Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Travel Itch: February Edition

Photo: Vintage Suitcase available from Always Maybe Vintage

Travel Week continues!

Five Hotels Where I'm Longing to Stay:

Pavillon Des Lettres Each of the 26 rooms in this Paris hotel is designed around a famous writer.

The Halcyon I'm always longing to to back to Bath, England, where I studied abroad in college. This romantic and chic hotel would be the perfect place to stay.

Wythe Hotel This buzzy Brooklyn hotel has impeccable design and terrific views. I want to stay here the next time we go to New York.

Tierra Patagonia This is a dream. That is all.

Viceroy Palm Springs Could I plan a whole vacation in the desert? Maybe, if I could stay in a hotel that evokes Old Hollywood glam.

Five Museums/Exhibits I'd Love to Experience:

Museum of Natural History Celebrates Theodore Roosevelt This year-long memorial at the Museum of Natural History in New York celebrates Teddy's contributions to conservation.

Matisse Museum in Nice This museum dedicated to one of my favorite artists is housed in an 18th century French villa.

Butchart Gardens in Vancouver, BC  55 acres of gardens. 26 greenhouses!

Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria, might be the only film tour I care about doing.

The Hemingway Home I'd like to pay tribute to Papa H at this museum in his home in Key West. I don't think I'd have any trouble planning the rest of a vacation in the Keys!

Where are you longing to go?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are You a Lake Person or an Ocean Person?

I was inspired by A Cup of Jo to make this week a travel-themed series. When you go on vacation, do you prefer to be by an ocean or a lake?

Until very recently, my upbringing in the panhandle of Florida and my utter lack of experience with lakes had made me biased against lakes. I have always loved the ocean. I love hunting for sand dollars amongst the shells on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. I love the dramatic landscape of the rocky coast of Maine against the Atlantic at Two Lights State Park. I love the jawdropping views of the Pacific Ocean driving along the winding Highway 1 in California.

In my naivete, I thought that lakes were murky. Stagnant. Muddy. Most of the lakes I had visited had been small and man-made. One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, often writes about summers spent on Lake Michigan, and through her luscious descriptions my mind began to open.

Then this summer, on our honeymoon, Greg and I spent a day hiking in Olympic National Park. We cobbled together several short hikes so that we would be able to take in the beaches, rainforest, and lake in one day.

We were advised at the Visitor Center that our easy hike through the temperate rainforest would end with a mile or so walking along the shore of Lake Quinault. I will never forget our first glimpses of the lake peeking through the trees. Gradually, our views grew bigger, the way watercolors seep across paper.

I was entranced. And my mind was changed! Lake Quinault was not murky, it was crystalline. It was not stagnant, but placid. Thinking about it more, it makes a lot of sense. I love the ocean for its sweeping views and closeness to nature, not for boardwalks or high-rise condos. A beautiful lake can offer the same introspection. And I've never been one for surfing (or swimming out far, for that matter) or lying on a beach towel for days. Many lakes are surrounded by good hiking and towns to explore, which are both things Greg and I are interested in when we plan vacations.

Now, at my desk in the middle of February, I'm dreaming of a lake vacation.

My best friend Julie's family vacations near this lake in Lugano, Switzerland. Doesn't it look like a dream?

What about you? Are you a lake person or an ocean person? (Or both?)

Photo of Lake Quinault taken by Greg.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Six Weeks Muffins

Forget what you think you know about bran muffins. These raisin bran muffins are delicious! The recipe has been passed down from my Grandma Liddle. She was a phenomenal cook and baker. I don't know why they're called "Six Weeks" muffins except maybe because this recipe makes quite a few!

The recipe calls for a whole box of raisin bran. Once the batter is mixed, it needs to sit overnight in the refrigerator. The buttermilk and baking soda cause the batter to bubble. (I don't keep a sourdough starter, so this is the most bubbly thing I make!)

I like to make this recipe and freeze some of them, so that when we run out of milk for cereal some morning I can just reach into the freezer and produce muffins! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Grand Palais

Grand Palais

I thought that once I was done planning my own wedding, I would lose interest in wedding blogs. But it isn't so! I still love following the trends, and looking at the beautiful things that inspire people in planning their day.

