Category Archives: Hostess Gifts

Back to School Inspired Home Decor….

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..more back to school home décor! I have always been in love with the rituals of starting a new school year. Perhaps it’s my obsession with footwear, but to me, the very best part of back to school shopping is the quest for the perfect shoe. When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to Chicago’s Kotz Shoe Store at Lincoln and Belmont. I was like a kid in a candy shop; shiny cordovan penny loafers, topsiders, saddle shoes (I like retro), clogs (it was the 70’s) and sparkly white tennis shoes.


The next best thing to shoe shopping is finding the perfect school supplies; designed to help you stay organized and motivated in style! While Nick has always been perfectly happy with boring solid colored notebooks and folders and those standard orangey-yellow Ticonderoga #2 pencils, Amanda is much more like her mother in her desire for flights of fancy; patterned, colorful, glittery, hip and happening.


But why should the kids have all of the fun? With reading, writing and arithmetic as my inspiration, I was scouring the aisles of my favorite haunts for ideas for bringing the back to school experience to our home décor.


I think a globe is a great addition to any home. It’s perfect on a shelf, a counter or an end table. Easy accessibility is the key so the kiddies can become geographically literate. Maybe I should have spent more time at the library rather than at the shoe store!  


Reading is, of course, fundamental. As an Interior Designer, I’m always surprised when clients ask me what they should put on their book shelves. The answer is obvious; BOOKS! However, we can make our displays more interesting by intermingling treasured photographs, objects and bookends. I am a huge fan of elephants, which is why I was immediately drawn to these bookends in particular, but there are so many different options allowing us to express our individual personalities.


For the math and strategy minded, why not a little game of Tic-Tac-Toe? Even though pencil and paper is simple, a statement game goes a long way. Why not keep it on the kitchen counter or on the coffee table in the family room?


It’s always a good idea to get on your teacher’s good side by bringing her an apple (or to sweeten the deal, a caramel apple!). I came across this fabulous three tiered basket, which would be perfect for storing apples, amongst other things. If you are a fan of going big or going home, why not snag this apple sculpture and perch it on your kitchen island or counter to bring in a little flavor of the season?


Pretty fabric desk accessories will keep you organized, yet stylish. Rather than stick all of your family’s artwork and important notes on the refrigerator, why not pin them on a fabulously framed cork board or French memo board? So much more beautiful! While you’re at it, replacing ho-hum yellow legal pads with decorative and ornate paper makes all of our prose, be it a laundry list or a love letter, a little bit more important.


What better way to shed some light on your reading, writing and arithmetic than with sassy new table lamps? Bright colors, bold stripes and striking silhouettes make a powerful statement in any nook or cranny.


The most memorable addition to our back to school home décor preserves those treasure moments in time. Capture those memories with candid shots, displayed in frames on an end table, shelf or artfully arranged on the wall.


More reminiscing, more re-living our innocent youth, more back to school shopping, more home décor……


To schedule and Interior Design appointment, a Life Style consultation or a speaking engagement, please email me at


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That’s Entertainment; Cowboys Vs. Aliens or Friends With Benefits?

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about….more entertainment! While an evening out, being waited on hand and foot, at a fabulous restaurant might sound like the perfect way to spend a beautiful summer evening, Chuck and I were super psyched to have two, count ‘em, two, movie going experiences within 16 hours! So far this summer, we have seen exactly two movies together; Bad Teacher (naughty and somewhat hilarious) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II (absolutely amazing story telling, made all the sweeter because Nick asked us if we’d like to accompany him to the show……YES!).

This weekend, however, it was hard to decide; Horrible Bosses, Cowboys vs. Aliens, Crazy, Stupid, Love or Friends with Benefits. As a devotee of Harrison Ford and his fabulous matinee idol-ness, I was all over Cowboys vs. Aliens. Besides, I adore director John Favreau (one, for his guest spot on Friend’s as Monica’s boyfriend, Pete, like 100 year ago, and two, as the director of my all time favorite Christmas movie, Elf.).

I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but Cowboys vs. Aliens was exactly that; COWBOYS vs. ALIENS. I was kind of hopeful because, as I said, Harrison Ford is the ultimate (next to my all time favorite movie cool dude, Bruce Willis. Nobody is cooler, not even Cary Grant, and I think he’s pretty cool.). Sam Rockwell, well….rocks, and while he’s kind of a sleeper, I love Keith Carridine (why you may ask? Because he was totally stellar in one the best Broadway musicals of all time; The Will Roger’s Follies….maybe you would consider a revival Broadway smarties?).

