Winter Fun

Happy Thursday all!

Hope your week (sans polar vortex) is going great. I wanted to share a fun outdoor winter activity with you all today.

Ryan and I went snowshoeing in the Cleveland Metroparks this past weekend. My Dad and Ruth joined (we got it as a Christmas gift for them). It was so much fun, and proof that there are indeed things to do outside, in winter, in Cleveland.

The weather was perfect- a light snow was falling, and there was very little wind. It was in the mid-twenties and once we were walking we quickly warmed up. We even had some sunshine later on in our walk.

We started out at Chestnut Shelter in North Chagrin. The Cleveland Metroparks team had a nice fire going and greeted us as we arrived. Both of our guides (Matt and Zach) were so incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.

The photo below shows Chestnut Shelter in North Chagrin. You can see the snowshoes lined up out front.

^ Group shot as we began to head out. The softly falling snow made everyone and everything very photogenic ๐Ÿ˜„. Also our guide was an excellent group photographer ๐Ÿ™‚.

We hiked through the woods which was beautiful. It was very quiet and peaceful and felt great to breathe in the cold fresh air. We even crossed a babbling brook! Talk about picturesque. We only saw a sole runner on our whole trek. As we walked, the guides pointed out different species of trees and critters, and told us about the Metroparks conservation efforts.

One of our guides, Matt. ^

We also got a brief history of snowshoes which was actually very interesting (especially if you’re into American history at all).

We eventually snowshoed to Squire’s Castle, a local Cleveland landmark. I hadn’t been here in at least 15 years, and I have to say, it looked so beautiful covered in snow.

^Squire’s Castle covered in snow (and enhanced via a Snapseed filter). The unfiltered version is below. What a beautiful sight!

The inside of the castle (which has been abandoned for decades) was beautiful and a bit eerie. The snow drifts inside the thick brick and stone walls reminded me of something you might see in a forgotten corner of an ancient European city.

After walking around the castle a little bit, we started our hike back.

When we arrived back to the lodge, we had s’mores and hot chocolate and chatted with our guides. It was a wonderful way to spend a wintry afternoon.

The Metroparks offers tons of programs throughout the year, and I couldn’t recommend this snowshoeing hike enough. You can view all of their programs by visiting their website which I will link below.

Take a look – they have activities the whole family can enjoy! Do you have any suggestions for winter activities? Let me know!

Plan your visit to the Cleveland Metroparks

Healthy-ish Snack: Siggiโ€™s + Pistachios

Hi all- I hope you’re all staying warm! It has snowed about 18 inches here in the last few days and we relaxed inside pretty much all weekend long. The four degree temps this morning it all the harder to head back into work, but we made it!

I wanted to share a snack idea that Ryan came up with. We have had this several times and it makes for a filling, yummy snack or healthy dessert option.

It couldn’t be easier- here’s what you’ll need:

  • Siggi’s 4% Milkfat Vanilla Greek yogurt (or their lower fat vanilla)
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • 2 tsps Honey
  • Handful of pistachios

That’s it.

Grab a handful of pistachios (and remove the shells, hopefully that’s obvious!). Use a rolling pin (or a Nalgene water bottle like me ๐Ÿคฃ) to crush them in a plastic sandwich baggie. Then sprinkle them on top of the Siggi’s yogurt. Top with honey (I used raw honey but any kind will do!) and cinnamon. We always have Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon on hand and it is sooo yummy and flavorful.

You can order some using this link:

Penzeyโ€™s Vietnamese Cinnamon

There you have it! A satisfying snack that will fill you up and tastes delicious in just a couple of minutes.

As a sidebar/ unsolicited plug for Siggi’s vanilla yogurt (and all of their yogurt in general): it is amazing! This particular yogurt has just six ingredients in it, 12 g of protein, and 8 grams of sugar. I will say, this yogurt is more expensive than other brands. This is because you are actually getting much more food when you buy this type of yogurt vs a Yoplait or Chobani (which have water or other oddities added to them to make them thicker).

I had been eating Chobani Greek yogurt but it had 15 g of sugar per serving (although fewer calories). My doctor recommended staying under 30 g of sugar per day- hence why I mention this. Yoplait often has even more sugar than Chobani, or more additives.

A lot times, if a yogurt (or food) is low in fat or calories, additives are used to make it taste more sugary or make it thicker. Even low sugar foods can be supplemented with fake crap, so I think your best bet is reading the ingredients. Sometimes getting something with a little more fat is actually healthier overall and can be more filling.

I also honestly prefer the taste of Siggi’s to Chobani blended yogurts. It’s definitely less sweet but I like that (or have gotten used to it ๐Ÿ˜‚). We love the Siggi’s Coconut and Mixed Berries flavors as well. They also make lower fat versions with no additives as well.

Fage yogurt is another healthy and delicious option but I prefer the taste of Siggi’s overall.

Anyways- try this “recipe” out and let me know what you think! If you’re not a fan of pistachios you can substitute a tablespoon of natural peanut butter or chia seeds. The options are endless. Mix it all together and enjoy!

