Friday, January 29, 2010

A fast and flavorful weeknight meal

This Korean inspired chicken dish is one of our go-to weeknight meals and because you can do all the prep work before hand it is ideal for entertaining when you're short on time.  I make the chicken marinade and prep all the cucumber salad ingredients at the same time.  Half an hour before we eat I put the salad together to marinate and with 10 minutes to go I throw the chicken on our stove-top grill.  I should mention, if you care about this sort of thing, that this is a Cooking Light recipe and has 262 calories and 8.9 grams of fat per serving.  Trust me when you taste this recipe you will find that hard to believe.

Over-used Recipes Swap

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making mismatch furniture work

Because almost all our furniture was purchased at garage sales, flea markets, or was inherited, we house a motley crew of mismatched pieces.  My philosophy in this department is all about creating balance.  Mixing textiles, finishes and styles can actually create a beautiful harmony (hello Anthropologie). However, if your entire house is all about breaking the rules it might start to look like the flea market you bought your treasures from.  To avoid this I use paint or fabric to create cohesiveness between clashing pieces.

 We purchased five chairs for our dining room from a garage sale.  Because they were mismatched and just off our living room (which is already eclectic) I wanted to soften their impact and make them look like a set.  I painted them out creamy white, distressed them with sandpaper to let their original blue color show through and covered the seats with a muted toile.  To be honest, I launched into this project without reading any tutorials and I am sure it would have gone smoother if I had read this beforehand.

In Pearl's room we really were scraping the bottom of the barrel for furniture.  Once I choose a color palette for the furniture I painted all the pieces I had: a night stand, dresser, and changing table using only those colors.  I picked up bookcase at an antique mall for $10 and painted it yellow on the outside and green on the inside.  I used a glue gun and trimmed out the front with ribbon to tie in the red accents in the room.

Remember the eye is easily tricked by color so take advantage of what you have and bring it together with some paint! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My kind of "one pot" meal

This is my interpretation of a "one pot" meal.  It is healthy, requires no recipe, and you make it in the same bowl you serve it in.  Let's call it Asian chicken noodle salad.  The dressing is Japanese, the flavor profile is southeast Asian and the chicken is well...a white girl trying to get some protein.  This is really more about method and less about making sure you have all the ingredients and amounts correct.  Help! I sound like Rachael Ray....

My cute best friend and occasional live-in pediatric nurse.

So here is what I put in my version:
Vermicelli rice noodles (same as in this recipe)
shredded grocery store roasted chicken
sliced: red pepper, cucumber, red onion
grated carrot
chopped: green onion, mint, basil, and cilantro

You can find the dressing in the Asian aisle with the Japanese food. Usually, it is called toasted sesame dressing. 

I don't dress this salad until right before serving because the noodles suck up all the dressing.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, January 25, 2010

An easy project with a big payoff. I am all about the glory.

I would by no means consider myself a "crafter", my relationship with my sewing machine is tenuous and glue and glitter often make me swear.  I am however, always down for an easy project with a big payoff.  Yes folks, I am all about the glory...just kidding...kind of.  Because it turned out to be useful for a lot of things, I am not quite sure what to call it.  What it is, is a Case Logic reversable laptop sleeve all dressed up with fabric and vintage buttons. 

Looks cute as a clutch.

Makes a $12 laptop case look...less like a $12 case.

My purpose for this project was to create a traveling chef's kit for a good friend who loves to travel and cook.  With the popularity of home exchanges and vacation home rentals it makes sense to have a go-to bag with things that you can't live without in the kitchen.   I used the laptop case as bag to hold cooking tools I purchased from Crate and Barrel.  The squishiness of the case protects the tools and you can print recipes, slide them in, fold up the bottom and tuck it in, creating a compact case. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rediscovering wonderment

I think that one of the reasons I love being a parent is that it has helped me to rediscover wonderment.  Yes, we all had it at one point in our lives, the unique ability to stop and marvel at the littlest thing.  Of course we can't recreate the authenticity of "first" times but we can TAKE the time to discover something fresh and new in what seems to have always been. 

