Browsing Tag



Interview with Elaine Griffin: Decorating your Home for the Holiday

lowe\'s before and after foyer for the holiday

I interviewed last week interior designer and author Elaine Griffin about preparing your home for Christmas. We talked about quick fixes to enhance your home decor and trends in Holiday decorations. We also explored how to decorate without a Christmas tree, how to display the gifts if you do not have a Christmas tree, how to prepare a cozy guest room and decking your front door.

A Cheerful Foyer

As you can see from the before and after pictures, a coat of paint instantly transformed the mood of the foyer. A new rug and new drapes add warmth and sophistication. I often custom the edge of store-bought drapes with a band of fabric and an ornate ribbon. As for the Christmas decorations, you do not need tons of decorations to make an impact. A few well selected items can do the trick. Typically, you get better results when your festive decorations integrate with the style of your home.

Be Ready for a Delightful Stay

Elaine suggested that you become a guest in your guest room for one weekend. As you stay there, take the time to write down what is missing to make your stay comfortable. You may find that you are missing a reading lamp, an extension cord to recharge both your laptop and your cellphone and a few other objects here and there. If you do this before your guests arrive, you will have less things to worry about during their stay. I think it is clever idea.

Grab a cup of tea and watch our 12-minute long interview. It will pass quickly. I would be surprised if you do not find an idea or two that you wish to steal.

If you like Elaine Griffin’s idea, know that she just published a new book titled Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator.


My Interview with Elaine Griffin about Curb Appeal

elaine griffin

elaine griffin

I interviewed Elaine last Wednesday. I received the video today. This is a new kind of public relations / marketing campaign orchestrated by Lowe’s Home Improvement. I was curious to know how it works.

What they did was asking a selected group of bloggers if they wish to interview a personality, in this case New York interior designer Elaine Griffin about a specific topic. Only the topic is fixed, we can ask the questions we like. They scheduled with us a 5 to 10-minute interview at a set time. The interview is recorded live. Two or three days later, they send us a copy of the video for our own use. They also published the video on their site which means that you do not have to host the video on your server (you save on bandwidths).

It feels different taking the role of the live interviewer. I usually run my interviews by email, face to face or on the phone. If you participate in a similar interview, do not forget, as I did, to open the live feed before they phone you. With the live feed on, I could have seen Elaine. I saw that being the interviewer has its own set of challenges.

Tips about Curb Appeal

I tried to ask questions that would be useful to you. Curb appeal is important as this is the first thing your guests see when they visit you. We talked about ideas that you can do on a budget, without major renovations. Click to start the video.

I hope you liked it. Doing it over again, I may shorten the number of questions so everything fits inside 5 minutes.

+ Elaine Griffin


A Talk with Jaime of It’s A Jaime Thing

Recall the Sunflower bridal shower with the tiki bar that I spotlighted this summer, today’s interview is with the talented blogger who designed that event.

Jaime is a happy housewife hoping to become one day a domestic goddess. When I asked her to talk about herself Jaime told me that she was very blessed to have a husband who supports her love for weddings and blogging. So you could say her day job consists of blogging full time and planning weddings and events for friends and family.  She can’t get enough of it! I can rely to that.


Let’s start with the interview about her blog and her tips for home parties.

At Home with Kim Vallee (AHWKV): When and how did you get into blogging?

Jaime: The wedding obsession started after I planned our own wedding back in 2003. After our wedding, I didn’t want to stop planning; I enjoyed it too much! I think it might be because I’ve always loved being “artsy crafty”, so our wedding just inspired me to use that love in a way to help others plan. Oh, how I do love it!

I started blogging as a way to keep all of my creative thoughts, ideas and finding in one spot – nice and organized.  It was also a way for me to share ideas for friends and family who were getting married, as I was helping many of them plan. I never expected it to take off like it has, but I couldn’t be happier! I absolutely love blogging about weddings and entertaining. I am happy that I get to help other brides.

AHWKV: What is the concept behind your blog?  What people can expect when they read your blog?

Jaime: The tag line for my blog, It’s A Jaime Thing is, “Wedding inspiration, ideas and all things creative”. That’s exactly what it is. I try my best to update my blog at least 2- 3 times a day (sometimes more) with fresh content. I love sharing pictures and ideas that are creative and unique – things that I’ve never heard of or seen before. I also enjoy posting about cool finds from fashion to décor. My hope is to be able to help brides personalize their weddings to make it their own, rather than just like everyone else’s.

AHWKV: How often do you entertain at home?  On a personal level, what kind of party do you host?

Jaime: I recently hosted a bridal shower at our home, however I normally entertain else ware. I’m not too domestic when it comes to cooking. So I’m always joking with my best friend (who loves to cook) that she can host the dinner parties and I’ll host the cocktail parties!

