Friday, December 26, 2008

Puppies + Plaid

I snapped this picture of Agnes laying on my sister's lap after Christmas morning celebrations...she was just dozing off.  I love the warm, cozy colors and textures...

Puppies + Plaid

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for Christmas

[Christmas morning 1979
that's me on the left, older sis on the right]

We made it home for Christmas, where I promptly came down with the stomach bug that my older son had - yuk!  But, it's over, and I'm ready to celebrate.   We've got an action packed two days with family + friends, and I can't wait to see everyone.  I  hope you have a Merry Christmas, or if it's another holiday you celebrate, I hope it's a happy one.   Wishing you joy + peace - alston

Monday, December 22, 2008

Water Rings No More

Just thinking about all the holiday toasts, and thought of these two table-savers...


Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Treats

Thankfully, we are all on the mend! I was so glad that the boys were better today for their holiday party at school. And they were so excited about taking in their little teacher gifts. All the parents at their school pool together $ to buy the teachers a gift card of some sort, but I wanted the boys to be able to physically hand their teachers something and say "thanks for all you do for me." This year, they picked out some yogurt covered pretzels, which I put in a clear bag, tied up with some of Martha's Baker's Twine [which I love, and you can find at Michael's], and made a little label with their picture in it...

And yesterday, a little holiday elf came by and brought us a delicious treat - Kettle Corn! Our friends found one of the vendors for the state fair and every year they get him to make them batches of Kettle Corn for their friends. I sure am happy to be on that list!! And the label is awesome -- you know how I feel about pictures on anything, and the "caution" at the bottom made me laugh...

Hope you all have a great Friday -- we're off to see the big guy [Santa] after the school party!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revived Classics for Stuffing Stockings

I was in Restoration Hardware yesterday, and they've got all their stocking stuffers on sale 30% off. They've revived some old classics that would be great for kids and adults alike. And don't feel limited to stockings - some of these would make fun, non-traditional hostess gifts. Here are some that caught my eye...

the Rubik's Cube, now $9.49

or how about this Mini Etch A Sketch, now $7.99

I could've used a pair of these last year while surviving a blustery New England Winter,
Pocket Handwarmers, $11.99

and lastly, a personal fave of mine, the Ole Million Face Game, now $14.99

It's been a crazy week so far -- 4-yr-old has the barfs right in the middle of busy holiday card season! -- so posting may be a little sporadic the the next couple days...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Calenders + More...

Have you seen all the beautiful, creative Advent calenders out there in blog-land? Two of my favorites...the first I saw on Design Sponge by, and the second on Design Mom by Jessica Sprague [and I really like how this second one is for the 12 days of Christmas rather than all 25 days in's not too late to start a countdown for just the week before Christmas either!]...

And here's one of the reasons I didn't do an uber-creative calender this year:

Yes, that's right...all the little doors were opened + chocolate eaten before it was even December 13th. I know it's a lot of temptation for a 2.5 year old, and let me tell you how hard it was for me not to laugh when I found him hiding under his bed, chocolate smeared all on his squishy little cheeks. I think next year I will try one of the others and mix candy with toys just in case there's an advent calender binger in our midst.

In other news, have you heard about the theft at Harry Winston in Paris? I read an article about it this weekend in the NY Times...gunmen wearing drag managed to make off with over $100 million dollars worth of delicious here to read the whole article. This is the stuff movies are made of...makes me think of The Thomas Crown Affair or The Italian Job [two of my all-time faves]. Can't you just see it?!

[Photo from the NY Times]

Hope you guys had a great weekend...I managed to get most of my wrapping finished up!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wrap It Up

[My sister's wrapping cart - I like wrapping presents with her!]

I'm going to try and get lots of wrapping out of the way this weekend...although, if I actually put anything under our tree, it would be opened in a matter of minutes. We stack everything on top of our TV armoire and bookcases! Because the boys' packages tend to be large, it would get a little pricey trying to use expensive sheets of eco-friendly gift wrap. I usually use recycled Kraft paper, and then put a bright ribbon* and card on top. Sometimes, I'll even draw right on the package, depending on my mood. I also bought a big roll of Ayomi Yoshida gift wrap from's 60 sq ft, 216 in x 40 in. It's a big one, and it only cost me $2.99. I'll do my best to make sure it all ends up in the recycling bin!

Some other wrapping alternatives...

[Paper Mojo is running a big sale on holiday gift wrap,
including this print from
Whimsy Press]

[Amy Butler has a line of 100% PC wrapping paper, including this Water collection]

*And lastly, my most favorite ribbon is an Italian Cotton ribbon sold by Angela Liguori...

Happy Wrapping!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nurture Your Inner Architect

We went to the house of one of my younger son's classmates yesterday, and they had a huge set of Kapla blocks. I've seen these before - they had some at the Children's Museum in Boston - but I had never been in front of an entire bucket full. These blocks are seriously addictive. At one point I realized that all the kids had moved on to something else, and I was still sitting there building [of course, they quickly reemerged when it was time to knock it over!]. I really could've built with these things for hours.

