February 25, 2010

simple desktop designs

I'm always changing up the image on my desktop... I get bored easily and like to keep things fresh. Sometimes super busy designs make it difficult to see the folders on my desktop, and they're not exactly calming, either. Thanks to How About Orange, I found these charming and perfectly minimal desktop designs yesterday.

There are a slew of others to be found at simpledesktops.com. Have fun!

PS - which one do you think is on my desktop right now? :)

on the turntable: Melody Gardot

I had heard of Melody Gardot before, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago while watching an interview with her on CBS Sunday Morning (one of my favorite shows) that I learned her full story. A Philadelphian tried and true, she was riding her bike through the city at the age of 18 when she was hit by an SUV that ran a red light (the driver fled the scene). She was left with serious spine and head injuries and confined to a bed for a year; the head injuries left her hyper-sensitive to sound and light, and she was forced to relearn how to speak coherently and walk. She wears dark glasses most of the time due to her light sensitivity, and walks with a cane since she is prone to bouts of vertigo.

Having had an interest in music when she was younger, Melody used music therapy to aid in her recovery and found a true talent for songwriting in the process. Her music is extremely soulful and her story makes her all that much more intriguing.

(Pardon the cheesy album cover... this is the only version YouTube would let me embed!)

February 23, 2010

home office mini-makeover, part two

(read part one here)

Once we (and by "we" I mean Nick) got the new curtains up, I was anxious to get my home office fully functional and pretty, to boot. The Ikea in Conshohocken, PA, that is closest to us (where we got all of the pieces for the curtain project) did not have the Skruvsta swivel chair that I wanted, but the Ikea in Philadelphia did. Since I am impatient, my wonderful Nick headed out there the next day to pick it up for me. Isn't he nice?

Once I had my chair, I got to work really setting up an organized, inspiring and productivity-inducing workspace. Remember what we started with?

Well here's what we ended up with.

I absolutely love it, and I love sitting down here to work each morning. The natural sunlight flows in all day long (even when I took these pictures it was raining cats and dogs but the room is still bright and cheery without any lights on) and it's my very own little space.

Here's a little bit more of my home office.

The view from the kitchen doorway. If Nick is watching tv in the living room while I'm working into the night, I can just close the French doors you see on the right to have a bit more privacy.

Behind my desk sits this beautiful breakfront; it used to live in our old house on Claremont Road (the namesake for this blog), but when my mom sold that house and moved in with my stepdad, he already had a full dining room set. She saved her old dining room set for me (currently it's in her basement), and the breakfront lives with me now. The top portion holds wine glasses, my grandmother's China, books and design samples; the drawers on the bottom hold electronic cords, manuals, and discs of archived work. Over the years I've tucked tons of photos (mostly of friends' kids) into the panes on the glass so it doesn't look like such a formal piece. I look forward to having this in my future dining room someday. (To the right of the breakfront is the doorway to our kitchen.)

I think I bought this bookshelf for $12 in college when I was moving into a house to share with 3 other girls. It currently houses a mix of books that both Nick and I own, as well as a few photos of his grandfather and great uncle.

On top of the bookshelf sits this framed poster, one of the few things I bought when I went to Paris for a long weekend in 2001 during my study abroad trip to London. Les Années Pop was an amazing exhibit at the Musée D'orsay about pop culture.

My MacBook Pro now lives on the desk; I try not to get back in the habit of sitting on the couch with Mac on my lap.

Above my desk sits this cork board with some little things that I like... Operation NICE stickers from my friend Melissa, a letterpress Valentine from the lovely ladies at Orange Beautiful, a handout I got at a Johnny Cupcakes lecture, some sweet letterpress items from designer friends, our 2010 Valentine, a program from our wedding ceremony, a photo of my grandmother as a young woman, fun fortunes from fortune cookies, and old driver's licenses. (Yes, I'm weird and I like to keep my old driver's licenses. Am I the only one who does this??)

Next to the cork board is a Yellena print that my brother and sister-in-law gave to me for Christmas (left) and a screen print that I made in college... it's one of my favorite pieces.