When I do host parties at home, I love to keep it simple and intimate. I focus on creating a nice, comfortable atmosphere for my guests with fun décor, good music and very yummy cocktails along with finger foods. Oh, and cookies too – while I have issues when it comes to cooking, I do actually bake pretty well. Is that strange? My favorite saying is, “when you’re sad and feeling worse, just keep a cookie in your purse!”.

AHWKV: What lessons did you learn from organizing parties?

Jaime: Don’t stress. If there’s something you wanted to do but didn’t get done in time for the party, it’s ok! Nobody but you will know.

Allow yourself enough time to plan and prepare! Entertaining can get costly, but if you allow yourself enough time you can shop around for the best deals.

Make lists! There is nothing worse than remembering to buy enough cups but not enough napkins. Keep the list with you, and as you shop for your party, check the items off of the list.

For serving cocktails and food, set up a few areas where guests can fill up so that one corner of the party doesn’t get too crowded. This also helps keep the party traffic flowing.

Have everything ready before the guests arrive, so that you can enjoy the fabulous soiree you’ve created!

AHWKV: When you are doing a party in Chicago, what are the best stores for party supplies?

Jaime: Believe it or not, I love Family Dollar! You can find fabulous party supplies there if you’re on a tight budget. I also love Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics and Craft stores have loads of items you can incorporate into your event, especially if you like to think outside the box. I’m in my own personal “heaven” when I’m at a craft store. Not only do they offer a lot, but it’s a great place to go to get inspired and get your creative juices flowing.

AHWKV: Which vendors do you use when you organize a party?

Jaime: Fresh and Silk Flowers located in Carol Stream, IL. – They offer excellent prices, wonderful customer service and the most beautiful flowers that you know, coming from them, will always be fresh!

DJ Jimmy Manno with People’s Choice DJ, located in Lombard, IL. – I’ve been to so many weddings. This is by far the best DJ in the Chicagoland area! He’s professional, talented and really knows how to keep the dance floor full. When he DJ’s an event, every guest stays until the last song. Even grandma! He knows how to choose the right songs to keep everyone happy. With him as your DJ, your wedding or event will be one people will always remember as “the best!”. Did I mention DJ Jimmy Manno is extremely affordable compared to the many out there? He even works well with vendors, which is really important too.

Patrick Kramford Videography, located in West Chicago is one of my absolute favorite videographers around. He’s professional, talented and through the beauty of his work you can tell he really cares about it. When you book with him, rest assured you’ll end up with a quality video of your event – and you’ll watch it over and over as if it were a movie. He’s that good! He’s also very affordable compared to many others.

Of course you have to have a photographer? But there are too many wonderful ones to name. We were thrilled with our wedding photographer, Maureen Martini, owner of Portrait In Time Photography, out of Lombard. Again, she’s very professional, talented and affordable. We took 2 years to plan our wedding so you better believe I interviewed like a crazy bride! I found the best vendors at the best prices – we couldn’t have been happier, they all truly did a wonderful job!

AHWKV: Which are the best venues? And what is so special about these places?

Jaime: Oh goodness, there are so many around Chicagoland that it’s hard to name them all – so I’ll name just a few of my personal favorites.  Of course I have to mention the venue we married at – Avalon Banquets in Elk Grove Village, IL. The entire staff was super friendly, helpful and professional, the food was amazing, the prices were great, and they’re newly renovated. We were so happy we booked Avalon Banquets for our wedding!

Two of my other favorite venues for weddings are Riverside Receptions in Geneva, IL and also Danada House in Wheaton, IL. They’re very scenic and both offer outdoor space for your event along with their gorgeous buildings. They’re lovely!

Part 2 of this interview, the city guide, is next.


A Talk with Jennifer Mitchell of Design Hole

jennifer mitchell of design hole with kim vallee at laloux

Today’s interview is with a charming, joyful and talented interior designer who works in the Detroit-metro area on both residential and commercial projects.

I had the pleasure to have dinner with Jennifer Mitchell of Design Hole and her husband last December when they visited Montreal. This is when this picture was taken.

You may recall that Jennifer wrote three remarkable guest posts for ATWKV last May to help me when I got my ACL surgery. She inspired us with her Amusing Painting Party, her Book Club Party, and her Mother’s Day Breakfast Menu.

Let’s start with the interview about her blog and her tips for home parties.

At Home with Kim Vallee (AHWKV): When and how did you get into blogging?

