Author

Jana Erwin

It’s Fall Y’all!!!

Fall has officially settled upon us but I am having trouble getting in the spirit. I live in Houston and it’s still a solid 90 degrees with high humidity. But today was grocery shopping day and as I walk into Whole Foods you could hardly miss the pumpkins, mums, and every kind of pumpkin flavored food you could imagine. By the end of my weekly stock up I decided if you can’t beat ‘em…. join ‘em! On one of the many pumpkin filled end caps I saw some pumpkin spiced apple cider and decided there was no better way to get into the spirit than by drinking some spirits –so here I go at my first attempt of a new Fall cocktail!

It all started with this inspiring Pumpkin Spiced Apple Cider; however, the thought of sipping a warm drink in this heat is definitely not appealing – so we will be making a pumpkin spice martini.

To tell you a little bit more about myself, I love to cook and I love to make cocktails but I HATE to measure or follow recipes. It takes all the creative fun out of it, so we are going to learn to wing it together. Trust me you will enjoy it so much more! Don’t be scared, I’m with you all the way.

Fill your glass full of ice. This is very important. When you shake it in the shaker you want to be sure it gets really cold. Then fill the glass half way with a nice Kentucky Bourbon.

Next, add a couple good splashes of Grand Marnier. I would guess it is about a jigger full. You could do a little less if you don’t like your drinks too sweet. Liqueurs have a high sugar content so you can always tweak your drinks to be more or less sweet with the amount of liqueur.

Then you top your glass off with the Pumpkin Spice Apple Cider.

Toss this all in the shaker and add a sprinkle of brown sugar, ¼ of a fresh squeezed lemon and 10-15 drops of bitters to finish it off. Now shake what your momma gave ya. The more you shake it the better it gets, (and the more fun you will have!) By the time you quit singing “Shake shake shake, Shake shake shake, Shake your booty” your drink is done!

As with most things in life, presentation is everything!  Have some fun here.  I like my guests to have an idea of what they are going to drink just by looking at the cocktail. So to achieve this I would like to rim the glass with brown sugar.

I poured some of the cider in a saucer so I could wet the edges of the glass.  Next I rolled it in the brown sugar.

I think it would also be really cute to use a cinnamon stick but I didn’t have any and wasn’t about to go back to the store.  Just one more reason I don’t use recipes – whatever you have is what you use – and it’s just perfect.

Voile! Pumpkin Spice Martini.

Ingredients

Pumpkin Spice Apple Cider

Maker’s Mark (or other good whisky)

Grand Marnier (I suggest you not substitute this – the flavor really changes with other orange liquors)

Brown Sugar (for the drink and to rim the glass)

Lemon

Aromatic Bitters

Apple Slices (for garnish and to snack on while you are mixing your cocktail)

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TRAVEL: Sedona and the Grand Canyon

 

TRAVEL: SEDONA and the GRAND CANYON

 

I am already caught up in the hustle and bustle of the new school year.  Summer seems like a lifetime ago at this point and my heart is yearning for another visit to Sedona, AZ.  A stroll through the deep red mountains clears your head and fills your soul.  The rain had set in and drizzled on us throughout our hike but seeing the dramatic cloud roll in was worth getting wet.

The only thing better than discovering a new place is watching our kids discover it together.  We have been traveling together as an extended family for ten years.  This time together is invaluable to the bond they will have forever.

We stayed at the lovely LaAuberge de Sedona Luxury Resort.  The food there was amazing.  We would enjoy a large breakfast before heading out to our daily adventures.  In the afternoon we would come back to our cabin near the stream and sip on a nice Sauvignon Blanc or a bubbly.

During the drive from Sedona to the Grand Canyon you will see approximately six different ecosystems.  From the red rocks of Sedona up the mountains into a lush evergreen area, across flat plains as far as the eye can see until you reach a dessert that opens up into the Grand Canyon.

