Basement Renovation: The Home Stretch

And by home stretch, I mean we are having carpet installed on the stairs on Wednesday and then we are officially DONE. At least with the renovation part. Next up is the accessorizing part (some of which has already started). 

Bdecause I can’t keep you waiting any longer…


But first – remember how beige the basement was before we got started?

Basement: BeforeWoof.

So here’s how this played out (via Instagram).

First, it got messy and dirty:

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comThen the building started: shelves under the stairs, a hole for what would soon become a built-in wine rack, custom wet bar cabinets, tongue & groove wainscoting and updating the entertainment center to fit TVs made in this century.

Basement Renovation Progress | 2

 Next came the priming part. And we could start to see where this was going. And we liked it. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comAnd then painting. The painted bookcase was a mistake. The first of many. Let’s just say this renovation process was not exactly stress-free and I’m pretty sure our project manager has a voodoo doll of me somewhere in his office. It’s fine because I have his photo pinned up on a dart board. 

Basement Renovation Progress |

 More paint. See where we’re going with this?

Basement Renovation Progress |

 And then things started to get good. Really good. 

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comAnd then they got better. Way better. 

Basement Renovation Progress |

 And, just like that, we were mostly done. Obviously I couldn’t wait to accessorize. With booze.

Basement Renovation Progress |

 The furniture arrived and, save for the wrong ottoman (Crate & Barrel is sending us a new one on Friday), I was in love.

Basement Renovation Progress |

Basement Renovation Progress | OliverandBelle.comMore details about the renovation (plus non-Instagram pics) and details about the changes we made upstairs coming soon!

Our Wedding Flowers

LifeMar 26 20140 Comment

Our house is currently a mess of sawdust, paint, primer, assorted flooring samples, miscellaneous fixtures and appliances as our basement enters the third week of construction. Let me just say that it has not been quite as fun as I thought a renovation would be. I LOVED the whole “design it and buy all the things” part. I am not loving the “living in a construction zone” part. 

So we’re taking a break from basement adventures today to talk about WEDDINGS! I love weddings. And I loved ours. I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since Brian and I said “I do.” So it was a super fun surprise to see Emmy-Ray feature the amazing floral work that she did for our big day last May on her blog. She was incredible to work with and I trusted her implicitly. The end result was just beautiful and we couldn’t have been happier. I still dream about that luscious white bouquet… 

White Bridal Bouquet

wedding flowersVisit Handmaker of Things to view more! And if you’re looking for a truly talented floral designer, I can’t recommend Emmy-Ray enough! 


Basement Reno… Let’s Do This

It’s more than a little embarrassing that it’s nearly been a month since my last post. Tsk, tsk… I know. 

Throw in one weeklong trip to Dallas for a super fun video shoot involving gourmet food for work. AKA the best work trip ever. Plus a crazy workload, a traveling husband, visits with family, a slightly crazy gym schedule as I try to get back in shape and train for a sprint triathalon (which I may have signed up for after one too many glasses of wine… whoops!), and, well, there’s been little time to give some love to O&B.



Basement renovation begins!

It’s been, oh, three months since the aquarium incident and what seems like far, far too much time wrangling assorted vendors and contractors and renovation company people. But we are finally here. Demo starts tomorrow and hopefully the rest will move forward quickly because we’re hoping to have everything finished by the first week of April before my parents move in for an extended stay (another story for another post!).

I’ve spent much of the afternoon loading up virtual shopping carts with furniture and accessories and made quite a few purchases for the decor side of things. And I’m really excited to share where we’ve landed for the decor for the main “living” portion of the basement:

Basement Decor |

We’ve definitely decided on the Crate & Barrel Lounge 93″ slipcovered sofa and I’m preeeetttty excited to spend many a Sunday afternoon nap curled up on it. Quite conveniently, C&B just launched an upholstery sale for some of its most popular styles and this guy is one of them, so we’re saving a much appreciated 15%. I’m not 100% sold on the chair and a half (though mostly sold). Slipcovered furniture is a necessity in our pug-ruled home. And buying quality pieces that will last forever means that if we want to change the look of a room in 5-10 years, we can just update the slipcover. Win-win. 

I pulled the trigger and purchased the rug, adorable little tree stump end table, poufs and a slew of majorly discounted mercury glass accessories and a few throws from West Elm today. 

The coffee table is from Home Decorators Collection and it’s not my final choice… yet. I really want something a bit more rustic and it looks nearly identical to our living room coffee table, but I’m having a hard time finding anything and might actually ask the cabinet maker who’s building our new wet bar to design something custom for us. 

