Friday, September 28, 2012

Closet Area Rug | How To Alter a Rug

The master bedroom closet was one of the big selling points for me when we decided to buy our house five years ago.  It has loads of built-in shelving and is longer than our upstairs hallway.  About a year after moving in I installed some basic Rubbermaid closet systems that helped the functionality of the closet and really maximized the space.  It's not a fancy, gorgeous closet but its size allows us to store all of our clothes and shoes plus laundry baskets, hampers, beach towels, and even extra blankets and comforters when we're not using them in the warm months.

The big thing that's been missing is something soft underfoot.  The only significant downside to the closet is that there are no heating vents, so on a chilly winter morning it can get pretty cold in there.  Add a bare, icy floor on your feet and brrrrrr!

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a closet rug and it was also a tricky size given its narrow entry that opens up into a larger space.  On my most recent trip to Lowe's there was a bin of cotton rugs rolled up in the front of the store that were on clearance for...wait for it...$18.99.  For a rug.  I couldn't believe it.  I loved the pattern regardless of the price and so put two in my cart thinking I could do some work on one of them to convert it to a runner for the entry of the closet.

The rugs are a thick cotton mat style, very soft and cushy underfoot but still thin enough to cut with scissors and run through my sewing machine.  I measured the width of the closet entry and cut the edges of the rug to be just a bit narrower.

Then I used the over-edge stitch on my sewing machine to hold the edges together and prevent fraying.  I thought about buying some kind of binding and attaching that to the edges for a more polished look but I wound up liking the casual look of the sewn edges.  It's a casual rug and the stitching fit.

Here's a little glimpse of the closet with its naked floor.

And now with a cozy, colorful rug!

The second rug stayed its original size and spans the area between my side of the closet and Scott's side. 

Isn't the pattern so great?

For $37.98 count me one happy closet owner!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mushroom and Eggplant Cassoulet

I can't even remember now how I stumbled across this dish but it's become a family favorite.  It's one of those magical meals that consists entirely of simple, rather humble ingredients, but somehow comes out of the oven smelling and tasting extraordinary.  The white beans, mushrooms, eggplant, tomato, and white wine meld together into this intensely savory and satisfying meal.

If you're not a mushroom fan, well, then this dish may not be for you.  But if you are, then I'd encourage you to drop what you're doing and head immediately for your nearest grocery store to purchase the few ingredients you'll need to make this for yourself for dinner tonight.  It is so, so good.

A quick caution - while this is far from a difficult meal to make, it needs time to bake in the oven so all the flavors can blend.  You'll want to start this about an hour and a half before you plan to eat.  The actual prep time is only about 30 minutes though.

Mushroom Cassoulet
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into chunks
1 lb. cremini mushrooms (or any "meaty" mushrooms you like)
15 oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. white wine
3/4 c. fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375º.

Heat 1/2 c. olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add the eggplant and mushrooms and stir until softened and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Combine cannellini beans, eggplant and mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and thyme in a rectangular baking dish  Arrange tomatoes on top and pour the wine over it.

Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the top and drizzle with olive oil, about 3 tbsp.  Return to the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Let cool slightly then spoon onto plates and serve.

Click here for a printable recipe.
Adapted from recipe here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Street Sign Turned Wall Art

I showed you some photos of our guest bath last month, which we renovated during the first summer we lived in our house.  I used to have a robe hook hanging on the wall to the right of the door but wound up relocating it lower so it could be used for hand towels.  This bathroom doubles as our main floor bathroom so I like to keep the hand towels separate from the guest towels hanging on the towel rods.

That spot to the right of the door has sat empty for a year or so now and I've sort of halfheartedly kept an eye out for something to fill the space.

In June, when we visited my family's lake house, my mom told me that all the street signs were being replaced.  For as long as I can remember, all the streets have been marked with these charming, rustic, hand-painted signs.  For a variety of reasons, they needed to be replaced with standard street signs and some of the street names were going to be changed because of repeat names within the same county.  My whole life, I've been going to Lakeview Lane, but the street signs were coming down and the street was being renamed.

My mom asked the association manager if we could have the two old signs when they were removed and a few weeks ago when my parents were visiting the house the old signs were propped up against the door.  One of the signs will hang in the lake house and I was so excited to hang the other one in this little empty spot in my bathroom.

