P’s 1st birthday is coming up soon and I’ve been scouring the web for ideas. If you want to throw the perfect baby shower/birthday party/garden get together and not sure where to begin, I’ve recently found some darling sites to help you get started.

The Sweetest Occasion has tips and tricks for every event – from throwing an elegant backyard baby shower to a little inspiration for that special birthday party.  I love their beautiful photos, ideas for decorating and especially the unique ways to set a gorgeous table.  There are also wedding celebrations from Spring to Fall, and inspiration boards to show how to put together an event based on color.

(photos courtesy of the Sweetest Occasion)

There are so many cool sites with great ideas for weddings that I wish had been around when we were getting married (and it’s only been 6 years!).  I love these tea light lanterns from Project Wedding and could see making these for a semi-formal sit down dinner on the patio or, of course, a wedding.  Love the step-by-step instruction and supply list.  A lot easier than it looks!

(photos courtesy of Project Wedding)

Hostess with the Mostess has good articles on entertaining essentials – from table setting tips to planning a memorable kids birthday party – as well as photos by theme for different events.  I like the “fabulous finds” section that help you find invitations and everything for your table to recipes (from cocktails to appetizers).

(photos courtesy of Hostess with the Mostess)

Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night so I’m off to bed with a new book.  Good night!


Feelin’ Orange

It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco today and after driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, I was thinking about how this is absolutely my favorite time of year.  I love fall – the changing leaves, the sunny days and cool temps, and of course, Halloween.  This might inspire me to put together a color based photo project.

(photos courtesy of various Flickr artists)

DIY: Clothespin photo display

It’s a 95 degree Saturday and Mr. P and I are playing with boxes on the floor.  I’m contemplating creating a clothespin photo display over his crib.  I love the look of these and found some examples on Flickr.   I like the idea of mixing in handwritten notes, cards, and old photos.

(photo courtesy of SFitGirlbyBay)

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

I was talking to a friend’s mother recently and we were saying how the handwritten thank you note has become something of the past (with the invention of email) and how the art and importance of good penmanship is no longer taught.  I cringe when I think of how young people’s short hand text has become the norm for communicating. “IMHO U Suck!”

For those who know me well, I still send handwritten notes (who doesn’t like to receive mail, right?) and wanted to share some of my favorite personalized papers, books and sites to help you share your thoughts and gratitude.

Apparently Jackie O wrote a hand-written thank you immediately after any event or luncheon she attended.  My rule is I try to get my notes out as quickly as possible.   If you’re not sure how to get started, “the Art of the Handwritten Note” by Margaret Shepard helps you to express who you are on paper and shares the basics for writing any type of note.  The book is available for $10.88 from

(image courtesy of

Regardless of whether you’re male or female, everyone should have personalized stationery (people will take notice if you’re sending a handwritten thank you vs. an email to a prospective boss after an interview).  Something simple in design can have a big impact.   William Arthur has this classic & elegant stationery that starts at $133 for 25 cards.  I can picture these on Don Draper’s desk.

(photo courtesy of William Arthur)

I think the calling card is a darling idea.  I’ve seen a lot of kid’s motifs on calling cards for play dates but think having your own is refreshing.  It beats having to dig through your bag for a crumbled piece of paper and pen.  It’ll make an impression (and is definitely more interesting than a boring business card).  One of my favorite stationers, Preppy Cards, makes the one below. (Set of 50 cards starts at $65).

(photo courtesy of Preppy Cards)

I am in looove with Felix Doolittle products and have my own stationery as well as stationery for P.  My neighbor always teases me that my 11 month old son has his own stationery, but hey, it’s great for thank you notes for gifts.  I especially love the small note cards because the the motifs are darling and something you don’t see every day. Felix also does wedding, baby, dinner party invitations, return address labels and much more.  His illustrations are pretty incredible and I can never decide which ones to order! And yes, Oprah is a fan.

