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21 Jul 16:30

Storage with Style: 15 Bins & Baskets

by Carrie McBride

For most of us, it's just not practical to stash everything away in a drawer or closet. Bins and baskets are a great way to keep things handy, but also contained. Whether you're looking for an attractive way to store some toys in the living room, a place to stash your knitting project or your favorite magazines, here are fifteen stylish options that will look good in any room:

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15 Jul 12:12

life in a tiny apartment.

by erin
life in a tiny apartment: tiny storage | reading my tea leaves
Tip #126: Find Tiny Storage Solutions

People ask me an awful lot how I manage to stay organized in a small space. Usually my answer is that I stay organized in a small space in the same way that I would in a much larger space: namely by not having too much stuff to organize. But while that's largely true, I realize that it might seem like an unsatisfactory answer. Even for someone who tries to keep her material goods in check, there's still the question of wrangling and organizing what we do have and the wrangling of tiny things themselves can be particularly challenging. For me, a frequent solution is tiny bags. In packing for a weekend away and in keeping little things from spilling out of my kitchen cabinets, small cloth bags—typically of the variety that come for free with with gifts or clothing purchases—are probably my number one organizing secret. Not so secret anymore.

I keep one in the medicine cabinet with medicine and other things that would otherwise look cluttered and messy out on the shelf. I keep a collection of them in a kitchen cabinet where I use them to store everything from extra mason jar lids to wine bottle stoppers and extra cheese cloth and spice bags. There's another one in my toiletry kit for stashing hair elastics. There's a small zipped pouch with essential oils in a basket in the bathroom. And another one with nail polish. There are even slightly larger bags kept under the sink for housing plastic garbage pags and dishwasher detergent.

For me, organizing without these kinds of catchalls requires too much commitment to keeping things perfectly lined up or beautiful enough to merit display. Little bags make it easier. Because I find that anything that gets tucked out of sight can end up getting lost (or unruly), the key for not having the bags become part of the problem themselves is to keep only like with like. Once I start using a single bag to store mason jar lids and extra spice bags and bottle stoppers, the likelihood that it will also trap other unwanted things seems to grow exponentially. But keeping one small bag filled only with mason jar lids keeps the number of them that accumulate in check and means that I always know where to find them.

In case you don't have a stash of these bags handy, here's a little set you can buy. (Though at 50/pack I'd suggest going in with a friend or five.)

If you're hoping for something larger and lightweight, produce bags might do the trick. And

If you're looking for something that's a little more sturdy, these waxed canvas ones with a zipper would be awesome.

And definitely keep your eyes peeled: there are more of these bags floating around out than you'd think.

Tiny Apartment Survival Tips #1 - 125, RIGHT HERE.
08 Jun 13:12

Spicy Tempeh Taco Salad

by A Beautiful Mess
Shh.listen

MMMMM I want this, please!

Tempeh Taco Salad (via abeautifulmess.com)  This is probably my favorite homemade salad. I know, right?! I may change my mind someday so don't hold me to it, but this is at least my current favorite and easily in the top five. 

I really can't take all the credit either because this salad is very much inspired by a favorite salad I order at a bar I love (in Springfield) called JOB Public House. Mine is a little different, plus I'm not entirely sure what all they put in theirs. But this is at least quite similar, so I gotta give them the credit and also say thank you because I LOVE that salad. :)

Tempeh Taco Salad (via abeautifulmess.com) So what's so great about this taco salad anyway? Well, first off, it's vegetarian-friendly, which is nice for me, because a great vegetarian taco salad is hard to come by. It's super filling because the tempeh provides quite a bit of protein, and I actually like the texture quite a bit better than ground beef. And my favorite feature is the spicy mayo. Yum! Use a good quality mayo with no added sugar and you'll find that this salad is exceptionally healthy for how flavorful it is. Which is a major win-win in my book.  

Tempeh Taco Salad (via abeautifulmess.com)    Spicy Tempeh Taco Salad, serves 2.

8 oz. tempeh
1/2 white onion
3 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt + pepper
small handful of fresh cilantro (maybe a heaping tablespoon once chopped for those who MUST have a measurement)
half a head of lettuce (or more if you want even more veggies)
2-3 tablespoons salsa (make your own, or use a jar like I did)
1/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 flour tortillas

Cube the tempeh. It will crumble more as you cook it, so it's OK if it's larger cubes. Finely chop the white onion. Mince the garlic.

You can go ahead and stir together the mayo and Sriracha. Set aside until you need it.

How to make baked taco salad shellsIf you want to turn the taco shells into plates, then drape your shells over two oven safe bowls that have been lightly coated in oil. Bake at 350°F for 8-12 minutes until the edges begin to brown. In case you're skipping flours/breads right now, just know that this salad is still super delicious without the shells too. I often eat it without...just giving you some options. Plus the tortilla plates are too cute. 

Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until the pieces begin to brown (2-3 minutes). Add a little more oil to the pan. Then toss in the tempeh and garlic. Generously season everything with salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes so everything gets nice and hot. 

Tempeh Taco Salad (via abeautifulmess.com)Chop up the lettuce. Assemble the salad: tortillas, lettuce, tempeh mix, salsa, chopped cilantro, and spicy mayo. I like to enjoy this while the tempeh is still warm. Give it a try this week! xx. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman, Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

24 Jun 13:08

At Home With Emory Kurysh

by A Beautiful Mess
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I love SO MUCH about this house. 2nd only to booth seating: half a picnic table seating!

Dining areaToday we are welcoming Emory Kurysh to the blog as she shares her beautiful, rustic home with us!

Emory Ann Kurysh"My husband and I built our home from the ground up. We had originally wanted an acreage and had searched for one with an old farmhouse for nearly six months. We weren't having any luck in finding our perfect home. On a whim, I went for a drive to a provincial park that was only 20 minutes from the city in which we currently lived and worked. I immediately fell in love with the area, and had a feeling that this was the type of country life that would best suit us. With very few homes for sale in the park, we ended up purchasing an empty lot, and thus began building our new home. Being influenced by the lake and the surrounding area, and having both lived on an acreage, we decided to build our version of a reclaimed cabin and barn-like home. We designed it from scratch and employed contractors that I have known for seven years. It came together like a dream. We named it The Little Barn, and moved into our new space in January 2015.

The little barnLiving roomAt Home with Emory Ann KuryshKitchen"My favourite space in our home is our kitchen. In five years, this is the fifth home that we have lived in together, and it is also the first one with a kitchen that is big enough to fit a table. Our kitchen is technically 9' x 12'. However, because it is open concept, it is more like 12' x 24'. It seems like such a silly thing, but actually having a large kitchen is the one of the reasons why I love this house so much. To celebrate this achievement, I ordered a custom picnic table with built-in seating on one side. The other side is a 9' church pew that was gifted to us from my mother. I put a childhood blanket of my husband's on the pew, as well as a few animal hides that were my Baba's. Her antique household items are displayed on top of our table, in addition to some from my mother, and a plant from my in-laws on the large kitchen windowsill. I do all of my reading and blogging whilst sitting at the table, and I love when my two dogs curl up at my feet on the shag rug that I placed underneath the table. 

Kitchen storageShelving"In keeping with a rustic home, we specifically decided against countertops and cupboards. Instead, we hung vintage crates from my antique store and use an old armoire that my mother restored when I was a child to hold all of our kitchen wares. We purchased a stainless steel commercial sink, and kept with the industrial theme with a 7' tall fridge and double oven. Our only countertop is a reclaimed wood island with metal sheeting for a workspace. I just love it!

Entertainment areaDecor details"Our entertainment unit is one of my favourite pieces. We designed it to fit the long, narrow space beneath the stairs, and my husband constructed it out of reclaimed barn wood that he collected with my brother-in-law. I adore the items that I collected from my Baba's estate as well as the ones that were given to us by my mother.

BedroomBathroomGuest bedroomBedroom details"I love our IKEA purchases, mainly our stainless steel shelving solutions and all of our lighting that can be found throughout our home.  I could not live without our vintage wool blankets or cast iron antique spare bed, nor could I part with our record, book, and movie collection. I have hand-picked every item to fit into The Little Barn. It's still not much, but all that we own, I can honestly say I cherish."

Thank you so much for sharing your space with us, Emory! You can find more of Emory on her blog and on Instagram. xo.

24 Jun 18:56

Watermelon St-Germain Slush

by A Beautiful Mess
Shh.listen

Let's make these this weekend!

Watermelon St-Germain Slush You guys! I don't want to seem dramatic—but I think this is the best cocktail recipe I have ever made! It's a watermelon slush with mint and lime flavors. You're gonna love it. New favorite blended cocktail! And with watermelon season at hand, I'm hoping this will be my new weekend tradition with friends. 

Watermelon St-Germain Slush
Watermelon St-Germain Slush, serves one. 

2 cups frozen watermelon
2 mint leaves
squeeze of lime
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1 ounce Gin
1 ounce St-Germain 

Blend and serve! It's like a fruit-based slushy with the yummy floral flavor of St-Germain. A new favorite for guests for sure. Even people who don't like super sweet drinks will like this because it's so light and fresh! 

Watermelon St-Germain Slush  Cheers to the first days of summer, to sitting on the back porch, to long walks at sunset, and to planning fun times with the people you love. xx. Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

12 Jul 22:32

summer mornings: peach cobbler muffins

by kickpleat
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I don't know why I'm torturing myself with baking with peaches but I really want to make these

peach cobbler muffins | everybody likes sandwiches

The heatwave that we’ve been suffering through finally broke. Thank goodness. It’s not only been hot and gloriously sunny, but it’s also been smoky. British Columbia’s forests are burning and it’s a dangerous and awful situation. A week ago, Cornelius and I rode our bikes to see the new Mad Max movie and our neighbourhood theatre and the skies were filled with smoke and ash. The air smelled like campfire, which isn’t as pleasant as you might imagine it to be. It was a fitting scene to see such an apocalyptic double bill (with the Road Warrior, natch). So when a week later, we woke up to cloudy and not hazy skies, it was a welcome sight.

peach cobbler muffins | everybody likes sandwiches

We recently started watching The Great British Bake Off and in case you haven’t seen this pastel loveliness of a television show, I suggest you hop onto Netflix and start watching. This show has given me not just the baking bug but also serious oven envy. The downside is that it’s been way too hot and muggy to even think about baking. But when the cooler skies broke this morning, I did just that.

peach cobbler muffins | everybody likes sandwiches

Hello, muffin loveliness! I had some local peaches at the ready and a new cookbook that I borrowed from the library. These tender and light muffins were the result. Not too sweet and perfect for a Sunday (or any) morning snack. They are, as the cookbook promises, bursting with peachy flavour. While mine aren’t as puffy as the ones pictured in the cookbook, they are really delicious.

peach cobbler muffins | everybody likes sandwiches

peach cobbler muffins
Recipe adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
3/4 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 c granulated sugar (I used 1/2 coconut sugar and a little less sugar than the recipe calls for)
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c milk
4 T vegetable oil
1 large egg
3/4 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 1/2 c diced peaches (leave skin on)

Preheat oven to 350F and butter muffin cups (the recipe said it makes 12 large muffins, but I got 15 regular sized muffins)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar together. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir slowly, dumping the peaches into the half-mixed batter, until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, about two thirds full.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, up to 30 minutes for larger muffins, until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool in tray for 5 minutes and then turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack. Makes 12-15 muffins.

03 Jul 21:09

cold sesame noodles on repeat

by kickpleat
Shh.listen

Let's have this soon!!

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

It’s a bone fide heatwave here in Vancouver and I’m not going to complain. It’s hot, but we can manage. Bike rides add much needed breeze and is a generally pleasant way to get around town. Cold drinks on a shaded patio are always a recipe for summer fun. A good blast from a fan to cool down the bedroom before you go to sleep has been a nightly occurrence around here. And if you’re looking for something to help feed yourself while keeping the kitchen cool, this salad has been my go-to all week long. The recipe is adapted from the New York Times and I’ve made it more vegetable heavy instead of thinking of the vegetables as a garnish.  It’s fresh and full of flavour and it’s eaten cold, so it’s a very refreshing meal on a hot day.

