Boat and Tote love.

Since I was a wee kid, these bags have been hanging around my life.

I’m a total bag lady – just like my Grandma Betty.  I love a good, sturdy bag I can stuff full of everything and anything.  That’s why the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote is a must-have.

My momma uses these bags all the time, and over the years, has purchased several for herself, friends and family.  From the small size to extra-large, these bags are the best for trips to the library, the beach, a picnic, toting groceries or using as carry-on luggage.

They’re made in Maine from heavy-duty canvas, able to be monogrammed and practically indestructible.  Because they’re from L.L. Bean they’re guaranteed for life.


[A gift for Katie!]

I travel with one of these bags almost every trip I take.  I gave them to my bridesmaids (filled with some of my other favorite things) as gifts for being in my wedding.  I have open top, zip top, large and extra-large sizes.  I have them in pink, black and navy-colored straps.

As we were walking out the door to Martha’s Vineyard for a quick getaway honeymoon last year, my mother handed us a Boat and Tote with beach towels, sunscreen and snacks.  Our “Stroh” bag gets used at least once a week.  Cute, right?


[Stroh bag's first beach trip]

These bags aren’t too expensive in general–as you’ll have it for the rest of your days on earth–but right now, through Wednesday, May 29, they’re an even better deal because they’re all 20% off.

Click here for details!

[Top photo by Kara Pearson]

Twelve 2012 Instagram Faves.

I got an iPhone for my birthday last year from C and for the past several months, I’ve taken over 1,800 photos with it.  I imagine that’s many, many more calls than I’ve made and received.  I think the first app I downloaded was Instagram.  I’ve had a fun time with it.

You hear a lot these days about digital photos never leaving the gallery and staying on a disk or in a server for the rest of time.  Below are some of my favorite photos enhanced by Instagram taken in 2012–shared now, with all of you.

Instagram11. Western skies on a pretty spring afternoon in Lakewood.



2. Brudder love on the Lake.



3. A special birthday morning.



4. It became very real we were getting married when Tiffany started arriving on Vine Street.



5. This darling tiger kitty is my favorite.  He gets a lot of love from Momma and Dad.



6. The most magical place.  When I need a time out, I close my eyes and think of the smell of the forest and the lake.



7. What a muse.  More of the same special place.


Instagram78. One happy camper on a Sunday morning in the Rockies.


Instagram89. Labor Day wool winners at the Columbia County Fair in Chatham.



10. Already pining for the Atlantic at the SeaCrest Beach Hotel.



11. First time at a Big Boy in Oh-hi-oh on our way home from R and J’s lovely wedding!



12. Charlie Brown’s.  Where it all started for me and C.  We love this place.


A Practical Bridesmaid.

All of my bridesmaids traveled to be in our wedding, in my hometown.  An incredible gift.  These girls, their friendship, and their willingness to hop in cars and on planes to stand up with me on our day was a special blessing.

I racked my brain thinking of ways to thank them for their help and dedication to me over our year-plus engagement.

Finally, in the hopes of sending these girls home with a little slice of my roots, I decided to fill a favorite tote with some of my best-loved everyday local and special-to-me items.  It’s what Oprah would do if she were throwing a wedding at her county fairgrounds.

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote
My mom always has a few of these bags in various sizes floating around the house.  She uses them for work and laundry, groceries and travel.  I bought my first one when I was in college and had it monogrammed. I love these bags and want to share them with everyone in my life.

The Boat and Totes are guaranteed for life and you’ll probably not want to live without them once you have one.  Best of all, they’re made in Maine.

The medium size is perfect for a day at the beach, a trip to the library or a commute to work.  Small enough to carry under your arm but large enough to hold books, a swim towel or a notebook computer.  And who doesn’t love a monogram?  I kept the totes classic and wearable with navy blue straps.

And then I set to work filling them.

Hudson-Chatham Merlot
We be wine-drinking girls.  Cheers to that with some wine made in my home county!  The Merlot came recommended at our local wine shop.

Saratoga Spring Water
Not only is it the most delicious spring water in the northeast, it’s in a gorgeous deep blue bottle.  More cheers!

Sleep Mask
I have worn sleep masks since right after college.  My first apartment was on a busy city street and it was illuminated day and night with street lights and sunshine.  For a short time, I worked an associate producer shift from 2 a.m. to noon on certain weekdays, so sleeping in darkness was imperative to me having a successful day at work.