There will be many more virtual shopping carts loaded up, abandoned, then reloaded in the next few weeks as we make our final decisions. And I promise to keep the updates coming as the work moves along in the basement.

Now off to go watch the Oscars’ red carpet arrivals… Priorities, right?

A Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover

Let me preface this post by stating that I’m really lucky to have a pretty sizable walk-in closet. And I get it all to myself. 

But before you start thinking this is what I walk into every morning…

Yolanda Foster's Closet(That’s Yolanda Foster’s closet for you RHOBH fans… And we can all dream together.)

… This is the reality:

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |, I have a bit of a shoe problem.)

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |

As much as I love the ample space and storage, I have been less than excited about how blah it is. And, while I’m sure this California Closets configuration was super awesome (and probably $$$) in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it’s showing a little bit of age. Like those drawer pulls. Woof. And the carpet has seen better days.

But considering the major renovations we have in our very near future (hello basement of my dreams), I knew that any serious changes were out of the question. But a few Pinterest searches gave me some inspiration to give Kelly Kapowski’s dream closet a little facelift. 

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.comSay hello to my makeover arsenal:

Painting supplies – $14
A quart of Valspar’s low odor, zero-VOC  paint in Urban Sunrise (this just baaaarely covered everything) – $14
A super cute light fixture found at Lowe’s – $39
A set of drawer pulls from Target that ended up not fitting. Whoops. Always measure first. – $20
A rug that I originally purchased from Joss & Main for the foyer that ended up being too small – $0 (but seriously – measure first)

And this guy. For moral support. (Not pictured: my iPad and 5 episodes of Law & Order SVU)

Oh hi beerThe worst part of this whole closet project was the prep. Apparently the previous owners of our home had never dusted the top of the closet shelves. And I definitely hadn’t looked up there since we moved in a year and a half ago. I even found a few articles of clothing from the previous owners totally covered in dust and, because I’m a crazy person, thought one million spiders were probably living in them and screamed accordingly. So after removing all of my clothes, shoes and accessories, adding some items to my ever-growing “donate” box, and dusting every surface, I was finally ready to get started. 

All of the corners from the built-in closet organizer meant A LOT of cutting in with an angled paintbrush. I strangely enjoy that part of the job much more than rolling, but it took much longer than expected. So five hours of painting later, plus Brian’s light fixture installation skills, and a return trip to Lowe’s to pick out new drawer hardware (10 $5 knobs…. so $50. For knobs. Eeek.), my work was done.

Oh hey there, pretty.

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover | OliverandBelle.comI’m super obsessed with the light fixture. And it’s something that Brian could never be convinced to love in any other room of the house, so I like that it’s dressing up my own private hideaway. I told him that I’m going to put up a sign that says “Keep Out. No Boys Allowed.”

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |

Budget-Friendly Closet Makeover |

There are still some tiny tweaks to be made – baskets for loose things (like my surprisingly large hat collection), a tray or two for perfume and accessories, and a framed print or two from Etsy – but mostly, I’m in love. 

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Creamy Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce |

Please tell me that you guys have added spaghetti squash to your dinner rotation. Because it is DELICIOUS.

I mean, you have to be honest with yourself and accept that while it is mighty tasty, spaghetti squash is not, nor will it ever be, the same thing as, say, actual spaghetti. But it is still soooo good. 

If I’m really in a hurry, I’ll sauté some mushrooms, add the spaghetti squash and kalamata olives with a jar of Trader Joe’s organic vodka sauce (a life-changing shortcut), stir everything together and top it with some freshly chopped basil and grated parm and chow down. It’s probably a 30 minute meal from start to finish, which – full disclosure – is often a rarity for me. 

But while this version is more time-consuming, it’s totally worth the extra effort. And a few extra calories. 

Do you have a favorite spaghetti squash recipe? Share it in the comments!

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp & Tomato Cream Sauce
Serves 2
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For the sauce
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole or 2% milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
For the "pasta"
1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fresh basil
Grated parmiaganno reggiano
In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about two minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Mix in the tomatoes and sugar and cook until simmering. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce continue to simmer for 30 minutes. We'll come back to this later.
Make sure the shrimp are thoroughly patted dry. They will sear much better if there isn't any moisture in them. Cook for 3 minutes on each side in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
Next, prep your muscles and grab a sharp knife and cut your spaghetti squash in half. Remove the seeds and inner goop just like you would do with a pumpkin. Place the spaghetti squash with the cut side down in a large baking dish and fill the dish with 1/2 inch of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Next, in yet another saucepan (my apologies to the dishwasher), melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk for two minutes until it forms a thick paste. Congrats. You have made a roux. Pour in the milk in small batches, whisking constantly. Whisk for 5-10 minutes until thick and smooth. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Hi. You just made a béchamel.
Now it's time to combine the sauces. Add the béchamel to the tomato sauce and stir thoroughly. You'll probably want to add more salt and pepper to taste (don't be afraid of seasoning well!).
With a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash until it comes out in ribbons. Add this to the sauce along with the shrimp. Top with a chiffonade (fancy sliced) fresh basil and parm before serving.
Oliver & Belle

