I should start this story by saying that my family has always been a fan of grand gestures. When I left to study abroad in France, my parents and my sister brought a boom box and serenaded me while I stood in the security line (I wish I still had the red-faced photos to prove it). When my sister's best friend moved out of town, we choreographed a flash mob to "Call Me Maybe" for thirty of our family and friends to send her off in style. And when my sister graduated from college last year, we booked a gospel choir to surprise her at her party and sing all her favorite songs. My mom and sister are usually the brains behind the operation and it's me, my dad, and my brothers who rally behind them no matter how ridiculous we feel at the time. These gestures, big and small, have always been a great reminder that we're all happiest when we're making other people happy.

My mom had been dreaming up a little project to pay it forward on her birthday. Her vision was this: she and my brother Camden would pick up two dozen pink balloons (ordered to the local florist by my sister) and drive to New York to meet me. My mom and I would walk into Grand Central Station (Camden behind the camera) and pass out the balloons to anyone who wanted one. We'd walk in with two big bunches of balloons, put a smile on a few people's faces, and get to see the 24 balloons dispersed across the floor of the train station before we left.

These things always feel a little awkward at first ("Hi, I'm Mackenzie, would you like a balloon? Oh, no? That's cool, welp, have a nice day!") but of course it was a home run. We started out targeting little kids in strollers but eventually got comfortable handing them out to adults who looked like they were having a tough day or tourists who were posing for pictures. And you know what? Every last one of those 24 people broke into a big smile when we handed them their balloon. 

We met a mom with three teenagers and gave them all balloons. My mom explained that it was her birthday and she wanted to spread a little joy to other people. The other mom had just come from Starbucks, where a stranger ahead of them had bought their drinks. A week before that, she had paid for a woman's purchases at Goodwill, allowing her to buy two outfits instead of one. I teared up thinking about how much better the world is when we all participate in these random acts of kindness.

My mom, brother, and I were standing on the balcony pointing out all the balloons we saw when the other mom came racing up the steps with a pastry from the food court downstairs. She thanked us for making her day and wished my mom a happy birthday. It was completely extraordinary — my mom was so thrilled, and the other woman was so touched — and yet so simple. If I felt a little silly walking into Grand Central with balloons fifteen minutes earlier, I walked out on cloud nine knowing those balloons had made a little difference in two dozen people's days.

As luck would have it, the footage didn't turn out so great but the impression it made on me and my brother is one I won't soon forget. I'm so lucky to have such an awesome family and a mom who wanted to celebrate her birthday by making other people feel like it was theirs. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you!

P.S. If you're feeling inspired and want to put a smile on someone's face, here are a few more ideas for paying it forward. If you have your own favorites, please share in the comments!

1. bake cookies for your local homeless shelter
2. call your grandparents
3. leave a 100% tip for great service (I first did this for my 101 in 1001 list!)
4. pay for a stranger's coffee or drive-thru meal
5. put change in an expired parking meter
6. say good morning to someone on the street (for some reason, this is the easiest way to put a skip in my step)
7. volunteer at a school, senior center, or soup kitchen


vintage mirror (similar)  //  sofa via Joss & Main  //  X benches

shelving  //  sailboats  //  baskets

My apartment is coming along, slowly but surely. I feel like the moment I get one corner furnished and styled the way I want, another part of the space starts crying out for attention. There's a huge armoire I need to figure out how to get rid of (apparently my parents don't want it in their garage... weird ;)) and then I'll move a few pieces around to make room for more seating. I'm supposed to host a housewarming party in a few weeks so, even if I don't have the furniture arrangement all sorted out, I think it's time for a little spring refresh. I just ordered frames for a few new art pieces (OBSESSED with the pool photo above) and am so excited to work a few of the new arrivals in my boutique into my decor du jour. And when in doubt, fresh flowers work wonders! 


Thanks to your awesome recommendations (who knew I had so many readers in Texas?!), we had an unbelievable trip to Austin. Here's a recap of what we packed into a little more than 48 hours — I already can't wait to go back and try the rest of your favorites! Prepare yourself for photo overload...

"Breakfast" at Hillside Farmacy
Any breakfast that includes mac and cheese is fine by me ;) Hillside Farmacy is a cute spot in East Austin with old-school medicine cabinets and penny tile floors. I love how many people on Instagram noticed Will's Blackberry — he has an extra phone for work, I swear! #TeamiPhone

Tour of Deep Eddy Vodka
I had my first sip of Deep Eddy when I visited Dallas for New Year's and was pretty excited to get to see where the magic happens. This. Stuff. Is. So. Good. (My favorite is the sweet tea but apparently Texans go for ruby red grapefruit!) They're moving to a new space soon (think on-site tastings!) but it was pretty incredible to see what they've accomplished in a small space. Think they want to take over shipping for Design Darling? ;)

Lunch at Josephine House
Navy exterior, pink flowers, marble countertops... This place had Design Darling written all over it. I had an insane Brussels sprout and quinoa salad and we toasted to vacation with a glass of rosé. Doesn't get much better in my book!

Tour of Katie Kime's office
You all know about my girl crush on Katie Kime so it will come as little surprise that I was obsessed with her office space. Fabric swatches, ginger jars, hot pink packaging, Slim Aarons prints, unfinished furniture... This was basically my version of heaven and Katie herself could not be sweeter. Stay tuned for a few of her goodies coming soon to the boutique!

Dinner and drinks at Hula Hut
I don't usually associate Texas with water so I was pleasantly surprised by this casual lakefront spot. Guacamole, margaritas, and a killer sunset... What more could a girl want?

Breakfast at Elizabeth Street Café
If I lived in Austin, I would be at Elizabeth Street Café every weekend. It has the prettiest exterior, the happiest waitresses, the best Vietnamese iced coffee, and every sweet treat you could possibly want. My mouth is watering looking at these photos...

Lunch at Clark's Oyster Bar
A taste of Nantucket in the heart of Austin and honestly an Instagram-worthy photo opp around every corner. (Wearing this shirt and these jeans c/o South Moon Under!)

Swimming in Barton Springs Pool
A cool man-made pool filled with chilly spring water. Great people-watching and something you can't do in just any city. This was definitely the highlight of our trip! 

Gelato at Dolce Neve
Note to self: hot pink patio furniture belongs in the dream home file.

Dinner at La Condesa
It was pretty dark inside the restaurant but take my word for it: this tapas spot is worth a visit. I credit their fish tacos for helping me putt two holes-in-one at mini golf that night. ;) (Wearing this dress c/o Persifor!)

Easter brunch at Perla's
My mom called me on Sunday morning to wish me a happy Easter and ask whether my clothes still fit because I had been Instagramming so much food — then I promptly went to brunch where we ordered homemade poptarts and lobster rolls. #dietstartstomorrow

- - -

We had such a great time and packed so many stops into two and a half days. Every weekend should be an unofficial food tour, don't you think? The best part is that we ate well, walked a ton, slept more than usual, and came back to New York feeling totally inspired and refreshed. I'm already planning our next weekend getaway — if you have any suggestions for fun destinations, I'm all ears!