Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blogiversary and Why I Blog

It's hard to believe that it's been five years since my first blog post. In January 2008, days after we signed up for our current house on a whim (you can read the story here), I started AM Dolce Vita as a way to share my life stories with my family and friends around the world. Despite reading a lot of blogs on an ongoing basis, I was a casual blogger for the longest time until after our house was built and we moved in in July 2009. 
Within a matter of months, the blog has evolved into a place for me to document my research and our around-the-clock room-by-room home renovation projects. Through this blog, I've learnt a lot from some fellow designer bloggers, and reciprocated with my own experience. I've never intended or used this blog for any income generation, although secretly I've always hoped that some day I could pursue a design career after I am done with the corporate world. Nowadays as we wrapped up most of the major projects, it would seem like there's no pressing need for me to continue to blog. 

So why do I blog these days?

I love the interactions with my "virtual" friends. Although some of my real-world BFFs are also following my blog, the majority of my readers are virtual. Through commenting I could learn a lot of a blogger's personality and style and I love this type of communication. 

Blogging is also a hobby and an outlet for my creativity. Creative writing keeps my mind sharp. To produce a good-quality post, I either have to complete a certain project/task myself or do a lot of research - both of which lead to me acquiring new skills and/or knowledge. 

So yes, blogging is a great way to keep myself current (and relevant). Through blogging, I am constantly exposed to industry trends, DIY tips, design inspirations, etc., which all allow me to lead a more "dolce vita". 

So yes, I believe I live better and more productively through what I learn from trusted blogs. 

But I do often question why I still blog. 

My day job is very demanding and often stressful and I travel like crazy. My brain would spark up bits and pieces of creative ideas throughout the day during my rare quiet moments but I wasn't able to put them down anywhere. I could be stuck on a highway during rush hour or at an airport due to a flight delay at the time. 

I often wonder what's it to be like as a full-time design blogger, to be able to, during work days, go to fabulous store previews, design industry events and galas. And what's it like to be able to blog any time a creative idea strikes; and to be able to savour a design/decor project and document it accordingly. 

Unfortunately, time and flexibility is a rarity to me, and balance between work and life has been a constant struggle since my adolescence - blame my Asian parents for bringing me up with their work ethics! 

As much as I struggle and sometimes on the verge of giving up blogging for good, I think I will continue to blog. I've always been a blogger for fun and I think I can continue to be one. 

Happy 5-year Blogiversary to me! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Color Me Happy: Pink

As you all know I have white, grey and blue palette throughout my house, but secretly, I love pink to death. May it be the reserved blush, the passionate fuschia, the innocent soft pink or the flashy neon shade, pink is the universal and timeless colour palette for gentleness, care, sweetness, romance and love. Pink makes people feel...warm and blissful.

From centre clockwise:

  • The lovely Emily Blunt in Dolce & Gabanna's blush dress at Golden Globe. There was also speculation that Anne Hathaway's bridal gown was blush. Perhaps it will become a new trend?
  • Pink lemonade cake from Sugar Baby Aprons: I really want to give this recipe a try. It will be perfect for a baby girl shower or Valentine's Day.
  • Caitlin Wilson's PINK CITY MAZE PILLOW.
  • Francis Coppola Winery's Sofia Blanc de Blancs: I collect all the Coppola wines that LCBO ever carries. In addition to what Francis Ford Coppola is known for, the winery actually produces very good reds.
  • James Duncan Canape Louis XV Gondole Pink Sofa: if I ever have a baby girl, I am going to get one of these for the nursery.
  • If you are looking for pink home decor inspiration, look no further than Christine Dovey's Bijou and Boheme. Her home is every grown-up girl's dream. I am sure it's like a Parisian vacation at her house every day.
  • The talented Jen Ramos' "Mother" original painting: love how she uses pink throughout her artworks.
  • Pink diamond ring through Blue Nile: wouldn't it be divine to have one of these as a cocktail ring?
  • Valentino Themes and Variations: a stylish coffee table book and a subtle way to introduce the pink colour into your living room.
  • Jeanne Lanvin Perfume by Lanvin: I have been using this perfume since its introduction in 2008 and still love it. It's fruity, sweet with a touch of floral and perfect for any work or social occassion.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Accessorizing Built-in Shelves and Bookcases

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a great weekend. Hubs and I both have the flu, so we pretty much hit the snooze button and slept through the entire weekend.