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

The first time I made these noodles, I was prepping for our 10th wedding anniversary getaway to the well-named Sunshine Coast. I prepped the sauce at home and then packed everything I’d need into the travel cooler. At our cabin, I boiled the noodles, prepped the vegetables and then served the salad to go along with our salmon. It was delicious! This would be a great accompaniment with chicken, steak, shrimp, tofu or as we ate last night, corn on the cob. It’s a very versatile meal.

For the noodles, I used something I’ve always spotted in the little markets in my neighbourhood but never picked up. Shame on me, because these fresh Chinese noodles are wonderful. And bonus, they only take 2 minutes to cook once the water boils – perfect for keeping a steamy kitchen at bay.

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

Carrots and cucumbers get julienned with my favorite hand tool. Though, if you’ve got some serious knife skills or a fancy spiralizer, you’re good to go. I added in some thinly sliced & slawed purple cabbage for colour, but some thinly sliced red peppers or baby bok choy wouldn’t be out of place. And later on this summer, when you’ve got zucchini coming out of your ears, think of this salad.

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

It’s the sauce though that is the true magic here! It’s got peanut butter, ginger, honey and rice vinegar and a good hit of spice, but not too much (though if you’ve got a gentle palate you might want to take it easy on the chili-garlic sauce and lay off the sriracha. I ran out of tahini and so I made my own which felt like a pretty cool thing to do (lightly toast some sesame seeds and blend them in a food processor with some olive oil, ta da! Hello new skill!).  I really recommend making a double batch of the sauce as the salad really seems to soak it up and you really want a good strong flavour, don’t hold back here.

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

Like any good noodle salad, the leftovers are wonderful right out of the fridge. Perfect to take along to a picnic or slip into your lunch bag.

cold sesame noodles | everybody likes sandwiches

cold sesame noodles
(adapted from the NYT)

I like a 50-50 mixture of noodles to vegetables. It tastes more like summer and it’s just healthier that way, but play around with what feels right for you. I recommend doubling the dressing ingredients because these noodles can, and should, take a lot of sauce. Plus, it’s nice to have on hand so that you can whip up this meal on a moments notice. You’re welcome to change up the vegetables – adding sliced baby bok choy would add a nice crunch.

Dressing
2 T sesame oil
3 ½ T soy sauce
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
2 T tahini
1 T smooth natural peanut butter
1 T honey
1 T finely minced ginger (I use a microplane to get it really fine & juicy)
2 t minced garlic
2 t chili-garlic sauce
a squirt or three of sriracha

Add all ingredients into a lidded mason jar and then shake like the dickens until well blended. Set aside.

1/3 pkg of steamed Chinese noodles (I used fresh steamed Farkay brand noodles, but udon would be good too)
1 large carrot, julienned
1/4 small red cabbage, finely sliced into a thin slaw
1/2 English cucumber, julienned (but toss the inner seedy core)

Cook noodles according to package directions, the steamed Farkay noodles took only 2 minutes to cook in boiling water. Rinse well under cold water to cool down the noodles and drain very well. Add noodles to a large serving bowl along with the vegetables. Toss well to combine and then pour on some of the dressing, mix again and taste. You’ll probably want to add a bit more dressing, trust me. Serve cold or at room temperature. Makes 2 large servings or 4 regular appetites. 

29 Jun 12:19

pack a picnic: summer rolls with spicy peanut sauce.

by erin
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
Summer rolls are aptly named because they're the perfect thing for making on a summery day when even looking at the stovetop will make you break out into a sweat. They require nothing in the way of additional heat to make and they're perfectly portable.

Even though the process is simple—and dare I say, therapeutic—summer rolls take a little bit of time to put together, but if you prepare your fillings ahead of time and set up a little mise en place assembly line for production, you can make quick work of the task.

Maybe best of all, you can experiment with different fillings that suit your taste. If you're a meat eater, grilled chicken or shrimp would work nicely, but I prefer fresh tofu in mine. If you want to add a little bulk, you could fold rice vermicelli into the roll, too. For veggies, I like to include a variety of colors and textures. For these rolls I used carrots, cucumber, avocado, mixed greens, and brightly colored radish greens. Basil and mint leaves added on top of the veggies help give the rolls their signature fresh, bright taste.

For dipping, I like to make a creamy, spicy peanut sauce. You can buy a bottle of the stuff, but it's super easy to make at home. Last week I made a full cup and used half for dunking summer rolls and saved the rest in the fridge to mix into cold noodles to enjoy later in the week.
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
Cut all of your vegetables into long, thin strips for easiest assembly.
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
I used fresh mint and sweet basil but you could also swap in Thai basil and cilantro.
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
Perelandra sells brown rice paper wrappings. I dunked each wrapper in a tray of water for just about 10 seconds and let it soften slowly as I build the roll. 
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
I generally used the same formula for each roll, but you can decide the order of appearances for ingredients in each roll.
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
To roll, start by folding up the bottom edge of the wrapper around the pile of veggies, then fold in each side and continue rolling. The paper is slightly sticky and will stay stuck together in a tight roll. 
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
You can get as precious as you want with the rolling, but I think it's nice to face some of the leaves on the bottom layer outward so that they look nice in the finished roll.

Summer Rolls
Makes 6

1 package of rice paper wrappers (I used the brown rice papers that Perelandra keeps in stock.)
1 block of fresh tofu, cut into thin sticks (I typically use about half the block)
1 medium bunch mixed salad greens
1 small bunch rashish shoots or other tasty green for variety and color
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch fresh basil
1 small bunch fresh mint

Begin by preparing all of your fillings first: slice your carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. Rinse and dry your herbs and salad greens. Slice your tofu into thin fingers. Arrange everything in piles according to type to help you remember to add a little bit of everything into your summer roll.

The rice paper wrappers come hard and you'll need to soak each one in warm water to moisten it. I use a cookie sheet filled with water for this step and I prepare each roll on a round wooden cutting board. Prepare each roll individually by first soaking one rice paper wrapper at a time and filling it with a neat pile of your fillings. I like to keep like with like when adding to my roll but anything goes.

Once you have all your ingredients stacked, lift the bottom of the wrapper up over the fillings. Fold in each side and roll the wrapper, keeping it tight around the ingredients. Chill your finished rolls. Slice in half before serving.

Peanut Sauce
Adapted from this recipe from Food52.
Makes about 1 cup
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Sriracha or otherwise—red pepper flakes would work here, too!)
1⁄2 cup peanut butter (I get mine from Perelandra's bulk section and refill my own glass jar)
1⁄8 cup soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
scallions, for garnish

You can make any style of dipping sauce that suits your fancy, but I prefer a creamy peanut sauce because it makes a light meal feel a little bit more substantial.

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, thin with a bit of warm water until it reaches your desired consistency. When we take summer rolls on picnics, I pack a container or two of the sauce separately for dipping.
pack a picnic: summer rolls | reading my tea leaves
This summer picnic series is sponsored by Perelandra Natural Foods Center, our favorite neighborhood grocery store. Since their opening in 1976, Perelandra has been committed to supplying the Brooklyn Heights community with nutritious, sustainable, and delicious food. Perelandra prides itself on stocking 100% certified organic produce and all of their grocery products are hand-selected by their on-staff nutritionist. 

Perelandra is currently offering Brooklyn-based Reading My Tea Leaves readers a free delivery when you place your grocery order online with the code FREEDELIVERY. Visit them at PerelandraNatural.com to place an order.

Thanks so much for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable brands that help support original editorial content on this site.
15 Jun 12:00

pack a picnic: smashed chickpea salad sandwiches.

by erin
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
A salad you can pack into a sandwich and tuck in a basket or bag for easy toting is maybe the best kind of picnic fare that there is. Perelandra—the neighborhood grocery store that's sponsoring this series—serves a really great mashed chickpea salad sandwich at their juice bar & kitchen. When I was pregnant and running between my home office and my office in Times Square, I would often stop into Perelandra and grab a chickpea sandwich to go.
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
This summer, I've been experimenting with different variations of chickpea salads to tote on weekend day trips. Last week I made this one with black olives and fennel (an idea I borrowed from this vegetarian pan bagnat recipe that I made recently for a family picnic). The fennel provides a nice little crunch and an unmistakable flavor and the olives are just briney enough to keep things interesting.
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
I used a pastry blender to chop everything together into like-sized pieces. If you have a food processor, a pulse or two would be all you needed to blend everything together.
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
The finished salad should be about the consistency of a chunky tuna salad.pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
When it comes to sandwiches I'm something of a mayo fiend, so I coated toasted pieces of wheat bread in mayo before piling on butter lettuce and the chickpea salad.
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
Smashed Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

What you need:

For the salad:
2 cups or so of cooked chickpeas (a 15 ounce can of already cooked chickpeas will also do)
10 cured black olives, depitted and finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small tomato, diced
3-4 basil leaves, chopped
5 stems parsley, leaves removed and chopped
3 stems oregano, leaves removed and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

For the sandwich:
Whole wheat sandwich bread, toasted
lettuce
mayonnaise

What to do:

1. In a large bowl, mix together chickpeas, olives, fennel, red onion, garlic, and tomato. Using a pastry cutter or fork, smash the ingredients together until the chickpeas are all broken into small bits (the aim is for all of the ingredients to be more or less the same size.
2. Add olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and fresh herbs and stir to combine. (I thoroughly eyeballed the calculations here, but a good glug of olive oil will help everything stay together a bit.) Season with salt and pepper.
3. Layer the salad between toasted sandwich bread along with tender lettuce leaves and a hearty swipe of mayonnaise.
pack a picnic: smashed chick pea sandwiches | reading my tea leaves
I used sheets of Beeswrap (also sold at Perelandra!) to wrap our sandwiches.

This summer picnic series is sponsored by Perelandra Natural Foods Center, our favorite neighborhood grocery store. Since their opening in 1976, Perelandra has been committed to supplying the Brooklyn Heights community with nutritious, sustainable, and delicious food. Perelandra prides itself on stocking 100% certified organic produce and all of their grocery products are hand-selected by their on-staff nutritionist. 

Perelandra is currently offering Brooklyn-based Reading My Tea Leaves readers a free delivery when you place your grocery order online with the code FREEDELIVERY. Visit them at PerelandraNatural.com to place an order.

Thanks so much for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable brands that help support original editorial content on this site.
22 Jun 16:03

herbed summer squash pasta bake

by deb
Shh.listen

HUMINAHUMINAHUMINA

summer squash pasta bake

One of the things I’ve first-world struggled with since the beginning of this incubation period is a lack of appetite. Of course, there’s the glib side of me — great for managing weight gain! why “eat for two” if you can eat for half?! — but mostly, it’s a bummer. I thought that after the first trimester nausea passed, I’d be good to go and yes, I’m back to eating regular meals, but my enthusiasm has only returned in short bursts. Sure, I’ve shamelessly consumed all matter of crispy eggs with soy sauce, sesame oil and chile flakes (flipped only long enough to keep the food police at bay, or so I tell you). I will eat almost any green vegetable roasted to a blistering crisp with olive oil and salt and finished with lemon juice. Speaking of lemons, we go through homemade, barely sweet lemonade by the half-carafe. And some cravings are even fun; for example, “the baby wants ribs” was a text I sent out to friends a few weeks ago while led to a great deck party. But do you know when I sat down with my plate after an afternoon of carefully preparing three glorious racks of ribs, I could only eat one? It’s rather grim for a so-called food writer to go through life unmotivated by hunger and cravings, to have become a person who shrugs and says “Meh, whatever you want to eat is fine.” I don’t even know me.

... Read the rest of herbed summer squash pasta bake on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to herbed summer squash pasta bake | 129 comments to date | see more: Freezer Friendly, Italian, Pasta, Photo, Summer, Summer Squash, Vegetarian, Zucchini

10 Jun 19:04

Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs

by A Beautiful Mess
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Juniper's birthday party treat!!!

Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs (so good!)I've been wanting to try dying deviled eggs with beet juice for a long time. One of my favorite local lunch spots, Aviary, serves them and I order them pretty much 100% of the time—SO good. 

To hard boil eggs I use this simple method—place eggs in a large pot filled with water (so eggs are completely covered). Let the water with eggs come to a boil on medium-high heat. As soon as the water is boiling, turn off the burner and remove the pot from the heat. Let the water cool to the side (at least 15 minutes). When you remove the eggs, they will be hard boiled. Easy peasy! 