{Good Things} Winter Beauty Must-Haves

{Good Things} Winter Beauty Must-Haves |

Real talk. My skin and hair have been out of control dry this winter. Polar Vortex, be damned!  Here’s how I’m surviving. (Aside from burrowing under blankets and wearing sweatpants.)

1. After complaining about dry, dull hair to a friend of mine, she suggested using coconut oil on the ends at night. And then I read about it on The Beauty Department (new obsession, btw) and I was sold. I use about a teaspoon of oil, rub it between my hands to liquify it and then apply it to the ends of my hair. I put my hair in a bun before sleeping (so my pillow doesn’t get too coconutty) and – voila! – soft hair the next morning. I do an extra thorough shampoo just to make sure all of the oil washes out, but the result is soft, shiny hair. Bye bye dull and dry. And as a bonus, I started applying it on my skin instead of lotion at night before bed and am loving the results. Also a big jar of it at Trader Joe’s costs like $5, so winner winner.

2. I think I’ve probably tried every body wash that exists under the face of the sun and every single one still leaves me itchy. I’ve made a conscious effort to try to use more eco-friendly products at home and especially when it comes to anything that Brian and I are going to use on the reg. Like on our bodies. Daily. While browsing the body wash section at Whole Foods, I brought this guy home with me and am pretty happy with how my skin feels after washing with it. Also it smells amazing and I enjoy any product named after me. 

3. I’ve heard/read lots of good things about argan oil, so I picked this up at Whole Foods as well. I’ve been applying it at night to my face under my night cream and I’m waking up with super soft, practically wrinkle-free skin. Wholeheartedly endorse. It’s also apparently great for hair, though I have yet to try it. The only downside? It smells, well, less than wonderful. 

4. I’m pretty obsessed with Burt’s Bees skincare. I discovered their Intense Hydration line last winter and fell in love. I use the cream cleanser, day lotion and night cream and my cheeks are no longer dry and flaky (thanks combination skin!). And adios itchy forehead!

5. Yet another Whole Foods find (though it’s available elsewhere), I’m loving this Deep Repair Cream from MyChelle Dermaceuticals. I swap it out with the Burt’s Bees stuff during the week. They have a vitamin C serum that I’d like to try next because obviously I have a problem with hoarding beauty products. Whoops.

6. I am a lip balm hoarder. I have a healthy collection of balms from EOS, Burt’s Bees, and assorted brands that showed up in my monthly Birchbox. But this remains my fave. It’s not too heavy, my lips feel smooth, it has SPF protection and it lasts FOR-EV-ER. 

7. A co-worker brought this cleansing oil on a work trip a few months ago and I was really baffled by the words “cleansing” and “oil” paired together. Turns out they make total sense. This cleanser is great for sensitive or dry skin and it even takes eye make-up off like a boss. I’m now obsessed and use it nightly (and Burt’s Bees & my Clarisonic in the morning). Side note, should you be interested in signing up to become a Julep Maven, I wouldn’t be mad atcha if you used my referral link

Our Annual Cleanse

A New Year's Cleanse |

After weeks of cocktail parties and cheese plates and holiday meals and travel and generally not caring about calories or a regular workout schedule, January provides a glorious clean slate. It’s cliche, I know. But just like all of the newbies at the gym this month and every food blogger posting favorite wholesome recipes, I like to hit the reset button on my body and get back to a place of healthy habits. 

Enter the annual cleanse. 

A New Year's Cleanse |

There are TONS of cleanses with varying levels of required discipline. For the past three years, I’ve followed a pretty straightforward regimen: eliminate coffee, alcohol, sugar, meat, dairy and junky carbs. Forget about processed foods (you should probably do that part regardless). Eat lots of fruits, veggies and fish. Drink plenty of water. Get a bit of caffeine from green tea. And take herbal supplements to help push out the junk. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both sell cleanse kits that do just that. There aren’t specific meal plans, but overall, try to make sure your plate has more veggies on it than anything else. The whole process lasts 14 days and, while the first four days are basically terrible, by day 5, you will feel like a new person. Lighter and more energetic. Your skin will glow. You’ll drop some LBs. You’ll feel really, really GOOD. And when you finish, it’s much easier to keep your healthy habits. 