One of my 2013 decor projects is to finish accessorizing the basement built-in shelves based on the Ikea Billy bookcase hack. While there are tons of articles on how to carry out such a task, at the end of the day, your home and design should look like you. For me, it's about functional, showcasing accessories that reflect my interests and hobbies, and simplicity.

Some designers suggest that you remove all items from the shelves and then decide how much or little you really want to have on each shelf. For me it doesn't work like that, at least not right now. I already have another two huge wall-to-wall bookcases in my house in, so for this one it's more about taking my time and collecting items that can go on to the shelves. I suppose I can relocate some of the interior design books here - but the downside is that I might have to run through three bookcases to find a book in the future.

Another rule of thumb is to start with the centre. This is the spot where your eyes usually land first. This huge piece (50x50cm) of sea fan from a vintage store can undoubtedly anchor the main focal point of the shelves.

To fill up a 15-feet long built-in bookcase can be a pretty daunting task, especially that I pretty much started from scratch. I find to Group Like With Like makes it so much easier: grouping items by theme, colour, shape, texture or material. When you amalgamate like things together, they make a much bigger impact. For me, I have a nautical coral decor theme throughout the shelves.

I also want it to be functional: I want all my ever-growing travel book and favourite show collections to go on these shelves. Therefore, I still have some empty shelf space which allows me to add items over time.

My ultimate goal is to achieve a look like this: a perfectly accessorized bookcase on some many levels. I will be doing another checkpoint hopefully in the summer to show you what my bookcase looks like then.

If you are interested in learning more about how to accessorize a built-in bookcase, you can read more here, here and here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Indigo's Home Decor Winter Sale

Brrr...I know it's cold out there, but I hope this winter sale will warm you up. Indigo has just put tens of Home and Lifestyle items on clearance sale, up to 70% off. I was eyeing a few decorative accessories for a while, and my patience has finally paid off. Love me a deal!

I picked up this same throw in Granite Green last year, and have been wanting to get another one in Bamboo. Don't let the colour name mislead you, the throw is actually in a very calm yet happy shade of yellow, nothing to do with Bamboo green. It's now on sale from $45 down to $18.00.

This super stylish antler magnifying glass is now at $11.80, from $29.50. It's going to look sensational on top of my coffee table books.
Heirloom pinecone salt & pepper shakers in polished stainless steel will brighten up any dining room, on sale for $7.80. West Elm has the identical ones for $18.88. 
I would really love to have these stone object bookend now at $4.00 each, but I didn't like the shipping cost for a heavy item (starting at $9.99 per item) so I took a pass. I am going to find out I could store them in store. 
Or how about this vintage-y heirloom keepsake box now at $11.80? Similar ones at Pottery Barn start at $38.26.

If you like Indigo home decor as much as I do, I suggest you pick up those items on sale sooner than later -- because they are going real fast!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Best of Houzz Toronto 2013 Awards

I am deeply honoured and humbled to be part of the Best of Houzz 2013 Awards - Toronto in so many categories, among all the talented professional interior designers. Thank you Houzz!

I took these snapshots from the Houzz site but you can click on the links to each category to view all other designers' gorgeous work. If you are interested in getting your work noticed, you can read the press release and selection criteria here.

