Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fast and Fresh Lemon Spaghetti

I think that I have mentioned my weariness towards crafts.  Maybe it is because I tend to be a little messy and end up with glitter in my eye and paint on my clothes (how can I possibly believe that THIS time I will be more careful?).  But alas, yesterday I ventured into a project that involved, glitter, paint and the dreaded glue.   I will be sharing that project with you but as usual food takes precedence in my life and so today I will be talking about what I had for lunch instead.  Those who know me are not surprised by this.
Giada De Laurentiis's Lemon Spaghetti is a great accompaniment to most any chicken recipe but for lunch I like it in a big bowl all by itself.

The ingredients couldn't be more simple, lemons, Parmesan, olive oil, basil, and spaghetti.  I make the whole recipe and we eat it all week; adding cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, or chopped up chicken to change it up a bit.

My craft day repast amongst the chaos.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wedding Wednesdays!

I have some special people in my life getting married in the near future and so I thought this a perfect time to start a wedding series.  WARNING: there will be no talk of Vera Wang wedding gowns, 6ft topiaries, or how to loose 20 lbs in a month.  Every Wednesday I will pick a topic (food, decor, music, etc.) and break it down Piper's Pearls style.  Which means that I will focus on low cost, high impact and environmentally friendly projects that will help in the planning of a wedding that is uniquely you.  I should also mention that I am not above advocating the exploitation of the talents of friends and family!

Starting next week I will share our wedding layout featured in Seattle Bride...just so you know that I practiced what I preach:)  Stay tuned for tons of DIY projects, pictures of inspired budget friendly weddings, interviews with creative brides, and buckets'o practical tips.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Big Bang for Your Buck with Paintable Wallpaper

Using paintable wallpaper is a fabulous way to add texture and interest to a room.  I knew that I wanted to use it in my daughter Pearl's room but for around 35.00 a role it would have cost me a couple hundred dollars to do all of the walls.  Instead, we put up a chair rail and wallpapered the upper section of the most prominent wall.

I was shocked at how easy the wallpaper was to put up and how seamlessly the edges came together.  My point is don't be afraid, if I can do it, you can too.  I bought my wallpaper at Lowes (because once I get a bee in my bonnet I am too impatient to wait on shipping) but there are many beautiful options online.

Because we painted all the upper walls the same color the wallpapered wall gives the illusion of going all the way around the room.  In the most visible corner I added these beautiful paper flowers from Maxine's Floral and Gift to soften the transition.

I find that adding texture to a wall can make even the coolest of colors feel warm. So, consider the impact adding a section of paintable wallpaper to a room in your house can have.  I promise a big bang for your buck!

Linking to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land
Tip Me Tuesday at Tip Junkie 

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Free" + a little sweat equity = One pretty little china cabinet

Free stuff is usually ugly.  I have found this to be true 90% of the time.  BUT before you scoff and turn up your nose make sure you suss out its potential.  For example, my parents moved into a new condo a couple years back and the furniture came with it.   They then turned around and tried to pawn it all off on me.  I wanted to say no, but I needed a china cabinet.

I decided this piece was salvageable because: 1.  It had "good bones"; made out of solid wood and with good craftsmanship.  2.  I liked the shape and new that the things I hated (hardware and finish) could be changed.

I used the same white for the exterior as I did on the dining room chairs.  I think that is worthwhile to experiment and find a white that you love enough to consistently use in your house.  I painted the inside a pale green so my mostly white china would pop.

I think I have already said this a millions times but here I go again.  Changing out hardware can dramatically change the look of a piece.  Don't be afraid to mix and match colors as long as they tie into the other decor in the room.

So next time your aunt Myrtle asks if you want some of her old furniture take a peek and imagine the potential.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art Appreciation Day

I will be honest.  I start sweating when Pearl asks me to draw an elephant.  I am a stick figure kind of girl.  But I LOVE art.  I have so many vivid memories from my childhood that center around it.  My beautiful and brilliant neighbor that would invite us over for an afternoon of making paper mache masks.  Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of art with my mother.  18 years old, standing alone in dim lit room at the Musee D'orsay, surrounded by paintings and sculptures by Degas.  The first time art moved me to tears. 

If you are free of young ones.  I encourage you to go out and support the artists in your community.  Art walks are often free and most cities have nights when they open the doors of their galleries for little or no cost.

