Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Lessons Learned from Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

With the passing of the great woman and writer Maya Angelou today, I found myself hungrily sifting through her many words of wisdom. She had a way of taking hugely complicated, universal truths and whittling them down into the most beautifully simplified yet eloquent sentences. Isn't that what all the really great writers and thinkers do? They put into words what we have been silently struggling to understand in our own hearts, giving us that beautiful moment of YES! It's that feeling of satisfaction and release that we all get when we finally feel understood or validated by another's words. It is a rare gift and one that Angelou harnessed and used with great skill and care. She may be gone but her words live on and I am so grateful for that.

There are so many quotes I could have chosen from but here are ten Maya Angelou sayings that have been important lessons in my own life. Perhaps you will find that they hold some kind of significance for you as well. For therein lies her magic, linking us all with her words forevermore.

Truth telling by Maya Angelou

1- "When people show you who they are believe them the first time."

2- "Bitterness is like a cancer it eats up the host. But anger is like a fire. It burns it all clean."

3- "Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay."

4- "If you have only one smile in you. Give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'good morning' at total strangers."

5- "Have courage to trust love one more time."

6- "I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it."

7- "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

8- "You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody."

9- "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you."

10-  "You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot- it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive."

Amen. Rest In Peace Dr. Maya Angelou.


Midcentury Modern Credenza Makeover

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

We did a LOT of house projects over the weekend, one of which was completing this credenza makeover. I found this midcentury modern piece at our local Goodwill store and haggled them down to 30 dollars. The lines were great and I thought that the doors were especially beautiful. I considered keeping it exactly as it was but the wood was in rough shape from where it had been scraped up and bumped around over the years. Besides, I liked the idea of modernizing it a bit by painting the body white. 

This project took a lot of sanding and painting and staining. Every time the girls went down for their nap I was out in the garage working away. In the end I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out though. I think it looks like a million bucks! In fact, there is a similar piece (which I don't think is quite as nice as mine) that is selling for 1,645 online. Did I mention I bought this beauty for 30 dollars!? It's such a testament to what a little elbow grease can accomplish. 

I love it so

In case you see a similar piece somewhere and want to get the same look, here is what I did step by step.
  • Dismantle- The first thing I did was to break the piece down. I took out the doors and the inside shelves and unscrewed the legs.
  • Sand - Next I sanded down entire piece of furniture and vacuumed it afterwards so that no dust remained.
  • Prime- I then primed the area I wanted to paint, making sure that the primer went on as thin as possible in order to avoid pooling and bumps.
  • Paint- I chose my paint color (white in this case) and painted everything that I had primed, which in this case meant everything but the doors.
  • Clear Coat- After the paint had dried I covered the entire piece in a protective clear coat, including the doors. 
That's how I did it. Nothing too complicated. It was time consuming but well worth it in the end! 

P.S. Stay tuned for my gallery wall post coming soon. We hung it above the credenza and the two together make me swoon! I hope you had a great long weekend. xoxo

Foodie Friday- Fresh Fried Egg Southwestern Salad

Friday, May 16, 2014

I thought I'd share one of my favorite lunches today. This light, summertime salad is packed full of nutrients, protein and flavor. It will leave your tastebuds happy, your body energized and your belly full. I suggest pairing it with the homemade chipotle ranch salad dressing below. The salad recipe itself is fairly self-explanatory. Here are the ingredients and simple instructions to follow.


Salad Mix
Fresh or canned corn
Black beans 
1 Egg

Combine salad ingredients in the preferred amount, toss and top with a fried egg before drizzling with dressing.

Chipotle Ranch Dressing

1 chipotle chile from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Making the Switch to a Safer Water Bottle

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our family drinks a lot of water. Back in San Diego I was known by my friends for always having my trusty Nalgene bottle by my side. It was my number one accessory. Up until recently I toted that thing everywhere I went. My husband is the same way, and we've raised our girls to drink tons of liquids throughout the day as well. My point all of this being that I thought we were doing great in the water bottle department.

Then, a few months ago, we had a visit from my best friend and her husband. He took one look at our family of re-usable plastic bottles and and shook his head in dismay. "You have got to throw those out," He said. I was shocked. He went on to explain that drinking out of plastic, even BPA-free plastic, can be extremely detrimental to our health. His advice was to replace our drinking bottles with either glass or stainless steel.

