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10 Ideas for a Personal, Cozy Autumn Picnic

I'm delighted to begin the week with a photo shoot that I did yesterday in the forest near my house. I was with my friend Lilly, who makes a great model, and we had such a nice time working together in the Fall weather under a golden sun! I'm happy to share the results of our forest picnic with you today, which is in partnership with . I will share 10 ways to create a personal and cozy forest picnic for two.

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First, a little background about this picnic. I thought since I live in Germany, I'd like to take the daily ritual of 4:00pm kaffee und kuchen (coffee & cake) and recreate it as a theme for a romantic picnic for two. I imagined a couple with a young child, who hardly ever go on dates because they are so busy with their careers and kids. How sweet and touching it would be to surprise your partner with a kaffee und kuchen picnic in a nearby green area - perhaps in the afternoon while the little one is with grandma for a few hours or with a babysitter. How nice to just escape and celebrate your love. To eat, read some magazines, listen to some music, chat...

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For this scene, I've customized a , , , a , and - all from . I'll detail each below along with my 10 tips for a creating a lovely little couple's picnic. Are you ready?

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1. FAST, SIMPLE, HOMEMADE. The first thing to do when you want to plan a quick picnic for two is to keep the food simple but homemade.

Why? Homemade shows you care and everyone appreciates something made by hand and usually one cake is cherished more than a spread of grocery store food. Make a cake or something else sweet that will fill your bellies but also be easy to pack and carry. Remember, you are only spending a few hours together, you don't need to bring a cooler and a wagon full of food!

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2.  ADD A PRETTY PHOTO BLANKET. I love soft, warm blankets for picnics in the cooler months.

You can use like I did to customize a for you and your sweetheart. I suggest fleece so you can bring it home and use it later on the sofa. Maybe you can incorporate a photo into the motif that your loved one took, like I did below? It's a big photo of green apples from my husband that has meaning to him.

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3.  PACK ONLY WHAT YOU NEED. No more!

Next, you'll need to pack everything you need for eating and drinking but ONLY what you need, don't get carried away and overload your bags because carrying all that stuff around isn't how I enjoy going on a picnic. I prefer to bring exactly what I need: Glasses or cups, forks, napkins, plates, a knife if you need it for slicing, etc. Think of everything and pack it along.

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4.  MELAMINE PLATES. I love the idea of using melamine plates for picnics because then I'm not throwing away plastic and paper each time I picnic.

I wish more people would pack and stop using paper products that immediately end up in the trash bin. For these plates, I also used photos that my husband took. Imagine how happy your partner would be to see their photos on plates? How thoughtful! And of course, you can use them over and over again for picnics later on and even at home for those casual pizza nights by the television.

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5.  Have one, easy beverage. And a bottle of water.

I like to have one "signature" drink for a picnic and then, a bottled water. For this picnic, I went with coffee. Another tip when bringing coffee or tea is to mix in the milk and sugar first at home, then put it in a thermos. Don't pack everything separately, the less you have to bring with you the better. If you want to do iced coffee like I did, pack the ice separately in a small container that keeps ice from melting. You can also skip the ice and just do hot coffee or tea. I love iced coffee though and since September isn't cold enough for me yet to drink hot coffee at an afternoon picnic, I wanted to try iced coffee and cake -- and it was yummy!

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6.  GLASSWARE. YES, REALLY. I never thought to use glassware at a picnic, but when I saw these thick and very sturdy glass mason jar mugs from Shutterfly, which you can customize with your own text, I was totally on board with GLASS.

Again, I like the idea of being able to use something over and over again versus throwing it away. After the picnic, I can use these cute for hot cocoa, beer, iced tea, cocktails or even a vessel to pop in a bouquet of flowers. My mugs say "Tee loves Holly" and "Holly loves Tee" (Tee is the nickname of my husband.).

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7. LINEN VS. PAPER. Another nice tip is to bring linen napkins instead of paper.

Why? For a romantic picnic, cloth feels classy and nice. And less waste!

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8. ADD RIBBON AND GREENERY OR FLOWERS. It's so easy to make your blanket look pretty with next to nothing!

