Ever heard of a Cookbook Club? It’s basically a book club and a dinner party rolled into one. It makes for a fun, stress free way to collaboratively entertain. Just pick a cookbook, and each guest prepares a recipe from it to share. Since recipes are all from the same cookbook, they tend to fit a general theme and blend nicely together. With everyone trying unfamiliar recipes, you may find you feel a bit more adventurous. Everyone is trying to make something they’ve not made before.If you fail at it, you have the feeling – well, we’re all in this together!
Last spring was our first Cookbook Club dinner party and we have continued to read, cook, and eat together every few months ever since. These get togethers are the ultimate foodie potluck dinner.They are decidedly informal with a mix-match of plates, napkins, and platters. The conversation has a natural flow as we share our experience with the cookbook. We leave full, happy, and inspired to cook.
Here are some tips if you’d like to start your own Cookbook Club…….. Invite everyone interested in cooking to Cookbook Club, not just your friends who are amateur chefs.We invite about 35 people and usually our gatherings have 15-20. Certainly you could have a smaller group, but you want to have enough people to have a nice variety of dishes.
When picking your cookbook, consider the time of year.We did Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi this past spring when vegetable were at their peak.And this month, in the midst of an unseasonably cold winter, we switched to comfort food with Hugh Acheson’s great new cookbook The Chef and the Slowcooker. And because there were few dessert options, we offered the option of also bringing a pie. This was a great idea btw.
Consider using a shared Google document for a meal sign-up sheet so that two people don’t end up making the same thing and so the offerings are well-balanced.
Label dishes with what they are and who made them. If you have anyone in your group with food allergies, use this label to help everyone know what’s in the dishes.
It may seem daunting to host 20, but in this case, it’s really not. In a way it’s like crowdsourcing your dinner party. Everyone takes responsibility for bringing the dishes.Everyone takes their serving dishes home to wash. It’s actually one of the easiest dinner party I’ve hosted and with possibly the best food. Our group rotates hosting, and that works well. No one person should get all the fun.
Be sure to let everyone knows to still come if you don’t have time to cook. Everyone understands. Just bring some wine!
The biggest concern most people have is how to seat that many people. But it’s really not a big deal. We set up card table and patio tables and sit on sofas and chair arms and even the floor. Lack of seating won’t keep people from having a good time.
Hope this inspires you!I want to thank our amazing Cookbook Club coordinator, Elizabeth Buerger.She’s the consummate chef and host and being around her is always inspiring. This Cookbook Club has been such a fun way to get to know these now dear friends better. Wishing the same for you!
Many of our European friends have figured this one out. Instead of sharing a top sheet and one big comforter, each person sleeps with their own fluffy down duvet that’s untucked and there is no top sheet at all. This simple solution can solve so many common sleeping problems between couples, resulting in better rest for everyone.
For us it started when we moved to Munich, Germany. We traveled light – bringing only our 2, 4 & 6 year olds and some books, clothes, toys and my beloved kitchen knife set. We’d rented our home in Dallas furnished and my husband’s company was helping with furnished housing during our expat assignment. Within days of arriving, I found myself looking for European sized bedding for our European sized beds. When I asked the sales person for a king sized comforter, she sternly replied that it was “unsanitary!” Now my German was ‘sehr schlecht’ so I initially chalked it up to a mistranslation.
But I soon learned that in Germany (and at least Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland ) couples typically have two duvets on one bed. They don’t share blankets; they each have their own.
10 plus years since we moved back to the states and we still happily sleep with separate duvets. Here are the top reasons why…
Left to my own devices I’m a blanket thief. I slowly steal it all bedding to my side leaving my beloved shivering. Sad fact – we all have our flaws. Having my own personal duvet means I can roll over, taking my duvet with me and hubby is left unscathed.
My husband and I operate on a substantially different body thermostat. Being under the same blanket together can be like sleeping next to the sun. Having my own bedding also means if I get too hot in the night, I can flip my duvet over to the cooler side. Ahh…
There is no top sheet to arrange or divide equally or to tangle around your feet. Making the bed is also a snap as we just fold the duvets on our side.
If I’ve made my most wonderful lentils for dinner, the after affects are not shared so readily. Maybe this is what the lady meant by shared bedding being unsanitary?
All of this adds up to a better night’s sleep and that makes everything in my life better. But don’t take my word for it, there are lots of other American converts out there.
Sara Crow says “Having two separate blankets on my bed …. it’s an act of love.”
