Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I love a wedding reception that serves street food.

Last year we went to a wedding for the two gorgeous people pictured below.  There were many elements that made it unique but I can't seem to stop thinking about the taco truck that pulled up around 11pm.  Why am I still thinking about it?  I missed it. Momma was shaking her groove thang on the dance floor and must have been too self consumed to smell the carnitas. 
I must expose this most genius idea.  Brilliant, Reagan and Julie.

My brother and his fiance are contemplating a twist on this same concept.  Veraci Pizza will set up their pizza oven at your wedding.  Perfect for dinner for a smaller crowd or as a late night snack for those that have been burning calories on the dance floor.

How about the having the Paella King come and serve food whose preparation alone is entertainment.

I found this picture on wedding planner, Jean Marks' blog I love that this bride and groom got an ice cream truck and better still passed out the ice cream themselves!

As usual, my mantra is, "think outside of the box".

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wire Nest with Newspaper Birds

I got this bee in my bonnet about making a wire bird's nest.  My dad has this spool of old rusted wire that for some reason I find very appealing.  I keep calling him, "you know that wire I borrowed before, can I have some more of it?". 

Wire Nest with Newspaper Birds
If you don't have access to some old wire, use new wire and spray it brown.  Form your nest, making sure to create kinks and loops to give it a more organic shape.

Now begin to fill in your nest.  I used what I had around; feathers, ribbon, jute twine, spanish moss and leaves.  There are so many options.  Another idea I had was to weave in all my colorful ribbons but my house is already so full of color that I decided to go with a more monochromatic color scheme.

Draw some bird shapes, double up your card stock and cut them out.  Next, tear up some newspaper and glue or Mod Podge it onto the birds.  Make sure you decorate on opposite sides of each bird shape so that when you stick them together both sides are covered with newspaper.  Bend your wire into springs and stick them into a piece of floral sponge.

I concealed my floral sponge with spanish moss and attached the birds by gluing the corresponding bird shapes together over the wire.

Maybe if I do enough bird crafts it will help with my bird phobia?


Monday, March 29, 2010

Raised Garden Beds With Reclaimed Materials

Last week I confessed my desire for a green thumb and low and behold the clouds broke and my will was tested.  I found a great raised bed tutorial online but for a price tag of 170.00 per bed I knew that it was simply not in the budget.  The budget is $0 by the way.  So, I took to Craig's List to see what was shaking in the free department.  A lot was going on people.  Have you been there?  We found free wood, gravel, river rock, even a pair of iron Japanese lanterns.  My husband borrowed my brothers truck and in a few short hours he was piecing together the boxes.

This wood was reclaimed from an old antique shop in Seattle and we pulled the cement brick pavers from an unused patio in our front yard.

We put down a weed barrier cloth and then topped it with sand (reclaimed from the front yard patio we got the bricks from).  Steve dragged a 2x4 across the sand to level it and began placing the bricks in a random pattern.
We didn't get all our bricks down before the rains came back.  The next step is to cover the path with sand, sweeping it into the cracks and then wetting it down with a hose so it becomes compact.  Tutorials suggest that you may have to repeat this process to create a truly stable surface.  

Yes, our wood is mismatched and our pathway might not be quite level but I have to say that nothing looks quite as good as free feels!

More pictures and updates to come.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Using up what's left in the fridge: Vitamin and Protein packed Mediterranean Steak Pita Pocket

I just read a truly fascinating article about the world of coupon clipping.  I knew this world existed but I had no idea how much money people save.  I hate to admit it but I don't think that I could commit to it like this couple does.  It often requires buying in bulk when the price is right, which not only leads to huge savings but a lot of food sitting around waiting to be consumed.  Speaking of food sitting around waiting to be consumed...this is an area that I feel passionate about.  When it comes to fresh produce and non-processed food it is easy to let things go bad in the fridge.  Maybe they are leftover ingredients from a recipe or you simply forgot about them.  In our house we (my husband and I share the cooking responsibilities) try to loosely plan meals so that everything gets used.  Sometime we fail, but we are getting better and it has encouraged us to eat healthier and be more creative in kitchen.