You can pluck a few sprigs to add to your picnic scene. A few wildflowers, cloud berries, raspberry sprigs, or even some pine or leaves can look pretty tucked into the napkin with a simple ribbon. This takes two seconds but looks so nice, don't you think?

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9. A STURDY TOTE. This is a must! Baskets are nice but for me, not practical.

For the perfect carry-all tote, I selected and customized this . On the linen bag the word Ausflug is embroidered and I chose brushed gold as the accent color since it coordinates best with my outfits. Ausflug is the German way of saying to take a quick trip, to sorta fly away for a bit (but not literally). It's like taking a day trip or running away for a few hours to take time for yourself.

10. ADD A SPECIAL GIFT OR TWO. I love to give little gifts to people whom I care for deeply.

For this picnic, you could customize a deck of cards or even a memory game so you can play together. For my picnic, I customized a with photos that my husband and I took over the years of our little boy, Aidan, as a gift. I added words the best describe our child as he is today at age 3 1/2. My husband really loved these!

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Don't you think that parents always carry their children with them wherever they go, even when the child isn't around? They still come up in conversation and are always on your mind. That's why parents tend to give things to each other that often involve something that includes the children. A memory game is sweet for the child but also something you can play with them, so it's a nice gift to share with your family.

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Another nice gift, which isn't needed for a picnic but is small enough to pop in your tote bag and bring with you, are using photos that your partner took. Imagine how happy they'll be to have something else in the home that's so personal! My husband really liked these, especially since he uses coasters every day on his desk for his tea or while having a drink during a film because we have nice tables in our home that we don't want to leave water rings on. Coasters are not the most modern home accessory, I know, but they are still good to keep around and to use. Didn't these come out so nice?

I'm so happy that you came on this little picnic adventure with me today. I hope my ideas have inspired you to think simply when it comes to entertaining but also, to try to personalize the things you buy so that they are more meaningful and lasting. Before this, I'd never in my life thought to put photos on anything other than my wall or in photo books, but now I'm convinced that adding photos to everyday things can add such a special touch, and warm the hearts of those whom you care for, too!

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(Photography: Holly Becker. Model: Lilly Oppitz)

This post is sponsored by . Awaken your space with your vision. Shop  Home Decor for personalized home accents that are uniquely you. 

6 Reasons We're Moving To Squarespace

After months of wondering what the best decision would be, my husband (who runs the backend of cattledogs) and I decided to move cattledogs from Wordpress (WP) to and try something completely new. This isn't purely about aesthetics, following trends, or even because we're bored with Wordpress. It's actually none of that. Our reasoning is based on more of what's happening behind-the-scenes that you never see or hear about. The stuff that kills creativity.

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Before I detail why we’re moving to , let’s talk about blog platforms in general. If you've been wondering about which blogging platform is best for you, I encourage you to think about your needs and do a lot of research. Ask around for help from people with a tech background, but also talk to bloggers who are using these platforms each day. Also read through our 6 points below and see if anything feels familiar to you. Every platform out there serves different needs and people. You have to find what works best for you.

Like me, maybe you've been battling with whether to try or not. When I started blogging, it was easy. I used Blogger.com and a boring polka-dot template because that was one of the only templates I thought was cute. Back then, nothing was happening yet with blogs (2005) so you took what you could get. Things have gladly changed in incredible ways. That's why in 2009, I dropped blogger and hired a template designer and moved over to Wordpress. It was a smart decision at the time and I'm glad I did it.

Now, it's time to move on! Next month, cattledogs will have a new look and feel and move over to Squarespace. It will be very stream-lined and basic, as I really want my blog to look and feel like a blog and not a news or media website. I know I'll write on it more frequently and feel more excited to write regularly if I have some of the tech stress removed from my work life. I’ll detail those current stresses below.

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Here are our top 6 reasons for changing platforms:

1. Security. Our site has been under permanent attack for the past several years, from brute force attacks (password guess attempts) to DDoS (denial of service). The attacks require our constant attention and prevention. This is expensive and time-consuming, taking us away from doing more interesting work.

