Monday, August 30, 2010

Life is Good

Dinner has been made (and consumed): Asian lemon chicken, a recipe from my childhood. Cookies have been made (with the new stand mixer) for dessert tonight and lunches this week. Laundry from this weekend has been cleaned, folded and put away. J and I were able to take a long walk after dinner.

We have a dear friend (and best man at our wedding) coming to visit this weekend, which also coincides with the start of college football season. I have my new "The Shirt" from Notre Dame ready and waiting.

Life. is. good.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bedroom Redesign Post #3: Sheets of Egyptian Cotton

Anyone remember the cheesy song from this movie with Brittany Murphy some years ago?

Well, we did not purchase Egyptian cotton sheets for our newly designed bedroom, but we did get a significant upgrade in terms of comfort and style than our previous arrangement.

Starting out, I knew that I wanted four things: one, a duvet cover to slip over our current comforter until we are able to buy a real down comforter. There are a few at Macy's and IKEA I have been coveting for the last several months. Alas, our wedding gift cards can only go so far and they went mainly to our new cookware, stand mixer, and a new set of knives--pretty good loot, but plans for a down comforter have been put on the back burner. Since we have a perfectly good comforter (and no second bed to put the soon-to-be discarded one), I decided a duvet cover was the best bet.

My second requirement was that it somehow tied together our pale yellow walls (we rent so no painting allowed) and the newly painted dresser, which was a steel blue color (more about the dresser in a future post!). Looking back, I would probably try to find fabric first then paint, but it all worked out in the end, as you will see. It just took more driving around and more sleuthing than if I would have just waited to paint :)

My third requirement was that the design not be too masculine or feminine. The comforter we had at the time was from before J and I lived together and was definitely more masculine than I preferred. At the same time, I did not want to settle for something that screamed feminine. Our bedroom is a shared space and I wanted the fabric choices to reflect that.

My final requirement was that it hide cat hair better than our previous comforter. While one side had solid stripes (as you can see from the picture) the other side was a dark brown. Not a great color for orange cats, especially ones that like to crawl under the covers at night and leave their hair everywhere. While we found a pretty inexpensive solution to the hair, I wanted something that would hide it better between treatments.

With these criteria in mind, I headed to a few stores to find the perfect comforter for our redesigned bedroom. We had originally wanted this duvet cover from Macy's, but since this duvet will only last us a few years (we hope to eventually get a bed bigger than the full we have now), I didn't want to necessarily spend that much money on something that will eventually end up on our guest bed (when we have one)!

The first stop was Target, which had some great options online, including this beautiful grey and yellow duvet. Unfortunately, they did not have any DwellStudio duvets at the Target we frequent and I didn't quite feel comfortable buying a duvet cover sight unseen. Most of the other wares at the store were all comforters. Strike Target.

The next stop was Bed, Bath and Beyond. We found two reasonably good options there: this citron and grey duvet and this amber and grey option, both of which would have been great if I hadn't already painted the dresser steel blue. Strike Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Our next stop was Urban Outfitters. My friend Ashlee had recently gotten a duvet cover there, so I thought I'd try my luck there as well. Online I had seen this beauty but after we called the local Urban Outfitters, we learned they did not have that one in stores. Because of my aversion to buying duvets online without seeing them first in stores, I about gave up hope. Ashlee then had the idea to go to the local Urban to see what else they might have that could work. That's when we struck gold. With this sweet little number. It had the exact blues that were in my dresser, yellows, and was bright and cheery without screaming feminine or masculine from the top of its lungs. It was (and is) perfect! Even better, it complimented our existing sheet set enough that I didn't need to buy new sheets! Success!!