Saint Laurent Copy Cat Sandals

Happy Sunday friends! I wanted to hop on here quickly and just post about a little sandal steal/ dupe I found.

I posted the below photo on my Instagram, asking if you could tell which pair was more. Well……the big reveal is below!! Did you guess right?

The pair on the left are Saint Laurent and retail for $595.00. The pair on the right are Zara and retail for $45.00. They both look so similar and are both so classic looking! Honestly I can’t fathom spending $595 on sandals that I would probably wear out in a year or two, but if that’s more your speed, more power to ya! I linked both below.

Saint Laurent Woven Leather Slide

Zara Leather Crossover Sandals

Review of the Zara leather sandals:

I purchased the leather Zara sandals in Brown (they also come in several other beautiful colors, I love the yellow or red) in size 9 & 10- I never know what size to get since they don’t carry half sizes. I am going to stick with the size 9- they fit well and leather has a tendency to stretch, as do sandals of this style. I do have narrower feet, so I’d recommend trying on both pairs if you’re in between shoe sizes.

They are simple, beautiful and exactly as pictured. I also like how they’re plain. I know that may not sound very *trendy* and they might not even look very trendy but that is a bonus to me. They are timeless looking! They also feel very comfortable and I have read a few other reviews that echo this sentiment. I haven’t walked around in them much because… February. But they felt great as I tried them on. Definitely happy with my purchase and keeping them! It’s hard to find leather sandals at a good price point, so for me, the Zara pair are a good deal.

If you’re in the market for a classic leather sandal for spring or summer, I would recommend checking out either of these pairs. Okay, let’s face it, I can’t “recommend” spending $600 on a pair of skimpy sandals, but, I always want to provide options ๐Ÿ˜‚. Both are beautiful and classic in my opinion, regardless of the brand. Let me know if you have any questions or other good dupes in the comments below.

Also, I realize this is not a photography blog post, but it’s something I thought was worth sharing. I don’t have a specific blog identity (lol is that a thing?) so I’m just going to keep posting what I think could be useful to all three of my regular readers ๐Ÿ˜‚. Enjoy!

Have a great long weekend everyone.

Molly

Crate&Barrel Lounge II Sofa Review & Buying Guide

Hi guys! After a very long hiatus I am back! For anyone new to my blog – welcome! The past year has been a whirlwind for a few reasons:

1. I got married!!! Yes, my wonderful now- husband Ryan and I tied the knot in May, here in Cleveland. It was wonderful and amazing and just truly the best day.

2. We bought a house!!! Also in Cleveland.

3. I got a new job!

4. Ryan got a new job!

5. We ran our first (and possibly my last) half marathon!

Anyways, those are the big things, I will hopefully do some catch up blog posts on these topics, but I wanted to start off with something a little… easier…. drum roll-

A product review! I am reviewing the couch Ryan and I bought for our new house. I felt there was a lack of available reviews when we were looking, so hopefully I can help everyone out! I did a ton of research, looking everywhere from Ashley Furniture to Restoration Hardware to Wayfair to Ikea and in between. I also read what little information I could find on couch quality and construction.

I looked at dozens of different couches, and we finally decided on the Lounge II sectional from Crate&Barrel – linked below.

Crate&Barrel Lounge II 2 Piece Sectional Sofa

As you can see in the above pic, it is VERY spacious and also very deep. There’s Ryan lounging away (hence the namesake I suppose!).

The fabric we selected was a stock fabric, called Cement. It’s a neutral cream color with both cool and warm tones built into the weave. As you can see it has a slightly nubby texture and is not a solid color. This is ideal for hiding stains or imperfections.

The fabric is soft and comfortable and seems very durable as well.

This shows the depth of the couch (and suggests Ryan should have a career in catalogue modeling!). If you are looking for something that is more shallow, this may not be the couch for you.

We bought the matching ottoman pictured above. It pops open for easy storage and we love it! Also, I hate that ceiling fan staring me in the face ๐Ÿ˜‚.

Pros (there are a lot):

  1. Super comfortable and deep cushions.
  2. More than enough space for two adults to lie down on and completely stretch out.
  3. Although it is super spacious, it doesn’t feel “heavy” because it has nice crisp lines and isn’t overstuffed.
  4. Hides imperfections or stains well because of its textured fabric.
  5. Comes with four matching pillows (if you’re into that, I actually want to add some colorful throw pillows but haven’t gotten around to it).
  6. Price point. This model retails for $2998.00 (which is a sh*tload), BUT for a high quality and large couch, this price is actually (and sadly) towards the more affordable end. Side note: as I write this, it’s marked down $500.00. If you can find a 15% off coupon that would bring it down another $500! Unlike many other stores Crate&Barrel honors coupons on their stock furniture. We combined coupons for ours and saved at least $1,000!
  7. The style definitely leans modern, but modern gal I am not. It works though because it truly goes with any kind of furniture! It doesn’t feel out of place with our other more traditional (or dated ๐Ÿคฃ) items.
  8. Quality. This couch literally looks exactly the same as the day it was delivered seven months ago. No wear and tear, no pilling of fabric, no seams coming loose, no cushions caving in, no butt marks whatsoever! The cushions are a foam core wrapped in down cushioning and sturdy.
  9. The couch cushions stay in place. You don’t have to constantly reposition them or fluff them! They just stay, as is. I have maybe readjusted them once or twice.
  10. It’s perfect for lounging. You can easily curl up with some popcorn or red wine (yes we drink it on this couch, just testing our luck I think) and have plenty of room for pillows, blankets, or shifting to a more spread out position.

