Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stairway to Heaven

I'm happy to report that the stair and hallway renovation is complete!  I could not be more happy with the results.  

If you are new to the blog, this was the "before" picture.  The second floor of this house was converted from an attic several years ago.  The flight of stairs was super narrow, the lack of over head lighting made it very dark and overall it felt very much like a tunnel. 

This was my inspiration picture for the design.  Very clean, bright and charming.


We were SO excited when construction began back in September.  Here are some progress shots during the demo process.

I was immediately in love with our decision to move forward with this change once the stairs were installed.  The openness makes such a major impact.  No more "attic-y" feel!

We hit one hiccup along the way.  The new hardwood on the second floor was finished off with an oil-based polyurethane.  This gave the wood a rich amber tone which I love.  Once the steps were ready for finishing our construction manager recommended a water base polyurethane because it dries quickly and we could move back up stairs sooner than later.  Let's do it!!!  Well, much to my dismay, an oil based finish and a water base finish look VERY different - hiiissssss.  That would have been nice to know before hand, buddy.  See how the grains of wood are drastically different in color.  RE - DO!

We packed up the boys and moved out of the house for a weekend for them to sand off the water base finish and properly apply the oil based finish.  Much better!

I chose a dark espresso wood finish for the stair railing and cap of the baluster which was inspired by my inspiration picture.  I think it adds an extra charming detail.

The addition of four new recessed lights makes a world of difference - don't you think?!

And my favorite part - the "Before and After" shots!

My brain has been spinning on how to decorate the walls.  I'll share those with you soon - maybe you can help me decide on which design direction to go in.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Make It Work

Happy Monday!  Just a quick hello to share another great recent Homegoods find.  I found this little gem on a hunt for a master bathroom rug.  It's obviously chevron... I'm obsessed.

However, in my opinion, the graphic chevron pattern was too much with the new floor tile.  

But I just couldn't pass up the price ($19.99) so in the infamous words of Tim Gunn, "Make it Work!"  I replaced the worn out rug in the downstairs bath. I think it works perfectly, especially since I already have a chevron theme going on in there.

Do you like??

Friday, January 25, 2013

Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomato Phyllo Triangles

Ever offer to bring an appetizer to a party and totally forget until your pretty much walking out the door to the party??  That happened to me recently.  Luckily I had some of these in the freezer!

I had made a bunch of these little triangles back in December and instead of baking them all at once I put half in the freezer.  I figured they would be perfect for quick mini appetizer if we had friends over for cocktails before going out or even a little treat while watching a football game.  Well I kind of forgot they were in there.  Good thing!   

They are pretty much a play on your traditional Spanakopita triangle but with a different filling.  I made them with a bunch of ingredients I already had in the pantry.  Artichoke hearts, parmesan cheese, sundried tomatoes and mayo.   First, I grated the parmesan cheese (I always prefer to use freshly grated parm - it makes everything taste that much better than the pre-grated stuff).  To make the filling you basically toss everything in the food processor and pulse it a few times. 

Previous to making this, I admit, I stayed away from working with phyllo dough.  Everyone is always saying how hard it is to handle.  It's REALLY NOT that hard to work with.  You'll be fine as long as you let it properly thaw overnight in the fridge and put a dampened paper towel over the stack of sheets once you've opened it.

So once the filling was prepared, I place one phyllo sheet on a clean work surface and lightly spread melted butter over it using a rubber basting brush.  Then I took a second sheet of dough, stacked it on top and lightly brush that one with butter, too.  Then cut the stack into 4 long strips (lengthwise).  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling at each corner and start to diagonally fold up your triangles.

Place your triangles on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  At this point you could pack the triangles in a air tight container and put them in the freezer for up to 3 to 4 months.  Or if you want immediate gratification for your hard work, bake them for 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees F (or until golden brown).  In the below batch of triangles, I grated some parmesan over the top of the triangles.  I wouldn't recommend this though...cuz it burnt.  Hey, you live and you learn, Friends.

YUM!  Click here for printable recipe.

What yummy foods to you have hiding on your freezer for emergency situations?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DIY Heart Garland

I'm not really one for going overboard with Valentine's Day decorations but I couldn't pass on these adorable felt heart stickers at the craft store for $1.99 a bag.  My DIY heart started to pitter patter when I saw them!  They worked out perfectly for a quick DIY string of garland.  And when I say "quick", I mean it.  I started working on this while watching "The Chew" -  I heart that show - and was able to make the garland, take all my pictures and string it on the mantel before the show was even over.

Here's how...  I used a needle, 2 strings of baker's twine (red and pink) cut to the length of our fireplace mantel and of course these cute little hearts. I actually used two bags of the sticker hearts (only one pictured here).