I would not have wanted two wedding dresses (ceremony and reception). I absolutely loved my dress, and I was comfortable in it, so there was no way I would have diverted more of the budget for a second dress. I do think that with the right venue, it would have been fun to have a "going-away dress" like my mom and many of her friends wore. Would you change into another show-stopping (but not bridal) dress to make your get-away?

One of the many wonderful things about this "Grand Palais" gown by Carol Hannah is that it easily transitions from an elegant wedding dress to a smashing party dress!

Wouldn't it be fabulous with this Kate Spade clutch and coordinating Kate Spade necklace? And the bridesmaids would wear blush and gold, of course. I swoon for anything with these gorgeous deco-inspired patterns.

Isn't it romantic?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Little Kitchen Music

How dreamy is this kitchen? I love the idea of having a record player in the kitchen and taking turns choosing albums to play while we cook together. I love the mood this design creates for the kitchen.

Do you listen to music while you cook? When we do, it's from iTunes, and we constantly have to move the computer as it gets in the way of prepping or to prevent it from being covered in flour. If it were built-in like this, I bet we would enjoy it much more often.

Do you own a record player? We don't (yet). It seems like the sort of thing Greg would really enjoy, since he really likes to spend time in music stores looking for used CDs, and would surely enjoy searching through old records.

I don't know that I'd want to buy the latest Mumford&Sons on vinyl, like most people I know who prefer records over iTunes, but I do think I'd like having stacks of classical and jazz records tucked in the kitchen cabinet as pictured above. My most vivid memories of record players are from ballet classes when I was a kid. For nine years, I heard the same few records played over and over while we practiced at the barre. I can still hear the piano-only version of "Penny Lane" as clear as day. I remember being fond of the crackle and pop of the well-worn vinyl.

If we were to get a turntable for our kitchen, what should we look for? Should we look for something lovely and vintage like this or something like this with USB  for converting records to mp3 format?

One of the exciting things about having a record player in the kitchen would be that we could try Turntable Kitchen. Owned by a couple who are passionate about both music and food, Turntable Kitchen aims to pair their music reviews and recipes into holistic experiences. A pairings box (pictured above) includes a limited edition vinyl record, a digital mixtape, 3 seasonal recipes, and 1-2 premium ingredients needed to make a dish or drink (depending on the month's theme). Tasting notes are included so that you can prepare a meal+music experience for 2 to 4 people. For $25, it's a great idea for a monthly date night. And with subscriptions available for 1 or 3 months, it also makes a great gift idea for someone who loves music and food!

Top photo courtesy of Brian W Ferry

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Roasted Grapes

Impress your dinner guests with this simple recipe. Greg and I regularly make this for ourselves, but we also made them this weekend while our friends Clark and Jessie were visiting! This is a wonderful appetizer, and it would also serve nicely at a wine and cheese party.

Roasted Grapes

What you will need:

Seedless grapes, washed
Olive oil
Blue cheese (creamy, not crumbly)
French bread, thinly sliced (or sometimes we use day-old rustic loaf bread)

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the grapes lightly in olive oil.

Arrange grapes in a single layer in a pan or on a roasting sheet. For 2-4 people, I would recommend an 8x8 pyrex dish.

Roast grapes for 20 minutes.

To enjoy:

Smear blue cheese on a piece of bread and top with a few roasted grapes.

This would also make a nice warm salad on a bed of arugula or chard with toasted walnuts!

Monday, February 18, 2013


I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to interview my friend Christine Exley about her exciting new business, Wagaroo. To celebrate the launch of her new site, I asked Christine to tell me a little bit about her business. And if you know Greg, then you also know that he is so anxious to get a dog. I asked Christine to answer a few questions that I had about how to choose the dog that is best for us.

Leslie: What is Wagaroo?

Christine: Wagaroo was founded to bring a simple principle to life: When it comes to getting a pet, it's time to make it easier for people to do the right thing! At Wagaroo, you'll only find available dogs from the good guys and gals. No puppy mills. No backyard breeders. Just owners, rescues, responsible breeders, and shelters working together to find great homes for dogs who need them.