A New Year's Cleanse |

This year, I’m shaking it up. Intensifying. Brian and I are spending the next 21 days practicing the Clean Gut Cleanse. We want to lose some weight and get back on track. We are pescatarians (a really annoying word that basically means we are vegetarians who also eat fish), so it’s a little more challenging since this cleanse also eliminates things that vegetarian diets frequently depend on – beans and soy. The basics are similar to the previous cleanse, but here are the rules to follow:

Eat: Veggies, greens, lentils, quinoa (sparingly), wild fish, grass-fed meats, organic or pasture-raised eggs, fermented foods (like sauerkraut), nuts & nut butters, avocado, coconut, fresh & frozen berries

Don’t Eat: Gluten, dairy, processed sugar, alcohol (sob), caffeine, beans, rice, soy, potatoes, corn, almost all fruits (except berries)

There are also some specifics about combining items. Like you can’t combine animal protein with veggie protein. So no shrimp and quinoa salad. Instead, combine animal proteins with veggies. And veggies with veggie proteins. Confused yet? It’s not that complicated. I promise.

The final step is a lengthy list of supplements we’re taking with each meal. 

So. It’s intense. And it’s not for everyone. But the idea behind this cleanse is that eliminating all of these items from your diet and then slowly reintroducing them allows you to determine food sensitivities. Plus this kind of cleanse can also be beneficial in boosting your immune system and fighting disease. 

We’re not following it to the letter because I just can’t drink green juice in the morning if it doesn’t have an apple or pear thrown in for a bit of sweetness and, listen, I need soy sauce in my life (though we’ve switched to tamari, which is gluten-free). 

And just to show you that you can still eat SUPER delicious meals while doing this whole cleanse thing, here’s my menu for this week:

Grilled cedar plank salmon with grilled asparagus
Southwestern Mahi Mahi salad with Mexican Green Goddess dressing
Poached cod with tomato and saffron
Shrimp lettuce wraps (with some modifications)
Veggie frittata with a mixed greens salad
Spicy Thai shrimp soup (without the rice)
Pan-seared scallops and shrimp salad

(Recipes to come!)

If you’ve ever considered cleansing, give my basic cleanse a try. Or, if you want to take it a step further, order (or download) the book and join us for the Clean Gut Cleanse. It’s going to be a long 21 days free of cheese or wine, but it’s worth it.


Lobster & Crab Mac & Cheese

Lobster & Crab Mac & Cheese | OliverandBelle.comYes, I know. This is the time of year when every blogger in America is posting healthy recipes. Look, there is a place for quinoa and green smoothies and kale. A place that I will be going to on Monday when I begin my annual cleanse (more on that tomorrow). But first, I’m sharing a decadent recipe that calls for a pound and a half of cheese… Your resolution can wait until after you try this. I promise. 

We invited a few friends (AKA the best neighbors in all of suburbia) over for a low key New Year’s celebration with this as the main course. And we all went back for seconds. You could leave the crab out and add more lobster (I might go that route next time) or eighty-six the seafood altogether and just enjoy a bowl of creamy deliciousness.

It was the perfect last meal of a pretty perfect year. 

Lobster & Crab Mac & Cheese
Serves 6
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
1/2 cup water
4 lobster tails
1 pound pipe regati pasta (elbow mac, cavattapi or penne would work too)
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces gruyère cheese, grated
8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
8 oz cooked crab claw meat
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
Preheat oven to 375.
Butter a large baking or casserole dish and set aside.
Butterfly the lobster tails. Using kitchen shears, slice through the hard top shell and then meat length wise, stopping at the bottom tail, then split open.
Heat 1/2 cup water in a large skillet until it begins to simmer. Add the lobster tails and cover. Cook for 8 minutes for perfectly steamed lobster. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Add the sliced bread to a food processor and pulse until they are turned into breadcrumbs. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and pour over the breadcrumbs. Mix well with a fork so they are well coated. You can also use panko or store-bought bread crumbs, but make sure they are coated with butter as well.
Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 8 minutes so it's slightly undercooked (this will prevent it from getting mushy when it's baking in all of that delicious cheese). Drain well.
Remove the cooled lobster meat from the shell and chop into medium-sized pieces. Eat one of them. Set aside.
Next, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is hot, but not boiling. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk for two minutes. Pour in the warm milk in small batches, whisking constantly. Whisk for an additional minute or two more, until smooth. Add the pepper and nutmeg and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add the cheese. Continue to stir until smooth and creamy. (Taste a little bit. Swoon.)
Mix in the lobster and crab meat, then add the pasta. Stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Add the pasta mixture to the baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown on top.
Enjoy! And enjoy it with a glass of two of your favorite white wine. (Might I suggest a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand?)
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
Oliver & Belle