The Marine Pine blocks are made from 100% renewable forests in France. The wood is not treated either. [Click here for more safety info] There are a couple different sets with prices ranging from $30 to $400.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letters to Santa

A little something to brighten your Wednesday, here are the letters to Santa that the boys dictated to Reggie...

[From my almost 3-yr-old]

[From my 4.5 yr old]

And these make me smile...

Remember my grand gingerbread house plans? These are the versions we ended up with...graham crackers, icing and lots of's all about the candy! Next year, we'll tackle the big daddy...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lou Lou

If I could send I letter to Santa for my kids, this is what I would ask for...the Lou Lou Ghost Chair [available at for 136.99] designed by Philippe Starck. It has the same lines as his Louis Ghost Chair, just shrunk to fit the littlest hineys in the family. The chair is scratch-resistant, stackable, suitable for the indoors or out, and easy to clean. Sign me up. Somehow, I don't think my kids would be quite as excited about them as I am!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


So, I had grand plans this week to make this amazing version of a gingerbread house. I confess, though, that I have already been google-ing "easy gingerbread house." I wish I had the time and patience to make one of these with my 2 + 4 year old. But I have a feeling [because I have never, ever made a gingerbread house in my whole life] that it would end up with me cussing and them destroying the kitchen. As much as I want to make this, I have come to realization that I should start small and work my way up...especially with two energy-filled boys in the kitchen with me. This year, we will be making the graham cracker's really the candy that they care about anyway!

The gingerLotus is Michelle Kaufmann's version from last year. It was such a success, that she created the gingersolaire this year. Both of them are designed with many of the same green elements used in the actual homes she designs. Plus, the recipe for the gingerbread part uses all natural, organic ingredients. If you are feeling industrious this week, check it out. And let me know if you do make one!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gifties Guide [Teacher + Hostess]

And finally, here are a few ideas for gifts you can buy in bulk to send to school with your kids [okay, so maybe not the wine in this case] or take with you to a party...

1. Lafco New York Dream Homes Candle, $52. These candles are made from clean-burning soy based wax and a 100% natural cotton wick. They burn for over 90 hours and are contained in a hand-blown glass vessel. Even if you can't have a vacation home, you can make yours smell like one...for over 90 hours at least!

2. Egg Plant: Basil, Branch, $12. These little guys are so darn adorable...not only will they recipient have a gift that keeps on giving, but it's a great conversation starter..."Is that an egg? No, silly, it's basil!"

3. Dauphine Press Desk Pad, $24. For anyone like me who could never have enough paper, lists and notes.

4. Personalized Address Stamp, $40. A thoughtful gift that will last at least until the next move...but you have to order ASAP to get it here before the big day.

5. Fantasia Dish Towel, Anthropologie, $14. A beautiful dish towel is something I can never get enough of, especially since I am trying to wean myself off paper towels.

6. Recession Red Wine, available at wine shops across the country for $3.99. Bring some humor to the mix with this tasty yet cheap wine.

7. Godiva Gold Ballotin Gift Box, $13. You can't go wrong with a small indulgence that you normally wouldn't buy for yourself.

8. Daub & Bauble Toracco Orange and Clove Hand Soap, 10 fl. oz for $9. These bottles would make anyone's sink lovely...just because it has a dirty job, doesn't mean it has to look that way!

So now you've got the whole weekend to get all your shopping done! Have a good one...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gifties Guide [Gals]

And now the ladies...I just kept thinking little luxuries, things that you wouldn't normally buy for yourself...

1. Monogrammed Organic Cotton Towels from West Elm, $19 to $3.99 + personalization cost [some colors are even on sale]. Who doesn't want or need a new set of monogrammed towels?!

2. Elsa Peretti Letter Key Ring, Tiffany & Co., $145. What is it about a silver Tiffany key ring? I really like the organic shapes of these letters, too.

3. Tory Burch Wallet, $195. From one of my favorite designers [a lot because I love her logo and they way she incorporates it], a classic and beautiful wallet to liven up any handbag.

4. Tracks Plaid Blanket, $498. Well, it turns out that this particular pattern is now not shipping until the spring, which wouldn't help for a holiday gift, but there are several other patterns available. The methods they use to make these 100% Australian Merino Wool blankets are so cool, including breeding the sheep under biodynamic conditions, as well as using biodegradeable spinning oils and soaps. All this, and I haven't even said anything about the amazing design!

5. Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder, $129. I'd love to have one of these little babies to throw in my bag for whenever a "tapeable" occasion arose...

6. Morra Designs Small Disc Earrings, $60. Handcrafted and made out of 14K gold vermeil, these earrings would look great on anyone.