Mediterranean Steak Pita Pockets:
White Bean dip left over from this post

chopped red peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, herbed feta, lemon juice which I often eat for lunch like this or like this.

Steak from the freezer. I sliced a few pieces and cooked them with a bit olive oil, herbed sea-salt and black pepper.  The next day I finished the meat on a yummy steak sandwich.

A few basil leaves from my Mise en place.

Stuff it all into a toasted pita.  So delicious and it makes me feel good to know that nothing is going to waste in my fridge this week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Saving money on wedding decorations is all about, location, location, location.

It is truly amazing how inconsequential decorations can become when you choose to have your wedding reception in a place that is already beautiful.  Yes, I am giving a great big shout out to mother nature.  Our golden ticket was going through Seattle Parks and Recreation to rent The Golden Gardens Bathhouse.  For 150.00 an hour this is quite the deal, especially when you consider the view.

                                                                              photo via pfly

So, before you make a deal with the Diablo (promising them you will use their caterer and cheesy DJ) check out your cities Parks and Rec to see if any of their venues tickle your fancy. 

And to further prove my point, here are some shots by Aubrey Joy Photography from my friend Carrie's beautiful outdoor wedding.
Lavender and hay bales?  Yes please. 

Another way to save on decor is by picking a venue with good bones. 

I loved the wood and steel beams, exposed brick and cement floor of our reception site.  Some lanterns, cheesecloth, and white lights added brightness without taking away from the beauty that was already there. And as you know from this post I am still using all my decorations.

Remember, things can get expensive when you are trying to distract from ugly carpet and outdated wallpaper.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White Bean Dip: A Healthy Snack From the Pantry

Nothing brings me more joy then opening up a magazine and finding a recipe that I have all the ingredients for.  So exciting, that even if it was pickled pigs feet soup, I would make it for the sheer ecstasy that is using a can of beans from my pantry.  Disclaimer: I do not currently have a jar of pickled pigs feet in my pantry.
White Bean Dip from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

2 cans cannellini beans
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (I used Sherry vinegar)
1/4 cup of water
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients through water in a food processor, add the rosemary, and pulse until combined.  Season with salt and pepper, pour into a bowl, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

*I should note that I added a tablespoon of tahini (sesame seed paste) and a clove of crushed garlic because I had it on hand.  I think they added a nice depth of flavor.

per serv: 176 cal; 7.6 g fat (1 g sat fat); 5.7 g protein; 20.4 g carbs; 5.7 g fiber
We ate the dip with toasted pita bread and sliced cucumbers.  Today, I am going to use the bean dip in a steak and veggie Mediterranean inspired pita pocket.  Can't wait for lunch...I let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Easter Bunny cometh: A cheap Easter basket for under $8

She has reached the age of stockings, baskets, and boxes.  Basically, mommy can't get away with the no present thing anymore.  And because mommy can't handle a bright pink plastic basket, filled with plastic eggs, wrapped in more plastic, I made her an Easter basket for around $8. 

  I bought the basket at a thrift store for a dollar and the flowers, moss, and twine at the dollar store.  The eggs were on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics for around $2 and the little birdie's are part of my little birdie collection that I inherited (weird because I have an irrational fear of birds), but you can buy them at any craft store.

 I wrapped the handle in Jute twine, (got this idea from Kimba at A Soft Place to Land) doubling up the string and working in small batches so I wouldn't get all tangled.  I used a glue gun ever so often so things stayed in place.

I pulled the flowers off their stems and used the glue gun to secure them around the basket.

Finally, I added my birdies, filled the basket with Spanish Moss, and placed my eggs.  For now it is a center piece on my dining room table but in a few weeks it will be filled with the the Easter Bunny's bounty.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Embracing the nakedness of industrial design

Industrial design elements have finally made it into the mainstream.  From light fixtures, to exposed beams and piping it is hard to open up a magazine without seeing its prevalence in the design community.  One reason I love it is because it integrates so well with any style.

