Friday, May 29, 2015

My Outdoor Space Transformation

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Pier 1 Imports via Mode Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Pier 1 Imports.
The oh-so-sad "before" shot of our outdoor space.

When we first looked at our house, one of the features we fell in love with was the large terrace off of the master bedroom. It was a blank slate and I imagined doing so many things with the space. But in the nearly two years that we've lived here now, I've done...none of them.

So, sadly, we have spent barely any time out there. There has been furniture out there, sure, but it's old and dingy (leftover from our last apartment) and completely uninviting. As you can see from the photo above, we didn't even bother to set it up properly--cushions were strewn everywhere. It was a mess.

I've been wanting to fix it up since we moved in, but the project kept getting pushed. And now that we're embarking on a redesign of much of our home, I just really didn't feel like spending the money for an entirely new set of outdoor furniture.

So I was incredibly excited when Pier 1 Imports invited me to collaborate on a "freshening up" of the space. My two main goals: 1) Make the space--and my existing furniture--look and feel bright and inviting with new, fun accents. And 2) Set it up so that it was conducive to both entertaining and relaxing. (I was keeping the chairs, but ideally, really wanted to add something that would allow me to lay down sometimes!)

Inspired by my past trips to the Greek Islands--a place that always elicits a feeling of relaxation and escape for me--I decided to go with a "Mediterranean Blues" theme. I love Greece for so many reasons, and wanted the space to kind of bring me back to that relaxing, beautiful place.

And, it is!

...The "After" shot! Cobalt pillows, Mediterranean Tile pillows, garden stool, beverage tub and stand, large rope lantern, medium rope lantern, Mason jar rope lanterns, serving bowl, outdoor LED candles. All by Pier 1 Imports.

Hammock stand, hammock, cobalt pillows, Mediterranean Tile pillows, garden stool, rope lantern. All by Pier 1 Imports.

Pillows were really the main game changer here. I went for a mix of solid cobalt with jute trim and a fun Mediterranean-tile inspired print, and I couldn't believe how quickly they transformed the space. Furniture that had looked tired and blah just seconds before, suddenly had new life. (I am kicking myself for not buying new pillows until now!) 

I have been wanting a garden stool or two forever, and I love these metallic gold ones. They look really cool and really elevate the space visually, but they're also incredibly useful. I'll use them as side tables most of the time, but when we're entertaining, they will work nicely as extra seating.

And I'm SO excited about this beverage tub! I love the burnished copper-y finish and the included stand--it's going to be amazing as an ice bucket/drink server for parties. On more low-key days, it's great for holding a pretty bunch of flowers or even rolled up beach towels.

I love having candles burning outside at night, so I went a little nuts in that department! I love the rope-wrapped lanterns, and especially love that those are faux candles inside (powered by LEDs--you just switch them on and off), so they're totally kid friendly.

But perhaps the most exciting thing: the hammock!! I never dreamed we'd have one--I thought you needed, you know, trees. But Pier 1 had this great metal hammock stand to hold it up and it works anywhere. My kids are obsessed with swinging in it and I'm obsessed with just laying there. With a glass of wine.

I also got a ton of entertaining accessories to go along with the Mediterranean theme, which you will be seeing more of soon in an upcoming post. Stay tuned! (That great serving bowl on the table is just one of the pieces I bought. It's actually melamine, so it's totally durable and my kids can't destroy it! It will be used as a centerpiece when I'm not entertaining.)

My next purchase is going to be an outdoor rug (I have my eye on this one!), but for now, I'm so happy with the way it turned out. What do you guys think? And are you planning on doing any outdoor-space decorating this summer? Would love to hear about it!
Find what speaks to you. See our Outdoor Living collection in stores or at

From Thursday, 5/28 – Sunday, 5/31, ALL OUTDOOR FURNITURE WILL BE ON SALE, 20% - 50% OFF!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

{Giveaway!} Win The New Cupcakes & Cashmere Book

Like zillions of you, I'm sure, I am a huge, longtime fan of the blog, Cupcakes & Cashmere. I always love Emily's recommendations and advice--and she is such an inspiration as a blogger and entrepreneur. 

I already own her first book, and when I heard she was coming out with a second (Cupcakes & Cashmere At Home), I preordered it immediately. I have always loved Emily's decorating style and entertaining tips, so I was super excited about a book dedicated to just these topics.

Well, it finally just arrived the other day, and when I ripped open the box this morning, I was surprised to see...two copies of it. (I mean, I adore Cupcakes & Cashmere, but not in a buy-multiple-copies-of-the-book way!)