Category: Bath

Category: Bedroom

Category: Entry

Category: Hall

Category: Laundry

Category: Living

Category: Staircase

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beat the Winter Blues

Winter has come back with a revenge. A couple of months of long nights and short days with little sunshine and freezing temperature is still ahead of us. I actually don't mind winter and find cold air refreshing and help my chronic sinusitis (no allergen in the air). Here are a few easy things that I usually do to beat the winter blues - they work like a charm for me.

Have Something to Look Forward To

I was so excited (and inspired) when I saw Ikea's 2013 Outdoor Collection. Just by looking at it, I can almost smell the salty ocean air and feel the blazing sun on my skin. I am definitely buying a dozen of this SPRINGKORN flamingo cushion covers for my backyard and cottage, and maybe one of each of the SPRINGKORN beach towels and RAMSÖ parasols...can't wait for them to hit the store shelf in late March.
Citrus Citrus Citrus
The zesty satsuma shower gel from the Body Shop is just what I need in my morning shower to wake up.

Take A Long Soak

Nothing beats an uninterrupted bubble bath and a mystery thriller on a Sunday afternoon. We all deserve a time-out once in a while.
Have Some Good Laughs with Your Loved Ones
I love comedies and need them for my ongoing mental health. I enjoy watching a show like Modern Family with my husband and sometimes with friends and laugh our lungs out. If you don't believe me, read this Phil's-osophy from Modern Family: "The most amazing things that can happen to a human being will happen to you if you just lower your expectations." Or how about "If life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like, 'What?!?!'".
Warm Up with a Cup of Ginger Tea
My Mom got me into ginger tea, and these days during winter I just can't live without it. Not only does it instantaneously warm you up, it also picks up your mood and calms your stomach. I usually use ginger tea bags from Gold Kili (the best brand I've tried so far),  add two cubes of rock sugar or one tea spoon of honey and I'd be all set.
Last but not the least, Load Up On Vitamins

10 oranges = 750ml freshly-squeezed OJ = daily Vitamin C dosage. I can't drink 10-orange worth of OJ because the sugar will kill me. Rather, I keep up with VC & D supplements and leafy greens.


Do yo do anything different to combat the winter blues?

Friday, January 18, 2013

TGIF and A Winner

This work week just didn't seem to want to end. It's been a hectic and stressful week involving working until 10pm almost every day with little to no time for lunch. I am surprised that I don't already look like a supermodel. Some cases became so complex that sometimes I just felt like burying my head in the sand and let the rest of the world deal with them. Anyhow, I am looking forward to sleeping past 7am tomorrow morning...TGIF!

The winner of a pair of designer pillows value up to $140 courtesy of Susie at sewSusieDesigns is....

The lucky winner please contact me and I will put you in touch with Susie.

Thank you again Susie for sponsoring such a fabulous giveaway. We hope to have you back soon. :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Few of My Favourite Things

These are a few of my favourite things that I've been wanting to buy or do for a while. I guess I am off to a pretty good start in the new year.

Vintage Brass Plant Mister

My grandma had one of these when I was little and I've always wanted a brass plant mister for my Zamioculcas (Zizi) plant. However, real vintage ones are very hard to come by and most of them are not in very good shape. The other day while I was browsing on the Chapters Indigo web site, I saw this brass herb mister and bought it without thinking twice. It's compact and light for my hand and adds a bit of nostalgia to my kitchen.

Homemade Recipe Journal

I guess I have a new year resolution after all, and that is to better plan our dinners. I have limited cooking skills but I am good at following recipes. I receive so many cookbooks as gifts over the years, and would like to be able to document them all in one place and perfect these recipes over time. I picked up this turquoise leather journal from Indigo a while ago and finally started to put it to use. homemade recipe journal!

One of the advantages of maintaining a recipe journal like this is that I could tweak some ingredients/steps to our liking and document them as such. I even added a picture I took from the outcome as inspiration for future cooking.

