Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuscany

yes, this is in our kitchen
{currently my only picture of our new kitchen, because I think it's funny...this is a decal (wallcovering sticker?) of a scene in Tuscany (I think). The seller's realtor described it on the realty website as "adding great character...shows lots of depth". Which totally sold us, you know? We needed no other reason to buy than this mural right here. So this is where we have breakfast every morning. Isn't it just picturesque? Sadly, this will be the first thing to go when we start on the kitchen renovation...}

I spend a lot of my time thinking about baking and cooking, so you'd think when Christmas comes around I'd be thrilled to have the opportunity to bake things and give them out as gifts. A baker's dream! But I find myself paralyzed by indecision. This is a huge test, right? I have to find the best cookies and treats to make. There just seem to be lots of just ok cookie recipes out there, and I just don't want to mess with anything that's mediocre.

That's why I love food blogs (see also: my left sidebar of ones that I follow). Food blogs are like cookbooks, but infinitely better! What's not to love about a medium that allows people from all over to comment on the correct procedure for, say, making creme brulee? It's so fascinating to me. I've also recently discovered AskMe, specifically the posts tagged
food and beverage. Great tips and tricks to be discovered there.

I've muddled through several of these blogs and posts, and found a few recipes that I have decided to give as gifts this year. I wanted to give a variety of things, so I searched for nut recipes, truffle recipes, as well as cookies, of course. So here they are (and thanks to their respective blog owners for doing all the dirty work to distinguish between so-so and so good).


chocolate carmel crack(ers)
lemon cornmeal shortbread cookies
pepita brittle
rosemary butter cookies
rum balls
twice-baked shortbread (note: this would be, most definitely, my choice for a last meal if I were ever presented with that question. Just a big platter of these and a glass of milk, and I would die happy)
sugar and spice nuts

What are you making for (edible) Christmas gifts this year?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twilight...

No, not that. (Tangent: I have not read any of these books, nor have I seen the movie. Does it live up to its hype?). More like we've been in sort of a twilight zone. See, we spent the whole weekend moving. Into this!

our new home

If you read my blog at all, I posted a few times over the summer about us finding a house and making an offer on it, only for it to fall through. That happened twice. One lovely commenter reassuringly said that, "Don't worry, third time's the charm!" Well, what do you know, she was right. This time everything worked out, and now we've ended up with the house of our dreams. Seriously. It was built in 1907, has 14' ceilings, and has pretty much all of the trappings and amazing character of a late Victorian home. It has all the room that we'll ever need, and we love it.


And the kitchen! The kitchen, people, is what I've always wanted. Our previous kitchen left much to be desired. The new kitchen is still full of unpacked boxes, and it's killing me that I haven't been able to fully use it yet (Christmas cookies, anyone?). I'm dying to bake or cook something. Anything. Now I actually have the room to make anything that I want! 10 dozen cupcakes? No problem! I've got more counterspace than I know what to do with! Can you tell that I'm thrilled? I am entertaining the idea of turning this blog into more of a cooking blog, starting from the very first thing that I make in our new kitchen...

Anyway, back to our twilight zone. Otherwise known as moving an entire house full of stuff to another house. I counted, and I've moved almost 15 times since I turned 18. I'm 28, so that means I've moved 15 times in 10 years. And even then, with all of that moving under my belt, I still forgot how painful the whole process is. Sort of like childbirth? I don't know. All I know is that by the end of Saturday, straddling both worlds by having half of our belongings at one house and the other half at the other house, I broke down in tears because all I wanted to do was go to the store to buy detergent. Detergent. For some reason I felt that everything would be made alright and the new house would feel like home if only I could get my hands on some detergent and do some laundry. My husband just wanted to shower and go grab dinner, and I was so exhausted and emotional that I just started crying, that all I needed was some detergent. "We can't go out to dinner! We have to make this new house clean and good and ours," I sobbed to him. God love that man, I'm sure he thought I was going crazy. He convinced me that basic hygiene and eating a meal were more crucial at that point than washing a load of laundry. And of course, he was right.

But the boxes! And the bags! The funny thing was, we had packed the whole week prior, and thought we had made decent progress; we would only need our friends to help with the big furniture. But then we realized we hadn't packed up the pantry. Oh, and what about the refrigerator? The freezer? Oh my gosh, the upstairs den. It was never ending.

But despite the stress and the exhausting days, it's all worth it. We're so excited. It's a new start. :) Stay tuned for more pictures...and maybe the start of a brand new cooking blog!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh, Etsy

lovely lotus bowls
{lotus bowls, from seasidevintage}

...spending money, that is. But I bought these little bowls, from this neat little vintage shop on Etsy. I inherited bowls just like these (only larger) from my grandmother, and I adore them. We use them daily, and while it makes me a bit nervous since it does increase the odds that we'll lose one to clumsiness (oops, I did that already), I love that we use them so much. Grandma Betty would be so proud. I think I'll use these cute bowls for sauces and spices.