Leslie: What inspired you to start a business?

Christine: I was eleven years old when I started volunteering at my local animal shelter and planning ways to save all homeless pets. My initial plan involved buying a piece of land big enough to house all homeless pets. Over time though, my plan evolved many times. There are so many people and events that ultimately inspired me to co-found Wagaroo. However, for the sake of time, I will start with the most recent history.

In Fall 2010, I took a class co-taught by Doug Bernhard and Muriel Niederle in behavioral economics, now my field of specialization. Through the lens of behavioral economics, I started to see new ways in which economics could help solve simple problems in life.

Around the same time, I started volunteering at the San Francisco SPCA. The SFPCA is always trying to find faster ways to get dogs and cats adopted from their shelter so they can take in and help even more dogs and cats.

Then came my idea: we just need to develop a better matching algorithm for pets and families so the search can be faster and easier! In early 2012, I was incredibly fortunate to be able to pitch my matching idea to Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, who shared my idea with her co-president of the SF SPCA, Jason Walthall. As it turned out, Jason had heard this idea before, but from someone else -- Elena Battles. He connected me with Elena and that is when Wagaroo really became a possibility.

Elena holds her MBA from Stanford and is the former COO of Humane Society Silicon Valley. She is brilliant with both dogs and business. For most of 2012, we iterated through various ideas, including piloting a matching algorithm at the SF SPCA. We found out that the matching algorithm was not nearly as important as unifying the fragmented market for dogs. That is, we saw the need to provide people with easy access to all available dogs from responsible sources-- shelters, rescues, responsible breeders, and owners needing to re-home their dogs. The last source is a particularly new idea that we are very excited to explore. Almost exactly one year later, we launched the alpha version of Wagaroo.

Leslie: What advice do you have for selecting the breed that is best for us?

Christine: Probably, I would advise you not to get stuck on any particular breed. Instead, think up a list of desired traits and look for a dog that fulfills your list. Certain breeds may correlate with certain behaviors, or even be more susceptible to certain behaviors. However, a breed does NOT determine how a dog will behave. So, while it is likely smart to research breeds that you are interested in, it is most important to just determine the behaviors of dogs that interest you. Also, if you research dog breeds, be careful to look for reputable sources, such as rescue groups for that particular breed. Often, news articles and discussion boards spread misinformation like wildfire, particularly for pit bulls.

Leslie: What is important to look for when we visit a shelter or responsible breeder to pick out a dog?

Christine: It is most important to look for someone who is knowledgeable about the dogs and can allow you to closely interact with the dogs. At shelters, this often may be a staff member or volunteer who can correctly tell you what to expect from certain dogs. Or, better yet, start volunteering there so you can know for yourself!

Leslie: What are 3 important questions to ask the shelter or responsible breeder before I take home a dog?


  • What would the ideal family for this dog look like, and why?
  • What does this dog's medical and behavioral history entail?
  • For a shelter/rescue, how and why did this dog end up in your care? For an owner who is re-homing his or her dog, why are you no longer keeping your dog? For a responsible breeder, can I meet this dog's parents?
In some ways, what questions are asked of you may be most indicative because people who care most about their dogs are looking for the best homes for them. 

Leslie: Many lovable dogs are crosses between dogs with very different temperaments. If I want to adopt a mixed breed dog, how can I know what its temperament will be like?

Christine: This one is easy -- adopt an adult dog! I believe breeds are far less important than the individual characteristics and personality of a dog. With an adult dog of any breed, you will be able to know so much about them. Just take time to get to know an adult dog before adopting him or her. See how teh dog behaves around kids, strangers, every member of your family, and other dogs. See how the dog acts inside, outside, on-leash and off-leash. See how the dog reacts to you when he/she is eating, playing with a toy, or being petted. Also, know that less than desirable behaviors can almost always be overcome if you are wiling to put in the time to train and properly socialize your dog. 

Leslie: How can I be sure that a breeder is responsible?