7. Color-block Cashmere Blend Glove, Banana Republic, $59. A new spin on the classic long length glove.

8. Sugar Star Treatment by Fresh, $87 + ships for free from Sephora. Give the gift of pampering with this trio of products that promises to make you "glow from head to toe."

9. Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People, $75. 36 homes of writers, photographers, muscians, actors and more from the past 2 decades of Vogue magazine. It's on my wish list!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gifties Guide [Guys]

On to the men in your life...

1. Helvetica Poster by The Type Junkie, $25. Because sometimes letters are just the thing. Size is 12 x 18".

2. Droog Bird House at, $93.26. Created by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders as a "knock down five-star bird restaurant," this would definitely add some flair to a tree limb. I kind of want to hang it in my living room.

3. Suburbia by Bill Owens, $29.95. Beautiful portraits of suburban life in the early 1970's.

4. Almost Vintage Miniature Radio, $25. Cute as a radio button, and the perfect addition to a desk, bedside table or even woodshop.

5. Lumix Digital Camera, $226.95. Because you're going to want him to have the perfect camera for capturing those vacation landscapes and memories from all the trips he will be taking you on next year. With a 28mm wide-angle setting he'll be able to get it all in!

6. Surfboard 2006 by Dirk Westphal, $7,000. You were going to spend that much on the one you love, right?! I think this surfboard is fantastic, and I secretly wish I knew how to surf, hence the reason it's on the list. It would make some amazing art for a study or library, though, if you had that kind of money hanging around:)

7. Teak Croquet Set from Design Within Reach, $550. Don't you ever want to dress in period garb, go out onto the lawn and play a little game of croquet? Oh, and sip lemonade, too.

8. Ray-Ban RB3025, $129.95. A personal fave of mine...I grew up in the days of Top Gun, where Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer were the hottest things ever. I think we bought my dad a pair Christmas 1986!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gifties Guide [Kids]

Here's the first of 4 compilations of some of my favorite things out there for little gifties. Admittedly, these toys are for mostly smaller kids. What can I say, that's where my expertise lies right now?! [Click image to enlarge]

1. Fly Me to the Moon Cardboard Rocket, Land of Nod, $89. The perfect little escape...and the fact that you can draw all over it may even deter colorful markings on the wall!

2. Dog Hand Puppet, Branch, $22. Super cute, plus it's hand-knit by women who belong to a collective of knitters in rural Kenya.

3. Wooden Trike by Plan Toys, available at Modern Tots for $120. This would be a perfect indoor tricycle on hardwood floors - none of that metal scraping on wood - yikes!

4. Plunko Ugly Doll, $20. I'm a little bit obsessed with these "dolls." They make me laugh and I love the colors and shapes. Not too sure about the reception from a "girlie-girl," though...I might not have thought they were very funny when I was say 5 or 6 years old.

5. Wooden Shopping Cart by Plan Toys, $60. It's the blue and orange - gets me every time. Plus the whole wooden floors thing.

6. Bob's Your Uncle, Animal Flashcard Set, $35. Not only will they be learning their abc's, but there's a fun fact about each animal on the back, too, like how rabbits can see behind them without even turning their heads.

7. I'm Not Bored Anymore Art Jar, Land of Nod, $29. I would've gobbled this up when I was little..."a jumbo plastic jar full of funky art supplies like googly eyes, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, glue pens, construction paper, wavy craft scissors, wooden buttons, spools, beads, craft sticks and more."

8. Automoblox M9 Sportvan, $38. I'm also a little obsessed with these cars. They really are one of my favorite toys I've ever bought for the boys. They can be completely taken apart and intermixed, and the "people" pieces inside are like a mini puzzle. They are continually coming out with new colors and styles, too.

9. A Well Balanced Scale, Land of Nod, $29. My boys would love this - putting items in, seeing what happens, taking them out - what could be better?

10. Holga 120N Medium Format Camera, $27.99. We have one of these and have such a great time with it. The boys love the independence of snapping away, and the results are often beautiful. And for that price, it's not such a huge deal if your budding photographer as a little "mishap."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Treats + a Table

We made it back from our trip safe + sound after an 8 hour car trip [that should've taken 6 at the most!] in the rain. The boys did great, though, [thankfully] and only started going nuts about 30 minutes out. Here are some random tidbits from our trip...

The boys made "cone-ucopias" as we like to call them with Aunt Weez [my sister]. It was a dreary day and this was a fun activity for them. She just dipped ice cream cones in icing and stuck little candies on them.

After Auburn was painfully smooshed by Alabama Saturday in the Iron Bowl, I noticed that my husband had quietly disappeared. I searched the whole house and finally found this:

which led to this:

He said he "just needed to sand." Not a happy day for Auburn fans. As a side note, that's the dining room table he's been working on for us. He's making it out of walnut from a tree that had fallen down in a friend's yard. I can't wait for it to be finished!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I've got some holiday gift guides coming up for the rest of the week, so stay tuned...
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