2016 Oscars - Black and White

Black and white was a big theme at the 88th Academy Awards - both in the broadcast itself and on the red carpet too. Let's take a look at all the black and white dresses from the night.

Julianne Moore
Last year's Best Actress winner, Julianne Moore, looked lovely in this black lace Chanel gown. The embellished and intricately designed neckline works well with the simple silhouette presented in the lower half of the dress. It moved really well, and the lace and bead work added a lot of nice texture as well. I would have preferred smaller jewels, as the large circle earrings and heavy cuff compete with the neckline. The look could have handled bolder make-up too, but I loved her hair. Nicely done, Julianne!

Sarah Silverman
Presenter, Sarah Silverman, wore this Zac Posen column dress. The silhouette of the gown is bugging me a bit. I'm not a fan of what is happening at the hip. Also, it is a bit too long. With such a simple dress, she could have gone a little bigger on the jewels (although the emerald earrings are sweet) and really played up the hair and make-up more too. This one was just an okay look for me.

Jennifer Lawrence
Nominee, Jennifer Lawrence, wore this lace and feathered Dior number. This dress would have worked so much better if the lining was black instead of nude. As is, it could maybe have been saved with some great accessories or jewelry, but there were none. Her hair is nice, but ultimately, this one was a big miss for me.

Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg wore this Danes Of New York gown. There are two competing necklines here, like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a strapless or off-the-shoulder gown. It's making her look top heavy, and I wish it had only been the off-the-shoulder neckline instead. I wasn't a fan of the jewelry either. Some sparkly chandelier earrings would have been a better choice than the giant octopus bracelet/ring thing. This was a miss for me as well.

Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler wore this black, but colorfully embroidered, Andrew Gn dress. I like the idea of this dress, but it may not have been the best fit for Amy. It's too long for her, and is dwarfing her small frame. It doesn't quite seem her style either, as I never pictured her much as a Bohemian. Also, it seems a tad too casual for the Academy Awards. Despite all that, I think I do kind of like it. There's something to be said for wearing something different and/or risky. Her hair and make-up look great too. Not bad, Amy.

Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet wore this shiny black Ralph Lauren number. I was not a fan of this fabric, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her wear her hair long and loose around her shoulders. The jewelry and make-up were both spot on too. I didn't love the fabric, but it did make for a far more visually interesting dress than if it had just been your basic black. Nice job for trying something different, Kate.

Kerry Washington
Presenter, Kerry Washington, wore this black and white Atelier Versace dress. There was a bit of a weight imbalance for me, as the heavy leather top did not seem to pair right with the light and flowy bottom half. It also could have done without the shoulder straps. There's too much going on when you combine them with the straps on her hips as well. I also would have gone with a white shoe instead, as the black visually interrupts the flow of the dress. I thought her hair was only okay, but her make-up and jewelry were both pretty good. Overall though, this was a miss for me.

Rooney Mara
Nominee, Rooney Mara, wore this white lace Givenchy number. Stylewise, this suits her perfectly, but I wasn't a big fan. I found the diamond belly cut-out distracting and the white shoes were the wrong choice. A gold metallic sandal would have suited the look much better. Her make-up is good, and the hair is a bit severe, but that's how she rolls, so I didn't mind it all that much. It's not my favorite look of the night, but it's classic Rooney.

Olivia Wilde
Presenter, Olivia Wilde, wore this pleated Valentino Haute Couture gown. I loved the bottom half of this gown, loved the clutch, and her face and hair were spot-on. However, the choker combined with the shoulder straps made for a strange rectangle of skin front and center that was distracting. Losing the choker would have done wonders for this look. This one was just okay for me.

Priyanka Chopra
Presenter, Priyanka Chopra whore this white lace Zuhair Murad dress. I would have liked this look a lot more if the lining had been white, although I appreciated the interesting lace pattern. The clutch seemed like the wrong choice, but everything else was pretty spot on. Her face is gorgeous! Nicely done, Priyanka!

