Girls Weekend Guide To San Francisco

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I kicked off 2019 in the best way I could think of, with a spontaneous girls trip to California. This was my fifth time in San Francisco but it felt like I was seeing it for the first time because it was my sisters first time there. When I vacation I like to see and do as much as possible in the time that I have. Luckily for me my mom instilled that same desire into my sister, so she was up for a jam packed itinerary exploring the Bay Area.

Side Note - It wasn’t my intention for this blog to turn into a travel blog. Traveling is one of my biggest joys in life and paired with my love for architecture and photography, it makes for great content. This has become a place for me to share the cities I travel to, and through my lens, how I see them. Take a look below at the photos from the trip and our itinerary for the perfect girls weekend in San Francisco!

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Wednesday

China Town

We walked around SF’s China Town and fell in love with the cutest boutique KIM + ONO.

Leo’s Oyster Bar

This was one of the highlights of our trip. Despite it being a rainy afternoon the decor made us feel like we were somewhere tropical and sunny. Order the Bubble Bath, my new favorite cocktail.

Fishermans Wharf + Pier 39

We walked around the shops and of course had to see the napping Sea Lions. We had dinner at Fog Harbor overlooking the ocean. The clam chowder bread bowl is a must when in SF and so delicious.

Charmaines

We finished off our first night with rooftop views from Charmaines.

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Thursday

Palm House

A colorful, bright and airy space for the first brunch of many that weekend.

Palace of Fine Arts

We started at this historic monument and used the All Trails app to see the city by foot. We walked almost 9 miles through the city, passing through Crissy Field and over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Battery Spencer Lookout

Our walk ended here where we watched the sunset with an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the sun setting over the hills and ocean.

The Cavalier

We refueled at The Cavalier for dinner. It’s not always the case that the well designed restaurants I seek out also have amazing food but this spot delivered on both fronts.

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Friday

Ferry Building

On our first day in SF we stumbled across the Ferry Building Market by accident and fell in love. This was just down the street from our hotel, so we always started the day with coffee and window shopping there.

Painted Ladies

Infamous for their part in the intro to Full House, we paid homage to one of our favorite TV shows growing up and walked around the adjacent park.

The Rotunda

We took a break from being tourists for afternoon tea in the most gorgeous setting.

Lombard Street

We visited another one of San Francisco’s most famous tourist attractions known as the “crookedest street in the world.”

The Riddler

Before dinner we stopped for a glass of champagne and the design reminded me of a cafe in Paris.

Villon

We had dinner at Villion, located within the Proper Hotel. Seeing this hotel should be at the top of your list when in SF. The hotel was designed by the team at Kelly Wearstler and it is stunning!

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Saturday

Sausalito

We spent the afternoon in Marin County’s Sausalito seeing the boat houses and walking around to the different shops. We finished off with lunch at Barrel House Tavern with views of the Bay and downtown.

Sutro Baths

We got really lucky on our last day with almost 100% sunshine. This made for one of the best sunsets ever, which we watched from the Sutro Bath Ruins.

Cliff House

We stopped in for a drink and to warm up. We watchEd the remainder of the sunset over the ocean at the appropriately named Cliff House.

Water Bar

Our last dinner of the trip we ate at Water Bar with an incredible up-close view of the Bay Bridge. The bridge appears to glitter because of the LED light display and it is magical reflecting off the water.

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My sister Kristen and I live by the motto “California is always a good idea” and once again it didn’t disappoint! Special shout out to my little sister and travel companion for an amazing weekend and for taking my photos, I love you!

-Melissa

TRAVEL GUIDE | Kansas City

When I tell people I’m from Kansas I often get the response “I’ve never been.” or “I drove through once.” To which I would typically laugh and follow up with a comment about not missing much. I’ll admit I moved away years ago in pursuit of more adventure and culture, but I found both and a new mindset during my most recent stay.

This Christmas I spent a week in Kansas City bouncing back and forth across the Missouri/Kansas border. I am originally from Topeka, Kansas’ capital, which is an hour away. Since then life has brought my mom and sister to Kansas City, Kansas (known to locals as KCK). This gave me a reason this holiday season to re-explore the border town, finding myself drawn to the Missouri side (Known to locals as KCMO). Growing up I played soccer on the weekends in KC and would frequent for family vacations, an occasional concert, and baseball games at Kauffman Stadium but it looked different this time around. I found that this charming city had evolved in recent years and I was so pleasantly blown away by all of the new hotels, restaurants, art and design it has to offer.

