Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Crush

It's those last few days before Christmas and I'm sitting on a house full of gifts yet to be wrapped. Crafting gifts for one and all takes precious time and I've spent nearly every evening over the last several weeks engulfed in handmade projects for the big day. I've asked myself dozens of times in as many days why I do this every year. The house is a mess. I'm a mess and I haven't eaten anything beyond Campbell's in as long as I can remember. 

Despite it all, I'm in love with this all too short season. Every last stressful bit of it. 

If all finally goes as planned, I'll be caught up by Sunday and finally staring at a vacuumed house with presents around the tree. 

How 'bout you? Are you all bought and wrapped with a cup of egg nog by the fire? 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Designer Dining // Cucina Enoteca

I just discovered my heart's soulmate in a restaurant and it was love at first site. I wasn't even looking for it and it totally caught me by surprise. If I had given it any thought, I would have said that I leaned more toward a sleek and sexy, modern restaurant aesthetic and not the colorful bohemia I fell hard for the minute I approached it's doorway.

Urban Kitchen Group's latest installment, Cucina Enoteca in Irvine, California is among one of the most visually interesting restaurant spaces I've ever seen. I walked in and found myself stuck behind a line of people waiting to check in at the front desk. But I couldn't contain my anticipation. I bolted right past them, anxious to take in all of the artful design details in this space. Imagine if Etsy, Jonathan Adler and Anthropologie had a baby. This is what it would look like. 

But perhaps the restaurant's own website describes their design plan best:

See for yourself:
Antler chandeliers over communal dining table. The orange wired barstools had me transfixed.
The lighting across the entire restaurant is arts and crafts industrial at it's best. Reclaimed wood paneling marries harmoniously with bohemian patterned wall coverings in the background.
The communal wine bar in the restaurant lobby. Signage everywhere encourages you to pick up a bottle and hold it in your hand. Genius marketing. Half the battle is already won. Rumor has it the wine is reasonably priced (and only an $8 corkage fee for wines bought in house). A good restaurant wants you to enjoy your entire food experience and from my perspective, wine is always an integral part of that.
The beautiful bar- perhaps the most "modern" aspect of the restaurant. On the day I visited, bar garnishes were piled high in jars of all shapes and sizes, a functionally thoughtful detail I noted right away.
There is quite a wine selection to peruse while waiting for your table. 
The mood is set by this colorful patio as you walk up to the restaurant. Straight out of the Anthropologie design book.
The poster-laden walkway to the restroom. It made me want to act like a kid and plan many, many trips to the restroom just to see what it looks like. 
The food is straight up artisan cooking with locally sourced, organic and sustainable products. My lunch plate that day consisted of a stuffed squash blossoms and a porchetta and brie sandwich with arugula, truffle oil and wildflower honey, which blissfully melted together with each bite.  The dinner menu is comprised of my heart's content as well.

Planning many, many returns. Note to The Mister: date night should always begin here. 

*All images via Cucina Enoteca

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

At Last // A Big Reveal!

Hello friends! Today I've got something a little extra special to share. I admit I've been playing a bit coy with some bigger picture progress at Holtwood House. Today that all changes. I couldn't be more excited to finally debut a full room in its entirety... and the best part? The lovely Lindsay of Sadie + Stella fame is hosting me today as I share my favorite room- my very own in-home studio. 

Sort of makes it extra special, wouldn't you say?

So please, hop on over and have a gander at this personal space that is very dear to my heart.

If you're following along with me on Instagram and Twitter, I might just have a few extra details straight from the studio to share with you as well!

Twitter // @HoltwoodHipster
Instagram // HoltwoodHipster

If you've stopped by via Sadie + Stella- welcome! I appreciate you stopping in to check out my little corner of the blogosphere. I hope you'll continue to follow along! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hand Painted Gift Canisters

I've been toying around with the idea of painted canisters to corral all of my desktop paraphernalia and over the weekend, set out to up-cycle some used tin cans with a simple white paint job. As these things go, my fixation with black, white and gold got the better of me and I ended up with some abstract art instead. But as quickly as I finished, I could not help but envision these holding freshly baked cookies or salted caramels for gift giving. Heck, they are even fitting for a bottle of perfume or a small gift that might otherwise be relegated to a stocking stuffer. 

So I ask, why not have them both ways?


Monday, December 17, 2012

How 'bout a Little Pretty?

Christmas Tree selection and decorating is serious business at Holtwood House. We've patronized the same lot for the last 13 years, even through our move, which now has us driving 20 miles round trip to retrieve our tree. Our tree is typically selected on a Thursday or Friday evening to allow time for flocking (because when you live in a part of the country where Christmas day can often mean 80 degrees, you have to fake it 'til you make it) and decorating no doubt consumes the entire Saturday afternoon that follows. While this may seem a bit obsessive, I say consistency is the key to creating your own traditions and there is no better time to carry through on tradition than at Christmas time. 

Especially when the result is this pretty.