Lady Gaga
Nominee, Lady Gaga, wore this white Brandon Maxwell pantsuit. The bodice of this is perfect and I loved the overall silhouette. I suppose if you're going to wear a pantsuit to the Oscars, this is the way to do it. Her hair, make-up, and accessories all complimented the look well. Lovely job, Gaga!

And finally...

Jennifer Gardner
Presenter, Jennifer Gardner's black Versace gown was my pick for the favorite of this bunch. I loved how the off-the-shoulder sleeve makes a continuous line down her chest, folds at the waist, and then pools to the floor. I loved the sparkle of the bodice and belt, and how it is repeated again with the shoes. Her hair and make-up are classic (although a red lip to match those nails would have knocked it out of the park), and I loved all the bling! Beautiful job, Jennifer!!

All images from here, except for Sarah Silverman's and Lady Gaga's which were from here.


Prepping for Paint - Part 2

The next part of prepping the cabinets for paint was priming the base cabinets and doors. After all the work we had put in sanding (see here) it was fun to actually pick up a roller and finally cover up that wood! 
Priming is pretty easy. If you can paint, you can prime. We used this primer, which contains no VOC's or hazardous pollutants. I liked it. It didn't dry too fast, so we could take our time; and there was literally zero smell. We applied it with a small angled brush and foam roller. Our goal was to apply the primer as thin, even, and smooth as possible.
Next, we spread out all the doors in our living room. Actually, first we laid books on the floor, then covered the floor with plastic, then placed the doors on the books to prop them up off the floor while we primed. It worked really well, and made it so easy to prime the sides of each of the doors.
We primed the backs of the doors over Seamus' nap, then after the kids went to bed we flipped them and primed the fronts. It was definitely the most satisfying step yet.
And with that, we were finally ready to paint! First we had to pick a color though. Stay tuned.


Prepping for Paint - Part 1

The next step in our kitchen refresh, after removing the back splash (see here), was to sand and degloss all the cabinet bases and doors.

Actually, before we could do that, we had to fill a few holes with wood filler first. One of the very first things we did was pick out the new hardware for the cabinets (more on that later). We knew we were switching from knobs to handles, so we needed to know if the current position of each knob hole would work for the new handles. Turns out they did! That meant we only had to patch the holes on our long set of drawers next to the fridge. They had two handles each previously, but we're replacing with one long handle on each instead.
Of course after we took the doors off, we noticed there were a lot of extra holes on the back of each door for some reason. So, while Bill removed all the hinges and hardware from each door, I patched any additional holes I found.
Once all the holes were patched, we were ready to sand! We hung a plastic sheet in the kitchen to keep the dust contained and, we made sure to wear masks too. In addition, I didn't wear, but could have definitely used, some protective eye wear. I'd highly recommend that if you're going to attempt a project like this in the future to keep any dust from getting in your eyes.
Everything got sanded twice. First with a 60-grit sand paper to really get the old finish off, then with a 120-grit sand paper to smooth everything out.
After that, it was time for the liquid deglosser. Some might argue this was an unnecessary step as using a liquid deglosser can technically be used in place of sanding. We were following instructions from Young House Love though, favorite and trusted bloggers of mine, and they felt it was worth the extra step. After doing it, I agree. The deglossing really helped to clean the surface and get all the extra dust from sanding off too. We deglossed the base cabinets and doors two times each.
Basically, our motto throughout this was, "If we're going to do it, then let's do it right." It was a lot of work, but we wanted it both to look as good as possible and also last as long as possible too. Definitely worth it even though we were chomping at the bit to finally start painting already! Stay tuned.


Book Report - Snobs and The Great Gatsby

Here's a couple more books that I read last year as part of the Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge (which I completed, see here). Snobs by Julian Fellowes marked off "A book with a one-word title" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby, marked off "A book with bad reviews."