So, yeah, I shouldn't be spending any money. We've had a big thing happen (a good thing!), and soon we will going through a huge change (no,
Stephanie, it's not a baby) - and don't get me wrong, we totally planned for this event and have done an excellent job of figuring out finances and such. So I'm not going to let myself feel guilty, because these bowls are adorable. We just don't really need them. (who am I kidding, yes I did, that's why I hit "buy" as soon as I saw them)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our home

I'm such a bad blogger. And by bad, I don't mean infrequent, which of course I'm that as well. I mean that I'm just not consistent. I follow other blogs that are amazingly inspiring and creative and witty, but all of them are consistent. Some focus on cooking, some feature weddings, others focus strictly on design. And even the ones that touch on a bit of everything somehow manage to make it all work seamlessly, either with graphics or layout, or even the writing style. I feel like my blog is a clumsy hodge-podge of whatever.

But whatever. I think my biggest problem is that I am just lazy and rarely take photographs. Which, I think, is a pretty crucial element to a successful blogger (not counting, of course, blogs that focus mainly on written content).

So I'm going to work on making this blog more consistent. Ha, even as I type that sentence I feel myself saying, "No you won't. You have too many interests to just focus on one. Go ahead and post whatever you want, who cares if you're blog isn't slick and awesome."

So here goes. I wanted to share what I've been up to...do you want to know? This weekend we celebrated my birthday (the big 2-8, woop woop) with a lovely dinner
here, another dinner at home with friends and wine and handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and a surprise gift from my husband - a gorgeous antique necklace (pictures to come...see second paragraph).

And I wanted to share our pretty little home. See those pumpkins? My husband carved them. Yes, he's the greatest.

our home

our front porch

jack o'

jack o'
{I am definitely the more anal-retentive person in this relationship...I would have had to scrub those pen marks off before putting it out on the porch, but they didn't bother my husband one bit.}

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A different kind of wedding...

feather love
{photo by featherlove photography}

This, to me, is the best idea for a wedding. Get everyone together under the guise of celebrating your engagement, and then walk out in the most beautiful wedding gown and get married! This would eliminate all of the stress and bickering that tend to revolve around wedding planning. Everyone would be relaxed and at their best, which is what we all want for our weddings, right?

Obviously, even her friends had no idea. How wonderful.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cake. And more.

44676
{image by Rachel Ray}

Every year my husband makes chicken paprikash for his birthday (well, ok, I help him!). Before I met him, I had never heard of chicken paprikash (or chicken paprika), but once introduced, I quickly fell in love (with him and the recipe!).

~For the Chicken Paprikash~

  • Take 4-5 lbs of chicken parts (breasts will not work, you want bone-in pieces so you get more flavor), and brown them in a bit of butter, then add chopped onion to the dish. Let it all simmer for a bit, then add salt, pepper, a bunch of Hungarian paprika, and 1 to 1-1/2 cups of water, and let it stew some more.
  • Meanwhile, mix up 3 cups flour, 3 eggs (beaten), 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt into a sticky dough. Flatten the dough on a plate, cut into bite sized pieces, then drop them in salted boiling water. Let these boil while the chicken is simmering.
  • Now here's where it gets really good, and by good I mean fattening. Remove the browned and (hopefully by now) tender chicken pieces and set aside on another plate. Now you've got a skillet full of oniony liquidy goodness. Add 1 pint of sour cream to this liquid. Yes, I said 1 pint. 16 whole ounces. Go ahead, do it. Heat it thoroughly, stirring as you go. Don't let it boil! At this point you basically want to crawl into the skillet and bathe in the stuff, it smells that good.
  • Your dumplings should be ready at this point, so go ahead and drain them, rinse under cold water, and return to the big pot you boiled them in. Add the chicken pieces and the sour cream liquid mixture to the pot as well, and heat over low, stirring constantly, to allow all of the flavors blend. This is a critical step - you want the dumplings to absorb the sour cream liquid. Trust me. Ladle into big bowls and serve immediately (although it keeps really well in the fridge and actually tastes better the longer it sits).

I looked around a bit - this and this are the closest recipes that I can find to my husband's family's recipe (which is what we used). If you're looking for a fantastic comfort food, this is definitely it. Creamy, hot, filling, and just wonderful.

~Caramel Apple Cake~

And this is his favorite cake, the one I made for him on a whim two years ago. It's not made like a traditional cake - you actually beat the softened butter in with the flour and baking powder. I thought it was strange, but it turned out so well that I stopped questioning it. Please try it - it won't disappoint. It's a perfect fall treat - and the apple layer in the center takes this cake from really really good to perfectly amazing.