As beautiful as these pictures are they cannot possibly capture the vast spender of this amazing landscape.  This is a place you must experience for yourself, see with your own eyes and sit at the edge of the canyon to take it all in.  You will leave feeling refreshed and balanced.

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DESIGN: Incandescent, Halogen and LED…….OH MY!

Over the weekend I noticed a couple of my recessed halogen lights were out in my house so my husband, daughter l and I headed out to my all-time favorite light bulb store in Houston.  I realize that most of you probably don’t have a favorite light bulb store but as an interior designer who believes in the importance of great lighting this place is a frequent stop for me.  I appreciate the “Mom and Pop” feel of a small family run business.  I love the personal, knowledgeable service you receive by people who actually care about you and the work they do each day.

During the twenty years of doing design work I have nearly always spec’d halogen lights for interior recessed lighting of a residential space.  In my opinion it has the most beautiful light output.  It’s warm but not too warm and has a crispness that gives the space a nice sparkle. It’s my go to.

However, the world is moving to LED lighting for the cost savings and better environmental impact.  I appreciate this and support this, however, I also don’t want to sacrifice the look of the halogen.  When LED first came out they were just awful.  AWFUL.  Nope. No way, not gonna do it.  However, the builders that I work with only use LED now and are singing their praises so I guess it is time I learn the world of LED and embrace this change.  My salesman, Joshua, decided this was the day I was going to switch over to LED.

He began giving me the LED 101 information and it was all sounding great.  In a super abbreviated nutshell here is what you need to know:

1. The color temperature– This is listed on the box as either 2700K, 3000K, 4000K or 5000K.  Here are my thoughts on how to use each:

  • The 2700K is most similar to the warm yellow light we are used to seeing from an incandescent. I would use this in most areas of your home.  It feels inviting and cozy.
  • The 3000K is just a touch cooler and will still give you a somewhat warm feel but be a little cleaner. Depending on the brand you choose some of these will get too cool for your living spaces.  I could see them being an appropriate choice for  a studio, bathrooms where you need good lighting for make-up application, commercial space, closets or anywhere you don’t want the yellow to interfere with how you see color in the space.  This does lose a touch of coziness
  • The 4000K is bright pure white. This is way too harsh for a personal space in your home.  However, the color does have an energetic feel to it so if you had a commercial space that you wanted to keep a fresh, bright and energetic then this would be good fit.
  •  The 5000K begins to turn a bit blue. It is considered to be like natural daylight which indeed is blue but it really feels harsh and overwhelming for any residential application.  I struggle to find a use but maybe a garage or warehouse?  I would personally not want to be in this light for long periods of time because it makes me feel….well, blue!

Here is an example of the color difference between the warmer more yellow 2700K and the 3000K.

2. The Wattage.  SAY WATT? – We are all used to 60 or 90 watt incandescent light but the wattage on LED is totally different.  Luckily they are helping us with this on the box and give you a conversion from what you are used to.

3. The Lumens – The lumens are going to determine how bright the light is. It’s amazing how different each brand and style of light felt when the lumens were basically the same.  However, if you find a bulb you like but it’s just a bit too bright you can look for a lower lumen value until you find the perfect one.

4. The Light Angle – Last but definitely not least you must choose your light angle. Keeping it simple we will say you have narrow flood, flood, and wide angle flood.  Living in Houston we are still hesitant to mention the word flood but here it’s unavoidable.

  • Narrow flood – At 16-30 degrees this is going to give you a spot light feel. If you are trying to accent something or keep your light from spreading this is a good choice.  However, if you use this for overall ambient lighting you will find circles of light on your floors instead of an overall consistent light.  This could make a dramatic effect in certain applications.
  •  Flood – At 91-120 degrees this is a standard light used in most residential and commercial recessed lights.
  •  Wide Flood – At 121-160 these have a very dispersed beam to cover a wide are and are typically used for exterior motion sensor lighting. It can however, also be used for very high ceilings.  In my previous home I preferred the wide flood to avoid the “spots” of light the regular flood lights were giving me from my high ceilings.

