Sunday, June 25, 2017

farm stands and newsstands

I have just two ink pads -- black and fuscia -- and a few stamps that don't get used very often, but one day last August I had myself a little stampernoon and enjoyed pressing words letter-by-letter onto all kinds of scraps. I liked how the bold type looked against floral papers and fabric and used this effect to complete a picture frame project which I decided to submit and ship off to Somerset Home. At the last minute I tossed-in some of the other stamped pieces as potential styling props.

The frames made it into the next issue {Explore More, Spring 2017} and I forgot all about the random little things that went along for the ride, so in March when an editor of sister publication Somerset Life contacted me at first I thought it was a mistake. They wanted to use the berry baskets, stamped ribbon, clothespins, and the lunch bag I had sent and needed accompanying text: an essay and instructions.

Knowing it would be used for the summer issue, I decided to write about how it always takes me a while to warm-up to the hot months and how fresh produce plays a big role in that transition.

The magazine's stylists and photographers worked magic and turned all kinds of nothings into beautiful somethings, garnished with strawberries and sweets. And the timing couldn't be more perfect because yesterday I headed to my favorite farm stand for strawberries 4 Town Farm, and in a few days the issue will be on newsstands. Life imitating art, art imitating life ...

And with the baskets emptied to make things like strawberry rhubarb crisp bars from smitten kitchen, the tinkering fun can commence!

Find Holding Summer in the summer issue of Somerset Life


tinkering tip:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

my fifi and me

Image credit: @vintagefarmhome
Image credit: Hollie @vintagefarmhome
Seven years ago Fifi O'Neill arrived at my house for a photo shoot and my life hasn't been quite the same since. I alternately refer to Fifi as my fairygodmother, my French mommy, my Fifi, and she calls me sweet names like Cupcake Girl and Baby. Just last week Fifi returned as my home had changed enough to get the editorial green-light for a second round of styling and shooting for an upcoming publication.

Fifi and I are in touch regularly. We chat about life and new ideas. I write for many of the magazines for which she is the editor-in-chief and founder, and occasionally I develop DIY projects as well. Some location scouting has lead Fifi and her stellar crew of longtime photographer Mark Lohman and his son Taylor, to photograph the homes and businesses of my friends where I'm sure to visit, generally with cupcakes in-hand! I drive to meet her for dinner (she loves to have lobster when she's in New England) and it's always so much fun.

Fifi sets a "let's all flourish" and pay-it-forward example by her actions and I'm compelled to do the same. Her work ethic of "the more you work the more you learn" has helped me reconcile the many jobs and chapters of my life when I felt a lack of direction but now see the bigger picture of how all of these experiences have lead me to the person I am today and the skills I offer.

And don't let the ruffled frocks and hair ribbons fool you, Fifi is a bad-ass. She works harder than anyone I know and is no chump. I love that her mind is always racing with new ideas on which she doesn't hesitate to act -- um, just like me!

Fifi has graciously opened doors for me, introducing me to who would become my first book publisher. She's believed in me and encouraged me from the start. Fifi offered me my first feature writing assignment the day after I'd received the worst call a person could ever get (details). I mentioned nothing, accepted the work, and have always considered it a sign, a blessing.

I've spend the entire weekend assembling images to share about Fifi's return last week after all these years for a second photo shoot here at my house and the things done to prepare, but as I started to write instead the words began to flow about Fifi and I just went with it. So I'll save this stuff for next time:

Click to enlarge

Thank you for reading! If you're not familiar with Fifi O'Neill, below are some links to get you started. Tell her Cupcake Girl sent you.  ;)

Fifi's Florida home in Country Living
Fifi on Instagram

Saturday, April 22, 2017

flower fangirl

My friend Lorraine introduced me to the term "fangirl," which Merriam-Webster defines as a girl or woman who is an extremely or overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something. While new-to-me, M-W cites 1934 as its first known use. Why all this fangirl talk? Because I've decided that I'm a fangirl of flower professionals be they farmer or florist.