2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (1 pound) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 crisp apples (about 1 pound), such as gala, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup store-bought caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Using an electric mixer, combine the flour, 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, the baking powder and salt. Mix in 2 sticks butter at low speed until the mixture is crumbly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, 1/2 cup cream, applesauce and vanilla. Mix into the flour-butter mixture at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to release the layers, invert onto the rack and let cool completely.

In a medium skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the apple slices and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar and cook, stirring often, until the apples are tender and the juice is syrupy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons cream and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 2 sticks butter and the confectioners' sugar until light and creamy. With the mixer on low, slowly mix in the caramel sauce.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate; spread the apple filling evenly on top, then cover with the remaining cake layer. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, cover the top and sides of the cake with the caramel frosting, swirling the top to make a decorative pattern.

...Oh, yeah and I HATE BLOGGER AND THIS FORMATTING. Sheesh, is it too much to ask for user-friendly (and consistent?) formatting applications? I have edited this post about six times and each time it saves differently. (shaking angry fist at blogger)

Thorn Crown Chapel

thorn crown chapel

inside the chapel

inside the chapel

in the chapel

looking up

the entrance

Isn't it beautiful? We stopped by this on our way out of Eureka Springs last weekend. And boy, I'm glad we did.

Eureka!

Well, I was on a great kick for awhile, creating and a'posting like crazy. And then it all stopped. My sewing ceased, the house got a bit dirty, and I didn’t cook anything worth mentioning for two weeks. Why?

We took a little trip here.

eureka springs

eureka springs

eureka springs

crescent hotel

basin hotel

eureka springs

crescent hotel

neat face

Eureka Springs, that is! We had a few family birthdays to celebrate in early October, so we all converged on this little town and spent 24 precious hours discovering it. Thanks to Liz over at
Mabel’s House (a blog I read often, which is how I found out that she is enchanted with this little town and knows quite a bit about the area), we were pointed in the right directions and ended up eating at some fabulous establishments. We stayed here, lunched here, and…drum roll…had the most exquisite dinner here. In fact, that was the highlight of our trip, and we’ve already discussed visiting next year and staying there instead of the Crescent Hotel (sorry, Crescent, but you just didn’t live up to the hype. Your rooms were a bit lacking, and your customer service was less than stellar).

But the town is just charming, with cozy antique shops, art galleries, and more. It's a great combination of mountain atmosphere with an almost European feel, with the small winding streets and very old structures (many were built in the late 1800's). The weather held out for us, and stayed at a brisk but sunny 55 degrees the entire weekend. Just warm enough to do some shopping during the day, then made for a perfect fall evening with the family, filled with wine and really good food.

On the way out, we stopped at an amazing chapel, which I feel deserves its own post. More to follow!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I've been featured!

What a humbling experience! See her sweet post here.

And she has a very cute Etsy shop! I particularly love this necklace.


lovely

Check out her other offerings
here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Men's Shirt Refashion

A few weekends ago, on a lazy Sunday morning, I picked up a men's shirt at a local yard sale. We actually knew the people having the yard sale, so it was slightly weird to be buying our friend's shirt, but I quickly got over it. The shirt cost me $2, it's a great gingham print, and I was determined to refashion it into a cute top for myself. I started on it last night (sorry, no pictures yet), and I've removed the sleeves, cut out a lot of the bulk so that it's more fitted, and added front darts.

And then I found
this post! First of all, I love her blog - she's so completely inspiring. Second - yay, I was trying to figure out how to puff/pleat the sleeves, and she covers that as well. And third - she has an Etsy shop!

If all goes well, I will look like this when I'm done:

cute top!
{image property of My Mama Made It}

(haha, well, not that slim, but hopefully my top will be that cute!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Want...

skirts
{
diane skirt from olio united}

&

tights
{grape back seam tights from isobelandcleo}

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Craft Fair Results? Fantastic!

Success! What a great time we had at the festival! We had record attendance, the weather held out (a few sprinkles, but nothing to chase the crowd away), and in general had a great day. Finally, I can show you what I've been working on!

First, though, check out the
bunting in action:

my bunting in action

more bunting

And now...my inventory! First up, I had quite a few pairs of earrings out on display...

my earrings for sale!
{look, this year I finally remembered to bring a mirror!}

more earrings!

my earrings for sale1

And...drum roll...my clutches! These were a huge hit.

pleated tweed clutch - SOLD!

pleated wool clutch above, small tooled clutch below

magenta ruffle clutch

the daisy clutch - this one is my favorite

tweed clutch above, rose clutch below (SOLD!)