On the other hand, I think Daniel Craig is a total stiff. He may be one of the worst 007’s next to Timothy Dalton, ever; absolutely no charm and no humor, which are hallmarks of James Bond’s persona. So, as the robotic lead of Cowboys vs. Aliens, I was kind of unimpressed; desperately trying not to nod off in the theater as it’s expensive to go to the show. I sure hope he is better suited to the role of Kalle Blomkvist in the much anticipated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (all three Stieg Larsson books were AMAZING).

On the other hand, our Saturday matinee, Friends with Benefits, was outstanding! Shockingly, as a gal with a special place in her heart for teen idols, I’m just not that familiar with Justin Timberlake. I think I must have missed the In Sync invasion while I was a little more focused on Barney, but Justin is Da Bomb! He is so talented and so incredibly charming, delightful and funny. As a long time devotee of Saturday Night Live (even though it has stunk for the past 20 years; hope springs eternal), his performances are serious highlights; Single Ladies and Motherlovers. Need I say more?

Friend’s With Benefits was charming, delightful and hilarious. JT and Mila Kunis have wonderful, and completely believable, chemistry. They were so stinking cute that we were just totally rooting for them. I love the “in the know” nod to their previous projects; Patricia Clarkson from Motherlover and Jason Segel from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. FWB is side-splitting fun and I give it two thumbs way up!

More disappointments, more hilarity, more charming leading men, more movie going experiences!

 To schedule and Interior Design appointment, a Life Style consultation or a speaking engagement, please email me at

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Fun and Festive Flip Flops…….

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..being a more thoughtful guest! After a lifetime at Our Lady of Perpetual Donations Grammar School, I love that high school has brought opportunities for Amanda to branch out and develop new friendships. She’s met a darling group of girls that, like her, likes sports, music, movies and a little WWF (Hulk Hogan would be so proud).

One of the families generously invited a gaggle of these girls to join them on their family vacation. The trip started as they hit the road in an RV (how else does one travel with 11 people?), making their way on the six hour journey to Michigan. With such a gracious invitation, Amanda and I decided to contribute to the festive spirit by providing an activity to help pass the time on the road.

A girl can never have enough footwear, so we decided to provide all 7 of the girls with the materials to make matching decorative flip-flops…….


Our first stop was a visit to Old Navy. They have the very best flip-flop selection, in a rainbow of colors. Armed with each girls shoe size, Amanda selected a pair of bright green flippies for each.


Now all that was left was a quick trip to the fabric store. We needed to get a few yards of fleece, to cut into strips, to tie around the straps of the flip-flops. Amanda grabbed three rolls of pink, orange and green striped ribbon as her color inspiration. We also snagged another three rolls of ribbon, only this time we fell for a delightful green animal print; a little something sassy to compliment the classic stripe. As the base of the design, Amanda chose both bright orange and hot pink fleece.


Now it was time for the real work; cutting all of the fabric into 1” x 5” strips. After some complicated math, we determined that each shoe would need;

6 ribbons

21 pink strips

21 orange strips

In other words, 48 strips per shoe, or 96 strips per pair. That was nearly 700 strips of fabric for 7 pairs of flip-flops. That’s a lot of cutting! Thankfully, I have a quilting cutting wheel, t-square and a mat to make all that cutting that much easier.

Because the fleece is stretchy, we only needed to cut the fabric into 1” wide x 5”long strips. We were in luck; cutting the ribbon was so much less time consuming. It came off the roll in the proper width, and as for the length, because its not stretchy, we cut the ribbon into 7” strips.



The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…..Amanda is a very orderly little person. She organized the project by putting the 48 strips for each individual shoe in a small sandwich baggie, including two baggies of fabric in a larger baggie along with the flip-flops.


 As Girls love to match, the flip-flop project was a huge hit (as were the two trays of homemade brownies that we sent along for the ride).  

With the extreme generosity and thoughtfulness of the family, Amanda and her friends had the vacation of a lifetime; jet skiing, parasailing, zip lining, water sliding, fine dining, but more importantly, laughing, bonding and connecting.

More hospitality, more vacationing, more fun, more great girlfriends…….

To schedule and Interior Design appointment, a Life Style consultation or a speaking engagement, please email me at

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Everything’s Coming Up Roses…..

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….bringing more of the summer indoors! By the time spring rolls around, I’m obsessed with the notion of outdoor living. I can’t wait to get outside, shake off the covers on our patio furniture, sweep away the winter blues and fill my pots and urns with beautiful flowers. Gazing out on my deck, I’m overcome with a wave of utter happiness that summer has finally arrived.