If you are already overwhelmed don’t worry, I was right there with you.  I had to do some experimenting for myself to see what each of these numbers really meant.  Based off this information Joshua so generously gave me I made my selection, went home, installed the light and HATED IT.  Oh no.  I was so excited to learn to love LED and I hated it.  Now what?  Back to the light store.  Luckily, they have this really amazing room that my daughter loves to have dance parties in so she was pumped to go back every time and we did go back, five times to be exact.

By trip number three I had all the salesmen at the store giving me their opinion of what they thought would be the perfect bulb for me.  They sent me home with all their options and each were certain I would choose their favorite.  In the end I FINALLY decided on this one…(drum roll please.)

This was the closest match to my old favorite.  I bought four and installed them in my kitchen.  I can tell a slight difference but I am certain no one else would.  I hope this gives you a bit of courage to go LED with confidence.  I have faith in you!

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TRAVEL: Amalfi Coast

I’m sitting in my office with the doors open, overlooking the pool and listening to the birds chirping happily nearby.  We have had unusually fresh, crisp weather in Texas this spring so I am soaking up these days while they last.  The view of the water and the fresh air makes for a relaxed work day yet I find myself distracted, reminiscing of our trip to the Amalfi coast.  The view from the property we stayed at has the same vibrant blue of my pool.  All that is missing is a cold Prosecco in my hand.

Janette and I love to travel with all our family to places that will inspire us and keep our creativity nurtured. The Amalfi coast of Italy did not disappoint. 

We hired a driver to maneuver us along the very narrow and winding coast.  This turned out to be one of the best decisions we made as we saw large buses getting stuck in the tight turns and Vespas whipping their way in and out of traffic.

We first travelled south down the coastline to a quaint town called Positano. It’s mostly blocked off to the traffic and has great shopping.  Of course we also squeezed in some “photo ops.”

Once we were back at our house getting ready for dinner I noticed an old woman tending to her garden.  I’m not sure “garden” is even the correct word since it is several tiers and has massive amounts of lemon trees and tomatoes.  I later learned that she is the owner of the property we stayed at and also the restaurant below.  They used fresh ingredients picked daily with every meal. The house and restaurant is now run by her grandchildren and she could not be more proud of the lifestyle they built from scratch for her family. At the end of each meal we would toast with Limoncello.  It is a local liquor made from the lemons growing around the property.

After a great nights sleep we were ready for a day at the beach. The rocky beach is hot on the feet which helps the transition into the cold water of the Mediterranean. We eventually got used to it but it would always take your breath away the first time you jumped in. The salt in the water is so abundant you leave feeling as though you have been at the spa.

A trip to Italy would not be complete without a cooking class! We went to a beautiful, organic farm and learned authentic Italian cooking. We picked the herbs, tomatoes and zucchini from the garden before beginning to roll out our fresh pasta.

And of course, at the end of the class we enjoyed the fruits of our labor and saluti with Prosecco!

Until we meet again Italy…….arrivederci!

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Mother’s Day Pearls

I just sat down in front of my calendar and somehow the end of April is nearing and May is just around the corner! For me (and many others) May is a busy month filled with weddings, graduations and of course, Mother’s Day. While all of these are joyous occasions, I realize that each of them calls for a new outfit and of course a gift! Eek! These life-changing moments deserve something really special and I am certain that Mother-of-Pearl was put on earth just for this purpose. Pearl is feminine and light which makes it so easy to wear for all the fun festivities that May brings. I have decided to make my spring shopping quick and easy by wearing Mother-of-Pearl with all of my outfits AND I am giving beautifully boxed pieces as my gifts. Here are my top choices:

For attending graduations I will do a long necklace and statement earrings -–

Mother-of-Pearl Disc Station Necklace – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($395)

Mother-of-Pearl Chandelier Earrings – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($295)

For Mother’s Day I need the original NEST Cluster Necklace and a pair of Gold Hoop Earrings –

Mother-of-Pearl Cluster Necklace – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($395)

High Polish Hoop Earrings – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($95)

For the wedding I plan to wear a pink champagne-colored dress and accessorize with a white and pink pearl combo. Mixing colors keeps your look fresh and current while the elegance of pearl keeps you looking classic and put together for any occasion. (I literally do not leave my house without a statement ring.)

