Summertime is a wonderful season, filled with sunshine, warm weather, and my personal favorite, casual and relaxed outdoor entertaining. I'm not one to show up to a party empty handed, and while I love to bring a homemade treat or bottle of wine, there are times when I like to do something a little more fun. Which brings me to gift baskets.

I love putting together gift baskets for friends, family, and clients alike, as I feel there's no end to how creative you can be. It is a great way to celebrate the recipients' personalities, a special occasion, a holiday, or even a theme or destination (like this New Orleans inspired basket I did a few years ago). 

I recently put together a summer themed gift basket for friends and clients, who are now fortunate enough to call Hawaii their home. (Can you imagine??) I wanted to give them a gift that could be enjoyed in their new home, or more likely, outdoors on the lanai. The same type of basket would also make a great birthday gift, hostess gift for a 4th of July celebration, or even just a fun surprise for a friend. So if you're looking for a good guide for a gift basket this weekend, this post is for you.

To start I hit up some of my favorite go-to stores, including HomeGoods, in search of the perfect items, including the "basket." I like to find containers that have multiple uses, and in this case, it's a casual woven serving tray that can function to easily transport drinks and food from the kitchen to an outdoor space. Metal or enamel drink tubs also work well for this type of summer theme.

I then begin to layer in items that corresponded to outdoor entertaining. When putting together a gift basket, I try to establish not only a theme, but also a color scheme. In this case, my summer/outdoor entraining basket will have a subtle nautical theme (a nod to their Hawaiian location) as well as a good mix of natural textures, neutrals, one strong accent color, and one metallic shade. Using this casual set of burlap placemats as a jumping off point, I picked a light red/coral as the accent color.

Playing off the red accent, I also included a set of dishtowels in a corresponding shade as well as a casual, rough cotton texture. Since it's not as significant of a texture as the placemat set, it's a good bridge between the rough placemats and the rest of the basket's contents.

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In fun news, we're considering our many options on how we want to refinish our antique heart pine floors!

However, this is not an easy decision, and not one to be taken lightly. We're fortunate in our new home to have beautiful 110 year "random width" heart pine throughout all three floors. Best of all, it's all in relatively good shape (save for a few bad patches, face screwing, and majorly in need of refinishing).

We were originally told the floor was likely antique southern yellow pine, but a more recent assessment from a vintage reclaimed lumber expert believes it's flat sawn clear heart pine...and we think he's probably exactly right. 

We've been debating the best approach and look we'd like to achieve since we purchased the house, and the debate sometimes feels endless. We want it to look less formal, more coastal, and more authentic to the house. Right now it's a darker brown stain with polyurethane. This masks a lot of the original richness of the wood and its natural color, and it makes the whole house feel less relaxed.

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The past week we've violently oscillated between outright angst over work being done on our house and utter exhaustion from the work we're doing.

The work on our house's HVAC and plumbing repairs has been progressing, and we've been trying to stay ahead of the contractors with our responsibilities.

Since the price tag for new geothermal HVAC and the re-plumbing of the entire house exceeds the insurance settlement to repair the existing systems, we're trying to save money where we can by doing some of the leg work, demo, and prep for the work ourselves, leaving the HVAC and plumbing work only for the HVAC and plumbing experts.

The problem with this approach is simple. Our time to get away from our day jobs and daily life to work on the house is limited...and there is no air conditioning at the house (or plumbing for that matter), so any work is done in the sweltering 90 degree plus confines of the cozy house.

Last week this whole effort kicked into high gear when the excavator started digging for the horizontal ground loop that is the key to the HVAC system's function. We knew it was going to be a mess, but we didn't understand just how bad it would be.

The rub of this whole thing, it was happening on a day when neither of us could get away from work, so we were stuck watching the whole thing unfold on the web cam we had hastily stuck in the window a few days before. Oh the agony.

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Well, we certainly can't claim to complete any house projects at world record speed, whether it's a 12+ year renovation of our 15' wide townhouse, or even completing our master bathroom renovation in less than five years. But when outsourcing work, I thought we could count on hired pros to turn things around a little more quickly.

For anyone who has been following along the last several months, back in February we experienced a catastrophic failure of the boiler in our new home, resulting in a house full of frozen and burst pipes, a busted boiler, and even toilets that had cracked. We knew it wouldn't be a fast process to work through the insurance claim and get the house back in working order, but I certainly didn't count on months of little to no action.

It dawned on me this week that for officially half of the time we've owned the new house, it's been without heat, running water, or functioning plumbing. Ugh. But while that's a downright depressing thought, and honestly one that's resulted in multiple meltdowns on my part including a full on tantrum that included a flying pry bar, I am happy to report we've made some progress on this front.

We've officially hired HVAC and plumbing contractors! Yep, you read that right. After a tediously slow process of finding companies that service the area and do the kind of work we need, getting companies out for estimates (and actually showing up for the appointments), following up for estimates, submitting estimates to our insurance company, filing the necessary contractor paperwork with the insurance, and discussing approaches each contractor would take to complete the work until we found one we liked, we're thrilled to report that we've selected pros for each of the two major areas of work and have given them deposits to start the work.

I'm not trying to get my hopes up here, but from what we're being told this week, work should begin within the next week. The HVAC work inside the house has to happen first before the plumbing can start, and the exterior HVAC (digging the trenches in the yard for the new geothermal system) can't start until the contractor hears back from Miss Utility, but even with those contingent items we're feeling excited.

There's a list of items we need to do in order to prepare the home for the work. Some of the items include demo, like removing the tile walls on the outside of the two showers. 

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July 2, 1779, a 22 year old Frenchman by the name of Johannes (Jean) Claudius Schledorn enrolls in the legion of Lauzun and engages as a light horse soldier in Lauzun's 1st squad of Hussars.

The adventure and duty that follows brings the calvary soldier to North America to fight with George Washington and the American rebel forces against the British in the American Revolutionary War. On July 11, 1780 he lands as part of a 5,500 man, 5 frigate strong French Naval Fleet in Newport, Rhode Island called the Expédition Particulière.

What follows for this young man as part of Rochambeau's forces takes him through several battles in support of the revolution, and eventually to the siege of Yorktown in Virginia where he witnesses the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781. Later, under the Americanized name of John Slator, he is one of the few people who is present at the signing and framing of the United States Constitution, and is honorably discharged as an American Patriot on May 9, 1783.

John Slator, originally of Alsace, France, settles as an American citizen pioneer in Donegal, Pennsylvania, is my 6th Great-grandfather, and the earliest member of my family in the United States.

Several months before John Slator's arrival in Rhode Island in 1780, a French frigate called Hermione arrives in Boston on April 28, 1780. On board is the Marquis de Lafayette, who brings secret news of the Expédition Particulière and coming 5,500 soldiers to support Washington. It marks a significant partnership in the Revolutionary War and one of the significant tide turning moments of the major conflict.

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