5 Charcuterie Items to Elevate Your Holiday Spread

We've already covered the one-stop cheese board shopping guide.  But for the occasions when you have a little more time to gather ingredients, here are a few items that are worth the extra effort.

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QUINCE PASTE:  Traditionally from Spain, this firm, sweet jelly made from the pulp of a quince fruit is the perfect compliment to salty cheeses like manchego.  Cut it up in slices (SEE PHOTO AT TOP - it's in the 1 o'clock position on the cheese board).

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HUMBOLT FOG:  A little pricier than the Trader Joe's cheeses, but it's creamy, mild taste is a definite crowd-pleaser.  A goat milk cheese made by Cypress Grove, with a distinguishing layer of edible ash, guests go nuts for this one.  Tastes particularly great on crackers with honey. (SEE PHOTO AT TOP- it's in the 3 o'clock position).

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GOOD OLIVES: The Trader Joe's variety I mentioned in the last SHOPPING LIST is great, but if you get the chance to pick from a good olive bar, you're golden. I tend to like Castelvantano Olives (the bright green ones), which are are also available in jars at Whole Foods and many supermarkets.  YUM!

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FIG JAM: Dalmatia Fig Spread is my favorite.  Put a wooden spoon in it and use it as a centerpiece for the whole spread. You can find this at Whole Foods, most supermarkets and here on Amazon, if that's easier.  It serves a similar purpose to the quince paste, so you can choose one or the other for your board OR go hog wild and put out both :)

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MIDNIGHT MOON: Another cheese from Cypress Grove.  It's nutty and buttery upfont with a slightly sweet finish.  Goes great with the fig jam above.  I like to cut out the inner part from the rind and crumble it up, then put it back in the shape of the rind for presentation.  SEE PHOTO at bottom.

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There you have it!  A few items to build upon your cheese board staples.  The below photo has both Midnight Moon (upper left) and Humbolt Fog (right).  There was a crazy amount of cheese on that platter for a very special friend's daughter's bday and we managed to eat it all.  Those cheeses are THAT GOOD!

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Remember to post your cheese photos, tag @ainttooproudtomeg and use the hashtag #ainttooproudtocheese so I can see all your beautiful creations.  They make me SOOOO HAPPY!!

Best Boards on the Market

Now that we have our "one-stop cheese plate shopping list," let's talk about the best boards to display that charcuterie on...

My ideal board is round with approximately 15-17in circumference and a little lip that makes it easy to transport.  Whether that's carrying it from the kitchen to the dining room or wrapping it up in tinfoil and bringing to a friends house, a lip is always appreciated for a smooth transition.   I've traditionally had lots of luck finding great options at HomeGoods.  However, a trip to HomeGoods can be hit or miss (oftentimes only finding random boards with silly embellishments or weird sayings).  "Home" might be "where the heart is," BUT there's a time and place for that... AND I don't want to see it in cursive under my cheese ;)

Aside from round, I also love the look of a rustic rectangle cutting board or square piece.  So, in the interest of rounding up the best boards for your holiday gatherings, here are some shoppable boards you can snag in time for your next cheese plate.

**UPDATE** Since writing this post, I've found an affordable, round board that I absolutely love.  If you're in the market for your first board, check this one from Target out.  It's 15in and here's an example of a cheese board and a dessert board I've made on it:

Target Hearth & Hand Magnolia Acacia Platter Cheese Board Dessert Board

And here's a round-up of other amazing options from around the web:

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1. Mango Wood Board // Sur La Table // 20in. Heavy // $60 This board is heavy and gorgeous.  On the larger end, so best for entertaining large parties.  But it's also perfect for entertaining with other meals.  I'm picturing a big loaf of cut bread and a few bowls of tomato soup :)

2. Boos Cutting Board // Sur La Table // 18in x 12in and 21in x 17in // $99 and $149; I LOVE THESE!! Heavy, great quality.  I'll be doing a GIVEAWAY in December so stay tuned. 