Beet Dyed Deviled Eggs To dye the eggs, immerse the whole egg (with shell peeled off) in beet juice for one hour. I got a 16 ounce glass of fresh beet (straight) juice at the health food store to use. You could also use juice from a can of cooked or pickled beets. Beware, this juice will dye anything and everything including your clothing, anything wood and anything that isn't stain-resistant (another day I loved my quartz counter tops because it wiped right off). 

Beet juice is BEAUTIFUL. The color is absolutely incredible. 

When you cut the egg in half, it will be all white with a thin rim of pink around the edge. If you like that look, cut them right before you serve. After even just one hour, the color bleeds through most of the egg so it looks more like my photos look. I cut these, made the yolk mixture, and refrigerated them overnight before assembling. 

Beet Dyed Deviled Eggs  I started with about 22 eggs (I wanted to have some extras in case I messed up, which I did, peeling the eggs perfectly is tricky!). To make the yolk mixture combine the following in a food processor—egg yolks, 3/4 cup mayo and four tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard (I always buy spicy mustard!). Blend all ingredients. Use a piping bag to fill the eggs or just a spoon if you don't have one. 

Garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, fresh thyme, fresh chives and fresh dill (the chives are the yummiest). Enjoy! 

Beet Dyed Deviled Eggs   I already can't wait to make these again for my next party. They do take a little more prep than typical deviled eggs, but I think it's well worth it for the beautiful presentation. By the way, if you're curious—you can't really taste the beet flavor once they are complete. It's mostly just for the look! 

Hope you enjoy trying these out! xx. Elsie 

Credits// Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

14 May 15:59

toasted marshmallow milkshake

by deb

toasted marshmallow milkshake

Almost exactly 5 years ago, in celebration us both signing contracts to write cookbooks, I met a friend* for lunch at a burger joint called The Stand on East 12th Street, and we finished the meal with something the menu declared a toasted marshmallow milkshake. I don’t remember a thing about the burger, but I do know that pretty much every conversation I had in the weeks that followed went like this: “The weather is so nice today!” “It would be perfect for a toasted marshmallow milkshake, don’t you think?” “How is your son sleeping these days?” “Did I tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had? Let me tell you about this toasted marshmallow milkshake I had.” “Can you believe this Deepwater Horizon mess?” “Toasted marshmallow milkshake, toasted marshmallow milkshake toasted marshmallow milkshake.” You could argue it had some impact on me.

... Read the rest of toasted marshmallow milkshake on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to toasted marshmallow milkshake | 145 comments to date | see more: Drinks, Ice Cream/Sorbet, Photo, Summer

09 May 13:00

Installing Picture Rail Moulding

by A Beautiful Mess

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Decorating a cookie cutter house is full of creative challenges, mostly where character is concerned. We live in a 1959 ranch that would be pretty run of the mill if it wasn't for the brick wall in our kitchen and living room. But the bedrooms? Uninspired blank boxes with zero interesting elements.

I was considering how to add some character to my daughter's new bedroom without just throwing more stuff into the small space. Clutter does not equal character. I felt a little envious of the wide moulding and beamed ceilings of spaces I was pinning to my Pinterest boards, when the thought occurred to me—I could add my own touch of architectural interest to the room with a functional picture rail!

I love the interest that breaking up wall color adds to a space, and finishing off the transition between colors with moulding adds an elevated look to the room. Throw in the picture rail functionality to the deal, and the bland room now has a generous dose of character! Not to mention my drywall has been saved from many future nail holes as artwork gets rearranged on the walls. Check out how I did it below.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Materials:
-moulding with curved top that fits your picture hook
-picture hook (I used these)
-strap hangers (for mounting on the back of picture frames to attach the wire)
-wire (I used this wire)

Optional Materials:
-duct tape (helpful during a dry fit when working with less hands)
-wood glue (if you are joining together different pieces of moulding)

Tools:
-level
-nail gun or hammer with a nail set
-miter saw

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.MG_2599Selecting the Moulding

I purchased my picture rail hooks before selecting my moulding because I envisioned myself ordering hook after hook, only to find that they didn't fit the moulding I had purchased. I brought the hook with me to the lumber yard and asked the millwork men if they had any picture rails. They look confused. Not good. When I explained what a picture rail was, they understood, and said, "No, I'm sorry, we don't have that."

So I looked around the lumber yard at the seemingly endless selection of pre-cut moulding and finally found one little strip that perfectly fit my picture rail hook. I brought it to the same guy and said "Found one!" He said, "No, that's pencil moulding." I said, "Not anymore! Now it's a picture rail."

The problem with the pencil moulding was that it was just really skinny. Not exactly the dramatic detail I had envisioned for the room. So I looked around at the other moulding before I found another profile that looks great when resting below the pencil moulding. I had them cut the pieces to the measurements I had made of our room (with a little extra just in case), and brought them home in my parents' mini van.

Because I'm not a master craftsman, I didn't use any fancy installation techniques, such as fashioning coping joints, but I did get the job done with professional looking results. Check out my tips to get the same look in your own home.

Tip #1: Glue together your strips of moulding before trimming and installing. To get started, I glued together the lengths of moulding (before trimming them) so they could be installed in one piece. To do this, I simply ran a bead of wood glue along the pencil moulding and used duct tape as a clamp to attach it to the other strip of moulding. Make sure to wipe down any seeping glue right away or it will harden and become almost impossible to remove.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.After the glued moulding had dried for over an hour, we measured each section of wall and began cutting the pieces of moulding to fit. I used a miter saw to cut 45 degree angles where the moulding would meet in the corner. Against door frames, I just cut the moulding straight across. As you can see above, the angle of miter saw can be adjusted to the specific angle you cant to cut. My saw locks into place at common angles, such as 45 degree angles, taking away any guess work as I cut.

Tip #2: Always cut the moulding a bit longer than you think you need it. It might mean lots of trips back to the miter saw, but it's better to take your time than to trim a board too short. You may end up needing to recut your angles because...

Tip #3: Your walls may not be square, 90-degree angles, so don't assume they are! As you can see below, my walls were not square, so my angles were too obtuse to fit together. I had to shift the angle of my miter saw to make the angled ends of my moulding more acute. After recutting each piece of moulding to something closer to a 43 degree angle, the corners fit together perfectly.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Tip #4: When tweaking the angle of your cuts to ensure a good fit in the corners, both pieces of moulding must be cut to the same angle. If you cut one piece to a 50 degree angle, but leave the other angle at a 45, they will not match up when fit together. They must be cut to the same angle, such as 48 and 48 degrees.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Once our corner angles matched up perfectly, I trimmed the end of that piece (shown above) to fit snugly against the door frame. When we were checking the corner miters, we held the boards above the door frame so the untrimmed board could rest flat against the wall to accurately check the corner fit without cutting the board to fit inside of the door frame. I wanted to save some length in case I needed to make more cuts at the corner to get a good fit.

Tip #5: Do a dry fit before painting and installing the trim. We used duct tape to hold the moulding up to check out the joints as we trimmed each length of moulding. We didn't leave the duct tape up for very long, so it didn't leave any marks on our walls.

Tip #6: Use a level when installing the moulding— don't rely on paint lines or chalk lines.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Tip #7: Nail the moulding into studs. These rails should be capable of bearing heavy weight on the hooks, so make sure they are secure by fastening them into the studs on the wall. Use a stud finder to locate the studs and mark them with masking tape to make installation quick and easy.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Tip #8: Hide imperfect joints on painted moulding (not stained wood) by caulking the joints and painting over the caulk. I cut one of my pieces too short and actually had to piece a sliver of moulding into the corner to fix my mistake. The joint still wasn't perfect, but I was so over it by this point, and the gap ended up not even being visible in the end, thanks to a little caulk and paint!

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Tip #9: Cover nail holes for a nice finish. I painted my boards before installation, so I used a synthetic filler to cover the tiny nail holes, then dabbed primer and paint over each spot so that they're now unnoticeable.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.For the best paint job:

I chose to paint the moulding before installation because I didn't want to be 7 months pregnant priming moulding in an enclosed area on a ladder. Very bad ideas, all of them. Also, when priming raw wood, there's lots of sanding between coats involved to get a professional finish, and it's just a lot easier and less messy to do that outside on saw horses. Here are the steps you should follow to get silky, smooth painted moulding:

1. Lightly sand down the unfinished wood to remove any splintered cuts or rough surfaces. Then thoroughly wipe away any residual dust.

2. Spray with one moderately heavy coat of primer. Don't spray it on so thick that it drips, though. My favorite primer to use is 123 primer. It works really well to fill in any wood grain that might be visible, too.

3. Wet sand the first coat of primer with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper (just keep dunking the sandpaper into a bucket of water as you sand to keep things wet) or buff it with grade 0000 steel wool (which is what I did, since that's what I had on hand). Wet sanding works to really smooth out any unevenness in the finish caused by pronounced wood grain, but if you're using a wood like poplar without pronounced grain, buffing with steel wool is probably good enough. Do not skip this step, though, because it will make the finish sleek and smooth, removing the little hairs of the wood that pop up when the primer initially soaks into it.

4. Spray with one more coat of primer.

5. Finish with two or three light coats of your semi-gloss paint. Semi gloss is a great finish for moulding because it is sleek, easily wiped down, and the paint finish isn't easily damaged by cleaning products like eggshell or even satin finish paint is. Spraying the paint will ensure a smooth finish without brush marks, but brush marks aren't the end of the world!

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Once your touch-ups are dried and cured, go ahead and hang some pictures! I mounted strap hangers on the back of the side rails of my picture frames so I could easily attach wires on each side. I cut each side's wires to be the same length, then looped the top and twisted the wire around to secure it in place, as shown above. While holding a level on top of the picture, I pulled on one side or the other of the frame to tighten the wire as needed in order to make the picture level.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.The wires are practically invisible from a distance, but I think visible wires would look really great. I might look around at alternative ideas to use for cords.

Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Decorative picture rail moulding adds a touch of character to any space. Click through for tips & a detailed how-to post.Things look much more polished in Lucy's big girl room with the addition of the picture rail moulding. When she got home and saw it, she squealed with delight. I said, I know! So fun, right? -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Valentine and Stella from the Signature Collection.

12 May 16:04

mushrooms and greens with toast

by deb

mushrooms and greens with toast

Regarding the ever-present stacks of cookbooks around the apartment, my mother joked to me on Sunday that I should open a library. She’s probably right. I don’t think that a week goes by that I don’t* receive at least one new cookbook and I hardly know where to dive in. And don’t get me wrong, I too swoon over the currently in-demand aesthetic of vertically oriented, dimly lit photos of reclaimed weathered barnwood tables boasting sauce splatters and variations on kale on matte pages bound in jacketless books. It’s just that they’re all starting to jumble together.

... Read the rest of mushrooms and greens with toast on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to mushrooms and greens with toast | 121 comments to date | see more: Casserole, Greens, Kale, Mushrooms, Photo, Vegetarian, Weeknight Favorite

11 May 16:27

atakilt wat: turmeric-spiced potatoes, carrots & cabbage

by kickpleat

turmeric-spiced potato, carrots, & cabbage | everybody likes sandwiches

Sunday was Mother’s Day. And because my mom isn’t around anymore, I couldn’t make her a meal or call her on the phone. But I pulled out a tablecloth that I had picked up when I was visiting with my dad in April. It’s an object that is full of memories as it was on our table every Sunday or special occasion when I was little. It’s definitely retro with it’s vintage flower vase print and it felt right to put it on our table yesterday for dinner.

turmeric-spiced potato, carrots, & cabbage | everybody likes sandwiches

This isn’t fancy food at all. It’s an incredibly simple dish made with inexpensive ingredients. Potatoes. Onion. Cabbage. Carrots. Turmeric and cumin lend colour and flavour and I threw in some cooked French lentils to make this a good main dish meal. It’s a top-of-the-stove braised dish with no liquids needed. Just cover and let it do its thing. The vegetables will break down and get tender and in about an hour you’ll have something fragrant and hearty to eat alongside brown rice or your favourite grain.

turmeric-spiced potato, carrots, & cabbage | everybody likes sandwiches

turmeric-spiced potatoes, carrots & cabbage
2-3 T olive oil
1/2 red onion, large dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2″ ginger, peeled & minced
1 t ground cumin
1 t turmeric
1/2 t aleppo pepper (or 1/4 t cayenne pepper)
1/4 t kosher salt
1 large carrot, large dice
1/2 small head of cabbage, large diced
3-4 red potatoes, diced
1 c cooked french lentils or chickpeas (optional)

In a large pan, heat up oil over medium heat. Add in red onion and sauté for a minute before adding in the garlic and ginger. Stir everything around until fragrant and stir in the cumin, turmeric, aleppo pepper and salt. Let the spices get toasty for a minute and then add in the cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Give everything a good stir, cover and leave on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s important to keep this dish covered, so that the vegetables braise without the help of any extra liquid. Stir in the cooked lentils or chickpeas if using, lower the heat, and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve with brown rice. Makes 4 servings.

