Monday, June 29, 2009

Under the Tuscan sun

Over the weekend, Alex and I bought our first piece of furniture for our new apartment! It's a dining table. We went with an unfinished one, so that we could make it one of a kind. Alex talked me into yellow, which I now love, and we are thinking about painting a pattern on it. It's bright, but it works for us. The project took almost the whole weekend to finish with all of the coats and drying time, but it came out really nice.

Next we have to figure out chairs. We are thinking of wooden chairs, stained to match the wood in the apartment, with yellow seats, to match the table. I'm not sure though. Stay tuned!

Sunny Yellow Ingo IKEA table
  • unfinished wood table (ours is called Ingo and it's from IKEA)
  • interior paint primer
  • interior flat paint, in any color of your choosing (ours is California Paint in Tuscan Sun)
  • 2 inch paint brush
  • small paint roller
  • small plastic roller tray
  • drop cloth
Directions

Layout your table pieces and decide which sides of each piece need to be painted. You can skip anything on the underside of the table. Mark sides to be painted with a pencil. Lightly sand down the sides of the table that need to be painted and the table legs with a fine grit sandpaper block.











With a paintbrush, paint a coat of primer on the sides of the table that need to be painted and the legs. Let it dry for a few hours.











Using your paintbrush, paint a light coat of paint over the primer. Let dry for a few hours.





















Pour a small amount of paint into your plastic roller tray and use a roller for your second coat on the table top to get super smooth and clean lines. Give a second coat to your table legs and other pieces. Wait a few more hours for them all to dry.











Put your table together as instructed by the directions that came with your table and enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The powerful pee-wee

Snickerdoodles are one of those cookie recipes that I have always wanted to try. My mom never made them when we were little, so I kind of thought maybe they were difficult to bake or hard to get right. Well it turns out they are just like sugar cookies, but they are coated in cinnamon and sugar instead of just sugar. Oh, and they use cream of tartar which is kind of like baking soda (you can find it in the spice/baking aisle.) Other than that, they are pretty much just sugar cookies.

The recipe happens to be the first one that came up on Allrecipes.com and I have to say, I love that website. It's great because you can change the number of servings you want to end up with and it does all of the math for you. Much easier than figuring out how to measure 1/16 of a cup! The cookies ended up being super easy and mad tasty. These are definitely going in my cookie arsenal.

Snickerdoodles (from All Recipes, by Beth Sigworth)
Makes 24 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 3/4 cup and 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cream together butter, 3/4 cup sugar, egg, and vanilla.
  3. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
  5. Mix the tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon.
  6. Roll balls of dough in mixture.
  7. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
  8. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard.
  9. Remove immediately from baking sheets.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

When the sun shines, we'll shine together

Having only had 4 days of sun this month so far in Massachusetts, my little red umbrella has been working over time. A couple of days ago, it finally gave way to the downpours and the wind and the fabric pulled away from one of the spokes. Reluctant not to give up and throw it away, I decided to try to repair it using this tutorial from Burdastyle.

First, with your umbrella down, find the offender. Thread your needle with heavy-duty coat & button thread.











Insert your needle into the edge seam hem, as shown.











Pass the needle through the hole in the spoke of your umbrella.











Give another stitch on the opposite side, just through the hem. Now, go back through the spoke hole again, and repeat.











Knot the end of your thread very close to the fabric. Repeat for strength. Open your umbrella and go out in the rain!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When it's springtime down in Georgia, it's wintertime up in Maine

The rainy Boston weather has us all dreaming of warm summer temperatures. Especially our plant Georgia, who is not a fan of the cold and dreary days we've been having. She's still alive and doing well, but would be a lot happier with some sunshine!

To make her look a little cheerier, I decided to make her a cute Reversible Flowerpot Wrap. It won't keep her warm, but at least she'll look a little more tropical or girlie, depending on my mood.