Cons:

  1. The price point! Okay, I know this was in the pros, but it can also be a con as well. There are some couches out there that you will find at a better price point (but I really don’t know about better quality!). Personally I think Ikea has some great options, including their Ektorp line (which has a more traditional/overstuffed look). The reviews I read of Ashley furniture and other “discount” furniture stores were *not* glowing- reviews noted how fabric started to fray and fall apart after a few months.
  2. Depth. For some with a narrower space, make sure you look at the measurements. You definitely sink into this couch. If you’re looking for something more formal, I might look at a few other styles as well.

Those are my only two cons!

I am so incredibly picky about furniture and this couch has exceeded my expectations. We have another couch from Crate&Barrel that we love as well and have had that one for nearly 5 years. Picture is below- it’s the Montgomery sofa. I love this whole room honestly- those lamps are so beautiful ๐Ÿ˜.

My recommendation is to definitely consider this couch, or Crate&Barrel in general, if you are looking for a high quality and long lasting couch. We absolutely love our Lounge II and think it’s money very well spent. Also, their customer service is excellent and the staff are super friendly. The associate who helped us pick out our couch even called us a month later to ask how it was working out for us!

Other options:

Lower Price Point:

  1. IKEA– I have a chair from the Ektorp line and it’s been going strong for 6 years. It’s not quite as comfortable as Crate&Barrel but it clearly lasts. Also, for the whole Ektorp line you can buy different slip covers for a really reasonable refresh at any given time! I also love their Stocksund line which looks almost identical to the other couch we have from Crate&Barrel. Their Farlov and Kivik lines also look really high end and nice to me. I would highly recommend IKEA for a number of furniture products.
  2. Wayfair– You can custom design your own couch on Wayfair. The price point starts under 1,000 but then can creep up a little bit. Lots of positive reviews, but we really wanted to see our couch in person before buying. If that doesn’t matter to you, check this site out! I even ordered fabric samples all of which were beautiful.
  3. I’ve heard great things about Article, and they actually have reviews on their website. Their items trend a little bit more modern but definitely a stylish and affordable option.
  4. Macy’s– They actually have a very good selection of different styles at a great price point. I would recommend reading reviews for the sofa you’re interested in. You can find small sectionals starting at $1200-1500 here.
  5. Not really a store, but if you know any realtors, they often have to stage houses to sell them. They usually get rid of a lot of furniture during certain times of the year and you can get a cheap and amazing couch this way!

If you’re ready to drop some serious dollars ๐Ÿคฃ check out these other options:

  1. Restoration Hardware– Amazing quality and so comfortable. Ryan and I sat on a few of these in their showroom and they did not disappoint. Expect to pay about $6,000-7,000 (starting) for a smaller sectional here. The Cloud line is incredible. Also totally worth it to invest in the RH membership program because it saves you 25% on any purchase for $100/ year.
  2. Serena and Lilly– I love their furniture but no reviews and no showroom in Cleveland makes it difficult to drop thousands of dollars. Their basic non sectional couches start at around $5,000. Also, they just started making furniture recently so may be good to see what’s tried and true in a few more years.
  3. Interior Define– This is another newer company but Ryan’s parents have a beautiful velvet loveseat from here and we love it. These *start* at $2,200 and go from there (actually a more “moderate” price point but can quickly go above $3,000). You can custom design your color and style which is cool!
  4. Arhaus– a classic! Their small sectionals start at around $3,700. This is one of the most respected and long lasting furniture brands in the States. I know several people who have sofas from Arhaus and say they are well worth the investment.
  5. Ethan Allen– another classic. Small sectionals start at $5,500.00 here. I don’t know much about their furniture, but I do see it for resale and in vintage stores, indicating that it is (or at least was) built to last.

Other places to check out: West Elm, CB2, Lulu & Georgia, AllModern (online), Bloomingdales, local furniture stores and interior design studios.

Hopefully this helps anyone in the market for a new couch. It really is a big purchase, and no matter what you spend, an important one! If you’re anything like me, you’re on your couch A LOT… maybe a little too much. In my opinion, the comfort factor, durability, and price point are the biggest factors to think about. You can get a couch for $800, or $8,000 which makes it all the more difficult to choose. Use this as a guide and go from there!

I also recommend going in person to look and test out sofas. This is one of the few things that is truly worth in person shopping it for me.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!