Friday, January 25, 2013

Home Office Organization

A few weeks ago I told you I was tackling organization and sprucing of our home office, and phase one is complete!

The built-ins came with the house and have been great for storage but we haven't been very thoughtful in how we organized things, and as a result, they had become a mess.

It really didn't make me happy to be in here because I'd look up and see this disaster staring me down.  Not to mention it was hard to find anything I was looking for because things were stacked up half falling over.  There was no rhyme or reason to any of it.

Step one here was clearing everything out.  I started with the cabinets and took out every item, organized by type (paper products, candles, upholstery supplies, fabric, etc.) then grouped like items together and neatly packed things back into the cabinets.  I used a lot of plastic bins to corral smaller items.

For the open shelves I wanted a combination of functional and pretty.  With all of my furniture, sewing, and upholstery work I have a lot of fabric scraps and this is how they were "organized" before.

I wanted to be able to see everything but still have it neatly packed away and decided on these wire baskets from Crate and Barrel to do the job.

I also shopped around for some pretty accents that could do double duty as storage, like the driftwood bowl above, which adds a nice natural element to the shelves but also holds my camera and extra lenses.

Some items are just plain decorative - after years of staring at bookshelves piled up with old textbooks and my project extras, I wanted some pretty!  A few of my favorites are the glass cloche, yarn-wrapped gazelle, and silver salt cellar (can you see the tiny spoon?).

So I'm on my way on here!  Next I'll be ripping off the moulding and re-trimming the whole built-in, including the doors, with flat moulding, in sort of a Shaker style.  I'm also thinking of papering the backs of the open shelves.  I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have everything pretty, organized, and easy to find.  This project took a few days and a lot of mess (picture piles on the floor everywhere) but it sure was worth it.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

DIY Monogram Plate

I bought this little plate about six years ago at Home Goods when Scott and I were living in a small city apartment.  I think I had it propped on the mantle there but, honestly, I can't even remember for sure.  It's never had a permanent home since we bought our house and had been unceremoniously stuffed into a cabinet for storage for a while.  I pulled it out recently to act as a catch-all bowl on our hall table where Scott could toss his wallet and phone when he walked in the door.  It functioned perfectly but I wasn't loving the look.

Just kind of dark and dull, right?  I love the antique-gold carved handles and gold etched rim but felt like those details just got lost in the busy-ness of the pattern.

A few coats of paint later this homely plate went from dark and drab to light and lovely!

I primed the surface first with some leftover latex primer I had on hand, then used a foam brush (I found a bristle brush left too many brush marks) to carefully paint several coats of Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint in Summer Linen (from Michaels).  I was very careful to avoid the gold rim and also checked after each coat to make sure I had smoothed out any raised ridges of paint.  I should have kept count, but I think it took four coats to fully cover the pattern underneath.  I let each coat dry a couple hours to overnight before adding another.

After the paint had dried I used a silkscreen stencil (also Martha Stewart from Michaels) to stencil the "B" on the plate with the same paint in Yellow Gold.  When that had dried to the touch, I stenciled the dotted circle around it.

I let everything dry again overnight, then sprayed Rustoleum Clear Coat over the entire plate to seal and protect the paint and give everything a nice glossy finish.

I love how the soft white makes the gold detail stand out so much more than it did before.

It's still the perfect catch-all on our hall table but I really love the look of it now too.

I love repurposing forgotten items and breathing new life into them.  Have you done any little makeovers lately?

Linking to Saavy Southern Style, I Heart Naptime, The Shabby Nest, Liz Marie Blog, Crafty Scrappy Happy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Porcini Mushroom Tortellini with Braised Beef and Butternut Puree

I love this dish as a casual meal with just my family and it's especially fantastic as a make-ahead dinner party entree.  It's deceptively simple, too, and requires little more than putting beef in a pot, roasting some squash, and boiling frozen tortellini.  Well, a little more than that, but not much, I promise.

