Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Break

Last night was back to school night. It was a smashing success, but since I worked from sun up till long past sundown - literally - I am pooped. I am taking the day off so I could try to get a little sleep before I am back at it again today. What can I say? Sometimes the paying gig wins out.

 But I will be back tomorrow with my best impression of Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stripes or Chair Rail?...or Both?

My oldest friend is pregnant with her first baby (yay!), and she called me over the weekend to run some nursery design ideas by me. Her bun in the oven is a boy, and she and her husband are Giants and baseball fanatics, so it is no surprise that the future slugger's nursery palette is inspired by Giant's colors: orange, black, and ivory. The big question is: should they paint a fun racing stripe on ivory walls?

Pinterest via Lianna Roberts via Mackenzie Collier

Or should they install a chair rail with orange below and ivory above?

Little Crown Interiors

If they decide to go with the chair rail, they could always add some faux paneling like this to jazz it up a bit. 

Or there's a third option. I suggested - just to complicate the issues - that they could do both. Crazy, but I kinda like it.

Picture something like this, but with one narrow, horizontal stripe above the chair rail. (Something akin to that first photo above but without the white stripes.)

Pinterest via Mindy White

I think it's a home run no matter what they decide to do. The ivory walls will brighten up a shady room, but I worry ivory might be hard to keep free of toddler finger and handprints. The chair rail with the orange below might help to solve that problem, but is it as fun and energetic as stripes? And doing both might just be a bit too much energy in a small space. (But it could also be really awesome. Just saying.)

I think you can tell where I stand on the stripes vs. chair rail debate, but now's your chance to weigh in. What design advice do you have for this mama-to-be?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Update: Lacking Thesis

It was a busy weekend of plastering, celebrating belated birthdays, cooking, and working.

We got the second coat of plaster up on all the walls. I am really getting excited because all of our hard work is starting to look finished; unless you look too closely, it looks as smooth as a baby's bottom, as my mom would say. Now we just have to do the ceilings, sand, and touch up in a few places, and we can fiiinnnaalllly paint. (I am hoping weekend after next.)

I would share new pics, but it pretty much looks the same as last week - pretty boring unless you are in the space - so I am just going to recycle pics.

(I can't wait to tackle a big project that evolves visually as you complete each step so I actually feel like I have something to share. We are working our buns off, but every week it feels like I have so little to show for it.)

Since this post is pretty vanilla, let me do a little over-sharing. We ended a long day of plastering with a yummy sushi dinner, and after a day of work on Sunday, we started the week off right with Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe it! I am not sure if I took pictures of every step (it was a doozy), or am ready to break down this double black diamond of a recipe, but I am going to do my best. I hope to share it with you all a little later in the week.

Sorry for the rambling and almost-pictureless post. (If this were an essay, I would tell my students it needs a thesis statement. Yep. I'm a nerd.) But in the spirit of over-sharing, how was your weekend? Did it lack focus like mine?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fashion Friday: Wide Leg Wonders

Maybe it's because I spent the summer flitting around in maxi skirts and the thought of something clinging to my legs just doesn't sound appealing anymore (sorry skinny jeans), but I am seriously craving wide leg pants right now.

It started with these Level 99 High Waist Chambray Trouser jeans that are super roomy and leggy but still somehow chic.

Yes, they're totally a throwback to the 70's, but they are a lot of fun to wear and the high waist means I am not exposing anything unseemly from behind. Even though I am swathed in fabric, I still feel surprising sexy and polished. I guess it's this feeling - which originally hooked me on maxi skirts - that has me mad about wide legs.

(I snagged them about a month ago for half off of their original cost at Anthropologie. It looks like they are no longer available online, but you might still be able to find them in stores.)

Then the J.Crew catalogue came in the mail. This spells trouble in my house (even though I lay in wait until what I want goes on final sale and finally falls into my price range). These Hutton trousers had me at hello.

I wish I could find the pic from the catalogue. The model is walking and the movement of these long and lovely pants is perfect. So much better than this pic above.

I would wear them with this shirt tucked in.

The jade color, texture, and detailing are perfect. Oh, and it would work nice too with this perfect-for-fall wool maxi skirt.

Maxi skirts, I just can't quit you.

