Master Bedroom Lighting Options Sample Board

Note: Double-click on he photo for a larger picture.

Finding lighting options for the master bedroom has been a little trickier than I would like - there are way too many options and lamps are just pricey in general. I'm trying to find a style that will last in terms of style and fit in with our furniture.

For my dresser, I would like to use buffet lamps because 1) the dresser is not very long and 2) they won't overpower the dresser since they're somewhat delicate. Now of course I intially thought about going with a black base, but I like these with the aged silver base and a light shade. I'm open to suggestions if you know of any other lamps that might work.

For our bedside tables I'm torn between the 2 options you see. I like the classic look of the urn, but also like the more modern, yet still classic look of the crystal lamps. Pottery barn does offer a urn shaped base in crystal, so that might be another option or they also have an urn that has a creme base - I just can't decide. I will say that I am leaning towards the crystal based lamp with Option 2 - I like the fact that it's "light and airy."


Next bedding sample board.

Master Bedroom Furniture Sample Board

Note: Double-click on he photo for a larger picture.

So I’m trying to soak up as much techiness as I can for this blog and my decorating projects. So I’m starting with the sample board for our master bedroom.

For the furniture sample board, I actually did this backward, because I’ve already purchased the furniture, but the “board” is helping me figure out how to put things together with pieces/paint/etc.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was very patient and was able to purchase most of our master bedroom furniture for 40%. I love, love, love Ethan Allen’s furniture and pretty much decided the minute I saw their New Country line that this is what I wanted for our bedroom.

Working around the room, we purchased a beautiful, period-piece queen bed, a pedestal table for my bedside table that has this beautiful beehive design on the leg of the table, a small dresser for me, a pie safe for storage and our TV, a large dresser for Larry and his bedside table.

Of course, right away I was thinking everything dark, because I automatically gravitate to dark/earthy colors, but I did try to hold back a bit and decided to get the pie safe in “barn red” and my dresser in “toast.” I’ve always wanted a pie safe and I’m thrilled with it, except I realized that after we got it delivered we couldn’t put the TV inside because it would be too low if we were watching TV in bed. So we ended up with the TV on top of the pie safe instead of hidden, which I wanted, but in the grand scheme of things, I made peace with the TV being on top.

The other initial “compromise” I made with this purchase was for my bedside table. I chose to get a different table than Larry’s so 1) everything wasn’t too “matchy-matchy” and 2) I wanted a design element that added some punch. And I think the beehive pedestal table does that.

So what do you think? I'd like any input, particularly if you have any bedding/color suggestions. Thank you!

Next lighting options sample board.

My New Love of Sample Boards!

One thing that I always seem to see on HGTV and in magazines is the use of sample boards. Sample boards are planning boards that designers use to map out a project and what they use to present to a client when they pitch their idea.

I was pondering taking a crack at this because I’m very visual and find that sometimes in my head things look a certain way/“perfect” but when I actually put the look together it doesn’t always work. So in comes the sample board!

Now, in my case, the “clients” are Larry and I and I’m not actually doing a real sample board that I can touch and feel, but instead I thought I’d try a virtual one where I could visualize things, switch things out and have samples of swatches on hand to help me.

So in the next post is my 1st attempt at a sample board (see next post). I hope you like it! And remember, feel free to comment - I love input!

Master Bedroom Makeover Intro

When we first moved to the house I pretty much just moved our pre-marriage-mishmash-furniture into our master bedroom and painted the room the exact color of our bedroom in our loft we just moved from. I guess, my thought was, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Either that or I was just afraid to try something on my own, because frankly, I get frustrated with myself because I have all the design ideas floating around my head and I think they will work, and a lot of times they do, but sometimes…not so much.

So after pondering for quite awhile what to do with the master bedroom and armed with my new plan to lighten things up in the house, I was ready for a change.

The first thing I wanted to do was purchase new furniture. Larry and I are both “savers”, although I’ll admit that I am a big fan of purchasing. So we do what we always do with big purchases: save up for the item and then purchase it outright. I’ll admit that that is a little hard for me, but I do see the point that 1) you aren’t going into debt buying a couch and 2) it will help us in the future when we retire because our credit card bills aren’t maxed out.

When I started looking for furniture I knew I wanted something “classic/traditional” that fit our farmhouse. After pouring through my Cottage Living/Country Home/Better Homes & Gardens/Southern Living and countless furniture line’s websites I settled on Ethan Allen because they had a farmhouse line called New Country and their pieces were just lovely. But I was immediately smacked in the face with the reality that farmhouse/simple does not mean inexpensive. On top of the fact that I hadn’t purchased furniture that didn’t have to put together, like IKEA (which I love) and then you realize quality furniture comes at a price.

I also quickly realized that if I was going to go the route of saving up for furniture first, then it would probably take me about 5 years to get what I wanted. What’s a design-obsessed girl to do?