2. Server cost. We are currently hosting WP on our own VPS (virtual private server), with considerable cost, which is needed to keep the site running smoothly under WP. While there are more affordable hosting options none proved resource sufficient enough for a site of our size (visitor wise).

3. Server maintenance. We do all our own server maintenance. While our server comes with basic tech support we still need to maintain several site critical aspects ourselves. Again, time-consuming and costly on our end because this takes us away from doing work that could be much more exciting for us and for all of you.

4. Non standardized framework. While WP can be easily extended with plugins, most of which are open source, many of these plugins may contain security risks. Plugins also often cease to be maintained by their developers, unless they are commercial, posing further security risks. They can also add considerable resource load on the sever, risking the site going down. Plugins are generally needed to go beyond the rather basic options available with vanilla Worpdress, e.g. there is no built-in eCommerce functionality.

5. Adaptable design. To this day, Wordpress still does not ship with a flexible, fully visually customization template. Such templates need to be purchased from external vendors, adding cost and uncertainty (see plugins above).

6. No support. Any issues that arise with a local install of Wordpress are on us to deal with. While there is a WP support forum it has proven non helpful with most issues we faced over the years.

We are both happy to make this change, and ready! We will keep running Blogging Your Way on Wordpress and my personal expat blog, Hausmaus, on Blogger, cattledogs will be best served on Squarespace. I may eventually run them all on one platform, but first I want to see how the big move goes for cattledogs and to give it time on the new platform.

If you'd like to give a go, you can sign up for 14 days risk free to check it out - no credit card required. When you're ready to subscribe, just enter code DECOR8 to get 10% off your first domain or website purchase.

Time to run to the airport to catch my flight to Barcelona, bye!!!

Xo

Holly

(Photography: Holly Becker)

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Squarespace. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep cattledogs blogging for over 11 years. :)

Mapiful: Beautiful + Meaningful Wall Decor

I'm sure you've seen on blogs and Instagram because this small Swedish start-up has really made a name for themselves in the social media and design world! Not only are their black & white designs the perfect minimalist addition to any home, but their theme satisfies the explorer in us all - whether you're dreaming of a destination, you live in a spot you love or you have been to a special place that forever stays in your heart (like where you had your honeymoon). Mapiful lets you showcase that favorite place in your home through their customized posters.

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If you’re familiar with the expat life, then you probably have a few favorite places. I'm an American expat living in northern Germany and next month I celebrate 8 years (!) of living full-time abroad, 10 years total if you include the first two years where we lived in both the United States and Germany (we had two residences) before we made the big jump.

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A decade of life in Europe changes you. As any expat will tell you, you're not the same person once you leave your home country and make a life in an entirely new culture, speaking a different language each day. I arrived with an open heart and dreams of what my life could become and living abroad has changed my life completely - and I surpassed all of the dreams that I had, quicker than I'd imagined, and now I'm dreaming of what's to come. I've also had some unbelievable challenges and moments when I felt very much like an outsider; it's not all been perfect.

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Yet, I'm so happy that I relocated and I just love the access that I have to other countries and cultures here because Europe allows you to be in so many different places in such a short time, and is very affordable, so I can drive to places like Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland in just a few hours. I take a train to Paris when I feel like I need to relax in one of my favorite cities. It's a total luxury if you love (or like me, crave) adventure, to live in Europe. On Friday morning, I'll be in Spain for holiday. Then, I'm off to Finland in September. Yet, I can't put my finger on a "favorite" spot in Europe. I tried to, but failed because I enjoy so many different cultures and cities for so many different reasons. That's why I wanted my Mapiful poster to feature all those places- it doesn’t center on one spot, but on all of Europe instead.

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When it comes to the design, you can choose from several different layout options- Modern, Pantone, Strict or Clean. Modern is the classic style, and highlights your beloved place in bold. Pantone, Strict, Clean are for the minimalists out there looking for clean lines and subtle details. If you have a special neighborhood you want to highlight, then you can zoom in and add houses/buildings to your map. You can even zoom out to feature not just one city, but entire countries (or in the case of my map, an entire continent)!