The sign has a great weathered look...because it's actually been weathered.  I gave it a quick wipe with a damp cloth to remove a little of the dirt but I wanted to keep as much of the worn look as possible.

I removed the rusty screws from the top and then hammered a picture hanging claw on the back of the sign.

 I centered a picture hanging hook on the wall and popped the sign into place.

The sign fits the space perfectly and works beautifully with the other black and white in the bathroom. 

I love the rustic look and think it's sort of funny that most people will probably think it's a faux-distressed piece when it's actually been 100% genuinely weathered by rain, sun, and snow.  I also love having a piece of the lake house with me, perhaps especially because Lakeview Lane no longer technically exists.  I'm so glad I waited for the perfect little something for this spot because now I have something extra sentimental.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apples

I can tell fall is starting to sink in for me this year by the foods I'm making.  I made minestrone soup last week and meatballs with sauce yesterday.  I've baked three loaves of banana bread in the past week.  Sunday saw an apple crostada with apples picked that afternoon at a nearby orchard.  And this version of black beans and rice, which may not seem overly fall-ish, is a great healthy, hearty take on the traditional but feels rather seasonal with the fresh apple topping.  I love this early fall time when apples taste so extra delicious because I've been busy eating peaches and plums and melons and berries and have forgotten all about them over the summer.

The layers in this dish complement one another so perfectly.  The brown rice is a nutty, simple base, the beans and peppers are creamy and richly flavored by the chicken broth and spices, the chicken adds a nice salty, meaty component, and the apples are an unexpected juicy, sweet counterpoint to the rest of dish, keeping it from feeling too heavy or seriously Mexican.

The brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook but the rest of the dish goes together in well less than that.  This has become another of my weeknight staples.  Not quite a "one pot" meal but everything you need is in the finished dish - protein, whole grains, fiber, and all those great vitamins from the fruit and veggies.  Do you need any more convincing?  Delicious, quick, and healthy...get cooking!

Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apples
2 c. brown rice, cooked
2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/3 c. red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 c. chicken broth
2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 apple, cored and diced
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 tsp. lime juice
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced

Preheat oven to 400º.

Season chicken with salt and pepper and roast in oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly and shred with a fork.

Heat oil over medium high heat.  Add red onion and peppers and cook until softened, 6-7 minutes.  Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, and cumin and stir for a minute or two.  Add broth and beans and bring to a boil.  Simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine apple, parsley, shallot, and lime juice.  Stir together and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, layer rice, beans, chicken, and apple salsa.

Click here for a printable recipe.
Adapted from recipe here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Simple Fall Accents

This is my first autumn blogging and, wow, bloggers decorate their homes for fall early!  I just got my act together this week.  I've kept things pretty simple, partly because I just plain like simple seasonal decorations and partly because I don't have the enormous surplus of time necessary to set up elaborate vignettes and then hunt down all the pieces and reposition them at the end of each day after my curious-fingered preschooler and toddler pilfer them!

I bought these small pumpkin-shaped candles a few years back and they're still going strong (you can find a similar product here).  I lined them up along our living room mantle, which can be challenging to style because of the limited space under the wall-mounted television.  I lay a simple garland with white berries behind the candles.

I put some dried wheatgrass in the vase to the left of the television.  I often use dried botanicals in place of fresh flowers.  I love fresh flowers but they can get expensive in the cold seasons here when I can't trim much of anything fresh from our bushes.

The last of our fresh flowers right now are roses and hydrangeas.  Inspired by this beautiful mantle by Lucy at Craftberry Bush, I took the remaining hydrangeas from our bushes outside and set them in a wood and wire basket on our coffee table.  They're a little pastel for the room but I hope they will soon turn the same gorgeous straw color as the ones on Lucy's mantle.

Craftberry Bush

At the same time I bought the small pumpkin candles I also bought a couple larger ones and placed these on the console table along the back wall of the living room.  I put more wheatgrass in the glass vase on the right.  I took these photos the day after I bought the wheatgrass and since then it's started to bend at the tips in the prettiest, most graceful little arcs.

Last year I bought these itty bitty dried pumpkins to use as a bowl filler and brought them out again this year in our dining room (they can be found here). 


As expected they were all missing at the end of their first day out.  After some hunting I found them in my 3 1/2 year old's purse.

Apple season is in full swing here in New England so I stacked up some apples from our apple picking excursion yesterday in a pedestal bowl on the kitchen table.