3. Acacia Wood Cutting Board // Target // 15in // $24.99; From the famous Hearth & Hand Magnolia line.  Great size.

4. Cutting Board w/ Handle // Sur La Table // 14in and 19in // $69.95 and $105 // These are a little in between sizes.  The 14in for smaller gatherings and the 19in for larger.

5. Lazy Susan // Sur La Table // 18in Heavy // $50.  I mean, you can't go wrong with a lazy susan.  Just twirl that cheese around so everyone gets a good piece!

6. Professional Style Cutting Board // Target // 24in x 18in // $55.99.  Less expensive alternative to the Boos option.

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7. Acacia Wood Cutting/Serving Board // Target // 12in x 16in // $19.99

8. Two-Tone Round Inlay Board // Target // 13in round plus handle // $19.99 : Veering towards the smaller end, but fun and cute.

9. Round Footed Tray // Target // 13in Large size // $19.99; Good for smaller gatherings. Another from the Hearth & Hand line. If not for cheese, great styling piece for the kitchen.

10. Cuff Wood Server // CB2 // 13in x 10.75in (wood area) // $29.95.  CB2 makes some of my favorite serving platters.  The bronze handle ads a nice touch.

11. Marble Lazy Susan // CB2 // 14inx14in // $49.95.  Square lazy susan? Sign me up!

12. Woodblock Cheese Board // Anthropologie // 13in x 11.5in // $48.

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13. Festive Marble Cheese Board //Anthropologie // 24in x 9in // $118.  "Don't mind if I..." throw in a fun option for good measure. 

14. Paddle Cutting Board // World Market // 13in x 35in $59.99.  Perfect for a holiday grazing board.

And, for reference, here are some of my favorite boards and how much food can fit on each:

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Happy cheese-plate making, everyone!!  Remember to tag @ainttooproudtomeg in your pics!!

 

 

Your ONE-STOP Cheese Board Shopping Guide

Want to steal the show at your next holiday gathering?  Impress all your friends & family with an epic charcuterie platter!

While my ideal cheese board is a compilation of items from just about every market in LA, ain't nobody got time to run from store-to-store over the holidays.  So, in the interest of being festive AND efficient, I've made a one-stop shopping list of items from tried-and-true Trader Joe’s:

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CHEESES

Platters should ideally have 3-4 cheeses; a mix of hard and soft.

UNEXPECTED CHEDDAR- The best Cheddar at TJ’s. Sharp, while still being buttery and sweet.  Crumble it up and people will go wild over this.  An alternative is Kerrygold Dubliner Cheddar, however, it's not been as fresh the last few times I've been to Trader Joes.

Trader Joes favorite cheddar cheese unexpected cheddar

BRIE- A cheese board staple.  Double or Triple cream...the creamier the better. Try to pick one of the more symmetrical slices (for looks) and garnish with a sprig of rosemary on top.

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OLD AMSTERDAM- My favorite Gouda.  Smokey, sweet and great compliment to holiday beers.  Make sure you cut off the hard rind (it's thicker than most), then cut into chunks and make “rustic crumbles” from that. 

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BOURSIN- This is hands-down the best bang for your buck. Put it in a ramekin with a rosemary garnish. NOTE: The photo up top has Manchego on it (also a good addition), but Boursin would be my choice for the hoidays :)

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MEATS

THIN CUT SALAME- These are perfect for creating "salami roses" on your platter.  Full tutorial coming soon, but I’m the meantime, fold the salami piece in half and then half again to create a 1/4 circle and wedge a bunch together in between cheese and crackers on your platter.

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SALAME SECCHI: If the "salami roses" sound like too much work, grab these guys and cut them into  slices.  They look particularly pretty and rustic on a board.

salame secchi cheese board salami option Trader Joes

Another option is the ARTISAN SALAMI- Remember to take the casing off before as you cut.  NOTE: prosciutto is also a good choice, but I personally think it gets messy and doesn't photograph as well.

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FRUITS

GRAPES- Cheese board staple.  The best are the Thomcord variety, but they've just gone out of season, so pick whatever batch looks best.  Green, Red, or the multi-pack from TJ’s.

