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon them on my own.  So in the vain of trying to provide you guys with new, exciting suggestions for decorating on a budget, I decided to give them a whirl.

As my apartment is really coming along and I rarely use stationary, I decided to focus on artwork for my much-needed, very bare walls.  After a little perusing I found the best part about the site (aside from the actual artwork) – if you find a print you like, they offer a TON of moderately priced, custom framing options.  No worrying about sorting through a crate of frames to find an un-dinged simple black number from Ikea!

Frame Options

Ladies and gents – you can now order custom-framed artwork from the comfort of your couch, in your matching flannel jammies, ON A BUDGET!  Not that I did that or anything….(yes, I was wearing the matching set version of this while watching the first episode of Agent CarterHayley Atwell, I want to be you when I grow up.)

So what caught my eye?  There were LOTS of options, many more modern than others.  My favorites weren’t necessarily Jefe’s favorites so I had to compromise.  I did end up selecting two photos, one that was perfect for framing in the kitchen and another one without a frame because it reminded me of home just too much to pass up.

Bottles with Frame

Open Door

(I ordered this one without the frame, but left on here to show the edges)

And who can turn down a stunning black & white photo for $20?!  I also decided to test out some of their other categories, so I picked up this new notebook for the office.

Arrow Journal

Overall, the site was super easy to use.  You can customize your searches based on style, shape, type, and color of the artwork.  They also have curated sections that include limited edition pieces.  Also most of the artwork can be shipped in multiple sizes which is great if you find something but are looking to fill wall space that is slightly smaller or larger than the original piece.  Once you select the art, you have ELEVEN different frame options including such awesome styles as reclaimed barn wood, whitewashed herringbone, and my personal favorite: distressed indigo stain.   I did, however, notice that for certain photos or artwork, certain framing options weren’t available, yet that same frame was for other photos.  Not sure what that was about.

Minted Frame Options

As my selected photo was intended for the kitchen, I knew I had to chose a frame wisely.  The distressed indigo stain was coincidentally a PERFECT match to my Melrose Trading Post chalkboard in the kitchen.  That alone was totally worth the cost and honestly, you’d pay just as much for a nicer frame from Aaron Brothers that you have to insert the image (with no matte) yourself.

The first item, the notebook, arrived about 5 days after I placed the order.  Apparently they ship as each piece is ready.

Minted Notebook 1

Minted Notebook 2

Minted Notebook 3

Minted Notebook 4

A week later I got my framed photo and was pleasantly surprised with how thorough the packaging was.  No doubt that it could have been thrown around and jostled heavily and it would have stayed in perfect condition.

Minted Packaging 2

Minted Thank You

And it came with a thank you note and free gift tags!  (Although I’m not sure why I got holiday ones since I order these pieces in January.)

Minted Thanks and Tags

I’m still waiting on the black & white photo, but I wasted no time in getting the other one hung.  My one gripe is that they pre strung the frame for hanging, only allowing me to hang vertically.

Prestrung

Now I know certain photographers and artists will say that they did that so the image can be hung as the artist intended HOWEVER not everyone abides by that.

Framed Photo

The photo I chose for framing I specifically wanted to hang horizontally to better fill the wall space I had intended for it to be placed.  I am not a fan of not at least being presented with the OPTION.  Now as Minted prides itself on supporting independent artists, I get that they strung the image as it was intended.  But that was not my intention when I bought it.  So they lose a point for that one.  They gain back a point for the sheer quality of work:

QUALITY!

Now for the grand reveal in our kitchen!

Minted in the Kitchen

Minted in the Kitchen 2

Minted in the Kitchen 3

I love the image and think that combined with the frame are perfect for the little nook above my stove. However, I wish I would have gone a size bigger.  Regardless, I still love the photo and am so happy with Minted’s service.  I will definitely be using them again.

And just for comparison, my Minted frame’s detail:

Minted Frame Detail

And our our chalkboard.  Very happy accident.  (And yes, Jefe’s aware that it’s his turn to change the message on the board….)

Chalkboard

So head on over to Minted and get yourself some art!  Or stationary!  Or anything really!  And they’re currently offering 15% off Valentine’s Day cards with code HEART as well as 20% off foil art and Valentine’s Day cards with code FOILLOVE!