Christine: This one is hard - we are still trying to figure this out, and that is why there are currently no dogs from breeders of any sort on Many organizations provide a good list of red flags and questions that you should ask a breeder, such as the SF SPCA and the ASPCA. But, there is no list of known responsible breeders. A referral from a trusted source may be your best bet. Hopefully, Wagaroo will be able to be that trusted source in the near future. 

Check us out at  if you
  • love dogs and want to check out what we are up to,
  • have any questions or suggestions for us,
  • are interested in reading our blog,
  • are looking for a new dog,
  • need to find a new home for your dog, or
  • would like to refer a responsible breeder to us.

Photo of Christine Exley and her adorable dog, Pepper!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wit & Whistle

"...Or don't you like to write letters. I do, because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something."
-Ernest Hemingway

For Valentine's Day, I got Greg this 3-D card from Wit & Whistle. Nifty, right? Because it's blank, it would be a great thing to send to someone you love any day of the year. Whatever you write in black ink on the inside will "hover" over the patterned page. The cutest little pair of 3D glasses are included with the card!

It would also be fun to send or receive the decoder card shown below. When a message is written lightly in pencil, it can only be read by using the included decoder!

Visit Wit & Whistle and send one of these unique cards to someone you love this weekend!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Funny Valentine

A Timely Manner

Do you wear a watch? I've gotten out of the habit, as I tend to rely on my cell phone to check the time. But it's not always appropriate to pull out a phone. Glancing at a watch can be more discreet, or, depending on the size of the gesture, it can send a clearer message! I've also heard that you should always wear a watch to an interview, as it makes a statement that you care about being punctual. Each of these watches below make a different kind of statement, too!
A Timely Manner

1. Swatch "Something New" $50

We gave this watch to my brother-in-law for Christmas. It is simple and understated, and the face is easy to read. It looks great on both men and women.

2. Fossil "Retro Traveler" $155

I love the trend of women wearing men's watches. It's so alluring! An oversized watch makes a bold statement. Keep your necklace and earrings simple, and let your wrist shine!

3. Anthropologie "Viscid" $58
This is a steal! It's available in several different colors, but mint would be my obvious choice! The flexible band looks comfortable, but the gold trim on the face allows it to be more dressed up, too.

4. Michael Kors Oversized Chronograph $384
This is a more feminine alternative to wearing a men's watch. It's boldly oversized, but beautifully embellished with crystals. What a dream!

Now I'm going to share a quirky trick with you. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, remember something you must do in the morning, and then have trouble falling back asleep for fear of forgetting? When I was in the habit of wearing a watch, I had a solution. I would move my watch from my left wrist to my right. When I awoke in the morning, I would be startled to find my watch on the wrong wrist. Then suddenly, this would jog my memory and I would remember what it was I needed to do! (It's sort of like tying string around a finger, except that I've never actually seen anyone wearing string).

What's your watch style? I'm definitely going to get back in the habit of wearing one.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Affordable Inspiration: "From the Desk of..."

Is your workspace a flourishing den of creativity? Or is it crowded, cluttered, impersonal, uninspirational? We have a desk in our guest bedroom that is used sparingly for getting work done. It weighs approximately 1000 pounds and is coming dangerously close to becoming a "catch-all." I have a loose organizational system meaning that my scrapbooking supplies (paper, embellishments, and more paper) go in one drawer and everything that needs to be scrapbooked (photos, brochures, ticket stubs, etc.) goes in the other drawer. I used to have the whole desk for scrapbooking. But when I got married, we ditched Greg's ugly green desk and tried to make the workspace sharable for both schoolwork and creative projects.

On our desk right now: My Cricut machine, pocket folders for each of Greg's classes, stationery, a favor from our wedding, and an adorable picture of our friends Clark and Jessie. But also on our desk right now? A power adapter for iPad (still in its box), assorted CDs, a shoebox of my anatomy/physiology flashcards, too many pens, and a box of Sparklers from someone's Christmas stocking. It's no wonder that we don't go to the desk to accomplish anything creative.