(photo courtesy of Felix Doolittle)

If you really want to go all out and like beautiful, ornate letterpress, check out Wiley Valentine.  My best friend and I were “oohing” and “aahing” as we flipped through their sample book at our favorite stationery place.  The baby announcements were absolutely beautiful and their custom monograms are incredible.  I may just have to have a dressy dinner party just so I can send these out and wish I had seen Wiley when we were getting married.  I definitely would’ve blown my budget.  Luckily they just started a Studio Line if you want luxe without the hefty price tag.

(photos courtesy of Wiley Valentine)

If you’re short on time but still want to send a personalized thank you via email, my new favorite is  I received a baby shower invitation via Paperless Post and loved it.  You click on an envelope and your card opens to what looks like a piece of personalized stationery.  I love this site for sending quick thank yous to friends. And it’s a great site for save the dates and other invitations (I used it to get my family together for Easter).  They have fun designs and fonts that look like handwriting and a section where you can create your own monogram to add.  It’s fun to customize notes for each friend or family member.  You can try it for free and there’s also a subscription service (I think it’s $15-$25 a year?)

(photo courtesy of Paperless Post)

Iomoi Stationery is a Bay Area based stationer and has colorful designs that would go perfectly with your Tory Burch Revas.  Iomoi, along with their paper, has desk and home accessories as well as really cool custom canvas bags with your initials (if you don’t want to shell out the $$ for a custom LV purse).

(photos courtesy of Iomoi)

Lemme See Some I.D.

I am almost home from my fun trip to Cape Cod.  I’m going to miss the salty air, the sandy beaches, the shingled cottages and of course, the great friends I stayed with!

I was thinking about my favorite “id” jewelry as I spied a darling gold initial charm in a store in Chatham, MA.  Since Juicy Couture is selling handmade friendship bracelets for 50 bucks a pop (friendship bracelets are making a comeback), I thought it would be fun to make my own and add an initial charm to each (this is where my sister-in-laws would tease me as I love anything monogram.)

I wanted to share some of my favorite i.d. jewelry (I know a lot of moms love to wear their kid’s names or initials).  I have P’s name on an id bracelet and recently gave a close friend a necklace with her children’s initials.  They’re very sweet and I think anything personalized always make wonderful gifts for friends and family.

Nashelle jewelry is one of my favorite companies.  You can shop online and I’ve given bracelets and necklaces to friends with their birthstones that they’ve absolutely loved.  I have the i.d. bracelet with P’s name and a lucky clover charm (starts at $90.).  Their 14k gold fill gives it a casual look and is very affordable.  I like that the name necklace isn’t something you see every day either.  Very pretty worn with a white t-shirt and jeans or a little dressed up!

(photos courtesy of Nashelle jewelry)

I loved the casual/antique look of the whimsical frames necklace by Chantelle Nicole.  You rarely see square initials on necklaces and thought that was a cool take on this style of jewelry.  These would make great bridesmaid gifts or a mommy to be.  I think I might just have to buy the oval monogram necklace ($35) because again, it’s shape and layout is something you don’t see a lot of ladies wearing plus you can’t beat the price.

(photos courtesy of Chantelle Nicole)

I love the new “Edition” jewelry collection by Banana Republic.  You can find some of the line in select stores, but one of their only locations right now is at the Westfield shopping center in San Francisco.  They also carry a limited stock of elegant leather clutches, great shoes and beautiful statement pieces (I swiped a cool gold horsebit bracelet in the style of Kenneth Jay Lane that I loved).  Their initials are darling.  I recall the initials were around $35? Unfortunately they don’t sell their jewelry online yet, so a stop at the store is a must if you’re in the area.

(photo courtesy of Banana Republic)

If you like more of the “old school” traditional monogram, I love the personalized necklace from Danielle Stevens.  The 10K gold plated matte brushed disk is very elegant and is beautiful on. The pearl accent is very eye catching and you have to love the price ($66).  Her single engraved bangle ($70) is awesome and every time I see it, change my mind all the time about how I would personalize it.

(photos courtesy of Danielle Stevens)

If you want to splurge, I like the Roberto Coin diamond initial necklace ($460).  I’ve seen these on and the letters are the perfect size – anything too large in diamond can look gaudy.  Very delicate and can be worn casual or dressy. 
(photos courtesy of Nordstrom)

Hope you have a great rest of the weekend! C

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture

So I have to say I’m pretty sad that the cool, boxy Polaroid instant film cameras aren’t being produced anymore, but that hardly stops me from still getting my Polaroid fix in both taking and purchasing Polaroid pictures.

