Tuesday, December 14, 2010

tall glass of wax: coca-cola glass candles

As I was unpacking some of the beau's boxes, I stumbled upon a collection of Coca-Cola glasses.  I was confused.  What?  Where?  When?  Why?

Apparently, he got them for cheap from an artist/student/who-knows?  These seven were in good shape, but there were a handful more that were... bad.  Very bad.  Like with a top still attached or white on the rims?  I don't really know why half-done ones were sold with the finished glasses.... people are weird.

SO, I took the good glasses, dropped a votive in there and decided my grey & yellow & red guest room should REALLY be my grey & yellow & green guest room!  Ta-Da!

The green accent is totally funner and more spring-like.  I'm a fan.  Unlike how I feel about those dressers.  Definitely NOT a fan... just counting the days until I can show those guys who's boss!!

Anyways, I find these guys totally enchanting and awesome.  The multiple, semi-clear glasses add such a twinkle to the room!!!  It's really great.  And better yet?  Don't 100% with things we had laying around the house!

Friday, December 10, 2010

dining in style: table settings and spray-painted candlestick holders

Table settings!  How exciting!!!

Cooper Cameo!

...or ya know, not.  Around October (YES, October- the month that ended 38 days ago.  Shut up,) I laid out a new-to-me (i.e. inherited), thin yellow tablecloth.  I'm really digging the pattern and I love how thin & gauzy it is- makes spills easier to get out!  I threw some small, decorative pumpkins (not pictured) on there & called it a day.

Then, I got inspired.  I envisioned a holiday table full of mis-matched candlestick holders, all in silver finish.  So after obsessing over this idea for a few weeks, I finally got to Goodwill & a local thrift store to raid their selection.

It just so happened the thrift store was having a 1/2 off EVERYTHING sale, that day... so I think I paid a total of $6 for all these candlestick holders:

To clean, I merely submerged* in a big pot of boiling water for a few minutes and wiped/dried with a paper towel.  Added bonus: fun droplets of wax floating around the pot, (and later solidifying into a filmy layer floating on top!)  A quick sanding and it was SPRAY PAINT TIME!**  A few coats of Rustoleum Metallic Silver (making sure to get all angles & crevices!) and done-zo.

*Or, submerged as much as possible, seeing as some were too tall to fit in the pot.  Others had felt bottoms, which I didn't want to get wet, so those were dunked only halfway.***  
**Yes, again with the spray paint.
***WORD TO THE WISE: be very VERY careful when taking the pieces out of the water!  ESPECIALLY with the half-submerged ones!  Water (BOILING water!) tends to collect in crevices you didn't know existed.  This means when you flip the holder right-side up, all that boiling water falls onto your hand and scalds you and then you have to fish out ice cubes from your water while dining at a restaurant with friends to cool the burn.  Seriously, be careful.  It could happen to you.

How'dya like dem, er, pumpkins??!

At first, I piled all those tiny pumpkins in the center, grouped the candlestick holders into two parts and arranged all on top a shiny, olive-y/candy-apple-green table runner (from Overstock.)

... then I got a'lil quirky:

This is how the table looked while family visited over Thanksgiving.... they were amused.  What I found fun was how much the pumpkins encourage playing and rearranging by my guests!  It was a fun conversation starter, at the least.

And then?  Then we enter the Christmas month:

The original vision was to use these candlestick holders to ACTUALLY hold candles!  Wild!  I picked up a container of candlesticks at Ikea for a song.  Went with the "chandelier candles" over pillar/long taper candles as, 1) the tapers were out of stock, 2) tapers are more prone to shifting & sitting at an angle instead of straight up at attention, and 3) I like 'em chunky.  So, literally minutes after my Thanksgiving guests left, I changed up the tablescape because I was a very eager beaver. 

And then I couldn't stop myself...

TA-DA!  This was the vision I had back in early November: 
a) Hodge-podge of candlestick holders, spray painted silver and grouped together
b) Chargers!  Like a grown-up!!  Again, in silver.
c) Lighter (i.e. NON-hunter) green table runner
d) All added to my red plates & INSTANT CHRISTMAS!