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RASPBERRIES- Nice addition for color and texture.  Blackberries can work too (but give them a “taste test” to ensure they're not bitter before you buy them (TJ’s blackberries are hit or miss). NOTE: blueberries are pretty small and don't have the same impact on the plate so skip those.

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VEGGIES

Guests always appreciate having some healthy options on the plate.  

CUCUMBER- Get the Persian variety and slice uniformly.

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LES PETITES CARROTS-  These look much fancier than baby carrots.  They're colorful (purple, yellow, white & orange) and people love them.  If you don't have access to these, simply cut some regular carrots in think slices.

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NUTS

MARCONA ALMONDS WITH ROSEMARY- Guarantee at least one guest will spend the rest of the evening raving about these delicious Spanish-style almonds. TJ's has both the rosemary and truffle variety; guests generally prefer the rosemary.  NOTE: Pistachios, Candied Pecans or Walnuts are also a great additions, but these are all you need for a simplified platter.

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CRACKERS

FIG & OLIVE CRISPS- These are the best.  For a seasonal twist, they have a pumpkin version.

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SAVORY THINS- Good gluten-free option for guests.

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SOMETHING EXTRA

OLIVES- I prefer castelvetrano olives, but those are not available at Trader Joes.  This variety is a good secondary option.

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ROSEMARY- No platter is complete without some greenery for garnish.  I use the herb all year long, but it's particularly festive over the holidays.

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HONEY- perfect sweet compliment to cheese and crackers.  Get this awesome honey dipper from Sur La Table and you'll be using the BOOMERANG function on Instagram all night long.

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DRIED PERSIMMONS: Great for colorful garnish with a unique look and sweet taste. Unfortunately, they are only in stock only half the year in Trader Joe's, so snag them before July comes around.

Trader Joes Persimmons

DRIED ORANGE SLICES: as an alternative to the Persimmons (when they go out of stock). Truth be told, they don't taste that great, but they sure look pretty!

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DRIED BERRY MEDLEY- A sweet treat to sprinkle on the cheese board.  The dried strawberries are the crowd favorite!!

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There you have it!! A guide to all the best cheese board fixings from your local Trader Joe's.  I'll be back next week with the "Five Cheese Plate Fixins to Splurge On." And check out my "Round Up of The Best Cheese Boards on The Market."

I can’t wait to see you put these tips to use!  Be sure to tag and send me your pics :)  Nothing makes me happier than seeing your boards in action.  Speaking of, here's an @ainttooproudtomeg-inspired board from one of my IG friends, @honeyofalife:

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Happy cheese plate-making, everyone!!

GIFT GUIDE: Valentine's Day Ideas for the Home Decor Lover

Up until last night, this was my Valentine's Day wishlist.  But then Beyoncé went and sneakily announced her Formation World Tour... and everyone knows Beyoncé is the way to a girls heart.  Soooo...Paul, I hope you are listening!! VIP box seats preferred ;)

For those of you that don't have Beyoncé on your list, here are some household items I've been coveting that would make great gifts for that special someone, a good friend or yourself!!

Clockwise from top left:

Marble Bookends $135 - Kinda 80's, kinda awesome.

Wood & Marble Duo Server $180 - Choosing between a marble or a wood cutting board is like choosing your favorite Helmsworth brother: It depends on your mood, but if you could get two at the same time, why wouldn't you?!?

West Elm Hedgehog Planter $14 - Animal planters are the new face planters. Get 'em while they're hot!

Anthropologie Tall Pitcher $98 - So simple, so pretty.  One day, when I have my dream summer home in Mexico, I'll take dips in the pool and whip up batches of margs using this pitcher.   Picture those enviable paparazzi shots that surface every year of Jen Anniston and Chelsea Handler vacationing in some beautiful Mexican Hacienda.  Yep..that's exactly what it'll be like.  PS- Have you checked out "Chelsea Does" on Netflix yet?  Good stuff!

Jonathan Adler Ceramic Gazelle $150 -  Tall, sculptural and a great talking piece.