I opted to just buy the duvet cover and not the shams that go with it. Because the pattern is bright, I decided to bring in solid colored pillows and bedskirt in coordinating colors from the pattern. I bought both of these at Walmart, which has a fairly decent selection of colors, I might add.
One great bonus of the Urban Outfitters' duvet covers is that they come in these handy little bags, which was great to tuck into my purse when I went shopping for pillows and a bedskirt. No guessing on the right colors only to bring them home to find out they are slightly off.
As far as pillows, I had two dark brown pillows from the living room that I moved to the bedroom, and I slipcovered a third one in a gold color. None of these colors were in the pattern, but they compliment it well, so it didn't matter.
Woods likes the new duvet cover a lot, especially when it hides some of the many hairs he leaves for us as presents. He is not so thrilled that I took this picture of him however. You would think with all the photos I take of him, he would be used to it by now! If you look close, you get a sneak peak of the dresser, my next redesign post!
So there you go, a somewhat long post on how, with a little leg work, we found the perfect duvet cover to compliment our newly designed room! Next up, how I repainted a dresser (sneak peak above) and our existing furniture to match! Stay tuned!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Good, the Beautiful, and the Ugly

This slightly altered phrase pretty much describes our weekend.

The good was the Saturday J and I had this weekend. We visited our favorite farmer's market in the northern part of the Lou that guarantees that all of the produce is local and picked fresh within 24 hours. We always find great and sometimes unusual ingredients to fill our bags, and this weekend was no exception. We bought fingerling potatoes, leeks, yellow and red bell peppers, purple basil and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. The fingerling potatoes made an appearance in our dinner tonight: steak with "Secret" sauce and oven-roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes--so called because my dad invented it a few years ago and will only share the recipe with close family and friends! The leeks will be used in Vichyssoise later this week which is another of my dad's recipes. The purple basil and heirloom tomatoes were consumed almost immediately. J and I used them in a Caprese salad as part of our picnic in the park Saturday afternoon. It has been so hot lately that we have done very little outside other than go to work, go to the grocery store and sweat! It was so wonderful to be able to sit outside, eat fresh, local produce and drink crisp wine under the shade of big oak trees, all without getting our shirts damp.

The beautiful is my new KitchenAid 5 Quart Architect Series stand mixer. She is a beauty and currently sits on our counter waiting for me to make all sorts of pies, cookies and bread with her. J and I hope to add these attachments to our collection eventually, which expand her uses to pasta and ice cream making. I intended to make some french bread this weekend, but the coconut cream pie I made took up too much of my Sunday afternoon to make that possible. All the ingredients are in my pantry though, so I plan to take her for a spin again soon!

Hello lover!

Speaking of pie, we now move to the ugly, which is the end result of my coconut cream pie. See, while it tastes delicious and looked perfect right out of the oven, it never set up properly. Also, the meringue on top began to pull away from the sides of the pie (even though I pushed it all the way to the edges like the recipe suggested) and began to weep. Cream pies are J's favorite though, so I will have to try it again. Thinking back on my execution of the recipe, I do not think I let the cream base cook down and thicken enough, which could explain the liquid soup center. As far as the underwhelming meringue, who knows! Whipped egg whites have been known to be temperamental!! Since the recipe didn't turn out the way I planned and I'm not sure why, I am not going to share the recipe as I normally would. I don't want your pie to turn out like mine did. I did want to mention the experience, however, because around here, we like to keep it real.

How was your weekend?

Friday, August 20, 2010

These Boots are Made for Walking

Tonight, J and I are meeting friends for dinner and line dancing at a local country bar. These are the closest thing I own to cowboy boots--I think that I need to find some new ones!

This weekend I plan on spending lots of down time with J, cooking up a banana cream pie for the two of us with my new KitchenAid stand mixer (!) and cleaning off my desk--it's a big pile of indistinguishable items right now! What do you have planned for one of the last weekends of summer?

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinner for Three

A few nights ago J and I wanted to thank a friend who has been so helpful in watching Woods numerous times this summer while we were traveling for the wedding, our honeymoon, and so forth. What better way to thank her than a delicious home-cooked meal, one that she didn't have to prepare?