I quickly checked my Amazon account to see if I had ordered two copies, but nope--just the one. Guess the Amazon box packer was just feeling extra generous (or extra lazy?) that day. Either way, I feel like it's the universe telling me that I need a giveaway!

So, if you'd like to win a copy of the book, I'd love to give it to you! And to make it uniquely The Sparkly Life-ish, I'll also throw in a fun beauty surprise for the winner. Woo hoo!

To enter, please "Like" my newly launched Facebook page for The Sparkly Life AND leave a comment on this Facebook post about the giveaway. (Please note: You must do BOTH of those things to qualify!) For an extra entry, you can leave a comment below, too!

The giveaway will close in one week, on Thursday June 4th at 8pm EST. (And sorry, the giveaway is only open to those with addresses in the U.S.)

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Would You Paint Your Bedroom Walls This Dark?

From top: Pinterest, Architectural Digest, Rue Daily, Life In Grace, Classic Chic Home, Lonny, SF Girl By The Bay

As I mentioned recently, I'm in the middle of redecorating my home right now. I'm working with designer Bailey McCarthy and we're currently overhauling the living room, dining room, master bedroom, sitting room, and--just added--our entryway.

Bailey was actually in town this past week, so she came by and we looked at paint samples. We chose the living room color no problem, but I can't quite decide about the bedroom/sitting room. (They're adjoining so they'll be pained the same color.)

Bailey's original design for the room called for black walls, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around that. We then settled on charcoal, but now that the samples are on the walls, I can't decide whether to go that dark (it would be Farrow & Ball's Down Pipe, which is the color in the photo at the top left of this post)--or a softer, more-medium gray (F&B's Plummett).

I mean, I love the way dark charcoal walls look in a bedroom. It's just so cool! But I'm just not sure whether I would get sick of them--or feel like I'm living in a cave. (Plus, am I really cool enough for charcoal walls? Probably not.) 

Also here's something to think about: We are doing the curtains--and other accents in the room--in a pink, gray, and white floral fabric that could run the risk of looking a little granny if you're not careful. (And that is NOT what we want!) Charcoal walls would help in that sense--keeping the look more edgy/cool, less grandma. 

So the charcoal could be awesome, but it's dark, of course, and it's a major change (our walls are a light sky blue right now), so I'm nervous. The medium gray would certainly be the safer, easier choice. But part of me thinks, if I'm going to do gray walls, shouldn't I just do. gray. walls? 

But do I dare? What do you guys think? Could you do dark charcoal walls in your bedroom? Or have you? Talk to me!

Friday, May 15, 2015

17 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

Springtime walk to school, beloved white Birks, and my sweet little mini 

Allergies, man. I don't normally get them unless things are really, really bad, but I have them now. Big-time. Thank god I'm working from home today, because I'm going to slather my red, raw face with this awesome thing and park myself indoors as much as possible while it does its magic.

Tonight I have a fun dinner--followed by margaritas!--with some local mom friends. Then, this weekend, I've set aside a big chunk of time for some major decluttering that needs to get done. Pray for me!

Here's a few fun links to check out when you have a moment. Enjoy--and have a great weekend!

• I've wanted a Mara Hoffman dress for-EVER, but I haven't been able to decide which one to get. Then I saw this one yesterday and ordered it immediately. I love, love, love the colors and the cutouts, which are a little sexy without showing...really anything. Can't wait until it arrives!

• I lived in these white Birkenstocks last summer, and I'm definitely planning on making good use of them this summer, too. But I also want to add a new pair to the mix. I've had my eyes on the gold Birks at J.Crew for weeks now. I was about to pull the trigger, but then found them here for $40 less! They also have them in this cool coppery color, too.

• This week's post on my friend Nadine keeping her baby a secret for six months is already one of my all-time most popular posts! If you loved it, you must check out Nadine's post on her blog with side by side photos that show how she sneakily (and expertly!) concealed her pregnancy on social media.

• And OMG! The secret-pregnancy post JUST got picked up by Refinery 29! It's used as the catalyst for a very interesting piece on honesty in social media. Thoughts?

• This New York Times expose of the horrifying conditions in nail salons was a major topic of conversation last week for me and my beauty-industry friends. So I was very interested in this behind-the-scenes chat with the editor of the piece where he talks about how and why it went viral.