07 May 13:12

Spring Roll Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

by A Beautiful Mess

Spring Roll Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing (via abeautifulmess.com)Fresh spring rolls are one of my favorite healthy snacks. The only draw back is they can take a little while to put together since you have to roll up all the prepped ingredients into the wrappers. Not a big deal, but if you're pressed for time, it can be a concern.

Spring Roll Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing (via abeautifulmess.com) In many ways, this is the LAZY or quick version of fresh spring rolls. All the ingredients and even a similar peanut dressing, but it only takes about 15 minutes to throw everything together. Perfect for a quick lunch. 

How to cook cellophane noodlesSpring Roll Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing, serves 2 (you can easily make more servings).

For the salad:
1-2 oz. cellophane noodles (about half what you see pictured above, I went too crazy)
1/2 head of lettuce, chopped
1/3 or 1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
a big handful of peanuts, chopped

For the dressing:
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons natural, creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (optional, but it does add a nice sweetness)
1/4 cup peanut oil or water (to thin the dressing)

Begin by soaking the cellophane noodles in hot water for 10-12 minutes (check your package directions as soak times can vary). Prep all your vegetables. 

Spicy peanut salad dressingFor the dressing whisk together the first five ingredients listed above. I made my dressing with peanut oil, but you could also use water. The oil adds a richness, but it has a tendency to separate. You can simply whisk it again before pouring it over your salad. Either way, whisk the oil or water in last, slowly drizzling it in as you whisk to help it blend in with the other ingredients. 

Spring Roll Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing (via abeautifulmess.com)  Assemble your salad and pour the dressing over the top. Enjoy and happy salad days! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

16 Mar 08:30

Stuff — my journey still in progress — and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Kate
Shh.listen

This is a nice piece from the viewpoint of "not a minimalist" but still paring down on STUFF

life changing magic of tidying upIn the casual conversations that Pam and I have several times weekly, we often circle back to a recurring subject — stuff. We joke about how Pam is a “hoarder” of vintage its, bits and woddities and how in some areas I could be a “vintage hoarder in training.” As much as we giggle about it and share our stories of frustration that we have too much and should really pare down a bit, it seems that we continue to collect, amass and pile up all sorts of goodies we find at estate sales, on ebay and at the ReStore. But does all this amazing stuff really bring us happiness — or is it a source of underlying stress that slowly takes bites out of our of our ability to concentrate, our sanity and our free time? What follows is the account of the personal journey I’ve been on regarding stuff, and my thoughts on how to find your own happy place between minimalism and living in a house that resembles a storage shed. 

bedroom from the 90s

Does this look like a typical 15-year-old’s bedroom? Yes, I had lots of stuff, but it was very well organized.

My natural mode: “Tidy packrat”

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always enjoyed living in a well-organized, relatively neat space, even though I did have a large collection of toys, books and other knickknacks. Mom rarely had to ask me to clean my room and she actually paid me — on multiple occasions — to organize my little brother’s messy room.

At the same time, I come from a long line of thrifty folks (on both sides of the family) with packrat tendencies, that don’t like to waste resources, no matter how trivial they may seem. Waste not, want not is a great mindset to have — and I give my family a lot of credit for showing me how to create and be content with my modest lifestyle. Even so, I recently realized that the stuff was creeping in and my inner packrat was winning — and my home, which once felt spacious — seemed to be constricting. In my adult life I noticed a pattern in my relationship with stuff had developed. My packrat self would save and acquire things, then my ‘tidy’ self would realize I had too much, purge, then drop off a carload at the thrift store — it was a constant struggle.

My turning point

Then something changed. Last July while my immediate family was visiting, we faced the daunting task of trying to clear out and sort through my grandma’s house so it could be put on the market.

50s ranchThe first morning when we arrived at the grandma’s 1950s ranch, I felt a mix of nostalgia, sadness and hope that we could quickly accomplish the task at hand. However, once inside, the true enormity of the effort was quickly evident: we had to decide the fate of a lifetime of possessions.

grandma

Grandma reading to me Christmas 1985.

Hats off to Great Depression thrift… but…

My grandmother was a child of the Great Depression, which understandably had a huge influence on how she lived her many years afterwards. Surviving this difficult time made her very conscious about not being wasteful and meticulously maintaining her most precious belongings so they would last. I greatly respect grandma for her thrifty values, and practice many of them myself.

The problem with this kind of behavior is in the compounding. Grandma lived in this house for most of her life — probably at least 60 years — and we found all kinds of things that accumulate during a 60+ year stay in one place. Her particular weakness seemed to be an aversion to wasting useful packaging materials and retaining paperwork. It was completely and totally overwhelming.

After four straight days, we were able to reach every corner of the house. It took at least 15 pickup truck loads to the thrift store, the dumpster, and the recycling center before all the stuff was removed. The experience left me with two lessons that I wanted to apply to my own life:

  1. Hanging on to that much stuff becomes a burden to you and — after you are gone — your loved ones, who must wade through every scrap of your life for days and days and figure out what to do with it all. I do not want to be a burden if I can help it.
  2. When you save things in an attic or a basement for years and years and never use them, they often deteriorate from dampness or dry heat, making them useless to anyone. We had to throw out an alarming amount of furniture, canned goods and other items — which would have appalled grandma — because they were too damaged from their many years in the basement or attic to be salvaged. If they had been let go all those years ago, someone else could have taken care of and enjoyed them.

My journey begins

After the week spent working tirelessly to clean out grandma’s house, I had a realization about my own relationship with stuff. Much of what I kept and accumulated was unnecessary — and it was stressing me out, whether I realized it or not. I decided it was time to make a change.

One of the main reasons I tend to love midcentury style so much is because of the clean lines, thoughtful design and generally clutter free, clean aesthetic portrayed in midcentury modest homes from catalogs and brochures. Back then things cost more… people simply had less… and people took care of their things with pride. I wanted to reclaim that vintage ideal in my own present day home.

Besides the clean aesthetics that owning less would provide, I also wanted the simplicity of having fewer things to clean and maintain — freeing up more time for other pursuits.

Once my family visit was over, I hatched a plan to change my ways. In my 32 years — lived during this time of plenty in American history — I had much more than what my grandmother had accumulated by a similar point in her life. My entire past: boxes of childhood toys, art supplies, drawings, notebooks, textbooks and other things from grade school through college were stored throughout my home. More recently I had accumulated vintage goodies from family hand me downs, estate sales, vintage shops, the ReStore, piles of clothing and shoes, mounds of paper, kitchen utensils, dishes, furniture, tools, gardening supplies, and the list goes on. Continuing to accumulate at this rate would surely result in my possessions being at least double that of my grandmother’s at the time of her passing: a realization that horrified me. It was time to make a change.

I started by going through my house and ruthlessly — or so I thought — purging my belongings. I donated seven car loads of excess stuff to the thrift store and ReStore, and tossed and recycled several large bags of paper and other items, which made me feel much better. Then a few short months after I thought my hard work was done, the stuff had started creeping in again — negating my prior progress.

I realized that If I truly wanted to make a change, I had to come up with a better plan — one that not only made me reconsider what I was keeping — but also reassessed the criteria I used to justify bringing new things home. Failure to get to the root of the problem might result in being forever stuck on a hamster wheel between acquiring new things and taking trips to the thrift store. Did I really want to spend my life living between bouts of shopping and purging? Imagine how much extra time I could devote to other pursuits if I cut down the time I spent cleaning and sorting all that stuff each week. This idea of freedom was all the extra motivation I needed to find a permanent solution.

Many of my favorite childhood memories don't include stuff, it is about spending time with people you love. Above: Helping Bob and Nana shuck corn for dinner during their visit in 1985.

Many of my favorite childhood memories don’t include stuff, they are about spending time with people I love. Above: Helping Bob and Nana shuck corn for dinner during their visit in July of 1985.

Minimalism — a great idea for some, but not my cup of tea

At first, I began researching the extreme opposite of my packrat ways — minimalism. But could I really adhere to such a strict concept? The thought of minimalism instantly brings to mind visions of sparse, white rooms holding nothing other than the bare necessities. While I loved the idea of a ‘clean slate’ I doubted that I could actually jettison the 80-90% of my worldly possessions that living a minimalist existence would surely dictate. Still, I was in research mode, so I drank up all of the information I could find about minimalism and let those ideas float around in my head. Some of the blogs that I read and enjoyed include:

The Minimalists – Two men in their thirties — Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus — share their paths from lives of unhealthy excess to their new content lives as minimalists, plus all the life lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Be More With Less — The story of one woman — Courtney Carver’s — road to minimalism and a happier, healthier life that started after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She also explores creating “capsule wardrobes” — wearing only 33 items for 33 days — and “capsule kitchens” — buying a set number of ingredients to cook all meals for a month — to encourage and challenge herself and others to simplify their lives.

Becoming Minimalist — Joshua Becker had an ‘aha’ moment while spending the weekend trying to clean his garage instead of spending time playing with his son. He shares his road to a simpler, more meaningful life through minimalism.

Zen Habits — Leo Babauta — a father of six — tells his story of how he transformed his life, his body and himself through practicing minimalism. Zen Habits takes a deep look into minimalism in all aspects of life, not just through the amount of possessions you own, with an emphasis on the spiritual aspect.

Once I had thoroughly explored the contents of these four websites, plus several other articles about minimalism, I reached a conclusion: I am a highly visual, artistic, and sentimental person. I can’t get rid of all but the completely necessary items in my life because if I did, I don’t think it would bring me happiness. There is no magic number of sweaters or books or throw pillows that everyone should strive to have.  I like the idea of paring down my possessions, but minimalism goes a bit too far for me. Having said this, I do like some parts of the concept of minimalism. These include:

  • Not living an overly scheduled life — allowing yourself to have free time for thought, relaxation, meditation and the pursuit of crafts and hobbies
  • Not giving in easily to the pangs of consumerism — questioning what you really need and why you want an item before buying it
  • Being environmentally friendly — less consumerism leads to less waste, using less of earth’s limited resources
  • Having fewer things to take care of and clean — spending less time doing mundane chores around the house and more free time to pursue other interests and live your life
  • Simplifying your wardrobe — spending less time trying to decide what to wear each morning
  • You already likely have ‘enough’ — be grateful for what you have instead of chasing the next best thing, be content with your possessions
  • Things are not important — people and their relationships with each other are important.
spring cleaning

My closet after tidying — this is probably the cleanest and emptiest it has ever been.

The final missing piece in the puzzle of my relationship to stuff

While I worked to sort through and pare down my belongings little by little, I discovered a book about tidying up that was getting lots of good press and was on the bestseller list. I read several articles reviewing the book and its ideas — and in each one the author claimed reading it had given them a whole new perspective on tidying. I was curious, but after all of my research on minimalism, organizing and its effect on happiness, could this book really have anything more to offer? Deciding to take a chance anyway, I ordered myself a copy.

spring cleaningUpon receiving The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (affiliate link) by Marie Kondo, I instantly devoured it. Kondo’s book was the missing piece of information that I needed to complete my journey.


Yes, you can buy it from Amazon — or, don’t “consume” it — get it from your library!

Kondo works as an expert in tidying, decluttering and organizing in Japan and has been interested in the subject since she was a small girl. She has done loads of research and personally tried many methods of tidying up. Her conclusion: The method — described in her book — is the only way to tidy with any sort of long lasting effect.