I think I did pretty well for myself.  In un-packing some of the beau's boxes, I stumbled upon a set of white, hotel napkins, which complete the look perfectly.

Yes, those are Hershey's Kisses on top of the napkins.

What do ya think?  I do a little happy dance (on the inside) every time I see this.  The runner is perfect!  I wanted a simple runner that could be used for multiple designs and seasons.  As done above, it works great for the fall with more oranges & browns.  Add some red and silver, and we got Christmas.  Maybe add some yellows and light blues or pinks & I'll be set for the springtime???  So many possibilities!

While gift shopping online, I saw Pottery Barn has the same idea... for 3-8 TIMES the cost I paid... FOR A SINGLE CANDLESTICK HOLDER!  Ridiculous.  I also saw Centsational Girl had the same idea for candlestick holders (and beat me to the posting-punch!)- don't they look awesome?  The only problem is resisting the urge to buy more....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

winter centerpiece: silver n gold pine cones!

Uh-oh, here we go again!  More of those spray-painted centerpieces!!  

So, I will spare you another full recap of how I did these- for that you can see the October pumpkins and the November fall decoration posts (hint: find objects, spray paint, let dry, and arrange.)  

For the winter months, I am all about pine cones and silver n gold.  So... that is precisely what I did.  

LOVE IT.  I plan on pulling on some sparkle elsewhere in the room, but you will have to just wait for that!  ...largely, because it isn't finished yet.  Shh!!

wishing you a very hippie holidays: peace wreath

Even hippies have holiday spirit!

So, remembering my new-found desire to decorate for the holidays, it should come as no surprise that I am hitting the ground running for Christmas and the winter months.  I got it in my head that I had to have a peace wreath.  Why?  Because the phrase goes Peace on Earth & Good Will to Man.... so, I thought I would take care of the first part.  You do the second part, and we will be good to go, k?

But then I saw Pier1 and Amazon had them!  And they STOLE my idea!!!  MINE!  The nerve.*

Anyways, a how-to:
1. Buy duct-tape in a color that will match your intended garland.
2. Buy garland.
3. Buy wreath frame & extra for center pieces.  I used straw frames- one large (~2ft) and two small (~8in) frames (these cost about $4 and $2, respectively, at your local craft store.. less if you use a coupon!)  
4. Cut the two small frames at one point and start straightening them.  The frames are held together by a wrapping of fishing line/clear thread, so I went through and snipped these lines, as well.  It takes a couple minutes to work the straw straight and clip any remaining line that's keeping the frame circular.  

5. Measure/fit the straight rods into the larger frame: start first by fitting the long center beam.  Cut to size and secure with duct tape.  Then work on the other two, smaller beams and secure, similarly.  

As you can see, I ran out of the silver tape.** 

6. Start wrapping garland!!  I used super glue to secure the ends, and just worked my way around, making sure to check for bald spots every so often.

It PROBABLY would be a good idea to plan your method of attack to minimize back-tracking and starting new pieces.  But I didn't think of this before starting, I just dove in and then contemplated my options at the first intersection.  

I think this:

...would be the optimal way to go about it.  Now, let us take a moment to bask in the glory that is Paint.

Ahhhh, Paint.

7. Trim any areas you feel the garland is too thick or obscuring the overall shape.
8. Hang on door!  I used a 3M hook (the ones where you can pull the sticky back to remove with no remaining mark or damage to the surface,) and some hanging wire. 
9. Step back & admire.  Contemplate getting some flares and a leather headband.

Total Cost: ~$26

Oh man, I love this!  I found the silver & green garland at Target for $5 or $6 per 18 yards.  I ended up using 2.08 strands of garland (so, about 37 yards; YAY MATH!)... that one last bit needed, the .08 strand, really irritated me.  Made me run back out to the store for a minuscule amount!  But, there was just no way to stretch it, and getting extra meant I could make the wreath fuller.  

