The Language of Flowers – Throwback Thursday

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers Merrimack Valley Magazine 2015


Today, I throw back to a short piece I wrote for the spring issue of Merrimack Valley Home Magazine 2015. It was an homage to my favorite book, The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I enjoyed everything about that book and, mostly, its focus on flowers and the meaning behind them. I put together this page and l loved how the tulips dropped past the edge of the rustic table. The soft pink and peach tones of the bouquet were elegant and romantic. I liked their contrast to the earthy greenhouse where we shot this, at Mill City Grows in Lowell, MA.

A special shout out to photographer Meghan Moore and florist Joanne Fiore for making my version of the language of flowers come to life.

I am going to run out and get a bunch of tulips right now. It may still be chilly outside, but it is spring.




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Helen Thomas Simply Smashing – Home Decor, Gifts & More

Painting by Stephanie Mobbs Deady at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
These lovely ladies painted by Stephanie Mobbs Deady always catch my eye.


I love to shop – even more when a store has a variety of unique items. Helen Thomas Simply Smashing of Andover offers a fabulous selection of jewelry, whimsical gifts and a wide array of home decor items including custom order rugs and furnishings.

I’ve only recently come to know owner, Lisa Schiavone (no, her name is not Helen Thomas), and have been so impressed with her passion and commitment to the arts and community.

Who is Helen?

Helen Thomas first opened in Andover Center in October 2000.The store’s name is a combination of Lisa’s middle name, also her grandmother’s first name; Helen and her husband’s name; Thomas, although not necessarily his namesake. Lisa liked the ring of the two names together and so was born – Helen Thomas. Her catchy tagline, Simply Smashing, was the perfect description of everything Lisa hoped her gift and home decor store to be – simple, smashing and everything in between.

The charm of the store is unmistakable as is the regular presence of Lisa’s mom, Cookie Gollan. Customers might find Cookie working the front of the store or running art parties for children twice a month on what’s come to be known as Fun Fridays. In many ways, Helen Thomas is as much Cookie as it is Lisa.

The Store

Upon entering the store you are greeted by a colorful selection of unique gift items such as mittens, robes, art, jewelry, pillows, candles, mugs and more.

Jewelry, home decor, art and gifts at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
Top left: Colorful and cozy robes. Top right: Lola jewelry. Bottom left: A Stephanie Mobbs Deady signature cow painting. Bottom right: Pops of pink. Love, love, love and love!


I could spend days poking around for just the right hostess gift, home decor accessory or just something fun for me. Here are some of my favorite gift and home decor finds from Helen Thomas Simply Smashing.


home decor, candles, gifts and books at Helen Thomas Simply Smashing
Top left: Olive candles and a 3 Olive & a Twist shout out – thank you Lisa! Top right: The colorful collection of Company C rugs. Bottom left: Dog stuff – yes please! Bottom right: A must read novel, Faithfully Yours, by local Author, Ellen B. Alden.


But more than merchandise, I like what Lisa is doing in addition to retail sales. She has turned Helen Thomas into an art resource, an interior design services connection, and an activity center for calligraphy, painting and jewelry making classes. This Andover shop also acts as a gathering place for ladies’ nights out, cookies and cocktails, book readings and even pajama parties when the store stays open until midnight- how fun is that?

Lisa happily custom coordinates in-store events just as she does many of her customized products.

Personalization is one of the countless reasons customers love shopping at Helen Thomas. Many of the gift and home decor items available can be made to order in any way the customer desires. Lisa DiAntonio of Green Park Studios sells her line of custom printed wall art and fabric printed pillows, aprons, table runners, hand towels and more through Helen Thomas. Her items can be custom created with anything the customer would like to see printed… favorite Christmas carols, a love poem, family names, etc.

Custom wall art with inspirational quotes
Left: Art by Michele Boshar. Right: customizable wall hangings by Green Park Studios.


Working with local artisans like Lisa DiAntonio has become the cornerstone of Helen Thomas. Formerly an artist’s representative, Lisa Schiavone values craftsmanship and artistry. She is committed to featuring more local artists like prolific painter Stephanie Mobbs Deady and Michele Boshar whose inspirational collage art is featured above, left.

With so much to offer at Helen Thomas, Lisa does not want the experience to be about buying alone. She is continually working with local charities to give back to the community. Just last week she held a Local Artist’s Night in support of Lazarus House Ministries in Lawrence.


Michelle Boshar, Ellen B. Alden, Lisa Schiavone, Lisa DiAntonio and Stephanie Mobbs Deady at Artist's Night Out
Michelle Boshar, Ellen B. Alden, Lisa Schiavone, Lisa DiAntonio and Stephanie Mobbs Deady come together for Local Artist’s Night in support of Lazarus House.


Looking for something fun to do TONIGHT, 12/8/16?

Lisa is hosting a Sip and Shop from 6-8pm with a portion of proceeds going to Project Home Again. Bring in a new or gently used blanket and receive 20% off any blankets in store!

There are many ways to shop this holiday season, but consider purchasing your Christmas gifts at a local home decor and gift shop like Helen Thomas where special and simply smashing have a meaning all their own. Stop in any Thursday night before Christmas for holiday shopping parties – open until 9pm.