I picked up some fun file folders from Target that sit to the left; in front of that, my Night Owl Paper Goods woodgrain desk calendar and inMotion speaker for listening to ma' tunes all day long. A few photos and other fun trinkets spruce up the windowsill.

Since the desk is juuuuust short of being wide enough to sit on top of our radiator, the desk actually sits about a foot out from the wall. I rigged up some risers that sit on top of the radiator so my printer and little shelf that holds copy paper don't take up valuable real estate on my actual desk, but they're also not melting away on top of the radiator (which doesn't ever actually get warm enough that it would melt anything, but I'm paranoid like that). My printer is a little HP printer/copier combo that was free with my MacBook Pro 2.5 years ago; I don't use it for printing jobs since I outsource most of my printing, but it's a great little printer and copier for day-to-day needs.

Overall, the space makes me super happy, and it didn't cost much money at all to spruce up; so far, working from home has been a great experience and I have never felt happier. Plus, on days that I don't have to go anywhere, it's pretty nice to work in PJs and slippers :)

What does your home office look like? Do you actually use it?

PS, that cool flip-clock screen saver can be downloaded here — just click the floppy disc image on the left and it will guide you to downloading!

home office mini-makeover, part one (and an update)

Last month I mentioned that I bought myself a purrrty new desk chair and I promised a peek into my home office mini-makeover.

What I haven't mentioned is that I was intent on creating a cozy home workspace because starting February 1, I became self-employed! Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have caught wind of this, and I haven't made a big announcement yet here on Claremont Road because I'm still sort of getting settled into my new role. I have some cool projects up my sleeve that I'll be sure to fill you in on in due time, but for now, I thought I'd let you in on the office mini-makeover.

Our apartment is set up with this weird little half-room in between our living room and kitchen. It houses our washer-dryer unit (which I have hidden behind a curtain), and it could serve as a small dining room if we wanted, but that idea never really appealed to us. We have a bistro table in a corner of our living room where we eat dinner together, and that's plenty for us. At one point, I had a small sofa in the half-room, making it a little reading nook, but I think I sat there maybe once. For the last several years the half-room has housed this great desk that my sister-in-law gave me when she no longer needed it, but it has always turned into the place where we piled all of the junk that had no home. I never sat down at the desk to work on my laptop — I always ended up working on the couch, and the desk remained the catchall for crap.

Obligatory before shots:

Ugly flowery pattern curtain and desk (I cleaned it off for this photo, mwaa haa haaaa), as seen through the French doors separating this room and the living room

Curtain opened to reveal washer/dryer on the right and a baker's rack piled high with stuff on the left... this space is a godsend since we only have two tiny bedroom closets, a small kitchen and very little storage space elsewhere

With my new role as self-employed designer extraordinaire, I knew that I needed a cozy workspace that was just mine — something that would help me to stay organized and productive. Part one of this was removing the so-not-my-taste-anymore (and not wide enough) curtains that my mom quickly fashioned for me out of cheapo clearance fabric when I first moved in here 5.5 years ago. I was 24 and cheap, and thought it would do the trick. The sagging curtain rod was so pathetic, but I just never wanted to put money into changing it.

I finally had enough last month and Nick and I headed to Ikea, where we purchased the following:

two pairs of Lenda curtains, light beige, 98" long - $14.99 per pair
Dignitet curtain wire - $14.99
three packs of Dignitet curtain rings with clips - $4.99 per pack
a box of Fixa screws/plugs - $3.99
Grand total: $63.93

Nick got to work as soon as we got home (he's a saint) so I could breathe a little easier. The final result with the new curtain:

Ahhhh... much better, no?

Stay tuned for part two to see the full makeover, complete with my new chair and an organized workspace!

February 22, 2010


... is cheerful, bright tights on clearance for $1.98 per pair. Well, thank you, JCPenney — I guess I can handle winter for a few more weeks, after all.

I always hate when the stores start stocking spring clothes so early — it's always just about the time when I'm desperate for a few new sweaters to get me through the last dreary month or so of winter. But it is nice when premature spring clothes equals fabulous winter clearance bargains for moi! Have you found any good ones recently?