Our menu included two recipes we have never attempted before, but I am proud to say they both turned out fantastically. The first, J's dish, was Tyler Florence's Chicken Cordon Bleu, that we saw him make last weekend on an episode of Tyler's Ultimate. Instead of the usual ham and swiss stuffing, this recipe called for prosciutto and Gruyere cheese, with a Panko breadcrumb crust.

The second, my dish, was a Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn from The Best of Cooking Light cookbook. If anyone is looking for a great low calorie cookbook but aren't willing to sacrifice flavor, I highly recommend this cookbook and Cooking Light recipes in general. Anyway, back to the souffles. I am happy to say that it rose just like it was supposed to, much to my delight! Unfortunately I didn't get photos of either dish (bad KT!) but I did get a picture of our table setting.

J had the great idea to break out all of the new china, silver and crystal that we had gotten for our wedding! We had yet to use it and it seemed like the perfect occasion. We even used cloth napkins, tea towels from my bridal shower, which added a little bit of color against our sage green place mats.

I like the idea of really using your china when you have family or friends over, instead of keeping them wrapped up somewhere only to be used once or twice a year on Christmas or your anniversary. I think that the china absorbs some of those good times and good meals served on them over the years and that old china has great stories to tell! Like homes, I like things that are truly lived in and well loved.

The recipe for the Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn is below. I highly recommend it and really, despite what you may have heard, they are not hard to make!

Cheese Souffle with Fresh Corn, from The Best of Cooking Light Cookbook


1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
NOTE: I had brought 6 ears back from a farmer's market in Michigan two weeks ago, cooked the corn, still on the cob, in the oven and after cutting it off the cob, froze it to use at a later date. I thawed it in the refrigerator for a day before using it in the recipe. I highly recommend this as a way to enjoy fresh corn throughout the year! Even though this corn was previously frozen, it tasted much more fresh and had more texture than store bought frozen corn.
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (we used red pepper flakes because that was what was on hand)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large egg yolks--heads up, reserve the egg whites from this to help make the souffle mixture
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extrasharp cheddar cheese
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Cooking spray

Kitchen Supplies:
Ramekin (also called souffle) dishes, 4 small or one large
Hand mixer or stand mixer
Baking sheet, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first eight ingredients in a food processor or blender, processing until blended, scrapping the sides once. I used our blender because I find it a little easier to clean and put away, at least in our current kitchen where we don't have a lot of counter space and my food processor is stored on a shelf in the hall closet! Add the cheddar cheese and pulse 2 times until well blended. Pour corn mixture into a large bowl.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form (mine was an electric hand mixer so don't think you have to have one of these to make this recipe!). Stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into corn mixture with a spatula and gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture. The key here is to fold the mixture, not beat it or roughly combine it. You went through a lot of work to get those fluffy, stiff peaks. Don't ruin them by being too aggressive with your mixing. It will cause the egg whites to fall and those are what make your souffle fluffy and light!

At this point you can pour the mixture into a 2 1/2 quart souffle dish coated with cooking spray, or else pour the mixture into individual ramekins, also coated with cooking spray and about 2/3 of the way full. I poured them into individual ramekins because I like each person to have their own little dish and I also like that the souffle stays fluffy throughout your presentation to the guest, which would not happen if you cut into a larger souffle to serve it up to your guests. This is a completely personal preference, however, so do whatever floats your boat and what you feel most comfortable doing! If you do decide to use individual ramekins, place them all on a baking sheet so that it is easier to place them in (and get them out) of the oven!

Place them in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes for individual ramekins or 45 minutes for 2 1/2 quart souffle dish or until puffy and golden. Serve immediately and enjoy!

WARNING! Do not open the oven AT ALL while the souffle is cooking or else your souffle will fall and not rise properly. If you want to check on your souffle, use your oven light and look through the oven window (if you have one).

If you are like me, this above warning means coordinating with your other dishes (or your hubby) because you have one oven and are making two that are cooked in the oven. The good news was that the Chicken Cordon Bleu took basically the same amount of time to cook! So you can make this meal with one small oven without ruining your souffle or serving a cold entree!