It's always a black and white Christmas around these parts. For the last couple of years, we've added a bit of whimsy, first with these blackbirds (recycled crows from Halloween decor) and now with the gilded beasts that stand guard at the base of the tree to ward off any nosy surprise spoilers.  The dark undertones of our theme are offset by the candy colored lights wound around the branches. The key to a show stopping light spectacle? Go deep my friends. Take those lights all the way in toward the trunk and use bulbs in varying shapes and sizes whenever possible. 

We took full advantage of the vaulted ceilings this year and picked out a tree that easily tops 9 feet. New Year's resolution: finally furnish the adjoining dining area. The absence of furniture worked out beautifully though, as we needed some extra space to accommodate the tree and of course, these light boxes from a party we planned last year.  The lights work together to create the most magnificent glow.

We put all of the extra lights and ornaments to use around the house. This small display under a side table in the living room makes me smile each time I walk past it.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Where My Head is At These Days

Though the dwindling light outside tells me that the days are getting shorter, in reality it feels just the opposite. Busy workload and house commitments, combined with the hustle and bustle of the shopping, crafting, wrapping, visiting, baking season has me a bit on overload as I head into the weekend. Not to glorify "busy", but honest to goodness it's been some late nights and a lot of coffee around here lately and I'm really hoping to kick up my feet and just stare at the lights on our beautiful tree this weekend.

Here's a reminder to take time out friends. It all goes by so fast. The January issue of Martha is already sitting on my coffee table...

// image via


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gift Certificate Options You Might Not Have Considered

I'm a big fan of gift certificates. True a tangible gift, thoughtfully selected and wrapped is ideal this holiday season. But I hold gift certificates responsible for some of my greatest experiences and in-a-pinch lifesavers.

I've been known to hoard gift cards received at Christmas or on my birthday all year long. They've come in handy when I've needed that special dress for a night out and we've frequently used them for un-budgeted dinner dates. I've pulled cards from my stash to help ease entertaining expenses (half the expense of entertaining is all the new stuff you buy and collect, am I right?) and I've used them to explore new activities, places and foods.

If you're still on the fence about what to get that special someone or struggling to find something you feel would be practical, why not consider one of the following gift options. 

Adrenaline Junkie // There are many companies in your area that promote deals on high stakes adventures that your closeted adrenaline junkie relative might never purchase for themselves.  You know the one... your uncle who has told you for years that they would love to paraglide off the cliffs in Malibu or base jump off the Perrine bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho.  Why not help him scratch it off his bucket list?

The Culturist // Not sure what to get your hard to buy for boss who seemingly has it all? What about your sister who never has a night out but has always wanted to see a ballet or go to the opera- just once.   You don't have to commit to a specific date or event right now. Performing Arts Centers offer gift certificates that can be used anytime, so the recipient can choose when to use them based on what they want to see and their schedule. 

The Resolutionist // Like clockwork, every New Years Day your husband says he's going to get out and do more in the coming year. Be his cheerleader and line up some activities that will push him out of his comfort zone. Surfing lessons will help him brush up on skills he hasn't used since youth. Go-kart racing, beer tastings, paintball games, a round of golf- even a hot shave will help him look back on 2013 as the year he finally did it.

Clean House // This is one they'll stash away for that one hectic week when they feel completely overwhelmed and unproductive. One free house cleaning is the perfect gift for your party planning friend who undoubtedly spends a week cleaning up before (or after) their annual soiree. New moms will appreciate the opportunity to kick their feet up before or after the baby arrives as well.

Mobile Detail // This is another one where the gift will come to them. Why not help a pal out and extend a free car detail to them right on their own driveway. The beauty of a mobile detailer is that they can tackle all the family cars in one visit, save the gift recipient multiple trips to the local car wash and deliver a thorough cleaning they'd be unlikely to get at a commercial establishment.

Other practical services that would make good gifts: a free pool cleaning (then plan to use their pool all summer long!), a free mow and blow (hire your own gardner for the day to help a busy friend out) or even a one-time mobile grooming appointment (you're really giving peace of mind to know Fido is right outside).

Sometimes the best gifts are truly practical, especially to those who are on a budget. Did you know you do not have to commit to a particular store in the mall when buying a gift card? Local shopping malls offer generic cards that allow recipients to choose where they want to shop. These can come in handy for a multitude of needs and just might end up saving the day during that unexpected trip during the coming year. Other practical gift cards to consider: BevMo (they'll appreciate being able to select that bottle of wine they've always wanted to try), Gas Card (perfect for the student or employee with a long commute), MetroCard (load them up and they'll be thanking you many rides later).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


We planned ahead and hired security to guard the gifts around the tree this year. 

When I spotted those gold patterned beasts that Heodeza made earlier this year, I knew that somehow I had to work them into our holiday decor. What a better place to parade this intimidating bunch than around the base of our tree? 

Interested in making your own? I have a little tip to share. With all the painted plastic figurines floating around the interwebs these days, I had been pricing these out pretty extensively of late. Cost per animal was easily coming in around $6-10, which was turning what would otherwise be a fun DIY on the fly into an expensive endeavor. I nearly gave up on this project when I happened to stumble upon some rather large sized animals in the dollar bins at my local Target.  To my surprise, I scored these 6" figures for just $3 a piece!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Food Presentation Your Party Guests Will Talk About

Hosting a holiday soiree? A little proactive planning and prep-work just might allow you to attend your own party and leave guests talking about the food.