Even if you haven't entered the world of parenthood (and I urge to you to take your time, as it can be very time consuming explaining every little thing) borrow someones kid for the day (ask first) and I promise it will inspire your art, music, writing, or simply the way you view creation.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Small changes are good for your soul and wallet

One of the things I have been challenging myself to do lately is to make changes, no matter how small, that keep me on the path to my goals.  Case and point: instead of lamenting over the kitchen I do not have I am trying to see what adjustments I can make now that will make its presence more enjoyable.  I am learning to not only be content with the process but enjoy it as well. So, this would be the first step, stay tuned there will be much more to come!

I do not like you black plastic handles.  Also, why am I covering up all my pretty dishes which make me infinitely more happy than you, Ikea cabinet doors?  You don't need to talk to yourself like this, I just find it helpful in exposing the obvious.

So today I am not going to worry about patching the holes and deciding on a paint color for my "new" hanging cabinets.  I am not going to obsess over the wrought iron paper towel holder that is drilled into the grout and is so not me.  I am simply going to enjoy things just as they are because today I am a little further along then I was yesterday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's not delivery...

I am a huge fan of making pizza at home.  Though, I must confess that I am not one to make my own sauce and dough (I realize that is what that hook thing that came with my mixer is for).  I do however, aspire to buy a pizza stone.  Most grocery stores carry premade dough and of course my sponsor, Trader Joe's (a girl can dream), has several varieties.  Another reason why I like pizza night is that you can utilize your pantry and any leftovers in the fridge.  No, I am not recommending mashed potato and broccoli pizza but you can get pretty creative.  If you have kids pizza night is a great way to get them into the kitchen.  They can make their own little pizza... and yours will be safe.

This pizza has: goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, Italian cheese blend, proscuitto, and more goat cheese.  Oh, and because as my husband proclaims, "I'm addicted to the spice" we top slices with Sriracha and peperoncini.  if you don't have a pizza stone it helps to cook the dough for a about 10 min. sans toppings first so it cooks properly.

We eat a lot of caprese salad in the summer months, however, in the winter I refuse to buy cardboard tomatoes so this is my version using sweet cherry or grape varieties.  For the cheese I love the creaminess  of burrata which is an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  It looks beautiful torn in half and drizzled with shiny extra virgin olive oil.  I also break the rules and use balsamic vinegar on my tomatoes and basil which helps break through the richness of the cheese.

Yes, takeout requires less time but at least with this meal you know what you are putting in your body. Plus, you don't have to deal with those pesky pizza boxes that don't fit in the recycle box and sit on the counter until recycle day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Computer Sanctuary

Whether you work from home or are addicted to a social network, which will remain nameless, everyone tends to spend a lot of time on their computer these days.  Let's make it enjoyable, shall we?  While I am the first to admit that I love to laze about in bed with a laptop, there is something to be said for an environment that marries serenity and productivity. Here is my little sanctuary, converted from an old TV cabinet.  It came to us all beat up and multicolored, which suits me just fine.


I share an office space (Ok, I work out of a playroom) with an almost two-year-old who also goes by the name "bossy baby".  It is all too perfect.

While I can be prone to clutter I have been making a concerted effort lately to keep this place clear of distractions.  Clean space = clean mind = creativity, productivity, yada, yada, yada.

Another thing I love is that I have had this TV since college...Ok, that isn't what I was going to say but I do truly enjoy the fact that I bought a TV, with VHS, eight years ago, by a company called Funai and it still works!  What I actually love is hiding ugly things like printers and TVs.  When Pearl wants to watch a movie I just movie Ollie the Octopus (coworker you met above) and she is all set.

So, make a little nest for your smart friend because someday soon they are going to be able to make sandwiches and raise our children and you will want to be on good terms!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Vegetables: Once upon a time I liked you, cold dreary weather.