More to come in 2017

What can you expect to see from Helen Thomas in the future? To begin, more focus on interior design and home decor services. In addition to the Company C, Dash & Albert and Pine Cone Hill home products lines already available, Lisa will be working with local interior designers to bring you more of what you love for your home. The back of the store will be transformed into a design center while the front of the store will also be getting a fresh, new look with more of everything you know and love from Helen Thomas Simply Smashing.

You can shop Helen Thomas at the Andover location, below, and see more beautiful gifts, art and decor on Instagram.

Helen Thomas Simply Smashing, 90 Main Street, Andover, MA 01810, 978-475-7981


*This post is sponsored by Helen Thomas Simply Smashing with full support from 3 Olives & a Twist. Thank you for supporting the brands that help to support 3 Olives & a Twist.

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Distinctive Window Coverings – More Than Shades

made by Distinctive Window Coverings

Recently I decided to give Tony’s home office an update. His space is right off the kitchen and directly in line the sunroom; which, if you recall, was professionally designed back in June – see my post Sunroom Sanctuary.

Well, you know how it goes; the sunroom looked so fresh and nice, I suddenly began to feel Tony’s office looked drab and haphazard. I couldn’t stand to look in there when everything outside of the room was so bright and pulled together.

Well, with my design budget exhausted and my newfound distaste for Tony’s office décor, I decided to take on the facelift myself. A new rug, a cool map of the world wall hanging, a fun cowhide bench and some colorful new accessories added just enough life to the room to put me on a path to satisfied. The only thing missing was window treatments to tie it all together.

I knew this would be an important element of the room and while I might typically find something good enough at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, I decided to go the extra mile and investigate custom window treatments. I knew I wanted roman shades and I had already found a gorgeous Thibaut fabric that would go perfectly in the room. Now, I just needed someone to create them.

I popped into Distinctive Window Coverings in North Andover; a place I’d been by hundreds of times. I was with my youngest, Ally, and there we met Julie. Julie Sinopoli is the owner of Distinctive Window Coverings and an absolute doll.  The moment we walked in, our positive customer experience began. Julie was helpful, but not overbearing. We talked through what I was thinking and she pointed out my options. She was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. Conversation went well beyond window treatments. By the time we left, I figured Ally would be completely frustrated that we’d been in there so long. Not the case; in fact, she commented on how nice Julie was. This, coming from Ally, was indeed a compliment of major proportions. Ally said, “You should buy your shades from her.”

I agreed, not only because Ally said so and I was able get exactly what I wanted at a price I could afford, but because it felt great to give my business to someone who is committed to excellent customer service. Outside Distinctive Window Covering’s storefront, Julie came to my house for in-home consultations twice before I finalized my order. She guided me on whether my roman shades should have an inside or outside mount, on the lining that would work best with my selected fabric and whether I needed a coordinating valance to top my shades – something I was considering but decided against per Julie’s suggestion. On installation day, the gentlemen who hung my shades were prompt, quick and professional.

The experience was a very positive one. I am thrilled with Tony’s new office and the roman shades look fabulous.  They operate flawlessly and give the room just the pop of pattern and color that I hoped they would.

Shade by Distinctive Window Coverings
The folds of this roman shade by Distinctive Window Coverings fall perfectly no matter what the position.


I am happy to have discovered Distinctive Window Coverings – they are a good local business with good people. And while the high quality shades I received are what I was after; it was the exceptional customer experience that made the biggest impression.

No matter where you are, seek businesses that go beyond just selling you a product. Look for those who want and are willing to make a connection with you as a person, not just a customer. For me, that is what makes a good business, great.

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Sunroom Makeover – Decorating with Color

Decorating with Color in a Sunroom, Photo by Linda Holt
Photo by Linda Holt


Calling in the Design Expert

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this sooner considering it has made me so happy. Over the summer, Linda Holt of Linda Holt Interiors redesigned my sunroom. I know Linda through our work together at Merrimack Valley Home magazine. Getting to know Linda has been a true pleasure. She’s a great person and designs thoughtfully with color, function and style. In fact, decorating with color is her signature.

I had never worked with a designer before, but asking Linda to take on my sunroom was a no-brainer because I fully trust her. That made all the difference to me.

My sunroom is a cozy space that I sit in every day. While I’ve always loved the room, I felt it looked drab and was a bit of a mishmash (scroll to bottom for before and after shots). I asked Linda to take a look and see what we could do.

The Inspiration

Linda and I had once done a photo shoot in a house that had a bold, blue settee in the breakfast nook. I wanted something like that for my sunroom – that was my inspiration. Linda asked questions and explored my thoughts on other areas of the house that flow into the sunroom. One of my favorite things I mentioned was the pottery wall in my dining room. Each piece has been collected from places like Greece, Italy, Nantucket, Puerto Rico or wherever my travels have taken me. I never realized this would be Linda’s inspiration nor did I realize that decorating with color should extend beyond the one room you are updating.