Whatcha think?  I kinda love it.  Only, less "kinda" and more "really really".  It makes me happy, and I think it represents a sentiment we can all get behind (oh god, corny!)  I think it would be really cool in a bold red or blue garland, too!

*However, Pier1's cost $99!  And that Amazon one has only 2 stars.  Clearly, my version is rated A MILLION stars and cost way less than 100 smack-a-roos!
**Originally, I was going to do this in all-silver garland.  That was my vision.  But I could only find one place that had silver garland and it was sucky, and this green & silver was really awesome- bling meets homey.  Perfect!

Friday, November 19, 2010

soups on: pumpkin soup

Hands down, creamy* pumpkin soup is among my favorite soups.  I prefer my gourd soups to be savory, and haven't gotten as much satisfaction out of a sweeter, apple & squash soup that I do from this recipe (or ones like it.)  Added bonus? this soup is really easy to play around with and use whatever herbs & spices you have on hand.

I have made this with canned pure pumpkin and by roasting pumpkin halves... Gotta say, I default to the canned method.  One of the things I love about this soup is that it's a pantry-staple recipe that can come together in less than 30 minutes.  Introducing a whole pumpkin into the mix ups the cooking time to more like an HOUR and 30 minutes, and doubles the amount of dirty dishes!  But, if you want to roast, see the note at the end of the post & knock yourself out.  Me?  I'll stay lazy and impatient.

...I think I need to make another batch.  SOON.

Smokey Pumpkin Soup
serves a lot (maybe 6-8 servings?)

1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
2-3Tbsp butter/margarine
28oz pure pumpkin**
14.5oz diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, preferable)
1c cream (1/2 pint) (can use milk or 1/2 and 1/2)
4c chicken stock
2tsp rosemary
2tsp thyme
2 chipotles + ~1tsp adobo sauce
2tsp smoked paprika (+more for garnish)
nutmeg, cinnamon & cayenne (~1/4tsp or less, to taste)
green onions (for garnish)

1. Melt butter/margarine over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, chipotles, thyme & rosemary.  Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 min.
2. Add tomatoes and let cook until fragrant, about 2 min.
3. Add pumpkin puree and cook for 5-10min.
4. Add chicken stock and let simmer.  Taste & season.  And throw in smoked paprika, cinnamon, cayenne & nutmeg.  Simmer for as long as you are distracted.  And immersion blender it up!*
5. Add cream.  Taste & season.
6. Serve.  Garnish with cut scallions and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Maybe some Crusty bread?  A sprinkle of cheese?

a) Take out the smoked paprika,*** cayenne, and chipotles and add: more rosemary & thyme, and a healthy portion of sage to make a true harvest/fall pumpkin soup.  If feeling crazy, replace maybe half the chicken stock with apple juice.
b) Replace chipotles with more cayenne/red pepper flakes for a stronger, earlier heat.
c) Add. Bacon.
d) Add shredded chicken/pork/beef.
e) Add black beans & cumin.

*I kinda prefer a more "rustic" (read: lazy) soup, and don't care that it's not perfectly smooth, so an immersion blender works fine for me.  This step could also be done as part of #3.  If you don't have an immersion blender... get one!  In the meantime, you can blend this in batches in a stand blender.  Also, I would recommend a stand blender & strainer if you want a smoother soup.
**To use a whole pumpkin: cut pumpkin in half and scrap out all seeds and strings.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of any spices/herbs you are planning on using in the soup.  On a foil-lined baking sheet, roast at 375-400F until fork-tender (I'd wager this is around 35-60minutes, flipping the halves halfway through.)  Remove from oven & let cool until you can handle.  Scoop out the flesh & puree in blender or food processor.  Continue recipe as above.  
***BALDERDASH!  Smoked paprika on EVERYTHING!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

from blah-brass to chic chandelier: spray-painting a chandelier

After my re-found love of spray painting, I started searching the house for my next victim... and if I can't spray-paint the dog, I'll have to settle for the dining room chandelier.


I LOVE them!  Love love love.