Well my friends, when the going get’s touch, you need to get creative! So what I did was 1) visit and visit often the Ethan Allen distribution center nearby that had a back room of discontinued/damaged items and 2) called every freakin’ Ethan Allen in the Illinois/Wisconsin area to see if they had any floor models on sale! And you know what? Although, I mentally might be a little worse for the wear, but it worked. Pretty much all the case goods in our bedroom was 40% because they were a floor model/or slightly damaged. It became a game for me to see if I could get the whole set I was looking at discount. I almost made it, but did need to purchase 2 items at full-price.

So my advice for today is don’t settle on not getting the items you want and opting for a lesser quality item, if you can stand it, try to do what I did and maybe you’ll hit pay dirt.

The other thing I do is if I like something that’s beyond pricey and know that I don’t have a chance in hell of being able to afford it EVER, I head straight to “my” favorite stomping grounds of decorating…the holy grails of affordable design at bargain prices: TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, HomeGoods and tag sales. Again, as long as it’s not a piece of crap that will instantly disintegrate if you touch it, who cares if it’s not THE item; if it looks good and it is good quality, then that’s a little secret between you and said piece of furniture or if you are like me, I pretty much have no problem saying were I got something, and that includes dumpster diving, which I have done and have been successful!

Excuses, Excuses

The whole point of me starting this blog was originally to show off our house projects, share about our vacations and post recipes because I love to cook. However, the perfectionist that I am, every time I went to take photos of our house, I’ve managed to come up with every excuse in the book not to. First it was “it’s cloudy/raining/snowing so the pictures won’t be good. Then I came up with a perfect one – which I do think is “legitimate”…the house needs cleaning. Justifying it as “Well, I can’t very well show photos of house projects we’ve worked on when the rooms are a mess!”

So, I’ve delayed and delayed. And I think what it comes down to is 1) laziness and 2) “fear” of my design efforts not being up to snuff. So I think I’m finally ready to tackle this fear, because, well, I’m not a designer and well, so there!

In working on our house we have and always will have (unless we add on/win the lottery) 2 constants: our house is small and therefore we must work within the constraints of small rooms and 2) we have a small budge and need to be thrifty.

But honestly, I like the fact that our house is cottage-like, i.e. small, and having a limited budget to work with makes you quite resourceful; it can be frustrating at times because I’m always looking for deals in order to purchase something, but now I make it a game/challenge.

When we first bought the house, I decorated with dark colors, which is what I typically fall back on – you’ll see what I mean when I post the downstairs photos. But after being in the house for 7 years, I think I have convinced myself that going “lighter” in our house is the way to go, as well as maybe tweaking the “first” makeover we did. In addition, we were still using some “pre-marriage” furniture” at the time (actually we still have quite a bit of that, which is fine) and I just worked with what I had, with the thought that maybe someday I’d get the chance to purchase exactly what I wanted for a room instead of making a piece fit the room – it’s a little battle I have with myself, especially when you see all the nice design options out there. So if we ever put on an addition, I’ll hopefully get to change some things, probably much to Larry’s dismay, because I think he’s happy with things as is.

I do think that if I’m able to get things the way I want design-wise, I am the type of person who will be able to live with something for a long time – it’s just that initial “newlywed decorating” (now going on 11 years!) that I’d like to tweak and then I’ll be done – which would certainly free up my head which always has some sort of design idea floating around!

So my plan is to first post pictures of my current projects – the upstairs bedrooms and work my way down to the downstairs rooms, which were done first, but again, I’d like to change at some point.

The Perfect Place

One of my intentions on this blog is to highlight local places that I/we love/frequent in the area – which pretty much comes down to restaurants and shopping! We love living in McHenry County and want people to know that it is a fabulous place to live with wonderful offerings.

My favorite shop in the area and beyond is The Perfect Pear in downtown Crystal Lake. Everyone that knows me knows I’m obsessed with decorating and this shop hands down satisfies my fix.

The shop opened in fall 2008 and is owned by Sara Burke. Sara and her mother Wanda Bennet, both with decorating backgrounds, provide the design genius that you see in the wonderfully appointed shop - I’ve actually shopped there so often that I’ve become friends with Sara and Wanda – just wonderfully friendly and really have the touch in terms of interior design know-how and have been very helpful when I shoot all my decorating questions at them.

The shop offers an eclectic mix of shabby/chic/French style with offerings of candles, painted furniture and other decorative accents and what I think are very reasonable prices. I sometimes struggle to know what goes well with what and honestly, all you need to do is set foot in this store and it’s all figured out for you! It’s a great place to find the perfect gift, but I find myself there on a regular basis with the purpose of finding things for decorating our house. I’ve even got my Mom hooked!

The Perfect Pear is located in this cute little building (see above) on Grant Street (one street over from Williams Street, in Crystal Lake’s downtown).

It’s such a great shop that I wanted to “plug” it on my blog. If you are in the area, you should really plan on making a stop – you won’t be disappointed!

