Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I've been busy preparing for Christmas among other things and haven't had much inspiration for the blog, but this afternoon as I prepared the table for tomorrow's dinner and finally got the wreath up on the front gate I snapped a few photos.  Hope everyone has a joyous holiday!

 This year's temporary chandelier, Rimfrost pendants that I bought at IKEA a few years ago and had in storage.  More glam than last year's, especially with the tenting.
My new flatware!  I'm trying slowly to acquire all new dishes and serving pieces.  I saw this set on eBay when I was looking for something else and really liked it.  Its similar to the Dirigold Empress pattern, but isn't quite.  In case you can't tell, it's gold toned, but not gaudily so.  Some (all?) of the Dirigold is actually brass.  I'm not completely sure what this is, but it's got a cool mid-Century vibe and it looks lovely on the table.  It's one espresso spoon, and four fancy knives (neither pictured) short of a complete set of eight, so I'll definitely be stalking eBay for a few more pieces.  The coolest part might be that it was actually being sold by someone in Albuquerque, so I didn't have to pay shipping.  That never happens.
 Looking across to the living room.
 Nick, looking slightly blurry.  The dogs hate the camera.
If you look really carefully you can see our Christmas albums.  I took my estate sale turntable in for repair before Christmas, got it back, and found that it still didn't work.  Ugh!  I was so looking forward to playing old cheesy Christmas albums.  Maybe next year.

Once again, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend Edition: Lost Weekend and California Recap

I got back from California on Thursday, and I was as sick as a dog!  I was feverish, achy, and coughing like I had the croup.  I spent Thursday afternoon, and most of Friday asleep on my couch with my dog looking worriedly after me.  By Saturday I felt well enough to accompany my mom out to finish our Christmas shopping, in part because I was buoyed by the Chicken Curry Stew at this restaurant.   Then back to the couch and early to bed.  On Sunday I felt a lot better, and I was back to baking my weekly loaf of sourdough, and making braised short ribs with sauerkraut for dinner, as well as catching up on a week-plus loads of laundry. Pretty dull stuff.  Since I planned to do a trip wrap-up on Friday for my Friday Fun post and felt too sick to get online, I'm just going to do it now instead.  Lost weekend, over and forgotten.

I didn't take a whole lot of pictures while in California, well I did, but they were mostly of Tawny opening every gift that she received at her shower, and the items that we wanted to remember for later at IKEA.  Won't bore you with those!  Here is a quick pictorial view of the trip and some of the things we did.

Oceanside, California.
Tawny's belly, I guess that was about 33 weeks.
The next morning I made this flower arrangement for the baby shower from the things growing in Tawny and Jack's front yard.  Tea roses, camellias, bird-of-paradise, kangaroo paws, and oranges in your yard and blooming in December?  Yeah, that's the draw of California, in case you've never felt it before.

One of the buntings that I made her last shower was recycled for this shower. Yay fabric!

Tawny and her friend Annie.  They've been friends since middle school.   Tawny's mom is an amazing seamstress and she made that blouse as well as several others.  The details were really beautiful.
Present time!  
Tawny has that giant smile throughout all the photos from the shower.  Good job party organizers, you made her really happy.  I think everyone was laughing here because we all agreed that Jack was going to want a matching set of lion pajamas.
The baby shower was on Saturday, and on Sunday our focus switched to home improvement projects.  These are some of the bamboo flooring samples that Tawny was pricing.  She and Jack have only been in their current house for a little over a month, and their landlady has agreed that she'll pay for new laminate or bamboo flooring if Jack will install it.  Tawny is leaning heavily towards the bamboo option, and these pale colors were the simplest and cheapest options.  She's hoping that if costs are low enough they'll get to do the whole house, and not just the living room and kitchen.
Next we hit up IKEA looking for bedding, rugs, and decor items for the nursery/guest room.  This rug fit the color scheme perfectly, but in the end was rejected because it was synthetic, and Tawny wants a wool rug.
We both liked this poster, and again it fit the color scheme and has an educational component, but it too was left behind.  I'll do a separate nursery post update later in the week.
This is one of many citrus trees that adorn Tawny and Jack's yard.  This is an orange, but there is also a pomelo, a grapefruit, a lemon, a lime, and several tangerines.  Also a peach, an apple, a guava, a strawberry guava and two pomegranates.  Right now the citrus is just starting to ripen in quantity and Tawny doesn't know how to use it up fast enough.  She needs a juicer stat!