Jennifer: I’ve always loved writing and have written free-lance pieces for magazines and newspapers for years. A blog gives me the chance to pursue my love for design and my love for writing. I decided to start a blog on an impulse. I had been forced to slow down my working life due to a hip injury. One day, while I was feeling particularly cranky about it, I decided that if I couldn’t practice my craft in real life (however temporary) then I’d write about it instead. I had no long-term plan, or any plan, for that matter. Two years later, I’m still writing. I feel lucky to be a person who’s vocation is also my avocation.

AHWKV: What is the idea behind Design Hole?

Jennifer: I write about Interior Design, with a focus on helping readers design their own homes. Design Dilemma is a regular feature whereby I help a reader solve his or her design problem. Readers send me photos and questions. I love writing these posts. I also enjoy writing about color and lighting. I get the most questions about those topics. I also follow trends and new products.

AHWKV: I must add that the Chair of the Day column is a fantastic way to learn amazing facts about iconic chairs and the latest design.


AHWKV: How would you describe your blog?

Jennifer: My blog is information, but mostly it’s fun to read. I like to think that my blog is fun to read, even if you’re not into interior design. I’m not afraid to share my opinion on design – both good and bad.

AHWKV: What people can expect when they read Design Hole?

Jennifer: I really hope people will enjoy reading it. Of course, I offer good advice and new ideas. But if a blog isn’t fun to read then you can be the best designer in the world and no one will care. Being a good writer is almost as important as the design ideas. Fortunately, that’s a lot of fun for me.

AHWKV: Why do you like blogging?

Jennifer: I’m a famous chatterbox. If I can’t talk someone’s head off, then at least I write my own off! Seriously, I have a lot to say about design. I have a definite opinion and a blog gives me an opportunity to share it. I also like helping people who couldn’t otherwise afford a designer. Recently, I helped a firefighter with a family of four figure out how to spruce up their home. He was so thankful. Being able to help people like that makes life worthwhile. So for me, blogging is satisfying on many levels.

AHWKV: When you are doing a party in Detroit, where do you shop for your supplies?

Jennifer: I like to make my own centerpieces. So I shop at places like IKEA for centerpiece materials, Bureau of Urban Living and The League Shop for special things plus guest towels, Blossoms for flower arrangements and Trader Joe’s if I’m making my own. Also, Hirtz’s in the Eastern Market is great for gourmet things and baskets. I DO NOT buy food from Costco because everyone knows it came from Costco.

AHWKV: Which vendors do you use to organize your party?

Jennifer: The Rattlesnake Club does an excellent job with catering. Blossoms is great for interesting flower arrangements if I don’t have time to make my own. They have more than the usual thing when it comes to flowers. Sometimes I make my own placemats. I create them on Photoshop and get them printed at Kinko’s.

Stay tuned! Jennifer will share her favorite shops in the second part of the interview. I will try to publish her city guide of Detroit tonight.


+ Design Hole
+ Image of Jennifer Mitchell and Kim Vallee taken at Laloux in Montreal – copyright Jennifer Mitchell


A Talk with Lisa Kothari of Peppers and Pollywogs

lisa of peppers and pollywogs

I wanted to add interviews for a while now. I am thrilled to start this interview column.

Besides learning a little bit about amazing bloggers, I am curious to discover their favorite places. After all, I decided to interview them because I value their insights.

The interview will be split in two parts. Part two is their city guide.

The first interviewee is Lisa Kothari. If you are a parent, chances are that who know Lisa Kothari from her book Dear Peppers and Pollywogs or that you may have hired her for a kid party or watched her on the several interviews she gave on national television.

At Home with Kim Vallee (AHWKV): Tell us about yourself? What is your day job?

Lisa: I am the founder and CEO of Peppers and Pollywogs, a web-based company All About Kids’ Parties. It’s my day job, my night job, and my weekend an entrepreneur Peppers and Pollywogs is my baby and she will be 3 years old on February 17, 2009.

I live in Seattle, WA, although the business began over 10 years ago as an event planning service in the greater Washington, DC area.

I love to adventure travel and actually met my husband while spending a few days in Sydney, Australia. Together we lived in Canada and Australia before moving to Seattle in 2005. I also traveled in India extensively for 9 months on my own.

AHWKV: When and how did you get into blogging?

Lisa: When I launched Peppers and Pollywogs as a web-based business back in 2005, an essential piece of the website was a content library around all things related to kids’ parties. Whatever topic relates to kids’ parties, I wanted to cover. Blogging seemed to be an easy tool to utilize to both write and deliver this content to my website visitors. I have been blogging for almost three years now.

AHWKV: What is the idea behind your blog?

Lisa: I write a Party Ideas Blog around kids’ parties and all things related, e.g. holidays, recipes, etiquette, news, decorating ideas, etc. It is a place for people to find up-to-date, creative ideas for planning these parties and is meant to empower parents and others to throw great parties no matter how much money or time a person has.

AHWKV: How would you describe your blog? What people can expect when they read your blog?

Lisa: People can expect to find timely articles related to kids’ parties that covers a diverse range of topics, but is focused exclusively on kids’ parties.

I particularly like my Web Ask-Me feature, where visitors ask their own particular party-related questions directly to me. I answer the person individually and then utilize this to build out content on my blog. I feel that the blog’s content is driven by what website visitors want to know about their kids’ parties first and foremost.

AHWKV: What common mistakes parents should try to avoid when organizing a kid party?

Lisa: Expecting people to RSVP. Most people simply won’t because they forget. So make sure to back up your RSVP date to 10 days and have a list of guests and their phone numbers so you can call to get your RSVPs.

Expecting parents who stay at your party to help. Unless parents have been specifically asked to help at the party, most won’t. So, line up party help in advance of the party. If you think that a parent who will be attending is particularly rude, giving her a job to do may solve this problem.

On another note regarding parents staying at your party, when children are 6 years old and younger, expect the parents of the guests to stay. When kids are seven and older, the kids can attend on their own. A way to make this clear is to write a drop off and pick up time on the invitation.

AHWKV: To make it easy for parents of the SEATTLE area, I would like to share some of best suppliers. What are the best stores for party supplies?

Lisa: Party Partners: whimsical, vintage party products that are really fun. The Surprise Balls are special! .

Michaels: Of course, this craft store makes my list! Everything for holiday decorating to birthday party activities, a walk through this store is full of inspiration to keep kids happy during party activity time! .

Fred & Friends: From animal nose cups to cool ice cubes, this is a trendy, hip store for cool party supplies.

AHWKV: Which vendors do you use when you organize a party?

Lisa: I go to all of the usual suspects, including Party City, Michaels’, JoAnn Fabrics, and the Dollar Store, but I like a few smaller vendors for particular items. As an example, I absolutely love Mango Ink for party invitations. Very well designed and picture perfect cards! Also, if I know that children with allergies will be attending a party, I highly recommend goodies from Divvies, a peanut free, tree nut free, egg free, and dairy free source of sweet treats and they are yummy!

Part 2 of this interview, the city guide, is next.

+ Dear Peppers and Pollywogs – $9.95 USD at Amazon
+ Find a Michaels store near you


I am featured on The Gazette Montreal Today

planning an outdoor party :: The Gazette montreal outdoor living section

I was interviewed two weeks by Ian Howarth for a story about planning an outdoor party.

Ian interviewed before me Kelly Deck who hosts Take it Outside on HGTV for a segment of outdoor rooms and high-end barbecues. I spoke about her show when I gave you my 5 design tips for the perfect backyard for entertaining.

You can also learn useful tips from Leslie Hoppenheim of The Party Planner who is used to plan big events. My published contributions relate to down-to-earth tips when you host a casual outdoor party.

The story is on a special Outdoor Living section included on the May 28, 2008 edition of The Gazette. There is some type to grab a copy at the newsstand. Otherwise, The Gazette is one of those friendly newspapers that published their stories online.

I want to thank again Ian Howarth for this opportunity. I enjoyed talking with him.

>>> Sourcing:
Learn more:  Planning a party by Ian Howarth [The Gazette]
Learn more: BBQ & beyond: patio parties go high-end by Ian Howarth [The Gazette]


Twice in the news today

Le TVA 17 heures

I had an eventful day which is why I did not publish a post earlier. This will wait until tomorrow because I had to finish wrapping all my gifts before we head off for our Holiday resort.

This morning

I was interviewed about two weeks ago by a journalist from the Journal de Montreal, the most popular daily newspaper in Quebec. Jessica Nadeau was writing about party etiquette. A photograph came and took my picture at the office.

The article was published this morning. See here what Wikipedia says about Le Journal de Montreal.

This afternoon

Then, just before noon, I got a phone call from a researcher of Le TVA 17 heures, a popular news TV show. They discovered me by reading the article this morning. She asked some questions and if I would be willing to be on the show around 17:30 for a 3 minutes live interview with Pierre Bruneau.

It was my first time experience on a major TV show. I was interviewed once in the past on TV but for a show on a small TV channel. TVA is by far the premier TV channel in Quebec. The good think is that I liked the experience and have a good idea of how to improve my performance next time.

Finally, they asked me to film at a location where I could set up a table (it is great that I stocked tableware props at home).

My husband Jerome took a video of the preparations while the cameraman was filming the teaser. I will go through the process in another post.

It was an eventful day for sure. My Christmas shopping is completed and wrapped. So I can go eat dinner now.