So the moral of the story is to not be afraid to try cooking souffles. It is not very hard and like risotto, once you learn the system, you can make all sorts of souffles with master and ease! Happy cooking!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bedroom Redesign Post #2: You're Not Gonna Reach My Telephone


Stop callin', stop callin' I don't wanna think anymore
I left my head and my heart on the dance floor. ~ Lady G

This second segment of my bedroom redesign is all about telephone tables. Ever since I saw this post on Design*Sponge, I have been on lookout for a telephone table that I could redo myself. I love telephone tables and the history behind them. They go back to a time when all phones had cords and most homes were lucky if they had one phone for the whole household! After much searching, I finally found one at Goodwill and better yet, it was half off! I only spent $12 on the table.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the print on the seat is a really awesome African safari theme!

Full disclosure: I bought and painted this table back in November 2009. I haven't blogged about it before now.

After a fresh coat of paint and a new cushion (for information on how to reupholster a seat cushion, click here), my telephone table went from looking sad and dated to fresh and inviting!

This telephone table has had a few "homes" in the last few months, including a mini mudroom of sorts in our living room, a side table for our couch, and a decorative piece in our dining room.

When I began redesigning and repainting furniture in our bedroom (more on this topic to come, so stay tuned!), the color scheme of the table suddenly matched that of the bedroom where it never had before. A light bulb suddenly went off--bring the telephone table into the bedroom for an instant night stand!

I love this piece because it simultaneously gives me a place to put my purse every day that is off of the floor and gives me a place to stash my book, glass of water and other items. It also has a lower shelf which is a great place for me to put my laptop and journal.

Don't mind the squirt bottle: Woods can be a naughty kitty and has been known to bite us (love bites I swear!) and the squirt bottle is to get him to stop :) I am told he will grow out of this eventually!

I had picked up this little blue tea light lantern for 2.00 a while back at Old Time Pottery. At the time I didn't have a specific use in mind for it, but I couldn't pass up the price. So, after spending a month or so in the closet, I was able to give it a second home in our room! I now use it on my night stand/telephone table to wrangle my hair ties, which previously ended up under our couch because Woods thinks they are toys!

Notice the abundance of pens, hair ties and milk rings in his collection. Two of those items (pens and hair ties are toys he commandeers on his own). The third, milk rings, are toys we give him regularly! I love that our cat likes free toys that are byproducts of things we use and buy on a weekly basis.

So to recap: I love me some Gaga, telephone tables are awesome and can serve multiple functions, Woods likes hair ties and milk rings, and I now have a very functional and beautiful side telephone table.

Next up: a recap of my hunt for fun and fresh new bedding!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baked Goods Taste Better Shared Among Friends

We had a pint of blueberries sitting in our refrigerator for awhile now. We brought them back from South Haven, MI where we visited family and friends and have been trying to think of what to do with them! My first thought was to can it as some sort of preserve or jam, but after further research, I realized you need a lot more than a pint to do that! Because we recently made a peach cobbler, I ruled out another berry cobbler/crisp.

I finally settled on Blueberry-Sour Cream Dessert, another recipe from my trusty BHG New Cookbook. This recipe was perfect because I had all the ingredients (save quick cooking tapioca) on hand and we had the perfect amount of blueberries for the dish!