Two-Strand Mother-of-Pearl Necklace – Available online at Neiman Marcus  ($395)

Pink Mother-of-Pearl Statement Ring – Available online at Nest Jewelry  ($295)

White Mother-of-Pearl Stretch Bracelet – Available online at Nest Jewelry ($95)

Now that my looks are covered, we can focus on the gifts. For the graduates I am sending earrings, earrings, and earrings!

Pink Mother-of-Pearl Chandelier Earrings – Available online at Nest Jewelry ($295)

Grey Mother-of-Pearl Clip-On Earrings – Available online at Saks Fifth Avenue ($195)

White Mother-of-Pearl Statement Earrings – Available online at Stanley Korshak ($150)

Pink Mother-of-Pearl Open Teardrop Earrings – Available online at Stanley Korshak ($125)

For my girls who aren’t earring fanatics, I would choose this super cute charm pendant necklace with a matching bracelet –

Mother-of-Pearl and Amethyst Charm Bracelet – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($295)

Long Mother-of-Pearl Pendant Necklace – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($295)

My favorite options for Mother’s Day gifts are the Grey Mother-of-Pearl necklace with matching earrings, or if your momma is more of a classic woman then you can’t go wrong with a Cluster Necklace –

Long Grey Mother-of-Pearl Disc Necklace – Available online at Saks Fifth Avenue ($395)

Statement Grey Mother-of-Pearl Drop Earrings – Available online at Saks Fifth Avenue ($150)

Mother-of-Pearl Petal Cluster Necklace – Available online at Neiman Marcus ($395)

We hear from a lot of you that you want clip earrings and we listened!  We currently have an entire collection of Mother-of-Pearl Clip Earrings so all the world can enjoy a beautiful NEST statement earring with more styles to come.

We send each of these beautiful pieces to you with love and hope that you will BE BOLD – WEAR NEST – and MAKE A STATEMENT!

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Refresh and Renew

January is the perfect time to focus on yourself after the busy holiday season. My daily routine would not be complete without Aura Soma Pomanders. These beautiful, colorful bottles are each mixed with a combination of essential oils and crystals to bring you balance and clear your energetic field. It’s like a mini spa treatment that you can easily do any time of day. These are great gifts for young and old, male or female and especially for that “hard to buy for” person on your list.

Pomanders are offered in larger, individual bottles or there is a handy travel set that can easily fit into your purse or backpack. The small bottles can go through security at the airport, which is a plus because we can all use a nice refresher while traveling.

You can also clear the air in your home or office with Pomander Room Sprays. These are great to set the tone of a space or refresh a room. For example, if you are having a meeting at work that needs some added creativity, use the turquoise spray. Or, if you need to clear negative energy use the magenta spray. It’s fun to play around with the various colors to see how the mood changes. Want a passionate night? Try infusing the room with sprays of the red colors.

How they work:

Each bottle gets its color from the crystal energies that are inside, so each bottle has different healing properties. For example, the white clears negative energies and the red gives you energy, while the pink helps facilitate unconditional love for yourself and others. Yellow can help if you are feeling fearful or nauseous and turquois blue helps you to communicate your feelings. The good news is that you don’t have to know what each bottle means, you simply just use what you are drawn to. Don’t over think it. Trust your instinct.

How to use the Pomanders:

Select the color that speaks to you. Once you have chosen a color, pump three sprays onto the palm of your hand. Keeping your hands just a few inches away from your body, start at the top of your head and work your way down your entire body as though you are “washing” your aura. When you get to your feet, pull both arms up over your head then finally in front of your nose where you will inhale three times. You will feel the shift in your energy, leaving you more balanced and refreshed. This is just a guide to get you started but feel free to play around with it.

Refresh, Rebalance, and Replenish your energies with these beautiful Pomanders!

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TRAVEL: Lapland, Finland

I cannot think of Christmas without reminiscing on the time we went to the Arctic Circle in Santa’s hometown of Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland. As soon as you step off the plane you can tell that you are somewhere magical. The whole town is in character from the shop owners to the bus drivers, ensuring you feel the Christmas spirit. I hadn’t even left the airport when I made my first purchase of a gorgeous reindeer coat with a fox hood. You must be fashionable when we go to see Mrs. Claus, of course. Also, I needed to be sure I would stay warm during our stay at the ice hotel!

We stayed in Santa’s Village in a cute little house right on the property.

The illuminated blue line on the light posts marks the beginning of the Arctic Circle.

I know what you are thinking, we have all seen Santa sitting in his big chair in the middle of the mall with lines of children waiting to sit on his knee. That is not the experience here. When he calls you by name you enter into his living room and you get to spend some time with him, chatting and asking any questions that you’d like. He even told us that his favorite cookie is not a cookie at all but that he prefers porridge!

As with all my travels, I like to plan a little extra adventure while we’re there. I had never been on a snowmobile so I decided this was the perfect time. It was so much fun and the scenery was beautiful. We did this in the middle of the afternoon but as you can see in the picture, it looks like dusk. This was the most light we saw all day and it didn’t last long. Winters on the Arctic Circle are spent mostly in the dark. If you are wondering if it is cold the answer is YES! I was wearing snow gear from head to toe with another outer layer of coveralls provided by the tour guide.

The reindeer in Finland are highly respected and are raised in the wild. They are only hunted when the people need food and clothing. Our guide let us know that it is customary in Finland to use boots made of reindeer pelts because it keeps your feet warmed than any shoe we use today. I had hoped we would see the Aurora Borealis on our sleigh ride, and although we didn’t, we saw more stars that I knew the sky could even hold. They seemed close enough to touch! Our night came to a perfect end with a warm fire and hot cocoa.

Next, we left Santa’s village for a night in the snow hotel! This is a once in a lifetime experience. We ate dinner on an ice table, drank from an ice cup, danced on an ice floor and slept on an ice bed. I was expecting it to be uncomfortable but it was the best night of sleep I had all week. The walls of each room are made of packed snow three feet thick. It was a quiet that I had never experienced before; I mean TOTAL silence. The sleeping bags kept us warm and toasty.

If all this wasn’t enough, I had just one more item on my bucket list, dog sledding! This was more adventurous than I was expecting. These dogs mean business and they take their jobs very seriously. Driving the sleighs takes focus and courage. These dogs can really move and they must stay equal distance from the sleigh in front of them or you get slack in the line and the dogs get all tangled up. It was amazing to witness!

After all this rugged outdoor adventure I was ready for the flight back to Helsinki to stay in a five-star hotel with crisp white sheets and a stocked bar. It was the perfect winter wonderland experience.

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Make an even MERRIER ‘Gin-N-Tonic’

 

Make an even MERRIER ‘Gin-N-Tonic’

 

Try this Rosemary twist on a regular Gin and Tonic for the holiday season!

Garnish it with a sprig of Rosemary and every sip you take smells like you are in the middle of a snowy forrest cutting down your very own Christmas Tree.  I suggest adding dried cranberries to the sprig for pop of festive color (and a little snack).

Here’s my favorite ingredients for THE best G-N-T:

  • The Gin Factory – Natural Botanicals Rosemary Gin
  • Spectacular Tonic Water
  • Ice
  • 1/2 Lime Squeezed Fresh
  • Garnish: Fresh Rosemary Sprig and Dried Cranberries 

Have a happy holiday and ENJOY!

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TRAVEL: Influences of Italy | Nest Jewelry

I found myself standing in the center of Rome, looking around and imagining all that this mega city has seen. It was hard to even wrap my mind around it. The never-ending stream of Vespa’s weaving through the narrow lanes of traffic gave the city a fast-paced feel. Still, there is something ‘easy’ about it, almost like a flow.

We spent several days in the heart of Italy; hitting the necessary tourist attractions before making our way to the coast for some much needed “r and r.”

Janette and I travel together, along with our families, and prior to our adventures we would fantasize about being so inspired during the vacation that we’d whip out our sketchpads and start creating new lines of jewelry on the footsteps of monuments. We have come to discover that is not how it works for us. Of course, new adventures inspire newfound creativity, just not always in that exact moment. The truth is that traveling takes us out of our daily routines and our familiar environment and turns our senses back on, even elevating them to new levels. We are able to store the inspiration and we can access those memories at anytime. We will pull from this knowledge when we are back in the office, our kids at school, husbands at work, and we have the conveniences of home at our fingertips.

We may not always have the breathtaking view of Italy in front of us but we will always have the memories.

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DESIGN: Our First Flip House

When I’m driving from one client’s house to another, I pass so many homes that are in a state of disrepair. Lot values are increasing in the sought after neighborhoods of the inner loop of Houston and many of these old homes are being demolished. I love the character these old structures have collected over the years so I decided I was going to rescue one! When I posted on social media that I had purchased this one-hundred-year-old bungalow my friends thought I had lost my mind. I admit, it was pretty rough but I could see the potential right from the start.

I didn’t want to lose any charm so I kept all of the original wood siding, awnings, window boxes, and even brought the front porch back to its original state. Let’s face it; the best part of this era was the porches so that was a no brainer. I also added a fabulous tile, just to have a little fun.

When you’re doing a flip you continually have to decide what is worth restoring and what needs to be laid to rest. The detached garage easily went into the “ditch” category and I replaced it with a fun “party-coche.” This dual-purpose space allows for parking while also being the perfect party spot.

When I walked through the front door for the first time I was thrilled to see original hardwood floors. They were in pretty good shape so I refinished them in dark ebony to make it more modern. Everything else in the house is light and bright. There is not a single spot that isn’t touched by natural light.

Other than the gorgeous hardwood floors, the rest of the house was basically a gut. It still had all the old knob an tube wiring and the original plumbing. I can tell you that old plumbing does NOT have charm. It had fire hazard written all over it.

The kitchen was large but outdated and had a poor layout. Plus, I wanted to close off the entrance to the master bedroom and add and en suite, walk-in-closet, and bring the washer and dryer inside instead of being out in the garage. The new layout is a major improvement and much more functional for how we live today.

When we began tearing down the walls we discovered…shiplap! I had my heart set on a modern design so I couldn’t leave it throughout the house but I still honored it by creating the vent hood and finishing it with a grey stain. I LOVE this feature.

I wanted the kitchen to be on the cutting edge of design so I added sconce lighting, open shelving, and charcoal grey cabinets. By keeping the countertops a classic white marble this kitchen will stand the test of time.

The powder bath is a throw back to how I imagine it should have looked; classic white subway tile, old pedestal sink from a historical salvage yard, and marble accents. I also removed the closet and opted for open shelving to make the space feel larger.

The master bedroom received an adorable old louvered door on sliding hardware to make good use of space and keep the character going throughout the house.

I kept the finishes in the master bath simple. We needed to add a window to the bath so I found an old window matching the style of the home. The little details give it authenticity. If there was a mixture of “some old” and “some new” it would feel like a remodel. Instead, this home looks freshly updated but you can’t tell where I’ve added or made changes because the bones are still the same.

