Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pine Cone Garland

This photo was my inspiration for this project (from Pinterest of course). I love the simply, rustic tough it adds to the fireplace in the photo. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite as many pine cones as I wanted...or a fireplace mantle, but I made do.

First, I went to the hardware store and picked up a handful of screw-in hooks. It became clear almost immediately that I wasn't going to be able to actually screw them in. No upper body strength=no screws in pine cones. So, I improvised and hot glued the screws to the pine cones. Worked like a charm.

Then, I took out the white ribbon I bought at the Dollar store a ways back. I hammered in one small nail on either side of the window (hidden by curtains). Then I hole punched a hole on one edge of the ribbon and slipped it over the nail. I measured out how much ribbon I would need, cut it off, then hole punched the other side and slipped it on the nail as well. Next, I eyeballed where the pine cones should hang and hole punched holes there too. I slipped the loops into the holes and I was done.

All done! How easy was that? Seriously, the hardest and most time consuming part was simply gathering the materials, but once that was done, I was finished!

Here is another shot from the side so you can see the pine cones a little bit better. I love how it turned out!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red, White and Crystal

...or glass. Whichever you prefer. For a dining room table, I love the layered look. No one color, lots of texture, and of course, tons of candles. Who doesn't like candle light?

I started with the cream pashmina that was on the table during Thanksgiving. Then I layered a red crinkly scarf on top (yay for accessories serving double duty). Then I added the cake plate to the center and placed three candles on top. Next, I raided my candle cabinet and brought out all sorts of votives and candle sticks.

I played around with for a while, until I found something I liked.

The candles were looking a little bare on the cake plate however. I either needed way more candles or some garland. Well candles are a little pricey, so i decided to add a pop of green with some evergreen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bottomless Apple Pie

My Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely delicious. It has all of the traditional fixings and then some. The only slightly bumpy moment was the apple pie. Initially my responsibility was simply to peel and slice the apples. Well, the crust didn't work out, and we were about to scrap the whole thing, when I remembered reading about this recipe on one of the blogs I read. The author swears it's amazing and I trusted her because I've made many delicious things based on her recipes before. I didn't really take many pictures because it was slightly rushed, but let me tell you, I will never make a different apple pie again. It's beyond delicious and the easiest dessert EVER. Like seriously. Ever.

Bottomless Apple Pie
from This Week for Dinner

About 1-2 Tablespoons of cinnamon sugar
- 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) melted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 beaten egg

Basically, you slice a bunch of apples. I'd use about 4 McIntosh and 3 Granny Smith. It's a good idea to have some sweet and some sour. Place them in a pie dish. You want the edges to be even with the pie dish and not overflowing.

Then, I sprinkled about a tablespoon of sugar over the top of the apples. Then I sprinkled some cinnamon over the sugar.

In a bowl, I mixed together the melted butter, the sugar, the flour and the beaten egg. I poured it down over the top. Then I sprinkled some more sugar, cinnamon and a bit of ground nutmeg. I baked the whole thing for about 50 minutes at 350 (until golden brown).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving yesterday (if you celebrate, if not then disregard). I ate way too much and really enjoyed relaxing. I thought I would share a picture of my plate last night, you can be assured I also had seconds and dessert. I couldn't walk last night, but it was delicious and totally worth it! Hope you are enjoying time with your family, friends or whoever you choose to spend time with!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Gold, Silver and White Centerpiece

This tray would be a beautiful little centerpiece for a small side or entry table. I happen to have it on my counter in between the kitchen and dining room, but who know, that could change.

I started by gathering a bunch of small sized pine cones left over from my pine cone hunting adventure up in the mountains in September. Thank you pinterest for allowing me to plan my crafts way too far in advance. Then, I spray painted the pine cones using the same technique as I did for the little pots. First, I did a coat of silver, then a coat of gold. Then I flipped them over and repeated on the other side.

Once the cones were nice and dry, I plopped them in my big white tray with some small circular candles and I was done! Super simple, quick and very elegant. I love silver, gold and white!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Ornament-al Centerpiece

In my ideal world, I spend the day after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas, buying a Christmas tree and outfitting it with twinkly lights and sparkly ornaments. This year, I won't return to my apartment until a few days after Thanksgiving, so at best that plan is pushed back a bit. Then, school is absolutely nuts for the first week and a half of December. So, I decided that I would start getting ready early. I'm not in full-blown Christmas mode, and no one is even over at my house for Thanksgiving, so I'm allowing myself to be a bit nuts. I thought I would share a few of my Christmas projects this week to help get you inspired for December. Yay! My favorite time of year! I couldn't be more excited (just in case you couldn't tell).

This project isn't really so much a project as a switcheroo. Remember the cake pan centerpiece I made for the Fall Pinterest Challenge? Well, I decided to switch it up a bit.

I went to the Dollar store and bought a container each of red, silver and gold ornaments. Then I distributed them between the two layers of the centerpiece. Voila! Now I have a sparkly touch of color on my coffee table. How easy was that?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kitchen Art

The other day I stopped into one of my favorite little stores and made two amazing purchases. Well, I made one and my mom made one for me. The first is amazing kitchen art, the second I'm going to wait to tell you about when I unveil my winter wonderland.