Indigo Arrows Pillow $88 - Neutral, modern and fun.

Black & White Cups $10 each - These ceramic cups are from Japan.  I'd love to fill them up with cold Sapporo, invite my best girlfriends over and order Sugar Fish for delivery.

Clement Pedestal $150 - Great pattern that reminds me of the Atelier Stella ceramics I'm forever coveting.

Ceramic Bells $135 - I saw these in Emily Henderson's living room re-do a little while back...they've been on my wishlist ever since.

Crate & Barrel Marble Fruit Bowl $49.95 - The Pedestal shape is great for styling.  Grab a bunch of tangerines, limes or even artichokes and place it in center of your table for a simple, but elegant everyday centerpiece.

BEST OF: Target's New Neutrals

I used to have to go to estate sales or raid your grandmother's house for my rattan fix.  But grandma can rest easy now that Target has satisfied our rattan and wicker needs in a major way this season.  There are a number of new pieces throughout the Threshold line (and a few from Nate Berkus), including retro-inspired mirrors, sweet storage baskets AND most notably a rattan bar cart.   I'll say it again guys, A RATTAN BAR CART!!  This is huge considering previous options were paying a premium + shipping on eBay, finding a moldy old one on Craigslist or shelling out $500+ on Serena & Lilly.  Admittedly, I LOVE the Serena & Lilly one, it's just nice to know there's an alternative price point out there.  Target has done it again!!

Here are my favorites:

 

clockwise from top left:

Wicker Rim Round Mirror $49.99//  Rattan Charger $9.99//  Rattan Round Wall Mirror $49.99//  Large Rattan Basket $39.99//  Linear Weave Lounge Chair $99.99//  Threshold Weave Stool/Bench $69.99//  Rattan Oval Tray $29.99//  Nate Berkus Woven Basket $34.99//  Rattan Bar Cart $129.99//  Black Rattan Basket $34.99

For some inspiration on how to incorporate wicker and rattan into your space, look no further than Amber Interiors.  One of my favorite designers, Amber flawlessly weaves in these pieces to create fun, but cohesive spaces.  Some more bohemian than others, it's all about how you accessorize.  Pair a wicker peacock chair with colorful kilim pillows and a fur throw for a boho chic look, or keep it minimal by laying a rattan stool next to a marble coffee table or mid-century sofa.  Like any element in a room, the trick is NOT to over do it.  Mix and match materials to let each piece stand out vs. overwhelm.

 Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

 Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

 Amber Interiors via Domainehome.com

Amber Interiors via Domainehome.com

 Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

 Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

 Photo from amberinteriordesign.com

Photo from amberinteriordesign.com




THRIFT FINDS: Palm Springs

I've recently developed mad love for Palm Springs, so I was super excited when our friends organized a trip this past weekend.  In between swimming and pool side BBQing, Paul and I were able to sneak in a little thrift store shopping.  Below are a few of the pieces I brought home for upcoming projects:

Palm Springs Thrifting Loot

Native American Baskets:  I've had these on my "flea market wish list" for a while now, but never quite found the right ones for the right price.  These were in particularly good condition and I really like the colorful but simple patterns.

Brass Trumpet: Super excited to incorporate my love for vintage brass into this year's holiday stylings.  Stay tuned!

Duck Bookends: I tend to purchase these every so often with upcoming friends' shelfies in mind.  The pair on the left is more traditional, while the ones on the right are different from the ones I usually see... and could be killer on a kid's shelf. 

Wooden Apple: Another good shelfie styling tool that will come in handy placed over a stack of books.

Green Vase: I'm always looking for vases in different styles, shapes and colors.  This was a no brainer.

AND here some items I LOVED, but sadly had to pass up:

Palm Tree Chandelier

Retro Palm Chandelier, $45. If only I had a place for it...  I picture it in a minimal breakfast nook above a white tulip table, against dark green walls.  So fun!

Rattan Shelf

Rattan Bookshelf, $65.  Vintage stores in LA would charge at least triple for this.  It was very hard to walk away, but we didn't have a car big enough to transport it back.  I would have lacquer spray painted it in white, black, navy (or even emerald green) and styled the heck out of it!!  RIP to this perfect shelfie opportunity!!