If you're anything like me, your creative space could use a makeover

Here are a few ideas for how to redesign your desk with affordable art, eloquent words, and generally inspiring aesthetics:

1. Chanel No 5 Print by LadyGatsbyLuxePaper (pictured above)

The Chanel No 5 bottle is iconic. Its clean design is inspirational for a variety of mediums and would be a constant reminder of the elegance of simplicity. For only $10, this watercolor print is affordable art for any kind of workspace.

2. Two Girls Adventure Art Print by Frances Martin

This is another affordable art print, and to me it represents possibilities and adventure. It makes me yearn to travel. It depicts two friends planning their day as light pours into the room. What a great image to hang above a desk where you will plan your next creative adventure. $20

3. Repurpose a globe. 

Globes are classic and stylish. You could simply furnish your desk with a regular globe for a look that is both beautiful and pratical. Or you could use a coat of paint to transform the globe into a creative tool.

Use chalkboard paint to create a blank canvas. You could use your chalkboard globe to leave reminders for yourself, to jot down ideas, or to display quotes for inspiration.

Alternatively, to coordinate with the art prints above, you could paint the globe gold and use a permanent pen to gradually cover the globe with quotes you admire.

4. Ditch the dull pencils and pens.

After you spruce up your desk, don't miss out on an opportunity for added whimsy or beauty. Instead of boring, unnoticable pens and pencils, why not supply yourself with writing instruments that reflect your new decor? INKKIT has lots of pretty pencils, stationery, and other desk supplies in rich hues. My favorites are these twig pencils in plum or in gold.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bar Method Nashville

Everyone should have a workout that they love this much. Bar Method Nashville is the pep in my step, the bright spot at the end of my work days, and without a doubt, the best workout I have ever done. Designed to build strenth, sculpt muscles, increase flexibility, and improve posture, it is a total body workout in one hour.

Each class follows the same sequence, so you will quickly learn the order of things. However, there are many variations of each exercise, so class will never be the same as yesterday. Props such as balls and mini-mats are used frequently to make the exercises more stimulating and challenging.

Let your legs shake! It feels strange at first, but you will quickly get used to it. Each exercise is designed to completely exhaust a muscle (or muscle group), so it requires full concentration.You will never find yourself glancing at the clock wondering when the hour will end. Instead, you will be engaged the entire time.

The exercises of the Bar Method were designed under the guidance of physical therapists, so you can be sure that you will be getting the best exercise while protecting your joints. Throughout class, there are plenty of verbal and hands-on corrections to ensure that everyone is in the correct form. Every single one of the Bar Method Nashville instructors is knowledgeable and friendly, always answering my questions well and even staying after class to show me how to do something correctly.

Class begins with arms. Light weights and lots of repetitions are used to create lean, strong arms and upper back. Planks warm up the entire front of your body, preparing you for the rest of class. Push-ups and reverse push-ups will redefine your upper body.

The first exercise at the bar is calf raises, which not only tone your calves but also work on your balance. After each exercise at the bar, there is a deep stretch. Unlike some exercise classes that leave all the stretching for the end, Bar Method stretches each muscle group after it is exhausted to make you feel great and help you to achieve the elongated dancer's physique.

For most of us, thigh and seat make up the most challenging part of class. There are 3 sets of thigh, utilizing different positions (as well as the ball and the mini-mat, sometimes) to work the upper and lower quads, inner thighs, as well as the corner of your seat. My favorite days are those when "Heads Will Roll" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is played during thigh work. It's so empowering! (Unrelated note: It's also the best suggestion I've ever heard for a bouquet toss song, and I'm a little sad that I didn't go with it!) After thigh, a different seat exercise such as standing seat, pretzel, fold-over, or arabesque works to tone and lift your hamstring and glutes.

Next comes ab work, starting with flat-back and round-back exercises against the wall which target those hard-to-feel lower abdominal muscles, and moving into 3 sets of curl on mats in the middle of the room. Class concludes with a few minutes of "back-dancing" and final stretches. To find out what back-dancing is, you'll have to come to a class!