A Personalized Approach to Interior Design

When Linda laid out the plan, I loved everything she showed me. She explained that she had used the colors in my pottery wall to inspire the tones in the sunroom. Having listened closely to all I had shared in our first meeting, Linda also took all of my requests into account. In particular, I wanted to repurpose the two big rocking chairs that were once in my girls’ baby rooms.

Colorful Pottery Wall in Dining Room
The pottery wall in my dining room


She suggested a change of artwork in the kitchen to allow everything from the dining room pottery to “relate” to the colorful choices we were making in the sunroom. I had never considered this, which is why I was so thrilled to have Linda’s expertise. I began to understand that decorating with color from room to room should work together.

Now, all three spaces are connected visually and personally.


Art from One King's Lane
Art from One King’s Lane


Linda’s personal approach has made such a difference in how my family enjoys this space. My girls’ rockers are so special to me; the dog-friendly fabrics on the couch and chairs are perfect choices with Oscar ruling the roost, and the unmistakable flow from one room to the next has taken my sunroom from ordinary to unique. I love it – this room is my happy place and I am so grateful to Linda for helping me bring it to life.


Redecorated sunroom with pops of color
Photo by Linda Holt


A Few Colorful Details

  • Couch by Duralee, Fabric by Crypton (Oscar thanks you)
  • Dragonfly art by Hayley Mitchell available at Etsy
  • Summer Stones art by Rob Delamater available at Serena and Lily.
  • Painting of the little green chest, BCheeky; Blue Lucite Handles – Exxel Company
  • Lamps by Shades of Light (These lamps were not my first choice, but I deferred the decision to Linda – they get more positive comments than anything else in the room!)


Sunroom before decorating with color update


complete sunroom decorated with color
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Things to Do in Amesbury: Gift Shops, Restaurants & More

Nest Home and Gift shop, Amesbury MA
Welcome to Nest!


It’s funny how you can live nearby a town and not know much about it – especially when it has so much to offer. I live just 30 minutes from this Massachusetts town, and only recently did I discover all the great things to do in Amesbury from shopping vintage boutiques, to dining at delicious bistros, and so much more.

A Visit to Nest

Taylor Simpson, owner of Nest, an adorable home and gift store, suggested I visit Amesbury when we first met on a photo shoot for Merrimack Valley Home Magazine. Taylor had designed a room we were featuring in our spring 2016 issue. In addition to the Nest store, Taylor launched Nest Designs out of Andover, specializing in staging, home improvement and interior design.

In Amesbury, I met up with Taylor, first in her store, and my immediate reaction was WOW! I love the entrance. The door was framed with a natural birch archway that gave the sense I was entering a very unique space. The spacious store was filled with eye-catching finds from colorful summer hats to glitzy jewelry.


Jewelry, soaps and succulents from Nest, Amesbury MA
Jewelry, soaps and succulents from Nest


As Taylor spoke with customers, I happily poked around investigating all of the fun finds. From herbal teas to the Nest Kids section, I was impressed with the great selection. As I made my way to the back of the store, I was drawn to a second, custom-built archway that led to the Nest Garden. My green thumb was pulsing with excitement as I entered a space that left me feeling I’d entered a magical forest. There were succulent arrangements everywhere. I’ve been obsessed with succulents ever since my father grew the largest Jade tree I’ve ever seen. And now, with succulents more popular than ever; this room was a haven for anyone looking to bring these earthy, easy care plants into their home.

I was further intrigued by the shelves of Fairy House items and fondly recalled the days when I would create little fairy gardens with Julia and Ally.


Fairy Houses from Nest, Amesbury MA
Fairy Houses


Nest alone is reason enough to pop up to Amesbury, but Taylor was nice enough to walk me around more of the downtown area.

More Things to do in Amesbury: Restaurants, Boutiques, Craft Beer and More

As we strolled by the dramatic rushing waterfall of the Powow River, I learned that Crave, Phat Cats Bistro and The Noshery are great restaurants to grab a bite. I was also reminded that Nest will be participating in this year’s Vintage Bazaar taking place in nearby Salisbury on June 25 & 26. I had a blast there last year with over 175 boutiques, vintages finds, indie crafts, salvage and more. Also happening in Amesbury on June 26th is the Carriagetown Car Show (Judd, do you want to go?).

Next up on our list of things to do in Amesbury – the Craft Beer Cellar, where I had the pleasure of meeting proprietor, Karen Wood. Karen showed me all around this beer lover’s dream (wine too) and turned me on to some great Father’s Day gift ideas too.


Beer and Wine at Craft Beer Cellar, Amesbury MA
Father’s Day Beer Boxes ($17-20), Beer and Wine at Craft Beer Cellar


Last stop on my Amesbury day of fun, Ovedia Artisan Chocolates, where a lemon chocolate truffle and Greek Frappe hit the spot. What’s a Greek Frappe? A coffee-based drink, shaken ‘til foamy, poured over coffee ice and finished with a splash of cream – YUM!


Things to do in Amesbury, get an Ovedia greek frappe
Greek Frappe by Ovedia


Shop Local

Be sure to check out all these great things to do in Amesbury, and remember SHOP LOCAL – help our small businesses thrive!

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