Julie Maigret says “Pretty much the best thing that has happened to our relationship ever.”
Julia Ryan says “For two restless light sleeper cover-hogs this is a genius strategy.”
There are lots of options about how to make your bed in the European style with separate duvets. I’ve provided some examples in the pictures in this post. European sized single duvets are not as wide as a American twin duvets, which typically hang over the sides of a twin bed. But both can be folded like the pictures above, either in half or in thirds.
I’ve read lately about the new trend in luxury houses that have two master bedrooms, one for each spouse. This feels pretty sad and lonely to me. Maybe they should first try separate bedding.
I want to share with you about a great non-profit here in Dallas that’s working to help people escaping homelessness. Dwell with Dignity partners with local agencies like Genesis Women’s Shelter, Interfaith Family Services and Promise House to help people transitioning to self-sufficiency. Once participants have graduated from their agency’s program (meaning they’ve attained necessary life skills, secured a job, and have the financial resources to pay first & last month’s rent along with ongoing expenses) they have the opportunity to be nominated to receive a DwD home interior.
Typically when a family leaves one of these programs, they take very few possessions with them. Dwell with Dignity staff meets with the family to hear their hopes and dreams for a home. Then, along with the help of volunteers, they come together-not to just furnish, but to create a beautiful welcoming space. They put up window treatments, create art, provide dishes and silverware in the kitchen and even stock the pantry with groceries. About every 2 weeks Dwell with Dignity does this for a family in neighborhoods all across Dallas.
“What we find is that families start thriving right away,” Founder Lisa Robison says. “Kids do their homework at the kitchen table or a desk. They get a good night’s sleep because they’re sleeping in a bed. They start to socialize in the home—they can finally invite other kids over to their houses. It instills confidence for mom and children.”
Testimonials from participants tell of how they felt, for the very first time, they could be proud of their home. They tell of finally being able to all eat together because there were enough plates and silverware for everyone in the family. This dramatically improves one’s outlook on life, and the impact is even felt generationally.
“When we reveal a home to a family, we try to tell them, ‘The reason this is happening is because you’re doing a good job, you’ve been nominated because of your success. We have confidence you can strive for more.’” Robison says. “One of the things we find is that when we talk to the families again later, the parents will tell us they got promoted, they want to move to a bigger place, they’re saving to get a house. They have confidence and the feeling that all their hard work is coming together.”
How can you help? There are a number of ways.
Donate Wood Furniture – DwD is always in need of wood furniture they can paint and rehab. They need dressers, night stands, end tables, chairs, bookshelves, tables and desks. If it’s not in perfect condition, that’s just fine – they’ll fix it. All donations are tax deductible and can be brought to their facility at 1127 Conveyor Lane, Dallas. Check their website to coordinate.
Join the DIY Team – Volunteers can repair, sand, repaint and update donated pieces Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 8:30 pm or Saturdays from 10 am -1 pm at 1127 Conveyor Lane, Dallas. This is also a great team building activity. I’m organizing an evening for fellow Dave-Perry Miller realtors right now.You can sign up here.
Help with an Install – Have you always wanted to be a part of a big HGTV reveal? This is your chance. 1-2 times per month, over the course of 3 days, DwD volunteers help install the furniture and decorate the home while the family is away.
Cash – They’ll put it to good use for sure.
Since 2009 they have installed home interiors for more than 100 families in Dallas and recently started a DwD branch in Atlanta. For more information on how to get involved, check out DWD’s website here. I love being able to spread the word to you about this non-profit supporting our neighbors here in our community!
Feature image photo credit: Dwell With DIGNITY/nousDECOR. This living room was designed by Dwell With Dignity.
Rooms are like a puzzle. Sometimes it’s a trick laying it out in a way that works for all the intended purposes. I regularly stage houses for friends and clients, and I love a good puzzle.For me it’s great fun to rethink a space with a friend, trying to make it flow. Most often we use existing furniture and just rearrange, repurpose & edit.Add some new pillows, throws, a potted plant or a lamp and voila – a fresh space.
But lately I’ve been curious about the new on-line decorator trend and thought I’d do some research. Here is the skinny on the current top 5 & some tips to keep in mind if you decide to go with them.