Class is challenging, whether it's your first class or your 200th class. I joined Bar Method Nashville in September, and it was only in January that I began to be able to consistently stay in all 3 sets of thigh. I still have to come out of reverse push-ups and some of the seat exercises. But all throughout class, you are given "options" to push yourself further. Even if you can't stay in every exercise the whole time, pushing yourself to take at least a few of the options will ensure that you feel great about yourself when you leave. Right now, I am focusing on doing most or all of both sets of push-ups on the balls of my feet, and staying in thigh.

You will make friends! If you start coming regularly, you will see many of the same people at your preferred class time. I look forward to seeing the people I have met in my 5:30 evening class.

Bar Method has more than 65 locations around the country, and they are growing. To find the location nearest you, click here

To view the Nashville studio class schedule, click here. You can purchase classes a la carte, which is a great way to try it out before you commit to a monthly plan. If you want to try a class, let me know! I would love for you to come with me!

Photos of the lovely Bar Method Nashville instructors by Elizabeth Estes Photography

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How to Start a Documentary Club

Tomorrow night, Greg and I will host our monthly documentary club. The idea started as a way for me to get to know more people in Nashville. Also, we love watching documentaries! They are almost always great prompts for discussion. 

I have been in a couple of book clubs, in which I have learned some important lessons that went in to creating our current club. First of all, most of our friends here don't have time to be in a book club. That is, of course, unless I want to start reading Greg's syllabus and inviting his friends over to discuss theology. No thank you. I know that if we tried to start a book club, a few people might rally at first but then they would quickly feel overwhelmed by trying to find time to read another book. A documentary club is perfect because it provides a basis for meaningful discussion without any ahead-of-date preparation.

Second, I have learned that it is important to let the group take ownership, gradually. No one wants to be in a book club in which the same person picks the book every month. Likewise, no one would want to be in our documentary club if we picked the film every time. But to get things started, we felt it was important to pick the schedule for the first few months. That way, when we told people about it, they could think, "I can't make it this time, but ooh, look what they're watching next month!" We chose documentaries on diverse topics that we felt would be interesting to people who love documentaries, but also to people who love fashion or food or sociology. 

The third and most important thing I have learned is to keep it simple. We offer "light refeshments" which means that I can make fondue, bake tedious cookie recipes, or sometimes just pick up a bag of chips. I can't get overwhelmed by the responsibility of providing the snacks. We also keep it BYOB. If someone else offers to host next month, great! If someone wants to bake each person their own individual flourless chocolate waffle, fabulous! But if not, we'll be here, watching the movie, with simple snacks. No problem. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National Signing Day

When I saw the headline on CNN that Wednesday is National Signing Day, my first thought was "An awareness day for American Sign Language? Great!" I realized a few seconds later, of course, that this  is the day when high school recruits announce where they will be playing college football. Nevertheless, I'm going to celebrate National Signing Day with a few facts about sign language.

1. Did you know that American Sign Language (ASL) is not the same as Signed English? ASL is a distinct language with a different word order. Therefore, a deaf student who uses ASL to communicate but writes for school in English has to codeswitch between the two languages.

2. The gestural theory suggests that sign language was a precursor to speech.

3. There are a number of different sign languages around the world. A speaker of ASL cannot understand speakers of other sign languages.

4. Just as there are dialects of American English, there are also dialects of American Sign Language.

5. Gallaudet, the world's only university with programs designed specifically for deaf and hearing-impaired students, was created by an act of Congress in 1864 signed by Abraham Lincoln. No more than 5% of undergraduate students at this university in Washington, D.C. are hearing.

6. According to the  NIDCD, ASL is the fourth most-used language in the United States.

7. Nicaraguan Sign Language is of great interest to linguists, because it offers a rare glimpse into the birth of a new language. It was developed by deaf children in the 1970's and 1980's who had no access to already-established sign languages at their school in Nicaragua.

8. To study developmental psychology, Dr. Penny Patterson has been conducting the longest-running interspecies study, teaching American Sign Language to gorillas. The  most famous gorilla, Koko, has learned over 1,000 signs. To learn more about the study and conservation efforts to protect gorillas, visit The Gorilla Foundation.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Ideal Bookshelf

One of my favorite gifts to give is original art. Not mine, of course. I love finding artists who create custom paintings. We have a couple of pieces in our living room that I had made for Greg, but I will share those another day. I want to talk about my current obsession, Ideal Bookshelf.