Abstract Art, $250 (marked down from $350). Beautiful painting with a quality silver frame.  Light and bright, but not too pastel for my taste.  I kinda regret not getting it because I'm definitely in need of a good piece of abstract art in my home.

vintage fan

Vintage fan, $8.  Love the idea of collecting a few of these and hanging them on an entry way wall.

rattan chair

Rattan Chair, $30.  Swap out the outdated pillow for a fun indigo one coupled with a white ikea fur throw and you have yourself a sweet little corner chair with lots of personality.  We actually snagged this for our friend who's a self-proclaimed chair hoarder and she's super happy!

Can't wait for my next Palm Springs thrifting opportunity!!

GIFT IDEA: Whimsical Serveware

I recently discovered some seriously fun trays at West Elm...

From the moment I saw it, I knew this CAMPING PERMIT tray was the perfect gift for my friend Ame!  Otherwise knows as "REI Ame," she's an avid hiker, mountain biker, camper and all around outdoorsy girl.  Paired with moscow mules and some rustic goji berry trail mix, we were able to create the perfect camping-inspired happy hour (without the whole sleeping in a tent thing)!!

The company behind these trays is called Fishs Eddy and you can find some of their serveware at West Elm or directly at their site.  Here are a few others that would be fun gifts:

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Clockwise from top left: Rx Prescription Pad Tray // Airline Ticket Tray // Beach Rules Tray // While You Were Out Tray // Obama Birth Certificate Tray // Parking Violation Tray // Guest Check Tray // Health Grade B Tray (also available in Health Grade A)

BEST OF: Nate Berkus for Target 2015 Fall / Holiday Collection

Launched this past Sunday, the latest Nate Berkus for Target Holiday Collection is just as metallic, fun and on-trend as ever.  Below are my three favorite picks from the collection.  In fact, I ordered the first two online last night.  Because...well...CHEESE.

Like many Target pieces, I suggest a good in-person meeting to assess quality and potential longevity BEFORE finding a permanent place within your home.  While many of these faux metalics pass the test, some can fall flat, scratch easily and tarnish quickly.

MY THREE FAVES:

 Gold Cheese Utensils $16.99

Gold Cheese Utensils $16.99

 Wooden Cheese Board $24.99

Wooden Cheese Board $24.99

 Round Gold Accent Table with Marble Top (far right) $89.99

Round Gold Accent Table with Marble Top (far right) $89.99

And while we're at it, I must mention two Anthropologie pieces, I've had my eye on.  Truth be told, the first looks very similar the the above-mentioned Nate Berkus cheese knives. Great minds think alike?

 Mother-Of-Pearl Bottle Opener $14

Mother-Of-Pearl Bottle Opener $14


 Gilded Pretzel Bottle Opener $4.95 (on sale)

Gilded Pretzel Bottle Opener $4.95 (on sale)

BEST OF: CB2 Lenny Kravitz Collection

Just launched today, CB2 x Kravitz Design is a collaboration from CB2 and rocker/actor/Hunger Games-er, Lenny Kravitz.  The line of glam, 70's-inspired-but-modern design pieces are richer than your typical CB2 fare, but there are a few showstoppers that might be well worth the investment.  Here are my top 3 picks from the collection:

The line is on pre-shop for CB2 Insiders today/tomorrow and then available for the masses starting October 1sr, 2015.  ARE YOU GONNA GO MY WAY (and invest in one of these pieces)?!?  Sorry...I couldn't resist a pathetic attempt at fitting in a Lenny Kravitz lyrics reference. That's why it's all the way down here vs. at the top of the post ;)

BEST OF: IKEA 2016 CATALOG

The 2016 IKEA catalog arrived a couple weeks ago and there's lots to be excited about, primarily the soon-to-be released SINNERLIG and SITTNING collections!!