The final room of the home is a front bedroom/office/sitting room. I installed reclaimed windows in place of the door to bring in more light.

Last but definitely not least, I added French doors going from the breakfast area off the kitchen to the new deck overlooking the huge back yard. Every home needs French doors somewhere. Period.

Now all that is left is for them to pry it out of my fingers so it can go on the market. I have to remind myself that I restored this amazing home to be lived in and loved by someone else. I just can’t keep all of them…but I kind of want to!

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DESIGN: Accessorizing Bookshelves in Three Easy Steps

We hear from most of our clients that they just don’t know what to do with their bookshelves. To start from scratch can be quite overwhelming so I am going to break it down into three easy steps to make the task manageable and fun!

1. Clear the shelves off completely. The biggest mistake I see is trying to “tweak” shelves that are already finished. People try to just “freshen them up” and it turns out to be a mess. It is a bit time consuming up front but will save time in the long run and give you a much better end result.

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2. Gather all books and accessories. It is SO much easier to have more than what you need so that you can be picky. Assess what you already have. It gives a nice personal touch to have items you have collected while traveling, or objects that hold a special memory. Gather all your books and make a quick calculation to see if there are enough to complete the job. It’s no fun to run out of books mid-project. I know this from experience. Now you must be realistic with what you have versus the look you are trying to achieve. If you have gathered inspiration pictures of very sleek and minimally accessorized shelves with shiny white books and gold accessories, but all you have are stacks of paperbacks and some chachkies… you need to get shopping!

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3. Place books and accessories in the shelves. Okay friends, this is what we have been training for…YOU CAN DO IT! Here’s some fool proof ideas to get you started:

  • A run of books flanked by bookends.

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  • A stack of books with accessories on top.

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  • A run of books pushed to one side with a decorative bowl or object to replace the bookend.

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  • Use family heirlooms and photographs.

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Now take your shoes off, get a drink, turn up the music and get to decorating! You’ll have gorgeous, professional looking shelves before you know it.

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TRAVEL: Autumn Speyside Whiskey Festival

As soon as I feel the first dip in the weather my mind switches over to all things Fall. I’m ready to pull out my boots and sweaters, eat heartier comfort foods and drink something that will warm my soul. Nothing does that better than a “wee dram” of Scotch Whiskey. I was educated on the topic while living in Scotland. I toured many distilleries and learned the intricacy of a well- made Scotch.

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Every Autumn, Scotland hosts the Speyside Whiskey Festival in the heart of Whiskey Country. You can ride the Whiskey Train from Keith to Dufftown viewing the beautiful Scottish Highlands along the way.

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Arriving at this century old rail station was as though I had stepped into the scene of an old, romantic movie. The trains were all original. Our conductor was friendly and wore an old hat and pocket watch. He spoke to us freely but we just smiled as we could only understand a few words through his thick accent.

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The first distillery we toured was Strathisla, pronounced Strath – eye – Luh. We know this distinctly because we were having trouble locating it and when we asked for directions no one understood these crazy Americans who were saying Strath – is – luh.

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Just look at this architecture. Stunning. Obviously, the form followed the function of the space needed in the distillation process but the beauty of the architecture was one of the things I loved most about Scotland. Even the simplest of structures were beautiful because of the stone artisanship.

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I can honestly say I had never really thought of what went into the process of making Scotch Whiskey. Just as wines gain their character from the region the grapes are grown, or the type of barrel they are aged in; Scotch Whiskey gets it subtleties from the malting process.  Peat that has been dried into bricks is used as the heat source for drying the damp malt over the fire, which brings the smoke into the barley grain. The more time drying, the more smokey flavor is achieved.

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After the tour of the distillery we had an official tasting. Scotch is always served with a side of water. This drastically changes the taste. Next time you order your Scotch on the rocks taste it neat then add splashes of water until you find your desired flavor.