I came across the Platters & Punches feature in the December issue of Real Simple magazine and dare I say I've been talking about the food ever since. Beautifully photographed by Mitchell Feinberg, the images showcase some fresh ways of presenting a self-serve holiday buffet. Punches punctuated by fresh herbs and platters that play with color and contrast will at once beckon guests to the table while leaving them questioning if they should even disturb such artful presentation. They'll wonder how you ever had time to do it all.

Fortunately, your catering game plan is already made easy by the folks over at Real Simple. Shh...I won't tell if you won't.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Gift Guide // Wishing For

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 (a) (b) (c) | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eye Spy a Party

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Whether you go conservative with just a little shimmer at the inside corner or layer your lids in bold metallic powder, I say there is no better occasion than a holiday party to sparkle up those peepers.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Current Fixation // Magnets

All this gift hunting has me sure of one thing. I'm hoping I'll wake Christmas morning to find one of these colorful, modern magnet sets in my stocking.  It's no secret that I'm just as fascinated by rocks and geodes these days. So perhaps if I'm extra good, the earthy collection by Leif will be the one that appears... 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gift Guide // Polished Men's Grooming Essentials

ONE  |  TWO  |  THREE  |  FOUR  |  FIVE  |  SIX  |  SEVEN

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day-tripping // LA Garment District

I have a lot of projects in the queue at the moment; pillows and upholstering, draperies and even some that are holiday-related. These projects fulfill my love of creating, but also serve to shave some cost off my decorating budget. Renovating and decorating an entire house can become a costly affair. I've come to learn however that while I might be saving some serious bucks by making these things on my own, even frugality has its limits. The cost of supplies can quickly add up. I spend quite a bit of time online searching for the best bargains, but even shipping costs can quickly eat in to whatever savings I might have found.

I recently took advantage of the beautiful Fall weather we've been enjoying here in Southern California and decided to jet to the LA Garment District, in search of some real deals on yardage I could put to use in that long list of projects.

First stop: Michael Levine. There's a rooftop parking space conveniently situated near this fabric hot spot. This is one place to go if you are in the market for Home Decor fabric. 

Note: they also have a restroom (bring a quarter!), a rare find among these crowded streets.

So many hides at Michael Levine!

We trekked our way up and down 8th and Maple Streets in search of some novelty fabric and notions. I scored on some large invisible zippers for the 22" pillows I plan to make for our sofa- a total bargain at $0.75 each!  

A few furry finds will be used in holiday gifts + decor.
In the end, I drove home a little giddy at the bargains I was able to procure. The cost for one project was cut in half and that alone was reason enough for the trip.

A few things that made this trip easier for me:

I read up before traveling out. This guide provided some helpful hints on which stores inventory a particular specialty stock and where some of the better deals can be found. One of the best pieces of advice from this post: Don't be turned off by what might be sitting outside the store. Always take a look inside. That's where the good stuff is.

I took a buddy with me. Fabric gets heavy really quickly. If you can't take a friend, opt for a little hand cart or backpack to keep your arms free to browse.

Make a list. It may seem like common-sense, but I'm so glad I had my list of needed supplies with me. What you might find here will go beyond fabric alone. For example, had I not had a list of all my supplies with me, I might not have noticed the zippers or grommets I needed for two different projects.

Bring Cash. You will need it for parking, restrooms and the bottom line, it's just easier. Every store has a different policy- some are cash only. You don't want to miss out.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Odds and Ends

Bit of a short post this morning, but I do have a few happenings here and there to share with you all.

Christmas Tree at South Coast.  Spotted this magnificence while visiting our local mall on Friday night. There is a domed area of the lobby that extends four of five stories high and there, every year,  they erect one of the prettiest trees in all of Christmastime. I always look up and marvel at how they are able to string all the lights and hang all the ornaments so perfectly, so high above the ground. The tree and lights are crowned by the circular cut-outs in the ceiling design itself and all that stained glass. Feels otherworldly, but the palm trees in the courtyard below confirm we're still in California baby!

Isn't it pretty?

Recipe Sampling. I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen over the last week or so- probably more than I've spent in quite some time. The string of rainy days we've been having motivated me to get back to the stove and try my hand at some of the recipes I've been hoarding over the last couple of months. The one above- Cauliflower Soup (with scallops), found over at Coco + Kelley - was the stuff dreams are made of. We were surprised again last night with how good this Magic Sauce tasted over our roasted chicken and potatoes.

The Nieman Marcus-Target sale.  Over the weekend, we hit up Target to check out these much anticipated goodies and my first reaction was wow, they are still really stocked up! I had expected mostly empty shelves by the time we arrived, but happily for us 'twas not the case.

Overall impression: some very fun stuff and I have to admit, we walked (skipped!) away with a few things from the collection that were on my wish list.
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