Besides being incredibly practical, isn’t there just something about wearing a sleep mask that’s oh-so-Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s?

Goat Milk Soap
I used to buy goat milk soap at local craft fairs when I lived in Albany and my mom always has several bars in her bathroom closet.  Upstate New York is known for its dairies.  Goat milk is widely used in all sorts of products – including this moisture-rich soap!

I found this local Lebanon Springs Exotic Goat Milk Soap at a market in the middle of a mall in Albany on a winter trip home in February.

Rosewater Waverly Sachet
I love the smell of rosewater or lavender in a ladies’ bureau or closet.  Waverly makes a beautifully scented sachet perfect for a drawer and easy to hang on a hanger in a closet.  Favorites!

Leather-Bound Journal
Because it’s so much better when you write it down.  I’ve written through so many journals in my life up to now and insist there is nothing like the durability of a soft cover leather book.  These journals from Anthropologie are similar to those placed in the totes.

Scarf / Sarong Wrap
From early fall through spring, you’ll find me with a scarf.  They are an easy upgrade to any outfit, casual or fancy.  The scarf / sarongs I chose for the bridesmaids were available at World Market and I loved them right away.  The beauty is in their weight.  They can easily be worn as a cover up at the pool or can be wrapped as a scarf to accessorize a jean jacket in the cooler months.

Ladies.  You are simply tops!

All photos by Kara Pearson

A Super Awesome Wedding Gift and Thank-You Etiquitte

A few days after I got engaged, I called my family to share the great news.

Two minutes later, a KitchenAid mixer was at the door to my apartment, a gift from my aunts and cousins.  I couldn’t stand leaving that gleaming hunk of industrial design at-its-finest in the box until I got married, so I made up a rule.

I can’t use any of the gifts I receive until I write and send a thank-you note.  I think it’s a very good strategy.

Today, I worked from home and was on a seven-hour (yes, seven-hour) conference call/planning session with the east coast office.  That means we broke for lunch at 10 a.m. Mountain Time.  Sweet.

By 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time, I was on my fourth cup of green tea.  It’s very easy when all you have to do is flip a switch.

For my Mile High bridal shower, I was the recipient of a little known kitchen appliance that I absolutely must tout.  I had to write a thank-you immediately.

The Capresso H2O Plus Electric Kettle (259) is amazing.  Plug it in, fill it up with tap water and flip the switch on the handle and in under two minutes (bordering on miracle) you’ll have boiling water.  Let it sit for a sec (or don’t) and pour it in a mug and steep your tea.  Incredible.

The beauty of this little machine is that it’s small, so it doesn’t take up much counter space.  Because of its size, it’s also easy to store.  I’m not sure I’ll be storing it, however, because I’ve been using it nonstop since the brunch I hosted on Sunday.  It’s found its place in my little kitchen.


A la votre! Wedding bands are in!

It gets more and more real and more and more…close.

Today for lunch I met C at our jeweler and we picked up these beauties.


Because Chris is a boy and he’s never worn a ring before, he’s petrified of “losing” it, so insisted we get one that “wasn’t very expensive” for him.  In fact, the ring cost the same amount as the engraving.  Score!

I thought I’d make it simple and get a ring that matched my engagement ring – a rocker cut white gold band that was simple – no extraneous diamonds.

Simple it was not.

Who knew the setting Chris purchased was custom-made by the jeweler?  For two weeks I was without my engagement ring so they could make a mold of it and figure out how to make a band from that mold.

Two weeks after that I was presented with a plastic ring to try on so they could ensure correct sizing.

Three weeks after that, the ring in white gold was done.  Voila!  It is stunning.

“Now for the easy part,” our jeweler said, “engraving!”

“Great!” we smiled at her.

“So what do you want it to say?” she asked.



“Oh shoot,” she said, “How do you spell that?”

So two months later, we got them back.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.  - Song Of Solomon 6:3

Hiring Friends to do a Stranger’s Job

Take heed, future engaged couples.  If  I had to do it all over again, I would not make the following mistakes.

1. Hiring someone I know to provide a paid service.

Make sure the organist is not your second cousin, you didn’t used to work for your caterer or the DJ is a guy you went to high school with.

Case in point.  When I was in high school I worked at a coffee house that was on the first floor of a concert venue in my small town.  I made, served and sold coffee and sweets for jazz concerts in the coffee house and played hostess for larger concerts upstairs.  I got the job through my French tutor, who owned the venue with her husband.  Tres bien!