I believe the shop will have a website shortly, so stay tuned and I’ll post the information.

The Perfect Pear:

Location: 87 Grant Street, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm Friday and Saturday, or by appointment.

Phone: 847-209-7879.


Café 20 – Marengo, IL

I seem to have this fixation with Marengo, IL. Larry and I always drive through it on our way to either Galena, IL or Madison, WI. We’re back roads kind of people in terms driving – we love to enjoy the slowness of meandering to our destination and enjoying the landscape vs. seeing nothing on the highway. An added bonus is being able to stop in a small town for a bite to eat or to check out a store.

Marengo is a tiny town - and I always seem to be drawn to it. Unfortunately it has seen better days and it is definitely sleepy, but I just look at some of the older buildings and think what it must have looked like years ago as a bustling farm community that I’m sure was one of the places to go to for area residents. I just think it’s got potential to thrive again. On top of that people do seem to care and are trying to make improvements: it’s part of the Illinois Main Street Trust program, there’s a seasonal farmer’s market and several restaurants that I think are worth the a stop – most notably Café 20 (on Route 20) and the Flatlander Market (more on that in a later post). In addition, both the city and the economic development commission are working hard to get the name out there on their town.

Larry and I have been to Café 20 ( quite a few times. First, years ago when it was under different ownership and most recently in January – I believe the current owner took over not to long ago.

The outside of Café 20 looks like the building may have been a former fast food/diner joint before its current incarnation, but when you go inside it’s positively charming: a new bar in the corner, counter space a la diner, the wood-fired open hearth oven, tables and booths. The décor, I’d say is “cozy Italian.”

Larry and I love to get a booth because booths are always better for conversation – you can actually hear the person you’re with and vs. being at an open table trying to yell over the next table.

Under the former owner, the restaurant was just OK, but under the new owner I think it’s just great – it just seems that an effort is being made to offer interesting and eclectic options vs. bland-run-of-the-mill-so-everyone-will-eat-it-so-we-don’t-have-to-try options. Café 20 seems to get it.

We’ve had their pizza, veal marsala, spaghetti, fish fry etc. – all very good. As an added bonus, both Larry and I were thrilled that they offered Pinot Noir and Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse – oddly enough we seem to have a hard time find restaurants who have offer these, especially the beer.

So on our most recent visit, you can imagine we were downright giddy when they said “yes, we do offer them” – we were just beaming. Ok, I suppose it was pretty sad that we were so excited, but heck, we take out joy from wherever we can find it! : )

So if you are in the area, I recommend that you stop in and give Café 20 a shot – I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Maltese Torta

A word about this recipe: Ever since I can remember I have loved, loved, loved when my Mom made Torta. My Ukrainian-German mother, who is a phenomenal cook, has managed over the years to become an expert in Maltese cooking, which is my Dad's side of the family.

Malta, which is located in located in the Mediterranean Sea, is about 60 miles South of Sicily and about 175 miles from the coast of Africa (Tunisia) - my Grandparents emigrated in the late 1930s and settled in Stamford, CT.

Growing up visiting my Granparents every Sunday was a real treat for me: I loved listening to them conversing in Maltese (although unfortunately I did not understand what they were saying) and always anxiously awaiting to see what amazing Maltese dish Nanna would make. My favorites are the torta (see below) and pastizzi (a meat or cheese "pastry").

Torta is beyond easy to make and is a great dish to make especially in the winter.

I must admit that I have a hard time conceptualizing something that's basically a meat pie, because when I think of "pie", I think of dessert - but torta is so good I can't resist! This is truly a comfort food in my book. Actually, when I moved away from home in Connecticut, whenever I was somewhat homesick, I made torta and and it made me feel at home again - what's not to love about that!

I hope to try my hand at making pastizzi shortly - again, my Mom has managed to also make incredible pastizzi - you'd think she was a native Maltese - I've been putting it off for awhile, but I think I should face my "fear" and tackle this phyllo wonder! I'll post shortly.



2 Deep dish 9" pie shells
1 Lb ground beef (I use 95% lean)
3 Onions, chopped (or 1 ½ c) - you can use a fresh onions, but I highly recommend using frozen chopped onions - it saves you time and your eyes will thank you.
1 C peas - again, use frozen
¼ C fresh shredded parmesean cheese - you can play with this amount
2 Eggs
1 T olive oil
Salt to taste
Canned Milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. On the stovetop on high, saute onions in olive oil.

3. Add meat. Saute until no longer brown. Drain fat.

4. On medium heat, add peas and parmesean cheese, stir until dispersed throughout.

6. Stir in eggs.

7. Salt to taste. (Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt is fabulous).

8. Add to one pie shell. Cover with 2nd pie shell. Seal and use fork to poke with holes for steam. Brush with some canned milk.

9. Bake for 35-45 minutes.


Source: Vassallo Family Recipe