Blueberry-Sour Cream Dessert, taken from Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook

1 recipe Dessert Crust (see below)
3 cups blueberries (I used fresh but you can also use frozen if necessary)
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup divided
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 1/2 cups dairy sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Dessert Crust:
1 stick butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour

Kitchen Supplies:
Spring Form pan
Cooling rack
Rolling pin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat 1/2 cup of butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg yolk and beat until combined. Slowly add flour until ingredients combine. Work mixture gently with hands until it resembles coarse crumbles. Press mixture into 9 inch springform pan, covering the bottom of the pan completely and the sides approximately 1 1/2 inches along the side of the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes (my oven took 10 minutes) until the edges are light brown. Place on cooling rack and let cool while you prepare the topping.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, 1/3 cup of sugar, tapioca, water, cinnamon, lemon peel, and nutmeg. Because my blueberries were freshly picked from a farmer's market, I had to remove several stems before adding to the saucepan! Let sit, off heat, for fifteen minutes to let flavors combine. Cook and stir mixture over medium heat until blueberries begin to burst and mixture is bubbly. Pour into baked crust.

Meanwhile, combine egg yolks, sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Carefully pour over blueberry mixture, taking care that it is distributed evenly over the blueberry layer.

Bake 50 minutes in oven, or until sour cream layer is set enough that it does not budge when gently shaken. Cool in pan on wire rack for one hour. Run sharp knife along side of pan to release crust; remove side. Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight before serving.

I originally made the dessert for J and I to enjoy throughout the weekend. However, two situations presented themselves which allowed us to not only eat it, but share it with friends! Saturday morning we had coffee (both hot and iced varieties) at a friend's home. Cold blueberry dessert was a perfect addition to the affair. Saturday night we were invited to another friend's house for some Cincinnati chili. Our contribution was beer and this dessert.

I hope you consider making this dessert yourself and sharing it with family and friends! Happy weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Where was Kara Paslay when I was in college?!

Dorm rooms are notoriously difficult to decorate. Not being able to paint the walls, furniture or really hang things of substance (nail holes) can really put a damper on one's style. I did the best I could when I was in school but it was nothing like the dorm room Kara Paslay of Kara Paslay Designs posted on her blog yesterday.

Here is my junior dorm room back in the day. Lots of pink! Even my shirt was pink. The moon was one of the first gifts J got me when we started dating. He got it on a spring break trip to Matamoras, Mexico. I still have it and it will make an appearance in the redesign of our bedroom, so be on the lookout for it in the near future!

I am so jealous and so in love! I love how she combined low end and high end items that can grow with you to be used long after college is over.

I am especially in love with this lamp. So swoon-worthy!

It's almost enough to make me want to be in college again and live in a dorm. Almost.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bedroom Redesign Post #1: Moving a Bathroom

The topic of this blog post is not very glamorous but it is a fact of life in our house, and any house with a furry family member that looks something like this:

A litter box.

Yep, that's our boy, Woods, and he, like most cats who aren't toilet trained, uses a litter box.

The first step I took in redesigning our bedroom was to brainstorm ideas of where to relocate his restroom. Its first home was the bedroom against the east wall by J's side of the bed. However, this location was less than ideal as Woods is a loud (and sometimes smelly, let's be real here) user of said box. It also meant he got pieces of litter (Woods is a master of flinging litter) on our carpets, which was a pain to clean. So the bedroom was out as a location for his bathroom. In our small apartment, that didn't leave many options. We could put it in the office, but we sometimes close that room off from the rest of the house in really warm weather (one less room to keep cool) and J spends a good deal of time studying in there. The kitchen, dining room and living room were out for obvious reasons. This left one room: our bathroom.

The next question became how to conceal his litter box so that when we (and our guests) visited the restroom, it did not scream litter box. I did some research online and found some cool options for this sort of problem, like this and this. Ultimately, these options, while stylish, did not work great for us because our bathroom is rather small and would not accommodate such big pieces.

My solution was to use our linen closet. The closet itself is fairly spacious and has several wooden shelves that can be easily removed. As such, I removed the bottom shelf, which allowed me to fit not one, but two litter boxes in there (even though Woods is an only kitty, we like to keep two litter boxes out at all times). Success!

Next, I removed the wooden door to our linen closet in the bathroom and grabbed a pressure rod to hang a sheer curtain that would somewhat conceal the contents of the closet but allow Woods to help himself to his thrones. Note that I may have used something other than a pressure rod if we weren't renting and didn't have plaster walls. You will notice from the picture above that the sheer does not cover the whole length of the linen closet, which is desirable because our cat is lazy and would probably not enjoy moving the sheer with his nose each time he went in there!