After that conversation I decided to do some research of my own. Apparently, there have been new studies that show that not only is BPA dangerous, (potentially causing things like Diabetes, ADHD, infertility and Cancer) but chemicals with Estrogenic Activity (EA) are also harmful. That's a big  deal since BPA-free does not mean EA-free. Estrogenic Activity has been linked to early puberty, reproduction issues including reduced sperm count, obesity, and an increased risk of certain kinds of cancer. All of which I would very much like us to steer clear of.

Understanding that was all the motivation I needed to make a switch for our family. We are rough on our stuff and I knew that glass water bottles wouldn't last long without shattering. I opted for stainless steel instead. We chose Klean Kanteen bottles because they are a well known and trusted brand. We ordered them from Amazon and they were delivered within two days. It felt great to toss our old plastic bottles into the recycling bin. Klean Kanteen is also great because they have designs for every age, including sippy-bottles for babies. Below are the ones we ordered.

A Better Choice for our family

Safe Water Bottles- Klean Kanteen

Esmae chose a purple kids bottle and was thrilled when it arrived in the mail.

Mother's Day at Old House Vineyards

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

If I had to describe my idea of a perfect day, it would involve sitting on a blanket outside with live music, good food and drink while surrounded by the people I love. Oh, and extra happy points if there happens to be a river, pond or ocean nearby. 

That pretty much sums up my Mother's Day experience this year. It's one of the perks of living in Northern Virginia that we are smack dab in the middle of wine country. There are tons of wineries and vineyards all over this area. We chose Old House Vineyards in Culpeper because it had a beautiful place to picnic with live music, wood fired pizza and a pond to dip our feet in. They also offered free wine tastings to mamas on Mother's Day. What could be better than that!?

Here's a little snippet of our day in photos...

I really enjoyed the wine tasting. The staff there were laid back and informative. I also liked the artwork on the bottles, which I was told were drawn by a family friend. Here are a few of my favorite selections from the tasting. 

VIDAL BLANC- "A semi-sweet white wine with flavors of pineapples, apricot and peach."

ROSIE ROSE- "A lush Rose made from Cabernet Franc with a bright pink color and intense Raspberry flavors."

CABERNET FRANC- "A clean and smooth Cabernet that brings a spicy notes to the nose and fruity character to the pallet."

I recently read this Food & Wine article  about 8 health benefits of drinking wine moderately. I thought it was interesting and wanted to pass it along. Cheers to all you Mamas out there! xoxo

My Birthday Bike Ride as a Metaphor for Life

Monday, May 12, 2014

My birthday and Mother's Day landed on the same weekend this year. Needless to say I've had a good couple of days. We kicked things off with a birthday bike ride.

It was our first time taking the girls out in our new Burly bike trailer, and as you can see they were pretty excited about it! Clearly they didn't do much peddling, but I can only hope that this is the beginning of a long-time love affair with getting physical in the great outdoors.

I hadn't ridden in quite a while either and it felt great to get back on my bike.

Notice how Brent is wearing his bike shorts and shoes and a pair of bike gloves? Anyways, the point is I totally made fun of him for getting all geared up in order to go on such a low-key ride. Before we left home he offered me my bike gloves and I refused, thinking it was silly. He just shrugged. "I've scrapped my hands up too many times from falling," He said.  "But suit yourself."  And I did...

We rode through our neighborhood and then over to a nearby frozen yogurt shop as a little reward after all that exercise. 

 Here we are all red faced and happy after the ride. 

Oh so yummy! 

Next stop was the grocery store for a carton of milk before heading back home.

Esmae had to catch up on the celebrity gossip mags of course.

On the way home I was in such a good mood. It was a beautiful day. I was out riding with the people I love and my heart was literally bursting with gratitude and happiness.

Then at the last minute we decided to go down a steep hill and onto a dirt bike path that would take us through the woods. The hill itself was paved and I was behind Brent and the girls. We started going down and thinking that I would run into them, I put on the brakes a little too hard. The next thing I knew I had flipped over the handle bars and landed on the concrete with my poor bare hands. The bike came down on top of me and I found myself sprawled out on the concrete, scraped and bruised from the fall. Talk about instant Karma! The first thought I had was that I shouldn't have been teasing Brent about those gloves. 

Yep. Lesson learned. 

Later that Night 

Bread pudding cures all!