The funny thing is, the hardest part of this little project was threading the damn needle.  My sewing skills are clearly lacking.  Anyway, once the needle was threaded I strung the twine through one of the little felt hearts.  Urrmm side note, Girlfriend desperately needs a manicure!!!

Since the larger felt hearts are stickers, I "sandwiched" them (super technical sewing term) onto the baker's twine.
1) Take the sticker backing off and place it face down on your workspace.  Place the twine over the sticky part of the heart.
2) Take the other sticker backing off
3) Place it on top of the bottom heart and twine
4) Continue the process by alternating between stringing the little felt hearts with the needle and sandwiching the sticker hearts until your garland is the desired length

Then string it up on your mantel, sit back and admire your craftiness!  How easy is that?!

I'm kind of in love with my new V-Day garland!  What are your thoughts on decorating for the upcoming "Hallmark Holiday"??

I'm sharing this post at these fab blogs...
{W} Creations by Kara * Ginger Snap Crafts * Lil' Luna Primp Sew Much Ado Someday Crafts Southern Lovely * Sugar and Dots {F} French Country Cottage * Happy Hour Projects * It's a Hodgepodge Life * Nap Time Crafters * Serenity Now * Simply Designing * Tatertots & Jello * The 36th Avenue * The Romantic Home * Truly Lovely

Monday, January 21, 2013

Recipe Binder Organization

On Friday, I mentioned a few projects on the weekend agenda.  As suspected, the cold that has been chasing around the kiddos finally caught me - sigh. Needless to say, other than feeding my children, I got nothing accomplished - sigh.  And the Patriots lost - sigh. Feeling bad for me yet?! Just kidding, I'm clearly still hyped up on Robitussin - that stuff is potent! Anyway, this morning as the boys were working on their sorting and puzzle skills I decided to join them and sort out my recipe binder!

Just to recap, here's a look at the "Before." Not bad... but in some need of more page pockets and recipe categorizing.

We got started after a quick run to Office Depot for a box of sheet protectors.  For whatever reason, I already had filing tabs in the office closet.  Notice the Halls Triple Soothing Action bag on the counter? cough... cough... sigh.

I also picked up an extra 3-ring binder.  I had all the kitchen small appliance manuals in the recipe binder which were taking up a lot of space.  So I quickly separated them into another binder, slapped a label on it and put it in the office closet with all our other house manuals.

Back to the recipe binder!  Using Post-it notes, I categorized and sorted all my recipes into piles around the kitchen.

And then created a label for each category, stuck each of them to a filing tab and then onto a sheet protector.  Clearly, I alphabetized and put them in rainbow color order... because I'm a lunatic.  No judgement please!

At that point, it was time to start clearing the recipe piles off the counter and placing them under the appropriate category in the binder.  And... DONE!

hmmm..... so what's for dinner?!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekend Projects

The weekend is here and we find ourselves with hardly any plans.  Other than watching the Pats game with the fam on Sunday, we literally have nothing on the calendar.  Don't you LOVE weekends like that?  I feel like we've been "on the go" since November.  A nice quiet weekend at home is just what this family needs - especially, since the kiddos have not 100% kicked their flu like symptoms and whatever they had is making its way to me and the hubs. Assuming my health stays in tact I plan on tackling a few mini projects that have been on "The List" for a while now.

1) My recipe binder has seen better days - it's in need of a seriously face lift.  I ran out of clear 3-hole pockets so I find myself stuffing the front pocket with new recipes that I want to try.  And the recipes could be categorized a little better especially since the only current categories are "Pastas" and "Desserts"... riiiiiiighhhhht.

2) The Kitchen Cabinet Re-Org Project is still haunting my dreams with 4 upper level cabinets to go (I haven't even touched the lower cabinets).  This one is going to get tackled this weekend.

3) Valentine's Day is around the corner.  I found these adorbs little felt hearts at the craft store the other day - perhaps a cute string of garland for the mantle is in my future...

4) Close friends of ours gave the kiddos a great Christmas gift of Melissa & Doug musical instruments that were all neatly packaged in this wooden tray.  I've actually been on the hunt for a tray this size for a kitchen counter project I've been thinking about.  Maybe this little guy will get a makeover, too!

What projects will you be tackling this weekend?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs

"Wow!"  That was the word that came out of my husband's cookie-filled mouth when he took a bite of this chocolate & peanut butter piece of deliciousness.  Agreed!  I'm really glad I jumped on the "A Month with the Barefoot Contessa" band wagon because this is one of the best cookie recipes I've ever baked - Ina's Chocolate Peanut Butter Globs.

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of espresso powder.. yowzaass!  Let me tell ya, it gives this decadent chocolate cookie quite a punch.  There's not much flour in this recipe either which makes it extra gooey and I especially love that in addition to the traditional semi-sweet chocolate morsels there are also some Reese's Pieces bits trickled throughout this "glob."  YUM!