Short of a whole house makeover (which would be fun too), we can still infuse that summer feeling in cheerful little ways. I’m a big, big fan of scented candles. When it’s warm, I can’t get enough of clean scents like lemon, floral and fresh cut grass. Glass hurricanes, a great bowl or fabulous urn filled with fruit makes for a healthy and colorful centerpiece. Swapping out your normal, everyday throw pillows for something in a quirky unexpected color is another way to lighten the mood.


Of course, the most obvious summer feel good is a bouquet of fresh flowers. The other day, I was wandering through the grocery store floral department and was struck by the gorgeous variety of bouquets. That Mother Nature is pretty darn clever! There isn’t a nook or cranny in our homes that wouldn’t benefit from such a perk. 


The beauty of a mixed bouquet is the variation of colors and textures; tall and spiky, full and lush, greens and berries. Such a bouquet is especially lovely on a chest in your Foyer, a nightstand in your bedroom or in a pitcher in your kitchen.


I tend to favor a lower arrangement, featuring one type of flower for greater impact. Something that makes a statement, like hydrangeas or peonies, can be absolutely amazing. A gorgeous vessel overflowing with these fragrant beauties would be fantastic as a centerpiece on your dining table, in your Powder Room or on an end table in your Living Room.


For a happy color burst, why not a collection of vases showcasing bouquets of Gerber Daisies or pretty little Matsumoto Aster? They would de delightful in your Kitchen, porch, Powder Room or cocktail table to infuse a little personality.



Going totally classic is a good choice too. There isn’t a room in the house that wouldn’t benefit from the beauty of a bouquet of roses (my favorites are hot pink and yellow) or the simplicity of soulful tulips in a crystal vessel.


The truest joys of summer are surrounding yourself with family and friends in your beautiful home!


More outdoor living, more summer, more beauty, more flowers……..



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Bring a Hot and Spicy Mexican Dip to Your Next Dinner Party!

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….more being invited to a dinner party! While I love to entertain more than the average bear, I must admit, sometimes, it’s a real treat to be a guest in a friend’s home. Life often gets so crazy busy that it can be hugely complicated to host friends for cocktails and appetizers, much less a sit down dinner. This weekend we had the pleasure of being invited to a dinner party with good friends that we met when all of our 12th graders were in Kindergarten. Talk about a trip down memory lane……

Because more of everything is always better, I hate to turn up on someone’s door step empty handed. I insisted on bringing an appetizer, regardless of the fact that my Amanda strongly suggested that maybe not everybody wants my food (WHAT?!?). Undeterred, I decided that because my hosts love Mexican food, I would bring a Mexican dish (besides it was Siete de Mayo).

One of my favorite hostess gifts, if I’m bringing a dish to share, is a serving piece for my appetizer, side or dessert. I love the treasure hunt for the perfect piece for my hosts, the occasion and the recipe. In this case, I was making a homemade dip served with tasty tortilla chips. I found a great green baking dish with a lovely scalloped edge for the dip, and a lively patterned bowl for the chips. They made a perfect pair!

Hot and Spicy Black Bean Mexican Dip:

This is one of those awesome recipes that you prepare and assemble a day or two in advance, and when it’s time to eat, you just pop it in the oven. It’s delicious the minute it comes out, and even better warmed up the following day.


2 Tbsp olive oil, plus some for the baking dish

3 medium tomatoes, cored and diced


1 large yellow onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 – 15 ½ oz black beans, rinsed and drained

2 chipotles, from a can of chipotles en adobo, plus 3 Tbsp of chipotle adobo sauce

¾ cup water

3 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 ½ cups of fresh, or frozen, corn kernels

2 cups of shredded cheddar

2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese

¾ cup of chopped cilantro

Black pepper

Tortilla chips

Lightly oil a baking dish

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat until glistening

Reduce heat to medium

Add onion and 1 tsp salt

Cook until translucent, for about 4-6 minutes

Add garlic and chili powder, stirring for a minute

Add half of the black beans, the chipotle, adobo sauce, water

Bring to a boil

Cook until the liquid reduces by at least half

In a food processor, add the bean mixture, in batches if necessary

Pulse until smooth and transfer to a large mixing bowl

To the large serving bowl, add;

Remaining beans

Half of each of the cheeses



½ cup of cilantro

Mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper

Transfer to a baking dish

Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses

Refrigerate until ready to cook

Pre-heat oven to 425°

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, to catch any ooey gooey goodness

Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts and slightly browns

Sprinkle with remaining cilantro

Serve with crispy, salty and tasty tortilla chips

Share with long-time friends

More salty and savory goodness, more appetizers, more celebrating friendships…..

To schedule and interior design appointment or a speaking engagement, please contact me at

Hot and Spicy Mexican Dip…

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Filed under Entertaining, Family Life, Friendship, Hostess Gifts, More is More Mom, Recipes