I am really into the burlap/rustic/texture look right now. I think it's because I love how much warmth the pine cones add on top of my bookshelves. Go figure that silly little wooden cones would inspire a new design concept. I think the warmth of more rustic touches is important because of all the white and the grey. Definitely warms things up. I also love that it's French because it inspires me to be more adventurous with my cooking and get my tail in gear (I have to learn to read French for school by the end of next year).

It's also super functional! Coupons, pictures, recipes, etc. can all be kept on the board. Although, it's so pretty, I'm not sure I want to cover it! We'll have to see how it goes.

And a little farther away, just so you can see the size.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Out Drapes

I finally reached my breaking point. I need a dark bedroom. I need my sleep. I like to sleep in and frankly was willing to do anything to make my bedroom dark. That being said, I really wanted a way to keep the curtains and rod I had already purchased from Ikea and Bed Bath and Beyond, respectively. They weren't particularly expensive, but who wants to waste money? I did a whole lot of searching online. I checked, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and finally settled on Walmart. They had these great liners that attached to the back of any curtain. All of the stores I check had these liners, but Walmart had the best prices. After comparing measurements, I had to buy to sets of curtains (two panels each). Each set of two panels fit one small window and I have two windows right next to each other. Walmart has this amazing system where you can have the package delivered to a local Fed Ex store for free. Since the closest Walmart is about 20 minutes away, and the closest Fed Ex store is about 2 minutes away- it's a no-brainer for me! I also didn't want to pay for expedited shipping, but wanted my bedroom dark ASAP.

I started by opening one of the containers and laying out the two inserts. I used two inserts per curtain panel. Then I realized I needed to lay out the curtain first, then lay the darkening panels on top of the curtains.

Next, I unwrapped the hooks.

Then I started inserting the pins into the tabs. Basically, you take the really sharp ends and push it between the layers of fabric with the hook side facing outward. Unfortunately, this tab creates a tiny hole in the fabric. No big deal when your panels are from ikea, but you probably wouldn't want to use this system if you have fancy silk curtains.

Meanwhile, I was trying to avoid attacks that were being staged by kitty. Every time I would move the panel, he would pounce on the tabs. Adorable, yes. Frustrating, yes. This picture is blurry because I managed to snap it mid-pounce and he was full of wiggles.

Then, I hooked the braiding on the under side of the darkening panels.

I slid the curtain rod through the one panel and slid it down to one side. Then I put the second panel on the curtain rod and repeated the steps.

Once I was done, I hung up both curtains. I was amazed how quickly I finished. It really only took me about 15 minutes from start to finish. Well, actually more like 25 minutes. If I hadn't had to ward off attacks and re-straighten the curtains every time Winston pounced, it would have taken 15 minutes.

This morning, I took a picture. It was completely sunny outside and this was my bedroom. As you can see, I need to glue or sew the panels together where they meet in the middle of each window. But, it's still pretty amazing. I can't tell you how much of a difference it makes. Basically, it's heaven at night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reading Updates

I came to the realization that no one, even my parents and my bf, wants to know about every book I read. That should have been quite obvious to me, I know, but oh well, I realized it eventually. I thought I would just mention a few books that I particularly enjoyed over the last few weeks, in the hopes that some history-oriented person out there might find it useful. And yes, they are all about history. And yes, they are all non-fiction. It's school's fault, what can I say. But as soon as I'm on Christmas break, make no mistake about it, I will be diving head first into a pile of fiction....well after I give my eyes a few days off.

I originally received this book as a present a few years ago, and I must confess, I stopped after 200 pages because I hated it. But, I had to read the rest for class and an amazing thing happened. At page 300, I started loving it. I don't know if it's because my classes have given me new perspective or Gordon-Reed really gets into a good grove, but whatever it is, it worked for me. Sure, I think she was too nice to Jefferson, but I'm no Jefferson fan, so that criticism is pretty common for me. The way she humanizes the Hemings family and delves into their lives and their thoughts is a truly remarkable work of scholarship. There are times I think she went a smidge too far in her conjectures (after all, there is rarely evidence about what someone was thinking, so it has to be guess work after a certain point). But overall, a tremendous job and a book I will not forget.

This book examines what life was like on a small farm in Maryland in the 17th century. What's extraordinary about this work is how ordinary the store actually is. The family is a middle class, white farming family- not usually the topic of scholarship. These people tend to blend in and disappear into the historical record and were it not for the documents produced by the estate manager after Robert Cole's death, the Cole family would have suffered the same historical fate. Not only is the sleuth work done by the authors incredible, the story is fascinating for the picture it portrays of daily life at the time.