Reversible Flowerpot Wrap (From So September, by Corinne)
  • Printed pattern (this pattern is for a 4" flowerpot)
  • Two 8" x 5" pieces of fabric of your choice
  • Two 6" pieces of ribbon
Directions

Pin pattern to one piece of fabric and cut to fit the pattern. Repeat with second piece of fabric until you have 2 pieces of fabric in the shape of the pattern











Match the pieces of fabric up, right sides together. Pin each piece of ribbon between the two pieces of fabric in the position noted on the pattern. About 5.5" of each ribbon should be inside, between the two pieces of fabric, and about half an inch should stick out at each end. Pin the two fabric pieces together all the way around.











Stitch around the edge of the two fabric pieces leaving a 2" opening. Turn the wrap inside out and iron flat. Top stitch around the entire wrap, closing your opening.











Tie on the wrap and admire how pretty your flowerpot looks!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My muffin top is all that

My Nana used to make the best blueberry muffins in the world. They were delicious. In honor of father's day this weekend, I decided to bake some of her muffins for my dad.

Her recipe originally hails from the Jordan Marsh bakery that was on the first floor of the Jordan Marsh department store in Downtown Crossing. Jordan Marsh was the country's first department store. It opened in 1861 and was truly the picture of one-stop shopping. In 1988, Jordan Marsh was purchased by Macy's and the bakery was closed forever, but the recipe will live on in our family.

Nana's Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 (I like them a little smaller so I went for 18)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (1 pint) blueberries
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. sugar for topping
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Line muffin pans with baking cups
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt
  4. Mix together butter, sugar, and eggs
  5. Add dry ingredients to butter, sugar, and eggs in 3 additions. Alternate additions with milk.
  6. When well mixed, fold in blueberries
  7. Spoon into lined muffin pan
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes









Friday, June 19, 2009

Is it happy hour yet?

On our way back from Montreal, Alex and I stopped at this little market and gas station in upstate NH. While I was waiting for him to come out of the bathroom, I noticed their extensive wine selection. NH is awesome. Anyways. Lately I’ve been madly in love with Red Zinfandel. It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it’s just good. There in the middle of all the merlots and shirazes was a Beringer Founders Estate 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel.

I have a special place in my heart for Beringer Wines. I'd never seen a Red Zinfandel by them before, but boy was it tasty. What a find! Hopefully, it's available somewhere in Boston because it is definitely a new favorite.

If not, Alex and I are going to have to build one of these in our new apartment and sign up for a subscription to one of the Beringer Wine Clubs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We're Going on a Trip

Summer is always full of fun trips out of town. Whether it's for work, to visit friends, or just to get away for awhile, we are always all over the place in the summer.

This summer I'm going to Provincetown for work, LA to visit my friend Sarah, Pennsylvania to visit my grandmother, Alex and I are going to DC to visit his family, and we are trying to plan a vacation away for just the two of us! In that spirit, I decided to make myself a fancy new luggage tag. These would also make fun, personalized, and easy gifts for friends who like to travel.

Laminated Luggage Tag (from The Big Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano)
  • Map or a computer and color printer
  • White Paper
  • Access to a laminating machine
  • Key ring
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Hole Punch
  • Glue stick (optional)
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Pencil (optional)
Directions

Grab a free map from a local rest stop or find a pretty colored map image online. I chose this image of the London Underground. Cut out a 3"x 11" double sided piece. Most maps are double sided, but if you are using a printed map from online, either print it double side, or print it twice and glue stick your two pieces together.











Print out or write up an Address Block (the information someone will need to contact you if your luggage is lost, such as name, address, phone number, email address) on a white piece of paper. Cut it so that it will fit on your luggage tag (mine is 2.5" x 3") and glue stick it 2.5" down from one of short sides of your luggage tag (now you have a top and bottom.)











Laminate your map using a 3 mil plastic sleeve (most office's have a laminating machine, if not staples can do this pretty cheap). Make a 1" fold at the top of your luggage tag and staple it through the middle.











Fold the other end up about 4.5" so that it fits under the top flap. Punch a hole through the stapled part of your luggage tag and thread a key ring through it.











Attach to your luggage and have a great trip!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pasta a la Erin

Vegetables are my favorite food group. I don't get to cook much, but when I do, vegetables are never a side dish; they are the main course.