• The video of the horribly racist Georgia principal being horribly racist at a graduation ceremony is a must-watch if you haven't seen it already. And I found Kristen's thoughtful explanation of the racism displayed to be fascinating (especially the concept of "ascribing" versus "describing"). it!

• So, according to this name generator, in 1910, my name would have been Melvina. But get this: If I was born in 1940, it says my name would have been MADONNA. #missedopportunity

• These 25 gorgeous long bobs will make you want to schedule a hair appointment--stat.

• Loved this piece with ten (really great, really easy) ways to enjoy--and bond with--your child today. I'm definitely trying some of these.

• These photos of a mother and the surrogate carrying her child are powerful and wonderful. I cried.

• I don't know what was up with me this week, but this video made me cry, too. The reactions are awesome. (BTW, is it normal to have this many people visit you in the hospital?!? I think I had three people visit me--two of which were my parents!)

• The 35 best things to happen in yearbooks.

• Considering I can't even watch commercials for scary movies without getting freaked out, there is not enough money in the world to get me to play this CRAZY-REALISTIC horror game.

• Got any old pool noodles lying around? Then you should totally make these DIY campfire logs. So creative and cute!

And in case you missed it, this week I...

• Highlighted my favorite fashion, home, and beauty finds--for both grownups and kids.

• Shared ten great books to add to your summer beach-read list.

• Published a little piece about a secret baby... ;)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Why I Kept My Baby A Secret Until She Was Six Months Old"

The post-birth shot that Instagram wouldn't see for months.
nadine courtney erik courtney aurelia
Nadine, baby Aurelia, and husband Erik

That hair though!
Okay, okay--I apologize for the click-bait-y title, but as you'll soon see: It totally describes the situation of the woman you're about to meet. 

So, think back for a second. Remember when you were pregnant and you couldn't wait to share the big news on Facebook somewhere around your 12-week mark? Remember all those bump shots and baby shower photos you Instagrammed? Then, remember when you actually had the baby? You posted that first Facebook image in record time, I bet. 

Now imagine you couldn't do any of that. 

In fact, imagine that you were contractually obligated to keep your pregnancy a secret online. But that's not all. Imagine that, once your baby was born, you still had to stay quiet about her for six. whole. months.

Sounds crazy, I know, but that's what the last year plus has been like for Nadine Courtney. Nadine is a successful beauty and travel blogger, an author, and one of the stars of season two of the Bravo reality show Newlyweds, which aired its finale last night. (She's also a former magazine beauty editor, which is how we know each other.) And perhaps, most importantly, Nadine is a mom, but unless you are close with her in real life, you didn't know that until last week's show aired.

You see, Nadine filmed the show from November 2013 until just after her daughter Aurelia was born in November 2014. But, Bravo needed to preserve some drama for the show, of course. So, she had to stay mum about her daughter until the relevant events aired. That means, blog readers, social media followers, and even less-close real-life acquaintances (*raises hand*) basically found out she had become a mom...six months after she had become one.

It's such a weird, incredibly unique situation, particularly in the light of our hyperactive social media world, which Nadine is usually very much a part of.

And considering I was personally on the opposite end of the spectrum--basically live-tweeting my son's birth and posting a pic of him minutes after he came into the world--I found this whole situation truly fascinating. I mean, can you imagine? Can you imagine being a mom--a first-time mom, at that--and keeping the baby quiet? I really can't. So, I asked Nadine to share with us a little about what it was like...

So, I'm dying to know: What went through your head when you found out you were pregnant and weren't going to be able to share anything about it for a long, long time? 
"It’s hard to remember exactly what went through my head because I was suffering from MASSIVE pregnancy brain. But I remember being insanely disappointed once I did the math and realized that not only would I have to keep my pregnancy secret, but I’d need to keep the baby quiet for several months after she came, too. Mainly, I was worried. I’ve made a career out of being open and honest, and here I am being secretive and dishonest about the biggest thing in my life. I was afraid that my readers wouldn’t understand, and I was also worried—justifiably so—about losing readership because I wasn’t posting as much. When I was pregnant, it was all I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t. Beauty blogging was losing its allure after 10 years, and while I’ve been doing much more travel blogging the past few years, I certainly wasn’t doing that much travel itself last year! I was able to keep feeding the beast, but I think readers could sense that my heart wasn’t in it. And then after Aurelia was born, I couldn’t explain why I was suddenly barely posting at all. I sold my third book while I was 8 months pregnant, and had to keep that secret for a while, too. Once I could finally announce the book deal, I was able to use that as an excuse for not posting as much—but I barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone settle in at my computer to write. As a blogger, it was a really stressful, frustrating time."