So, I first found myself in a bit of a pickle: what color do I paint MY chandelier??  I contemplated A yellow/mustard to match the living room?*  Black to match the kitchen appliances?  Dark brown to go with all the furniture/wood? White, because that seems to be the most widely-loved?


In the end, I chose an cream/almond, (aside: they REALLY need to broaden the spray-paint color selection!  Rust-o-leum, please take note.  Thank you.)  I figured brown or black would be too dark.  And yellow... while I would LOVE it, I don't know if I could have found the right shade.  One day, I will have a boldly-colored chandelier... but alas, not today.

Anyways, this change was amazing.  I am absolutely in love with it and couldn't imagine going back to the silly brass!

Here's how:
1) Clean the chandelier thoroughly with windex/409/vinegar (particularly needed when the owners before you never cleaned and your house was left vacant for 6+ months with an open window...**)
2) Scratch up the surface with some sandpaper.
3) Tape off any wires or parts that shouldn't be painted (like the light bulb sockets.. could also stuff these with tissues.)
4) SPRAY PAINT!  Remember: light coats! and many of them! until fully covered!  It's best to start spraying with the nozzle facing the middle of nowhere & then drag across the object, (this prevents puddles of paint.)  I hung my chandelier in a tree out back (very outdoor-party chic!) for even, all-over coverage... especially when pulling the chains/wires away from the fixture.  If you don't have a place to hang yours, I hear putting it in a large box works well... or just lay down some newspaper and go at it!


Upon re-hanging, I saw a small spot I missed- if this happens to you, just spray a lot of the paint into a plastic cup and, using a q-tip/paint brush/foam brush, dab on.

I also bought a fabulous 16" ceiling medallion to really set this puppy off in style!  Whatcha think?  Be kind, tell me you love it.***

The next question is, do I paint a pattern (with a yellow to tie in the living room) on the candle sleeves or leave them as-is??  Oh decisions decisions....

*OOPS!  Haven't shared that update... but that was only because it wasn't really "done" until recently!  I'll do that soon... but for now, you can see a peek in that before shot.
**I'm not bitter.
***I really can't wait to see my dad's reaction... he's a lover of all things traditional and, particularly, of brass light fixtures.

chandelier inspiration images: Apartment Therapy

Monday, November 15, 2010

fall deorations

It seems I have caught the seasonal decorating bug.. can't decide if this is good or bad.  Anyways, while finishing the pumpkins for Halloween, I went a little spray-paint crazy....

We've been over the pumpkins, but as you saw, there were pine cones also getting worked-over...  Why pine cones?  Well, cheap, for one, and "winter-y," for second.  

Let me clarify.  By "cheap," I mean "free."  Seriously, if you are paying for pine cones, then you're doing it wrong.  I collected a few types of cones- come short & fat and other long and flakier.  Variety!  The spice of life!

So, as with the pumpkins, I first did a layer of white paint and followed up with metallic paint.  This requires a couple coats to cover all the ridges and crevices, but the result is awesome.    Also? excluding drying time, this project is done in less than 15 minutes!  I find these spray-painting projects are perfect to do after work or in between bigger tasks on a weekend.  They are fun and full or instant gratification. 

I tossed the gold pine cones in with the pumpkins & gourds from October for a fantastically "Fall" centerpiece.  You like?

Friday, November 5, 2010

soups on: roasted eggplant & tomato soup

In catching up on my Smitten Kitchen, I came across a recipe for Roasted Eggplant Soup.  At first, I wasn't that interested, but read through just for the hell of it... and then started drooling at the picture of the soup before being pureed.  And that's when I knew I had to make it.  Curiosity & drooling got the best of me.

You see, the original recipe is fairly simple: calls for roasting eggplant, tomatoes, onion & garlic.  Simmer in broth and then blend all together to get a smooth, pureed soup.  That has a weird, kinda unpleasant, light brown color to it.  BUT!  I thought all the roasted veggies HAD to be delicious, especially after spicing it up, so I gave it a go.  But I kept the soup in chunky-vegetable form!  Innovative!  Genius!  All of those things, yes... I know.