The flavors of the three layers are all quite different but you get a bit of sweet, a bit of savory, and a bit of salty and they all come together in just the right balance.  It may seem like an odd pairing, but you'll have to trust me.  It's really, really good.  My husband and little girls all gobbled it up last week when we had it for dinner. 

My favorite tortellini to use are Rising Moon Port & Porcini Mushroom, which I get frozen at Whole Foods.  I like them to be soft for this dish so usually boil them a few minutes longer than suggested.

If you decide to make this for guests, you can make the squash puree and braise the beef a day ahead, refrigerate them, then have them gently warming in separate pots on the stove about 30 minutes prior to serving.  All you'll have to do before plating is boil the tortellini.  Sounds pretty easy, right?

Porcini Mushroom Tortellini with Braised Beef and Butternut Puree
Ingredients - serves 4
1/2 lb. beef chuck
1/2 c. red wine
1/2 c. beef broth
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 c. onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. cream
2 8-oz. pkgs. high-quality frozen mushroom ravioli

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cut beef into 1" cubes and season with salt and pepper.  Put in Dutch oven with wine, broth, tomato sauce, onion, and garlic.  Stir to combine.  Roast about 90 minutes, until beef shreds when pressed with a fork.

Toss squash, maple syrup, and olive oil on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven about 30 minutes (can go in at the same time as the beef), until squash is very tender.  Put in food processor with cream and puree until completely smooth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous amount of salt, and boil tortellini according to package directions (add a few minutes if you like the tortellini softer).  Drain and toss with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.

To plate, divide the squash puree among four plates, top with tortellini, and then beef.

*If making ahead of time, you may want to add a little water to the beef when reheating to keep it from getting too dry.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

{DIY} Faux Capiz Shell Pendant

A couple weeks ago I showed you the crystal globe pendant I hung in Ellie's room.  Since there isn't an overhead light in her room, the pendant is a nice way to give the illusion of a fun light fixture without the expense and hassle of running wires and installing one.

Ada's room is the same, with no overhead light, and I wanted to hang something above her chair too.  I'd been seeing a lot of faux capiz shell chandeliers around and decided that was the way I wanted to go.  As for the look, I liked the layered look of this real capiz chandelier from West Elm:

I also liked the draped top of this beaded chandelier:

I set out to combine the two looks by constructing a frame out of the top of an old lampshade, metal craft rings, and clear hanging wire.

I used four rings total, in descending size order.  It's important to measure the hanging wire carefully and space them equally apart to get the rings to hang level.  To be honest, this step was a little more tedious than I thought it would be.

For the top, I used the smallest size craft ring and hung it about a foot above the largest ring.  I cut a wooden skewer to the diameter of the top ring, hot glued a metal rope to the center, then hot glued the sides of the skewer to the ring.

Once the frame was done, it was time to make those fake little capiz shells.  I tore sheets of wax paper about 15" long, stacked three on top of each other, and used a hot iron to bond them together.  It only takes a few seconds to iron each stack of wax paper.  I used about two boxes worth of wax paper and had around 20 finished sheets.  Then I used a circle punch to punch out the "shells."

Here are the tips I learned along the way.  Hold 4-5 finished sheets together to punch at one time.  Otherwise the punch sticks and rips the paper (plus it goes faster!).  Don't punch too close to the edge or the punch kind of sticks too.  I would punch a row of shells and then use a paper cutter to slice off the bottom and then do another row, and so on.  The paper cutter was much easier and quicker than cutting the punched edges with scissors.

After I had a pile of the fake capiz shells, I threaded my sewing machine with white thread and used the same technique as I did for the circle garland to sew them together.  It takes a little time but with the number of shells I had, sewing was much quicker than laying them all out and hot gluing them together with thread (I've seen it done this way).  I was left with ribbons and ribbons of faux capiz shells.

I hung the frame from a curtain rod and started attaching the shells on the largest ring first.  I cut strips of five shells, put a dab of hot glue on the top shell or second from the top and then folded the top shell over the ring and pressed together with the next one to hang the strip from the ring.

I continued all the way around until the whole ring was covered then continued with the remaining smaller rings, adjusting the length each time to get the look I wanted.