Today I was looking through old pictures and came across some shots I took of a dinner I made back in October.  You might be asking, "You take pictures of your food?"  Yes, I do.  I like food that much.  Anyways,  it reminded me of how exciting Fall is; the crisp air, turning leaves... I know you love it too.  But then, as it always does in Seattle, the rains come and Fall sloshes into Winter and I am crabby and in need of an IV of vitamin D.  However, all is not lost.  This meal, a staple in our household, is a great way to renew those feelings of, "I just love being in my cozy house" and "Aren't winter vegetables delightful?"  I am not a Stepford wife but I seriously think these things.  And of course because I am sponsored by them and they pay me in groceries to say this (I wish), the ingredients for this meal can all be found at Trader Joe's.  Bottom line: Inexpensive, good for you, and reminds you that you still have something to live for.

This meal is so simple.  I buy butternut squash and sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch squares (or I buy them pre-cut in bags, which are great if you are strapped for time).  Toss with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary.  In my oven it takes about 35 min. at 375, but I usually just poke them with a fork to see if they are tender.

The winter greens also come pre-cut and in a bag, and on the back is a simple recipe for braising them with onion, chicken stalk, and chicken andouille sausage.  The result is amazing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Customizing Your Bathroom For Less 1.0: The Vanity (for your sink not your psyche)

When we first moved into our house we had a partially gutted bathroom to contend with but because we had JUST BOUGHT A FREAKING HOUSE we had no money to fix it up.  So we lived with the 2x4s propping up the sink until we could afford to remodel it ourselves.  I am really proud of how it turned out in that my husband did all the labor and I was able to keep the total cost to around $3,000.  I will be blogging about this process in a short series starting with how to get the look of a custom vanity.

Dealing with small spaces can be tricky because home stores offer few sizing options and custom orders can be pricey.  This is one of the reasons I chose the more time consuming route of searching for an antique buffet.  I needed to find one large enough to accommodate two sinks but small enough to allow for the bathroom door to open.  A couple things to remember when looking for a piece to convert.

1.  Don't be distracted by color or hardware.  These are elements that are easy and fun to makeover!
2.  While length and depth can be very important the initial height of the piece is not as crucial.  Our vanity was too high so we chopped off a portion of the legs.  If you have the reverse problem you can remove the legs completely and add inexpensive pre-made legs to your specified height.
3.  Think about where the pipes are going to go.  Our piece had cabinets on the side so we got lucky.  If your piece has drawers you might need to glue them shut, keeping the look but losing the utility.
4.  Don't be afraid to barter!  Antique malls are a great place to strike up a deal.  Often times all you need to do is tell an employee how much you are willing to pay and they will call the seller and let you know if you have a deal.  Not very confrontational and potentially rewarding.

Once you have selected your piece, and have made any necessary alterations to the skeleton, the fun begins.  Using color and hardware you can create any atmosphere.  I could have painted this piece red and used bronze or copper, Asian inspired hardware which would have totally changed the feel of the room.  The point is to figure out the direction you want to go in and to not be afraid to make a statement.  To paint your vanity the "right" way checkout this link.

Because we were on a very tight budget I chose to use the somewhat tacky brass plates that were part of the original.  By spraying them white and adding cheap pulls I created contrast which, not only  customizes the vanity but complements the rest of the bathroom's design.

Stay tuned for Bathroom Customization 2.0 on the fascinating world of subway tiles!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Travel Guide: Puglia, Italy

Have you heard of Puglia?  I believe that it is the most undiscovered region of Italy and I love it so much just the way it is that I struggle with letting the cat out of the bag.  But generosity overcomes me, you have to go!

For six years I was a nanny for these two amazing kids.