I suggested we make marmalade, which was fun.  We ended up with 17 jars of marmalade and really didn't use that much citrus, considering.  Oh well, she's got Christmas gifts at the ready, which is good considering the next paragraph's news.  It was her first time canning anything, and this was her leaning over the jars giggling as the lids popped down after they came out of the water bath.

Tawny's due date was supposed to be January 24th, but on Saturday her water broke and she's currently in the hospital getting ready to have Baby Boy six weeks early.  Everything seems healthy with mother and son, he just wants out early.  Good luck baby and mama!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Virtual Decorating: A Nursery for a Creative Couple

I originally wrote this post as a guest post and never posted it here as a result.  Since I'm just getting home from a trip to California, visiting the happy couple and helping them work on their nursery, I thought it was appropriate to share it here now.

My friends are about to have their first baby!  She and her husband (above from their wedding announcement/painting) are really excited about the pending arrival, but much less so about the requisite accrual of baby stuff.  For ecological and financial reasons, the idea of buying a lot of new things turns them off.  Keeping to inexpensive new pieces, gently used pieces, things they already own, and focusing on furniture that will grow with the baby, I hope this imaginary nursery will inspire them.  (Click image to make larger).
I started with pale grey walls because its a landlord friendly color, and mom and dad rent.  Grey is soothing and a little unexpected in a kid's room.   Since small kids need color to stimulate their senses,  I brought it in through the curtains, wall art, and light fixture.  

To reflect the interests of each parent, I brought in a really cool staghorn fern and botanical rug, and a vintage child's easel.  Mom is a Landscape Architect and dad is an artist.

Finally for fun, despite the parents not being the type to theme a room, I brought in some circus elements-- a monkey poster, the somewhat garish chandelier, an elephant growth chart, and clashing patterns with polka-dot curtains and a striped rug.  Sort of a deconstructed circus.

The Elements:
1) Circus Growth Chart wall decal, $42. This is really cute, and claims to remove easily from the wall in order to be rental friendly.  However, it's more of an inspirational image since dad's an artist, and mom used to be a graphic designer.  I think they, or someone they know, can easily make something similar but unique. 

2) Urban Outfitters Mid-Century Rocker Chair, $288. I've never seen any of Urban Outfitters' furniture in person, but I can't imagine the quality is great for such a low price.  Mom has owned a mid-century rocking chair for years already, so this was really just a stand in for my mock-up.  

3) This rose patterned kilim was an ebay auction that is now over.  I didn't win it because it expired on a Sunday morning and I forgot to bid in time.  Sigh.  I love the graphic pattern, and think it works fine for a boy baby.  

4) IKEA Stockholm Rand rug, from $179. I know this rug is ubiquitous, but there is something playful about it, and the stripes help reinforce the circus theme.  Plus, its affordable.

5) Old dresser converted to changing table inspired by Young House Love.  Alternatively if you look to The Marion House Book's 'Hello!Neighbour' visit with Sian and Murray you'll see that they made a changing table using what look like two Malm dressers from IKEA. 

6) Staghorn fern, one of my favorite plants.  I think its a kind of cheeky way to put antlers, a traditional man/boy element, in a baby boy's room.  You should be able to find one a a good plant nursery, but price will vary greatly according to size.

7)Urban Outfitters Prism Chandelier.  I bought two of these a few years ago when they were on super sale.  I thought they'd be fun in my bathroom, but really they've been sitting in storage awaiting the right home. No longer available, but a very similar options is the Gypsy Chadelier, $78-$158. 

8) Monkeying Around poster, $55.00 w/shipping, while available. 

9) IKEA Henny curtain panels, $39 per set.  I wanted to add pattern to the room, and I've been eyeing these curtains for awhile.  

10) Oeuf classic crib in birch, $890.  There is no way that this family will be paying $900 for a crib.  They'll probably try to get a hand-me-down, or go with the birch IKEA Gulliver crib, which converts into a child's bed, and costs a relative wee $139. I just couldn't find a photo of the Gulliver that was at the right angle for my mock-up. 

11) 1960s child's easel, $140-$160, while it lasts.   So cute!  The top section has knobs that allow the graphics to change, like an old bus sign. Since Dad is a painter, this would come in handy since the little one will probably spend a lot of time with him in the studio! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Novel Recipe for Pumpkin Cake

I read a lot, and a lot of it is very insignificant fiction.  You know mystery novels, chick lit, historical fiction, basically anything that looks like a fast entertaining read as I quickly skim the shelves of my local library.  By no means is quick fiction all that I read, but it is part of my weekly routine.  So what does this have to do with cake?