I know your contract with the show required that you not talk about details of your life on social media. But did you have to keep things quiet in real life at all, too? 
"Of course, it would have been impossible to keep the secret online and in real life! But when we found out I was pregnant, I was bummed to realize that I wouldn’t be able to blog about it. I’m such a massive oversharer and my readers feel like my family. All of my family and friends knew, although there were some acquaintances I hadn’t spoken with in a while. They had their socks knocked off when they found out on Facebook!"

During your pregnancy, what were some of the hardest moments not to share? 
"I wanted to blog about the pressures that are put on women to be perfect. You’re supposed to have this perfect pregnancy, this perfect delivery, and then be the perfect mother. It frustrated me and pissed me off, and I wanted to write about it--to share my own (very imperfect!) experiences and fears, and find people to relate to and connect with. But, of course, I couldn’t. I wrote some of it down in a journal but now that Aurelia is here, I’m excited to focus on the present and the future—I tend to focus on what’s going on in my life at the moment, and pregnancy isn’t at the top of my radar anymore!"

Since you couldn't share those moments online, what was your outlet? 
"I spent about 99 percent of my pregnancy trolling the message boards on! I wanted to see what other women were going through, and what I might be able to expect (so that I could start worrying and fretting about it, naturally)! I also filmed a lot of my fears for Newlyweds using the video camera provided to us, called the 'Couple Cam.' I poured my heart and soul into those videos, figuring that if I couldn’t blog it, at least I could try to share it in one form or another. Those are all the videos of me crying you saw during the show!"

Was it tough not to be able to post a photo of your daughter right after she was born? 
"It was so tough! I was really cheesy about it, though. October 27th was my due date, but of course my readers couldn’t know that. I was in the process of doing a big blog revamp, and so I decided to push it all live on October 27th. It felt very symbolic to me, and my way of letting the world know that I was birthing SOMETHING that day!"

And then of course, those first few months of a baby's life are usually Instagram gold! How hard was it not to share those moments/cute outfit pics? 
"At the very end of the pregnancy, when I was dying to share, I created a private Instagram account and invited my family members. That’s where I was able to post photos of Aurelia’s birth and the first few months of her life. But now that she’s public, I can finally post her photos on my real Instagram. Hooray! I’ve already been cheating and reposting some of the old pictures, now that I can finally post photos of my bump."

Did you ever slip and accidentally mention the pregnancy or baby on social media? 
"Twitter got me once! I was DM'ing with my cousin about the baby, and her reply came through to my text messages. I hit 'reply' without thinking and said something about the baby, which turned it from a DM to a public tweet. Of course, I realized .5 seconds later and deleted the tweet. Only one person said anything about it, luckily. And then, at the very end of my pregnancy, a blogger friend messaged me on Facebook asking if I was pregnant. I tried to hide my pregnant belly in photos, going so far as to hide behind people in group shots, but a mutual friend had posted and tagged me in a picture. I untagged myself and the friend took it down. Phew!"

After I had my daughter, one of the biggest things for me was joining local mom groups, which forced me to get out of the house, get dressed, and meet new people. Were you able to do things like that even though everything had to be on the DL? 
"Yes! I joined a very popular LA mom group, Babygroup, and I fell in love with my fellow moms. We all text and email each other daily, see each other in class once a week, and organize side lunches, park meet-ups, and baby-free drinks regularly. It’s been a lifeline for me. I was nervous to say anything about the show for the first few classes. (It wasn’t on the air yet, though it was just about to debut.) Then we had one really great class a few weeks in where everybody let their guards down and cried about the various issues they were going through. I shared that I felt very alone and isolated because of the show and the requirement to keep my baby secret, and also talked about my struggles with breastfeeding and postpartum depression and how overwhelmed and sleep deprived I felt after becoming a mother. It was a turning point for me in feeling like I could trust everybody and was the day we really bonded as a group."

After last week's episode aired, were a lot of people surprised to see that you had already had your baby? I mean, I was surprised! I think I kind of assumed that the show had been filmed more recently and that you were still pregnant! D'oh. 
"A lot of people were surprised! The word obviously trickled out through friends of friends, and so a lot more people knew than I had told. But everybody did a tremendous job of wanting to help me keep the secret, which tickles me pink and was so sweet. Lots of friends and acquaintances posted that they were thrilled it was finally public knowledge because they’d been dying to talk about it, which I thought was adorable. Most of my readers and people who had only seen me on the show thought it was all filmed more recently, though, and so definitely assumed I was still pregnant! I love a good reveal (and am usually terrible at keeping secrets), so the day we were able to announce it on Facebook was SO EXCITING. I fantasized about that one in advance for months! (Is that narcissistic to admit? Oh, well. There you go.)"