Monday music, vol. 4: Glad All Over

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you to begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

Nothing starts the week off right quite like synchronized swaying. (Wait for the chorus.)

Buy this song here.

February 19, 2010

you may have heard that it snowed.

I haven't mentioned anything about the obscene amount of snow we got here in the Philadelphia area over the last few weeks, because I, for one, was sick and tired of hearing about it all. day. long. on the news. The local affiliates know people are stuck inside for days at a time — must they disrupt all the normal programming to tell us "it's still snowing!" for three days straight?

We get it. Fluffy white stuff! It turns to ice! Stay off the roads! There's a guy walking to the store to buy ginger ale for his pregnant wife! How nice of him! And look at this dummy spinning his tires!

... Now let me watch Ellen before I kick somebody's ass!

I get a little bitter around this time of year, if you haven't noticed....

While I'm pretty much done with winter, I couldn't resist sharing this with you. We live above a row of shops and restaurants; the store that is one over from the one directly below us has this lovely drain spout... er, ice sculpture.

It is finally starting to melt a leeeeetle now that the temperature is in the 40s this week (thank goodness), but it's still a pretty hilarious sight.

Spring, are you coming soon? I miss you. Love, Brooke.

February 18, 2010

laundry day, the claremont way

Last night, I was doing a few loads of laundry. I washed one load, put it in the dryer, and then got started on a second load in the washer. As I always do, I put the detergent in first and started running the water to dilute the detergent before adding clothes.

While the washer/dryer was running, I did some work. And then the washer buzzed to let me know that its cycle was done. So I opened it up...

And it was empty.

I never put the clothes in.


February 17, 2010

hi-fi weddings

Have you heard of Hi-Fi Weddings? Why someone hasn't created a blog like this sooner, I'll never know, because it is simply brilliant. It's all about personalizing the playlist for your wedding day, and it's chock-full of fantastic recommendations. From Ashley, the author:
Here at Hi-Fi Weddings, we understand the importance of music at your wedding. From the song that you walk down the aisle to, until the very last dance we invite you to share your wedding playlist…or to gather ideas from other like-minded brides and grooms. And while we love music of all sounds and notes, we’d like to focus on those that want their wedding mix to be less "Top 40" and more of music that is true to the soul.
A resource like this would have been amazing to have when planning our 2008 wedding, though I am still proud of the playlist we were able to pull together. Ashley recently read about our wedding day playlist over at Weddingbee, and she asked if she could feature it on her blog. Check out the lovely post she put together!

February 16, 2010

le poeme

One of my biggest hurdles in decorating our space is having the ability to objectively decide if I like something or not. Sometimes, an item will catch my eye, but I can't figure out if it's because it's pretty, or because it's ugly (or simply weird). I see items in other people's homes and I think, what a cool piece — I never would have thought to buy something like that for this room. But then when it comes time to find my own home accents, I lose any confidence in my ability to choose something that will add quirky charm, instead fearing that it will just be cheesy and ugly. It's like I'm trying too hard to look like I'm not trying too hard ;-)

A prime example: I saw this rug on Thrifty Decor Chick the other day, and I still haven't quite figured out the answer to the question she posed — love it, or hate it?

Ignoring the fact that it's a rug, I do think it's particularly romantic and sweet because it's in French and it looks handwritten. Part of me thinks it would be a really great statement piece in an airy room with very simple decor... but the other part of me thinks it could turn into too much very easily.

What do you think? (By the way, we certainly have no room for something like this in our apartment, so this is strictly a hypothetical question :-)

February 15, 2010

Monday music, vol. 3: Faith

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you to begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

Go ahead and shake your booty. You know you want to. George wants you to.

Buy this song here.

February 12, 2010

feel the love

Happy (almost) Valentine's day! Now that our Valentines have hopefully arrived in the mailboxes of our friends and family, I can share them with you.

I'm normally not a pink-and-gold kind of girl, but for some reason, I was really feeling a Marie Antoinette-esque color scheme for this design. After all, it's happy and lovey and Valentiney, right? Plus, I'm not gonna lie — I do enjoy the metallic ink when it comes to Gocco projects. It's sparklyyy.