Finally, I grabbed some pretty boxes to collect and and display our towels, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, etc. in an appealing way since the sheers leave less to the imagination than a wooden door. I also slipped some pretty monogram pins I had used at our wedding (to keep the various bouquets straight!) on the baskets to personalize them a bit! More about how I wrangled this messy closet (and others) to come in a future post!

Once I had it all set up the way I wanted, I slowly began moving Woods' boxes towards the bathroom. I had heard that if you move them to a new location quickly, cats can start to use other things as their bathroom, like door frames or laundry baskets. Since Woods has never had an accident, I wanted to be sure that this didn't start a bad habit! This is when having 2 boxes helps because I could put one in its new location right away and slowly move the other towards it. After a few days, he was quite content to use the bathroom to do his business! Also, I must say that it is way easier to sweep and Swiffer our bathroom floor a few times a week to clean up after Woods than before when he would embed his litter in our carpet!

So there you have it, a rather long post about how we tided up the bedroom by moving Woods' "bathroom" to the bathroom! Next up, how I repainted and re-purposed a telephone bench to suit our bedroom needs!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Accountability, or the month of August

I am interrupting my bedroom makeover reveal posts with this brief post that will hopefully keep me more accountable this month. See I have a lot of To-Do's piling up and I thought that posting a list of goals for the month of August might help me check some of those off. Also, it is 8/9/10 today, so when better to set goals then an auspicious day like today! I will of course re-evaluate these goals at the end of the month and perhaps add a list for September at that time as well.

1) Update rest of personal information with new name. See while I changed my name almost a month ago now (read about it here), I still have some odds and ends that are in my maiden name and need to be changed ASAP.

2) Get car re-inspected and licensed. My car had some major health issues (practically non-existent bushings meant the undercarriage could collapse at any moment-yikes) that caused it to fail its last inspection. We now thankfully have that fixed, so now its time to reinspect and get new plates!

3) Sell remaining wedding items (tea bag caddies, cake knives and ribbon) on Ebay or Craigslist. I over-ordered slightly on several items, like tea bags with our monogram and wedding date (not re-usable) and tea cups (completely re-usable and resell-able). I also took on several projects (like individual cakes on each table, hence the cake knives) that I ultimately decided not to pursue. These items are taking up space in my closet and could definitely go to a good home!

4) Sell my barely used i-Touch on Ebay or Craigslist. I got an i-Touch in October of last year when I got my new Mac laptop. I only used it a few times before getting my iPhone back in February.

5) Blog more. I'd like to blog at least twice a week for the rest of August!

6) Waste less food. I hope to achieve this goal by planning meals and actually eating them, and also eating the leftovers. J and I did pretty well at this the week before we left for our honeymoon, but I'd like to see us continue this habit throughout August (and beyond)!

7) Cancel gym membership. J and I have been running (when its not 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity) together 5-6 times a week. As such, I haven't been using my gym membership and could save a little cash by letting this expense go.

8) Start plans for my side business. More on this to come but let's just say I am very excited at the prospect!

9) Eat more fruits and veggies. J and I have been going to a local farmer's market on Saturdays when we can, but I'd like to see us increase our intake of yummy fruits and vegetables and take advantage of the abundant summer harvest while it's still around!

10) Take Woods to the vet. Our little kitten is now a year old and needs his yearly check-up, complete with shots. It's not fun, but something that definitely needs to get done this month!

So there's my list. More on the bedroom makeover will come later this week, I promise! Last week's silence can be explained by our honeymoon to San Fran and Napa Valley, as well as a quick trip to Michigan to see family last week! Pictures and details of the honeymoon trip to follow as well. Anyone else have goals they'd like to accomplish this month? Let's hear them and be accountable together!!