If you are rocking the title of parent, then I suggest you visit a sculpture park.  Why?  Because wide open spaces offer a place to "run" your child.  Ok, there is more.  I also believe that it is never to early to teach your kids not only to appreciate art but to talk about it.  Do you like this? Why? Why not? 

My husband and I like to play a game where we pick the piece we would be most proud to say we created and the one that we wish we could take home.

 My mom got Pearl the most amazing book called Make Van Gogh's Bed for her Birthday.  I was thrilled to find out that it is part of a series.  If you have kids or know someone that has kids I forcefully recommend these books.  They send a great message about the interactive nature of art and its power to inspire the creativity that is in ALL of us.

Too many cheesy things come to I will abstain.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DIY Happy Hour: Hawaiian Sweet Roll Sliders with Caramelized Onions and Cambozola Cheese

On the rare occasion that I frequent happy hour I almost always order sliders.  I liken it to my eggs Benedict addiction: I thoughtfully peruse the menu, pick out something new and then, with Tourettes like force, "I'll have the eggs Benedict" spews from my mouth.  My husband just shakes his head, "I knew you couldn't do it". 

I am on a sick subconscious quest to find the best.

I have had some fabulous sliders but I must say that my husband and I believe that we have found the Holy Grail of sliders in our own kitchen.  So, maybe I am at least cured from one addiction.

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
Ground beef - 85/15 to keep it juicy! (Organic please)
Cambozola cheese- creamy like Brie but with the slight tang of Gorgonzola
Large sweet onion

The first thing you need to do is caramelize your onions because this takes a while and cannot be rushed.  One large onion is enough for eight sliders.  Heat a Tbs. of both butter and olive oil over medium low heat.  Slice onions into thin half moons and cook them low and slow.  This will take about ½ hour, but it is worth the wait.  Sometimes, I cheat and add a pinch of brown sugar.  This can be done in advance.

I like to flavor the meat with a little Worcestershire sauce but I wait to season them until after the patties are formed.  Important: Make your patties slightly larger than the diameter of the sweet rolls and create a sizeable divot in their center.  Also, make them fairly thin, a half-inch at most (because they plump when you cook 'em!) Failure to follow these guidelines will result in meatball sandwiches.  In the winter months we cook these on a griddle pan, unless the weather cooperates, which it did for this post!

After you have flipped your patties top them with a slice of Cambozola and cover them with a pan or foil (or close the lid on your grill) so the cheese melts.  At this point I also add the rolls to the grill, cut side down, to toast their edges and warm up.

Finally, the time has come to put it all together.  Top the patties with a heaping pile of caramelized onions and consume while hot.

Our DIY Happy Hour always includes Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Fries.  You bake them in the oven and they come out tasting crispy and fried.  Two dipping sauces we love are ketchup mixed with Tabasco and a little mayo and sweet chili sauce also mixed with a touch of mayo.

Enjoy with your favorite beverage; when not prego mine would be a dirty martini.

Linking to DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land

Monday, February 15, 2010

"All seasons of the year are nice, for eating Chicken Soup with Rice" -Maurice Sendak

I seriously thought that I might make it.

I was starting to believe that I might see March without having the dreaded winter cold.   My naiveté was met with a swift slap across the face.  So, with Pearl and I hacking up a lung and trying to simultaneously garner sympathy from one another (which doesn't work) I made this most fabulous healing soup. 

You have got to love a recipe that has "Creamy" in the title but is from Cooking Light.  My friend Julie turned me on to it years ago and it is the BEST healthy soup that I have ever had.  


Another reason that I love it is because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand.  Rosemary in my yard, baby carrots and red onion that are about to turn in the fridge and wild rice and chicken stock in my pantry.  It makes me feel resourceful.

There are only 2 tsp. of butter in this bad boy and the creaminess comes from 2% milk and a bit of flour.  Creaminess without cream? Huh?

Make this soup.  I (sniffle) lub it. And so dub Pearl (who still makes me call her "Maria" from the Nutcracker).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Customizing Your Bathroom For Less 2.0: Subway tiles

A couple weeks ago I talked about how to make a cheap bathroom vanity out of an antique buffet table here.  Now I want to talk about tile.  Our bathroom was designed around black and white marble because it was left over from a project my parents did, meaning it was FREE (love that word).  If you haven't been visited by the tile fairy you can often find great deals on leftover tile at Craigslist.  Having an open mind about your design can save you money.