I chose to design our card around a quote from Vincent van Gogh, one of my favorite impressionists. Using Blossom cover stock and A6 envelopes from Paper Source, I screen printed the design with my Gocco and gold ink.

See? Sparkly!

Sending Valentines may become my new tradition — it's not like Christmastime, when everyone expects several holiday cards in their mailboxes each day, so I've loved the genuine surprise and delight that our friends and family members have displayed after receiving our Valentine's Day cards.

Happy Valentine's Day, all! Enjoy the weekend with someone you love.

February 11, 2010

rocky road crispy bars

We hung out with my cousins on Superbowl Sunday, and I decided to contribute a tasty dessert to the already fat-filled spread (because it just wouldn't be Superbowl Sunday without lots of unhealthy food). My cousin's fiancée cannot have gluten, so I wanted to make something that she could eat. I found this recipe for rocky road crispy bars and decided it sounded too good to not try!

These were extremely easy to make, and SO super duper tasty! We just polished off the last of them tonight (I have eaten an obscene quantity in the last few days... I'm not proud). If you like peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallows and rice krispies, I'm pretty sure you won't hate these.

Here's the disclaimer, though — despite the recipe saying "gluten free," I found out after I made them that Rice Krispies are not actually gluten free. They contain malt, which is derived from barley, which is a no-go in a gluten free diet :-( However, there are brands of rice crisps out there that are gluten free, so if you switched them out in the recipe, you'd be good to go! (And in case you're wondering, my cousin's fiancée decided to take the chance and had no side-effects, but I do not recommend trying this if you can't have gluten!)


  1. 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
  2. 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  3. 3 tablespoons sugar
  4. 2 1/4 cups Rice Krispies
  5. 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  6. 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  7. 1/4 cup sugar
  8. 1/4 cup butter
  9. 2 cups Rice Krispies
  10. 1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
  11. 1/2 cup chopped peanuts


  1. Cook 1st three ingredients in saucepan until peanut butter is melted, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in the 2 1/4 cups rice krispies. Spread in baking dish (9x13 size is good, or Tupperware cold cut keeper).
  3. Cook chocolate chips, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup sugar, and butter over low heat, til butter is melted (stir constantly).
  4. Stir in 2 cups cereal and marshmallows.
  5. Spread over 1st layer.
  6. Sprinkle with nuts. Cool.
Recipe found on RecipeZaar

February 10, 2010

retro pretties

I always used to dream of my future kitchen having a colorful, retro vibe, like an old-fashioned soda shop. I'm not so sure that's a realistic vision anymore, but boy oh boy, one of these Smeg refrigerators would be the perfectly retro addition to my awesome imaginary kitchen (yet, hopefully with the reliability of something a bit newer).

first image via Design Mom; second image via Casa Sugar

February 9, 2010

sentimental clutter

I am, without a doubt, a hoarder of sentimental clutter (but I promise, not a hoarder in the sense of the tv show.... *shudders*). This post on Unclutterer really resonates with me and reminds me of why keeping everything may actually be doing more harm than good.
Sentimental clutter plagues our attics, basements, closets, garages, and desks. These sentimental trinkets can keep us from moving forward with our lives physically and emotionally. If there is so much of the past taking up space in the present, there isn’t room to grow.
Photo of me as a kid on a field trip. Photos NEVER get thrown out, in my book, even the bad ones... although, maybe burning those fat-faced photos of me from college wouldn't be such a bad idea. Hmmm...

Apparently, even Lindsay Lohan has recently figured out that the clutter in her life is suffocating her. Li-Lo, when you donate all of your old stuff, maybe you'll find the cute little Lindsay from The Parent Trap era. Bring her back, please.

How do you decide what stays and what goes in terms of sentimental clutter?

February 8, 2010

do you believe in miracles?