The day might have been ruined but later that night (after Brent had bandaged my wounds and resisted the urge to say I told you so) we got a baby-sitter and went out for a birthday dinner. It was at one of my favorite little Italian places with the best bread pudding ever, and I left feeling happy if not still a bit bruised. I suppose I could look at the whole experience as a metaphor for life or the coming year. Not that I should always listen to my well intentioned husband or anything ridiculous like that, but rather that sometimes when you're cruising along happy as can be, life tosses you off and scrapes you up good. It's not fair but when that happens you've just got to bandage yourself up and sink your teeth into something sweet again. Here's to turning thirty-two! xoxo

Foodie Friday- Healthy, crunchy, yummy new breakfast

Friday, May 9, 2014

I'm not a breakfast person. Cereal bores me, the texture of oatmeal turns me off, and although I am a southern gal that enjoys a good fried egg with biscuits and bacon, who has the time for all that mess? Not to mention, it's not very healthy or bathing suit weather friendly. I do understand the importance of having a well balanced meal to start the day off though. Recently, I rediscovered rice cakes and all the glorious goodness that can be heaped on top of them. At only 35 calories per cake, it's a great way to get some crunch without gaining a bunch, if ya know what I mean. Seriously though, my new favorite summer breakfast includes one rice cake with peanut butter and bananas and the other one with cream cheese and blueberries. You've got your crunch from the cakes and the protein and potassium from the peanut butter and bananas. Then you've got the calcium, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants from the cream cheese and berries. Talk about a perfect solution to the breakfast blues! Oh, and they're surprisingly filling too.

How about you? Are you a breakfast person? What's your go-to in the morning? Give these a try and tell me what you think. Happy weekend everyone! xoxo

How our kids can teach us to live a healthy lifestyle

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

As parents we understand that it's our job to guide our children. They look to us for direction and we do our best to act as role models. It's easy therefore, to take for granted that we (as adults) are the teachers and they are the students. When it comes to teaching healthy lifestyle habits however, we might be better off to look to our little ones for examples. Children are born with an inherent instinct for healthy practices. Unfortunately, over time those tendencies seem disappear as our kids begin to emulate our not so great grown-up habits. I'm often reminded of how I aught to be doing things simply by observing my daughters. Without knowing it, they are constantly demonstrating what experts would call, "healthy lifestyle practices." Here are a few examples of what I've learned about healthy living from my kids.

Posture- Talk about a vital (yet often undervalued) practice. My three year old and nine-month old stand and sit with the most effortlessly perfect posture imaginable. It's truly a thing to be admired. There are so many adults (myself included) that suffer from back problems, mostly stemming from misalignment and muscle imbalance do to poor posture. Whenever I see my girls doing what seems to come so naturally to them in the posture department, I am reminded that I need to work on my stance as well.

Staying Active- If you've been around a small child lately then you know that they are in a state of constant motion. While it's true that little kids have a lot of extra energy in order to fuel their growth, it's also true that one way to gain more energy is to stay physically active. The next time you're feeling sluggish, look no further than your own kids (or whatever kid might be a part of your life) for the inspiration to get moving.

Eating Small Meals More Often- Even though both of my girls have great appetites, they're still nibblers. By that I mean that they tend not to gorge themselves on any one meal. They're more prone to ask for smaller snacks throughout the day, an apple here, a piece of string cheese there, and then eat a reasonable portion at mealtime. It's the same type of eating that is encouraged by health experts and nutritionists alike. Our kids eat that way instinctively though, and I do my best to follow suit.

Sleeping well- Have you ever watched a baby sleep? It's the most peaceful thing in the world. When given the opportunity my girls will sleep thirteen hours a night, and that's in addition to their daily naps. The average adult on the other hand rarely gets enough sleep, even as more and more studies come out in regards to the importance of a good nights rest. It's not always easy to do but I find I have a much better day physically and mentally when I do literally sleep like a baby.

And there you have it folks, four great reasons to look to our kids to teach us how to live a healthier lifestyle.  How about you? I'd love to hear what other great healthy habit you've learned from your littles. xoxo

Edible Spring Wildflowers

Monday, May 5, 2014

Flowers are by far the prettiest type of wild edible around. They are also packed full of good nutrients. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I leaned early on which flowers I could munch on for a lovely little snack while playing outside. Now that it's springtime again, I've been admiring the new blossoms everywhere and thinking of fun ways to incorporate them into our mealtime as a family. Here are a few of my favorites wildflower edibles, along with some ideas of how to put them to good use in the kitchen. Enjoy!