Kiana Underwood of Tulipa featured in Country Living, April 2017
I follow floral design studios like Tulipina on Instagram, seek flower farms to visit, and take workshops for the simple pleasure of being surrounded by colorful petals. I don't think about the sweat of running a business dependent on weather or deliveries, I just imagine days spent snipping stems and filling vases, surrounded by beauty and ribbon and smiles.

Earth Day is the perfect day to share a list of regional flower industry favorites. Website links are included and can provide all the basic information you need so I'll just share thoughts about what makes these places so special to me.

Wicked Tulips Flower Farm, Johnston, Rhode Island

If you're in the Rhode Island area and you're reading this today (late April) or in the next few weeks, consider planning a trip ASAP to Johnston (about twenty minutes north of Providence) where tulip farmers Jeroen and Keriann Koeman have turned a quiet patch of land into a tourist destination seemingly overnight.

Almost immediately after learning about Wicked Tulips last winter, I contacted the owners and became a volunteer. My favorite job is wrapping armfuls of tulips in kraft paper on the white tables beneath the tents, especially the 4 o'clock shift when there's a good chance to witness a brilliant sunset over the cheerful rows of thousands and thousands of hardy tulips. Visit

Dame Farm & Orchard, Johnston, Rhode Island

Across the road from the tulip farm is Dame Farm and around July their field of sunflowers is a spectacular site.

I'm also a huge fan of zinnias and so I'll be sure to visit during the heat of the summer. Visit

Cape Cod Lavender Farm, Harwich, Massachusetts

I love spending time on Cape Cod and my guys know that before go-karts and after taffy, there's going to be a trip to the lavender farm. It is a truly magical spot with a cottage shop -- the interior outfitted strands of violet fairy lights overhead -- open 24-7 on the honor system.

In addition to waving fields of purples, there is a path that leads to a miniature medieval castle and "enchanted" garden. Visit Related blog posts: field trip; boho style.

Morrice Florist, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

I've been following Morrice Florist on Instagram and so when I took a daytrip last summer to Martha's Vineyard, I really wanted to stop by. Little did I realize that Morrice's also carries wonderful paper and home decor lines. Owner Emily Coulter, has "the mojo" and her shop is breathtaking, reminiscent of Terrain, but with more character and heart.

Last month I orchestrated a sisters' trip based around attending one of her monthly workshops and let me tell you, it was dreamy! A reporter from The Martha's Vineyard Times was in attendance and wrote all about it in her piece Women, wine, and flowers. Visit

Plant Nite Cape Cod

Just last week my friends and I attended a Plant Nite event, kind of a mobile Tupperware party held at a restaurant function room where attendees can sip and snip and leave with a living project.

Ta-da! That's Lorraine, Cindy, and me with our wooden box terrariums of succulents. A very enjoyable evening! Visit

Flowers by Semia, available at Ellies Bakery, Providence, Rhode Island

Everything about Ellie's makes me happy, everything has a special touch. The staff is always friendly for reals, the serveware is so Parisian, and the displays of baked goods are as tasty as they are pretty. Thursday through Sunday, Ellie's offers bouquets from Flowers by Semia: inspired bursts of color wrapped in brown paper and tied with wide ribbon. Flowers, coffee, and a slice of whatever looks yummy = pure indulgence! Visit; visit

The Greenery, Warren, Rhode Island

Awesome owner Bridget Tierney has a cool shop on historic Water Street filled with flowers, home accents, soaps and more, and she's open to doing workshops -- just ask her! Visit

Back at My Backyard

As for me, I'm no green thumb. My favorite weather is when it’s bright and sunny with a slight chill in the air, just enough for a light cardigan. That’s when you’ll find me outside staring at my neglected lawn, plotting and planning and even venturing to a nursery for containers of bright flowers, perhaps even some leafy, fragrant herbs. But alas, in New England, those glorious conditions are short-lived and precarious. Once I break a sweat and must swat away a few bugs, I’m out, or should I say, in: inside with the air conditioning on. See those flowers in the window box? Um, they're fake, or shall I say faux.