Recently I picked up two books off the shelf that promised to be mysteries with recipes... interesting.  The protagonists are crime solving caterers, I know, ridiculous.  Both the novels and the recipes were nothing special, but one recipe caught my eye as being timely and tasty sounding.  I decided to make it.  The book calls these pumpkin bars, but make no mistake, it's pumpkin cake.  To me a bar is dense and chewy, while a cake is significantly lighter.  I was initially disappointed as I watched it bake, since I wanted bars, but the cake is so tasty that I got over it.  Reminiscent of carrot cake thanks to the cream cheese frosting and the spices, but very fluffy.  Call it what it is [cake!], and this is a recipe worth making.

Pumpkin Bars Cake adapted from A Catered Halloween: A Mystery with Recipes by Isis Crawford, ©2008, Kensington Books; New York, NY.

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups (16 ounces) canned pumpkin (the can I used only had 15 oz.-- it worked fine)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger (my addition)
1/2 tsp allspice (my addition)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

8 Tbsp (1 stick) softened butter
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk

Beat all the icing ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl until smooth and creamy.  Add more powdered sugar if the icing is too runny.  Put aside.

Combine flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir to evenly incorporate.  Set aside. Beat the eggs, sugar, oil and canned pumpkin in a large mixing bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well until smooth.  Pour the batter into a greased 9"x13" pan.*  Bake at 350° F for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Apply the icing.  Keep refrigerated.

*The original recipe called for a 10"x15" pan, which I did not have.  Perhaps that would have been enough to spread the batter out thin enough that it resembled bars and not cake, but since there is both baking powder and baking soda in the recipe, I doubt it.  I think doing this will just result in very thin cake.  If you try it, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I'll make this again, but I'm definitely still looking for a pumpkin bar recipe.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Fun: Virtual Decorating for My Style

Emma over at The Marion House blog has been examining her house room by room to identify whether or not she's staying on message with her personal style.  Since I'd been thinking about this idea myself, today's post is about clarifying my vision for my house in general, and my living room in particular.

To begin with, nothing in my living room reflects my current tastes.  I kind of hate it.  It has an awkward layout with doors and windows every where.  (You can see a floor plan here). It's filled with furniture that I picked up here and there, mostly during grad school when I was basically only home when it was time to sleep.  My couch is totally ugly, but extremely comfortable.  My dog loves it.  My cat used to love to scratch it.  It looks like a couch dominated by animals.  None of the furniture relates to the other furniture in terms of scale, color or materials.  The fuchsia wall has exceeded it's welcome after 8 years.  I still think it's a beautiful color, but I just don't want it on my wall anymore.  My camera doesn't capture red tones well, the color you see on your screen probably isn't very accurate, but rest assured it's a strong color.  The wood stove?  Keeps me warm sometimes, but I'd like to replace it with one of those super minimal scandinavian insert stoves, which will be built into a wall of bookshelves.
Looking into the living room from the kitchen door.  
Love the placement of that thermostat.  Also, that huge kilim?  Belongs to a friend who has moved to another state and left it behind.  I brought it out to see if I liked it, but the colors really aren't my thing.  Way too much orange.  And why is the couch blocking a doorway?  Its because that's the hall to the old bathroom, which has been  mostly demolished, but not put back together and so no one ever goes in there.  I plan to finish the demo and move that doorway to the left so that there is a longer expanse of wall for the couch to go against.  Until recently the furniture was arranged so that the couch faced the television(s), and the traffic flow was choppy.  I got sick of it and wanted to see if things would really get better once I move the doorway.
Standing near the wood stove and looking back towards the kitchen.
I like the turquoise chairs because they are small in stature and leggy, but they need reupholstering because they are straight out of the 1950s vinyl.   The ceilings are pretty low, just shy of 8 feet.  I'd like to knock out the plaster and expose the wood beams and cladding that I know is up there, but again, that's a big messy renovation, and I want to wait until I can replace the windows and then get everything re-plastered to cover up the patches at the same time.  The two televisions?  I decided that I'd upgrade to a smaller flat screen when the whole digital signal conversion thing happened.  I hate tvs that dominate a room, so smaller seemed better.  Then I was too lazy to program the new tv for six months because I never really watch tv, and meanwhile I realized that my old bigger tv was a lot easier to see from way over here on the couch, and I kept using it to watch dvds.  So now I have not one tv, but two, dominating my living room.  Sigh.  Someday the tv will be out of the main living room altogether.
Standing at the front door looking into the weird nook-room that used to be my office.
This used to be my office.  I packed up all of my books and moved out my desk last year in preparation for some renovations that need to be done in my bedroom that will involve ripping up it's floor and temporarily moving the bed in here.  It hasn't happened because I can't afford to do it quite yet (broken record), so disassembling the office was a little premature.  Oh well.  My long term plan is to build-in some bookshelves and turn this into a library like room that also houses the tv.  Also to install a sliding panel door using barn door hardware, so that the room can be closed off, and so that the wall that the couch sits against can be lengthened somewhat.  Oh, and that small window will one day become a door that will lead to the converted garage.  Yeah, no ambitious plans here.