Because our floor tile made quite a statement we choose white 3x6 subway tiles for the shower.  They cost around 1.98 and are readily available at places like Home Depot and Lowes.  I realize that this trend has been around for many moons and so I took several steps to make it look less stock and more custom. The first thing we did was create a nook for shampoo and soap out of 2X4s.  Then the box was lined with cement board backer, just like the walls.  This adds functionality as well as a nice architectural element.  Next, I picked out a reasonably priced black marble trim to correspond with the floor tile and to break up the great expanse of white.

We had left over subway tiles so we decided to create a back-splash around the vanity.  Not only will this protect the wall from water damage, but it is a cheap way to customize and tie in your shower tile.

Another option in creating a custom look with white subway tile is using a grout color other than white.  Gray would be my current favorite.  It can look modern or classic, depending on your other design choices and really makes the bricks pop.

There are many variations of subway tiles available; with endless options when it comes to colors, finishes, and edges.  I stuck with basic white in this post because they are the "budget friendly" option.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day fabric heart garland

 I have an addiction to textiles.  Which is weird because I find the fabric store to be the most infuriating place in the world.  It brings out the not so flattering aspects of my personality.  So, I opt for buying online which is really safer for everyone.  This project stemmed from my ever growing collection of fabric scrapes. 

I ended up with so many hearts that I think I will end up restringing them onto two ribbons so I can spread the love around the house.

The first thing I did was pin the fabric to card-stock and draw a heart on the back. 

I used the heart as my guide on the sewing machine, telling myself that it was ok if they turned out looking more whimsical than uniform.  Next, I cut out the hearts with pinking shears.

Finally, I used a razor blade to make slits for the ribbon to pass through.  As always, I encourage you to use what you have, so if you seem to accumulate wrapping or scrapbook paper this would be a great project to put it to use.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A cell phone for Valentine's Day. Really?

It's Valentine's week, which means, men are busy buying chocolates, ordering flowers, pricing jewelry, and according to Verizon Wirless, buying the woman they love cell phones? It is enough to make me wish I had my own Avatar to escape it all.  Am I the only woman out there that finds this a little repulsive?  I want to be appreciated, I love a thoughtful gift, but things seem to have gotten out of hand.  Here is my Valentine's challenge: Make a meal for someone you love.  

Is it possible that we have forgotten the simple beauty in sitting down and just "being" with one another?

Because Valentine's Day shouldn't be the only day we express, love, appreciation, vulnerability, etc.  And I am not just talking about romantic love.  Maybe it is time you made your dog some homemade dog food and had a heart to heart over candlelight (you animal lovers do that kind of thing, right?).

For me there is so much symbolism in cooking a meal for someone.  Marinated Salmon with Sweet Potatoes and Red Pepper Salsa actually says, "I thought about what you would love, created it for you, to share with you, in order to show you how much you mean to me."

 Something that I can not take credit for in this series of pictures but was (and often am) the grateful recipient of.

Here is to love and all the many ways it can be expressed!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Find your inner Yogi

I just came back from Yoga at the YMCA. 

A little bit of this...

A touch of this...and man I am feeling one with my body.

I kid. Obviously.

It was little more like this.
I was actually at family Yoga with Pearl. I am reading your mind right now and you are thinking, "how relaxing" (sarcastic voice).  Yes, Pearl sang in a loud 2 year old voice during meditation and occasionally there was a 22 lb weight on my back in upward dog but I have got to say I still feel rejuvenated. 

I have practiced these three styles of Yoga over the years; Ashtanga (changed my body), Bikram (Speedos are apparently not just for swimming), and Vinyasa (great intro to Yoga that won't bore you).
And now I practice in the main ring with Pearl the clown.

In all seriousness I have found that my mind as well as my body needs this time.  I have been having trouble sleeping lately because I can't seem to clear my mind.  For me meditation is about just being with my body, the moment I try to not to think, I snap back into reality.  

Let me illustrate.
How I love thee nothingness.  
So, my point is that you should try Yoga.  And please don't just try it once, keep looking until you find a style that works for you.

Now back to more pressing matters like: what is really going on here?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Flowers for the soul

Fresh flowers make me happy.  Especially, when my coat is soggy, my skin is dry, and my spirits correlate with the weather (I live in Seattle).  Fresh flowers are also expensive, dang it.  No matter what they will always be a splurge but by knowing what flowers last the longest, are the cheapest, and can have the biggest impact you at least aren't throwing money down the drain.

Here are some of my tips:

Purchase cheap glass containers at places like Ikea.  These small vases can double as candle holders. 

Create interest by combing different heights and grouping flowers by color. 