I’m about half way through the Kondo tidying process and already, I am noticing a huge difference in how I feel about my home and my possessions on a daily basis. I think this feeling is compounded by the fact that I live and work at home, so I spend a great deal of my daily life within the four walls of my Retro Ranch. Since I started my journey, these are some of the positive effects the process of tidying up has had on my daily life:

  • I spend far less time cleaning than ever before and have a cleaner house on a daily basis.
  • I make my bed every day.
  • I have very little desire to shop for new things (besides weekly grocery trips), which is saving me money and time.
  • I have read two books that I’ve been wanting to read forever, but never felt I had the time to do.
  • I’ve started making art again.
  • I listen to more music instead of just turning on the TV and plopping down on the couch.
  • I cook more from scratch — including the gumbo I made recently, which took five hours and turned out fantastic — and I make my own sandwich bread once a week on Sundays. I also no longer use pasta sauce from a jar and rely on very few convenience foods, which are expensive and not as good tasting or good for you as home cooking.
  • I spend more quality time with my husband and my dog, which is something that truly makes me happy.
  • I’ve finished some big projects that I’ve been putting off — namely, reupholstering my great grandmother’s sofas.
  • I’ve greatly reduced the amount of clothing and shoes I own to what I wear on a regular basis, plus a few ‘nice’ outfits for special occasions. It is much easier to get dressed in the morning, put clothing away after laundry and see what I own.
  • Getting rid of items I’ve held onto for a long time for no good reason helps me let go of the past and live in the present.
  • I feel lighter, happier, less stressed and less agitated overall.
  • It is easier for me to focus on the task at hand (Pam benefits from this too!)
  • I have realized what my priorities are, what makes me happiest and what I want to accomplish.

spring cleaningThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has helped me to achieve all of this because it explains a clear order in which to tidy your possessions to achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort. Kondo gives her readers only one guideline to use when deciding whether or not to keep something — Does it spark joy? Now, some people might have issues with mundane objects like socks ‘sparking joy’, but if you gathered all of the socks you own into a big pile and picked your favorite ones of the bunch — the ones you reach for first — those would be the ones that spark joy in your heart. If you use this criteria for deciding what to keep, you will be left surrounded with only your favorite things, and that really does spark joy.

Another part of Kondo’s teachings that I found very helpful was how to deal with some of the guilt that makes us keep things that don’t spark joy in our hearts — such as that shirt that you bought and then never wore or those old threadbare pajamas that are ‘still good’. Kondo tells us to touch each item as we make our decision about whether or not to keep it. If it doesn’t spark joy then we need to thank it as we discard it. Tell the shirt that you bought and never wore, “thank you for teaching me that this style and color doesn’t suit me” … and tell the threadbare pajamas, “thank you for your many years of service.”

spring cleaningEven if you are not ready to take stock of your entire worldly possessions, reading Kondo’s book is worth it solely because of her section on folding and organizing clothes. Of the parts of the tidying process that I’ve completed thus far, tidying my clothing, has had the biggest happy effect on my overall day to day life. I can now open a drawer — in my lovely Broyhill Brasilia dresser — and see with one glance all of the sweaters I own at once as I am making my daily wardrobe selection. My dresser drawers are really a thing of beauty now, and my closet — it is clean and clear with space between the hangers making clothing easy to remove and rehang.

spring cleaning

My husband’s dress sock drawer, which used to be overflowing, is now neat and tidy — and has plenty of extra space.

Kondo advises that you only tidy your own things and not force others to follow your ways. She suggests that once they see and feel a difference in the parts of the house that have been tidied, they will want to join in. This has been true for my husband. At first, he was glad to see my enthusiasm and happiness increasing as I completed reading the book and started the process of tidying, but he had no interest in doing any tidying himself. Then as we were trying to pack him for a week long business trip, I asked him if I could tidy his sock drawer, since we had issues finding matched pairs. He agreed and was so pleased with the results that he has since taken the initiative to pare down his massive book collection by 1/3 — a task that would have been out of the question before. I also think he likes benefitting from my newfound happiness — especially if that means he gets homemade bread and gumbo on a regular basis.

bookshelfAbove: see that large bookshelf? We don’t need it anymore.

spring cleaningAbove: The freestanding bookshelf is gone, sold on Craigslist to make room for a small art desk.

After sorting through our books and downsizing our collection quite a bit, we found we no longer needed the freestanding bookshelf in our den. The remaining books easily fit into our built-in bookshelf, my husband’s enclosed nightstand and a small bookcase we have in the bedroom. Getting rid of the bookshelf cleared an entire corner that will soon be the home of a small tilt-top art desk. Having an easy-to-use area for drawing is part of my plan to set up my home for the way I want to live my life now — spending less time cleaning piles of stuff and more time making art. Getting rid of old novels that we didn’t plan to reread or textbooks we hadn’t touched since graduating college 10 years ago, clears out the clutter of the past so we can focus on the present.

The verdict

If you’ve made it this far in this epic post about my journey with stuff — give yourself a pat on the back. If you are thinking that maybe you’d like to start a similar journey, here’s my verdict:

In order to be successful in a huge, life-changing way you need to really be ready and want to reduce the amount of things you own. It is a difficult task, but the rewards are indeed life-changing. The process isn’t just about things, but all of the feelings and emotions attached them and the reasons you haven’t let them go. In dealing with the accumulations of your past, you make room — both in your home and life — so that you can live in the present. If your journey is similar to mine — you’ll feel as if a thousand pounds have been lifted off your shoulders.

Now does all this mean that I’m not buying any more retro goodies? Of course not. I’m still collecting certain things for my future Tiki bar and if I see something that really ‘sparks joy’ then I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it home, but I plan to do so with more intention and restraint than I have in the past. It is fun to go shopping, but I don’t need to bring home everything I find, and that is ok.

This isn’t our first time at the stuff rodeo, check out Pam’s post about stuff:

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?
If so, what did you think?
Can you share how you’re handling your relationship to stuff — in this era of material plenty?

The post Stuff — my journey still in progress — and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up appeared first on Retro Renovation.

28 Apr 08:30

Reporcelain refinish steel sinks, stoves and other vintage parts — we find a second source

by Kate

re porcelain vintage sink appliancesDo you have a steel sink, stove or other appliance that needs to be refinished? Professional reporcelaining is the way to go for long-term durability. Reader Barb tipped us to a second company that can do this high-heat job —  Independence Porcelain Enamel. The company has been in business since 1922 and is located in Independence, Missouri, close to Kansas City.

Note, however, that Independence only reporcelains steel — not cast iron.  If you have cast iron, the only source we know of remains Custom Ceramics — and owner John confirmed with Pam yesterday that his waiting list for three years long. Ouch.

Barb wrote to us:

I wanted to have my 1947 66-inch double bowl, double drainboard porcelain sink (on a Youngstown steel cabinet) done by Custom Ceramics in Illinois,  but I can’t wait 1.5 – 2 years. I found a company in Independence, Missouri, close to Kansas City. It is Independence Porcelain Enamel, in business since 1922. I took my sink last Friday. Jeff Gaylord at IPE tells me it will take about two weeks. It will be sandblasted and fired at 1600 degrees. It was a good size company and has been in business for a long time so I am optimistic for good results. Cost will be $550.

[Editor’s notes re Barb’s email above: Custom Ceramics also can reporcelain steel — for that, the wait is currently about 12 weeks, the company told us; it’s the cast iron work that has the multi-year wait list time. Also note: Independence gave us different firing temperatures when they answered our questions below.]

I contacted Jeff at Independence Porcelain Enamel to verify that they did indeed re-porcelain vintage steel drainboard sinks, and to inquire about the company, pricing and available colors.

Independence Porcelain Enamel

Jeff writes:

Independence Porcelain Enamel has been in my family since 1983. We are a job shop the specializes in one-time projects, and we also do larger volume runs of commercial products. We don’t do mass volume runs of 1,000s of units though.

re porcelain vintage sink appliances re porcelain vintage sink appliances

Our main business is restoration work. However, we only refinish steel sinks (not cast iron). Colors range from your basic white, black, and almond to reds, blue, greens, turquoise, buttercup yellow, and orange. Our process is we media blast all the old porcelain off and apply new porcelain to raw substrate. Porcelain enamel is a water based slurry that is applied to the substrate then dried to evaporate the water from the slurry. We can then brush any areas (thru or threaded holes) that need to be free of porcelain. Then the piece is fired at 1400 F to 1520 F depending on the substrate (steel or cast iron).  It is then inspected and reprocessed with another coating if required.

re porcelain vintage sink appliances

vintage sink before restoration.

re porcelain vintage sink appliances

Sink after restoration.

Here is a before/after of a restored sink. The cost to refinish a double bowl with double drain boards sink in white is $550 plus shipping. Lead time is 3-5 weeks after receipt of sink.

I wondered: How can someone tell if their vintage sink is steel and therefore a good candidate for re-porcelaining at Independence? Jeff replied:

The easiest way is if you look on the underside of the sink. A cast iron sink will have raised lettering and a rough texture. Cast iron sinks will also be very heavy in weight. Steel sinks won’t have raised lettering but a stamp with the manufacturer’s date.

re porcelain vintage sink appliancesIndependence Porcelain Enamel also does appliance re-porcelaining. Pricing varies depending on size and color. Jeff said that an RV cooktop or oven doors can range from $82.50 each to $97.50.

re porcelain vintage sink appliances

Pam though this looked like cast iron so she called Jeff to check. He confirms that IPE can reporcelain smaller cast iron parts. When it comes to sinks and tubs, though, they cannot; these larger castings have more imperfections from the underlying molding and are not good candidates for IPE’s wet slurry process.

It’s great to to have another source for reporcelaining our vintage steel sinks, parts or other appliances!

So how did tipster Barb’s sink turn out?

Barb writes:

vintage drainboard sink

Barb’s sink before.

The people at Independence Porcelain Enamel were great.  So I hope that they get lots of jobs from your article.  I stayed up one night searching and searching the internet and then I found them.

vintage drainboard sink

Barbs sink after being re-porcelained by IPE.

The sink is absolutely beautiful.  I’m sure it looks exactly like it did when it rolled off the assembly line in 1947.  IPE did a fantastic job.

Mega thanks to reader Barb for the tip and to Jeff Gaylord from Independence Porcelain Enamel for taking the time to answer our questions and send photos for this story.

Link love:

The post Reporcelain refinish steel sinks, stoves and other vintage parts — we find a second source appeared first on Retro Renovation.

28 Apr 13:20

Concrete Feather Finish Countertops

by A Beautiful Mess

Counter tops before and afterOver a year ago Laura did a countertop feather finish project. The results were such a success and they've held up well, so we decided to use a similar method in our HFHS kitchen. Plus we wanted to keep the counters as neutral and inexpensive as possible since we don't know who the lucky new owners will be (and we don't know their tastes). The gray finish provides that neutrality and the whole thing cost less than $200!

Concrete feather finishI used a couple different methods, tools, and products than Laura, so I'm going to share those with you. 

Supplies to skim coat a counter topSupplies:
-Henry's Feather Finish
-Ghostshield food safe sealer
-CHENG countertop wax
-trowel and spackle knives (varying sizes)
-throwaway buckets
-sandpaper 100-2000 grit (3M prograde)
-sander
-terry cloths
-waxing sponge
-painter's tape

For the HFHS counter, we had our contractor replace the old worn out formica counter with two layers of 3/4" plywood. Since the feather finish drys so quickly and uses such a minimal amount of water, I didn't worry about putting down any seal or backing layer. The two layers of ply provided ample stability. Although I did add some bracing to the front lip where the sink was going for added strength. I taped off the backsplash about half an inch up from the counter surface.

How to skim coat a counter topThen I used basically the same process as Laura. Instead of using the Ardex brand feather finish which had to be ordered, I used the Henry's brand feather finish found at our local hardware store. It mixes the same, with the ratio of 1:2 (water to powder.) At first I thought using a mudding pan would work for mixing, but I quickly switched to the temporary buckets. (Should have just followed Laura's directions there.) I applied about five coats of the feather finish, making sure to keep the surface as smooth as possible. In the previous post, the counters have a satin, textured look, but I was hoping to achieve a smooth glossy surface. After I had about five coats applied and it was all set, it was sanding time.

Sanding the counter topTo achieve the reflective surface, I went through a bunch of sandpaper. I used a prograde product, and I could tell the difference in sanding instantly. The paper was more durable (almost rubbery) and held its grit longer which produced a better sand. Invest in the good sandpaper! I started with 80 grit and moved through the ranks after going over the entire surface— 80, 120, 200, 500, 1500 and ended with 2000. Observing the surface transform from gray to reflective was worth all the dust and elbow grease.