If there was a concert that was large enough to deserve more than just coffee and dessert, the venue generally contracted the food to a husband/wife catering team who did a lot of business in the town and in the county.  The catering couple were known for their savory European-style food and made the very best Linzer torte cookies.  They catered for many venues in town and did a lot of private parties.  My parents hired them for all our graduation ceremonies – high school and college.

So of course, when I got engaged, there was no question who I would hire to cater the affair.  It would be Mrs. X.  She had the date open and money was put down on the deal.

I should have gone with my gut after calling Mrs. X to make a first appointment and getting very little response.  It was a sign.  Finally, when home over Labor Day, I got a hold of her.  She met with us at our reception site and blew right through an agenda for the day and food choices.  She gave us some menus and said we could do a tasting over Christmas and to email her with our thoughts on her food offerings.

We emailed her right away and asked what she thought about how they all went together.  We heard nothing back.  Another email and two calls later, still nothing.

Finally, in November, I caught her on the phone in her kitchen.

“Right,” she said.  “I can’t do a tasting at Christmas.  I’ll be out of the country for five weeks.”

Even after Christmas we didn’t hear from her.  I kept calling and emailing.

Then, at the very end of January, with four months left to the wedding, she emailed me from Europe with some bad news.  Emailed.  It was like breaking up on a Post-It.

She was unfortunately not going to be able to cater our wedding due to a litany of issues and she put me in touch with another caterer she wasn’t totally familiar with, but thought could handle our wedding.  Turns out, that caterer had never hosted a party with more than 60 people.

Lesson learned.

2. Not getting it in writing and sending a check willy-nilly.

See 1.

Gifts for the Unregistered (or Under-registered) Couple

“Obviously, you cannot go wrong with pewter candlesticks.” — Momma

Traditionally, wedding registries are based on building up household goods for a couple as they merge lives.  China place settings with accoutrements, flatware and silver all used to be part of the game.

So often today, when couples get engaged, they’re not moving out of their childhood bedroom into a marriage.  Most have already had lives of their own – as single people living alone or with roommates or with each other.  Many traditionally-registered-for household goods (blenders, dishes and juice glasses) are already owned and “upgrading” (pushed heavily by department store wedding registries) is deemed unnecessary.

Some couples are opting out of registering all together and many are under-registered based on the amount of guests they plan on having to their wedding, or because the etiquette surrounding registering just can’t be pinned down (no matter what Macy’s says).

So for the modern Mister and Missus, or Mister and Mister or Missus and Missus, there is room to be creative, thoughtful and leave a lasting impression as guests on the honored couple’s  day.

These monogrammed Quinn Beaded Bath Accessories from Pottery Barn are charmers.  I am a particular fan of the medium and large canisters.  My future sister-in-law has one in her guest bathroom and it’s fitting and classic sitting on the counter top.  These canisters are perfect for bathroom accessories – soaps, cotton balls and swabs.  They’re also great for small decor, like polished stones or seashells.

This Hemstitched Linen Table Runner is available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma.  It is also available for monogramming, however, I would skip making it personal and let it speak for itself.  I think a runner is heads above a table cloth for many reasons, including the ease of ironing and statement it can make when placed across a simple wood table.  I love the natural linen color of this runner.  Something so neutral will compliment any bride and groom’s home.

When I first moved to Colorado I spent a few weeks living with my friends and sleeping in their step-son’s room.  The top and bottom bunks of the bed were blanketed in beautiful wool blankets from Pendleton.  I have been a huge fan since spending those cool mountain mornings under the warmth of those blankets.  The Stripe 5th Avenue Throw is perfect for the foot of a bed or the back of a sofa and neutral enough for any home.

The first Christmas I was in my very first apartment out of college, my aunt gave me a set of the Riedel “O” Cabernet and Chardonnay Glasses and I have used them probably once a week since then.  They’re casual enough for weekday dinner with your sweetheart and elegant enough for a holiday celebration with extended family and friends.  I particularly like this set of eight – four white and four red.


Last but certainly not least, pewter candlesticks.  Momma is correct.  These are elegant and timeless and are just a plain beautiful gift.  The Woodstock Pewter Candlestick, from Danforth in Middlebury, Vermont, will compliment holiday, anniversary and birthday dinners on a dining table for years to come.

Cheers to the lovely couple!