A couple of months ago, I threw a bunch of stuff in my fridge together and made a really good pasta. It was so good and easy to make, that I've remade it about a million times. It combines 2 of my favorite flavors: lemon and garlic, and all of my favorite vegetables. Like salsa, any vegetables will do, sometimes I like to add broccoli, snap peas, red onion, whatever.

Lemon Garlic Pasta (by me)
Serves 2
  • 2 cup of dried pasta of your choice
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 small summer squash, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 tsp. of butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped or minced
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste
Directions
  1. In a small pot, boil water, and cook pasta to your liking.
  2. Spray a sauté pan or skillet with non-stick cooking spray and add a splash of water.
  3. On low-medium heat sauté carrots, peppers, zucchini, and squash until softened.
  4. In a small sauce pan, melt butter.
  5. Add lemon juice to melted butter and sauté garlic for 5 minutes.
  6. When vegetables are softened, turn heat to medium high and sauté for 5 minutes.
  7. Drain pasta and return to the pot.
  8. Add vegetables and sauce and stir until coated.
  9. Salt and add Parmesan cheese to taste.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Your mom is a hot plate

Alex and I were in need of some new potholders. Over the weekend we made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics to get some supplies for a project that we are working on, and I thought I'd pick up some Insul-Bright (heat resistant cotton batting) so I could try this great tutorial for Simple Quilted Potholders. Since they are made from mostly fabric scraps, these potholders were not only simple, but also affordable! My kind of craft.

Simple Quilted Potholder (from Craftzine by Jenny Ryan)
  • 4 strips of light to medium-weight cotton fabric, each measuring 9"×2.75"
  • 9"×9" piece of light to medium-weight cotton fabric
  • 9"×9" piece of cotton quilt batting
  • 9"×9" piece of Insul-Bright
  • 4"–5" length of ribbon










Directions


Place one strip of fabric right side up at the edge of the 9"×9" square of quilt batting. Place a second strip of fabric upside down on top of the first strip (so right sides are together) and pin. Sew along the inside edge of the fabric strip (leaving a 1/4 seam allowance), then flip open and press flat with an iron. Place a third strip of fabric right side down on top of the second strip you sewed and pin into place. Repeat the same sewing and pressing and repeat with the fourth fabric strip, so that the entire square of quilt batting is covered in stitched-down fabric strips.











Place the 9"×9" square of fabric right side up on top of the Insul-Bright square.











Place the patchwork square fabric side down on top of this stack, so that the fabric squares are facing each other (right sides together.)
Take your ribbon and fold in half, creating a loop. Insert the rounded end of the ribbon into one corner of the fabric strap so that it faces in, with the raw ends sticking outside of the square.











Pin around all edges of the square, then sew around all edges of the potholder,
leaving a 3" opening for turning the potholder inside out.











Tuck the unsewn edge under and pin. Press the potholder flat and then topstitch through all layers, about 1/8" from the outer edge using a contrasting thread. This will close up the opening from as well as provide a nice decorative look. Continue topstitching through all layers of the potholder in any pattern you like — I did straight lines, feel free to go nuts though!











And now Alex will hopefully never burn his fingers again pulling the pizza stone out of the oven!










Monday, June 15, 2009

Emmetsburg, Massachusetts

Almost 2 years ago, a few girlfriends of mine from grad school decided that we wanted to make dinner together a monthly occasion. We all wanted to try new restaurants that we'd never been to and we thought, per Jaime's suggestion, that it would be fun to try to pick restaurants based on letters of the alphabet. ABC Dinner was born.

A few months back, Emily, Christopher, Alex and I decided to take the ABC idea and try it with bars. This weekend we hit up Emmet's Pub, located in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood.

The reviews of this bar all said the same thing, Emmet's Pub is about the closest thing you are going to come to an authentic Irish Pub in the city of Boston. I've never been to Ireland, but Emmet's definitely reminded me of the pubs Alex and I frequented on our trip to London a few years ago.