Available October 2015, SINNERLIG by Ilse Crawford is a gorgeous collection of neutral furnishings made from sustainable materials.  My favorites are the woven bench, cork stool and all the beautiful dark ceramics:

Similarly impressive, the SITTNING collection is a line of serveware made from natural materials (stone, acacia, glass and cotton) and is available for a limited time come September 2015.  At a price point of $4.99 each, I might hoard myself a large batch of these pretty stone tea-light holders. 

And while we're at it, below is a good sampling of the IKEA pieces I've coveted over the past few years (links included):

Images gathered from IKEA.com & Pinterest

HANDS DOWN: Favorite Styling Pieces.

Like many of the items on my wish list, I first saw these cool hands on Emily Henderson's Blog:

I've been on the hunt ever since and scored two great wooden hands in Cuba this year, both of which are in constant styling rotation throughout the house.  I have a third one from Brazil, however (given it's height), it's been harder to style. Hopefully, I'll find the perfect place soon.

I'm not satisfied with having just three, so I've scoured the interwebs to find the best of options out there... from the more opulent Kelly Wearstler pieces to some cheaper alternatives.  Sadly, great wooden ones are hard to come by.  If I was smart, I would have packed a suitcase full of them in Cuba.  In the meantime, I will keep my eye out at the flea markets!!

BEST OF: CB2 Fall Line

Summer's barely begun when inboxes are inundated with retailer's prompting us to check out their new Fall lines.  And while I mentally can't fathom the thought of actual Fall yet, I jump at the chance to explore the season's trends and compile my wishlists.

I'm a pretty big fan of CB2.  The overall aesthetic is a little more modern and sleek than my own, but they are a great go-to for affordable serveware (i.e. bowls, cutting boards, cheese plates) and quirky accessories (i.e. vases, planters, candle holders).  In fact, for the price, I am continually surprised by the heaviness and durability of the ceramics.

Here are my favorite picks from CB2's new arrivals.  While there are still plenty of the brand's characteristic bright teals, oranges and graphic prints, they've given us some great neutrals this season (wood, brass, cream, and pretty caramel leathers): RECCO: use the arrows to scroll and click on the underlined hyperlink vs. the pic for product page
 

NOTE: Always read dimensions before purchases. Oftentimes, CB2's items run a bit smaller than you think. Given the retailers modern focus... the beds, nightstands and coffee tables tend to be low to the ground (and subsequently smaller in scale).

NOW TRENDING: Ring Cones

Ring cones are giving traditional trinket dishes a run for their money when it comes to jewelery display.  Here's a round up of my favorites, including some homemade options from ETSY:

And, if you like the look, but are all set on jewelry storage, Anthropologie makes this Tipsy Paperweight (on sale now):


FACE TIME

I've been obsessed with face planters since first discovering them in the homes of Bri Emery and Oh Joy (via Emily Henderson's blog).

 Photos: StylebyEmilyHenderson.com

Photos: StylebyEmilyHenderson.com

Here's a round up of some of my favorites.  From a Jonathan Adler splurge to some Etsy steals:

PS- I just love the Jonathan Adler UTOPIA line!  There's a good mix of affordable accessories...all very fun pieces, incorporating his characteristic sense of humor.  This one is on my wishlist:

UPDATE: I found this awesome vase at the Rose Bowl Flea Market this weekend.  So excited to add another to my collection:

IT'S BACK...

The coveted Brass Task Lamp from Target.  I've gotten my fair share of table lamps from Target, but this one is far and away the best.  It's heavy, durable and real pretty.

10% with code SUMMER for the next few days.

 Threshold Brass Task Lamp $56.99

Threshold Brass Task Lamp $56.99

I snagged one of these right before it sold out last year.  Since then, I've used it all over my house: on my vanity, in my entry way and on my bed side table.  I've been crossing my fingers that it would come back, so I could finally have matching ones on each side of the bed.

WARNING: This is best for task lighting.  Given the heavy brass, the light wont illuminate throughout the room like a lamp with a shade might do.  The light is very focused. For me, it's the perfect bed side lamp.

Here are some other great lamps from Target right now: