No bake dog cookies!

Last week I made cookies for my daughter’s birthday so it reminded me of  a great cookie recipe I like to make – but for Harry-Beast, not for people. Since it’s too hot to cook in the summer (yes, it’s still summer! Yay!), these are perfect because they are no-bake. Remember, this a recipe for dog cookies, not people cookies ………..

alfred and mary interior design, white shaker cabinets in kitchen,

dog cookies recipe, alfred and mary interior design,

best hand mixer, alfred and mary interior design, oatmeal cookies,

oatmeal cookie recipe, alfred and mary interior design,

dog cookie recipe, oatmeal cookie recipe, alfred and mary interior design,


A special birthday gift I’ve been working on

Both our daughters were born in the summer and so was I. We’ve had a busy few months celebrating the birthdays around here. Since my kids’ are young adults, if their birthday falls on a weekday, we’ll give them a call and arrange for a convenient time – usually the weekends – to get together and actually celebrate.

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My oldest and her boyfriend will come over tonight for a late dinner. You know when your children are really adults when they ask for a Cuisinart food processor as a gift. No dolls, no bicycles, just home accessories for their apartments. 

You also know that I’m a terrible baker. Growing up my children baked with my Mom, their grandmother, and the girls are actually very good at it. Now that I’m older and have some free time, I’ve been really working on learning how to bake. I’ve been practicing and have had a lot of failure. But I think I have finally learned how to make my Mom’s peanut butter cookies. They’re not great but they’re not bad either. 

peanut butter cookie recipe, ree drummond, alfred and mary interior design,

Anyway I’m going to surprise my daughter with a box of homemade baked cookies. Homemade cookies are something my kids never got from me and the fact that they are the same that my Mom would bake with the children, I feel they might make a special gift. 

how to make peanut butter cookies, golden retrievers, alfred and mary interior design,

So happy birthday Dear Daughter. When you get home to your apartment after a rough day at work, I hope you will find comfort in your Grandma’s Mom’s cookies ♥

target gift wrap, baby shower, alfred and mary interior design,

Are we still distressing furniture?


alfred and mary interior design, how to distress furniture, Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper,

I didn’t think distressed furniture was still “a thing” but if you go into the cute home stores there’s still an awful lot of white sideboards that are distressed, or picture frames, etc.

So it got me thinking about my Mom’s old wood recipe box that I have stashed away in the kitchen cabinet. It’s still full of her hand-written recipes and it’s precious to me. However, I didn’t like that it’s brown wood. I thought if I want it to sit out in my kitchen countertop, I should paint it. And so I did!

alfred and mary interior design, distressed furniture,

I didn’t have a lot of paint left out in the garage so I thought maybe I should distress the box. Here’s my secret to distressing painted wood pieces without getting out a sander:

  • Take a white candle, it must be white or ivory – no red or green candles 
  • Rub the side of the candle along the edges and bumps of your furniture
  • Spray paint the furniture, let dry
  • Then wipe the piece down vigorously with a dry cloth until you see the wood come through

The candle acts as a wax relief and the paint won’t stick to the candle wax.

farmhouse kitchen, vintage recipe box, alfred and mary interior design,

The beauty of distressed furniture is that it does not have to be perfect. It’s supposed to look dinged and danged. (danged???) Perhaps that’s why the distressed trend might not be going away anytime soon. ♥


How to easily clean your stove range grates

Hang onto your hats for a riveting post! OK, not really – I’m talking about how to easily clean your range top grates. I cook six nights a week and my grates can get full of grime and it’s not as easy to clean them on a regular basis as it is to clean the stovetop. But it is summer and this cleaning project is perfect for a spring or summer cleaning chore because you should do it outdoors.

For small grates, you can use an oversized plastic storage bag. But my grates are too large for that so I am using a garbage bag.

  • Place your grates in a plastic bag. I put the grates in the bag on top of the biggest roasting pan I have to catch any leakage …

how to clean stove grates, review Kitchenaid stove,

  • Pour Ammonia over the grates. You can see that the gunk and greasy goop immediately begins to fall off the grates …

how to clean range grates,

  • Seal the bag tightly and let sit for about 30 minutes. I also would turn the bag occasionally to move the ammonia around ….

ammonia cleans grates,

  • Stand back when you open the bag – Ammonia is very strong! Use a scouring pad to remove any remaining gunk on the grates, rinse thoroughly with the hose, and …

VOILA! You have super clean grates.

clean stove grates, uses for Ammonia,

how to clean stove grates,

Now you have something to do if you’re looking for a good time on the weekends (winkety wink) 

Orland Park, IL dining room with french chairs

dining room,

Did you know that I E-design for client’s who live just minutes away from me? Ann moved to Orland Park, a neighboring town just 20 minutes from me. Since she and her husband have a family room, they wanted to turn their living room into a dining room.

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They wanted to know if they could use their friend’s beautiful modern art and their existing french chairs in the same room. Of course!

alfred and mary interior design, french dining chairs,

modern art, blue and gold,

Adding a dining table with turned legs to complement the chairs …

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and a sleek buffet and mid century inspired chair to complement the art brings the room together.

crate and barrel sideboard, alfred and mary interior design,

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Mixing styles, along with old and new furnishings, creates a room that is one of a kind and personal to the homeowner. I wish Ann and her husband much happiness in their new home, maybe I’ll see them around town! ♥

Bistro Chairs or A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to the Conference

You all know that last month I went into the Loop for a color conference at the Mart and saw the author of the book Ode to Color speak (it was wonderful, more on the conference later). Before I get into the point of this post, I want you to take a look at this graffiti. It’s been here a long time in the City and I finally decided that I should take a photo to share with you. I really like it and I think it’s very clever. Please realize that I am taking the photo through a green window while sitting in the train going many miles an hour….

Made you look, alfred and mary interior design,

made you look graffiti, alfred and mary interior design,

Made you smile too, didn’t it?

Second, as I’m walking to the Mart, I pass by this restaurant. It’s so pretty and I adore black and white decor …..

black and white awning, bistro, chicago restaurant, alfred and mary interior design,

I especially love their outside/in seating …

black and white bar, indoor outdoor decorating, alfred and mary interior design,

I know, I know –  let’s to get the point of this post. Well, these are the bistro chairs that were sitting outside the restaurant in the morning. Nice, right? ….

bistro chairs, alfred and mary interior design,

However – and this is the weird part and I wonder if I’m the only one that finds this weird – these are the bistro chairs that were sitting outside the restaurant just 3 hours later, when I was walking on my way back to the train station ….

bistro, black and white decorating, black and white striped awning, alfred and mary interior design,

Did they change the chairs because they decided the first set did not complement the restaurant’s aesthetic? Did they change the chairs because they love to constantly change up their decor (which would be a cool thing). 

So do you think this is peculiar that this happened or that I even noticed?

While you’re here, let’s take a look at a few other bistro chairs I saw out and about that day …

These are colorful and fun …

orange bistro chair, aqua patio chair, alfred and mary interior design, mojo restaurant chicago,

mojo restaurant chicago, alfred and mary interior design,

And this restaurant’s outdoor space is amazing! I would love this furniture on my patio….

red wood bistro table and chairs, bar table Wayfair, alfred and mary interior design,

metal planter, alfred and mary interior design,

Now let’s go and have our lunch outside, shall we? 

buy red outdoor pillows, alfred and mary interior design,

Sherwin Williams Passive Paint #7064 on doors, from white to gray

We’re back to the kids’ side of the house – we’re still refreshing it now that they’ve moved out of the house. I call it the kids’ side because that’s where their bedrooms and bath are and our little home has two sides of bedrooms. The bathroom update is complete and the doors are repainted now too.

No lie, every time my husband opens up a can of paint, he asks “are you sure this is the color? I thought you were getting blue (or gray etc whatever the case may be)” and I say “yes, wait until it goes up, you will see the true color”.

When he opened the can of Sherwin Williams “Passive” (this is not a sponsored post) to paint our originally white doors, he was shaking his head and mumbling “looks white to me”. But then here he is painting and saying “oh yeah, this is nice”. Husbands! ye of little faith.

Sherwin Williams Passive, Alfred and Mary Interior Design,

and here’s the after …. (the wall color in the bathroom is “Drift of Mist”) …

sherwin williams passive, alfred and mary interior design,

bathroom remodel, Sherwin Williams Passive, alfred and mary interior design,

Of course with the application of a new coat of paint, we (“we” meaning Dear Husband) had to change the handles and hinges from brass to nickel ….

gray bathroom, alfred and mary interior design,

Next is painting the living room and dining room and the kids’ hallway that has these newly painted doors. That might be in a month or two, I have a few colors in mind. Stay tuned. ♥

Where do you create? (& this and that)

“Creativity takes courage” – Henri Matisse

Most of my creative work, the work that I do for a living, is done in my home office. However, there are areas around my house where anyone can create if they wanted to. There’s a dining table with puzzles nearby (you know those 500 piece puzzles) and there’s a rattan sofa table – that I purchased years ago for $12 at an estate sale – that sits under our stairs in the kitchen. Anyone who gets a hankering to sketch something can grab a pencil and the sketchbook and have at it.

palos heights garden club, rattan sofa table, alfred and mary interior design, palos heights womans club garden walk,

alfred and mary interior design, mccord gallery palos park,

I love this sofa table, I’m always changing its color on a whim …..

#girlboss, alfred and mary interior design,

On another matter, did you know why you should cut your flowers at an angle and not straight across the bottom of the stem?

palos heights garden club,

Because if you cut the stem straight across the bottom, the cut side sits against the bottom of the glass and the holes get plugged up again and the flowers do not get water. Who Knew!

So getting back to my original question, when you get the courage, where do you create?  ♥

yellow day lily, palos heights womans club, palos heights garden club,

Monday’s advice for the creative entrepreneur

dreams don't work unless you do, alfred and mary interior design, home office,

Ready for a new week? Let’s start by doing something wonderful for ourselves in our business. Whether you already have a creative business or want a creative business, remember these few things and put them into action today:

  • Dreams don’t work unless you do (credit: John Maxwell). Is your client waiting for that first concept – a board of furnishings, color palettes and space planning so they can see your vision for their redesign? Prepare it now, don’t put it off. Do you dream that your paintings or craft will sell one day? Finish that painting, put your art online, open a shop.  You have to market yourself too. Take advantage of social media and spread the word about yourself and your business (yeah, that’s a lot of work) – be sure to include what you have to offer that stands out from your competitors, take your best photos and show samples of your work, and be sure to include information on how potential clients/buyers can get in contact with you. And don’t forget the dreaded bookkeeping (yeah, that’s more work). Save all receipts, keep the best records you can or get professional advice on incorporating, trademarks and taxes.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy (credit: unknown). We all love to peruse the internet looking at fellow designers’, artists’ or writers’ work. We envy their pretty blog posts – beautiful rooms with dimpled babies that seem to be posed to perfection, their enormous amount of followers, their fame and fortune. But although these “famous” creatives make it look effortless, they put a lot of time – and sometimes money – into preparing their photo shoots and blog posts. So while gathering inspiration from these creatives is fine, just for today tell yourself that you are going to avoid the temptation to hop around the internet ogling others’ work and you are going to work on your own business instead. You will be surprised that the more often you do this, the easier it becomes to create original work that is true to your brand.
  • Create original work and know who’s your target audienceSee above.  If you’re peddling your product to buyers who are middle income housewives, you should not be pricing your products out of reach for them to purchase.  If it’s your goal to make millions from the get-go selling your product or service, you might need to hire a staff, rent office or studio space as opposed to working out of your home, and buy a truck or fleet of cars in order to meet the demands of upscale clients who might be used to more hand-holding. You may at first not know who your target audience is – but if you create, they will come. I believe that everyone deserves a beautiful home and everyone deserves their own interior decorator to help them get there. My clients are most often young professionals with their first rental or starter home or a young family with a gaggle of kids and tight budget. As an affordable decorator, I am no less creative or knowledgeable in design matters than many of my cohorts. But I’ll always take my client’s budget into consideration. I’m able to incorporate some of their current furnishings into the design – maybe even some DIY – and I’m a savvy shopper when sourcing their furnishings – these elements make for original and authentic designs that will beautify their homes and work for their lifestyles. 
  • Celebrate your accomplishments You don’t have a huge following of fans – so what? But maybe you did get your story published in the neighborhood paper. Maybe your first piece of art sold. Maybe you received your first design job – you were hired to create a small window display in a local restaurant. Hip Hip Hooray! Baby steps people. Everyone at one time had no clients, no customers, no buyers.

alfred and mary interior design

  • Ask yourself why do you want to live the creative life?  Is it for your family, so you can be your own boss and set your own schedule and spend more time with them? (Be aware that there is nothing “small” about small business ownership – you will probably work 7 days a week but it is freeing to go to the doctor or your child’s afternoon play without having to ask someone for permission to leave the office). Is it for personal satisfaction? No doubt you are probably a creative at heart and creating each and every day is just what you are driven to do. To make money doing what you love would just be the icing on the cake.
  • Criticism You will get criticism somewhere along the way on your journey. It’s important to understand the spirit of the criticism. If your girlfriend criticizes your works or the idea that you wish to become a creative entrepreneur, ask yourself is it constructive criticism or is she jealous? However, if a customer or client criticizes you, you should take it to heart and ask yourself “how can I do better with my next client?” Use the criticism to improve and move forward better than ever. 

office with black wall, gray and yellow office, alfred and mary interior design,

I’m so glad you visited today but now go ahead and click out of this post. You’ve got to get to work living the creative life you love and making those dreams come true. ♥

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I’m a Designer for Wayfair Design Services


Hi everyone – I’m excited to share some big news with you today.

Wayfair Design Services, Mary Beth Zwolfer, Alfred and Mary Interior Design,

I’m a designer for Wayfair Design Services! I’m very excited to start this new venture for such a great company. I have been recommending Wayfair products to my customers for years and to be working on their platform now is a dream come true.

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When I embarked on my creative journey as an interior designer, I didn’t know how exciting the climb would be. Here’s to trying new things, meeting new people and spreading my creative wings! If you need my help in designing your rooms, I’d love to work with you. ♥

Wayfair Design Services, Mary Beth Zwolfer, Alfred and Mary Interior Design,

wayfair design services, mary beth zwolfer,