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If you want to create a Mapiful poster of your favorite place (or places), you can easily design one by visiting . For a flat rate of $60, they will ship it in a tube anywhere in the world, no shipping fees and you will have within a week or even less.

I just love Mapiful and I hope that you have fun designing a poster on their site. If you order before July 30, 2017, they will give you 15% OFF of your map if you use the discount code DECOR8.

(Photography: Holly Becker for cattledogs)

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Mapiful. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help keep cattledogs blogging for over 11 years. :)

Farrow & Ball Wallpaper In My Living Room

I'm off to Hamburg today but first, I have to show you something that I'm very excited about! My wallpaper! I worked on a beautiful project for  that gave me a chance to select any wallpaper for my home that I wanted for one room, so I scooped up the Hornbeam pattern shown below. Why? It's neutral, understated and just so pretty - I kept going back to it again and again. I love that it goes with anything. I wanted time to live with the wallpaper before reviewing it here on my blog to see how it would look over time - would it stand up, would it peel, would it fade, could I still even live with it after time passed...

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In fact, that was always my decorating fear. Choosing a pattern and then feeling stuck with it or getting sick of it in a month. Luckily, I chose the perfect pattern for me because I actually like it more today than I did when we had it installed - and I loved it then!

When I was looking for the right pattern, I made of short list of what I wanted. First, it needed to have a natural, organic pattern. We live on the border of a massive forest in the city, so it needed to feel urban enough but also forest-y. I also didn't want anything geometric and whatever pattern I went with had to complement the ginko leaf stucco on the ceiling. Another essential was that it needed to be strong and somewhat thick because the walls are 117 years old and not perfectly smooth. We smoothed them out but still, you can't get perfect in a home this old. I also wanted it to feel a bit feminine and curvy. I know that sounds strange, but the windows and the room itself has a lot of lines. The room itself is a massive rectangle. That's why I went with a soft, feather pendent light to work with the wallpaper and soften the lines of the room too. Another must was that it can't fade and in this spot in my living room, wallpaper is prone to fading because it's in the sun all day long (I never close my linen curtains). Hornbeam ticked off all the boxes, so I ordered it!

After two years the wallpaper looks the same as it did the day we installed it - the color and pattern are still perfect.But the wallpaper did exactly what I set out for it to do.

 is a gorgeous company through and through but keep in mind that it's not budget. It will not be at the same price point as something Made in China or in some massive factory. I toured their small but mighty workshop in southern England (), met their Head of Creative, Charlotte Crosby and watched their elaborate process for both making paint and producing wallpaper - it's intensive, expensive to manufacturer, and they have to employ true experts to work on every part of the process. I met many workers in the factory and all were like a part of the F&B family; their pride was evident. I left with nothing but respect for the brand.

Thing is, when you make something time-consuming, beautiful and of quality, and have to pay experts to make it, your products will not (and should not) be at the same price as what is cheaply made in sweat shops. That is the beauty of Farrow & Ball, it is a pure luxury to have them in your home and you take pride in that ownership. It's not just wallpaper or paint, it's Farrow & Ball wallpaper and paint produced in England by a company who really, truly loves what they do.

Here is the wallpaper in my living room, shown throughout this post. While I'm currently on the hunt to add-in some art and a few pieces of furniture, I am very happy with how the wall looks. It's just the right amount of pattern without overwhelming my moody and calm living room.

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If you have a copy of my latest book, , this room may feel familiar to you. You can see it in the book only not as a living room. For the party theme in the book, I transformed this space =into a dining room and worked the theme around the Hornbeam-patterned wallpaper. This paper works beautifully in any room of the home.

I hope that you like my choice, it was definitely a great pick and came out exactly how I had envisioned it. My next goal: Add color to the room through accessories. I really want a cozy new sofa, more comfortable chairs, a large round white marble coffee table, art for above the sofa, new table lighting, new sofa side table. What will I do with everything currently here? Move it to another room and use in other ways, of course. But the wallpaper STAYS.

Thank you for the beautiful wallpaper, what a truly lovely statement it makes in my space.

(Photography: Holly Becker for cattledogs)