My birthday is in early May and growing up my cake was almost always decorated with the deep purple violets that grew wild around our house. The taste of the violet flower is both fresh and delicate with a nice crunch that adds texture to any dish. Nowadays, I like to use them mostly as a garnish on salads, although they are also pretty floating in punch or cocktails. I'd also like to try my hand at making this simple violet jelly. Yum!


The dandelion flower is full of good nutrients such as calcium, iron, and Vitamins A and C, not to mention rich in protein. You may think of it as just a common weed but it was once considered an herb used for helping digestion and easing rheumatism and liver problems. As far as eating goes, you can cook the leaves and use them as greens, similar to the way I used them in this  recipe last year. They taste great that way as long as you pick them when they are young in order to avoid bitterness. When it comes to cooking the dandelion flower itself, all you have to do is batter fry them to know what all the fuss is about. They're so good! I'm also considering taking it a step further this year and making a batch of Dandelion wine. Cheers!

Red Clover

Forget about finding a four leaf clover. This sweet little wildflower contains all the luck you'll need. That's because red clover blossoms have long been used in Chinese Medicine as a tonic to fight colds and to purify the blood. The pom-pom like blossoms have a subtly sweet taste that works well in salads or for making hot teas. 

Apple Blossoms and Cherry Blossoms 

Apple blossoms and Cherry blossoms are not only beautiful to look at, they also make a lovely addition to a meal. Try turning these gorgeous blooms into candied crystallized blossoms to serve with ice-cream for a special spring treat!

Johnny Jump Ups

Johnny-Jump-Ups are such sweet flowers. They remind me of little faces. The bloom has a mild wintergreen flavor that can be incorporated into salads, desserts, soups, or used as a garnish for deserts and cheese. They remind me of little faces

Redbud flowers

Redbud flowers have a slightly sour taste and are high in Vitamin C. You can use them in salads or  spring rolls. You can even make pickled Redbuds as a great substitute for capers. 

Wood Sorrel Blossoms

This is probably my favorite wild flower to eat all by itself. I love to snack on it whenever I find a patch in the woods. The flowers are edible but so are the leaves with a lemony flavor that is all it's own. I'm thinking of trying out this wood sorrel pesto recipe next. 

Important Safety Rules to Follow When Eating Wildflowers

Design Sponge came up with some great guidelines to follow when eating wildflowers

1. Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible.
2. Just because it is served with food does not mean a flower is edible (see Rule 1).
3. Eat only flowers that have been grown organically.
4. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers (see Rule 3).
5. If you have hay fever, asthma or allergies, do not eat flowers.
6. Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. They are contaminated from car emissions (see Rule 3).
7. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Eat only the petals.
8. Not all flowers are edible. Some are poisonous.
9. There are many varieties of any one flower. Flowers taste different when grown in different locations.
10. Introduce flowers to your diet the way you would new foods to a baby — one at a time in small quantities.

Foodie Friday- Fictitious Dishes

Friday, May 2, 2014

Have you heard about this book yet? It contains photographs and quotes from some of fiction's most memorable dishes. A truly delightful and delectable idea don't you think!?

Here is a little taste of what you will find inside the book.

Clockwise from top left:

1. "The kettle soon began to boil, and meanwhile the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden color on each side. Heidi watched all that was going on with eager curiosity. " (Heidi by Johanna Spyri)

2. "By the time he'd opened a new bottle of tequila and was quaffing it down. Then he grabbed a grapefruit and sliced it in half with a Gerber mini-magnum- a stainless-steel hunting knife with a blade like a fresh-honed razor. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson)

3. “‘Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?’ He was staring at his breakfast plate. Calpurnia said, ‘Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.’ ‘You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House.’” (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.)

4. " 'Have some wine,' the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea." (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

Among the other 50 dishes she has photographed in this book, I am most excited about the dirt from, "One Hundred Years of Solitude", potatoes from, "The Secret Garden", stuffed avocados from, "The Bell Jar", and Turkish Delight from, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

About the Author

Dinah Fried is the co-founder of the design studio, Small Stuff, based in New York city. She has an MFA in graphic design and her work has been featured in such publications as, The Guardian, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and Saveur, just to name a few. "Fictitious Dishes" is her first published book. Check out more about Dinah and her literary dishes on her website and in her recent interview with NPR.

Book Image source, Collage image source, Author image source