Fujifilm came out with the Instax Mini which takes Polaroid like instant pictures that are credit card size.  They’re awesome if you want to have pics if you’re hosting a party or get together and want to share them with your friends.  I have this camera and it’s a lot of fun.  It roughly runs about $65.00 (not including film) and you can find it on Amazon.

(photo courtesy of

If you’re well practiced and familiar with the ins and outs of Photoshop, there are step-by-step instructions on how to make your digital photos look like Lomo film (the same kind of look as Polaroids).  I found a great tutorial online by Darren Rowse on how to transform your image into something that looks like it was taken decades ago.  For Darren’s tutorial, click here.

(photo courtesy of Darren Rowse)

If you like the look of Polaroid and aren’t interested in taking the photos yourself, there are some fabulous artists on Etsy, one of my favorite go-to sites for all things handmade.  One of my favorite photographers from Etsy is Irene Suchocki’s work. These prints are affordable (about $30 unframed) and would make a great gift or addition to a wall in your home.  For Irene’s Etsy shop, you can click here.

(photo courtesy of Irene Suchocki)

Another well known Etsy artist who’s work has been featured in movies like “Sex and the City 2” and “Grey’s Anatomy” is Alicia Block.  Her work is beautiful and very affordable.  I just need to get my husband to finally hang one of her prints in our bathroom! The beautiful original “Anniversaire” print below sells for $35.00.  Alicia’s work can be found by clicking here.  I have to say, it’s hard to pick just one, they’re all so different and unique.

(photo courtesy of Alicia Block)

My new obsession is the “ShakeItPhoto” iPhone app from Apple for only 99 cents. It allows you to take photos on your iPhone and gives it that throwback Polaroid look.  It even processes the photo as if it was coming out of an instant camera and you can “shake” your phone as your picture develops.  Hubs loves the fact that he bought me an expensive camera and I’ve been taking tons of photos using “ShakeIt.”  I told him it’s no different that having a hobby collecting cars – sometimes you want to drive an oldie.  Below are some recent pics I’ve taken with the “ShakeIt” app.

(photos courtesy of Christina Straw photography)

If you love taking photos and are interested in workshops, Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco offers classes on everything from beginner Photoshop to digital black and white printing to digital field workshops in Muir Woods/beach (Rayko offers one-day sessions which is great for people with busy schedules). They also have dark room hours and youth programs.  Rayko is the perfect solution to learn more about photography and enjoy your passion without have to enroll in art school.

I’m off tomorrow to Cape Cod for vacation and to take A LOT of photos.  Hopefully Hurricane Earl won’t hinder that, but I might find some interesting photo ops in the next few days.  Enjoy the weekend and Madras and Tonic will be back soon.

The best of Halloween decorating

O.k., I know I’m totally jumping the gun here, but CAN’T WAIT to decorate the house for Halloween (my favorite holiday) and very excited that P’s 1st birthday is at the end of October. Last year, while I was on bed rest, I glittered pumpkins and skulls with reckless abandon (and I’m still trying to get the pesky glitter out from the narrow crevices of our glass top coffee table) and have always said that I’m really going to do up the house for the holiday but always seem to run out of time. This year, I’m definitely starting early.

Wanted to share some of my favorite party decorating ideas from the “Queen of Halloween,” Martha Stewart, as well as some other chic decorating designs to inspire you to go all out.

(Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn)

(photo courtesy of Country Living Magazine)

(photo courtesy of Etsy. Cupcake toppers can be purchased by clicking here)

(Photo courtesy of Etsy.  Favor cones can be purchased here)

(The following photos courtesy of Martha Stewart)

Love the vintage mason jars with the candy corn touch.

Perfect for an entry way for your Halloween soiree.

I’ve always seen overdone spiderweb decorations but these are a nice touch.

Martha did these stacked under a glass dome and the green glitter variation was eye catching.