For the top part, I glued a fake shell to the top shell on the largest ring, then held up the string of shells to determine the length, cut it to size, and glued it to the top.  You want to consider spacing here so it looks neat when finished.  I worked in quarters at a time.

When it was all finished I added an anchor and hook to the ceiling in Ada's room and put the new faux capix pendant in place.  

I could easily convert this into an actual light someday if we wind up in a house that has hard wired ceiling lights.  But for now, I love the soft, whimsical interest it adds to Ada's room. 

Full disclosure here, this was not a quick project.  Between making the frame, the fake capiz shells, and putting it all together it took me several days.  But, for me, it was totally worth the effort!

How to make a faux capiz pendant from wax paper and craft rings - by The Chronicles of Home

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sweet Potato Hash with Ham and Arugula

Last week I shared this sweet potato hash recipe over at Honey We're Healthy and today wanted to repeat it here in case you missed it.  It's a fantastic brunch or breakfast dish but I find myself making it most often as a weeknight breakfast-for-dinner option.

When it comes to breakfast-for-dinner I'm definitely more a fan of egg dishes than pancakes or waffles.  This hash is so flavorful and satisfying it almost makes me forget that it's a traditional breakfast dish rather than a "real" dinner.

Using sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes does change the texture of the hash.  It won't be crispy like a hash made with white potatoes but I actually really love the softer, creamier texture.  And the flavor of the sweet potatoes is a great balance to the salty ham.

I use a nitrate-free Canadian bacon, which is a nice staple to keep in your fridge.  It's a lean meat, already cooked, and can be chopped up and thrown into any number of dishes or just warmed and served alongside some pancakes.

A fried egg on top with a soft yolk and crispy edges is the perfect finishing touch.  You may find yourself making this for breakfast and for dinner!

Sweet Potato Hash with Ham and Arugula
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 ½ c. peeled sweet potatoes, cut into ½” cubes
6 oz. Canadian bacon, diced
1 c. chopped yellow onion
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. horseradish
2 c. arugula
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 eggs
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks

Heat grapeseed oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Add sweet potatoes, cover, and cook 5 minutes. 

Stir in Canadian bacon, onion, mustard, and horseradish.  Cover and cook until the sweet potato is tender and the bottom turns golden, about 8-10 minutes. 

Flip sections of the hash and press down with a spatula.  Cook uncovered another 8-10 minutes, flipping sections occasionally so hash browns evenly.  Stir in arugula and cook a few minutes until it wilts.

Meanwhile heat olive oil in another nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Add eggs and cook until whites are set but yolks are soft.

Divide hash among four plates.  Top each with ¼ of the avocado and one fried egg.  Serve immediately.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Happy Friday everyone!  I've been sitting on a fun little announcement for about a month now and am very excited to tell you today that I've been asked to join the 2013 creative team over at I Heart Naptime.  I Heart Naptime's weekend link party, Sundae Scoop, has been one of my favorites for awhile and Jamielyn, the founder and managing editor, is always full of great baking and craft ideas.  There are fifteen women joining the creative team this year and I'm really excited to be part of such a talented and sweet group of people.

I Heart Naptime's tagline is "Inspiring Nap Time Creativity."  Which is a pretty good summary of when things happen over here at my house.  The question I get asked the most is, "When do you do all this stuff??"  And pretty much, the answer is, "naptime."  Thank goodness my girls both nap...I live a little bit in dread of the day my four year old drops her nap.  I usually do my cooking in the evenings but almost all of my project work and photography happens between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. M-F.

Anyhow, Jamielyn has asked me to contribute a healthy recipe each month and I'm thrilled to do so.  Today is my first post and I've given you a healthy take on pizzeria pizza - whole wheat crust loaded with veggies, garlic, ham, and mozzarella.  It's a regular visitor at our Friday night table.

Click here to hop on over for all the details and instructions on how to make it for yourself.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Guest Room Rug | Cotton, Cushy, and Washable!