Concept – Take an on-line test to determine your style. Read designer bios and pick the one you’d like to work with.Upload a picture of the room you want to address and answer some questions. Your designer then makes you a mood board to be refined with your feedback, and she’ll recommend items for you to purchase.At the higher level of service, you get design ideas for your space in 3-D and access to your designer for post make-over support.You can buy decor and furniture they recommend directly though them or you can buy it on your own. While they do partner with Domino as a source for decor, they also pull from a wide variety of vendors. I was also very pleased to hear they don’t pressuring you to buy and are fine reusing what you already have. After the initial input, it takes about a week for them to get back to you with their design recommendations.
Cost – To try out their services, you can do a “Design Quickie” which is a free chat with a designer for 30 minutes. They offer two packages at $79 & $199 per room.
Concept – Upload a picture of the room you want help with. Answer some questions about your goals, budget, likes/dislikes. They match you up with a decorator or you can choose one from their bios. You get two design concepts and then the opportunity to tweak it to get just the look you are wanting. Your final design includes a complete room design, custom floor plan, set-up instructions, and shopping list.I liked that the shopping list included a range of items from places as common as Lowes, to some unique tile shop.Likely you’ll find some vendors you’ve not heard of before, but fit your style.Here is a link to an ‘unpaid review.’
Concept – There are three levels of service with a style board, shopping list and instructions for how to layout the room.Pick items from their catalog and their decorators will place the order and advise you on them. If you find something at a lower price, they will match it, so it’s worth a quick google search.
Cost – Three levels of service ranging from $59 – $249. At the time of this posting, they are offering a 50% off special.
Concept – They offer a one hour consultation via video or in person if you live in one of 15 cities (Dallas is one!). You’ll get a proposal for your space and an estimate on how many hours it will take. You have to decide how many hours of design time you want to buy.You also get designer discounts on furniture and decor, and they will place the orders for free.
Cost – $130 per hour of design time with a 10 hour minimum.So a one day session would be $3,900.
Concept –You answer a style quiz and provide pictures of the space you want help with.They select a designer who offers you design proposals.If no design is chosen, you get your money back. If you do decide, your designer helps source the best vendors for your decor items, select a paint color palate and position the furniture.They also provide a detailed 3D image of your new space.
Cost – Bronze, Silver or Gold packages ranging from $445 – $599 or hourly custom packages
Tips if you Decide to Try
I talked to several people who used these services, all of which feel pretty similar in concept. Here are the top tips I kept hearing from clients and friends.
Look for coupons.All of these services regularly offer 40 or 50% off design services or free shipping, etc.If you can be patient, wait for a sale.
Over-inform. Be as thorough as possible on the intake forms. The more they know, the more efficient they can be at advising. My sister-in-law Kelly Williams created a Pinterest board for her designer and provided pictures from every angle with detailed measurements of everything.
They ship for free, and will happily take it back if you don’t like it.But in the fine print, you pay return shipping. I heard from people who were stuck with $250 return shipping fees.
Double check measurements before you buy. I heard this from everyone. Even though there were 3D images, pieces were sometimes significantly off in scale when placed in the space.
Many companies will price match. Dana Batte-Walker recommends going directly to the source site before you buy. If your item goes on sale at West Elm for example, it may not be reflected at the on-line decorating site.
Consider the vibe you’ve got going in the rest of your house. Sara Vollbrecht commented that once she’d done one room, it made the rest of the rooms around it look blah.
Ultimately she ended up using Havenly for 5 rooms so the whole house flowed together better. Maybe it’s is a warning too – this service may be addictive!
On-Line Design verses Live Design
Everyone I interviewed for this post mentioned that it was tough for the on-line designers to get the scale of the space – thus the advice to double check measurements for yourself.A designer who can come to your home, walking through your space won’t have this issue. Also, they can help make sure the rooms flows together. When you need to make costly and permanentdecisions quickly, it can be money well spent to get the help of a live designer.
A few years ago we bought a duplex in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas.It was located on great dirt, but the house had some seriously funky elements. And not ‘funky’ in a good way. We were converting it to a single family home, living in the smaller top half while we remodeled the bottom of the duplex.The best decision we made in the process was hiring Dallas interior designer Samantha Fisher.
We were on a budget and could not afford to have her completely oversee the renovation, so we hired her on an hourly basis.We tried to be very efficient with our time together.I got together pictures of all our ideas, and we walked through the house talking about what options we had.She quickly saw what we were trying to do – helped us think through our ideas, while providing plenty of great design ideas of her own.She came over a couple times through the process and in the end, our only regret was that we didn’t implement all her suggestions. Her wise counsel paid for itself in that we avoided many mistakes and missed opportunities.
