If you're looking for a unique party theme for your next get together, I have a fun and creative idea for you. Bonus points if your house happens to support it.

It's fair to say I'm a huge fan of a well executed party theme, as you may have guessed from our annual Halloween costume parties or our Christmas whiskey tasting and dinner parties. And last weekend, our friends, Dave and Amy, threw a party that absolutely nailed the theme they were shooting for. (In fact, they hit such a home run with this party, I asked if they wouldn't mind me sharing some photos and details here on the blog.)

Simply put, the party theme was "Dinner at Grandma's House." 

The idea for this festive affair came about due to the decor of our friends' new, old home. I recently worked with Dave and Amy to sell their 1900 Italianate home in Old Town, the sale of which was driven by their desire to tackle a new project. As consummate DIYers, when they laid eyes on this 1950s Cape Cod in Alexandria they had a vision. What didn't work for some folks is what really drew them in. Vintage bathrooms, floral wallpaper, wall-to-wall carpeting (over top of what appear to be beautiful original hardwood floors they plan to reveal), and a yellow hue called "Lemon Meringue" blanketing many of the walls made it just the project they were looking for. I have to say, working with clients that share a love of character you can only find in homes of another era is just one of the many things that makes me truly love my work as a Virginia and DC realtor.

One other, very notable detail that attracted them to the home was the fact that its previous owner had lived there since the 1960s. The previous owner cared so much for the home that she maintained everything carefully, and even kept meticulous notes in a ledger about every detail of the home and its maintenance over the years, even down to paint colors and who had performed each and every repair, service call, or upgrade. Even major appliances that many might be looking to replace are in perfect working order as they've been for decades.

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There are few things that feel as good as saying a project is complete. 

Our dining room has taken quite a journey and has seen some major change over the years. When we bought the house in 2003 the previous owner had been using it as a pass through siting area.

Back in 2004 we had it set up as a weird hybrid dining room/living room extension with massive television and speakers. Looking back on it we have very fond memories of these days, but it was far from functional (or attractive, for that matter).

And after our initial renovation efforts we settled on a room that served as a formal dining room, and we absolutely loved it for many years.

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We love architectural salvage! But sometimes making something old fit in something new can be a challenge. 

Over the years we've worked to install various old architectural salvage items in our home. From transom windows to doors and hinges to locks, using old materials in your renovation not only adds character you just can't get from new products, it can also make a renovation look appropriate in an old home, like it's always been that way. 

For example, our entry hall before and after, with reproduction mouldings, a salvaged leaded glass transom with antique hardware, and minor reconfiguration.

Before and After of our entry hallway with salvaged leaded glass transom

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Though we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, we unfortunately spent the day rather heartbroken. 

We were excited to spend Thanksgiving evening with good friends and neighbors, looking forward to having a few days off, and had big plans to tackle a few renovation projects. Instead, we began the Thanksgiving day bidding an unexpected and heartbreaking farewell to our beloved four legged family member, Mel. 

Mel was a cherished member of our family for the last 16 1/2 of his 17 years. His rugged Scottish (Fold) good looks, expressive personality, grumpy expressions from his little round face, and ability to win over pretty much everyone he came in contact with has been the constant in our adult lives.

I was a mere 22 years old when Mel came into our lives, given to us by Alex's mom when her chihuahua and other cats decided Mel wasn't a welcome member of her household. 

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It's no secret that I love to make cupcakes and truly enjoy the chance to try my hand at new flavors and combinations. 

With Alex celebrating a "big" birthday this month, I knew I wanted to make a flavor I had never tried before. Every year I ask him to come up with a new flavor combo that will make his birthday just that much better, and each year I hope to be able to top the peanut butter and jelly cupcakes that have held the crown as reigning champion in Alex's "best birthday cake of all time" category.

After a lot of flavor idea deliberation and back and forth between the two of us over the last several weeks, I had a lightbulb moment. One of the flavors of our wedding cake was lemon cake with a delicious raspberry filling and decadent vanilla buttercream. Alex loved this cake immensely (he even devoured the top layer after it had been frozen for a year), so I used this inspiration as a jumping off point but wanted to put a twist on it to incorporate blackberries, one of his favorite fruits. So I set out to whip up a delicious lemon cupcake with blackberry buttercream for Alex's birthday celebration.

The thing I like about this recipe is that it has a manageable number of ingredients, isn't difficult to make, and the somewhat tart, dense cake is nicely complemented by the sweet buttercream frosting.

In addition to trying a new recipe, I ordered cupcake wrappers for the first time. Because I was throwing Alex a big party to celebrate his special day, I thought the occasion called for a bit more pizazz. I found these cute polka dot patterned wrappers on Amazon that dressed up the look for the occasion for little effort and little money.

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