  I love this kitchen from Farmhouse Modern. The open shelves and kitchen island made from pipes still manage to evoke the warmth of a country kitchen.

This space from Home Design Find is able to integrate raw materials with the warmth of cozy chairs, to create an area that looks lived in rather than sterile.  

Even more mainstream stores like Z Gallerie are carrying industrial light fixtures.  And you would not believe the treasures to be found when you search industrial decoration or industrial lighting on Etsy!

How can you add industrial design elements to your home?  
My brother and his fiance used large beams and exposed bolts to create bar that is both functional and beautiful to look at.

There is a great tutorial on how to recreate this bed made from plumbing pipes at Apartmenttherapy.

This project from DIY Ideas uses plywood and threaded rods to creating hanging shelves that keep the clutter off the floor.

I think that there is something really beautiful about showcasing raw materials.  Of course the pendulum will swing back again and designers will call for ornate lamp shades to cover all the bare light bulbs but for now I rather like the nakedness of industrial design.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mise en place: A tip from the French on staying organized in the kitchen.

 Normally I don't cook using a recipe.  Maybe that is why it has taken me so long to learn how to bake, eyeballing the amount of baking soda in a recipe is not a good idea, FYI.  But I love the French phrase Mise en place which means "everything in place".  Before you start cooking, your ingredients are prepped, the kitchen is clean, and all necessary tools have been assembled.  I try to subscribe to this philosophy because I do believe it makes cooking all the more enjoyable.  One thing I have added in my kitchen to make this mantra a little more attainable is a tray next to my stove that I keep my most used nonperishable ingredients on.

What do you think about Mise en place?  Helpful tip? Or stress inducing?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Spring I discovered my green thumb. Don't Laugh.

I have always wanted to grow a vegetable garden.  But I hate to weed and have killed all my house plants.  I dream of a cornucopia filled with the fruits of my labor...realistically, I dream of fresh tomatoes for my salad.  This is the year people.  But where do you start when you know virtually nothing?  My soon to be sister-in-law turned me on to Tilth an organization that supports the home gardener through classes and various publications. 

A mission statement that is music to my ears. 

Right now we are reading The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide to figure what vegetables we want to grow and how to plant them.  I hope you will join me on this journey and offer any expertise you might have.  I plan to document it all; the construction of raised beds, prepping the soil, planting, tending and of course the glorious harvest (trying to be optimistic).  

If you are in the Seattle area Tilth is having an Early Spring Edible Plant Sale
this Saturday from 9am-2pm at Magnuson Park, Hanger 30.  I plan on following around anyone with dirt under their fingernails and buying what they do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh, America; the land of wedding gowns that cost as much as a car.

Don't get me wrong I think that a bride should feel gorgeous on her wedding day and I realize that there is often a high level of craftsmanship that goes into a wedding gown BUT you're only going to wear it once.  However, I believe that there is a remedy for this.  Find a dress that flatters your shape and is free of embellishments (where most of cost is) and then add your own unique stamp.

My dress was from the memories collection by Maggie Sottero and cost around 600.00 (still enough to buy an old rust bucket ) and I loved the way the gathers made my summer of eating in Europe a little less noticeable.  To make the dress more uniquely me we added a chocolate ribbon and fastened it with a brooch that was a family heirloom.

Just five years later there are so many amazing options for embellishing your gown.  These belts and sashes from Kirsten Kuehn Designs are beautifully designed and can definitely make the simplest gown stand out.  

It doesn't have to stop with the wedding gown.  Tux rentals are often quite expensive and the results can error on the tacky side.  I recommend that the groom invest in a suit.  Steve's seersucker suit came from J Crew and set him back around 100.00 but he has worn it to so many weddings it has more then payed for itself. 

And my final thought: bridesmaid dresses don't have to match.  Give your friends a break and let them buy a dress that they will wear again.  I told them to find a knee length green dress and silver, strappy shoes.  The result was beautiful and it ended up being the most complemented element of the wedding.