We wanted a food-safe seal, so a I applied a product by Ghostshield called Countertop Seal 660 (real catchy name.) It's a bit pricey at $70 for 16oz, but it works great. I applied four coats, using only about 10 oz. I mixed as directed, then covered the container after each use. I tested the finish by dripping some water over some areas and letting it sit for about 5 minutes. The water just beaded up on the surface, no penetration at all! Sweet.

Then it was time to wax. I applied a concrete wax by CHENG using a $5 drill mounted wax kit. It can be applied by hand as well. I'm not sure if I like how the wax ended up as I don't have anything to compare it to. I wasn't impressed with the results, which were a bit streaky and sticky. Steel wool did help with the streakiness (0000#). Ghostshield does have a wax that you can buy in conjunction with their sealer. I'm curious how that goes on in comparison. 

Overall, I am happy with how the counters turned out. They look good, are durable, and didn't break the bank. If you don't want to go through the process of pouring a concrete slab, this is the next best thing! -Josh

Credits // Author: Josh Rhodes, Photography: Emma Chapman and Josh Rhodes. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

06 Apr 19:06

Wooden Sofa Sleeve with Cup Holder

by A Beautiful Mess
Shh.listen

THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TALKIN ABOUT! Seriously I really want these in lieu of the coffee table. Come oooooooooon!

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.I'm the kind of gal who will spend 10 minutes working on crafting the perfect cup of coffee with perfectly ground, freshly roasted beans, but then let it get cold when I snuggle up on the sofa, engrossed in a really good book. I'd like to think that I'm really just an attentive reader, not so much a lazy coffee drinker, but it's true that I really am too lazy to lean forward to grab my coffee cup off the table for a sip or two in between pages. A wooden sofa sleeve might not be the answer to all of life's problems, but it sure does encourage me to actually enjoy my coffee in the midst of a good read.

I was so pleased with how this sofa sleeve turned out, and how easy it ended up being to make, that I'm already planning on making more as gifts for my friends who also have Ikea Karlstad sofas. Chances are you don't have a Karlstad sofa, but I'll walk you through figuring out the sizes of wood you'll need to make a sofa sleeve perfectly customized to your own sofa or chair.

This project has optional steps and materials you can skip!

If you are intimidated of using pocket holes with a Kreg jig, shown in steps 4 and 7, don't worry! I determined that these steps are truly optional, as wood glue provides a very strong hold for wooden accessories like this that are gently used. Just don't let your kids frequently use it as a step stool, and it should hold up fine without completing steps 4 and 7.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Tools:
-clamps (at least 8" long)
-hole saw in diameter of your choice (based on your most used cup diameter) A larger hole saw will require the use of a drill press. I used a 3 7/8" hole saw that I attached with this arbor. My hole saw was too large to manage with just a power drill, so I opted to use a friend's drill press to cut the hole. See step two for more info.
-tape measure
-pencil
-power drill (You only need this if you're using pocket screws and/or a hole saw smaller than 2.5".)

Optional tool:
-Kreg pocket hole kit - This is an optional tool shown in steps 4 and 7 that will add to the strength and life of your sofa sleeve, but is most likely unnecessary for a gently used sofa sleeve.

Materials:
-wooden board cut into three equal lengths—see step one for info on sizes to choose
-piece of thin plywood—see step one for size information. You can find thin 1/8" plywood in the wood section of your local craft store.
-wood glue
-wood stain (I used a mix of Minwax's Early American stain and Minwax's gel stain Antique Maple.)
-150 grit sandpaper or 180 grit sandpaper
-grade 0000 steel wool
-polyurethane

Optional Materials:
-veneer tape—this is an optional way to finish ugly cut edges of your lumber if you aren't using high quality hard wood such as maple, oak, or poplar. Softer wood like pine will soak up more stain on the cut edges, which will make them dark. You may choose to iron on veneer tape before staining to avoid this.
-1.25" Kreg screws—you will only need these optional screws if you plan to add the additional support of pocket hole screws in steps 4 and 7. Otherwise, wood glue will suffice.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step One: Determine the sizes of wood you will need by measuring your sofa or chair arm. You will need to know the width of your arm as well as the height. Use the following formulas to determine the wood pieces you will need cut for you at the lumber yard if you don't have the tools to cut the wood at home. The following formulas assume that the boards you use will be 3/4" thick, which is the standard thickness for 1x boards, such as 1x6 or 1x8 boards.

Top piece of wood—length: 14" / width: width of arm + 1.5"
Side pieces of wood—length: 14" / width: height of arm from cushion—you should round down to the nearest board width.
1/8" plywood piece—length: width of arm / width: width of arm (This is the piece that goes underneath the cup hole.)

My measurements for an Ikea Karlstad sofa: I used three 14" lengths of 1x8 board, and simply trimmed the width of one length to 6.25", which is the width I needed for the top piece of my sofa sleeve.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step Two: Center the hole saw on one end of your top piece of wood. Mark the middle point where the pilot drill of your hole saw will get the hole started. It is important to note that if you are using a big hole saw, as I did, you will probably not be able to control the drill with your arms, as muscly as they may be. It will skip around and ruin the finish of your wood. I had to bring my piece of wood to a friend's house to clamp it in place while cutting the hole with a drill press.

If you don't have access to a drill press, but plan on making a hole bigger than 2.5", just skip the hole saw and cut the circle with a jigsaw instead, as shown in this tutorial.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step Three: Sand the inside of the hole and the top and bottom of the wood, being careful to stay away from the edges and corners. If you round the corners of the board from sanding the edges, the boards will not be flush when joined together in step 5. 

Step Four: This step is optional. Clamp your Kreg jig as shown above to drill pocket holes on either end of just one side of each side board. These pocket holes will only be visible from the inside of the sofa sleeve. Using the pocket screws will provide for a very secure connection when you join each board together, but is probably not necessary for the end use of the sofa sleeve.

It is always a good idea to practice pocket hole placement on scrap wood before completing them on your finished boards.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step 5: Apply a somewhat thin layer of wood glue to one long edge of your side board (the side closest to your pocket holes if you chose to use them). Smoothing it with your fingers can be helpful, just keep a damp cloth nearby to wipe your fingers.

You should use a damp rag to wipe away all seeping wood glue immediately. Wood glue is very difficult to remove after it's dried, even with heavy sanding.

Step Six: Clamp the glued side board to the bottom of the top board (making sure your pocket holes are facing the inside if you chose to make pocket holes). Before you tighten the clamps completely, make sure the boards are perfectly lined up on the ends and flush at their corners.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step Seven: This step is optional. If you have chosen to use pocket screws, now is the time to screw them into place. If your pieces of wood pull away from each other at all, wait to drill in the screws until the wood glue has set up completely (follow instructions on glue bottle).

Step Eight: After both side pieces have been glued and clamped into place, give the hole piece a really good sanding. I used 150 grit sandpaper for this, but if your wood is really soft (like pine), you might want to finish up with something closer to 200 grit to avoid any scratch marks that would be highlighted when the stain is applied.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step 9: Apply a coat of wood stain and allow it to dry for at least 12 hours before lightly buffing away the roughness with a piece of grade 0000 steel wool. This will take off the little hairs that pop up from the moisture of the stain soaking into the wood. You may need to apply a light second coat of stain if you notice the stain has lightened in some areas after buffing.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Step 10: Attach your square piece of thin plywood to the bottom side of the hole using wood glue. Make sure you apply only a light amount of glue, because as you clamp it in place, the glue will ooze out. After clamping the plywood into place, you must wipe away the excess glue right away, or the dried glue will be visible on the final product.

Step 11: Seal the sleeve with two light coats of polyurethane. This will protect it from the moisture of cup condensation.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.The finished product is sleek, clean, and adds to the beauty of the sofa, rather than distracting from the room's style. We've loved using it so far! It's great for holding wine and cheese or beer and a bowl of chips too.

Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Make this handy sofa sleeve to keep your drinks nearby.Well, I guess I'm out of excuses for microwaving my cold coffee now. I know, I know... there is no excuse for microwaving coffee. Which is exactly why I love my new wooden sofa sleeve! Do you think you'll try making one too? -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Valentine and Stella from the Signature Collection.

28 Mar 12:00

Harper's "It Started With Fabric" Nursery — My Room

by Carrie McBride
Shh.listen

I kind of love the circular crib

Name: Harper (1 month)
Location: Toronto, Ontario

Long before Daniel and I even knew were going to have a child, we found and fell in love with a cotton fabric adorned with woodland creatures and foliage, so we bought 2.5 yards of it to have on hand just in case. A year and a half later that fabric became the inspiration for Harper's colourful nursery.

READ MORE »

16 Mar 11:55

baby proof: breastfeeding.

by erin
Shh.listen

True true true words

baby proof: breastfeeding | reading my tea leavesIt's taken me nearly 10 months to write this post. Everytime I sat down to write about breastfeeding, I would stop.

There would be voices in my head telling me that no one wanted to hear another sappy story about a woman nursing her child. There were voices telling me that a post about breastfeeding would come across as insensitive to the people who don't or can't breastfeed. What about the new babies who have two dads? Surely, the world doesn't need another post proclaiming the health benefits of breastfeeding. This isn't a post meant to convince you that what you're doing with your baby is anything but fine.

But if I've learned anything since becoming a mother, it's that the world doesn't  have enough talk about breastfeeding. Or natural childbirth. Or postpartum recovery. Or child-rearing generally. At the same time that we're utterly bombarded with "mom" articles, I've found myself wanting more. So I'm writing.

There are days when I think of breastfeeding as my superpower. My impossibly tiny boobs are feeding a human being. I am purely mammal: a blue whale, a leopard, a kangaroo. Improbably pumping out a magical, nourishing elixir for my own human animal. It's staggering.

But there are other days when breastfeeding feels like a burden. I can't wear half the dresses in my closet. I had to wear breast pads for at least five months and still, when I nurse in the middle of the night, whatever boob isn't being suckled spurts milk. I have leaked through my clothes in public. I have rushed home to pump with aching breasts.

I have cried when I couldn't pump enough milk to fill a bottle. I have sat strapped to my electric breast pump wailing against the inborn patriarchy that means that I have to be the one to nourish our child.

I have cried because I can't think of a single thing sweeter than the tiny hand of my daughter reaching back to play with her hair while she nurses. Or the way that she stretches her fingers to touch my lips when I look down at her. Or the way that her lips crack into a smile and she can't continue nursing because her grin is too wide, laughing at her own private joke.

I've wept because I can't wait to stop nursing. And I've wept because eventually I will.

In the first days of breastfeeding, the physical transformation was mind-boggling. My breasts were so engorged that I couldn't put my arms down, like a bodybuilder whose bulging muscles keep his arms permanently lifted away from his sides. My nipples were tender. My armpits were lumpy. I texted friends for advice. I bawled to my sister who hopped on a subway bearing nipple butter and a breast pump. I drank cup after cup of tea to help with my milk production and fortify my spirits.

But eventually Faye learned to nurse and I learned to nurse her. Together we made it happen. The misery lasted for two whole days, which is not very many days. The slight discomfort for just a few weeks, which is not very many weeks. I'll get to nurse this baby for a year or two, which is not very many years.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, all blessings are mixed blessings. But they're blessings all the same.

This post was sponsored by Traditional Medicinals, whose Mother's Milk and Mother's Milk Shatavari Cardamom teas I've enjoyed regularly as a part of my breastfeeding routine. Thank you for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable companies that support this blog.

Photo by James.
04 Mar 20:05

Gem Mirror DIY (+ Easy Glass Cutting Technique!)

by A Beautiful Mess

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)If you saw this post and thought, "Whoa, that looks great! I should make that! Wait, glass cutting? I'm out!" then you probably aren't alone. I had wanted to try mirror cutting for a while now, but just the sound of it gave me the shivers. I think I have a mild case of aichmophobia with some materials (the irrational fear of sharp objects), so the thought of trying to break a mirror into several pointed edges sounded less than ideal. However, life is for facing and conquering your fears, right? I looked up a few tutorials on the technique, and I was shocked at what I found—it looked so easy to do. Of course, I was skeptical that they were just making it look easier than it was, but I asked Josh about it and he said that he had done it before and assured me that, yes, it was in fact that easy. Sweet! I'd been wanting to make a gem mirror for a while, and I thought this would be the perfect technique to learn in order to achieve that goal. Let's do it!