I've been sort of casually on the lookout for a new rug for our guest room for awhile.  The old one was dark, stained, and a bit hard underfoot.  It was a spur of the moment Home Goods purchase five years ago for under $50, so I'd say it's about come to the end of its life cycle.

What I was hoping to find in the new rug was something lighter, geometric, neutral, and machine washable.  Pretty big list for a little rug, especially the machine washable bit.  But about a month ago One Kings Lane was having a rug sale and this Coyuchi lovely was in the mix.

It had everything I had been hoping for, and was so soft and cushy too, which will be great when our overnight guests plop their bare feet down in the mornings.

The machine washable part may seem odd but this room goes out to our deck, where we keep our grill and outdoor dining table in the warm months, so there's a lot of in-and-out foot traffic about a third of the year (one of the reasons the old rug was so beat up).  I was able to get a matching door mat for wiping feet on Coyuchi's website (they were having a great sale leading up to Christmas).

How about a quick before and after?

I love how the new rug lightens the room and the way the simple diamond pattern plays off the damask in the curtains.

I've got a number of projects in the works right now but updating the bottom half of these walls is still on my list.  Stay tuned!

Linking to Silver Pennies, I Heart Naptime, The Shabby Nest, Craftberry Bush.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pasta with Tuna, Lemon, and Kale

This pasta dish has been on heavy rotation in my house for a few years now, and for several reasons.  It's made mostly with pantry items so it's great when you have a "What am I going to make for dinner right now?" moment.  It takes 15-20 minutes to get ready so can be a lifesaver on busy weeknights.  And the flavors, as simple as they are, just come together in a beautiful way.

The only change I make in this dish from one time to the next is the greens.  I've been loving kale in it lately but it works really well with arugula and spinach too.  And if you don't have any fresh greens on hand, frozen spinach would be a great substitute, but be sure to cut the amount down to a cup or cup and a half if using frozen.

You can adjust the heat to your own taste.  I typically don't add crushed red pepper when a recipe calls for it but I find just a pinch here adds a very subtle undercurrent of flavor and I miss it if it's not there.  If you love your food spicy then toss in a palmful!

Pasta with Tuna, Lemon, and Kale
12 oz. whole wheat fusilli
2 12-oz. cans of tuna in olive oil 
5 garlic cloves, minced
pinch crushed red pepper
zest of one lemon
3 cups chopped kale
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions.  Drain, and reserve 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Spoon tuna and oil from the cans into the pan and cook for 1 minute.

Add garlic, crushed red pepper, and lemon zest.  Saute 2-3 minutes.

Add kale, cover with lid, and cook about 7 minutes, until kale is wilted.

Stir in lemon juice, Parmesan, cooked pasta, and reserved liquid and stir gently until pasta is coated.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Linking to Silver Pennies, I Heart Naptime.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Big Girl Bed | Thinking Outside the Bolt

I'm still chipping away at transitioning Ellie's room from nursery to big girl room.  Last week I shared the sparkly globe pendant I hung above her rocking chair.


Today I wanted to show you the new accent pillows I made for her bed, and the gorgeous fabrics didn't come from a bolt.

I bought the duvet cover and Euro shams about a year ago but was waiting to find a few accent fabrics I really loved before adding any other pillows to the bed.  I was only recently introduced to Roberta Roller Rabbit's home line and the cheerful prints were just what I had in mind for Ellie's room.  They sell pre-made pillow covers for $50 apiece but I wanted different sizes than those offered.  And, honestly, $150 in new pillows seemed a little steep for a two year old.

Luckily, Roberta Roller Rabbit offers their patterns in lots of different products and they had the exact patterns I wanted in sets of 4 napkins for $32.  Six of the eight napkins I ordered (one set of each pattern) became the new pillows on her bed, and I am in love with the bright colors and fun patterns.

Ellie's room has a lot of aqua and I had been hoping to bring in some more of the raspberry pink you see in the print above her bed.

There is still a wall in her room taken up by the crib and changing table but they'll be moving out soon and will be replaced by my childhood dresser, which will likely be getting a makeover.  So far I love the way things are coming together in here.