Cozy, wood interior with pink, potted plants hanging in open, street-facing windows, make this bar great for summer evenings. The beers were classic Boston pub staples and our waitress was super friendly considering she told us she had been there since 10am. The music was mostly classic rock and we did manage to hear a lot of the songs twice, but they were good so it wasn't annoying. All and all, Alex and I agreed it was another successful ABC bar night out with Emily and Christopher!

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Like the Sprite in You

In the last couple of years, I've become obsessed with lemons and limes. I like cooking and baking with them. I like making drinks with them. I think they make a great decoration. I've even considered getting a lemon or lime tree for our apartment. How great would that smell right? They are a little complicated for indoor house plants, but it's on the list of possibilities so stay tuned.

Last night I decided to try this recipe for Giant Lemon Sugar Cookies. I halved the lemon zest and lemon juice quantities and made them lemon-lime sugar cookies instead. I also didn't make them giant because, well, I don't want my butt to become giant from eating them.

Lemon-Lime Sugar Cookies (original recipe from Pinch My Salt by Nicole)
Makes 24 giant cookies
  • 2 cup sugar, divided
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Directions

Lemon sugar
  1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tsp. lemon zest and 1 tsp. of lime zest
  2. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Set aside.
Cookie Dough
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar.
  3. Blend in eggs, one at a time
  4. Add vanilla, lemon juice, lime juice, and remaining lemon and lime zest.
  5. Add flour mixture, in 3 parts, blending well after each addition.
  6. Refrigerate dough for one hour.
Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread sugar mixture in a shallow bowl or on a plate.
  3. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, shape two tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball.
  4. Roll in lemon and lime sugar.
  5. Place balls of dough on cookie sheet, press down lightly, and repeat.
  6. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.










Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good stitches make good girlfriends

Having an older sister, I was no stranger to hand-me-downs when I was a little kid. Some how my mom always kept our clothes looking good for years and years. Always thrifty and a super crafter, she would mend any holes, fix any tears, and stitch up any hems.

I try to do the same with our clothes now. It's too expensive to buy new stuff over a little tear, and replacing those old band t-shirts can tough to do. Mending is pretty easy, here is how my mom would do it.

Directions
  1. Line up the seam and pin the rip closed.
  2. Cut a thin strip of a fabric in a similar weight a little longer than the length of the rip. (I keep a lot of old t-shirt scraps around for this purpose!)
  3. Lay the thin strip of fabric across, covering the length of the hole.
  4. Attach with a simple basting stitch and remove pins carefully.
  5. Get out the sewing machine and, using a tight zigzag stitch, sew the length of the hole.
  6. Trim the reinforcement strip as close to the stitches as possible, and turn the garment right side out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just a city girl, living for romance

I love living in a city. So does Alex. We both want to live in the city for the rest of our lives. We love being within walking distance of pretty much everything we'd ever need. Sure, a trip to the suburbs is nice every once in awhile, but I wouldn't want to live there.

I feel like there is a lot of pressure from society to get married, buy a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, and have 2.5 kids. While that does sound like a very nice life, Alex and I are really no where near ready for it. In fact, we aren't sure how much of it we actually really want to ever do. When I start to feel a little panicked about the world's definition of "growing up," I try to celebrate what makes me happy, who I admire, and how I'd like my life to be when I look back on it.

My ideal life would be messy, but fun, with lots of color, kind of like finger painting, full of good beer and long runs. My ideal home would be full of laughter, in a city, Boston, DC, San Francisco, sort of like Emily and Christopher's and sort of like any of the apartments featured on Design Sponge Sneak Peeks, cozy with lots of Allie's art on the walls. My ideal family would be organic, with friends and relatives, multiracial, multifaceted, and lots of fun, one part Ayun Halliday and one part Gilmore Girls. No matter what though, it will be mine and the only other opinion I have to worry about is Alex's cause well, it's his life too!

I hope everyone has that perspective about their own lives. Sometimes I find it kind of hard, but I think it's important to keep in mind what makes you happy and live life your way. Whether it's about nesting, moving to another city, getting married, not getting married, having kids, adopting kids, or moving to the suburbs. Even if it means a few disapproving looks from your crazy Aunt Gerry.