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-glass cutter tool*
-mirror (we used this one)
-metal ruler + marker
-gloves and safety glasses
gem line drawing and cutting guide (right click to download)
-fine grade sandpaper
-contact paper
-X-Acto knife
-gold spray paint
-clear spray paint

*Note: Most of these glass cutter tools come with an area in the top where you can put oil that runs down to the blade, but you don't really need the oil to score the glass. The oil helps keep the blade sharp longer, but you can still cut just the same without it.

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)To make your octagon gem shape, first you'll want to cut your mirror into a square. Use a metal ruler and marker to measure out and draw a square the size of your desired finished width onto the mirror (don't worry about the marker, glass cleaner will take it right off). Position your glass cutting tool on your line and place your metal ruler up against the cutting wheel. Use your glass cutter tool to score a line into the mirror that runs the entire length of the mirror (make sure to keep your tool right up against the ruler as you score). You want to firmly score the line in one single pass, so don't go over your line again once you've scored it. You are basically cutting off the entire chunk of mirror that is to the left (or right) of your marked square line. It basically feels the same as cutting with an X-Acto knife. And if you worried it will make a "nails on a chalkboard" sound as you score the glass, don't worry. It hardly makes any noise at all.

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Once your line is scored, scoot the mirror to the edge of the table and line up the scored line with the edge. In one swift motion, push down on the piece you are breaking off and it will snap at the scored line leaving a clean break between the two. It's a bit scary to actually go through with the breaking part because your brain is convinced that the mirror will shatter as soon as you press down. But once you do go through with it, the mirror only makes a tiny snapping sound and you feel a bit silly for building it up so much in your mind.

You'll want to wear gloves and eye protection for this step just to be extra careful, but Josh is a bit of a daredevil as you can see, so he skipped the gloves part. I still felt a little nervous at this point, so I wore really thick leather gloves just to be safe when I did my pieces. 

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Once your four sides are snapped and you have a square, measure, mark, score, and snap off the corners of the square to get your final octagon shape. Clean the lines off the mirror with glass cleaner.

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Now that we have our shape, let's create our gem lines! Cover the whole front of your mirror with contact paper. Use this handy dandy line making and cutting guide that Josh made for you (right click to download) to draw and cut the lines of your gem with your marker and then X-Acto knife. It looks complicated, but just draw and then cut all the lines in the order he has shown. It's a lot easier than you'd think. You can make your lines as thick or as thin as you want depending on the overall size of your mirror, but ours are about 1/4" thick. So we cut 1/8" on either side of the lines. Peel off all the lines to expose the mirror underneath.

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Before painting, use a fine grade sandpaper to lightly sand the edges of your mirror in case there are any sharp spots.

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Spray your mirror with a few coats of  gold spray paint and top it off with a clear coat spray. Use the X-Acto knife to lift up the corners of your contact paper shapes and peel off each piece. I love this part of projects like this. There's something so satisfying about peeling off each square to reveal the design, isn't there? Once all the contact paper has been removed, you're done!

Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)Gem Mirror DIY + Easy Mirror Cutting Technique (click through for tutorial)You can either set the mirror on a ledge or shelf like I did, or you can get mirror clips to install the mirror on a wall. I suggested using the clear coat on top of the gold so you can clean your mirror with glass cleaner as needed, but depending on the paint you use, it may not be necessary (test an area with your chosen paint on a scrap piece of mirror to find out first).

This is the same process you would use to cut clear glass as well, so it's great to have another DIY tool under my belt that I can use without being afraid. I think the final result of our mirror is adorable and looks totally profesh! It would also be fun to do with colored gem lines or make a group hanging with a few different shaped gems (like with an emerald shape and a radiant cut). Think you'll have the courage now to try glass cutting? If I can do it, you can too! xo. Laura (+ Josh)

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman and Josh Rhodes, Photography: Laura Gummerman and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection.

26 Feb 16:48

the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake

by deb

the 'i want chocolate cake' cake

About six weeks ago, around 9 p.m. on a day I had consumed mostly air and maybe a slice of toast because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how food had ever tasted good, without any warning, I wanted a slice of chocolate cake with swirls of chocolate frosting and probably some sprinkles and the sprinkles, so help them, better be rainbow. Except the word “wanted” doesn’t accurately describe the craving; it was suddenly everything. I needed a piece of chocolate cake so badly that I began to regret every cupcake shop I’d ever walked past and not gone in during the height of the mid-aughts cupcake craze. I regretted not licking every beater of chocolate buttercream that had ever crossed my path when I worked at a bakery in high school. And I regretted that when I asked my husband why we didn’t have any chocolate cake, he said “because you haven’t made any?” He was correct — I’d made them dinner, instead — and the great unraveling of all that had once been right and good but failed to lead me to chocolate cake continued.

... Read the rest of the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake | 331 comments to date | see more: Cake, Chocolate, Everyday Cakes, Photo

23 Feb 17:00

spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs

by deb

spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs

Several years ago, because we didn’t have a kid yet, didn’t know about things like school break schedules and figured midway through February was as good of a time to escape the snow as any, we decided to get away to someplace warm and winter-free during Presidents’ Day week. We found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a beach resort that had to have easily been 75% children, and the kind that were at that time my worst nightmare of what kids could be [insert yours here, then multiply it as far as you can see] and we decided to both never have kids and never ever go away on Presidents’ Week again.

... Read the rest of spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs | 150 comments to date | see more: Budget, Eggs, Italian, Photo, Put An Egg On It, Quick, Vegetarian

11 Feb 20:01

Make Real Silver Jewelry with Metal Clay!

by A Beautiful Mess

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)           Since I've been doing art and craft projects since I was a kid with my art teacher Mom, there aren't that many areas I've never dabbled in at all, but this project was a totally new challenge for me. Emma mentioned that she had learned about this clay that you shape and dry, and once it's fired, it turns into pure silver! It sounded crazy, but the more we looked into it, we realized it was true. The clay is made of silver particles, organic binders, and water, so when you fire the piece, the organic binders and the water burn off, and you are left with a piece that is 99.9% pure silver. Awesome!

The other great thing about this clay is that if you've heard anything about metal clay before, you may have thought that you had to have a kiln to work with the material, but you actually don't need one. They make metal clay that has a low enough firing point that you can actually just use a butane torch (the same thing you would make creme brûlée with) to fire the piece instead. As long as the piece is smaller than a silver dollar in size, you can use the torch and that change makes the project much more accessible.  

I love the idea of making jewelry with a fingerprint of someone you love, and having a husband that travels a lot makes the idea extra special to me. I thought I could make two fingerprint necklaces (one with his print and one with mine) so it's like having a piece of each other near our hearts on a daily basis. Love it!

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-Art Clay Silver 650 (low fire)
-polishing papers
-small piece of plexiglass (check your local home improvement store)
-card stock paper or playing cards
-acrylic roller
-small circle cookie cutter slightly bigger than the size pendant you want (I used the smallest circle in this pack. It's a little less than 1" wide)*
-firing block
-small butane torch 
-wire brush
-fine grade sandpaper
-small spray bottle for water
-plastic clay knives
-agate burnisher (optional)

They also make these Art Clay starter kits that come with a bunch of the above items, so it may be a better deal to get a kit depending on what you need. 

*The clay will shrink 8-10% once it's fired, so pick a circle that's a bit bigger than the size you're going for.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) First you'll want to set up your station to roll out the clay. Metal clay starts to dry as soon as you expose it to air, so get everything ready to go before you take it out of the package. You can use pieces of card stock or playing cards stacked next to each other with about 1 1/2" in between them to keep the thickness of your piece consistent. I used 4 pieces of card stock on each side, and I would suggest a thickness of 4-5 cards for this project. Secure your cards to the plexiglass with a few pieces of tape and unwrap your metal clay. You can coat your fingers in a very thin layer of olive oil so the clay doesn't stick to your fingers, but the clay does wash off hands easily. Place your clay on the plexiglass between the card stacks and use your acrylic roller to roll out the clay the thickness of the cards. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)  Once rolled out, take your thumb and press it into the clay starting on the left side of your thumb and roll your thumb to the right (like if you were making a fingerprint with ink). You want to press hard enough to get a good impression of your thumb, but not so hard that you smooch all the clay to one side or the other. If you think you pressed too hard or too light, simply scrape up the clay with a clay knife, knead it gently, roll it out, and try it again. If the clay starts to dry before you get a good print, lightly mist the clay with water from a spray bottle and it should knead back into a soft state. I did notice that no matter how hard I pressed, I could never get quite the definition of Todd's fingerprint, so maybe he's just way stronger than I am (totally true) or he has more defined fingerprint lines.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)   Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)     Once you have a good thumbprint, place your circle cookie cutter over the part of the print you want to become your pendant and press down. Keeping the cutter in place, use a clay knife to scoop up the rest of the clay around the cutter and place that clay immediately into plastic wrap and then into a plastic bag with a damp paper towel at the bottom for storage. Keep the bag in a dry, dark place, and it should stay good until you want to use it again.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)     Remove the circle cutter and use a toothpick or a small straw to make a hole for your jump ring once the piece is finished. Allow the clay to fully air dry for 24 hours.

Once the clay is completely dry, you should be able to pick up your piece and sand down any edges that are uneven or sticking up with a fine grit sandpaper (like a 220 grit) or the fine side of an emery board. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)         In a dimly lit room, place your piece on the firing block and use your butane torch to fire your clay (obviously this photo above is not a dimly lit room, but I wanted to show you the angle and proximity of the torch to the clay). You'll want to hold your torch about 2" away from the clay at a 45° angle and move the torch around the clay in a constant motion to heat the piece evenly (don't settle the heat on any one spot for too long). At first, you may not see anything happen, but keep going and the piece should begin to smoke a bit or even catch on fire. Don't worry, that just means the organic binders are beginning to burn off. Keep moving the flame around the piece until you see the piece begin to glow a peach color. This is why you want to fire the piece in a dim room if possible as it's easier to see the peach glow in a dim space.

Once you see the peach color, you'll want to keep time of how long you continue to fire while you adjust the proximity of the flame to maintain the peach glow. A weight of 5 grams only requires 1-1.5 minutes and 6-15 grams needs 1.5-2 minutes, but since I didn't know the exact weight of my piece (and you can't really fire it too long), I kept the peach glow for at least 2 minutes just to be safe. Once time is up, turn the torch off and allow the piece to completely cool. The piece should be coated in a white layer at this point.

(If you're like me and you want to have a visual walkthrough of the firing process, this is a great video to see what it should look like as it's happening.)

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)          Drop the cooled piece in water and use the wire brush to brush off the white outer layer. Dry with a cloth. Then use the polishing cloths to polish your piece (starting with the coarsest and working down to the finest). Dip the polishing cloth in water and polish in one direction only (like only in strokes from left to right). To get a mirror shine, rub an agate burnisher all over the piece for an extra professional look. If you want to add a dark patina to your piece to highlight the sunken lines of the fingerprint, you can use a bath of liver of sulfur before you polish the piece.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)            Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)           At first I was skeptical about this process because it seemed so technical, but now that I've done it a few times, I'm totally obsessed! Also, the process is a lot more forgiving than I thought it would be, so I was happy that I didn't have to feel stressed to do everything totally perfect.

It's so special to have matching necklaces with each other's prints, and I know for sure that I will be wearing this necklace a ton when he's gone. You can do this process on a bigger or smaller scale and make charms or key chain pendant gifts with meaningful fingerprints. Of course, I love making jewelry and learning new crafting skills regardless of the sentimental level, but when it's a project that also pulls a bit at your heartstrings, well, that makes it extra special if you ask me...xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Laura Gummerman, Todd Gummerman, and Elsie Larson. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection

23 Feb 20:26

Colorblocked Scratching Post DIY

by A Beautiful Mess

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           If you have a cat (or two!) and have ever roamed the pet store aisles looking for a good scratching post, then you probably already know about my personal anguish. Our cat Mac has taken to occasionally scratching on a few rugs and chairs that I would rather keep "unshredded", so I thought we should get him a post so he can direct his scratching instinct in a more positive direction. The problem with cat scratching posts is that most of them are pretty, well, boringly hideous. I mean, if I want a piece of furniture that's going to stand out in my house, I want it to be a cool vintage chair or plant stand, not a dull-looking scratching post. Thankfully, what's a girl to do when she can't find what she wants already made? You guessed it, DIY to the rescue!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)              We’re happy to be working with Fancy Feast, who just launched their Broths with Chicken (you can see Mac is loving it!). It's part of their #WaysToWow campaign, sharing tips to wow our furry little buddies. As part of our partnership, Fancy Feast is making an additional donation to Humane America Animal Foundation (behind Adopt-a-pet.com), who helps homeless pets get out of shelters and into loving homes. It's in conjunction with the brand's history of raising awareness about shelter animals.