First up, from the man who brought us Downton Abbey, Snobs by Julian Fellowes.
When the lovely Edith Lavery, daughter of relatively successful parents, catches the eye of Charles, the Earl of Broughton and heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, rumors fly whether she is actually in love with him, or just in love with his title and the large estate that goes with it. Afterall, she's a city girl who loves to socialize and he's a traditional English countryman who likes the quiet of his estate. What could they possibly even have in common? Snobs gives an inside look into the world of the modern aristocrat and all the expectations and complications that go along with it.

I had high hopes for Snobs being such a fan of Downton Abbey, but I'm afraid the book fell far short of my expectations. It's hard to love a book where you don't particularly like any of the characters. It did employ an interesting tactic though, as the entire book was narrated by an unnamed man, an actor who is a friend of Edith's and runs in the same social circles as her and the other characters of the book. Gossip plays a big part in the novel, so having the entire story told from an outsiders point of view was a clever stylistic choice. It wasn't enough to save the story though. There was no real character development (except for maybe the narrator, maybe). Most of the characters were unlikable from the beginning and stayed that way the entire novel. With no one to root for, there was not much pulling me back to the story each day.

Funnily enough, I actually could see this making an interesting television show instead - Downton Abbey set in the modern world if you will. The settings and costumes would be amazing, and with multiple seasons to work on character growth...there's potential here.

That could just be the Downton Abbey withdrawal talking though. Only one more episode!!! What am I going to do?!?

I guess, just move on to, F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, The Great Gatsby!

Aspiring writer, Nick Carraway, settles in New York in a little cottage next door to the infamous millionaire, Jay Gatsby. They're right across the bay from his cousin and her philandering husband, Daisy and Tom Buchanan. In love with Daisy for years, Gatsby befriends Nick in the hopes of drawing her into his life again. Before he knows it, Nick, is sucked into Gatsby's world of lavish parties and fast cars; but will it be enough to win over Daisy? Or, is the game they are playing far too dangerous for anybody to win?

It's hard to believe that The Great Gatsby was so ill-received when it was originally published in 1925, as it is such a beloved classic now. It's always been a favorite of mine, and like Pride and Prejudice, I read it often. I don't think I have a bad word to say about it other than I wish it was longer!! It's pretty much perfection.

What have you been reading lately? Are you a Gatsby fan? Are you sad Downton's almost over?    


Bye-Bye Backsplash

We're officially underway on our kitchen refresh! That's what I'm calling it by the way, since we're not doing any major renovations - just cosmetic updates. The first thing we tackled (and by "we" I mean 99% Bill and 1% me) was removing the current slate back splash. I figured it would be messy work, and I didn't want to risk messing up freshly painted cabinetry by doing it after painting the cabinets.

But first, remember the before?
Well, now we're here, and it was quite the ordeal to just get to this too; much more difficult than I had hoped. Using a small crow bar and a hammer, Bill chipped off each individual piece of slate tile one by one.
It did not come off easily or clean. Some tiles left a mesh netting behind. We were able to pull most of that off and the damage to the wall was pretty minimal. Some tiles took off parts of the dry wall behind them. Some left actual holes. And some, the slate tile splinted off leaving just a thin layer of slate on the wall that is practically impossible to get off!!
It took Bill about four days to remove it all. It was slow work and there was a lot of awkward bending and angles involved.
So, instead of being left with a nice smooth surface that we can just slap the new back splash on, we have quite a bit of repair work ahead of ourselves. We're debating between whether we should try to repair holes and skim coat or whether we just cut out all the drywall completely and replace with new.

Your thoughts? We're leaning towards replacing. We've never tiled before, so I think we'd both rather have our first tiling attempt be on the smoothest and evenest surface possible.