Who else is ready for some relaxed fall dressing?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies

I have a wicked sweet tooth. Seriously. I could eat a dessert after every meal, even breakfast, which often times is sweet enough to be a dessert in its own right. And when I want my sugar fix, my sweet treat of choice is invariably cookies. Since my taste for peanut better started at an early age (I had a peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch until high school, when I graduated to PB&J), it's no surprise that I love any type of peanut butter cookie, but this mix of peanut butter and chocolate is particularly delicious. So without further ado...Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies.

2-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup powered cocoa (I like Ghirardelli)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2/3 cups (or one bag) Reese's peanut butter chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla, beating well to combine.

Add cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, mixing until combined.

(Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally!) Slowly mix in 1/2 cup of flour at a time, mixing until just combined. Finally, add the peanut butter chips and mix until evenly distributed.

Drop spoonfulls on a cookie sheet.

(I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this tool, but I am in love with my Silpat silicone cookie sheet liner, which we received as a wedding gift but which you can snag here. Cookies literally slide right off of it, and even better, the bottoms never burn but always turn out crisp and golden. It's $25.00 well spent.)

Bake for 8-9 minutes and let cool before enjoying.

On another side note, this recipe makes a double batch, so it's really easy to halve it if you prefer. I make the full recipe and only make about 6 cookies at a time throughout the week. (It's not healthy, I know, but I like having something sweet to look forward to in the afternoon. I believe a good cookie can change the quality of your day.) I keep the remaining dough in a tupperware in the fridge and take it out about a half an hour before I want to throw the cookies in the oven.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wednesday Eye Candy: Elegant Entry

Maybe it's because the entry is the only spot in our house that it sporting almost-smooth walls, but I fell hard when I saw this picture (from West Elm?) on Pinterest.

I love the soft aqua walls (which I definitely have a thing for), and the mix of rustic woods with that modern chevron rug. Oh, and that greenery in the fun sculptural vase reminds me of Figgy.

It's getting me thinking about what I want our entry to look like once we finish retexturing and painting it...

P.S. Somehow this is my 150th post!

Happy Wednesday!

Speedy Meals: Greek Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

 I love Mediterranean flavors, so I was drawn to this recipe from a chapter of my favorite cookbook, Fresh Every Day, called "Quick and Tasty Main Meat Dishes." It turns out that this dish is super simple to whip up, but it does require some planning ahead as the chicken needs to marinate all day or overnight.

1 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or two teaspoons dried oregano if you don't have the it fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Combine in a bowl and pour marinade over 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves. Let it marinate in the fridge overnight or while at work.

2 Tablespoon olive oil (I used lemon infused olive oil for a tangy twist)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, diced
4 tomatoes, cored and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pitted and sliced Greek olives (we agreed it could use even more)
6 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 ounces of feta cheese, cubed (optional)

Heat olive oil and butter in a large (non-stick) pan over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Remove chicken from the marinade, reserving marinade to make the sauce, and place chicken breasts on the skillet. Cook the chicken breast for 4 minutes on each side, or until just starting to brown.

(No need to cook all the way through here as you will be simmering chicken breasts in sauce later in the recipe. Overcooking at this step will lead to tough chicken. Boo.) Transfer browned chicken breasts to a plate loosely covered in tin foil while you use the same pan to prepare the sauce.

Add the diced onion and tomatoes to the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onions are translucent and the tomatoes are soft and have released their liquid, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for a minute more.

Add the reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 2-5 minutes.

Return chicken to the pan with the olives and basil. Simmer on low for 6-8 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve chicken and veggie sauce over rice to soak up all that yummy sauce. (If using feta, add at this step.)

My mission is to try this dish in the crock pot next time. I will let you know how it goes. Until then, enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Update

We were ankle deep in dust once again this weekend. After a two weekend break from retexturing our walls thanks to having friends and family in town, it was good to charge forward with the second coat of mud. But first we had to sand the first coat of mud on the ceiling, which was about 10 times harder than sanding the walls; however, the result was the same.

Once we vacuumed up all the dust and sponged the walls, we were able to start with the second coat of mud. For this we used a different kind of mud called Topping, which was much easier to work with. Here's a close up of the still-wet second coat.