Invest in flowers that are going to last; they are usually the cheapest.  Peonies, roses, lilies, flowering branches, Mums, carnations and gladiolas will give you the most bang for your buck.  For more info on making your flowers last, take a look here.

Use free stuff like; rocks, sticks, leaves, and pine cones in or around your arrangements.  I used rocks I collected at the beach to stabilize the lily and add texture to this arrangement.

Divide and conquer.  I love to break up a grocery store bouquet into my little vases and scatter them around the house.  Then, if I am in the mood for a bigger impact I can easily bring them all together on my dining room table.  

So, don't pick your neighbors flowers, invest in a few blooms of your own and see if it helps take you to your "happy place".

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Birthday party on a budget i.e. without pony rides or a jumpy castle

Yes, it's true, (cue sad violin music) Pearl's Birthday came and went without intricate balloon animals or a visit from the reptile man.  But I think it is safe to say that she had a great time. 

I just wanted to share a few things I learned in doing this (my first time) that I hope might relieve some stress for those of you out there that are as frightened by children's Birthday parties as I was.

You might recognize some of these decorations from this post.  The great thing about having a collection of neutral decorations is that you will truly use them over and over again.  I spent about $30 at the dollar store for this party and with one girl and another on the way I am sure they will get used many times!

I put a framed picture of Pearl on our front door to welcome guests and collected black frames from around the house to decorate the mantle.  Then, because I had a hard time choosing what to frame we covered the whole fireplace with pictures!

My wonderful mother-in-law made the cupcakes, my soon to be sister-in-law took all the fabulous pictures, my sister made a salad, my mom made black beans and my mom and dad saved me in the kitchen, prepping ingredients and doing dishes.  What did I do?  Sat on the couch and ate bonbons of course!  My point is that there is little glory in a one woman show.

This is not the time to try a new recipe or make anything that needs to be fired up last minute.  I made two different types of enchiladas: Shrimp and Cotija Enchiladas with salsa verde  and my own recipe for chicken enchiladas (ask me for the recipe).  My mom made some black beans, dressed up with bacon, onion, roasted poblano chilies, and Cotija cheese.  My sister made a fabulous Caesar salad and we had tons of salsa,  guacamole, and sour cream to munch on beforehand.  If you do decide to go the Mexican food route please find your nearest Latin market and purchase as much as you can from them.  The quality and prices are better and you are supporting an important cultural fixture in the community.

Unless you want to stand next to your food and give descriptions.  Didn't think so.

Hurray for glow in the dark jewelry from the dollar store, and balloons you have to (gasp) blow up yourself! Put on some tunes like Putumayo's Latin Playground and get down with your bad self.  At the end of the night we all sat down and watched Pearl's favorite short film "I Want a Dog"

As long as everyone is having a great time, I believe that it is all good.  You know your child, so hopefully you wouldn't have a rager for your sensitive introvert.  Throw your hands up and put your feet on the coffee table you just cleaned five minutes ago.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mixing patterns in your home = a good time.

  Last week I talked about how to mix and match furniture in this post.  Today, I want to talk about tying pieces together using textiles and other decorative elements.  One of the rules that I have made for myself (because I can tend to go overboard on the eclectic meter) is that textiles must have one dominate feature in common in order for them to become friends in my home.
I inherited this chair from my great uncle and it is one of my most treasured pieces.  The pillow and chair have two things in common: their green/golden background and dense floral pattern.

In my dining nook I decorated around my favorite Anthropologie table cloth.  I dressed up my old white curtains with a panel of fabric from my thrift store fabric collection.  Side note: I have found really beautiful textiles at thrift stores, in the form of curtains, duvets, and even sheets.  If you see something that you think is visually stunning, buy it, fabric can be re-purposed in so many ways.  Think: curtains, baby blankets, pillows, dining room chair covers, and table cloths.  To tie the two colors together I used red and green Anthropologie pulls on my china cabinet.

Let something really beautiful shine.  We bought this Afghan rug in Budapest, Hungary and I consider it our first "art" purchase.  I have kept the color palette in our living room relatively simple to allow for this piece to shine.  This doesn't mean you can't play around with texture.  I like how this vintage chair's scalloped back and crushed velvet fabric stand out without competing with the rug.

I realize that for some of you, pattern is just plain scary and a throw pillow is as far as you willing to go.  So, my challenge to you would be to try combing different patterns with your pillows... it might just add some excitement and whimsy to your life!

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