P.S. I'm Dreaming Of A Grey Kitchen


I'm Dreaming of a Grey Kitchen

At the end of the year, I was thinking a lot about kitchens...specifically our kitchen in all it's honey-colored glory. We haven't done one thing to it since moving in over two years ago (see here). So, we decided it was high time to get on painting the cabinets already. White was the obvious choice, and we started making our plan.
The thing was though, I don't really like white cabinets. I knew it would look good with our dark counter tops, but it just didn't feel like me. Plus, the rest of the house has a lot of white going on already and I kept thinking about how I was always going to be washing fingerprints and such off the doors. But mostly, it just wasn't what I really wanted.
You see, I have been dreaming of grey cabinets, gold hardware, white subway tile, and of course white counter tops as well. Basically, something like this...
Image from here.
I kept thinking I couldn't have this look now though because we have to work with our current charcoal grey counter tops. This was my dream kitchen that I could someday get when we maybe had the funds to do a complete kitchen renovation, which is the same thing as saying basically never.

Then, I saw this photo, and something clicked. I could actually do grey with my dark counter tops. I could do grey cabinets...NOW!
Source unknown.
The more I thought about it the more it made sense. This is what I like right now. A full kitchen renovation is so far in the future for us that most likely what I like right now will no longer be in style, and I will probably like something else at that point anyway too. I would have always missed out on having what I wanted in favor of picking the safe choice. Yes, white cabinets would look better than what we currently have, but I'd probably still end up resenting them for not being my dream kitchen as well. And yes, it is entirely possible to resent your kitchen cabinets.

In addition, this grey cabinets with dark counter tops look would also let me try out another trend I'm currently loving...white subway tiles with dark grout!
Image from here.
I ran my ideas by Bill, and he was on board, and I'm happy to say my dream kitchen is happening now people! We've already removed the current back splash, sanded all the cabinets, and even started priming. I'll have a lot more posts coming detailing the entire progress soon. Stay tuned and remember dreams really can come true!


Let's Go To The Movies - Spotlight and The Revenant

I got out and saw two more of the films nominated for best picture at this year's Oscars - Spotlight and The Revenant.

First up, Spotlight!

Spotlight tells the true story of how The Boston Globe's investigative journalist team, "Spotlight", brought to light the story of sexual abuse cases of children by Catholic priests in the Boston area and unearthed the astounding cover-up that ensued these cases by Church officials and others.

Spotlight was a quiet, yet riveting film. There were no fancy costumes or beautiful settings, but none of that was needed when your story is strong enough, and Spotlight is all story. A true ensemble cast, everybody played their part equally well. The film felt real, and might just be the best "journalist" film that I've ever seen. I highly recommend seeing Spotlight, but no need to rush out to the theater. You'll enjoy this one equally when it comes out on DVD later this month.

Next up, The Revenant.

After being brutally attacked by a bear, fur trapper, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), is betrayed and left for dead by a fellow trapper, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Glass miraculously survives the attack and embarks on a harrowing journey across the American wilderness to save himself and exact his revenge upon Fitzgerald.

The Revenant was a dark and brutal film that brilliantly showed the harshness that was the American wilderness. Leonardo DiCaprio's physically demanding performance was impressive, but for me, it was Tom Hardy who really stood out. His portrayal of the selfish John Fitzgerald was downright sinister. Amazing performances combined with breathtaking locations, gorgeous cinematography, and stunning special effects, The Revenant is one of the strongest films I have seen in some time.

Have you seen either of these films? What did you think?

As far as the other nominees, Bill and I caught Mad Max: Fury Road on HBO last week. It had some incredibly visually stunning elements to it, but not much of a story. I'm going to rent Bridge of Spies off Amazon soon, and still hope to catch Room in the theater yet. We'll see though. All my movie buddies just had or are just about to have babies!! Crazy!

P.S. The Martian | The Big Short | Brooklyn 


Candy Heart Cookies

Earlier this week I made the funnest and yummiest Valentine's cookies! I fashioned them after candy hearts, and I was so excited by how well they turned out.
The best part is how simple they are to make (although they are a bit time consuming). I actually spread the process out over three nights. First, I made the sugar cookie dough. I've tried a lot of sugar cookie recipes in my day, and this one is by far my favorite. The dough is really easy to work with, and it tastes great.