Having some autumnal touches around the house has definitely put me more in the fall mood.  I don't have much confidence that the hydrangeas will last long on the coffee table since Ellie loves to "help" me with the "flowdahs" but they can always be relocated to a high shelf if needed!

Friday, September 21, 2012

{Sweet Friday} Caramel Tartlets

On our way out west a few weeks ago I utterly mismanaged my time packing and getting ready to go, caused us to leave the house thirty minutes later than we needed to, thus putting us in the heart of Boston rush hour.  And we missed our flight.  The woman helping us at the airport was so patient and diligent and figured out a way to get us into Vancouver almost the same time the next morning that we would have arrived anyway.

And what, you must be wondering, does this have to do with caramel tartlets?  Our new flight schedule included a quick overnight in Chicago where we stayed with one of my best college friends, Liz, her hilarious and charming husband, Bradley, and their gorgeous toddler daughter.  We ate deep dish pizza, laughed and caught up, and after dinner Liz, who is only a few days away from her due date with baby number two, looked at Bradley and asked him to get dessert from the freezer, to which he replied something to effect, "Really, babe?  You want to share those??"  Apparently Liz's late-pregnancy indulgence has been these amazing caramel tartlets from Whole Foods that were busting with out-of-this-world gooey, buttery, chocolately, caramely goodness and probably cost a small fortune.

We ooohed and ahhhed over them and polished off Liz's entire supply before talk turned to making them at home.  And the first weekend I was home from our vacation I set about doing just that!  I pressed an easy food processor dough into muffin tins and then after baking filled the little crust cups with a simple homemade caramel.  I topped the caramel in three different ways - classic chocolate chips like the Whole Foods version I had at Liz's house, pecans (I was thinking of pecan pie here), and apple slices (does it get more "fall" than caramel apples??).  

I loved them all.  I can't quite say I had a favorite though this time of year I felt slightly partial to the pecan and apple topped tartlets because they tasted so seasonal.


So what are are you waiting for?  Start now and you'll be sinking your teeth into these babies in no time.  What a *sweet* way to kick off your weekend.

Caramel Tartlets - makes 18 tartlets

2 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 tbsp. (or more) ice water

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2/3 c. heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

chocolate chips
coarsely chopped pecans
apple slices tossed with lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375º.

Measure flour, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add butter and process using on/off turns until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 2 tbsp. water and process until the dough begins to clump together, adding more ice water a bit at a time if needed.

Divide dough evenly among 18 muffin cups.

Press dough onto bottom and up sides of muffin cups.

Bake in oven until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make caramel by stirring sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until the syrup is a medium amber color.  Once you see the syrup starting to color do not walk away.  It goes from lightly gold to black and burned faster than you'd think possible!

Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Reduce heat to medium and whisk until any sugar bits dissolve.  Add butter, lemon juice, and salt  and whisk until the butter melts.

Spoon filling into baked cups and refrigerate 10-15 minutes to let caramel harden slightly.  Top tartlets with whatever you like, then return to the fridge for about 30 minutes to set the caramel.

Gently remove from the muffin pans by sliding a butter knife between the crusts and pan.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Grey Console Table with Gilded Detail

Back in May I shared a furniture refinish I did on a wooden console table in my kitchen.

I've loved the pale grey and glass knobs on the table and never really felt like it was missing anything... until...I came across this pale grey desk with gilded detail by Cassie last week.


I instantly loved the way the gold and grey complemented each other.  I had some gold acrylic paint on hand...soooooo...what did I have to lose?  Worst case, I'd not like the results and could quickly paint over the gold.  

I taped off the sections I wanted to paint - the top edge and the bottom moulding piece.

Using a small paintbrush I applied the gold acrylic paint and let it dry a few hours before giving it a second coat.  I let the second coat dry a bit and then carefully removed the tape.  I found running a razor blade along the seam between the paint and the tape helped the paint to stay put on the table and not get pulled off with the tape.

I totally love the way the gold warms the soft grey and picks up on the gold flecks in the glass knobs.

I took a few colorful cookbooks from my shelf and stacked them under the bowl of pears.

I also added a glass hurricane and borrowed the birds from our screened porch for the other end of the table.

I'm so happy with the results plus this was a super quick project.  I'd guess an hour to do the taping, both coats of paint, and the tape removal.

And here's a sneak peek at a project I'm currently working drapes for the kitchen.  I have one panel done and three to go!