KC will always hold a special place in my heart for a lot of reasons but more recently for the new memories and discoveries I made there this year with my family. If you ever find yourself driving through or lucky enough to visit, my hope for this guide is it opens your eyes like mine were to a whole new outlook on The City of Fountains.

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KC | WHAT TO SEE + DO

-Kemper Contemporary Art Museum

-Nelson Atkins Museum

-Shop at the Country Club Plaza

-Photo 0p with the Kansas City Mural: 1925 Baltimore Ave, Kansas City, MO 64108

-Take a spin class at Mojo Cycling Studio

-Shop local at the Made In KC Marketplace

-Ice Skating at Crown Center

-Visit the Historic Union Station

-Live Jazz + Retro Vibes at Green Lady Lounge

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KC | WHERE TO EAT

-Lazia

-The Savoy

-Corvino Supper Club

-The Russell

-The Campground

-Novel Restaurant

-The Rockhill Grille

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KC | WHERE TO DRINK

-Monarch Bar

-SoT

-The Savoy

-Amigoni Urban Winery

-Ca Va

-Boulevard Brewery Beer Hall

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KC | WHERE TO STAY

-Crossroads Hotel

-Hotel Phillips

-The Fontaine

-The Raphael Hotel

-InterContinental Kansas City on the Plaza

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XO,

Mel

CHRISTMAS PARTY 2 0 1 8

I can’t believe Christmas has already come and gone and 2019 is just around the corner. This month has flown by, and I have to admit I’m a little sad to see it go! The past few weeks have been packed with all of the best things about December, including Christmas parties. I am so excited to share with you the pictures from our own Christmas get-together.

This year was our first Christmas in our new place, so we knew we wanted to make it extra special by celebrating with friends and family. We’ve hosted small groups at our house before but this was our first time throwing a party. After a few major hauls at Costco, Mariano’s and the liquor store we opened our home for a night of festivities.  Each guest was greeted with a welcome champagne and a kiss from a Golden Retriever. Despite our usual neutral color palette we added pops of red for the evening, adding a warm layer to the whole house. All of the florals were purchased at my new favorite place in town,  Kennicott .

This year was our first Christmas in our new place, so we knew we wanted to make it extra special by celebrating with friends and family. We’ve hosted small groups at our house before but this was our first time throwing a party. After a few major hauls at Costco, Mariano’s and the liquor store we opened our home for a night of festivities.

Each guest was greeted with a welcome champagne and a kiss from a Golden Retriever. Despite our usual neutral color palette we added pops of red for the evening, adding a warm layer to the whole house. All of the florals were purchased at my new favorite place in town, Kennicott.

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If you are thinking of hosting your own Holiday party next year, here are a few pointers:  -Get ready as much as you can before the day of the party. Laundry, house cleaning, and grocery shopping can all be done in advance to ensure that the day of is reserved for the finer details.  -Consider any special diets, if you have friends with food intolerances or restrictions be sure to have a small section just for them. Its a thoughtful consideration that makes the night feel personal to those guests.  -Add layers. For my set up I layered in greenery, florals, cranberries, and pinecones. These touches create a visual cohesiveness throughout the spread.  -Save plenty of time to get yourself ready. If you allow a few hours to relax and get dressed before the start of the party, you will be collected and prepared to greet guests as they arrive.  -You’ve worked hard to bring everything together. Take time to enjoy the night and each guest.

If you are thinking of hosting your own Holiday party next year, here are a few pointers:

-Get ready as much as you can before the day of the party. Laundry, house cleaning, and grocery shopping can all be done in advance to ensure that the day of is reserved for the finer details.

-Consider any special diets, if you have friends with food intolerances or restrictions be sure to have a small section just for them. Its a thoughtful consideration that makes the night feel personal to those guests.

-Add layers. For my set up I layered in greenery, florals, cranberries, and pinecones. These touches create a visual cohesiveness throughout the spread.

-Save plenty of time to get yourself ready. If you allow a few hours to relax and get dressed before the start of the party, you will be collected and prepared to greet guests as they arrive.

-You’ve worked hard to bring everything together. Take time to enjoy the night and each guest.

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Last but arguably most important, the dessert bar. Layers of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate flavored sweets.    Thank you so much to our friends and family for a wonderful evening full of laughs, champagne sabers, and holiday magic. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.  Love,  Mel

Last but arguably most important, the dessert bar. Layers of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate flavored sweets.