The next night I rolled out, cut, and baked the sugar cookies using a heart shaped cookie cutter I already had on hand.
Then, the last night I decorated them using Royal Icing, which seems intimidating, but is actually pretty easy to make and work with. The time consuming part is really making all the different colors and consistencies you'll need. I used this recipe, minus the lemon juice. I also halved the recipe and had more than enough to frost my 18 cookies.

Also, I have this bottle set, and it makes decorating with Royal Icing so much easier for me than dealing with frosting bags and tips. I highly recommend picking up this set if you're at all interested in decorating sugar cookies this way.

I decorated the cookies by first outlining the heart with the icing, then filling it in, and finally spreading it around with a small spatula (check out this video for a visual demonstration of this process). That gave me the nice and smooth colored surface for each heart. I did six colors - pink, yellow, purple, green, orange, and blue.

Once the base layer of Royal Icing hardened, it was time to pipe on the words. I added a bit of powdered sugar to my Royal Icing to thicken it up for this step. If it is too thin, your letters will all run together (which totally happened to me the first two cookies I tried). So, just play around with it. I recommend practicing on a piece of wax paper until you find the consistency that works for you.

After you pipe on your words, let everything set and harden...and voila! Candy Heart Cookies!
I like them because they look super impressive even though they're really not that hard. More importantly, they taste delicious!!

Have you ever worked with Royal Icing? I'm liking it more and more each time I do it.

P.S. Getting Our Christmas Cookie Groove On | Rainbow Cake Tutorial 


Valentine's Day Touches - Powder Room and Dining Room

Time to check out the final two rooms I decked out for Valentine's Day!

First up, the downstairs powder room.
I picked up these hand towels from Kohl's. Then, I added some red glass gems to an apothecary jar, and bought some pink Method hand wash from Target.
Finally, I found this little mat in the Target dollar section (although it was $3).
Simple and cute! Also, the kids love the foaming hand wash - who knew? I'm pretty sure Madeleine legitimately thought it was magic the first time she used it.
Moving onto the dining room!
I picked up this fun "Be Mine" Mylar balloon kit from Target. I love how graphic and bright it is on that big white wall of ours.
Then, I brought out my favorite linen/neon pink striped table cloth from CB2 (see here). The heart bowl is from Target as well; I just filled it with candy hearts. I actually ended up moving the apothecary jar from the powder room over to this table too for safety. I topped it all off with some grocery store dyed daisies.
The bookshelves got this little XOXO garland from Target.
And finally, like the mantel (see here), the banister got a homemade paper chain too.
There you have it. I feel like we should throw a Valentine's Day party now or something. It definitely makes the house look cheery!

P.S. Ex's and Oh'sValentine's Day MantelValentine's Day Touches - Kitchen and Couch


Valentine's Day Touches - Kitchen and Couch

I've been having a blast decorating the house for Valentine's Day. I keep waiting for Bill to be like, "Enough with the hearts already!" - but amazingly, he doesn't seem to mind; so I'm just going to keep piling it on. Hah! 

First up, the kitchen.
The towels are these from Kohl's. They always have the best holiday hand towels. Super cute, and since they're terry cloth, they're completely functional too.
I also picked up this cute candy heart cookie tin from Target. I can't wait to fill it with the Valentine's Day cookies I'm making.
Finally, the couch got a little Valentine's Day makeover too - Bill's grandfather's quilt and this cute little LOVE pillow from Target.
Next up, the powder room. Stay tuned!


Valentine's Day Mantel

Alright, it's time to see my homemade XOXO sign in all its glory. Tah dah!
I told you how we made the sign (see here), then the glass bottles are from the Target dollar section, and the vase is from Target too.

Madeleine and I made a construction paper chain too; or more accurately, we started to make it together, she got bored, and I had to finish the entire thing myself.
That's the mantel. I still have Valentine's touches to show you in the kitchen, bathroom, and dining room; so stay tuned.