My husband also contributed to our inventory...he built cornhole sets, and I sewed all of the bags. As you can see, there were quite a bit. In fact, my sewing machine jammed up on the very last one the night before the festival.

cornhole sets for sale!

lots of color choices

So, I'll FINALLY be updating my Etsy shop with my remaining inventory. I got lots of requests for different sized clutches, custom colors, etc., so be sure to check back often if you are looking for something in particular. I had one girl request a custom clutch for her wedding day (!), which was very flattering.

Check out my (until now, seriously neglected) Etsy shop here!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two days left and counting...and bunting!

...until the Cooper Young Festival! We're so ready. I've got a pretty good inventory of handmade earrings and clutches. Those clutches were almost the death of me, I tell you. I made most of them out of vintage skirts. They are adorable, if I do say so myself, and I'm very proud of them (but at times, I really wanted to throw my sewing machine out the window). But really, they are great. I'm so excited to see people's reactions to them! (note to self: post pics here eventually).

Oh! And my husband made cornhole sets. No, dirty minds, it's not what you're thinking. Go
here if you've never heard of it. So, in addition to sewing clutches, I was also tasked with sewing 72 corn-filled bags. Yes, that's right...72. I'm surprised my fingers aren't bleeding.

So in the midst of all this, I was thinking about how to decorate our booth to draw people in. You know, displays, banners...I thought - ah! I'll do bunting flags. Goodness gracious, I'm seeing it
all over the place. My first plan was to get my scraps of fabric and sew them into cute flags. Of course, good intentions, but...I barely have time to finish my inventory, let alone devote time to sewing decorations. So! Thank goodness I have and know how to use Photoshop. If you can't sew flags, then design some that LOOK like sewn fabric! Genius.

flags_1

And I've always wanted to post tutorials and freebies and stuff here, but I haven't really had a reason or opportunity until now...so if for some reason you need a bunting PDF, go ahead and download them
here and here. (Assuming that I linked it correctly). I'm not saying these are the most awesome flags ever, but in a pinch (last-minute baby shower? forgotten birthday party?) they will do just fine. They're formatted to be 11x17, so you can just print, fold in half, and voila, you've got cute 2-sided flags. Let me know how you use them!

flags_2

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just Received...

pl681222-01vliv01
...these in the mail yesterday! I bought them here.

I love them! I was skeptical about them at first, but I figured, hey, they're on sale, and I need to try new styles. They fit perfectly and are very comfortable.

I definitely think they would look best with a cute dress. Maybe something plum colored? Any ideas?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Beauty Shop.

A sales rep stopped by our office today and generously dropped off boxed lunches for all of us interiors girls. Usually when someone mentions a boxed lunch we all groan, because (I know, I know, it's a free lunch!) it usually involves a lackluster sandwich, fruit salad that is comprised of one strawberry and 15 gross melon pieces, and, if you're lucky, a cookie that is half-way edible (and not nearly worth spending your calories on).

But these! I had to take a picture. My coworkers think I'm nuts.

IMG_2603 copy

See that? That little pink thing? It's a foam curler. Used as a napkin ring/utensil holder. Is that not adorable?

IMG_2605 copy

These lovely lunches came from
The Beauty Shop, which is a local Midtown eatery. It's in a space that used to be an actual beauty shop and hair salon in the 1960's. It's rumored that Priscilla Presley used to go there to get her hair done. Awesome.

But if you're ever in Memphis, check it out. The hair drying stations are still there, and have been reconfigured as seating arrangements and booths. The hair sinks have been incorporated into the back bar. It's got a really neat, trendy/retro vibe, which is helped by the mismatched chairs, tables, and even drinking glasses. It's quirky and fun. And the food is a-mazing. I'm eating my boxed lunch right now, which consists of a wonderful BLTA (avocado, if you were wondering), with homemade chips and a cute chocolate cupcake.

Untitled-1
{image property of The Beauty Shop}

...and I know I've been busy at work - and doing nothing but work - when I start to post about what happens in the office...I need a few days off I think.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Let's Try Again.

Well, we didn't want that big kitchen, anyway. Phooey.

Our realtor is out of town this weekend, which is probably a blessing. We'll be forced to take a break from house hunting. Instead, I think we'll focus on a) sleeping in, b) sewing (for me!), and c) cooking. This and this are on my list of things to make this weekend. Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mrs. Dalloway

mrs. dalloway
My husband is an AP English teacher and avid reader, and I love when he buys me books. He just recently ordered
this for me, telling me that he thought I'd "really love it." I so adore when he recommends books for me to try, because he's always spot on about what will grab my attention.

{P.S. Don't you just love the cover design?}

{P.S.S. If you haven't heard of Daedalus books, go check it out. You can find some amazing deals on brand-new books!}

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Essay on Marriage.

waves
An interesting (and inspiring, to me) take on marriage here. I only hope that I could be that strong.

{in this boat together, by weathergirlshop}