I called Samantha this week to talk about on-line verses hiring a live decorator. “If you’re on a budget, some of the on-line decorating services can be a beautiful thing. But some of these on-line sites talk about doing houses where the budget is upward of 50k. In that case, why not hire someone locally?” She noted that what she offers clients is less mass market; it’s more curated and custom. “When I’m working on a project, it’s often the trip to the antique store for that funky awesome chair, unique art or vintage lamp – that’s what makes the space. You can’t find that mass market.”
I could not agree more. I’m always up for a trip to an antique store, thrift market or estate sale. Good luck making your space for your people!
Our family is full of animal lovers. We share our home with a dog, two cats and a white snake named David Coverdale. We’ve also served as a foster family for Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter and have temporarily hosted around 50 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. In fact right now we’re on call to pick up a Hurricane Harvey animal victim that needs a temporary home.
As much as I love animals, I also really appreciate a clean welcoming home that smells good.That can be a tall order.Here are a few of the ways we’ve set up our home to help make pet ownership easier and some of tricks we use to address the inevitable challenges.
Wash and brush your dog regularly – This is my number one tip to help your house smell good. It’s easier to clean your pet than your rugs and furniture and will go a long way towards keeping your home clean and with less fur. Regular grooming and a ‘summer cut’ is a good idea for fluffier breeds.
Flooring – Wall to wall carpet soaks up inevitable pet-related stains. If at all possible, opt for other hard flooring options. On hardwoods, use an electrostatic mop. They are faster and more efficient than a vacuum. Area rugs with a pattern hide pet fur & stains are less noticeable. Bunny Williams suggests buying rugs with the same color background as the soil where you live.
Furniture – If you’re fine with your dog being on the couch, buy her a throw blanket to put where she lounges. Dogs naturally love to burrow in blankets and it’s easy to throw them in the wash when needed. Textured Rubber gloves are also great to remove fur quickly from your furniture.
Consider furniture upholstered with leather, outdoor fabrics or slipcovers that are easily thrown into the wash. And you might use your pet’s coloring as ‘inspiration’ when you choosing furniture or flooring. If you put in a black floor and have a fluffy white dog you’ll forever be dealing with white tumbleweeds of fur.
But if it’s important to you that your dog not get on the furniture, prioritize training that behavior. Have a dog bed near where you’re family hangs out, so they can have their own spot in the middle of their people and reward obedience with lots of love and treats. If you don’t want cats on the furniture — don’t get a cat…
Decorating – Pets, like children, can tump thinks over with reckless abandon. One way to reduce the odds is with Museum Mounting Putty. A dime size piece under your vase and it will take a lot more effort for it to be knocked over. One $4 package can secure items throughout your whole house.
Stains – Clean up stains as soon as you notice them with an enzyme cleaner. This one is my favorite and from the reviews I’m not alone. The enzymatic bacteria in the spray feed on ammonia crystals and organic matter until the smell and stain are eliminated. This reduces the chance that they will go in the same spot again.
Pests – Even with regular preventative medicine you can still have an issue with fleas & ticks. This year in Texas it was especially bad since we did not have a freeze last winter.Often our fosters arrive dealing with pests and we’ve had several issues with fleas in our home.I really like Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Home Spray.It’s plant based made with peppermint oil and it smells great – and it works. I’ve sprayed it on carpets and upholstery and have and no issues with staining. Spray everything and vacuum; then repeat the next day. I also have a supply of Capstar on hand to give my pets as soon as I find a flea. It’s much cheaper to buy a box from Amazon than one at a time from your vet.
Outsmart vs Training – Thinking through your pets personality and how to create a home that addresses their needs is time well spent.Each pet is different and sometimes it’s a compromise between training the pet and adjusting your home.
For example, we had issue with our dog eating the cat’s food.In this case we had to outsmart our dog. We installed a cat door from our pantry into a bottom cabinet where we made a cat food station. Problem solved.
Exercise & entertainment: Different breeds need different amounts of exercise, but they all need a stimulating life. Keeping pets happy helps prevent unwanted behaviors. In addition to regular walks and a rotation of entertaining foster friends, we bring our dog along with us when we can. A well behaved dog is a joy to have along.Many shelters offer free or low cost training classes that will teach you the owner as much as your pet.You’re going to have your pet a long time hopefully, and it’s worth the time and effort to invest.