Who: Jane Mount

How It Works: You submit a list of your favorite books. Take photographs of the full spines. If you spot an edition you like better in one of the paintings on her site or blog, make a note. Then she transforms your list into a beautiful 8x10 painting!

I'm also excited that Jane is now offering single book paintings, which is a more affordable way to surprise someone with a custom painting of his or her favorite book.

You can also give gift cards so that the recipient can choose his or her own list.

This would be a really sweet wedding gift if you were to combine a few of each of their favorite books into a single painting.

The artist also offers a number of her paintings as affordable prints! Wouldn't this one look darling in the kitchen?

And in their recently released book, Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force bring to life the ideal bookshelves of many public figures, from Alice Waters to James Franco.

On the, Jane and Thessaly encourage fans to submit their own ideal bookshelves. You can download the form to fill in with your favorite reads. Here is mine:

And here is one I made for Greg (Disclaimer: I picked these books, which means that Greg would likely exchange one or two of these for other titles before he submitted it for painting!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Inn at Langley

Someday, I will post more about our honeymoon itinerary, which included Portland, Seattle, and the Puget Sound. But with Valentine's Day just around the corner, I want to tell you about what is surely one of the most romantic places in the world:

Situated just off of Washington in the Puget Sound, The Inn at Langley is a true sanctuary on Whidbey Island. With views of the Saratoga Passage, a James Beard Award-nominated chef, and all that Whidbey Island has to offer at its fingertips, The Inn at Langley is a kind of paradise.

Every one of the inn's guest rooms has a porch with 180 degree views of the Saratoga Passage. The views are staggeringly different at high and low tides. Unlike most hotel balconies, the porches at the Inn at Langley are actually spacious enough for two people to enjoy. It's perfect for sipping coffee or a glass of wine, or for reading a book while listening to the water.

The rooms are sumptuously comfortable. They include wood-burning fireplaces, which are enjoyable year-round in the Puget Sound. The inn has a small library of books and movies to bring back to your room, and a wine cellar showcasing the best of the Pacific Northwest. The decor, like the view, is placid and serene. Even the bathtub overlooks the water. 

On our first night, we enjoyed a six-course dinner at the inn's restaurant. Many of the herbs and greens were grown right in the restaurant's beautifully landscaped garden. Even the flowers on the table were from the garden. The restaurant features an open kitchen, so we could watch as Chef Matt Costello prepared each imaginative course. One of the most memorable courses that night was a roasted duck breast with a pine and cherry sauce. After hiking the previous day in Olympic National Forest, the pine sauce filled our mouths with the fragrant taste of the Northwest.

Each course was paired beautifully with a wine. While the menu said six courses, the whole evening was more like eight or nine, because the chef kept sending out playful little bites, such as a chocolate chip cookie cotton candy before dessert.

One of the most brilliant moments came when the crab course was served. There had been two candles sitting on our table. As the waiter came around, he told us that one of them was not actually a candle, but rather coconut oil that had been burning. He extinguished the flame and poured the toasted coconut oil over our plates. Incredible!

The Inn at Langley is situated in the heart of the town of Langley, which has a few streets of boutiques and restaurants. The residents could not be friendler nor the town more quaint. Whidbey Island is small, so it is easy to get around and explore. We drove about an hour and a half to Anacortes to catch a whale-watching tour. We ate lunch on the Greenbank Farm at Whidbey Pies Cafe where we savored the regional specialty of loganberry pie.

On our last day, we went for a hike at Ebey's Landing, a national historical preserve. We forgot our camera, but I can assure your imagination that there is nothing more breathtaking than a prairie that is along the ocean.

Make sure to leave enough time to just enjoy the inn. Go for strolls on the beach. Greg got close enough to a heron to snap this picture as it took flight.


We will certainly come back here again and again for special anniversaries. We were lucky to be here during June, which is the peak of whale-watching season, but I would like to experience it in the winter months, too. The Inn at Langley is a retreat for all the senses.