Okay, so now that you are feeling really good about your own houses, I'm moving into the inspiration portion.  I always want to wait on the cosmetic stuff until I've done the major renovations, but I don't want all this mish-mash crap anymore!  My inspiration is primarily interiors with lots of natural elements--different wood tones, maybe raw wood, raw materials like linen, wool, leather, sisal.  Then contrasted with some serious bling.  I've always had a penchant for shiny girly things.

These first four interiors are from the portfolio of photographer Mikkel Vang, which I found via Graphic-Exchange.  The photo on the right, in the first set, is probably my favorite interior image from the last year.  I like all the wood that is used throughout the house, especially the big round tables, but also the bed.  The bright natural light doesn't hurt either.

Mikkel Vang photography.
Mikkel Vang photography
This living room is good too.  Low backed couch looks comfortably slouchy, blue toned painting references nature, big orchid on the coffee table, reclaimed wood coffee table, drapes in what looks like canvas or linen, and a big fur rug.  Also, check out that white Serge Mouille lamp.  
Source unknown, if you recognize it please let me know and I'll add a credit.
For the glam inspiration?  This gold mosaic tiled fireplace with the down lit bookshelves on either side.  Ingo Maurer is awesome, and while that light fixture of his with all of the winged light bulbs wouldn't be my first choice fixture, it's perfect in this room.  I like the over the top fireplace materials applied in a minimalist way.  I like the whimsy and humor of the chandelier.  I like the large scale photograph of the religious icon for its statement making abilities.  Those leather sling chairs are enviable and the focus on books not media equipment is lovely too.
Source unknown, if you recognize it please let me know and I'll add a credit.

How would I interpret these interiors for my own space and within my own budget?  Here is what I'm thinking so far. (Click the image and it will open a larger version).  

A really chalky beigey pink on all the walls.  The sliding wall could either be painted gold (Ralph Lauren has a nice line of metallic paints) or faux-gold leafed, or just be homasote with a sueded finish and not gold at all.  I just fell in love with the Tom Dixon light fixture last week when it was featured on some blog... I thought it was Remodelista, but can't find it.  That's a knock-off Mouille lamp of course.  I have mixed feelings about knock-offs, but when the original re-issue costs $8,500, I'm pretty much okay with a copy.  I'd never seen the low rod base for the Eames fiberglass chairs until recently, and I really like them.  Makes things loungy.  The terracotta color goes well with the natural theme.  I'm planning to make a low round coffee table out of reclaimed wood from an old shed on the property, and the buffet is just a stand in for a less-modern version that I already own and like.  The recycled leather rug really appeals to me too, although a sisal or jute rug could work just as well.  Best of all, the most expensive thing in here is a new sofa.  The old one would be around the corner in the nook, conveniently hidden by that shiny gold wall.

So now I have a plan.  Just need the money to implement it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creative Holidays: Recycled Wrapping

I admit, neither of these remotely references Christmas, but I like both wrappings nonetheless.  I used poster sized photographs printed on matte bond paper that were tests from back when I had access to a large scale plotter-- one was they sky at dawn and the other just after dusk.  The sunrise wrapping, with its pastel colors, probably should have adorned a baby shower gift... but I wrapped the baby gift in canvas (a nod to the father and sturdy wrapping since it needs to travel well) and used a leftover piece of bias tape from the buntings I made for the same couple.  Since tape wouldn't stick to the canvas, I ended up sewing the package together using a curved upholstery needle.