Have you ever made home furnishings from an unconventional source?

Linking to Silver Pennies, I Heart Naptime, The Shabby Nest, Craftberry Bush, Home Stories A to Z, The Winthrop Chronicles.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Double Blueberry and Almond Scones

Two of my favorite breakfasts to make when I have a little extra time in the morning (usually the weekends) are muffins and scones.  And within those groups, two of my perennial favorites are blueberry muffins and dried cherry scones.  I took the parts I like best in each recipe - the tart fresh blueberries and the chewy dried fruit - and combined them into this new scone.

I've never been a big fan of overly sweet breakfast breads and scones have the perfect subtle sweetness for me.  I fiddled with my recipe for the dried cherry scones a bit by substituting whole wheat flout for some of the white and swapping coconut oil for the butter.

Have you tried coconut oil?  It's close to the consistency of room-temperature butter and has a soft coconut flavor (if you use unrefined coconut oil it will taste more strongly of coconut).  I was mostly curious to see how the scones turned out without butter and was pleasantly surprised that they still had all the crumbly, biscuit-y goodness of a scone made with butter.

So the next time you have ten minutes to prep the batter and fifteen minutes for the scones to bake, why not treat yourself to some tart, sweet, crunchy, crumbly deliciousness?  You can feel good about feeding your family something that tastes great and is full of good-for-you ingredients.

Double Blueberry and Almond Scones - makes 8
3/4 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. refined coconut oil (butter can be substituted)
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/4 c. dried wild bluberries
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400º.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut coconut oil in with a pastry cutter until it's the consistency of coarse sand.

Gently stir in fresh blueberries, dried blueberries, and almonds.

In a small bowl whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla to blend.  Pour over dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined.

Drop batter in 8 mounds onto prepared baking sheet (about 1/2 c. of batter each).

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Click here for printable recipe.

Linking to Silver Pennies, I Heart Naptime, Craftberry Bush, The Winthrop Chronicles.

Friday, January 11, 2013

{Sweet Friday} Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Covered Nut Clusters

My mom got Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, as a Christmas gift from my dad.  I read the entire thing while we were in Pennsylvania over the holidays and it looks like another home run from the master of fabulous yet accessible food.

There was a bridal shower for my cousin a few days after Christmas and since my mom and I were in charge of desserts we looked through the dessert section of Foolproof and decided to make the German Chocolate Cupcakes and the Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes.

Here's the thing...I didn't doubt for a moment that they'd both be great, but I was way more excited for the German Chocolate variety.  Chocolate and coconut are two of my most favorite ingredients.  My mom suggested the Spiced Pumpkin cupcakes as well and I sort of half-heartedly agreed.  Pumpkin cupcakes just didn't excite me that much.

Well, now, pumpkin cupcakes excite me.  The combination of moist, softly spiced pumpkin cake, cream cheese frosting with just a whisper of maple, and chunks of crunchy chocolate-covered toffee takes this above and beyond any other pumpkin cake I've had.  This recipe has me wanting to garnish everything with toffee.  Don't be surprised if you see some upcoming desserts from me wearing jaunty little toffee hats.

So, why then, have I called this recipe "Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Covered Nut Clusters?"  I made the cupcakes again about a week after Christmas and didn't have any toffee on hand but had some cashew, almond, and pumpkin seed clusters covered in chocolate and they were pretty darn delicious with the cupcakes too.  That's what my photos are of so that's what I've called them here.  But either candy topping is great with these cupcakes.

So, in short, do not turn away from these cupcakes cavalierly with a wave of the hand and a "What's so special about pumpkin cupcakes?" attitude.  These are worth a second look.

Click here for the recipe, as featured in House Beautiful magazine.

* I made about 2/3 of the frosting suggested and it was the perfect amount.  I also used a tablespoon or two of maple syrup instead of the maple flavor suggested.

** The German Chocolate cupcakes were wonderful too!

Linking to The Shabby Nest, Craftberry Bush