You may already know, but I have a pretty big heart for the humane society and pet adoption. I adopted our first kitty Charlie over three years ago, and we loved her so much that we adopted a little brother named Mac for her a year ago. Since I have a husband that is on the road touring a lot for his musician job, it can be really lonely when he's out of town, and I have to say that the loneliness was really getting me down. As soon as I got sweet Charlie though, it was a million times more fun to be home alone and so comforting just to have another heartbeat around the house. Mac's playful spirit (and constant willingness to cuddle) has brought even more joy, and I always tell people that I feel like they rescued me instead of the other way around. I love those furry babies so much. 

Supplies:
-18" round wood circle
-4x4 wooden fence post (about 20" tall)
-drill and long wood screws
-white 4x4" post cap
-white paint
-150 ft of 1/4" nylon rope*
-pink and yellow dye
-bucket and salt (to dye the rope)
-staple gun (or hammer and small nails)
-white and pink (or white and yellow) electrical tape

*It seems like sisal rope is actually the rope of choice for scratching posts (I think it holds up to long-term scratching better), but it looked like I could get a brighter dye color and a whiter white with the nylon rope instead. Either rope works though and the sisal can be dyed as well.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           So, the first thing you'll want to do is attach your post to your round platform. Find the middle of your platform, place the post in the middle, and use a pencil to trace around the edges of the post so you can see where to put the screws. Use a drill bit that's slightly smaller than your wood screws and drill four holes within your marked square that go all the way through to the other side of the platform. Flip the platform over and line up your traced square to be on top of your post (so basically your whole scratching post should be sitting upside down). Since you pre-drilled your holes all the way through the wood, you should be able to see where to screw in your four wood screws from the underside to secure the platform to the pole. (Get someone to help hold it in place if you need to while you drill. It's a bit awkward to hold yourself) Flip the scratching post right side up when you're done and paint the bottom platform with a few coats of white paint.

 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)           To dye your rope, you'll want to get a bottle of dye for each of your colors (I chose pink and yellow). Since I wanted three colors of rope to color block with, I dyed 50 ft pink, 50 ft yellow, and left 50 ft white. Fill a large bucket halfway with hot water and add 1/3 cup of salt to the water (the salt helps to set the dye). Mix in your first dye color and stir. You can control the color you want by adding more dye, more water, or simply leaving the rope in for longer or shorter amounts of time (I did one full bottle of color and left the rope in for 30 minutes). Just keep checking the rope to see how it's progressing and leave it in longer or add more dye if you want a darker color. When you are happy with the color, pour out the dye and rinse the rope in cool water until the color runs clear. You'll really want to rinse the rope until all excess dye is removed so you don't end up with dye on your kitties' paws. If you would rather not use a manufactured dye, you can also look into some natural dye options as well, but if you rinse the rope really well, the dye shouldn't transfer from the rope.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   Once your rope is rinsed, hang it up or place it on a cookie sheet in a big pan to air dry.

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   After the rope has dried, take your white rope and staple gun the end to the bottom of the post. (You could also use small nails instead of a staple gun.) Wrap the rope around the post as tightly as you can, pushing down on the rows every so often to make sure they are packed tightly together. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   When it comes time to change colors, cut your white rope, take your white electrical tape and connect the end of the white rope to the beginning of your pink rope. The trick with electrical tape is that you want to pull on it and stretch it while you wrap it—that's what makes it really secure. Continue to wrap your pink rope around the pole and repeat the process of joining ropes again with the pink or yellow electrical tape when you switch to yellow rope, and again with the white tape when you switch back to the white rope to finish the pole. Remember to wrap tightly and push down on the rows every so often. 

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)   To finish your rope wrapping, cut your rope and secure the end with electrical tape. Use your staple gun to secure the rope end onto the pole. Glue your post cap onto the top of your post (I just used a simple epoxy glue to secure mine), and you're ready to show kitty the new scratching post!

So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)             So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)          So cute! Color Blocked Scratching Post DIY (click through for tutorial)            I rubbed some catnip onto the sides of the post and brought Mac in to check it out. I did a few scratching motions myself on the post and it didn't take him very long to give it a try himself! If your cats aren't already using a scratching post, you may need a few tips to get them used to using the new scratching routine (check out this post for ideas). And man, I still really love those junk food cat toys I made recently and they still play with them everyday...

I have to say, I was a little worried that a cute scratching post might not be possible, but I'm so pleased with how this came out! Since the colors and feel of the post match the rest of our home aesthetic, it really blends in with the rest of the room and doesn't awkwardly stand out (and of course you can change the dye colors to match whatever your home colors are). It's cute, functional, and the kitties love it. So I would say it's a win for everyone! xo. Laura

 Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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24 Feb 14:17

Pom Pom Wall Hanging

by A Beautiful Mess

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Wall hangings are the décor de jour for bohemian, flower children these days. I can't say that I'm much of a hippie, but I can appreciate a little textile art in my home. I thought I'd put a bit of a refined, though simple, spin on a wall hanging that would add a pretty, delicate touch to any home.

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Supplies:    
-handmade pom poms with tails still attached (check out this post to learn how to make them with scissors and a fork)
-yarn (I used a delicate pom pom yarn for added texture)
-sharp scissors
-lace ribbon in length and style of your choice
-wooden dowel 2" longer than your length of lace
-embroidery needle (not pictured)

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Step One: Loop the plain yarn through the lace and around the wooden dowel. An embroidery or darning needle is helpful for this. Leave a long tail for the next step. If you run out of yarn, knot another length of yarn to your remaining strand and tuck the tail into the looped yarn using the embroidery needle.

Step Two: Knot the ends of the looped yarns to secure them in place around the wooden dowel. Then use the tail of the yarn to create a string for hanging. Knot it in place and tuck the ends of the knot into the yarn-wrapped dowel using the embroidery needle.

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Step Three: Tie lengths of yarn through the openings in the bottom of the lace ribbon. Knot them tightly into place and trim off the excess yarn. Don't worry about keeping the lengths the same—the total length can be trimmed later.

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Step Four: Use the tails of your pom poms to tie them onto your hanging yarns, creating a pattern or even trailing randomly.

Step Five: When your pom poms are arranged how you wish, knot them into place and trim off the tails.

Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!Pom Pom Wall Hanging — Simple to make and so cute!This wall hanging is a relatively easy way to get a large scale wall hanging for your home, and there are so many ways to customize the design and size. Change up the yarn, lace, and pom pom size and arrangements, and you can make something unique to you! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

02 Feb 16:54

charred cauliflower quesadillas

by deb

charred cauliflower quesadillas

Last week* I mentioned that we’d been on a big breakfast-for-dinner spree this winter, less out of a noble desire for inexpensive, balanced, wholesome meals and more because scrambling eggs at the last minute allows us to go all the way to 15 minutes before dinner to come up with an idea for it, which is meal-planning equivalent of the heavens opening up and glorifying all of my late-afternoon lethargy at last.

scallions, poblano, lime, cheese, cauliflower, "cilantro"
give it an extra chop once cooked

The other kick we’ve been on since the beginning of the year is passing off anything we can put in, on, or near a tortilla as dinner, leading to a steady rotation our go-to fajitas, beef tacos, black bean tacos and, in a mash-up of both the breakfast and tortilla benders, scrambled egg tacos. Many of you asked “how” I got my son to eat such foods as scrambled eggs and tacos, and while I’m tempted to take credit for it (“it’s the rainbow of local organic produce and definitely not the daily succession of pb&j sandwiches I ate while he was in the womb!”) it would be dishonest when it’s been more due to random outside influences. The grandmother of one of my son’s classmates brought in warm — warm! freshly cooked! how I long to be a kindergartener most days! — quesadillas for snack a few weeks ago, and it’s all he’s talked about since. Plus, since it fit into our all-tortillas-all-the-time meal plan, I set about finding a way to pass it off as dinner.

what you'll need + lazy slaw, if you please

... Read the rest of charred cauliflower quesadillas on smittenkitchen.com


© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to charred cauliflower quesadillas | 110 comments to date | see more: Cauliflower, Peppers, Photo, Sandwich, Tex-Mex, Vegetarian

18 Nov 06:47

cubano breakfast bagel

by kickpleat
Shh.listen

GTFO this looks amazing

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

Oh my gawd. I posted about a sandwich! On a blog that people seem to mistakenly believe is about sandwiches (hmmmm, I wonder why that is……?). Whatever. This bagel sandwich is freaking amazing.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

First you start with the best bagels in town. My husband is actually the bagel snob in the household, so we buy Montreal style bagels from Seigel’s Bagels that we pick up at our local food co-op. They’re chewy and all that a bagel should be without the return airfare to Montreal. A cuban sandwich is traditionally made with both ham and roast pork, so that’s what we’ve got here. The ham is finely sliced from our local deli. If I needed some quick roast pork, I’d request a hundred grams or so from the deli counter too. But I was in luck to have leftover roast pork on hand. It was a spicy asian flavoured pork loin, but it worked out well.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

Cheese is a must. Not only does it add to the gooey, deliciousness it acts as the glue that helps to hold this behemoth sandwich together. Cucumbers and pickles add cool crunch and interest. Cucumbers aren’t traditional, but I like that they add a freshness to every bite. Mayo and dijon lube it up just right.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

And then there’s the egg. The egg is a must! See it splooge all its tasty goodness! That means it’s perfect. Breakfast decadence because you know it’s a good breakfast when you need to lick your fingers.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

As you can tell from the photos, we’re eating outside. Which means that it clearly isn’t mid-November. I took this back in September when the weather was warm and the sun was strong and sitting outside for breakfast was a thing we did. This is a nice reminder to warmer days and a good kick in the butt to make this again soon.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

The weather now is snappy and cold. The skies are bright and crisp and there’s frost on the ground. The holidays are coming up fast which means that things are getting busy in my etsy shop. I’d like to extend some happy savings and offer all my readers 15% off all orders! I have lots of new holiday cards, cute cat notepads, art prints & gift tags and so much more! Just use the code BAGEL at checkout for 15% your order (but hurry, it expires November 23rd!).

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

It’s not a complicated sandwich, but it’s full of components. So to make things go smoothly, have everything at the ready before you begin. I made two sandwiches as easily as one, so making more would be a snap.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches

cubano breakfast bagel
This combination of leftover pork tenderloin, deli black forest ham, fresh crunchy cucumbers, melted cheese, pickles, raw onion and a runny egg on a chewy Montreal-style bagel made for the BEST breakfast I’ve eaten in a long while. It’s messy, it’s full of flavour and it would be delicious any time of day.

1 bagel, sliced
mayonaise
dijon mustard
2 thin slices of deli ham
2-3 slices of roast pork (deli or leftover tenderloin)
1-2 thin slices of cheese (cheddar, provolone or swiss is tasty)
4 thin slices cucumber
1-2 slices of pickle
a few thin slices of red onion
1 fried egg (sunny side up, preferred)

Turn on your oven’s broiler.

Toast your bagel. Spread one side with mayonnaise and the other side with dijon mustard. Top one side with ham, roasted red pepper and a slice of cheese. Top the other half with roast pork and onion.

Place on a baking sheet and pop under the broiler until the cheese melts, just a few minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. As soon as the bagel goes under the broiler, fry your egg in butter and season it with salt and pepper, sunny side up. The yolk should still be a little bit runny – sludgy and creamy is how I like it.

Top the roast pork/red onion side of the bagel with cucumbers and pickles. Top with the fried egg and place the other half on top. Chomp. Chomp.

Makes 1 cubano breakfast bagel sandwich but please repeat as desired.

cubano breakfast bagel | everybody likes sandwiches