A Pet Room – While our dog alternates sleeping with our daughters every night, when we foster animals they stay in our mudroom with a crate.We’ve set this room up to be as impervious as possible with easy to clean floors and walls. It’s a safe place for pets to hang out and not cause mischief while we’re out. Shiplap, wainscoting or bead-board are great options for easy clean up on walls. Scrubbable wall paint is a good idea in general, but especially here.
Benefits of having pets – While they are a lot of work, I honestly believe we receive more affection than we give to our pets and our fosters.My daughters learn responsibility and have the opportunity to get their head out of their own troubles by helping others.It’s a reason to take a walk & put down their screens. Studies show that owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety. Simply patting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure. And I think an animal-friendly house is more comfortable for humans, too.
If you’re interested in fostering here in DFW area consider Operation Kindness, a wonderful no kill shelter in Carrolton, Texas. The could use help especially now as they start to deal with dog and cats dislocated from Hurricane Harvey.
Have you heard of the Japanese term wabi-sabi?Wabi-sabi is about finding beauty in the acceptance of imperfection and temporality.For example, it’s being comfortable with a little peeling paint, worn wood or the wear marks in an old oriental rug.
Some of this comes from the deep-rooted culture of frugality. In Japan there is great virtue in simplicity and economy.In the west sometimes this idea gets interpreted into a sort of trendy minimalism. While I’m very attracted to the concept of having less ‘stuff,’ the faux-spiritualization of minimalism is off-putting. But wabi sabi is different than minimalism. It encourages repurposing, recycling and taking care of the things you already have. It can’t be mass produced.
I just got back from a trip to Tokyo.There I found a perfect example of wabi-sabi at the Tokyo National Museum.It is a glazed tea bowl that has been named “Bakohan.”And it’s broken.What makes this little tea bowl so special to the Japanese, a national treasure even?In great part, it’s the beauty of the intricate and loving repair made when the bowl cracked centuries ago.Appropriately, a Japanese word for “beautiful” utsukushii evolved from an original meaning of “being loved.”
I love the concept of wabi-sabi and find it very freeing, especially when thinking of my home. There is a commercial version of perfection in the home can feel cold and unwelcoming.It’s also unattainable or at the least unsustainable.Living, being loved, and having a purpose — these things leave marks.Wabi-sabi is about embracing those marks.
This approach isn’t an excuse to not clean your house or see something inadequate through rose-colored glasses. But it is a concept that makes peace with the natural processes of time and age. It’s accepting weather and wear and change. It’s a perspective that finds grace for life’s imperfections. It’s the opposite of what the commercial world is selling us, but I think that’s ok.
Photo credit @myrimi for the feature image of handmade Japanese pottery by Babaghuri. One of my favorite people to follow on Instagram.
Our first family of summer house guests arrive this weekend. The challenge? How to arrange a week’s worth of fun activities – taking into consideration the consummate Texas sunshine and without spending a fortune. Dallas friends, do you have company coming to visit this summer? Wondering what to do? I did some research and here’s what I came up with.
Get excited. You can visit top Dallas attractions (all but one is under air) at the fraction of their price. Have you heard about the Dallas CityPASS ticket booklet?It’s valid for nine consecutive days, beginning with the first day of use. Cost: $48, adults (a value of $81); $32, kids 3-12. It includes admission to:
Dallas Arboretum Live local music at twilight on Thursdays July 14-28. And in August, $1 admission all month along with $2 hotdogs, root beer floats and pies and $4 ice cream sundaes.
Klyde Warren Park has free concerts with local bands Thursday nights… and food trucks of course. From July 13-August 10th the public is invited to build a Ninjago-theme giant mosaic with 79,320 Lego bricks. We love this award winning urban space!
Dallas Museum of Art General admission is free. The Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion exhibition goes through August 27th showcasing 45 of her exquisite outfits from 15 collections.
Dinosaur Valley State Park – 1.5 hours away in Glenrose, Texas – $7 per person over 13. Bring swimsuits & wade over actual dinosaur footprints in the Paluxy riverbed where the first sauropod trackways were discovered.
Burgers LakeBring a picnic for a fun day at a spring fed lake with lots of water slides etc. $15 per person
Ft Worth Stockyards Touristy, but fun and free. Watch long horn cattle run down main street at 11:30 am and 4 pm.
Kimbell Art Museum Free and always inspiring. The exhibition A modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection is here through August 13th.
Where else would you recommend taking visitors in DFW?I’ve got 48 hours until the first guests come ya’ll.