This collection of essays about individuals in Early America is fascinating. Some focus on gender, property, inheritance, etc. but all bring a new perspective to the image we hold in our heads about what colonial America looked like. What's great about this book is that each essay stands alone, so it's easy to pick up and put down whenever it suits your fancy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New York Corner Cafe Minestrone Soup

I've posted about these soups before, but I love trying new kinds and they are never disappointing. The Nut Factory is this tiny little store that has incredible nuts, candy mixes and soups. They sell Frontier Soups- which are so beyond awesome. The soup mixes usually have beans, pasta, spices and dried veggies and then you just add some meat, onion and broth (and sometimes some extra vegetables). This time, I tried the New York Corner Cafe Minestrone Soup. Click here to buy it online or see how to get it. It was super easy to make (although it takes a while to make- perfect for a Sunday afternoon while you are watching the 49ers move to 8-1, whooooooooo!). Sorry, I digress. It also makes a ton and is very filling. My only complaint is that I think it could use a little more pasta- the ratio wasn't quite right.

I started in the morning by placing the beans in a big bowl and covering them with 8 cups of water. I let them sit for about 4-5 hours.

Then, I put the beans in a big pot and covered them with 8 clean cups of water, brought it to a bowl and simmered for two hours. I then drained the beans.

In the same pot, I cooked the bacon (6 pieces turkey bacon that I had chopped) until it was browned.

Then I added the chopped red onion and cooked for about five minutes, or until the onion was tender.

Once the onion was cooked, I added the spice and vegetable packet and stirred to incorporate. Then I added the beans and the broth. I covered the pot and simmered for about an hour.

After an hour, I added the can of tomatoes and the sliced cabbage and cooked for 20 minutes (simmering and covered). Finally, I took off the top, added the pasta and cooked for another ten minutes.

When it was all done, I served a big bowl with some Parmesan cheese and enjoyed. It was crazy hot, but so delicious!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Updating My Pumpkin Pots

Remember these little black pots I created to house my pumpkins and gourds of Halloween? Well, I wanted to do something with them to extend their use during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here is my inspiration photo (source: pinterest, duh). The black pots weren't really working for me, so I picked up some gold and silver spray paint from the hardware store. Point of interest: the hardware store's spray paint is about half the coast of the spray paint at Michael's.

I picked a gold and silver can of Rustoleum. It covers ridiculously well. First, I did a thin coat of gold and then about a half an hour later did a silver coat.

At the same time, I also decided to make some stars for the top of my pine cones. First, I traced out some stars on a piece of cardboard.

Then I cut them out and gave them the same spray treatment as the pots.

Then I selected a few pine cones of various heights and stuck the star on top.

Then I tucked all three pots on top of my right bookshelf. I love the color of the pots. It's not gold, it's not silver. It's shiny and metallic and gorgeous.

I love how it adds a little rustic touch to the room. Sure it's not technically Thanksgiving decor, but I think it's winter-y enough to be fine. Plus it will be great for Christmas. I'm not sure my little pine cone trees will stay there, but they will definitely be part of a table setting for the holidays in one way or another.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving Candle

..or half of one in this case. Let me explain.

Here is my inspiration photo from Pinterest (shock I know).

First, I picked up a basic cream colored candle.

Then I got two bunches of baby Indian corn. At the grocery story, I thought to myself, are two bunches enough? Sure! That should be fine! Spoiler wasn't fine. I took the husks off the top and tried to tie the corns to the candle with some twine. Didn't work. They kept falling all over the place. So then I put a dab of hot glue on each corn and glued it to the candle, just to hold them in place until I got the twine in place.

From the front, I think it looks really cute. But what you can't see from this picture, is that the back of the candle doesn't have any corn. Oops. I'm going to Michael's tomorrow and I'm going to see if they have any I can buy. Then, I'll just slip them inside the twine. I also need to see if I can trim down the two corns that are too tall. But, once that's done I think it will look great!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thai Chicken Saute

I finally got a chance to cook dinner! I finished all of my grading and I'm enjoying a much needed break. Cooking Light has a ton of amazing chicken recipes and this recipe was just the first I'm going to try. My end result looked nothing like what's pictured on their website, but it was really tasty. The flavors were complex and delicious.

Thai Chicken Saute
from Cooking Light

rice for serving the chicken on
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 cup sliced onion
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons Sriracha (optional- obviously, I didn't use it because I'm a wuss)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges

I started by mixing together the cornstarch and the fish sauce in a big bowl. I then added the chicken tenders, mixed and set the bowl aside.

Then I chopped the onion, garlic and ginger and set aside again.

I heated the canola oil and cooked the chicken for about five minutes. Then I removed the chicken and added the onion mix. I cooked the onion mixture for 2 minutes, then added the chicken, the coconut milk, the sugar and the lime juice. At this point you would add the hot sauce if you were using it.

I spooned the chicken mixture over some rice and sprinkled the cilantro over the top. It looks very bland, but it was delicious!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

School Mayhem

I hope you will forgive me for not having an actual post today.

This stack of books is next to my desk as a to-do pile. I need to cull through them for my personal research.

This is my floor of papers I'm busy grading. I am hoping I'll be back to normal tomorrow, but I'm not entirely sure. It's possible I won't surface for air until Thursday. Stay tuned.