I am very excited for the Olympics this year. Although I've never been much of an athlete myself, I have always been drawn to sports stories of overcoming the odds, sacrifice, and triumph; that's what the Olympics represent to me. While many great Olympians go on to collect millions of dollars in endorsement deals, there are no monetary guarantees (like in the world of professional NFL and NBA athletes) when they arrive in the Olympic village; those athletes are all there first and foremost for the love of their sport and their devotion to being the best.

My favorite Olympic moment is one that occurred a few months before I was even born, but it is beautifully reenacted in the movie Miracle. The story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team is so uplifting to watch, and it was undoubtedly uplifting to live through during a time of political uncertainty and tension. I know, I know — it's just another Disney feel-good story — but if you can say you didn't shed a tear during this film, I'd reckon to say that you're lying. I won't spoil the story for anyone who hasn't seen it, but if you haven't, do yourself a favor and rent it, pronto. Nick and I watch it at least once or twice a year, and neither of us can ever make it through with dry eyes.

What is your favorite Olympic moment? What sport are you most looking forward to watching during the Vancouver Olympics? (PS, don't forget to watch the opening ceremonies to look for my friend Kasia! She'll be the cute prego sporting her Vancouver pride!)

Monday music, vol. 2: I've Got the Music In Me

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you to begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

Did you know that Kiki Dee had hits other than "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Elton John? I didn't, until I heard this song on American Idol several years ago and had to look it up.

Buy this song here.

February 6, 2010

The Weight of Silence

Within ten minutes of waking up this morning, all of the power went off in our apartment, thanks to the crazy snow storm currently sweeping through the northeast. This, combined with having answered a question just last night about my reading habits (and feeling embarrassed at how little I read), was just the encouragement I needed to curl up with a book (and my Snuggie) for a few hours.

I had begun reading "The Weight of Silence" a month or two ago but I admittedly hadn't made much time to read lately. I finally finished the last 2/3 of the book today, and while the story kept me captivated, I am a tad disappointed that I figured out the twist about halfway through. (Although, maybe this should make me feel particularly smart.) Each chapter is told from a different point of view of one of the main characters, and I enjoyed the way this developed the story; I did not find the writing itself entirely interesting, though. There were certain chapters I rushed through just to find out what happened next, without being particularly sucked in by the writing itself.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5. I enjoyed the overall story, but the writing itself could have been less simplistic and better developed at times, in my opinion.

What are you currently reading, or what good books have you read lately that you'd recommend?

February 4, 2010

early art from my formative years

Ever since I've lived on my own, I've had the same piece of art hanging in my bathroom. It's a piece from 1985, and it's truly invaluable to me; I could never sell it. You see, I actually created the piece myself. I think it strongly represents the eye I have always had for fine art, and my early appreciation for the nude form. Don't you agree?

Yes, it's true — I started with nudes at the incredibly young age of 4 1/2. I was quite advanced for my age, if I do say so myself. This piece, aptly named "Mommy Getting Ready to Take a Shower," is approximately 8" x 10", Crayola on scrap paper. The detail is remarkable. Shall we have a closer look?

I was too young to sign it, so "Mommy" herself labeled it for me.

Now if you'll excuse me.... the MoMA is calling.

February 3, 2010

attention New York brides!

If you're getting married in the NYC area between August 1st and December 15th, you could win FREE event design services from Inspired Goodness! Not only is the IG owner, Kimberly, an amazingly talented event designer, she is also my wonderful sister-in-law. Believe me — you do not want to miss the opportunity to work with her. She's fabulous!

Just go to this blog post and in the comments, share the story of what makes you and your love such a unique couple. Hurry — the contest ends Friday, February 12th at midnight!

Brent Couchman is my hero

I've mentioned about 72 times on this blog that I am a superfan of Fossil. I love their branding, their packaging, their clothing, and their accessories. Brent Couchman is one of the über talented fellows behind Fossil's branding design... and I think it's safe to say that I love him.

In addition to designing for Fossil, check out some of his other beautiful works of art.

It strikes me that no two images are totally alike, yet his very defined style and knack for color is clearly apparent in every piece. I aspire to someday produce work this refined and wonderful.

all images via brentcouchman.com and Brent's Flickr