If you hadn't had the show, and had just had a typical pregnancy, how do you think things would have been different? 
"I am such an oversharer--it would have been catastrophic! I’d be blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming, YouTubing the birth, Periscoping from the delivery room--you name it! It’s probably good that I had to keep it quiet. I was able to have a really unique experience in our social media age—made even more unique by the fact that I’m the last person you’d expect to keep mum and not share online."

Did you learn anything from the experience of having to keep your baby on the DL? 
"In retrospect, it was really nice to close the door, so to speak, and have things be private. We needed a palate cleanser and some time to be 'off.' We’d just gone through this experience where we opened our house and minds and hearts and souls to the TV cameras and invited people into our lives to share our most intimate moments and thoughts. Closing up shop and having six months afterwards to be quiet, to reflect, and to spend time bonding for the sake of bonding (not for a reflective blog post, or a pithy tweet, or an adorable Instagram photo) was a huge gift. It was a reminder that sharing is fun, but occasionally keeping things private just for your family is even more awesome. It’s during those quiet first six months that I got my footing as a mother and truly fell in love with my daughter." 

When it comes time for baby #2, could do the secret thing again? 
"No more secrets! I’m done forever!"

So, can you see why I found this story fascinating?? What do you think? Could you keep totally quiet on social media about your entire pregnancy--and your baby? What do you think would be the toughest part?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wish List: Flamingo Everything

It started with this flamingo cake topper. I came across it awhile ago, and ever since, can't stop planning a flamingo birthday party in my head. Then, all that that cute new Kate Spade flamingo stuff started happening this season and I was all in. 

Flamingos are having a serious moment right now and I'm obsessed. 

Love them for me (as sandals! a sweatshirt! an adorable wallet!). Love them for the home (as a lucite tray! framed art! ice cube trays!). And of course, for kids. There is so much beyond-cute flamingo stuff right now for little girls. Everything above is on my list right now, but I'm especially smitten with that '50s-style sundress, this tee shirt, and Flora the Flamingo, an award-winning book I've been meaning to buy forever.

So, what are your thoughts on the flamingo trend? Hell yeah? No way? Talk to me.


Friday, May 8, 2015

This Mother's Day? Leave Me Alone.

photo by Raquel Bianca

I was chatting with my friend Didi at a work event yesterday, when someone asked what we were doing for Mother's Day. Didi, who is the mom of two tweens, wasted no time answering:"I just want a few hours to lock myself in a room alone and watch the Kurt Cobain documentary." The twenty-something PR girls who were standing there looked vaguely horrified, but I totally got it.

If Mother's Day is for mothers to do exactly what we want, then let me tell you exactly what we want: We want to be alone.

And if it's you now who is vaguely horrified, here's a disclaimer for all the non-moms in the room: Wanting to be alone now and then does not mean you do not love your children. I love my children. You love your children. And we love being moms. But it's also okay to love being by yourself for a few hours every once in awhile.

One of the biggest lessons you have to learn when you become a parent is that you are never, ever alone. At first it's a matter of life or death (that baby isn't going to breastfeed itself!), and later it's more a matter of always being wanted. Someone is always hungry. Someone is always bored. Someone always needs to get dressed or have their butt wiped or find one particular Barbie shoe. And that someone always needs you to handle it.

This is mostly a wonderful thing (remember when your college boyfriend dumped you and you worried that you were going to be alone forever? Congrats! Not gonna happen now. One thing I can guarantee is that once you become a mom, you will never be truly alone again). But constant companionship can also be tough. Sometimes you miss having no plans, lying around doing nothing, or wandering aimlessly without a stroller in tow. There's peace in being alone.

So this Mother's Day, I hope you receive the most luxurious gift possible. It's a gift that can't be bought at Marc, Louis, or Louboutin (or, let's be real, last-minute at CVS), but it's still priceless. The biggest luxury for a mom is time. Alone

And I hope you get some. 

So, tell me: If you're lucky enough to get a few hours alone, how would you spend them? I'd love to hear!

P.S.: Here's what I was thinking last Mother's Day. (Um, can you sense a theme here?)