Oversized Conch Shell

You already know I collect rocks and corals. I've always wanted a piece of the Giant Clam (tridacna gigas) shell, similar to the one at the Ballard Designs. I saw a huge piece once at a Value Village but I don't know what possessed me that day to take a pass. I was seriously kicking myself ever since. This past weekend I found this oversized conch shell at a thrifty store. I think it will do just fine for the time being especially with the ridiculously low price tag! This beauty came home with me and made her way straight to my master bathroom.

Giant Sea Fan

I've always wanted one, framed or not. I've finally decided to accessorize our basement wall unit with a nautical theme containing tons of corals, shells and sea fan. Contrary to the conch shell above, this giant sea fan (over half a meter wide) cost me an arm and a leg but I am sure it's totally collector-worthy. It will become a focal point of the wall unit or even the basement living area. Stay tuned for the reveal.

So do you keep a list of your all-time favourite things that you would like to have or do? Are you like me such that you collect them or get them done over a long and painstaking period of time? Do share!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Clear the Air

Sorry for the lack of posts last week as I was traveling non-stop for work. I hope you are enjoying the January Thaw here in Toronto. We were out and about all weekend catching up on some shopping.

Winters in Canada are long and, with the furnace constantly running, the air quality can get pretty stale indoors. I have chronic sinusitis and am very sensitive to any mainstream air freshers. The first thing I check on a aerosol bottle is always the ingredient: they are immediately out if they have tons of chemical names that are hard to pronounce. I've been using Bio*Life's 100% natural aerosol all these years until they were discontinued last year. I tried some essenital oil mists - they are so heavy that not only do they leave behind a thin film on any surface they fall onto, the freshness also disappears as they fall. And then today I found this at a drug store - J.R. Watkins Menthol Camphor Relief Mist.

It's 96.18% natural, and contains only four ingredients: Eucalyptus Citriodora (Lemon Eucalyptus), Menthol, Camphor, and Thymol. It instantly freshens up the air in my bathroom leaving behind a lingering minty breeze. The best part is that it doesn't assault my sinuses. I would highly recommend it as a greener and more natural alternative to clean the air in your home.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Pillows and A Giveaway

I was like a kid in a candy store as I opened up all the packages from my online shopping during the Boxing Week. This pair of gorgeous lumbar pillows from sewSusieDesigns arrived just in time for our new year's eve countdown party. The fabric is Kravet's Jellybean (or Braemore Gorgeous in Pearl), a heavy-weight cotton duck.

I like how Susie, the professional seamstress behind sewSusieDesigns, used the same fabric with different patterns on both sides. That not only makes the pillow more versatile, but also gives you a better bang for your buck.

I had initially ordered these pillows for my dining room, but I am liking how they look in my living room now. The colour palette totally works.

The other side of the pillows, just as elegant.

Now the good news for my readers. Susie at sewSusieDesigns is so kind to offer my readers a FREE pair of pillows (value up to $140!) from her Etsy store. Just imagine you could either have the same Jacobean pillows I ordered, or any two of these beauties (you can mix and match):  
Jonathan Adler for Kravet Electrify in Azure

Or this Robert Allen Lattice Bamboo in Graystone

Or this popular Ikat from Dwell Studio

Or how about this gorgeous Thom Filicia Burnet in Ink Linen

Or this punch of colour to combat the winter blues in Jonathan Adler for Kravet - New - Limitless in Persimmon Orange Chevron?

Susie has over 250+ items on her Etsy store, and here are the simple steps to enter this giveaway contest.

  • Visit Susie's Etsy store sewSusieDesigns, come back to my blog and leave a comment on which one is your favourite.
  • Leave another comment on where you plan to use the pillow if you win the contest.
  • Leave another comment to share which fabric(s) (either from Susie's store or not) are your alltime favourite for pillows.
  • Leave a feedback to let me know if you tweet about this giveaway. You will receive extra two entries.

You will receive one entry for each comment you leave. Contest is open to both US and Canada, and a winner will be selected on Friday January 18, 2013. Good luck!

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