Yes, it was 10:30 in the morning when I took a bite of this cookie.  TOTALLY worth it!  Click here for the printable recipe at the Barefoot Contessa's website and enjoy every gooey bite!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Good Things Come in Small Packages...

... or that least that's what my Grammy used to say to me.  I have an obsession with wrapping paper and ribbons and bows and tags.  I've even devoted an entire Pinterest board to adorable, imaginative and inspiring ideas for gift wrapping.  Half the gift, well maybe a quarter of the gift is the pretty packaging that it comes in - in my opinion, anyway.

I should seriously consider buying stock in Paper Source - I feel like I'm in there all the time buying all sorts of great wrapping supplies.  Here are a few items I recently picked up to wrap a birthday present - bright and colorful watercolor paper, traditional paper bag paper, assorted colors of baker's twine, a gift box and birthday card.

Instead of using a typical "clothing box," I rolled the shirt in tissue paper and neatly placed it in this fun square sized craft box.

If using multiple ribbons or string, first cut it all to the same length.   Use this easy step by step process to tie the perfect "Tiffany" bow.  

And ta-da!  Now how "happy" is this Happy Birthday gift!

Hope you are all having a great week!  My kiddos have been fighting a fever and nasty cough for the last couple of days.  ugh - serenity now!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Berry Crumble Bars

As the kiddos fell fast asleep last night, I had a hankering for something sweet (stupid sweet tooth!).  These tasty treats have been on my list of goodies to make as part of the "A Month with the Barefoot Contessa" Project.  A few simple ingredients with a whole lot of flavor - Ina Garten's Raspberry Crumble Bars.  Although, I didn't have any raspberry jelly in the pantry...

I replaced the raspberry jam that Ina's recipe calls for with some delish strawberry mango jam I picked up at the Farmer's Market last weekend. 


These literally took about 10 minutes to put together.

Mmmm... it's a good thing I went for a run yesterday 'cause this treat was worth every calorie.  The buttery crust, mixed with the sweet, gooey & fruity jam worked perfectly with the granola and salty almond topping.  Click here for the printable recipe at the Barefoot Contessa's website.

I highly recommend whipping up a batch for the playoff games this weekend.  GO PATS! 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kitchen Food Prep

A quick update on the master bedroom, bathroom and hallway renovation:  IT'S DONE!  Wellllll... almost.  Our painter underwent hand surgery on Saturday so we're anxiously awaiting his healthy return.  I don't want to reveal the new spaces until all the cabinetry is painted and everything is perfect (clearly I have issues).  Anyway, since there are no more construction men roaming about whilst traipsing dirt and dust and lord knows what else through our house,  I've been back in the kitchen and cooking.  PLEASE don't be fooled.  When I cook it's NOT like watching a relaxing episode of Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis.  It's more like watching the Tasmanian Devil run about like a wild bull in a china shop.  In an effort to tame the wild animal from within, so to speak,  I've designated and organized an area in the kitchen as my Prep Space.

Our kitchen is not huge by any stretch but with the simple shuffling and re-organizing of a few things I pretty much have all the essential prep and cooking items within this one zone of the kitchen.  The pantry and refrigerator are on either side of the prep counter making it easy to quickly grab food or spices.   All my pots, pans and mixing bowls are in the lower cabinets. And if I'm baking... well you may remember my designated baking cabinet in the upper cabinet.

I'm loving our new carrera marble countertops but you pretty much have to treat them like you would a nice dining room table.  That's where these great cutting boards from Ikea come into play.  They were... wait for it... $9.99 each! They are plenty big which gives me ample space to work and they perfectly hug the counter allowing them to stay in place.  There was a similar item in the Williams-Sonoma catalog this month for $200!  SUCKERS! 

Like any proper Italian woman does, I use my fair amount of Olive Oils when cooking.  This tray neatly holds all the items I pretty much use everyday.  I picked up these cute decanters at World Market.

And a cute spoon rest helps to avoid any sauce stains on the wood cutting boards.

After answering the everyday question of "What's for dinner," I post the recipe to the fridge using a magnet clip so I can quickly reference it.  I was constantly rifling through cookbooks and recipe printouts while in the middle of mixing or sautéing something leaving all sorts of food smudges everywhere.  What a time suck and... ummm gross!

All knives, spatulas, spoons, can openers, thermometers etc are close by.

I even moved the food wraps in the draw where all my spices used to be (click here to see where my spices are now).  This makes it easy to clean up and store any leftovers.

So there you have it - my very own Prep Counter.  I'm still kind of a maniac in the kitchen but I seem to be able to get dinner on the table much faster than before.  Hey... every little bit helps.  Especially when you have two 2-year olds latched onto your legs while you're cooking!

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