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Living Room Mood Board

Living Room Mood Board, originally uploaded by Refined Designer.

I created this mood board with a warm contemporary vibe being the target end result. My goal is to recreate this look in our living room on a modest budget.

Review of Realtor® Doug Francis of Northern Virginia

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Where to start in the home-buying process?

This year my fiance and I made the decision to purchase our first home through Realtor® Doug Francis of Vienna, VA. Initially, we didn’t know where to start in choosing a real estate agent, so we turned to a trusted friend of ours whom recently went through the house hunting process himself. He mentioned he had used Doug for his search and had nothing but great things to say; even mentioned how technologically savvy Doug is! Naturally, with our investigative instincts, we began our research at dougfrancis.com. We instantly knew that if this is a man who is willing to provide both buyers and sellers with an abundance of trusted online resources, then he must work even harder as an agent. From there, we made the initial contact.

The first meeting

Doug began our conversation by greeting us in a friendly manner and proceeded to define the role that he plays in our house search. From there he asked us our needs and wants in a home. We conveyed to him our wish-list as well as our desire to have a family, so that he’d have a clear idea of what type of home we wanted… it was comforting knowing that he seemed to know the right questions to ask. His ~20 years of industry experience certainly made us feel confident that we indeed made the right choice. He even recommended a fantastic lender to us in his network, so that we could secure financing. After all, he advises any home buyer to be as competitive as possible! (Take note: great advice…)

Looking at homes

Over the next several months, Doug took us around to dozens of houses in the Northern Virginia area. In each house he would point out the things to watch out for and the things to be appreciative of… a trait that is especially unique to Doug’s professionalism as a seasoned one-of-a-kind real estate agent. When spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, we definitely didn’t want the truth sugarcoated, so it made it reassuring to know that Doug would be honest with us. It wasn’t all business. Every now and then, we’d have laughs over my disappointment at the lack of HGTV cameras in the houses we were looking at (buying a house is not like they show it on TV, by the way). He made the whole process fun, enjoyable, and headache-free. Of course, many people, including us, dread the paperwork side of home buying, but it was relatively painless. If we weren’t too sure of what the fine print meant, he thoroughly broke it down for us, thus allowing us to make a choice that was wise for us.

Bottom line?

You won’t be disappointed. Doug goes above and beyond what is asked for in his line of work. He is passionate, personable and listens well. He is meticulous with his research and delivers results — all his picks for us lined up with our budget, wish-list, and location. When paperwork or correspondence came our way from the seller’s agent, he was there to act as a liaison on our behalf right away. We didn’t feel alone in this process, and we have Doug to thank. If you are considering using Doug Francis as your buyer/seller agent, we highly recommend using him. Oh and us? He found us a beautiful home that we will love for years to come.

He has a Web site at www.dougfrancis.com. He provides you with first timer advice, do’s and don’ts, and handy links to the MLS searches.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section!

[Photo] Tree railing

Tree railing. Photo courtesy of Design You Trust.

What a clever way to bring nature into your home: it’s a railing in the form of a tree and its branches. It certainly is a refreshing way to bring the beauty of the outdoors into your home. People brought up a good point, would this pass a building code inspection?

As seen on Design You Trust, extracted from Design Fetish.

Japanese bento: an excuse to play with your food

I recently came across Japanese bento photography on Flickr and became intrigued with the intricacies of this cultural tradition. First, what is bento? In a nutshell it’s a combination of food items tucked into a container. The bento can be fairly simple or it can be an elaborate work of art. Wikipedia describes it in more detail:

A single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware. Although bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋, bentō-ya?), train stations, and department stores, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend time and energy for their spouse, child, or themselves producing a carefully prepared lunch box.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from Flickr:

Geese bento, photo by kitsa_sakurako via Flickr

Cute animals, photo by soulstruck via Flickr

Halloween bento

Halloween, photo by pkoceres via Flickr

Sandwich bento

Sandwich man, photo by kitsa_sakurako via Flickr

Preschooler bento

Sesame street, photo by cuteobento via Flickr

Preschooler bento

Elmo and friends, photo by lovebones via Flickr

Heinz unveils new ketchup packet

Old Heinz ketchup packet vs. new Heinz ketchup packet

Old Heinz ketchup packet vs. new Heinz ketchup packet

Meet the new Heinz® ketchup easy-dip packet. Heinz® ketchup has undergone a redesign of the ever-so-convenient ketchup packet that has been a classic staple of fast-food eats for over 35 years. However, there have been many complaints about the product’s messiness. With this in mind, the H.J. Heinz Co. unveiled a new solution on Thursday, Feb. 4th, 2010. The product’s new packaging allows for easier dipping or squeezing, depending on the consumer’s preference. With more flexibility, it appears that the Heinz® company hopes that this will appeal more to a broader range of customers. According to an ABC news article,

Designers found that what worked at a table didn’t work where many people use ketchup packets: in the car. So two years ago, Heinz bought a used minivan for the design team members so they could give their ideas a real road test.

The team studied what each passenger needed. The driver wanted something that could sit on the armrest. Passengers wanted the choice of squeezing or dunking. Moms everywhere wanted a packet that held enough ketchup for the meal and didn’t squirt onto clothes so easily.

The original packets will still be available for traditional consumers. However, for those of you anxious to check out the new design, you can anticipate the new packets to hit the market at select fast-food locations throughout the nation in Fall of 2010.  To find out more information, read the press release, “Heinz® Ketchup ‘Uncaps’ New Decade with Revolutionary Product and Packaging Innovations” on the Heinz corporate website.

Thanks to Jacob Cass, @justcreative. for the lead.

Fun & Creative Superbowl Snacks

Looking to get in touch with your creative side for this year’s Superbowl food line-up? Check out some of these fun recipes:

Ritz Cheesy Football

Recipe from Food Network

Ritz Cheesy Football

Ritz Cheesy Football from Food Network

Salad on a Stick

Recipe from Food Network

Salad on a Stick from Food Network

Perky Olive Penguins

Recipe from RecipeZaar

Perky Olive Penguins from RecipeZaar

Super Bowl

Recipe from Food Network

Super Bowl from Food Network

And the best for last… albeit a little over the top:

The Greatest Snack Food Stadium Ever Built

Recipe from Holy Taco

The Greatest Snack Food Stadium Ever Built by Holy Taco



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