In 2006 one of my bosses made a fabulous Independent film called Expiration Date and one of the many film festivals it played at was the Salento Interantional Film Festival 

Using this road trip guide from Cookies magazine we went on the most amazing adventure through a region of Italy I had never given a second thought to. Literally everything we did was unforgettable; the flavors, smells, and storybook vignettes are and will forever be ingrained in me.

Even though this itinerary comes from a parenting magazine it would equally as enjoyable for an adult only trip, yes it is that good!

Here are some highlights from our two weeks in the heel of the boot.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Heart Korean BBQ

To me it is a carnivore's delight, perfectly seasoned meat paired with spicy and sweet side dishes, it just doesn't get any better than this.  We love to go out for Korean BBQ but have also found ways to enjoy it from home as well. 

Trader Joe's pulls through once again.  $7 and it feeds an army.

We like to support our local Korean market and pick up side dishes like: kimchi made of cabbage and diakon, spicy fish cakes, and potato salad.  There are many more so I suggest going to a restaurant first and seeing what you like.

One of my favorite ways to eat Korean BBQ is in a lettuce leaf with this onion salad called pajori.

This gorgeous photo comes via Gourmet and illustrates a fabulous article about the Korean taco phenomenon.  We have a truck in Seattle which I am chomping at the bit to visit but until then I plan to try out some of the recipes in the article like the Napa-Romaine slaw.  If my cornucopia above scared you a little these recipes might be a great way to get your palate adjusted to Korean flavors.

And now I must go visit the fridge to forage for leftovers!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Make your own headboard (because we have been out of college for awhile now)

Is it just me or do beds get not only bigger but higher as we get older?  Case and point: my husband was sleeping on a single bed mattress on the floor when I met him.  And I am not going to name names but I know of some peeps that used air-mattresses to the point of deflation.  Nothing worse then being the heavier person sharing one of those puppies, you always end up on the floor.  But as we get older we acquire things like a bed frame from value village or a mattress that comes with a box-spring (you mean there were supposed to be two this whole time?) and before you know it you have a grown-up bed.  So, while we had reached this milestone we were devoid of charm and cash flow. This project was our solution.

There are a lot of great ideas out there, check out here and here to get your creativity flowing.

**NutCRACKer News Flash**  Yesterday I got my hair cut for the first time in many moons.  Pearl insisted on bringing her little Nutcracker doll and we obliged, evoking the spirit of "What About Bob?" repeating the mantra, "baby steps".  While I got my haircut Steve chased Pearl around and when I presented "the new me" to them pausing for dramatic affect and allowing Pearl time to say, "so pretty mama" I was met instead with this, "Nutcracker needs a haircut mama".  Yes, it is true, he has not only tufts of white hair on his head but also a beard which, Pearl felt, had become rather unkempt.  And would you believe Nutcracker got to stand in front of the mirror and get a trim, free of charge?  Thanks for adding another log to the fire buddy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gotta get her off the NutCRACKer!

My child has an addiction to a classical ballet and it is driving me bonkers. Christmas is over but that is just too much for her almost 2-year-old brain to comprehend. The girl loves Maria, Herr Drosselmeyer, and even the Nutcracker Prince (and let me just say he is really creepy looking). Before I continue to bash I will give a shout out to The San Franscico Ballet for creating a really beautiful version of this, choke, beloved classic.

                                                           photo by Erik Tomasson

 Maybe my slight repulsion comes from a shoe box full of pictures chronicling the various parts that I played over the years, ranging from "cute" to "I can't believe I wore that!" 

So, I thought no problem I will just get her hooked on another ballet like Peter and the Wolf. But would you believe that there is only one version of this ballet on DVD and it can can be mine for 60 bones used or 125 new?  What the...?  Apparently I am not the only one in a state of Nutcracker over-saturation.   So I am going to hope that Carol King singing Chicken Soup with Rice will be enough to sooth the wounds of my little ballerina, who at this moment is fast asleep wearing her "Maria" tutu.

  "And visions of sugar-plums danced in her head"

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