Before you go any further, can I just apologize for the pictures?  The camera was being funky & I had to resort to the cellular phone.  Sad world.

So, the general idea was to cube the eggplant, chop the onion, and roast.  I skinned 1/2 of the eggplant (thinking I would give a quick immersion-blender to a portion of the soup to thicken it up), but left the rest with the skin to give more structure.  The tomatoes were roasted whole, to preserve the juices, but then cubed once out of the oven.... making sure to get as much of the juices into the soup pot as possible!

And the result?  Amazing.  Totally delicious and soon to be in regular rotation.  I get really excited for vegetarian soups- I feel they are a great way to lighten up but still have a comforting & filling meal.

Roasted Tomato & Eggplant Soup
serves 4

1.5lbs eggplant(s)
1 yellow onion
3 tomatoes
6-8 garlic cloves
4c chicken stock
1/2c heavy cream
1Tbsp fresh thyme
1tsp cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp red pepper flakes (I had to use a "Hot Shot" blend, which was less than ideal)
smoked paprika
chili powder
cheese (feta, goat, a sharp-hard cheese... whatevs!*)

Preheat oven to 400F

1. Peel 1/2 of the total eggplant.  Cube all of the eggplant into 1/2" pieces.  Halve the tomatoes.  Dice (medium) the onion and peel garlic.  Throw all onto baking sheets (keeping vegetables separate), and drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Roast for 40min, but check every 15 or so to make sure they aren't burning (particularly the garlic!)

2. Allow vegetables to cool.  Add chicken broth to a pot, along with thyme and 1/2 the vegetables (make sure to add the skinless 1/2 of eggplant.)  Bring to simmer and give a few rounds with immersion blender.

3. Roughly cube the remaining tomatoes and add, with juices, to the pot.  Add remaining eggplant, garlic and onion, as well.

4. Add heavy cream, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes.  Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle smoked paprika & chili powder, to taste.

5. Serve with cheese sprinkled on top and crusty bread (garlic bread, if you are like me!)

*The recipe called for goat cheese, but recommended feta... I thought I had feta.  I was excited about feta.  I was sadly mistaken.  So we ended up using a sharp Swedish cheese called Prast/Prastost,** which worked fine.  Next time definitely trying goat or feta, though!  
**I am like a kid in a candy store at the Ikea Swedish grocery store, (and no, I do NOT mean the cafeteria)!!!  I love trying the cheeses and jams... and highly recommend all.  In terms of cheeses, Prast/Prastost and Herrgard/Herrgardost are very good, widely appealing cheeses.  If you like sharp cheddar, you'd like these two.  Vasterbotten is also an excellent cheese (the Swedish "Emperor of Cheeses"), and is more like a Parmesean Reggiano with it's sharp, nuttiness. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

happy halloween!

Halloween means two things: Pumpkins & Costumes!  Ok, maybe the third would be Trick-or-Treaters... but I thought it would be creepy to take pictures of other peoples' kids.  So, you only get two.

1) Pumpkins

Both of these suckers were huge, (which, I must say, pleased the trick-or-treaters!)  Mine is the one in the background- I fell for this bumpy & wonderfully imperfect pumpkin that I knew I just HAD to make into a grouchy old man.  Fun.. but next time I get the urge to buy an ugly duckling, it will be just for show... that skin was tough to work with!!

The beau's pumpkin is the bigger one in the front.  He got all fancy with skinning off parts before carving AND did rounded edges.  Attention to detail... 

Love them both!  But... I think a woodland creature has started to snack on them.... maybe time to pitch 'em. Doesn't matter- Already have ideas for next year!

2) Costumes

Clearly, everyone else who goes as Old Hollywood stars are doing it wrong.. you HAVE to dress in black & white if you're gonna do it right!  

This was at the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rallies (Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive).  We received TONS of praise for the sign and the costumes (credit where credit's due: the sign was all the beau's idea... he's a clever one!)  It was really quite wild to get stopped ever 10 steps by a group of people wanting our picture; and made it difficult to make good time!  Anyways, though it was a lot of fun & I greatly enjoyed the transformation... I was super glad to wash it off and be able to freely scratch my chin without a second thought.

Added bit of fun: we were pictured on the Washington Post Blog as part of a vote-for-your-favorite-sign survey from the rally!  Check it out!

Friday, October 22, 2010

coffee talk


Let me just start by saying I got this coffee table for $5 at a yard sale.  I love yard sales.  But, ya know, they just don't make 'em like they used to.  Back in the good ol' days, you could find everything and anything at them!  But now (and, maybe I'm just going to the wrong ones?) it seems they are all and only clothes.  Maybe a stray toddler toy... but clothes clothes clothes!  I don't WANT your clothes!  I want your ugly furniture I can make purty!

I already had the stain on hand from the aquarium transformation (which, was a leftover stain my mom had & wasn't using!)  It's a polyurethane finish & stain all in one, in Antique Pine.  I love the color, and ya just can't beat the price (er, free!)  So, after a quick sanding, especially where there was a watermark and discoloration, I got to work.  I would advise if you are doing a similar project to work from the bottom up.  This way, you don't have to flip the table onto it's newly-stained-top to get to the bottom, nor do you have to work around a wet top trying not to get on your arms as you reach underneath.  Second tip?  Think about the easiest way to stain the wood going with the grain,* especially when you have the planks put together at contrasting angles.  I had difficulty getting the outside, border planks stained without messing up the middle ones!  But, if you find you mess up just get some more stain and start over.  No harm no foul.



I'm so loving this table!  The wood really took on the stain nicely and it has such a great deep color while keeping some golden glow shining through.  Absolutely thrilled!  And, kinda neurotic (read: violent) about keeping this sucker protected from now on... COASTERS, PEOPLE!  Coasters...

I have since got two baskets from Ikea to perfectly fit under, on the lower shelf to hide all the miscellaneous items needed on or in a coffee table- video game controls, remote, magazines, etc etc.

So, whatcha think?  Just tell me it's awesome, please?  It will make me happy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

curtain closed closet

One of the first things I did when moving in was remove some HORRIBLE hanging, accordion closet doors in my master bedroom.  Wasn't difficult... they were already 1/2 falling off!  So, for the better part of a year and a half, this is how my closet presented itself to the world:

Other than being too busy with other projects, I really don't have a reason why I didn't just install new, sliding closet doors...

I was REALLY REALLY busy, ok?*

So, I had some extra window scarves that happened to match my bedspread perfectly.  So, after hanging a $5 curtain rod,** VOILA!

It's a good, interim fix.  The curtains are usually open, as life it just easier that way.  But when company comes, I can close them for a more finished, (though not completely sealed off), look.  Whatcha think?

(Oh, and YHL totally has curtain-closed-closets, too... but theirs were installed and make for something of a dramatic built-in-bed look!  Check it out here)

*Yeah, I don't believe it, either.
**Ok, it wasn't nearly that easy or fast!  It's an awkward angle, and you have to prop a flashlight up to see.  And then I kept hitting something that was NOT drillable*** or hitting NOTHING which meant the screws didn't hold, but ya know what?  NO ONE will see these itty bitty mistakes.  So there.
***Why isn't "drillable" a word?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

paintin pumpkins

This year the need to decorate hit me like a tidal wave.  Like a ton of bricks. Like a... like a... ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!  So, when I saw these pumpkins, I felt inspired and wanted them all for myself.

They are crazy easy, and crazy cheap.  For under $10, I picked up some ceramic and foam pumpkins from Tuesday Morning and Michaels.  Then, another $5 for spray paint, and VOILA!

So, a layer of plaint white (to kinda smooth the lines.)  Then a layer, or five, of the metallic paint...  

Let dry. Arrange. 

And bask in their glory.  

So, whaddaya think?  I had a moment where I thought it odd to start decorating a house that is 1/2 done, (I mean, come on!  The window behind these decorations is lacking, you know, TRIM.)  But... what the hell.  Tis the season for pumpkins!!!

Oh, and pay no attention to those pine cones.  Their day in the spotlight will come soon enough.