Thank you so much to our friends and family for a wonderful evening full of laughs, champagne sabers, and holiday magic. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Love,

Mel

IN THE KITCHEN | NAKED CHRISTMAS CAKE

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After summer, December is easily my favorite time of year in the city. The streets are lined with twinkling lights and there’s an energetic buzz you can’t ignore. This time of year I’m prepping for the festivities, buying presents, picking out the perfect holiday dress, and looking forward to getting together with friends and family. If you’re anything like me and don’t like to arrive empty handed at parties, this cake is a (believe it or not) fairly easy option for wowing your host!

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| THE PREP WORK |  Full disclosure, I did not have the time (or desire) to bake my cakes from scratch, so I opted for a Betty Crocker French Vanilla box cake. My good, luckily, non-judgmental friends at Sur La Table recommended adding a little Vanilla Paste to make the cake taste more homemade. I think it’s important to point out I was a total rookie at this and was figuring it out as I went (thank God for Youtube instructional videos). Watch this video  here  to see the trick I learned to easily level the cakes. This is an important step in the layering process to ensure the cakes stack nicely, so I’ll leave the instruction up to the professionals. In a  8” Round Cake Pan  I was able to make two cakes per box, for a total of four layers.    | ASSEMBLY |  The Buttercream frosting was made from scratch and was super easy to make (score!), you can find the recipe I used  here . I started the process by spreading a little dollop on the wood to secure the cake from sliding, and then began stacking the layers. I purchased this  Wood Bark Charger  at World Market.  In-between each layer I spread about 1/4” Buttercream. If you like your cakes heavy on the frosting you could add 1/2”. Because this is a “naked” cake, with minimal frosting on the outside, the layers between the cake provide you with the balance between cake and icing, so feel free to add as little or as much as you’d like!  In the process I learned this cake is pretty forgiving to mistakes. If you didn’t get your cakes perfectly level when cutting the tops, the frosting can help make up for that. Get down at eye level and see if one side is looking a little lower than the other. If you want to get really precise you can even use a ruler. Simply add a little extra frosting where needed to restore balance for the next layer.

| THE PREP WORK |

Full disclosure, I did not have the time (or desire) to bake my cakes from scratch, so I opted for a Betty Crocker French Vanilla box cake. My good, luckily, non-judgmental friends at Sur La Table recommended adding a little Vanilla Paste to make the cake taste more homemade. I think it’s important to point out I was a total rookie at this and was figuring it out as I went (thank God for Youtube instructional videos). Watch this video here to see the trick I learned to easily level the cakes. This is an important step in the layering process to ensure the cakes stack nicely, so I’ll leave the instruction up to the professionals. In a 8” Round Cake Pan I was able to make two cakes per box, for a total of four layers.

| ASSEMBLY |

The Buttercream frosting was made from scratch and was super easy to make (score!), you can find the recipe I used here. I started the process by spreading a little dollop on the wood to secure the cake from sliding, and then began stacking the layers. I purchased this Wood Bark Charger at World Market.

In-between each layer I spread about 1/4” Buttercream. If you like your cakes heavy on the frosting you could add 1/2”. Because this is a “naked” cake, with minimal frosting on the outside, the layers between the cake provide you with the balance between cake and icing, so feel free to add as little or as much as you’d like!

In the process I learned this cake is pretty forgiving to mistakes. If you didn’t get your cakes perfectly level when cutting the tops, the frosting can help make up for that. Get down at eye level and see if one side is looking a little lower than the other. If you want to get really precise you can even use a ruler. Simply add a little extra frosting where needed to restore balance for the next layer.

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| NAKED FROSTING |  I purchased an  Icing Spatula  from Sur La Table and it made all the difference when spreading around the Buttercream. Once I had all four layers in place, the next step was filling in the “cracks” between the layers. This gave me a smoother foundation to work with, leading into the next step. Finally I used a  Dough Scraper  to smooth out the top and the sides the cake.  Pro tip: I used a Lazy Susan throughout this process. This allowed me to spin the cake effortlessly when working with the Buttercream.

| NAKED FROSTING |

I purchased an Icing Spatula from Sur La Table and it made all the difference when spreading around the Buttercream. Once I had all four layers in place, the next step was filling in the “cracks” between the layers. This gave me a smoother foundation to work with, leading into the next step. Finally I used a Dough Scraper to smooth out the top and the sides the cake.

Pro tip: I used a Lazy Susan throughout this process. This allowed me to spin the cake effortlessly when working with the Buttercream.

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The final touches.

At this point the cake could be totally customized for any holiday or event, depending on the decorations you choose. For a Christmas theme, I chose cranberries and spruce. To get the snowy affect, I lightly coated them in Corn Syrup and dusted them with sugar.