Good ol' buttercups and the lilies of the valley that appear each year! I do enjoy playing florist! On special occasions the Hubs brings me a bucket of market flowers from which I tinker an assortment of arrangements.

And of course tinkering bottles, jars and cans into vessels to hold real flowers.

Happy Earth Day and thanks as always for reading!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

tinkering the bathroom floor, part I

Not long after taking on the steps project I begin leering at the floor of our only bathroom.

The stone tile floor never looked or felt clean.

Feeling emboldened from completing the steps project and left with enough white floor paint to get started, I was off and running, or kneeling uncomfortably and stretching, but you get the idea ...

Note the flamenco shower curtain tucked-in with ruffles rising from the blowing fan used to dry the floor between coats of paint. A few months later I have no regrets, however while the white floor opens the space visually, it's no hiding place for daily wear and tear and could benefit from some color and pattern to mix things up. I clicked over to Pinterest and while dazzled by a myriad of images, was having trouble visualizing how any of them would work for my postage stamp sized floor. So, I did a little tinkering ...

I imported an image of the bathroom into a Word document and went to Remove Background. This is my simplified work-around of a Photoshop feature.

Next, I marked the areas to remove as well as the sections to keep. Once I had successfully removed the floor from the photo, I Saved As a PNG. With the floor removed, I could now insert all kinds of images pinned to my steps + floors board to get a sense of how they might look. I did this at PicMonkey > Design > Add your own overlay.
While not a perfect system, I found this very helpful in ruling out certain ideas like bringing in bright yellow or papering the floor in a busy floral print.

All images are Click to Enlarge

I believe I have come up with a winner -- the largest square shown above! My idea is to use the existing bathroom tile to create a checkerboard pattern in blocks of four, using a color scheme similar to the one pictured. Once finished, I'll protect well with a sealant meant for floors (that's research for another day, any faves?). Not 100% sure when I'll start the painting ... could be tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., could be next month but I'll be sure to post pics along the way on Instagram, which has become a visual notepad if this is my diary.

I hope this idea helps you in planning a project! Below are selected images from the thumbnails above. I honestly didn't feel like watermarking them so if you share them, please cite me as the source. Many thanks.

Thank you for reading!


Monday, January 23, 2017

writer's circle

I spent the entire weekend writing, just like last weekend. This is not a complaint, it's a dream come true. I was recently assigned four feature stories for three publications, all home tours from different parts of the United States. There were ranch-style homes in New Mexico and Texas, a Cape/colonial in Minnesota, and a historic Victorian in my home state of Rhode Island. 

The process generally begins with a Starbucks run and my receiving many images or mock layouts of mostly interior shots and interviewing the homeowners by email or phone. I do a lot of research to fill in the blanks for myself and the reader on styles and tips and tricks. My favorite articles are the ones that inspire me to try things in my own home and that's how it all started for me -- with magazines.

When we first bought our home my sole design resource was catalogs until my sister Betsy came to visit and brought along an issue of Creative Home (and I'm pretty sure it was the one pictured above). Each glossy page was filled with simple projects and clever ideas, the writing was succinct and encouraging. It was a game changer for me.

I painted the first floor room we had always designated for my use yellow-on-yellow and altered just about every thing in there. I crackle-painted the coffee table, added ribbons to the window panels, recovered a memory board, among many other things. As soon as the paint was dry to the touch, I excitedly outfitted the room, took pictures and emailed them to Creative Home in response to their "show us your style" call-out.

Within the hour I received a reply to send more pictures and answer a few questions. What a thrill! This was before social media had really exploded (for me, anyway) and so print was king (still is to me). Creative Home has since ceased production but I still have every issue for reference, and I'll never forget how validating is was for me to be included.

So why this rambling rerun of a tale? Because the article I submitted yesterday afternoon for the upcoming issue of Vintage Style was to Debra Wittrup, the same editor of "my" issue of Creative Home, Summer 2008! Crazy, right?!

Whenever I update my portfolio page or find my work on the newsstand, it still feels as exciting and surreal as it did all those years ago. Here's what's out or coming right up:

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!