We only got as far as the walls in the entry, so we still have to do a second coat on the walls in the dining room and all the ceilings to go before we can sand and start painting in those areas (and move on to the living room and the hallway), but things are already looking 1,000% better.

Here's a before pic so you can really appreciate the difference (you can see the difference between the original orange peel wall on the left, and the first coat of mud on the right).

I am totally smitten after two coats, even though we will need to fill in some of blemishes that bubbled up with the second coat. (Yes, that means a third coat in places and more sanding. I know...)

Even so, I can already picture the walls in a perfect shade of grey. It's what keeps me going - the thought of an updated house with smooth and chic modern walls - when otherwise I would want to throw the trowel in.

What did you do this weekend? Tackle a project, or just soak up these last days of summer?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting My Game Face On

I like to sleep. I am not fun to be around when I don't. And it's hard to get enough sleep during the school year while juggling the demands of teaching with being a wife, a doggie momma, and an aspiring blogger.

So any corners I can cut in the morning that allow me to sleep a little longer I will try. Those 5 precious extra minutes can be a game changer. And as it turns out, it takes me about 5 minutes total to do my hair and makeup everyday, so I thought today I would share the weekday products that allow me to get out the door in a hurry while still looking reasonably put together.

This is my favorite miracle product of all time: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer.

It's a threefer (if that's not an actual term, it is now): it moisturizes, it has sunscreen, and it covers like a good foundation. Just a pearl sized amount of this liquid gold patted on my face makes me look more awake than I actually am. Brilliant.

I follow this up with Nars blush in Orgasm.

This always makes the beauty bestseller lists year after year, and there's a reason why - the combination of pink, peach and shimmer is just right on this fair skin regardless of the season. I have been using it for about 5 years now, and sometimes I want to try something new just to mix it up, but I always come back to this blush within a month's time.

I skip the concealer since I like to believe that my glasses hide the dark circles under my eyes, but I do try to brighten them up by curling my lashes with a Shu Uemura Eye Lash Curler (they're the best) and a coat of Estee Lauder's Sumptuous Mascara on my top lashes only.

Finally, I set the moisturizer and blush with a pressed powder. I am not loyal to any specific product; right now I am using Benefit Boxed Powders in Georgia Peach (which they don't make any more), but I have used Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder in the past, as well as Bare Essentials Mineral Veil.

In terms of my hair, I am a wash and go kinda gal. But again, I am a wee bit lazy and only like to wash every other day. Dry shampoo is the best.product.ever! for those days that the hair's a bit too greasy to just run out the door. I love Rene Furterer's Naturia Dry Shampoo, but at $24 a pop plus shipping and handling, I have switched to Umberto Beverly Hills' version to save some dough. (It's less than half the cost and I can get it at my neighborhood Target, unlike the Furterer, which I have to order online.)

There you have it: my morning beauty routine. I am willing to shave off even more time, so if you have a time-saver that I am skipping, let me know! I am sure an extra 30 seconds of sleep can make a difference.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Work In Progress Party

We had some friends in town last week, so over the weekend we threw a party in their honor so everyone could meet their adorable 7-month-old son. It was also a great excuse to have an informal housewarming party. In fact, it was during the party that I realized that we have been living here for 6 months; then I was almost immediately ashamed that it took us 6 months to have a shindig at our new digs.

You see, I am a perfectionist, and I wanted the house to be perfect before we had people over. But we are always in the midst of a project, or there is always something just on the horizon. And every project seems to open a proverbial Pandora's box: painting the living areas leads to retexturing them first, for example.  

So we I bit the bullet and agreed to host a barbeque in spite of the fact that we had no lighting in the entryway or the dining room...

that there is blue painter's tape everywhere....

the walls in the entry and dining room have one coat of plaster on them...

the $15 hutch still has a moving blanket underneath it...

and the walls in the living room are half primed.

And you know what? No one seemed to mind. Not even me (once everyone got here)! Kids of all ages, from 8 years to 7 months, were running and crawling around, playing in the grass, and even splashing around in the hot tub. (I wish I could post pics, but it's kinda weird to put others - especially their kids - on the internet.) The best part was how full of life our house was.

And I realized something pretty powerful: if we wait until our house is perfect, we will NEVER have people over. Or at least it might take years... like 5-10. So I'm embracing the imperfect and the half-done, and living life in the moment.