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Our last stop was the Glenfiddich Distillery. Right next door was a field with Highland Cows and a castle in ruin. We could not help but to go explore.

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We ended our day with a short walk into Dufftown where we wandered into a local pub for some fish and chips and of course Scotch!

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Statement Necklace 101 | Nest Jewelry

Big or Small – Short or Tall – Statement necklaces are for everyone.

[Teal Apatite & Wood Collection available at NeimanMarcus.com]

Over the years I have converted many skeptics to love the statement necklace. I have heard it all, “I love big jewelry but it just doesn’t look good on me,” to “I’m too small,” or even “I’m too big.” At NEST we make sure there is something for everyone. To take the guesswork out of it I have selected a few statement necklaces that look amazing across the board. These pieces are so easy to wear and will help ease you into the wonderful world of statement necklaces. I promise you will thank me.

Rose Gold Pendant Necklace – This necklace will elongate your neck and the soft rose gold color looks amazing on all skin types. This is a win for anyone. It’s just a great, easy-to-wear piece that will go with anything in your closet.

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Horn and Gold Ball Necklace – The natural variations of the horn looks fantastic with light or dark hair. The short length makes it easily worn with any neckline. Also, since these large beads are horn they are super lightweight!!

Amazonite Petal Necklace – You will not find a more flattering necklace than this Amazonite Cluster Necklace. Truly. The soft pale blue/green is flattering to all skin types and hair color. The natural rounded teardrop shape brings out all your best facial features. This color is great all year round, from brightening up your linen to adding a punch to your basic black.

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I want you all to take a leap of faith, live on the edge, and buy a statement necklace! For the next week we are offering $50 off of these three necklaces using the coupon code: STATEMENT .

As always we love you and thank you for loving your NEST!

BE BOLD – WEAR NEST – MAKE A STATEMENT

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TRAVEL: Adventures in Israel | Nest Jewelry

It would take a novel to recap the experience I had in just one week of being in Israel. The layers of these lands are literally, figuratively and spiritually entangled in history, mystery and controversy. Unlike my other travels where I painstakingly researched every detail to know the best place to stay and what to do, this vacation was planned by a group of my friends and I just showed up really not knowing what to expect. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint!

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The view of the ocean against the stark white architecture is stunning. The ruins we saw imprinted a new picture in my mind of how the people lived. We saw their homes, marketplaces, temples and bathhouses. We could even walk on the same streets they walked on over two thousand years ago. Grooves from the carriage wheels have been worn into the stone. There was true artisanship in making things not only functional but also beautiful.

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We visited tombs dug out of the rocky hills. They ranged from simple to ornate depending on the families financial means. We also spent a day on the Sea of Galilee. I imagined it to be a vast ocean but in reality you can see from shore to shore. After cruising the serene waters we went to a local restaurant and had fresh caught fish!

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This was my first time in the desert and I could see no other logical thing to do than to ride a camel. It was also the last time I wore those adorable African Horn Teardrop Earrings since I somehow lost one getting off of it. Israel will forever have a little piece of NEST jewelry somewhere in the sand. Hope it doesn’t throw off the archeologists. ?

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After a quick dip in the healing waters of the Dead Sea, we went to see where the Dead Sea scrolls were found at Masada National Park.

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The Garden Of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It has a handful of ancient olive trees dating back to 1092 A.D.

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The market was a lively place full of color and scents of fresh baked bagels. These are traditional bagels, which look and taste completely different from what we call a bagel in the states. These are more like a French bread with sesame seeds on top. And there is no cream cheese! They top it with olive oil and dried hyssop (which is similar to oregano). Delicious! I enjoyed my bagel with a tall glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.

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My advice for anyone seeking a trip to Israel is to find a good guide. Without the knowledge of the history and the different religious beliefs one could really miss the essence of this amazing place.

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