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To finish the cake off, I layered the spruce and cranberries around the base of the cake and in a crescent shape on the top, going for a more minimal look. You can use the Corn Syrup again to help hold the garnish in place. Continue to add until you’re satisfied and Voila! You have the perfect Christmas Holiday cake for all your get-togethers this December!

To finish the cake off, I layered the spruce and cranberries around the base of the cake and in a crescent shape on the top, going for a more minimal look. You can use the Corn Syrup again to help hold the garnish in place. Continue to add until you’re satisfied and Voila! You have the perfect Christmas Holiday cake for all your get-togethers this December!

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Happy Holidays,  Melissa

Happy Holidays,

Melissa

ONCE UPON A DOLLHOUSE | KITCHEN ORGANIZATION

Getting married is one of the most exciting times of your life and with it, comes a lot of equally exciting change. The process of combining two households is enough stress in itself, then throw on top of that a stream of gifts from the wedding registry. Newlyweds Caitlin and Zach found themselves in need of a little help after all of the wedding “dust” settled and the registry items had arrived.

This process started like any other organizational job, we first remove everything from the cabinets. With packed countertops we began to sort the items and start a pile of donations. Caitlin and I worked together to decide what was still useful and what would find a new home.

I am so excited to share this project with you guys. If you would like to see the before pictures, or shop the product we used, head over to the Organize Chicago instagram!

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The second step is finding a place for everything. After we’ve decided what will go back in the cabinets, I begin mapping out the space, and making a list of the product we would need. For this project, we purchased all of the product from The Container Store. The Container Store is a great go-to because you can get everything you are looking for in one stop.

The second step is finding a place for everything. After we’ve decided what will go back in the cabinets, I begin mapping out the space, and making a list of the product we would need. For this project, we purchased all of the product from The Container Store. The Container Store is a great go-to because you can get everything you are looking for in one stop.

This day I put the finishing touches on the space by removing product from it’s original container and putting it into a clearly labeled OXO Pop Container. No, I do not always organize in a skirt!

This day I put the finishing touches on the space by removing product from it’s original container and putting it into a clearly labeled OXO Pop Container. No, I do not always organize in a skirt!

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In order to maximize the vertical space in the cabinets, we added additional shelves to display Caitlin’s beautiful dishware. Your local Home Depot sells these shelves and brackets, and will cut the shelves to your measurements.

In order to maximize the vertical space in the cabinets, we added additional shelves to display Caitlin’s beautiful dishware. Your local Home Depot sells these shelves and brackets, and will cut the shelves to your measurements.

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As a blogger, Caitlin entertains frequently. Bulk items and entertaining supplies, though important, are used less often so we moved them from lower cabinets, to above the refrigerator. Freeing up the easily accessible shelves for items used daily.

As a blogger, Caitlin entertains frequently. Bulk items and entertaining supplies, though important, are used less often so we moved them from lower cabinets, to above the refrigerator. Freeing up the easily accessible shelves for items used daily.

Each organization project is custom to the individual client’s wants, needs and lifestyle. Caitlin is an amazing baker so we made her baking supplies a priority in the “valuable real estate” a.k.a. the eye-level shelves.

Each organization project is custom to the individual client’s wants, needs and lifestyle. Caitlin is an amazing baker so we made her baking supplies a priority in the “valuable real estate” a.k.a. the eye-level shelves.

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I had the best time hanging out with these girls and setting up Caitlin and husband Zach for success, in their new kitchen. Co-founders Caitlin and Danielle (pictured above) started  onceuponadollhouse.com  years ago and have been killing the ‘blog game’ in Chicago and beyond. It was a pleasure to work with such talented and genuinely sweet women!  If you find yourself cleaning out your kitchen and are looking for a worthy cause to donate to.  Humble Design  (located in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, and Seattle) is a non for profit, that furnishes homes for families coming out of homelessness. Kitchen items are always in high demand and you will feel good knowing your items are being repurposed for a good cause.    Thanks for reading,  Melissa, Organize Chicago

I had the best time hanging out with these girls and setting up Caitlin and husband Zach for success, in their new kitchen. Co-founders Caitlin and Danielle (pictured above) started onceuponadollhouse.com years ago and have been killing the ‘blog game’ in Chicago and beyond. It was a pleasure to work with such talented and genuinely sweet women!

If you find yourself cleaning out your kitchen and are looking for a worthy cause to donate to. Humble Design (located in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, and Seattle) is a non for profit, that furnishes homes for families coming out of homelessness. Kitchen items are always in high demand and you will feel good knowing your items are being repurposed for a good cause.

Thanks for reading,

Melissa, Organize Chicago