When getting everyone dressed up for your wedding remember to think outside of the box; going mainstream might be the easiest but it isn't always the cheapest.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Chopped Salad

Back in the 90s (can't believe I am saying that) a salad was always thought to be the healthy option on the menu.  We now know that; doused in fattening dressing, cheese, and comprised of mostly iceberg lettuce we probably should have just got a burger.  Here is one of my favorite lunch time salads that is low in fat and calories but big in nutrition and flavor.

Mediterranean Chicken Chopped Salad
(sorry no amounts, I just eyeball it)

cherry tomatoes
English cucumber
yellow pepper
red onion
chicken breast (I buy a whole roasted chicken and use it for different recipes)
 crumbled herbed feta (if using plain feta I add a Mediterranean spice blend)
half a lemon
tablespoon of olive oil
sprinkle of pepper

Serve with a dollop of hummus and toasted pita

It is amazing how much more filling a salad is when you take out the lettuce and add more vegetables.  The lemon juice gives it a brightness and the feta packs a whole lot of flavor.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Eating in and out in Sayulita, Mexico

I went on a vacation.  A vacation from rain, schedules, and this blog.  A big thanks to my soon to be sister-in-law for having us along to celebrate the big 30!

I don't know about you but whenever I travel somewhere I read all the forums to find the best food, accommodations, and activities.  Having been to Sayulita (a hippie surfing town 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta) a number of times I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite eats.

Going out
Great drinks on the beach.  My virgin pina colada was sublime (painfully non-alcoholic but sublime).

Burrito Revolucion The first time we ate here was because it was the equivalent of the "cool kids" lunch table.  But the burritos are amazing, especially when doused in one of their three spicy sauces.

This place is amazing.  Watch an Italian couple make your pasta before it arrives on your plate.  The pizzas are thin crusted goodness baked in a clay oven.  Oh, and if you have forgotten what a real tomato tastes like the caprese is a must.

The Churro man.  I heart him.  But he is elusive, there one night and then gone the next.  He sets up shop in the back of his truck as close to the town square as he can find a parking spot.  Crispy on the outside and molten goodness on the inside.  Help me.

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention Panino's Bakery.  I had breakfast here almost every morning.  Chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls, chewy bagels and most amazing fruit tarts.  Most baked goods in Mexico are beautiful to look at but are made with lard, which I find leaves an unpleasant film on my tongue but Panino's uses butter and it is oh, so delicious.  Also, if you like Baja style fish tacos you have to go to Sayulita Fish Taco we usually eat there several times during the week.

Staying in.

If you have kitchen I recommend staying in a couple nights and taking advantage of all the great produce Mexico has to offer.  I usually bring some recipes that use ingredients that aren't as readily available at home.  I came up with this recipe trying to remake the mangodillas served at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Seattle.

(Inspired by Agua Verde in Seattle)

Flour tortillas
two chicken breasts
one poblano pepper
 jar of Salsa verde
unaged Manchego cheese (Latin market) or use Jack or mozzarella

serves 4 main course or 8 as appetizers

To cook chicken I brown in olive oil on both sides, add some water to the pan, put a lid on and steam until done about 10-15 min.

Put them on a plate in the fridge until they are cool enough to shred with your hands.

To roast a poblano you can set it right on the flame until all sides are blackened or you can put it under the broiler in your oven.  Put the pepper in a paper bag, rolling it closed so the steam can't get out.  Wait until the pepper is cool enough to touch, peel off the skin (this will be easier now that the trapped steam has loosened the skin) and dice the pepper.

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute a chopped onion.  Add the chicken, diced peppers, and salsa verde.  I cook this on medium heat for about 5 minutes until all the flavors are incorporated.

To put your mangodilla together layer the chicken, cheeses, cilantro and mango between two tortillas.  Fry them up over medium high heat, making sure the cheeses has melted before you flip (or you will have a big mess).
I served my mangodillas with guacamole, salsa, chips and fresh fruit.

Sayulita is beautiful little town that happens to have amazing food.  I recommend you at least visit if you are staying in Puerto Vallarta.  The bus will set you back $2.50.

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