Basement Renovation: The Inspiration

If you’re following us on Pinterest, you’ve probably noticed an influx of basement inspiration photos pinned among the usual collection of delicious recipes. When we met with a contractor two weeks ago to talk about our basement renovation, I pulled up some of the pics to give him an idea of what we’re going for. I’m always drawn to a sort of rustic meets modern meets traditional style (that makes sense, right?) and my inspiration pics are predictably full of natural elements, lots of white and a fairly tailored, yet casual look.

Here’s what’s making my heart skip a beat:

(Image via Houzz)

Because the basement already has a chair rail, we’re planning to have horizontal tongue and groove paneling (yes, I said paneling) installed on the bottom half of the wall to brighten things up and to provide some interest in the large box of a room. I also love the color of the felt on the pool table (having ours re-felted is on the agenda at some point) and the light fixture over the pool table. It makes it look a bit more classy and a bit less… pool hall.

(Image via Houzz)

The basement stairs are nothing to write home about right now, but I love the idea of installing storage in that unused space. There’s currently a tiny door with a few shelves behind it, but we’re going to open that up and have bigger shelves installed. I expect to style them with books, baskets a smattering of photos and, in the future, a place to store toys. The lighting above the shelves is also an awesome touch.

Wet Bar | via S.B. Long Interiors)

Our existing wet bar is one big oak-filled 80’s throwback. And I hate it. So we’re knocking out the big bar (seen here) and moving the wet bar against the wall instead. The mix of modern cabinets, quartz countertops, rustic open shelving and stone work makes me swoon. This is what got the wheels turning for us when we first talked about renovation. I plan on having the cabinets painted ivory with a lighter countertop (keeping with that light and bright concept), but I’d love everything else to look very similar to this. Under the counter, we’ll have a wine fridge, a mini fridge and plenty of storage.

(Image via Houzz)

You can just barely see the ancient (and barely working) white refrigerator peeking out from a nook next to the bar here, but we’re planning to remove it altogether and to something different with that space. Like build a little wine cellar. Um, not sure if you’ve met me, but next to my husband, pugs, and cheese, wine is pretty much my favorite. So this is totally making all of my wine loving dreams come true. Wine we’re ready to drink will be kept in the wine fridge. Wine that we’re cellaring or saving for a special occasion will be kept in the new storage. I picture a mix of cubes and individual cubbies. I like that we’ll be using the empty space in a useful way.

Basement Renovation Inspiration |

(Image via Cindy Ray Interiors)

We currently have built-ins that house a VERY large TV circa 1995. Pretty sure it’s the very first HDTV that was ever created. It’s so massive that the thing is on wheels. We’re 86-ing that bad boy and upgrading to, ya know, something made in the last year. Which means the built-ins need to be reconfigured a bit. And painted. I love how the tongue and groove paneling in the photo above is inset into the built-ins.


(Image via House*Tweaking – one of my fave blogs)

As for paint… I want contrast. With the horizontal paneling and painted built-ins and cabinets, I like the idea of going bolder with color. So something dark. Brian has put his foot down on yet another gray room (whoops!), so maybe something with a hint of color, but still something neutral like what Dana from House*Tweaking did in her all-purpose mudroom/laundry room/dining room.

slipcover-only-for-lounge-93-sofa (1)

I’ve had my eye on Crate & Barrel’s 93″ slipcovered Lounge sofa for ages. And the basement seems like the perfect place for a super deep, comfy and nap-worthy couch. Have I mentioned that slipcovered furniture is my jam? No? Welp, it is. We have Pottery Barn’s PB Classic Roll sofa in our living room and I love being able to basically “wash” the entire thing once a month. For the basement, I’m planning to pair the sofa with a chair and a half (maybe in a coordinating fabric, but not matching) and a big square leather ottoman. I’ve also considered a sectional, but am on the fence. Which do you prefer?

We have yet to get the plans back from the contractor, so all of this is still extremely tentative. As in, it might be absurdly expensive and I’ll have to start cutting out “like-to-haves” so we can complete the must-haves. Like, you know, ceilings. And floors.

Once we begin making progress, I’ll be sharing updates. Stay tuned!

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